Saturday is Codex-Day (2)

Welcome to our second Codex-Day. As you know already, every Saturday, I’ll presenting one (or in today’s case: two) Codex pages with several explanations along with them.

After last week’s look at a Codex Page from after the arrival of the Spaniards, we will see two Pre-Columbian Codices today. The interesting thing about Pre-Columbian Codices is, that we can assume, that there haven’t been any Spanish influence in the matters of creation, be they intended or unintended. A Pre-Columbian Codex can give us great insights to real conditions before the Conquista, but also about cultural enactments towards the Indigena after the Conquista, when we compare Codices of two different times.

Thanks to great famsi.org, I may present to you page 49 of the Codex Vaticanus B:

Page 49, Codex Vaticanus 3773/B (Loubat)
picture: famsi.org

What we see here is the first page of the Tonalamatl, an fortune telling calendar. You could easily see, if a special day would be lucky or not with it. It refers to the Tonalpohualli, the Day-Count Calendar of the Aztecs (you know about the Calendar basics, don’t you?). The Tonalpuhualli is a calendar that describes a “year” of 260 days, splitted in 20 “months” with each 13 days. The day signs are visible as the outline, starting in the lower right with the crocodile.

The page, that you can see above, is covering the first month of the calendar. The month is called ce cipactli (“one crocodile” – yes, that is the reason, why the crocodile is the first symbol) and the reigning god in this month was Tonacatecuhtli. Since everything begins with the first month, it looks rather senseful to begin the Tonalamatl with the god, that began everything – and that’s just what Tonacatecuhtli did.

Symbolizing that, you can see several things around him (apart from the stamps). Right next to him is a snake, which seemed to consequently symbolize blood in this Codex series. Blood as the essence of life. Next to the snake, we see two people – one blue and one brown, where the blue on depicts the male part – they stand for the first human couple. The are slightly turned relatively to the god, which was the way of depicting someone lying, in the Aztec Codices. From the hands around the neck of each other, we can assume, that there will soon be some action, so we should look somewhere else now.

I promised two Codex pages, and so here comes the second:

Lower part of page 61, Codex Borgia (Loubat)
picture: famsi.org

I’m sure my cunning readers already noticed, that this is obviously the same topic, but in another Codex. We see a bit more here, but also a snake, two people lying, the god Tonacatecuhtli and the day signs. Unfortunately, we can’t see the crocodile in the lower right here, but for comparison, try to compare backwards. Added here are a burning house in front of the god and some things in his hand.

There are several very important differences.

– The god is spreading his legs, just as you would imagine it, when you try to imagine a birth of something.
– The god carries tools of priests in his hands: a bag of copal, a sacrificial blade,
– The humans’ mouths are connected by a red area, symbolizing the exchange of blood, the energy of life.
– The god carries a big treasure chest on the front of his body, fixed on a necklace.

Especially the legs and the treasure chest are not visible in the Codex Vaticanus. It has been supposed, that someone who was not well briefed in symbolism interpreted the pages and accidentally made some mistakes. In Codex Vaticanus the legs are crossed, the god is sitting – you can’t give birth like that. And while in the Borgia picture he has a blanket and a treasure chest, in Vaticanus, the treasure chest has transformed into a simple pattern on the blanket. Otherwise we can clearly see the similarities between the two Codex pages.

This is a nice way to see that also in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, they already knew problems with copying their books.

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