The Fight Between the Sacrifice and He Who Sacrifices


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, depicts a scene of sacrifice. The victim, with white feathers in his hair and a shield with the signs of the five directions of space, fights a warrior dresssed in jaguar skin holding a war club and shield, and wearing a feathered headdress. This sacrificial rite was celebrated on the festival of Tlacaxipehualiztli in honor of Xipe Tótec, "our flayed lord," the god of agriculture, death, rebirth, and the seasons. At his festival in the spring, men were sacrificed by tying them to the temalacatl (an altar stone). Once defeated, the victim was flayed and eaten. A description of this festival is given in another important manuscript, the Codex Durán.

Last updated: October 26, 2012