Why Mountains Matter
The Pre-Hispanic indigenous placed much importance on mountains, far more so than their own pyramids (considered a poor substitute). Why were mountains so sacred and grandly celebrated this time of year?
To begin with, we can cite the way in which the ceremony dedicated to the festival of the mountains, called Tepeilhuitl, was celebrated. Tepeilhuitl consisted of religious processions that began at dawn with Tlaloc (god of the rain) priests. These festive and sacred parades featured long lines of people who joyfully hiked in a group with the intention of reaching the top of the natural elevations near their village.
Folks too old to attend these walks offered mountain-shaped figurines in the lower laying temples.
Once the procession reached the highest part of the mountain, people placed their offerings at the temples to Tlaloc built on these peaks. Then came banquets, singing and dancing in gratitude for both past and future rains while the attendees waited for the sunset and onset of the dry season.
However, thanking for the past rains and requesting the coming rains were just one part of the Tepeilhuitl festival. Celebrating the mountains went beyond the purely agricultural aspects as mountains represented the bridge between the world above and the underworld.
Every very high mountain was considered homes to Tlaloc because it was said that mountains guarded the entrance to an underground paradise of perennial vegetation and exceptional beauty. Plus a Guanajuato mountain top was the birthplace of man in the central Mexico region of Mesoamerica.
The mountains were the true pyramids of the world, since they were built and placed on the horizon by the gods. Consequently, mountains were more sacred than those built in stone by man in vain human attempts to honor the gods. For example, the Popocatepetl volcano you pass on the way to the Mexico City airport was considered more sacred than the majestic pyramids nearby forming what was for the time, the largest city in the world.
For the first Mexicans, it was necessary for human settlements to be by bodies of water and the mountains. The indigenous word for city was a combination of “the water, the mountain”.
Just like in the eastern practice of feng shui, it was important to build your home by water (providing food and a mother figure) and on a mountain (providing safety and a father figure). A river or lake provides fish and enables the land to be fertile. The mountain is a natural fortress to which populations could flee to take refuge in times of flooding.
Just like stories of Noah’s ark, there are ancient stories of a great flood here to punish the earth. Mountain tops became islands with the deluge into an endless sea, offering survival. Once the waters receded survivors came down to restock the valleys believed to have occurred here in central Mexico between November 15 and 18.
Tepeilhuitl‘s dancing and singing on the summits crystallizes the love that heaven feels for the earth and all its creatures which is still reenacted today. In addition to dancing and feasting, children are encouraged to create their own version of Tlaloc.