General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 16 Oct 2019/11 Dog
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Article suitable for older students

Dr. Mark Van Stone

Question for October 2019

Were 4 gods linked to the 4 previous ‘worlds’? Asked by St Nicholas School. Chosen and answered by Dr. Mark Van Stone.

The centre ‘piece’ of the Sunstone with first four ‘Suns’ or world eras marked; illustration by Miguel Covarrubias
The centre ‘piece’ of the Sunstone with first four ‘Suns’ or world eras marked; illustration by Miguel Covarrubias (Click on image to enlarge)

Yes, the Aztec myth Leyenda de los Soles says that the five worlds were each ruled by a different god, and the various intrigues between them caused imbalance, and brought each “sun” (creation-cycle) to an end. The third such ruler, Chalchiuhtlcue (pronounced Chal-chee-oot-li-kway), was a goddess.
The Leyenda specifies a lot more than the Maya version of the same story, the Popol Vuh. They share many features, like that each Creation improved on the previous ones, but the biggest difference is that the Aztecs had five, and the Maya only list four. And the Aztecs specify the time-span of each one, where the Popol Vuh mysteriously leaves out any mention of how long things took. (Mysterious because every other piece of Mayan literature specifies how long things took, and when they began and ended, to the day. But the Maya also leave out all the “gods” stuff, probably because they wrote the Popol Vuh down after the Conquest, and they didn’t want to annoy their Catholic priests.) I think the myths are a metaphor for all the rises-and-falls of civilisation in history, and Aztec Creation myth adds a “Sun” for the Classic Collapse around 900 AD, the fall of the Maya (and many other civilisations).

Picture source:-
Image adapted from the illustration by Miguel Covarrubias in The Aztecs: People of the Sun by Alfonso Caso (University of Oklahoma Press, 1958).

Dr. Mark Van Stone has answered 5 questions altogether:

How rare was it to reach the age of 52?

Is it true that the Spanish didn’t like the taste of chocolate at first?

Does each of the 20 day signs mean [relate to] a particular quality (eg rabbit for speed...)?

Why did the Aztecs believe in so many heavens?

Were 4 gods linked to the 4 previous ‘worlds’?

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