Jaguar warriors or jaguar knights, ocēlōtl [oˈseːloːt͡ɬ] (singular) or ocēlōmeh [oseːˈloːmeʔ] (plural) were members of the Aztec military. They were a type of Aztec warrior called a cuāuhocēlōtl [kʷaːwoˈseːloːt͡ɬ]. The word cuāuhocēlōtl derives from the eagle warrior cuāuhtli [ˈkʷaːwt͡ɬi] and the Jaguar Warrior ocēlōtl . They were an elite military unit similar to the eagle warriors.
The jaguar motif was used due to the belief that the jaguar represented Tezcatlipoca, god of the night sky. Aztecs also wore these dresses at war because they believed the animal's strengths would be given to them during battles. Jaguar warriors were used at the battlefront in military campaigns. They were also used to capture prisoners for sacrifice to the Aztec gods. Many statues and images (in pre-Columbian and post-Columbian codices) of these warriors have survived. They fought with a wooden sword studded with obsidian volcanic glass blades, called a macuahuitl. They also used spears and atlatls. They believed their feathered shield had magic powers.
To become a jaguar warrior, a member of the Aztec army had to capture twelve enemies during two consecutive battles. This was said to honor their gods in a way far greater than killing enemy soldiers in the battlefield. For a warrior to kill an enemy was considered clumsy.
The formal education of the Aztecs was to train and teach young boys how to function in their society particularity as warriors. The Aztecs had no standing army, therefore every boy was trained to become a warrior with the exception of nobles. Trades such as farming and artisan skills were not taught at the two formal schools. All boys who were between the ages of ten and twenty years old would attend one of the two schools. These two schools were broken into the Telpochcalli or the neighborhood school for commoners, and the Calmecac which was the exclusive school for nobles. At the Telpochcalli students would learn the art of warfare, and would become warriors. At the Calmecac students would be trained to become military leaders, priests, government officials, etc.
At the age of 15 sons of commoners would be sent to these schools within their neighborhood.These schools would be used to train boys in the art of warfare and to accustom them to military life. The instructors at these schools would be veteran warriors who had both experience in warfare and leadership. The center of focus for these schools would be a great deal of physical effort, intense pain, and bravery. The majority of time living and attending school was spent on physical labor to increase strength and stamina for students. Manual labor activities included transporting goods such as branches for firewood. The amount of branches would increase the longer the student was attending school. This test of carrying firewood would be used to determine if the boy would do well in warfare.
Other manual labor tasks carried out from the Tepochcalli would be community projects. These projects would mainly consist of cleaning areas, building walls, digging canals, and farming. From these projects students would work hard to complete tasks, and gain physical experience needed to engage in warfare. The students of this school would also be suppliers to warriors on the battlefield. They would be used to transport shields, food, military supplies, weapons, armor, and wood. The goal of forcing the students to be near the battlefield and not apart was to make them fearless of warfare. Students were placed under heavy surveillance at all times. If a student was caught leaving from training their punishment would be severe. Often if caught they would be beaten and their hair would be removed. By removing their hair they would remove any sign of them being a warrior. Also drinking pulque was prohibited, if caught the student could be beat to death. Relationships outside of the school were prohibited, if a student was caught sleeping with a woman they would be beaten to death.
Life as a Jaguar Warrior
Eagle and jaguar warriors were two of the only types of warriors who would be considered full-time warriors. These warriors would be leaders and commanders on and off the battlefield. After reaching this rank they would be considered as nobles and elites of society. This is why a warrior's path was a way to change ones social status in Aztec Culture. They were granted much of the same privileges as the nobles were. After becoming an eagle or jaguar warrior that individual was allowed to drink pulque, have concubines, and dine at the Royal palace. They would also become full-time warriors working for the city-state to protect merchants and the city itself. They resembled the police force of Aztec society. Jaguar warriors would also be used in gladiatorial sacrifices.
The gladiatorial sacrifice was a giant spectacle the entire city would attend. The captives would be paraded in the streets followed by eagle and jaguar warriors to the sacrifice stone. The eagle and jaguar warriors would dance around the captives and display their shields and weapons to the crowds. Once they brought the captives to the sacrifice stone, they would be tied down to it to be ceremonially killed. The captives would be forced to drink pulque to intoxicate them. They would be painted and given a sword and a shield along with four cudgels to throw. The warriors would then attack the victim who was tied down to the sacrifice stone with an obsidian laced club. The club would be used for ceremonial use and would be decorated with feathers. He would be attacked by several warriors one at a time and then if still alive would be attacked by all four together. The warriors which fought during the gladiatorial sacrifice would be eagle and jaguar warriors. If the captive fought off all of them, he would then have to fend himself against a left handed warrior. If captives were not killed this way, then they would be killed the following day by the offering priests. The gladiatorial sacrifice was done as a ceremony, for the return of warriors with their captives. The gladiatorial sacrifices would be held during the month of the Feast of the Flaying of Men.
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