October 26, 2012

The Months of the Aztec Tonalpohualli (Day Count) 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 an Aztec month, showing the name of each day of the month. At the top is an image of a man with fish-scale torso and quetzal plume, standing in water and holding a stalk of maize and a vessel. The Aztecs used two calendars to compute the days of the year. Xiuhpohualli (the first, or solar, calendar) consisted of 365 days, divided into 18 months of 20 units each, plus an additional period of five empty days at the end of the year. Tonalpohualli (the second, or "day count," calendar) was made up of 260 days, combinations of 13 numbers and 20 symbols. Every 52 years both calendars would align. The image probably indicates that the month shown here is the sixth month, Etzalcualiztli (Meal of Maize and Beans).

Hueymiccaihuitl, Great Feast of the Dead, the Tenth 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, shows two boys climbing a pole. At the top of the pole are a shield with white feathers, spears, banners on serrated poles (from cacti), two flowers (possibly xocoxochitl), and two bifurcated objects (possibly teocuitlanacochtli). Above the pole are the head of a long-billed bird with a seed in its mouth, a loaf studded with nuts and resembling a starry night, an ear of corn, and a trapezoidal object. The text describes the festival as being of the Tepanecs. This month is called Hueymiccaihuitl (or Xocotlhuetzi; Fall of Fruit or Great Feast of the Dead). It was commemorated by a ceremonial pole-climbing competition. The month was dedicated to Xocotl, the Aztec god of fire and the stars (also called Otontecuhtli, and whose cult was especially developed among the Tepanec tribes). Teocuitlanacochtli also were associated with worship of the god Xipe Tótec.

Tepeilhuitl, Festival of the Hills, the 13th 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. In this illustration, from the third section, a woman's head is shown upon the sign for a mountain. The head wears a headdress with green feathers and a necklace with blue beads and gold pendants. Above it is a recumbent head of a woman which is topped by a large flower and circled by golden feathers. The text describes the ceremonies honoring the hills, in which representations of hills are adorned with faces. This month, identified as that of Luke the Evangelist, is called Tepeilhuitl (Festival of the Hills). This month was dedicated to Tlaloc, the god of rain, but the headdress of the head upon the mountain resembles that of Xochiquetzal (Flower Feather), goddess of the earth, love, artists, pregnant women, and the moon, who is sometimes named the wife of Tlaloc. The recumbent head above her with its flower may also allude to Xochiquetzal.

Atemoztli, the 16th 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, shows a profile of a head wearing a headdress with green feathers holding a blue snake staff and a water vessel from which water pours. Above this head is another of a woman with a roundel above her forehead. Above this head is a hand of leaves of grass set over a square shape. The text describes the celebration of Tlaloc, the god of rain, and describes him as being shown with the face of his mother and a bundle of green leaves over an altar step, to indicate that by his hand he gives greenness to the land through his rains. This month, identified as that of Thomas the Apostle, is called Atemoztli (Water Descends). The month was dedicated to Tlaloc. The couatopilli (snake staff) is a common attribute of Tlaloc. The headdress is the same as that in the month of Tepeilhuitl. Chalchiuhtlicue (Jade skirt), described variously as the mother, wife, or sister of Tlaloc and goddess of lakes and streams, is indicated by the chalchiuitl (green jade) above her head.

Izcalli, the Rebirth, the 18th 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. In this illustration, from the third section, the symbol for calli (house) is shown with a flowering plant before it. The text states that the European or Spaniard clothed in red and holding a book serves only to show, by a line extended from his finger to the opposite page, where the Spanish New Year begins on the calendar. This month is called Izcalli (Rebirth). The commentary does not mention Xiuhtecutli, the god of fire, whose rites were celebrated during this month and who symbolizes the death of the old year and the hope of renewal for the new. Following this month were the five unlucky or empty days of the Aztec calendar called the Nemontemi.

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.