papalotl (Mdz20v)

papalotl (Mdz20v)

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This is an iconographic example of the warrior outfit called the papalotl, which means butterfly. It is identified in Berdan and Anawalt's The Codex Mendoza (1992, vol. 1, Appendix F). The body covering is primarily turquoise, with red trim at the neckline and white cloth or feathers over the groin area. The prominent butterfly features include the antennae that curl to the right and left off the top of the headdress and the yellow stylized wings coming off the circular central piece. The antennae are yellow and turquoise. The headdress also has red feathers shooting straight up from the top of in a fan-like arrangement, with other colored feathers (yellow, green) at the base. The center of the main, circular device has a red ring and yellow feathers pouring out of it.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

Given the turquoise color of this particular outfit, rather than simply a papalotl, this may be a xiuhpapalotl, which is a symbol that dates back to Teotihuacan (the Classic Period). See Ian Mursell's study of the meaning of butterflies in Aztec culture. He also explains how butterflies were "a symbol of fire, war, paradise, flowers, heroes, of the souls of warriors who fell on the battlefield or in human sacrifice, of women who died in childbirth."
The use of red and yellow at the center of the butterfly may be suggesting access to the interior of the insect, but this is just conjecture. See the essay about the use of red and yellow. For a pre-Columbian ceramic butterfly stamp with a circle on its abdomen, see the one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 

pieças di armas desta divisa
azul de plumas valadis en un año

Gloss Normalization: 

piezas de armas de esta divisa azul de plumas baladís [i.e. comunes, por ejemplo de patos] en un año

Gloss Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Source Manuscript: 
Date of Manuscript: 

by 1553 at the latest

Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Mexico City

Syntax (patterns): 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

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

papalo(tl), butterfly, also a warrior uniform;

Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 

el papalote

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 
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).

Historical Contextualizing Image: