Feasting, Divination, and Heroic History
The performance of religious stories was an integral part of royal feasts among the Children of the Plumed Serpent. Poets used illustrated manuscripts like storyboards to recite royal genealogies and heroic histories. Festivities even included a kind of literary symposium in which nobles donned costumes and enacted specific roles, dancing and singing their parts to musical accompaniment. Revelers believed that by drinking to excess with goblets of pulque (a beverage fermented from the agave plant) or eating chocolate along with hallucinogens, they could conjure the dead and commune with their ancestors to seek advice or ask for benedictions.
Feasting helped to build alliances and facilitate economic exchange. The production of art was directly supervised—if not actually carried out—by men and women of the royal class itself. Art objects were often exchanged between nobles at feasts and royal fairs. Luxury goods, such as works of precious stone and metal, the feathers of tropical birds, and exquisitely woven and embroidered textiles, served as currency in the buying and selling of prestige and political power.
Image: Codex Nuttall, Mexico, Western Oaxaca, 15th–16th c., The British Museum Library, London, photo © Trustees of the British Museum/Art Resource, NY