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Mexicolore contributor Gael Ollivier

A maguey sports lunar symbol

Our friend Gael Ollivier was amazed to spot, in a large maguey (century plant) growing near her mother’s home, the shape of the classic symbol for lunar jewellery, commonly found in depictions of Mexica moon deities. She sent us the image...

Divine jewellery...
Divine jewellery... (Click on image to enlarge)

She writes: ‘Here you have a glorious image of a cut maguey I took somewhere near my mom’s house with no less than the yacameztli jewel design. Neat, right? There’s the half moon that adorns the god’s nose. Maguey, lunar plant. So many literal images...’
Could a natural shape like this have originally inspired the Mexica to design their symbol in this way?

The nose crescent, in maguey and Magliabecchiano...
The nose crescent, in maguey and Magliabecchiano... (Click on image to enlarge)

In Nahuatl, yacatl (nose) + metztli (moon[crescent]) = yacametztli or ‘nose crescent’.
Several pages from the post-Hispanic Codex Magliabecchiano depict the deities of pulque (the alcoholic drink derived from maguey juice, so popular among the Mexica); all wear the yacametztli nose ornament, and nine also have this same insignia on their shields. The goddess Mayahuel, discoverer of the maguey, wears the nose ornament on folio 58r (see lower pic, right).

Foaming pulque container, Codex Tudela (fol. 70r, detail)
Foaming pulque container, Codex Tudela (fol. 70r, detail) (Click on image to enlarge)

Foaming pulque containers and vessels, many displaying the yacametztli symbol, are shown in several codices, including the Codex Tudela, fol. 70r (see pic, left).

Editor’s note: Info on Nahuatl and the Codex Magliabecchiano from The Codex Mendoza by Frances F. Berdan and Patricia Rieff Anawalt, Uni of California Press, 1992, Vol. II, p.171.
Image from the Codex Tudela scanned from our own copy of the Testimonio Compañía Editorial facsimile edition, Madrid, 2002.
Thanks, Gael!

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Aug 09th 2018

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