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The Rag-Picker and the Priest

This legend was shared with us by Andrea López Delgado.

Once a Nahua rag-picker happened to discover a painted book near the temple of Huitzilpochtli, where he worked his trade. He brought it to a priest and asked him what the glyphs said. It turned out the book told of a magical casket hidden inside the ninety-third step of the pyramid.

So the rag-picker and the priest agreed to split the treasure they found, and counted the stairs of the pyramid until they got to 93. When they pried up the stone, there was the casket, bound in a silver chain. Inside it were wonderful things: a magical rattle and drumstick, a mirror that could show the future, a magic wand, an almanac and a book of sorcery.

The priest said "These are sacred things. You don't know how to use any of them, so they're no use to you. But since I know how to use them, they are valuable to me. Why don't I give you three hundred pieces of gold for your half of the treasure."

So the rag-picker agreed to that, but while the priest was counting out the money, he hit him in the back of the head with the magic wand and killed him. "See, it's not so hard to use these things." So he threw the priest's body in the lake, kept the money and the treasures and began trying to study the sacred artifacts.

But it didn't go well. The rag-picker didn't know what he was doing. He couldn't read the almanac. He looked into the future and saw things he didn't understand. He shook the rattle and the noises frightened him. And he couldn't sleep, because strange spirits disturbed him constantly. "A curse on these things! They are bringing me nothing but grief."

So the rag-picker packed them back up in the casket and threw them into the lake. But no sooner did he do that then the priest jumped up out of the lake and caught the casket in his hands. He was alive again! The priest took out the magic wand and hit the rag-picker with it and killed him instantly. And from then on the priest carried the sacred items with him, where they never did any more harm to anyone.

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More stories to read:

 Scary Native American stories
 Legends about betrayal

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 Aztec stories
 Nahuatl language
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