General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 23 Oct 2017/3 Deer
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A pantheon of pre-Hispanic gods

Basic Aztec facts: AZTEC GODS

The Spanish said ‘over 2,000’. Most say ‘over 100’. Some say ‘around 20’. A few say ‘just 4 key ones’. One or two say ‘Actually, only two’. If you asked a Mexica, how many gods would (s)he say the Aztecs worshipped? (Written by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

For the Aztecs there was a god, a life force, in everything...
For the Aztecs there was a god, a life force, in everything... (Click on image to enlarge)

Well, that’s where the fun starts! ‘Your average Aztec’ might well have said ‘Ah, well, there’s a spirit, a life force - teotl - in everything, from the smallest ant to the biggest star in the sky, from a single stone to a giant mountain’. You see, they believed the gods were and are with us at every level, from the stars down to the underworld...

The oldest god of all? Huehueteotl, the old fire god
The oldest god of all? Huehueteotl, the old fire god (Click on image to enlarge)

‘That’s why, before we kill an animal or cut down a tree, we ask the spirit inside to forgive us; and once a year we bless and give thanks to the spirit inside every tool and object in our house, for giving us good service. We all worship the gods every day: every Mexica house has a little shrine to the oldest god of all, Huehueteotl, the fire god.’

Twin towers: dedicated to rain god Tlaloc (L) and war god Huitzilopochtli (R)
Twin towers: dedicated to rain god Tlaloc (L) and war god Huitzilopochtli (R) (Click on image to enlarge)

‘Because we’ve always been farmers, we worship the rain god Tlaloc - especially in the wet season, as our lives depend on him; and because in the dry season we’re warriors, we worship our very own war god Huitzilopochtli.’ Actually, you could say that Huitzilopochtli was a) quite a ‘new’ god, and b) the only really AZTEC god: basically all the rest were borrowed from other tribes!

Quetzalcóatl, in his disguise as the wind god
Quetzalcóatl, in his disguise as the wind god (Click on image to enlarge)

Like the Romans, the Mexica were quite happy for all the tribes they conquered to go on worshipping their own, local gods. In a way, the more the merrier! And ‘local’ says it all: every town, neighbourhood, clan, district, guild, worshipped their own patron deity: so, one for merchants, another for fisher folk, another for priests... ‘All our children go to school; if you go to posh school you worship Quetzalcóatl. If you go to the commoners’ school, you follow his rival, Tezcatlipoca.’

All were afraid of Tezcatlipoca, ‘Smoking Mirror’, the god of fate...
All were afraid of Tezcatlipoca, ‘Smoking Mirror’, the god of fate... (Click on image to enlarge)

Q and T were definitely two HEAVIES - and great rivals. To put it crudely Q had introduced all the gentle, good, settled things in life: your ‘culture’ like arts, writing, the calendar, schools, plus agriculture and several goodies like chocolate. Big T, however, was the patron of warriors, sorcerers, the night sky, sin, misery and fate in general...

Duality: the balance between opposite elements and forces
Duality: the balance between opposite elements and forces (Click on image to enlarge)

Q and T were two of the four great creator gods, alongside Xipe Totec (an example of a ‘foreign’ god, borrowed from the Zapotecs) and Huitzilopochtli - all sons of Top God and Goddess Ometeotl (Two Deity), that is Ometecuhtli (Lord Two) and Omecíhuatl (Lady Two), the supreme deity couple, with, like most Aztec gods, MANY different names. Rather remote and little known, they were the original, eternal mother and father.

Cihuacóatl (Snake Woman), one of the most important Aztec goddesses; also known as Our Mother, she represents the creative power of the Earth
Cihuacóatl (Snake Woman), one of the most important Aztec goddesses; also known as Our Mother, she represents the creative power of the Earth (Click on image to enlarge)

GENERAL POINTS:-
• All gods had good and bad sides or faces to them
• The gods created and controlled the world and kept the sun moving
• The gods sacrificed themselves to get our world and life going
• The Aztecs had to pay the gods back through human sacrifices
• Aztec religion was part of EVERYTHING, in public and private life
• The Mexica had stacks of myths about their gods
• Gods, like people, could die and return to life - more than once!
• Roughly 2/3 of the gods were male, 1/3 were female.

Each cardinal direction had a god associated with it...
Each cardinal direction had a god associated with it...

Final point, talking of POINTS: the Divine Couple, Ometeotl, represented the fifth and central direction in the world - up and down or heaven and earth, and each of their four sons looked after one of the four cardinal points, North, South, East and West; this ancient idea is in the 260-day sacred calendar: it was divided into four quarters of 65 days - and a different god - each.

emoticon Because the Spanish made them become Christian, the Nahuas (descendants of the Aztecs) carried on worshipping their old Sun God (Tonatiuh) in the form of Jesus. Neat: they just called him the Son God!

So where are the Aztec gods now...?

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Here's what others have said:

Mexicolore replies: No ill feelings! Thanks for your friendly feedback...
Mexicolore replies: Gods are for explaining those great unpredictable forces in nature - floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, lightning, droughts, plagues - that have always badly affected a country like Mexico...
Mexicolore replies: Sorry about that! We do our best. What do others think?
Mexicolore replies: Some say it means ‘Hummingbird of the South’, others say ‘Hummingbird of the Left’ - meaning ‘to the left of the sun’s path’.
Mexicolore replies: You’re right, Alexis. We did say (above) ‘fifth and central direction’, but of course we could write a lot more about this. Tenochtitlan was seen by the Mexica as the centre of the world, etc... But this is just a short intro for youngsters...