Flesh as Text[ile]: How Toci's Embodiment in Ochpaniztli Provides an Alternative Reading of Aztec Gender

Date of Award

Summer 6-10-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Molly Bassett

Second Advisor

Dr. Kathryn McClymond

Third Advisor

Dr. Isaac Weiner


This project situates the domestic and ritual sphere of the Aztec world and analyzes gender construction seen in each realm. The Aztec ritual of Ochpaniztli honored the goddess Toci/Teteo Innan who was embodied by male priest clothed in a female sacrificial victim’s flesh. This specific embodiment complicates the depictions of gender seen in accounts such as the Codex Mendoza and Florentine Codex, which represent gender as divided and strictly different from one another. Through exploring the daily tasks of sweeping, childbirth, warfare and the body both in the domestic sphere and the ritual sphere, the ritual of Ochpaniztli provides an alternative reading of gender. The transformative powers of brooms, metaphorical childbirth produced in ritual that mimicked Aztec warfare terminology, and the use of female flesh in Ochpaniztli illustrate that rather than gender roles being divorced from one another, a parallel and shared nature of gender existed.



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