Gender and Religion

The contemporary Nahua do not have an organization of nuns or priests that is independent of the Catholic Church. They do occupy a number of religious offices that are part of a civil and religious hierarchy or cargo system (Dehouve, 1976). The most important cargo holder is the mayordomo who sponsors a saint's day celebration. Men are usually the mayordomos but women also serve as mayordomas without enduring any criticism from men who assert that anyone, regardless of gender, may show religious devotion by sponsoring a saint's day celebration. Men in the sierra norte de Puebla usually lead the prayers that are part of family rituals. Prayer leaders receive training under a priest and can read the prayer books in Spanish.

The Nahua view the cosmos as governed by the interaction of powerful feminine and masculine forces associated with the earth and the sky. The ancient Nahuas had male and female creator deities, Tonacateuctli (Lord of the Sun) and Tonacacihuatl (Lady of the Sun), and the contemporary Nahuas continue to depict their main creator gods in pairs (Sandstrom, 1991). Contemporary cosmology, particularly in isolated and monolingual Nahua-speaking communities, resembles that of the ancient Nahuas (Taggart, 1983, 1997). While many of the original creation myths have been lost, Nahuas of today continue to express their belief in hierogamy (Eliade, 1987, p. 89) or the notion that divine creation is a process on the same order as human and plant reproduction. The Nahuat of the sierra norte de Puebla depict the gods creating the universe as masculine lightning bolts emanating from the sun and fertilizing the feminine earth. They also tell stories of men finding lightning-bolt women in the forest who are goddesses that can produce vast quantities of food from a single bean or kernel of corn. In other tales, men transform the forest into milpas and chile plots. The Nahua place some primacy on the masculine forces in their universe, but the feminine ones are more accessible to humans who appeal to them in important rituals (Sandstrom, 1991, pp. 279-300).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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