Tozoztontli, Festival of Bird Sacrifices, the Third Month of the Aztec Solar Calendar


The Tovar Codex, attributed to the 16th-century Mexican Jesuit Juan de Tovar, contains detailed information about the rites and ceremonies of the Aztecs (also known as Mexica). The codex is illustrated with 51 full-page paintings in watercolor. Strongly influenced by pre-contact pictographic manuscripts, the paintings are of exceptional artistic quality. The manuscript is divided into three sections. The first section is a history of the travels of the Aztecs prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The second section is an illustrated history of the Aztecs. The third section contains the Tovar calendar, which records a continuous Aztec calendar with months, weeks, days, dominical letters, and church festivals of a Christian 365-day year. In this illustration, from the third section, a bird with yellow feathers is shown stabbed with a bone tool. Also depicted are a bull and the moon, as well as a symbol with many leaves. This month, identified as April with the astrological symbol of a bull and known as Tozoztontli (The Little Vigil), commemorated the festival of bird sacrifices that took place during the month. The Nahuatl word for yellow, toz, connects the month and the bird depicted. In the upper left corner, the motif may be interpreted as the tunic of a female corn deity, Centeotl, which is often identified with the following month.

Last updated: October 26, 2012