Four Hundred Rabbits [warning: language]


When the Aztecs fermented the sap of the maguey plant they got a milky-looking drink called pulque, which got them nice and tiddly. Therefore, in Aztec mythology, when Mayahuel, the goddess of the maguey plant, married Patecatl, the god of fermentation, she gave birth to four hundred divine rabbits, which she fed from her four hundred divine breasts.

These four hundred heavenly rabbits would meet for regular pulque-swilling parties, and were pretty much permanently pissed. A couple of their names are recorded—Ometochtli (“Rabbit Number Two”) and Macuiltochtli (“Rabbit Number Five”)—and, frankly, the rest can be guessed.

The point of all this is that the Aztecs measured drunkenness in rabbits. Fifteen rabbits was, apparently, ideal. But if you were four hundred rabbits then you were completely gone. A lovely little coda to this story is that though the conquistadors stamped out the native religion, they never managed to quite stamp on the boozy bunnies. That’s why there is, to this day, a Mexican phrase: “As drunk as four hundred rabbits.”

Mark Forsyth, The Horologicon

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About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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