General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Sep 2017/9 Jaguar
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Aztec symbol for protector

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Marcel Misdorp: I would like to know if there is an Aztec symbol for protector (or protection or father or shield). The reason for my query is that I would like to get a tattoo with my children’s hand print within a protective image. And the Aztec civilisation always interested me. (Answered by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Aztec shields as part of the annual tribute from the Huaxtepec region, Codex Mendoza folio 25r
Aztec shields as part of the annual tribute from the Huaxtepec region, Codex Mendoza folio 25r (Click on image to enlarge)

It’s logical to think first of all of an Aztec god - the first that comes to mind might well be Quetzalcóatl, Feathered Serpent, creator and protector of life; but Aztec gods have many different aspects to them, reflecting the duality of all life around us. What’s more, their emblems tend to be rather complicated. If you want to learn more about Quetzalcóatl, have a look at our feature on DH Lawrence and the Plumed Serpent, below.

Shield-and-arrow symbols, drawn by Miguel Covarrubias
Shield-and-arrow symbols, drawn by Miguel Covarrubias (Click on image to enlarge)

We think you’d be better off going for the iconic Aztec shield symbol, called chimalli. The shield was more than just a protective tool in war, it was a status symbol. Read more about it in our ‘Aztec Artefacts’ section (follow link below).


To see dozens and dozens of colour illustrations of Aztec shields, there’s no better source, to our mind, than Chronofus’s comprehensive online Simple Guide to an Aztec Wargaming Army. Follow the link below and click on ‘Aztec shields, suits and back banners’.

The finished result!
The finished result! (Click on image to enlarge)

November 2008:-
Well, here’s the final result from Marcel! Let’s hope everyone else is as impressed as we are here at Mexicolore... Please send in your comments!

Picture sources:-
• Main image from the Codex Mendoza (original in the Bodleian Library, Oxford) scanned from our own copy of the James Cooper Clark facsimile edition, London, 1938
• Shield-and-arrows illustrations scanned from ‘The Aztecs: People of the Sun’ by Alfonso Caso, illustrated by Miguel Covarrubias, University of Oklahoma Press, 1958

More about the Plumed Serpent

Our feature on the ‘chimalli’

Chronofus’s Simple Guide to an Aztec Wargaming Army

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Here's what others have said:

Mexicolore replies: Cheers, Marcel. We’ve added some shield-and-arrow images which may help you a little more. We look forward to seeing the tattoo...!