Ecatl (MH484v)

Ecatl (MH484v)
Simplex Glyph

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This black-line drawing of the simplex glyph for Ecatl, which literally means air or breath. The visual, however, refers to the divine force or spirit of the wind, Ehecatl. It shows a face in profile, facing to the viewer's right, and the face has duck-bill-like protrusions where the mouth is. A diagnostic black line (face paint or tattoo) runs down the figure's cheek.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

A great many glyphs in this collection start with Eca- when Ehecatl is expected, given the iconography. The gloss here gives "Ecatl," but the visuals suggest "Ehecatl." We are recognizing the possibility of an unintentional oral abbreviation of Eheca- to Eca-. But, if the shortening of the name is intentional, it may be a response to the edict of 1540 prohibiting the naming of Nahua children after deities that led to a favoring of Ecatl over Ehecatl, as a kind of disguise. See Norma Angélica Castilla Palma, "Las huellas del oficio y lo sagrado en los nombres nahuas de familias y barrios de Cholula," Dimensión Antropológica v. 65 (sept.-dic. 2015), 186. Castilla also mentions how there were pressures to stop using names from the tonalpohualli, and this led to the dropping of the number that went with the day name. Such a number is absent here. So the whole result is a lessening of the sacred aspects, perhaps for outsiders.

The V-shape that is coming from the man's mouth is reminiscent of the beak (or what some sources describe as a duck bill) that can be seen on the representation of Ehecatl (the deity associated with the wind) in the autonomous-era stone carving in the museum in Calixtlahuaca and as shown below in other Ehecatl glyphs in this collection). Several additional stone carvings said to represent the divine or sacred force of the wind have broken-off beaks, such as this one in the British Museum. The association can make some sense, given that wind (ehecatl) is the word for breath (ecatl) reduplicated (with the repetition of the first syllable). The black line (perhaps face paint) across this man's face has yet to be analyzed, but it is a diagnostic trait. Another version of this glyph, bearing the same black line and a similar beak-like symbol in the mouth, also appears on folio 484 verso of the Matrícula de Huexotzinco. The breath (or buccal mask element) in that case is tipped down a little bit. (See below.) Importantly, wind is also a day sign in the calendar.

Gabrielle Vail and ‎Christine Hernández (Re-Creating Primordial Time, 2013, ) describe Ehecatl as the wind aspect of Quetzalcoatl, and they note that Ehecatl "wears a buccal (duck) mask through which to blow wind." That the "beak" may have been perceived as a blowing device is supported by the glyph for Pitztli (below).

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 

Juā hecatl

Gloss Normalization: 

Juan Ecatl

Gloss Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Date of Manuscript: 


Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Huejotzingo, Puebla

Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Shapes and Perspectives: 

breath, aliento

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Relevant Nahuatl Dictionary Word(s): 

eca(tl), air/breath,
eheca(tl)/Ehecatl, wind, or the spirit of the wind,

Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 

El Viento (Precioso)

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 

Matrícula de Huexotzinco, folio 484v, World Digital Library,

Image Source, Rights: 

This manuscript is hosted by the Library of Congress and the World Digital Library; used here with the Creative Commons, “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License” (CC-BY-NC-SAq 3.0).

Historical Contextualizing Image: