General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 12 Nov 2019/12 Movement
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Article suitable for older students

Dr. Mark Van Stone

Question for June 2019

Why did the Aztecs believe in so many heavens? Asked by Bedgrove Junior School. Chosen and answered by Dr. Mark Van Stone.

Pic 1: ‘Diagram showing Nahua cosmology’, showing the 13 heavens and 9 underworlds
Pic 1: ‘Diagram showing Nahua cosmology’, showing the 13 heavens and 9 underworlds (Click on image to enlarge)

Very interesting question, one for the philosophers. I think religious thinkers like to hair-split, and the Aztecs inherited from their predecessors a strong belief in numerology and astrology, and everyone seems to have increasingly brought together every aspect of the natural world into their ideas of the Cosmos. (I call this the Mesoamerican Unified Field Theory… See Einstein.) They divided the universe and the surface of the earth into four quadrants (E-W-N-S) and a Center Axis. They mapped all sorts of aspects of the natural world onto this concept; the heavens were given thirteen levels (the holiest number), and the underworld nine (second-holiest, or maybe four was holiest of all…), but Level 1 of each set was the same place, Our World.

Pic 2: plates 75-76 of the Madrid Codex,
Pic 2: plates 75-76 of the Madrid Codex, (Click on image to enlarge)

Each direction had a color of its own. This concept goes far back into the mists of Time; I believe The First Americans brought over the Directional Color Cosmology with them when they crossed over the Bering Land Bridge, 10,000 years earlier. Chinese and Tibetans also have colors for the directions. The (Maya) Madrid Codex, and the (Mixtec/Aztec) Fejervary-Mayer Codex each have a diagram which maps gods, trees, ceremonies, body-parts, and bird-species to each of the directions. (One has East at the top, the other at the bottom. The Maya one (pic 2) actually labels the directions…). I published all this in a book (available on Amazon) called 2012: Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya. Check that out for more detail.

Editor’s Note: Follow the link below to learn more; we include a link to Dr. van Stone’s book...

Image sources:-
• Pic 1: Illustration by Abel Mendoza, scanned from Firefly in the Night by Irene Nicholson, Faber and Faber, London, 1959
• Pic 2: image downloaded from

‘RESOURCE: Maya and Aztec creation cycles compared’

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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