The Aztec Ritual Offering Against Drought


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, an illustrated history of the Aztecs, forms the main body of the manuscript. The third section contains the Tovar calendar. In this illustration, from the second section, three priests carry offerings and walk beside a stream into which are cast decapitated birds. The priests wear necklaces of green stones or chalchiuitl (jade) and wear their long hair tied with three red rings. Two of the priests wear a headdress of flowers. All the men carry bags or pouches. One carries a staff and an incense burner with Aztec incense or copal (or copalli, a dried resin from various trees), another blows a conch shell, and the third wrings the neck of a bird. A flowering cactus rests on an island in the middle of the water. The decapitated doves were a ritual offering against drought. The conch shell was often used in religious ceremonies. The symbol of the flowering cactus represents Tenochtitlan. Under Ahuitzotl (or Auitzotl, reigned 1486–1502), Mexico suffered from a great drought. Ahuitzotl dammed the source of the Acuecuexco situated in Coyoacan.

Last updated: June 18, 2015