yn ilhuicame, yn inca in cicitlaltin

Tecciztecatl: The Conch Shell Lord Constellation

Tecciztecatl, roughly translated as “The Conch Shell Lord,” is an enigmatic figure found in the pre-Conquest art, religion and astronomy of Mexico.

In this icon, a person appears to be emerging from the opening in a spiral-shaped shell, most often associated with the conch. According to tradition, Tecciztecatl sacrificed himself and jumped into a fire at the beginning of the creation of the world. He thus became the moon.

For many icons in the Aztec library of celestial objects, religious figures and calendrical associations, there are shared attributes which overlap. Icons associated with Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca often share the same shell pendants worn around the waist or neck or mirrors on the head. In this way, Tecciztecatl can be associated with Tezcatlipoca.

Since it is possible to map out the Aztec figures in astronomy, the overlap of attributes between icons can be explained as being a result of the physical appearance of the constellations and their spatial relationship to one another.

In the Aztec Astronomy map as proposed by Fernando Rodriguez and featured on this website, Tecciztecatl is associated with several modern constellations. They are:

  1. Aquarius
  2. Perseus
  3. Andromeda
  4. Pisces
  5. Pegasus

When grouped together, these modern constellations appear to form the outlines of a person emerging from a shell, almost exactly as depicted in the artwork for Tecciztecatl.

There are several circumstances surrounding the modern constellations associated with Tecciztecatl which make them more than coincidental. For example, Perseus is associated with the headdress of Tecciztecatl. There is an annual meteor shower whose radiant is from Perseus. One of the attributes most commonly associated with Tezcatlipoca is in fact his namesake “Smoking Mirror”. At one point in the year, these “smoking” stars appear to be coming out of the headdress of Tecciztecatl.

There are several other circumstances that make these modern constellations an excellent association with Tecciztecatl, aside from the physical likeness.

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