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AN ANIMATING PRINCIPLE IN CONFRONTATION WITH CHRISTIANITY? DE(RE)CONSTRUCTING THE NAHUA “SOUL”

  • Justyna Olko (a1) and Julia Madajczak (a1)

Abstract

-Yolia is one of the principal indigenous terms present in Christian Nahua terminology in the first decades of European contact. It is employed for “soul” or “spirit” and often forms a doublet with ánima in Nahuatl texts of an ecclesiastical, devotional, or secular nature. The term -yolia/teyolia has also lived a rich and fascinating life in scholarly literature. Its etymology (“the means for one's living”) is strikingly similar to that of the Spanish word ánima, or “soul.” Taking into account the possibility that attestations of the seemingly pre-Hispanic -yolia can be identified in some of the written sources, we have reviewed historical, linguistic, and anthropological evidence concerning this term in order to revisit the Nahua concept of the “soul.” We also scrutinize the very origin of -yolia in academic discourse. This analysis, based on broader historical and linguistic evidence referring to both pre-Conquest beliefs and Christianization in sixteenth-century central Mexico, is the point of departure for proposing and substantiating an alternative hypothesis about the origin of -yolia. Our precise focus has been to trace and pinpoint a pervasive Christian influence, manifest both in indigenous Colonial texts and conceptual frameworks of modern scholars interpreting them. We conclude that -yolia is a neologism created in the early Colonial period.

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Corresponding author

E-mail correspondence to: jolko@al.uw.edu.pl

References

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AN ANIMATING PRINCIPLE IN CONFRONTATION WITH CHRISTIANITY? DE(RE)CONSTRUCTING THE NAHUA “SOUL”

  • Justyna Olko (a1) and Julia Madajczak (a1)

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