Nahual (MH497r)

Nahual (MH497r)
Simplex Glyph

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This black-line drawing of the simplex glyph for the personal name Nahual (short for nahualli), which is attested here as a man's name (or perhaps a state of being), includes two elements that would produce the one idea. These elements are a war shield (yaotl), which seemingly serves as a head for possibly a worm (ocuilin) or caterpillar. The latter is seemingly tubular and segmented This segmentation is also reminiscent of the rattle (coacuechtli) of a rattlesnake (coatl) (see examples, below).

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

Another example of this conceptual glyph in the Matrícula de Huexotzinco also has what may be a worm or a rattle, but it lacks the shield. Perhaps the shield in this particular glyph was made at first and then was transformed into the worm (or whatever the visual is), as the artist might have thought his name was Yaotl, but then decided it was Nahual.

Nahuales were perceived as "form-changing shamans" (in the words of James Maffie, 2013, 39), sometimes taking on the attributes or abilities of animals, such as a jaguar, and becoming that creature as a "temporary incarnation of cosmic reality" (Maffie, 40, citing Raymond Fogelson). The term nahualli can refer to the shamanic power of transformation or it can refer to the being into which the shaman transforms, such as an animal, according to James Maffie (Aztec Philosophy, 2014, 38.)

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 


Gloss Normalization: 

Diego Nahual

Gloss Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Date of Manuscript: 


Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Huejotzingo, Puebla, Mexico

Semantic Categories: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Jeff Haskett-Wood

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

nahual(li), animal spirit, shape-shifter, transforming figure, personal animal spirit,

Image Source: 

Matrícula de Huexotzinco, folio 497r, 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: