The Nemontemi and the Month Quahuitlehua in 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 bald man with protruding tongue is shown holding an incense bag and wearing sandals. He wears a flayed human skin and mask. On his shoulders are knotted red epaulettes and he wears a necklace of blue beads with golden pendants. The text identifies the figure as Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and war. The five days at the end of the Aztec calendar year were called the Nemontemi, or the five unlucky or useless days. It was considered a dangerous time, when people kept to their houses and did not even cook to avoid attracting the attention of unfavorable spirits. They were followed by Quahuitlehua, also called Atlcahualo, the first calendar month. The man pictured is probably an impersonator of Huitzilopochtli. The epaulettes were the iyequachtli (tobacco pouches) worn from the shoulders by the temple priest.

Last updated: October 26, 2012