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Artist Gwen Boul with his portrait of the Aztec goddess Coatlicue

Aztec Gods: a Gallery

We are most grateful to Gwendal Uguen, a French journalist, historian - and talented artist - who has kindly allowed us to reproduce some of his portraits of ‘leading’ Aztec/Mexica deities on our website. We hope they will prove useful in school projects, and may well inspire budding young artists of the future... The potted biographies are Gwen’s; we’ve added extra details in italics.

Pic 1: Centéotl, god of maize
Pic 1: Centéotl, god of maize (Click on image to enlarge)

Centéotl (pic 1) was the Aztec god of Maize. His name means “Maize cob Lord” or “the Dried Ear of the Maize God”, and he represents the Aztec version of a more ancient and pan-Mesoamerican deity. Centeotl was the son of Tlazolteotl, the goddess of fertility and childbirth, and husband of Xochiquetzal. He can be identified by the vertical lines on his face. His headdress has maize ears.

Pic 2: Coatlicue, the mother of gods
Pic 2: Coatlicue, the mother of gods (Click on image to enlarge)

Coatlicue (pic 2), the Mother of Gods, she gave birth to the moon, stars, and Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and war. Represents the devouring mother, in whom both the womb and the grave exist. ’She of the Serpent Skirt’, she can be identified by her skirt made of snakes. Considered the mother of the people, giver of fertility.

Pic 3: Huitzilopochtli, god of war
Pic 3: Huitzilopochtli, god of war (Click on image to enlarge)

Huitzilopochtli (pic 3) ‘Hummingbird of the South’, central [war] deity of the Mexica. Associated with the Sun and Fire. Huitzilopochtli is a warrior, armed the with the ferocious xiuhcoatl (Fire Snake). Sometimes identified as the Blue Tezcatlipoca. He wears a blue-green hummingbird headdress, and is frequently represented bearing on his back the head of a fantastic animal.

Pic 4: Itztlacoliuhqui, god of ice and cold...
Pic 4: Itztlacoliuhqui, god of ice and cold... (Click on image to enlarge)

Itztlacoliuhqui (pic 4), ‘Curved Point of Obsidian’ - ‘Knife Eye Bundle’. God of frost, ice, cold, winter, sin, punishment and human misery. Also god of objectivity and blindfolded justice. Variant of Tezcatlipoca and associated with the night and the north.

Pic 5: Mictlantecuhtli, god of death
Pic 5: Mictlantecuhtli, god of death (Click on image to enlarge)

Mictlantecuhtli (pic 5), God of the dead and the Lord of Mictlan, the lowest and northernmost section of the underworld. He was one of the principal gods of the Aztecs and was the most prominent of several gods and goddesses of death and the underworld. He is frequently represented as a skeleton with bloody spots. He is married to Mictlancihuatl (Lady of Mictlan).

Pic 6: Quetzalcoatl, giver of life
Pic 6: Quetzalcoatl, giver of life (Click on image to enlarge)

Quetzalcoatl (pic 6), ‘The Feathered Serpent’ or Precious Twin. God of intelligence and self-reflection, a patron of priests. Primordial god of creation, a giver of life. With his opposite Tezcatlipoca he created the world. Also called White Tezcatlipoca, to contrast him with black Tezcatlipoca. In his guise as the wind god, he bears on his chest the jewel of the wind, a pectoral in the shape of a cut conch; also associated with wisdom, arts and philosophy.

Pic 7: Tezcatlipoca, god of fate
Pic 7: Tezcatlipoca, god of fate (Click on image to enlarge)

Tezcatlipoca (pic 7), ‘The Smoking Mirror’. God of the night sky, ancestral memory, time and the Lord of the North, the embodiment of change through conflict. Together with his eternal opposite Quetzalcoatl, he created the world. In this process, he lost his foot when he used it as bait for the Earth Monster Cipactli. The Black Tezcatlipoca, he appears in the codices with a smoking mirror on his head, and in other instances, the mirror substitutes for one of his feet. Sometimes a serpent emerges from that mirror in his foot.

