Document : James George Frazer (1854-1941) évoque le calendrier solaire aztèque, le Xiuhpohualli

Dans son ouvrage Adonis Attist Osiris1, l’anthropologue écossais James George Frazer (1854-1941), évoque le calendrier solaire aztèque, le Xiuhpohualli, dans une note de bas de page2, et ses cinq jours épagomènes ou néfastes de la fin de l’année.


[…] The ancient calendar of the Mexicans resembled that of the Egyptians except that it was divided into eighteen months of twenty days each (instead of twelve months of thirty days each), with five supplementary days added at the end of the year. These supplementary days (nemontemi) were deemed unlucky : nothing was done on them : they were dedicated to no deity ; and persons bom on them were considered unfortunate. See B. de Sahagun, Histoire générale des choses de la Nouvelle-Espagne, traduite par D. Jourdanet et R. Simeon (Paris, 1880), pp. 50, 164 ; F. S. Clavigero, History of Mexico (London, 1807), i. 290. Unlike the Egyptian calendar, however, the Mexican appears to have been regularly corrected by intercalation so as to bring it into harmony with the solar year. But as to the mode of intercalation our authorities differ. According to the positive statement of Sahagun, one of the earliest and best authorities, the Mexicans corrected the deficiency of their year by intercalating one day in every fourth year, which is precisely the correction adopted in the Alexandrian and the Julian calendar. See B. de Sahagun, op. cit. pp. 286 sq., where he expressly asserts the falsehood of the view that the bissextile year was unknown to the Mexicans. This weighty statement is confirmed by the practice of the Indians of Yucatan. Like the Aztecs, they reckoned a year to consist of 360 days divided into 18 months of 20 days each, with 5 days added so as to make a total of 365 days, but every fourth year they intercalated a day so as to make a total of 366 days. See Diego de Landa, Relation des choses de Yucatan (Paris, 1864), pp. 202 sqq. On the other hand the historian Clavigero, who lived in the eighteenth century, but used earlier authorities, tells us that the Mexicans “ did not interpose a day every four years, but thirteen days (making use here even of this favourite number) every fifty-two years ; which produces the same regulation of time ” (History of Mexico, Second Edition, London, 1807, vol. i. p. 293). However, the view that the Mexicans corrected their year by intercalation is rejected by Professor E. Seler. See his “ Mexican Chronology, ” in Bulletin 28 of the Bureau of American Ethnology (Washington, 1904), pp. 13 sqq. ; and on the other side Miss Zelia Nuttall, “ The Periodical Adjustments of the Ancient Mexican Calendar, ” American Anthropologist, N.S. vi. (1904) pp 486-500.

Notes

  1. Paru en français sous le titre : Atys et Osiris : étude de religions orientales comparées, traduction par Henry Peyre, Paris : Paul Gauthner, 1926. (Annales du musée Guimet. Bibliothèque d’études ; 35). []
  2. Frazer, James George, « The official Egyptian Calendar », dans Frazer, James George, Adonis Attist Osiris : studies in the history of oriental religion, London ; Basingstoke : the Macmillan press, 1980, vol. II, p. 28-29, note n° 3. Disponible en ligne, url : <https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.190806/page/n35/mode/2up>. []

Olivier Jacquot

Coordonnateur de la recherche > Délégation à la Stratégie et à la recherche > Bibliothèque nationale de France

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