“Nahualli is the Aztec word for ‘shadow soul’, the animal double of the human soul. The Aztec people, known as the Mexica, had a very balanced relationship with the animal world. They viewed animals as sacred beings that shared the Earth with the gods long before humans were created.” –the authors
The Aztecs viewed animals as sacred beings that dwelled among the gods, pre-dating the creation of humans. The Mexicas, as the Aztecs were known, believed that the gods sent them messages via animals. If a particular bird or animal would cross their path, they would often consult a priest for help in interpreting these omens. They identified with the animal world to such an extent that they believed each individual had a twin animal soul, called a Nahualli. On the fourth day of a child’s life, a priest would perform a ritual, enjoining the human soul with the Nahualli for life.
The consecration and dedication was based on a child’s birth date and time. The animal would aid in character development and provide protection. In turn, the child would forever protect the Nahualli. If someone were to enter the priesthood, his or her Nahualli would impart “supernatural” abilities such as shape shifting, astral projecting, healing and so on—based upon the actual behavior and temperament of the animal. In the Nahualli Animal Oracle, authors Caelum Rainieri and Ivory Andersen have created a way (based on actual Aztec rituals) for individuals to determine their own personal Nahualli, which includes a birth chart. If you don’t know the day you were born on, the book provides a website URL so you can look it up.
For example, I was born on a Friday so according to this day—coupled with the time of my birth—my Nahualli is the Owl. The Owl is associated with death and the underworld, and as an 8th House Scorpio Sun (with stellium), I found this interpretation to be a good match—especially since Pluto, god of the underworld, rules Scorpio.
One can also discover his or her Nahualli using the 40 cards in the Nahualli Animal Oracle by intuitive, random selection. I tried this method before I discovered the day of the week I was born on, but it didn’t resonate with me. 1.To improve understanding, respect, and appreciation for animals as unique emotional and spiritual individuals 2.To honor the Aztec civilization for its many accomplishments 3.To resurrect an authentic oracle of the Aztec religion as an instrument for obtaining wisdom, guidance, and insight into everyday affairs.
The 183-page Guidebook provides a wealth of information on Aztec cosmology and ritual, including general rules of Nahuatl pronunciation, deity pronunciation key, the Aztec pantheon, and Aztec numerology. Also included is a comprehensive description of each card’s primary energy (upright) and contrary/negative energy (reversed), as well as keywords. Nine of the cards are Aztec deities, while the rest are animals. A thorough treatment of the history, lore, and significance to Aztec spirituality is also provided for each deity and animal.
Five comprehensive spreads are discussed at the end of the book:
•The Smoking Mirror Spread •The Three Graces Spread •The Ball Court Spread •The Five Directions Spread •The Pyramid Spread
I tried the Smoking Mirror Spread in the attempt to learn more about my personal Nahualli, but as I mentioned before, it didn’t resonate with me. One of the spreads, The Ball Court, is particularly macabre: Apparently, Tlacho was a game that the Aztecs played and was designed with “celestial orientation in mind”. At the end of the game, the blood of the players would be offered to the gods and the captain of the losing team was beheaded as a sacrifice to the presiding deities.
The religion of the Aztecs was based on warfare and human sacrifice. According to the authors, the Aztec warriors—garbed in brilliant clothing representing Eagle, Jaguar and Coyote—engaged in non-stop conquest. Their fueled the Aztec economy with their plunder, and used the prisoners for their sacrificial altars. The more than 400 Aztec gods had a voracious appetite for human sacrifice, and the Aztecs were more than willing to supply them with fresh blood.
With this in mind, I couldn’t help but wonder “Now, why, exactly, are we honoring such a violent, bloodthirsty culture?” I found the lore a bit gruesome for my tastes, and while the 40 cards of the Nahualli Animal Oracle are quite colorful and attractive, they didn’t “speak” to me. I had far more success with The Toltec Oracle by Victor Sanchez which is based on Nagual (Nahualli) spirituality from shamanic Mesoamerican culture.
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