The Aztec God Tezcatlipoca and His Temple


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. This illustration, from the second section, shows Tezcatlipoca seated on a basketwork throne in his temple. He holds a shield with the five directions of space and three arrows, as well as a spear. He wears a red cloak covered with skulls and bones and his hair contains white feathers. Tezcatlipoca (Smoking Mirror) was an omnipresent and omnipotent god, the god of the night sky and memory. Here he carries the same shield as Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and war. The volutes on his temple represent butterflies or fallen soldiers. White feathers were placed in the hair of sacrificial victims.

Last updated: October 26, 2012