Tlacaxipehualiztli, Festival of the Flaying of Men, the Second 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. This illustration, from the third section, depicts the god, Xipe Tótec, or his impersonator, who is shown wearing a tunic made of flayed human skin and with a protruding tongue. He wears a headdress with green feathers and sandals. In his left hand, he holds a rattle staff. In the right hand are two linked ears of maize or corn. Tied to the headband is a deer hoof. Hanging from his right earlobe is a bifurcated golden pendant. At his feet is a leaping goat or ram. This month, identified as March with the astrological symbol of a ram or Aries, commemorated the festival of Tlacaxipehualiztli (The Flaying of Men). The month is represented by an image of Xipe Tótec, "our flayed lord." The rattle staff is one of the insignia of this god, as are the two linked ears of maize. The deer hoof is associated with the hunting rites of the god. The golden pendant, called Teocuitlanacochtli, is also closely associated with the god.

Last updated: October 26, 2012