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Mixtec ruler 11-Water carrying a mirror as a pectoral

Mirrors could deter citizens from lying

Mirrors in ancient Mesoamerica were used by the elite less as objects of vanity and more as devices for determining what information might be hidden within them... (Compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Mirrors ‘reflect the image or face of a person... Mirrors capture, not the physical entity, but the double of a person, which may be the tonalli [life force/spirit] as an insubstantial shadow soul...
’If prehispanic Mesoamerican art is accurate, rulers, noblemen, and priests often wore mirrors in the form of shiny discs on their chests as pectorals [see image]. Anyone to whom they spoke was in danger of having his or her tonalli seized and perhaps even retained or injured during the interview. How could a petitioner lie, or a supplicant exaggerate when faced with the possibility of having his life force seized, manipulated, or even killed?’

Quote/info from The Natural History of the Soul in Ancient Mexico by Jill Leslie McKeever Furst, Yale University Press, 1995, p. 94.
Image: Mixtec ruler 11-Water wearing a mirror over her chest, Codex Zouche-Nuttall, fol. 26 (detail), scanned from our own copy of the ADEVA facsimile edition, Graz, Austria, 1987.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Apr 03rd 2020

“See and Be Seen: (‘Smoking’) Mirrors”

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