General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Apr 2021/4 Wind
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The twenty Aztec day signs, drawn specially for Mexicolore by Felipe Dávalos

What do the elements in the Aztec day signs represent?

We recently received an excellent question from a reader, Mark, who asked ‘What do each of the elements represent, as illustrated by Felipe Dávalos?’ We couldn’t find any adequate explanation in our resource centre here, so asked Professor Gordon Whittaker (on our Panel of Experts) to come to the rescue. He came up trumps...

Clearly several of the signs are self-explanatory:Cuetzpalin (‘Lizard’), Coatl (‘Serpent’ - it’s a rattlesnake), Mazatl (‘Deer’), Tochtli (‘Rabbit’), Itzcuintli (‘Dog’), Ocelotl (‘Jaguar’), Cuauhtli (‘Eagle’), Xochitl (‘Flower’. For the others Professor Whittaker has offered the following most helpful pointers:-

Cipactli (‘Crocodilian’, ‘Dragon’, sometimes ‘Alligator’...): the red items projecting upwards from the snout are knives, symbolizing sharp horns, while the smaller grey extensions depict the rough scales lining the body of the beast
Ecatl/Ehecatl (‘Wind’): the bird-like head, with its red nostril projection, represents the god Quetzalcoatl, wearing his characteristic orange-brown head ornament, in his guise as the wind
Calli (‘House’): a temple façade in profile
Miquiztli (‘Death’): a death’s head with red ornamention over the nose area, symbolizing blood
Atl (‘Water’): a stream rushing forwards along its course, flanked by white shell.

Ozomatli (‘Monkey’): a spider monkey with the ear ornament relating it to Quetzalcoatl
Malinalli (‘Grass’): a type of wild grass associated with death and regrowth, hence the death’s head from which it sprouts
Acatl (‘Reed’): a reed plant, the central shaft of which is a white-feathered, reed arrow
Cozcacuauhtli (‘Vulture’): a vulture with the ear ornament of Quetzalcoatl
Olin (‘Movement’): a symbol perhaps of twirling throwsticks, with an eye representing the central pivot
Tecpatl (‘Flint’): a flintstone knife, with eye and teeth, representing the bite of the sacrificial knife
Quiahuitl (‘Rain’): the head of the god of rain and storms, Tlaloc.

Day sign illustrations drawn specially for Mexicolore by Felipe Dávalos ©Mexicolore.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Aug 05th 2017

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