General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 23 Nov 2017/8 Flint
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Ehécatl, Aztec Wind God, British Museum figure

Study the... WIND GOD

The Aztec Wind God’s name was Ehécatl (which simply means Wind in Náhuatl). He was an important ‘aspect’ (or guise) of the great creator god Quetzalcóatl (Feathered Serpent or Quetzal-plumed Snake). His ‘full name’, then, is often given as Quetzalcóatl-Ehécatl. According to Aztec myth, it was thanks to the Wind God that human life began at all... (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: The 5 Suns or World Eras at the centre of the Sunstone: illustration by Miguel Covarrubias
Pic 1: The 5 Suns or World Eras at the centre of the Sunstone: illustration by Miguel Covarrubias (Click on image to enlarge)

As you may already well know, for the Aztecs our world has already been created and destroyed four times in the past, each time getting better, and we’re now in the Fifth Sun or world era. The four previous worlds were created alternately by two rival gods, the brothers Tezcatlipoca (Smoking Mirror) and Quetzalcóatl. You can see the Aztec symbols or glyphs for these worlds in the middle of the famous Aztec Sunstone (Picture 1; learn more via the link below). The myths give different versions of the order the four previous worlds came in, but a popular sequence goes like this:-

Pic 2: The Aztec glyph for Wind (Ehécatl)
Pic 2: The Aztec glyph for Wind (Ehécatl) (Click on image to enlarge)

First Sun

Name: 4-Jaguar. Ruled by Tezcatlipoca, inhabited by giants, devoured by jaguars and destroyed by the collapse of the sky onto the earth.

Second Sun

Name: 4-Wind. Ruled by Quetzalcóatl, inhabitants destroyed by hurricanes and turned into monkeys.

Third Sun

Name: 4-Rain. Ruled by Tlaloc (rain god), inhabitants destroyed by a rain of fire (volcanic eruptions) and turned into birds.

Fourth Sun

Name: 4-Water. Ruled by Chalchiuhtlicue (goddess of water), inhabitants destroyed by floods and turned into fish.

Fifth Sun

Name: 4-Movement. Our world was created jointly by Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcóatl and ruled by Tonatiuh. Inhabitants predicted to be destroyed by massive earthquakes...

Pic 3: Stone sculpture of Ehécatl, Wind God, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Pic 3: Stone sculpture of Ehécatl, Wind God, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

If you enlarge Picture 1 you can see clearly the sequence of the 4 previous ‘Suns’, in the 4 squares surrounding the deity in the middle. Each square has 4 large dots: each world’s name consisted of a number and a calendar sign. The sign for Wind is shown on its own in Picture 2. Can you see the name of the second Sun, ‘4-Wind’ in Picture 1?

Pic 4: Quetzalcóatl-Ehécatl, from the Codex Borgia (illustration by Miguel Covarrubias)
Pic 4: Quetzalcóatl-Ehécatl, from the Codex Borgia (illustration by Miguel Covarrubias) (Click on image to enlarge)

In all the pictures so far, you will have noticed the Wind God’s feature of a bird’s beak, which is sometimes set with the fangs of a serpent. This is the mask that identifies Quetzalcóatl as the god of wind. You can see it again in Picture 4 (from a famous codex). In case you’re interested (you’d best be - you need this info to be able to complete the Activity Sheet at the bottom...!), here are some of the other things you can see Quetzalcóatl wearing in Picture 4 (enlarge the picture to see it better):-

Pic 5: Temple to the wind god in the centre of the Sacred Precinct of Tenochtitlan: model in the National Museum of Anthropology
Pic 5: Temple to the wind god in the centre of the Sacred Precinct of Tenochtitlan: model in the National Museum of Anthropology (Click on image to enlarge)

* Black painted body and face - he was the god of priests and the one who first performed ‘self-sacrifice’, by pricking parts of the body with cactus spines or animal bone needles to draw blood: can you see the bone sticking out of his headdress? From it flows a green snaky band ending in a turquoise disk - the symbol of ‘precious liquid’ or human blood.

* Being a priest, he holds an incense burner with a handle shaped like a serpent (see the smoke coming from the top?) in one hand, and an incense bag in the other.

* On his head is a CONE-SHAPED hat made of ocelot skin (like a jaguar’s).

* His scarf, bracelets and ankle bands are also made of ocelot skin. The scarf is decorated with small shells that tinkle and rattle.

* His breastplate is a large sea shell, cut across the middle.

* His earplug is a turquoise disk; from it hangs a red tassle and a piece of ‘TWISTED shell’.

* His headdress holds black crow and red macaw feathers.


COMPLICATED, isn’t it?! But these things are important...

