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Ritual economy among the Nahua of Northern Veracruz, Mexico

Dimensions of Ritual Economy

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1485-0, eISBN: 978-1-84950-546-8

Publication date: 6 May 2008


Nahua ritual specialists of northern Veracruz, Mexico, portray spirit entities by cutting their images from paper. Paper cutting is an ancient craft in Mesoamerica that traces back to the pre-Hispanic era. The impetus to materialize the spirits in this way is the result of the highly abstract and pantheistic nature of the Nahua religious system. In pantheistic thought, the cosmos itself is the deity and all apparent diversity can be seen as different aspects or manifestations of a seamless sacred unity. The Nahua ritual specialist places the paper figures on elaborate altars where he or she dedicates special offerings to them. The fundamentally economic nature of Nahua ritual exchange is revealed – with the aid of ritual economy – through examination of multiple factors: the symbolic meanings of sacred chanting and altar construction, the role of religion in constituting Nahua ethnic identity in the face of domination by mestizo elites, and the ecological context that renders life precarious for indigenous horticulturalists of this region of Mexico.


Sandstrom, A.R. (2008), "Ritual economy among the Nahua of Northern Veracruz, Mexico", Christian Wells, E. and McAnany, P.A. (Ed.) Dimensions of Ritual Economy (Research in Economic Anthropology, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 93-119.



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