Ecatl (MH485v)

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This element for "Air" or "Breath" (Ecatl) has the diagnostics that point to the divine or sacred force or spirit associated with the wind (ehecatl). It has been carved from the compound glyph for the personal name Ecacoacatl. It shows what appears to be the head of a man in profile (facing to the viewer's right) with a thick black stripe running vertically across the side of his face. A bird's beak protrudes from his mouth. It looks something like a duck bill.

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 black line (face paint?) across this man's face is a diagnostic for Ehecatl. The lack of reduplication of the first syllable in the man's name is not unusual. Ecatl can mean air, and ehecatl is the usual way of writing wind. Wind has a notable importance in Nahua religion. It was a day sign in the calendar, which meant it ended up as a personal name for many people.

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Date of Manuscript: 


Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Huejotzingo, Puebla

Semantic Categories: 
Shapes and Perspectives: 

viento, aliento, aires

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

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

Image Source: 

Matrícula de Huexotzinco, folio 485v, 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: