Florentine Codex: Midwife Adresses the Woman WHo Has Died in Childbirth

This collection of texCodex_florentino_51_9.jpgts was originally called The General History of the Things of New Spain (it loses something in the translation), but is now mostly referred to as the Florintine Codex. This is a series of books produced over thirty years by Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún, who worked with the surviving Aztec elders collecting information on their culture and religion in order so that they might understand each other better. Granted his primary motivation for understanding was so that he could convert them to Christianity easier, but it these manuscripts went above and beyond. It certainly is the most complete picture of the Aztec civilization.

The section presented today is from Book 6 of the Codices which deals with forms of religious rhetoric. A midwife is hired by the married couple’s parents during the eight or ninth month of the pregnancy. Once the position is accepted the midwife takes on the religious mantle of the Night Midwife (I know, sounds like something from the Dark Brotherhood in Skyrim) and the mother becomes a symbolic Cihuacotl Quilaztli, progenitor of the Human race.

As such there are various religious rites, or the equivalent thereof, dealing with various stages of the pregnancy an especially the end result of it. This is the recitation if the mother dies.


Image from the Florentine Codecies Enter a caption

“Precious feather, child,
Eagle woman, dear one,
Dove, daring daughter,
You have labored, you have toiled,
Your task is finished.
You came to the aid of your Mother, the noble lady, Cihuacoatl Quilaztli.
You received, raised up, and held the shield, the little buckler that she laid in your

hands: she your Mother, the noble lady, Cihuacoatl Quilaztli.
Now wake! Rise! Stand up!
Comes the daylight, the daybreak:
Dawn’s house has risen crimson, it comes up standing.
The crimson swifts, the crimson swallows, sing,
And all the crimson swans are calling.
Get up, stand up! Dress yourself!
Go! Go seek the good place, the perfect place, the home of your Mother,
your Father, the Sun,
The place of happiness, joy,
Delight, rejoicing.
Go! Go follow your Mother, your Father, the Sun.
May his elder sisters bring you to him: they the exalted, the celestial women,

who always and forever know happiness, joy, delight, and rejoicing, in the

company and in the presence of our Mother, our Father, the Sun; who make

him happy with their shouting.
My child, darling daughter, lady,
You spent yourself, you labored manfully:
You made yourself a victor, a warrior for Our Lord, though not without consuming

all your strength; you sacrificed yourself.
Yet you earned a compensation, a reward: a good, perfect, precious death.
By no means did you die in vain.
And are you truly dead? You have made a sacrifice. Yet how else could you have

become worthy of what you now deserve?
You will live forever, you will be happy, you will rejoice in the company and in

the presence of our holy ones, the exalted women. Farewell, my daughter,

my child. Go be with them, join them. Let them hold you and take you in.
May you join them as they cheer him and shout to him: our Mother, our Father, the


Image of human sacrifice from the Aztec religion

And may you be with them always, whenever they go in their rejoicing.
But my little child, my daughter, my lady,
You went away and left us, you deserted us, and we are but old men and old women.
You have cast aside your mother and your father.
Was this your wish? No, you were summoned, you were called.
Yet without you, how can we survive?
How painful will it be, this hard old age?
Down what alleys or in what doorways will we perish?
Dear lady, do not forget us! Remember the hardships that we see, that we suffer,

here on earth:
The heat of the sun presses against us; also the wind, icy and cold:
This flesh, this clay of ours, is starved and trembling. And we, poor prisoners of our stomachs! There is nothing we can do.
Remember us, my precious daughter, O eagle woman, O lady!
You lie beyond in happiness. In the good place, the perfect place,
You live.
In the company and in the presence of our lord,
You live.
You as living flesh can see him, you as living flesh can call to him.
Pray to him for us!
Call to him for us!
This is the end,
We leave the rest to you.

For more fun try Books by Rex Hurst

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