General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 22 Jan 2021/7 Jaguar
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Dr. John F. Schwaller

Question for January 2021

Once dead, could you move between levels/heavens? Asked by Potters Gate CE Primary School. Chosen and answered by Dr. John F. Schwaller.

‘Bundle of death’, illustration by Miguel Covarrubias, based on the Codex Magliabechiano fol. 57 (detail)
‘Bundle of death’, illustration by Miguel Covarrubias, based on the Codex Magliabechiano fol. 57 (detail) (Click on image to enlarge)

In a word, no. In fact very few people ended up in any heaven at all. Most people just died. There really was no general explanation for what happened to them afterwards. The important thing to remember about the afterlives in Aztec thought is that they had to do with the specific elements of a person’s death, not how they lived their lives. For example, the heaven ruled by the rain deity Tlaloc and his consort Chalchiuhtlicue, was reserved for those who died by drowning or because of lightning strikes. It was called Tlalocan, because Tlaloc was the lord, there. Warriors who died in battle, and women who died in childbirth went to the same heaven. Again, folks went to a given heaven because of the specific events surrounding their deaths, not the nature of their life. Thus, there would be no reason for moving from one afterlife to another, since a person can only die once.

Image scanned from The Aztecs: People of the Sun by Alfonso Caso, University of Oklahoma Press, 1958.

Dr. John F. Schwaller has answered 8 questions altogether:

Why did the Aztecs only use wheels for toys and not for transport?

Do we only get food words or are there other English words derived from the Aztec language?

How many words were there in the Aztec language?

Why didn’t the Aztecs ask their gods to save them?

Is Náhuatl taught in Mexican schools today?

Why is the emperor called Montezuma [in England] and not Moctezuma?

Did the Aztecs say a prayer before eating?

Once dead, could you move between levels/heavens?

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