Pic 8: Tlaloc, god of rain
Pic 8: Tlaloc, god of rain (Click on image to enlarge)

Tlaloc (pic 8), ‘He Who Makes Things Sprout’. God of rain, lightning and thunder. He is a fertility god, but also a wrathful deity, responsible for both floods and droughts. Tlaloc has goggle eyes and large jaguar teeth and resides in mountain caves. In Aztec times he was so important that he had a special shrine on top of Mt. Tlaloc and he shared the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan with Huitzilopochtli.

Pic 9: Tonatiuh, god of the sun
Pic 9: Tonatiuh, god of the sun (Click on image to enlarge)

Tonatiuh (pic 9), Sun or the Sun God. Symbol of the Fifth World, the present era. He demanded human sacrifice as tribute and without it would refuse to move through the sky. The god of the east, represented typically with the body painted in red and a large solar disk emitting rays. A fierce warlike god that requires the hearts of sacrificed prisoners. His attributes overlap with those of Huitzilopochtli.

Pic 10: Xipe Totec, god of rebirth
Pic 10: Xipe Totec, god of rebirth (Click on image to enlarge)

Xipe Totec (pic 10), ‘Our Lord the Flayed One’. God of the shedding of skins and Seedtime, the elemental force of rebirth. Associated with rejuvenation and spring time. Flayed himself to give food to humanity. Also known as the Red Tezcatlipoca, to contrast him with black Tezcatlipoca. Patron of goldsmiths and god of agricultural renewal; also patron of gladiatorial sacrifice. Priests and warriors paid homage to him, wearing the flayed skin of a sacrificed person for about 20 days at a time.

Pic 11: Xiuhtecuhtli, god of fire, creator of all life
Pic 11: Xiuhtecuhtli, god of fire, creator of all life (Click on image to enlarge)

Xiuhtecuhtli (pic 11), ‘The Turquoise Lord’, Lord of the Year, god of fire, creator of all life. Considered as “Mother and Father of the Gods, he who stands at the centre of the world.” Personification of light in the darkness, warmth in coldness, food during famine, and life in death. He carries a xiuhcóatl (fire serpent) on his back. Xiuhtecuhtli was simultaneously feared because he created disastrous fires and revered for creating fires for warmth, cooking and baths.

Pic 12: Xochipilli, god of flowers, pleasure, feasting...
Pic 12: Xochipilli, god of flowers, pleasure, feasting... (Click on image to enlarge)

Xochipilli (pic 12), ‘The Flower Prince’, god of flowers, pleasure, feasting, frivolity and artistic creativity. He overlaps with the god of gambling, Macuilxochitl, as well as with Centeotl, the maize god, because of his generative powers.

Pic 13: Xochiquetzal, goddess of beauty, fertility and human desire
Pic 13: Xochiquetzal, goddess of beauty, fertility and human desire (Click on image to enlarge)

Xochiquetzal (pic 13), goddess associated with concepts of fertility, beauty, and female power, serving as a protector of young mothers and a patroness of pregnancy, childbirth, and the crafts practised by women such as weaving and embroidery. Xochiquetzal is also representative of human desire, pleasure, and excess, appearing also as patroness of artisans involved in the manufacture of luxury items. She is identified by a floral headband containing emerald quetzal feathers.

Pic 14: Xolotl, god of fire and of bad luck
Pic 14: Xolotl, god of fire and of bad luck (Click on image to enlarge)

Xolotl (pic 14), god of fire and of bad luck. He was the twin of Quetzalcoatl, the pair being sons of the virgin Coatlicue, and was the dark personification of Venus, the evening star. He guarded the sun when it went through the underworld at night. He also assisted Quetzalcoatl in bringing humankind and fire from the underworld. He is depicted with physical deformities, is associated with dwarves and hunchbacks, and is the patron god of twins, who were considered monstrous and were feared.

Additional information in italics taken from Handbook to Life in the Aztec World by Manuel Aguilar-Moreno, Facts on File, New York, 2006.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Oct 14th 2012

See more of Gwen’s art...
Try these zany Japanese manga versions of several key Aztec gods!
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