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Deer Symbolism in the Aztec Calendar: Understanding Mazatl

Mazatl is a sacred day of the 7th trecena in the ancient Aztec calendar, known as the ‘tonalpohualli’. Represented by the image of a deer, this day was associated with the deity Patecatl according to the Aztec calendar system.

What is Mazatl?

The tonalpohualli was a sacred almanac used by many Mesoamerican cultures, including the Aztecs, to organize various religious rituals. It had 260 days which were divided into separate units called ‘trecenas’. Each trecena had 13 days and each day was represented by a symbol.

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Mazatl, meaning ‘deer’, was the first day of the 7th trecena in the tonalpohualli. Similar to Manik in Maya, the day Mazatl is a good day for stalking others, but a bad day to be stalked. It’s a day for breaking old and monotonous routines, and for paying close attention to others’ routines. The Aztecs regarded Mazatl as a day for retracing one’s steps or doubling back on one’s tracks.

Deer Hunting in Mesoamerica

The deer, the symbol for day Mazatl, was a highly useful animal that was hunted throughout Mesoamerica for its meat, skin, and antlers. Deer meat was one of the most esteemed food offerings for ancestors and deities. Speared deer can be seen depicted in both Central Mexican and Mayan codices, since successful deer hunts were celebrated events that were often documented.

Although the Mesoamericans hunted this animal, they made sure not to hunt it into extinction. They could only kill a limited number of deer per day and during the hunt they were to ask the gods for permission to kill the animal. Killing more deer than the hunter needed was a punishable crime.

After a hunt, the Aztecs used every part of the deer, including for medicinal purposes. They used burnt deerskin for aiding in childbirth, the meat for food, and the antlers for making tools and musical instruments. They had a tortoise-shell drum called the ‘ayotl’ and they used deer antlers to make the drumsticks.

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The Governing Deity of Mazatl

The day Mazatl was governed by Patecatl, the god of healing and fertility. He was a powerful deity, feared for his bad temper and ability to destroy the world with lightning, thunder, and hail. However, he was also extensively worshipped as a giver of sustenance and life.

Tlaloc was married to the flower goddess Xochiquetzal, but after she was kidnapped by the primordial creator Tezcatlipoca, he married Chalchihuitlicue, the goddess of the oceans. He and his new wife had a son, Tecciztecatl who became the Old Moon God.

Tlaloc was often described as a goggle-eyed being with the fangs of a jaguar. He wears a crown made of heron feathers and foam sandals, carrying rattles that he used to make thunder. In addition to ruling the day Mazatl, he also ruled over day Quiahuitl of the 19th trecena.

Mazatl in the Aztec Zodiac

The Aztecs believed that the deities who governed each day of the calendar had an effect on the personalities of those who were born on specific days. Tlaloc, as the governing deity of Mazatl, provided people who were born on this day with their life energy (known as ‘tonalli’ in Nahuatl).

According to the Aztec zodiac, those born on day Mazatl are loyal, kind, and extremely curious. They are known for being calm, vulnerable, sensitive, responsible, and sociable people who hide their true selves from others. They fall in love easily and give their best to make their relationship work.


Mazatl, symbolized by the deer, is a day in the Aztec tonalpohualli calendar linked to nimbleness and grace. It signifies agility, freedom, and the spirit of survival, encouraging adaptability and strategic movement. Mazatl is associated with the day’s namesake, the noble deer, revered in Mesoamerican culture.

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.