Aztec tattoo art shows the history and symbols of the most famous Aztec tattoos. Aztec culture provides many options for tattoo design ideas that have deep symbolic meaning.
Aztec tattoo art mainly comprises of 3 areas Aztec sun, Aztec calendar stone and Aztec Eagle Knight.
This image from (Codex Mendoza 1938, vol. 3: folio 67)
Aztec Sun Tattoo Art
Aztecs believed that the universe was made up of four separate eras. Each era had its own sun and at the end of each era, each sun also died. We are now in what ism and has been for a very long time the fifth era. The name of this present sun era is Tonatiuh.
Roughly translated its name means ‘He who come shining’. This sun god is responsible for talking care of the universe and the Aztec heaven called Tollan. Only dead warriors and women who died in childbirth could enter Tollan.
Because of the importance of Tonatiul it was essential that he be looked after, otherwise his demise could be the end of the universe. To this end human sacrifices to the Aztec Sun God were regularly provided to nourish and sustain him.
Aztec Tattoo Art, Aztec Calendar Stone
The Aztec Calendar Stone dates back to the sixth Aztec monarchy of 1479. It is a combination of multiple symbols dedicated to the 5th Aztec sun, Tonatiuh as explained above.
Discovered in Mexico city in 1790 the stone twelve feet in diameter weighs twenty-five tons and bears the face of Tonatiuh in the middle. Surrounding the sun god are four panel representing the four previous suns, or eras. Around these panels are symbols of the twenty days of the Aztec month. The Aztecs believed that their society would be destroyed by earthquake. This is symbolically reflected by the date ‘4 Ollin’. The calendar shone also bears the dates of the previous four Aztec world ending events. 4 Tiger, 4 Wind, 4 Rain, 4 Water.
The image above is the patron god of the Tenochtitlan calmecac, Quetzalcoatl from (Codex Magliabecchiano, in the series Codices Selecti, vol. XXIII, Akademische Druck u. Verlagsanstalt, Graz 1970, folio 61)
Aztec Tattoo Art, Aztec Eagle-Knight
This image from Florentine Codex.
In order to maintain the well being of their sun god and thereby their universe Aztecs made regular human sacrifices to the god. Therefore the capturing of these captives was a large part of Warrior life along with war itself. There was a very clear hierarchy within the ranks of warriors.
An Aztec warrior was only allowed wear feather head-dresses and leather bracelets after capturing prisoners. When the warriors career was over he could be one of two ranks, Aztec Jaguar Knight or Aztec Eagle Knight. The jaguar knights costume was that of a jaguar and eagle knight whose helmet was an eagle head. It is this symbol that is most often portrayed in Aztec Tattoo Art.
This image (Nuttall 1903:30).