citlalin (Mdz17v)

citlalin (Mdz17v)
Element from a Compound

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This element for star (citlalin) has been carved from the compound glyph for the place name, Citlaltepec. This component is a dark sky with twelve or more white stars. The sky is rounded or arching. It was originally placed atop a mountain.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

Stars (citlalin) can appear like this, as white dots on a black background. But they also sometimes appear as eyes--in the shape of what some scholars call "starry eyes," such as we see in this glyph: In the Codex Borbonicus, we see both dots and eyes together in the representation of night (yohualli): Loic Vauzelle notes how the Codex Borbonicus figure of Citlalinicue shows round white stars on her skirt along with white shells, and Vauzelle sees a relationship between stars and shells in Nahua thought. [See "Clothes with Metaphorical Names and the Representation of Metaphors in the Costumes of the Aztec Gods," in Katarzyna Mikulska and Jerome A. Offner, Indigenous Graphic Communication Systems (Louisville: University Press of Colorado, 2019), esp. p. 173.]

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Source Manuscript: 
Date of Manuscript: 

c. 1541, but by 1553 at the latest

Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Mexico City

Cultural Content & Iconography: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood


stars, estrellas, citlalli

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Relevant Nahuatl Dictionary Word(s): 
Additional Scholars' Interpretations: 


Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 

la estrella

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 17 verso,, image 45 of 188.

Image Source, Rights: 

The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, hold the original manuscript, the MS. Arch. Selden. A. 1. This image is published here under the UK Creative Commons, “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License” (CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0).