SYMBOLS ON THE SACRED TILMA & THEIR SIGNIFICANCE
The Aztecs worshipped the sun as the god that gave them life and to appease him, they offered palpitating human hearts which they considered to be a symbol of life.
To the Aztecs, this Image shows the sun is within the Virgin Mary. The 'aureole' (brightness around the image) is a symbol attributed to God and the rays give the Sacred Image an aura of light. They appear as though they are emitted from her, based on the direction of the arrows and the wavy pattern. At that time, the Aztecs were waiting for the birth of the new sun.
The Aztecs called their sun god Huitzilopochtli (their god of war, too). They also believed in Ometéotl, a god with two natures. As a parallelism, the Spanish friars came to Ancient Mexico to evangelize the natives and teach them about Jesus Christ who had two natures, human and divine.
The Aztecs closely observed the movement of the sun, moon, and stars, and based their religious beliefs and way of life on this. They were deep into cosmogony - that branch of science dealing with the origin of the universe, particularly the solar system.
This four-petalled flower is the only flower of its kind found on Our Lady's robe. It is known as the 'flower of the quincunx' - considered to be one of the highest religious and cosmogonic symbols of the Aztecs. It depicts the four movements of the sun (the four seasons) as well as the North, South, East and West united in the centre by a fifth element giving it balance and equilibrium.
The strategic location of the flower is known to the Aztecs as Nahui Ollin (Flower of the Sun), representing the motherhood of The Virgin. This image tells the Aztecs symbolically of the 'god child' that's in her womb - the author and giver of life - as she stands in front of the sun with rays emitting from her.
Our Blessed Mother's face is bowed down, looking at everyone tenderly and with compassion. She is gazing slightly to one side as a sign of reverence and respect as native Indians considered it improper to look directly at anyone's face.
The features of the face of this young goddess and mother is neither that of an Indian nor Spanish but a 'half-caste' - one who is considered mestizo, meaning a blend of races (Aztec and Spanish). This was the term used by the Spaniards to identify the children of Spanish conquistadores and Aztec women. The portrayal of the Blessed Virgin Mary on her Image as mestiza symbolized the birth of a new race.
Looking closely into Our Lady's eyes, ophthalmologists have tested this Sacred Image and affirmed that there are human forms reflected in her eyes, which measure between 8-9mm. It would be impossible to paint this detail within such a tiny space and on such rough material.
Further examination in 1981 by a certain Dr Jose Aste Tonsman revealed 13 persons reflected in her eyes. Magnified photos show the larger images as reflections of Juan Diego and Bishop Juan de Zumarraga. The rest could be images of those present when Juan Diego opened his tilma to show the Bishop the sign he had asked for.
Ophthalmologists have testified that both eyes were filled with light when they inspected them with an ophthalmoscope. One of them found small veins on the eyelids, while yet another stated that "the eyes were alive and looking at him!"1
Amazingly, or should we say, miraculously, Our Lady's lower lip fell on a knot on Juan Diego's tilma - giving the appearance of a soft gracious smile.
On the Sacred Image, our Blessed Mother's hair is loose, indicating she's a virgin maiden - married indigenous women braided their hair.
This band or ribbon tied in a knot signifies that she is a noblewoman with child - noble indigenous women tied a black band just above their waist to show they were pregnant. This symbol, together with the symbolism of Our Lady's hair, confirms her message to St Juan Diego - 'I am the Always Holy VIRGIN Mary, MOTHER of the true God'.
Her hands are joined together in prayer, just as Europeans do, confirming her request that the Bishop build a chapel (a house of prayer) on Tepeyac Hill where she appeared.
In addition, she expresses a desire for a new society, a place where everyone is equal.
The Blessed Virgin's hands show her right hand as being more delicate and lighter in colour than the left which is fuller and darker - depicting her message for unity of the Indian and Spanish cultures and the birth of a new race.
To the Aztecs, her folded hands and her bent left knee, with the tip of one shoe showing as she stepped on the new moon crescent, signify that the Blessed Virgin is dancing and clapping her hands to the rhythm of the maracas, their musical instrument - this was how the Aztecs prayed.
THE BROOCH ON HER NECK:
The indigenous people had idols with a jade oval which they believed gave life. In Nahuatl, the central position and the shape of this brooch with a cross signifies how important Jesus Christ is to The Virgin as she brings a message that's Christocentric.
It also symbolizes the union of two cultures through the Spanish Cross, being the Christian sacred symbol, and the four-petalled flower, being the Aztec sacred symbol.
This is a true depiction of the importance of the Cross - the cause of our Redemption and New Life. Mary is portrayed in this image as the 'Mother of the Giver of Life' through the Cross.
Our Blessed Mother's tunic is pink with shades of crimson, representing the earth. It is covered with nine types of flowers - all in gold - representing the nine tribes from Atzlan that made up Tenochtitlan, the seat of the Aztec empire built on Lake Texcoco.
The bottom of her tunic shows excess fabric edged in gold just like her mantle. The pointed ends of the tunic and the mantle are held by an angel on each hand, symbolizing the union of heaven and earth.
Her beautiful turquoise mantle edged in gold represents the sky and covers her whole body from her head down to her feet. Turqouise signifies royalty since only their Emperor wore this colour.
Her mantle is covered with 46 eight-pointed stars that were in the same position as the stars in the heavens during the Winter solstice of 1531 - the day and year of the apparition.
THE GOLD ON HER MANTLE & ON HER TUNIC:
The flowers, stars and edges of her mantle and her tunic are in gold. In 1751, a famous Zapotec artist, Miguel Cabrera, was commissioned to examine the Sacred Image and was amazed at the inexplicable technique used in imprinting the gold designs on her tunic. At first, he was hesitant to touch the gold, which looked too delicate to touch, like dust on a butterfly's wings. He saw that the gold seemed to be intertwined into the fibres before they were woven but when he touched them, he noticed they were concave - a result of being stamped onto the fabric. He also saw a gold line as thin as human hair next to the gold edges of her mantle. Later infrared tests in 1941 by another expert confirmed this.