Mexika New Year 2006: Year of Xikome Tochtli

More than ten years ago, not long after I began my sobriety from seven years of drugs and 20 years of drinking, I became active in indigenous ceremonies, teachings, and communities, both Native Mexican and Native American. I did sweat lodge ceremonies and other indigenous sacred rites in California, Arizona, New Mexico, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Chicago, eventually involving my wife Trini; my sons Ramiro, Ruben, Luis, and daughter, Andrea (and even a couple of my grandchildren).

I took part in a kalpulli (a spiritual house in the Nahuatl/Mexika traditions) called Kalpulli Yetlenazi Tolteka Trece (including with the Frank and Lou Blazquez family, a strong Xicano family born and raised in Chicago). Frank was also a recovering drug and alcohol addict; together we helped bring the spirit of balance, truth, love, and community to the work we were doing with gang and nongang youth in the not-for-profit organization I helped found, Youth Struggling for Survival.

Around nine years ago, my Xicano friend Luis Ruan (of Purepecha indigenous descent from Michoacan, Mexico) began introducing me to the Dine Roadman and Elder, Anthony Lee, his wife Delores, and their wonderful children, in Lukachukai, Arizona. Every year we did prayer meetings and sweat ceremonies there, honored by the presence of many Dine/Navajo men and women, teachers and medicine people. In short time, Anthony Lee adopted Trini (and consequently the whole family) in a wonderful ceremony--they have been our spiritual family ever since.

I also had my son Ruben, when he was 12 years old, undergo a rite of passage ceremony under the guidance of Anthony Lee. We both received ceremonial names in the Dine language.

Soon after my family moved to the Northeast San Fernando Valley in the summer of 2000, Luis Ruan, Trini, myself, and a circle of Xicano men and women here created two sweat lodges--one in the Pacoima barrio in the back of Trini's old family home (she grew up there); and one behind a sober-living home called Casa Rivas in San Fernando. In the past years, we've grown to include many former addicts, gang members, and troubled youth, but also just fantastic men and women who have incorporated their roots and cosmologies into the complexities of the modern world (as guides to get through this world with dignity, valor, beauty, and coherency). Although we no longer have the Pacoima sweat, we continue to grow and do our ceremonies with the sweat at Casa Rivas.

Years before I moved back to LA from Chicago in 2000, I also received a Mexika name through the Kalpulli Yetlenazi based on the Mexika Sun Stone, known as the Tonalamatl. My name involved a correspondence with my date of birth in the Gregorian calendar to the much more efficient and still accurate Tonalamatl. The name given to me by our Mexika elders there was Xikome Tochtli. This translates into Seven Rabbit.

On March 12, the Mexika New Year begins. Based on the Mexika Calendar, we are entering the year of Xikome Tochtli, my namesake. All over Aztlan, sunrise ceremonies, danza events, sweats, and other commemoration will be going on that weekend of March 12.

To help with the vitality and importance of these celebrations, I include here the wise and studied words of my friend and fellow Mexika warrior-teacher, Michael Heralda, who has taken his Aztec Stories around the country and beyond the borders:

Have you ever asked yourself “how can I incorporate some of the ancient traditional practices of my ancestors into my daily life?” Well, with the coming of the Mexica New Year and its preceding Nemotemi day’s (5 days of reflection) fast approaching you have an opportunity to start that reconnection is ways that are easy to follow and maintain.

Traditionally, the 5 days that precede the New Year ceremony are dedicated to days of self reflection, contemplation, rumination, meditation and prayer. During these 5 quiet days important decisions were postponed, participants practised abstinance, and old items were also cast out and/or broken – a symbolic and ceremonial action designed to represent the end of one cycle and the beginning of another.

Do you have personal items (things) that have gone past their usefulness? If so, make some time to sit down (with them) and recall what they represent to you, how were they used and what memories, fond or sad, are associated with them? Did you learn things from them? Did they advance your life in a positive or negative way? It is not as important to recall only the good memories, but also those that became markers in your life – good or bad. It is because of these associations that we learn and advance. If your personal belongings have served their purpose and usefulness, then these may be good candidates to discard or break (it is not necessary to discard more than one object, only those or one that needs replacing). Remember, our ancestors understood that by giving away something important it made room for something else (maybe more important) to take its place.

“Fasting” is also another symbolic action we can take as a means of acknowledging the end of one cycle and the beginning of another – we cleanse our bodies to prepare for the new cycle and new year. Maybe you might consider not eating the foods that are harmful to your body (you know what I am referring to) and focus on eating the 7 warrior foods of our ancestors:


These 7 foods chemically interact with your body to supply all the nutrients you need to be strong and healthy – they are the foods of the great Mexica Warriors!

In addition, try adding some Spirulina to your (food) dishes and then finish off your healthy meal with a piece of (what else) CHOCOLATE!

If you don’t know all of the foods listed above then do your research. This is a part of re-educating yourself to the beauty of the Nahuatl/Mexica culture. A good book I recommend with regards to learning about a number of the foods listed above is titled “Chilies to Chocolate: Food the Americas gave the World” there is a great essay about the origins and importance of Amaranth/Huauhtli (in the Nahuatl language) and other inportant indigenous foods.

Want more guidance or a recommended plan with regards to a beautiful culinary indigenous experience? Start tomorrow (Tuesday, March 7th) with a simple but nutritious meal consisting primarily of Corn and Beans. Then everyday after that add one (or more) of the remaining 5 warrior foods to your healthy indigenous meal (of corn and beans) on through Sunday when by then you will have eaten all 7 of the Warrior foods and you will have arrived at the Mexica New Year.

One last action to consider is doing a sweat (bath) - a TEMEZKAL in the Nahuatl language. Some people prefer to do this at the beginning of the New Year while others during, or preceding, the Nemotemi days. This form of purification is not only healthy for you to do periodically but will also allow you time to relax and contemplate.

Reflect, contemplate, ruminate, meditate, and pray during these important ceremonial days. These simple recommendations will work with your body, mind, and spirit in a re-awakening process that will draw you closer to your indigenous roots. Embrace who you are and where you come from. In return this acceptance and embracing of your culture will guide you to where you need to be.

Many people around the world will be acknowledging and celebrating the Mexica New Year on Saturday and Sunday, March 11th/12th. To learn more about the Mexica New Year, its meaning and importance, plan on attending one of the many celebrations planned in a community near you and ask questions from those who have this knowledge to share. Remember that coming together as a group (Tloke Nahuake - Together and United) to honor something is very important. As a group we create a very powerful energy field that affects all that exists. In addition, honoring something on a singular and personal level is also powerful medicine. However you decide to honor and celebrate this very important event do it with your heart.

Mexica Tiahui! Onward Mexica!
Michael Heralda

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