The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

Savage gods of the Aztecs; left column: (1) Cihuacoatl ("Deus mortuorum," "the god of the dead"); (2) Tlaloc ("Deus aquarum," "the god of the waters"); (3) Techalotl ("Deus helluonum," "the god of gluttons"); right column: (4) Huitzilopochtli ("summus Mexicanorum Deus," "Mexicans' highest god"); (5) Tezcatlipoca ("Deus Ventorum," "the god of the winds"); (6) one of many pulque gods, collectively known as Tototchtin = "Rabbits," e. g. Ometochtli ("Deus Vini," "god of wine," styled as "Omelochilus" in Cowley). Cowley's Plantarum, Book V, is especially concerned with the conquest of Mexico and its fearsome gods; for two wide-ranging surveys of the earliest pertinent sources see Colin Steele, English Interpreters of the Iberian New World from Purchas to Stevens: A Bibliographical Study, 1603-1726 (Oxford, 1975), and Hugh Thomas, Conquest (New York, 1994), Appendix. Cowley's own major sources for Aztec-Nahuatl material were de Laet and the Spaniards excerpted in Purchas (who like Cowley occasionally aligns Aztec with Inca divinities), as well as perhaps the god-portraits on this title-page, or (less usefully) the nondescript deities of P. Tozzi's coda to Cartari's Vere e nove imagini (Padua, 1615); he may also have looked at the Bodleian Codex Laud misc. 678, once owned by the doomed Archbishop Laud, featuring gods like Cowley's "Mexican Venus" = Tlazolteotl (see image-link given below). Title-page with explorers and trophy-vignettes from the Latin edition of Theodor de Bry, America, 13 vols. (Frankfurt, 1590-1634), Pt. 12; deity-vignettes drawn from a sectional title-page of Antonio Herrera's Historia General (Madrid, 1601), Vol. I.* Reproduced with permission from the Special Collections of the University of Virginia.
*On the iconographic relations of the Mexican codices see esp. Elizabeth H. Boone, The Codex Magliabechiano and the Lost Prototype of the Magliabechiano Group (Berkeley, 1983), and Ellen T. Baird, The Drawings of Sahagún's "Primeros memoriales": Structure and Style (Norman, OK, 1993). As Zelia Nuttall proposed years ago, a close cognate if not the immediate source for Herrera's vignettes is Codex Magliabecchi XIII.11.3, Biblioteca nazionale, Florence (The Book of the Life of the Ancient Mexicans ... Reproduced in Facsimile, ed. Z. Nuttall [Berkeley, University of California, 1903], vii): fol. 45r (1);fol. 44r (2); fol. 64r (3); fol. 73r (4); foll. 33r and 65r conflated (5); and foll. 49r-57r conflated (6); but see Boone's rival version of these attributions (Codex, chap. 4). Herrera or his engraver transfers to Huitzilopochtli an especially shocking depiction (4) which the manuscript clearly assigns to another death-deity, Mictlantecuhtl.
Related Links:
New World Cultivation and Sacrifice // Aztec-Mexica Links // Tlazolteotl and her Sisters // The American Amazon
French site: Aztec Pantheon / Ancient Briton as Mexican Soldier // Return to de Bry Index