Welcome back to another Codex-Day – have it really been already 3 weeks?
Last week, we began with a page of the Codex Vaticanus B and compared it to a Page from Codex Borgia. Today, I want to exclusively show you a page from the latter. The Codex Borgia is one of the most fascinating Codices for me. It’s rich and often enigmatic depiction gives a lot of room for speculation. It’s not even totally clear who made it, but as we saw with the copy mistakes last week, it could be that it’s not made by Nahua.
Anyway, the Codex Borgia shows many deities, big celebrations, rituals and so on. This is the page, we will have a look at, today:
Let’s begin with this page, that could also have been in a medieval mystic’s book, as we will see. The obvious layer is a god on the left side, who is sitting on kind of a throne. On the right side, we see a rather odd animal, that obviously ripped off the head of a bird, holding the head in his right hand and the bird in the left. Above the scene are two symbols, a rabbit in a round form and something left to it. Below we see another bird’s head, with some blood, lying in what seems to be a huge mouth. Around the scene are 13 more birds, all depicted different. We can very clearly see a strong flow of blood going from the bird’s neck to the mouth of the deity. A little side note: Please remember this kind of depiction for blood, we will see it more often in the future. Often, it’s hard to distinguish blood, fire, water and so on.
Let’s try to find out, which deity we have here: Is there anything with that deity that reminds you of something you have already seen, connected to the Aztecs? I’m sure, dear reader, you saw it already. He sits in front of something, and it pretty much looks like the rough depiction of the “Aztec Calendar”. And indeed, it is. Though, we have already talked about, that it is not a calendar. There is no possibility to read time from it. However, in the middle of this “Sun Stone”, as it is called, we find Tonatiuh, which is the sun god and in fact the god, that we see on this picture.
Now, what is happening with ol’ Tonatiuh? A bird get’s sacrificed for him. He’s the sun god, we may not forget that, and we know, that the Aztecs conducted regular sacrifice for the sun god. That it is a bird however, could be a bit surprising for some, but Aztecs didn’t only sacrifice humans. To be exact, the bird is a quail (colin on Nahuatl). The element of a rabbit in a round form on top of that darker layer is called Metztli, which means “Moon”. The form right next to it is Ce Acatl, “one reed” signifying the morning star Venus.
Sun, moon and the morning star along with a sacrifice of a bird, then earth, tlalli, the mouth at the bottom. There are also “water” and “fire” in the picture. It’s the both pillars the throne rests on. On the left is atl, the water and on the right tlachinolli, “fire” or “burning”. So, we can even find the alchemical elements here, as well as the mystical sun/moon/morningstar-triple.
With the bird, you can even find out, what time it is on this picture. The Aztecs divided their days into 13 hours. There are thirteen birds around the scene and each bird has a number of counters next to it. I will help you a bit, though: It’s the one with four counters. Now, if a 24 hour day has not 24 but 13 hours, how many minutes does an hour have? Exactly, roughly 111 minutes. The fourth hours means, that it is between 444 and 554 minutes of that day. And translated to our hours again it means, that it’s around 07.25 to 09.15 in the morning.
Some other interesting birds, that we can find here are the quetzal on position 12, a turkey on 9 (see that skin flap hanging down?), a proud eagle on 8 and on number 7… What is that on number seven? Well, “as long as it flies, we count it as bird” the Aztec probably thought: it’s a butterfly.