Courtship and Marriage

The Nahua do not permit marriage with anyone whom they refer to or address with icnWuh (sibling and cousin) or any other term for blood or spiritual relative. Courtship begins when a boy tells his parents he wants to marry a particular girl, and his parents look for a cihuatanque, an old and respected woman to ask the maiden's parents for her hand in marriage. Love (tazohtaliz) is very important in marriage for the girl as well as the boy, although the Nahua believe that excessive love is dangerous. Soon after making the transition from a cihuapil to an ichpoch, a maiden will become betrothed, and her family will celebrate a cihuataliz ritual in which the boy and his family will deliver the bride-gift consisting of two turkeys, spices for the ceremonial mole, and a small quantity of money. The maiden's godparents provide a complete set of clothes including the loincloth, the billowy skirt, an embroidered sash, a blouse with beautiful pehpenalo, ribbons for braids, and earrings.

The climactic moment of the cihuataliz takes place when the cihuatanque hands the bride a xochicuahuit and asks her to dance in front of her family's altar. The xochicuahuit is a hand-held wooden adornment with three prongs decorated with flowers and tortillas or bread. The adornment represents the tree in the ancient myth of Taomanchan (Quiñones Keber, 1995, pp. 29, 183), vestiges of which are woven into stories of Adam and Eve as told by the contemporary Nahuat in the sierra norte de Puebla. According to the ancient myth, the gods in the celestial paradise of Tamoanchan picked flowers from a tree, a symbol for sex. The gods were expelled to earth, and one of them, Xochiquetzal, gave birth to the corn plant. The trees in the myth and cihuataliz ritual are symbols of fertility (Graulich, 1997; López Austin, 1997). During the cihuataliz in the sierra norte de Puebla, the bride's mother sometimes interferes with the cihuatanque when she offers the xochicuahuit and displays anger toward the groom and his family for taking her daughter from her. However, the daughter usually accepts the adornment, the intermediary asks the couple to embrace, and she surrounds them in a web of incense to seal their union.

A few years after the cihuataliz, the couple celebrate another ritual in honor of the godparents of marriage who will become the godparents for their children. The ritual for the godparents of marriage closely resembles the cihuataliz except that it takes place in the home of the groom's parents where the couple usually begin married life. The cihuatanque again hands out the xo-chicuahuit first to the women and then to the men, and she conducts a ceremony called the nanahuin (the dance of departure) in front of the family altar during which she weaves a web of incense around the groom and their ritual sponsors. Those who are widowed and divorced are free to remarry as long as they observe the incest rules. The Nahua do not practice the sororate or the levirate, and the cihuataliz is held only for first marriages.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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