“The devil is clever. While we are alive on earth , he never shows us how many terrible things he will do to us later.”
“O spirt, O child, you are the flame, you are the light of the almighty father. O child, remember how you were born long ago.”
Do these quotes sound a little different from your traditional nativity story? If so, that is because they are from the book Spirit Child:A Story of the Nativity. This an Aztec story of the nativity composed by Fray Bernardino de Sahagun with the the assistance of Aztec poets some time in the 16th century. The Aztecs chanters used to recite this story to the accompaniment of the huehuetl and teponaztli . Translated in present day by John Bierhorst, this story from the Aztecs combine the gospels, medieval legends and traditional Aztec lore.
This book caught my eye in the library shortly before Christmas. We had been to the art museum on a docent lead tour about ancient cultures in North and South America. We had also talked about the Aztecs and Mayans earlier in the year when we learned about the history of chocolate. Reading this book lead to an interesting discussion about merging cultures and how the Spanish brought Christianity to the New World, while taking back cacao to Spain. We also discussed Aztec chant traditions such as addressing the main characters directly, short paragraph usage and the dialogue.
Spirit Child takes the reader on journey back in time to the world of the Aztecs and how they interpreted our birth story of Jesus. History comes alive when reading the ancient chant and the author’s note about Aztec culture at the end of the book. It also is a great conversation piece to critically think about how and why the Aztec learned about Christianity and how different cultures converge and take a piece of another culture with them. Finally, the illustrations are stunning with bright colors and and beautiful depictions of the Native American Nativity. This book is not only for Christmas time but can be enjoyed year round!
Check out the book here:
Spirit Child: A Story of the Nativity Translated from the Aztec by John Bierhorst
Resources to Explore More Aztec History