Pic 6: Altar to the Aztec wind god, in the middle of Pino Suarez Metro station, Mexico City
Pic 6: Altar to the Aztec wind god, in the middle of Pino Suarez Metro station, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

First, the CONE shape. All temples dedicated to the Wind God were made perfectly round, and with a cone-shaped roof (spot his temple in the middle of the model of Tenochtitlan, PIcture 5). If you visit Mexico City today, take a ride on the city’s underground system (Metro - modelled on the snazzy Paris one) and stop off at the station called Pino Suarez. Bang in the middle of the station is the base of a round stone altar dedicated to Ehécatl. The altar was unearthed during construction of the station in 1967 where it remains to this day surrounded by the passageway between Lines 1 and 2. (Picture 6). Wow!

Pic 7: The Aztec Wind God: super powerful twister...!
Pic 7: The Aztec Wind God: super powerful twister...! (Click on image to enlarge)

Now, the TWISTED thing. This is just amazing... What shape is a super-fast wind, a tornado? In the USA they’re called ‘twisters’! Compare the stone sculpture of Ehécatl, Aztec wind god, in Picture 7 - with its finely spiralled, rope-like ‘helix’ shape - with the two photos of twisters taken from Wikipedia. To show fierce wind as a concrete shape, the Aztecs went for this spiral effect - makes sense! Now, this is where you need to really use your imagination: the wind god blew the rain clouds in at the end of the dry season, forming strong whirlwinds that often announced the arrival of the rainy season (this is why Quetzalcóatl was also the god of agriculture for the Aztecs). To represent this in sculpture, the Aztecs designed the figure of a pregnant monkey dancing on a coiled serpent (Picture 8); with its bird beak mask and twisting, spiralling body, this figure is very clearly Quetzalcóatl-Ehécatl. Where was it found? In the ‘circular pyramid’ at Pino Suarez Metro station!

Try and picture this figure revolving at high speed: what an artistic way to represent a twister!

Pic 8: ‘Dancing monkey’ figure of the Aztec wind god, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Pic 8: ‘Dancing monkey’ figure of the Aztec wind god, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

When the Fifth Sun was created, it had no inhabitants. So the gods had a meeting and called on Quetzalcóatl-Ehécatl (let’s call him Q) to travel down to the underworld of Mictlan, to ask the Lord of the Underworld, Mictlantecuhtli, for the bones of the dead people from the fourth world. Not so simple: the double-dealing Mictlantecuhtli played a trick on Q. He gave Q a challenge that seemed easy - to travel around Mictlan four times while blowing a conch shell trumpet. Here came the trick: Mictlantecuhtli switched a proper playing conch for a plain one with no finger holes. Luckily Q realised he was being tricked and called on worms to eat through the shell to make holes and he called on bees to fly into the shell to make it roar with their buzzing.

Pic 9: Quetzalcóatl-Ehécatl and Mictlantecuhtli: figures in the National Museum of Anthropology and Templo Mayor Museum, Mexico City
Pic 9: Quetzalcóatl-Ehécatl and Mictlantecuhtli: figures in the National Museum of Anthropology and Templo Mayor Museum, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

Mictlantecuhtli had no other choice but to give up the bones; even then, he plotted another trap for Q, who fell into a giant pit that the Lord of the Underworld had had made to block his escape. All the bones ended up broken and scattered. Eventually, though, Q managed to get away after carefully gathering up all the bones. Q was to take part in yet more challenges and adventures - finding a source of food for the first humans (read ‘The Story of Corn’, below) and creating the first maguey century plant cactus, that gives the fermented drink pulque.

Cheers, O Wind God!

Pic 10: Beautifully true-to-life Aztec stone shell sculpture, Templo Mayor Museum
Pic 10: Beautifully true-to-life Aztec stone shell sculpture, Templo Mayor Museum  (Click on image to enlarge)

Now that you’ve learnt more about the Wind God, download the activity sheet on it (click on the PDF icon below) and get to work...!

Our Activity Sheet 4a, on the Aztec Wind God
Our Activity Sheet 4a, on the Aztec Wind God (Click on image to enlarge)

Sources/further information:-

Mythology of the Aztecs and Maya by David M Jones, Southwater/Anness Publishing Ltd., London, 2003

The Aztecs: People of the Sun by Alfonso Caso, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1958

Picture sources:-

Main picture (top of page): © The Trustees of the British Museum

Pictures 1 and 4: Illustrations by Miguel Covarrubias, from The Aztecs: People of the Sun (see above)

Picture 2: Glyph created for Mexicolore by Felipe Dávalos

Pictures 5, 6, 10: photos by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore

Pictures 3 and 8: photos by Ana Laura Landa/Mexicolore

Picture 7: photo of Ehécatl sculpture in the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, Cologne, German by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore; photos of tornadoes taken from Wikipedia-Tornado

Picture 9 (left): photo by Ana Laura Landa/Mexicolore; (right) photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore

emoticon Q. What effect does the Aztec wind god sculpture of a dancing monkey have on you? A. It just blows you away!

Acrobat logo Download our Activity Sheet on the Aztec Wind God...

Learn more about the Sunstone

Learn more about self-sacrifice

Learn more of the ‘dancing monkey’

Read ‘The Story of Corn’

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