Ecatl (MH591r)

Ecatl (MH591r)
Simplex Glyph

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This is a black-line drawing of the simplex glyph for the personal name Ecatl (“Air," "Breath," or the name "Ehecatl,” shared by the divine force or spirit of the wind). The name attested here is a man’s. It shows the head of an anthropomorphic figure looking toward the viewer's right. He has a beak-like mouth that is open, an eye that is open, and a thick, black, vertical stripe on his 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 "Hecatl," 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.

Comparing this glyph with others, below, one can see the recurring face paint or tattoo of the black vertical line on the cheek and the beak-like mouth. 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: 

alunso hecatl

Gloss Normalization: 

Alonso Ecatl (or Ehecatl)

Gloss Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Date of Manuscript: 


Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Huejotzingo, Puebla, Mexico

Cultural Content, Credit: 

Jeff Haskett-Wood

Shapes and Perspectives: 

winds, viento, deidades, divinidades, fuerzas divinas, días, tonalpohualli

Museum & Rare Book Comparisons: 
Museum/Rare Book Notes: 

A person with the attributes of Ehecatl is carved in stone here. His half mask with the wind-blowing device painted red looks something like a bird's beak. The signage suggests the appreciation for the wind before the rain, which has a tie to agricultural fertility. This piece was found on Venezuela Street in the center of Mexico City, and it is not located in the National Museum of Anthropology. Photo by Stephanie Wood, 14 February 2023.

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

eheca(tl), wind, or the deity or divine force of wind,
eca(tl), air, breath,

Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 

El Aire, El Aliento, o El Viento

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 
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: