Representations of Naguals in Prehispanic codices


Representations of Naguals in Prehispanic codices.


The Nagual was a being that protected sacred spaces among Mesoamerican cultures. To present this concept has been distorted to the point of being associated with curses.

To study and rescue the original concept and cultural value of these and other Prehispanic mythological beings, the “Primer Congreso Internacional de Folklore y Tradicion Oral en Arqueologia”, (1st Congress on Folklore and Oral Tradition in Archaeology) takes place from August 18th to 20th 2010 at the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH), with the participation of nearly 50 experts from Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

The expert in oral tradition Francisco Rivas Castro, from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), mentioned that parting from representations of Naguals in Prehispanic codices and 16th century Colonial canvases, it has been achieved to deepen into the symbolism behind these characters.

Anthropologist Rivas Castro commented that the image of Naguals is present in Borbonic, Laud, Fejérváry-Mayer and Bodley codices, as well as the Ihuatlan Canvas, documents that allow knowing the conception of Mesoamerican cultures, mainly Mexica and Mixteca.

“The objective of the congress is to rescue the original meaning of the concept, since the protective connotation has been lost. In the ancient times the Nagual took care of fields and sacred spaces, keeping everything in order and punishing people who transgressed religious regulations”.

The ability to transform into animals was a “gift that gave them the strength and skills of certain animals such as birds, jaguars and coyotes to fulfill their duties”, declared Rivas.

During Colonial times, this perception began to change. Prehispanic syncretism integrated European elements such as curses and witchcraft. “This oral tradition is deeply-rooted in Indigenous imaginary, so it is important to study it and see how it has modified through time”.

During his participation at the congress, in August 19th 2010, Francisco Rivas Castro will talk about the presence of Naguals in Mixteca culture by analyzing Ihuatlan Canvas.

“This cloth was painted by Indigenous artists, the Tlacuilos, and has a Nagual, half man, half beast, represented in the upper right corner, protecting the fields”, mentioned the doctor in Anthropology.

The congress takes place from August 18th to 20th 2010 in the National School of Anthropology and History, Periferico Sur at Zapote St., colonia Isidro Fabela, Mexico City. The entrance is free and conferences are in Spanish.

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