Among the pantheon of Aztec deities and their many guises are two who remain as popular as ever through their syncretic power to tell their story in the wrappings of the present. The compassionate Quetzalcoatl as Christ may often be found in a household, but it is the Lady of Guadalupe who more often attains a central position on the altar. For nearly 500 years they were given an able assist by the church. Now as we approach the uncertain end of the 5th age they remain vital and alive.
Dia de Los Muertos in pre-Columbian America is at least as old as the vivid recorded art history; in other words, over 3000 years. Its best know symbol, the skull head, represents rebirth as well as death. Life was but a dream or mask, and death was when one would meet the real world. Like with its spring counterpart, Carnaval, the Catholic church authorities attempted to repress it, but it was too deeply ingrained in the people. While Spaniards viewed death as the end of life, the natives believed the dead came back and visited. You are connected to your ancestors and they to you.
Today we yearn for this different more metaphysical consciousness that associates the non-dual approach of peace with the four directions. For American Indians like the Aztecs, to be at peace within the community is to submit to a communal expression of conscience which functions as intelligence of the heart.
The Aztec achievements were a late culmination of 3000 years of civilization well-known through the stunning art preserved in the ruins of the Olmec, Mayan and Toltec civilizations and disseminated throughout the Americas among the more advanced native populations. Their myths and the story of the people are still very much alive, particularly during holidays that seek to honor the past with ritual like Day of the Dead. They are best told through the use of song, dance, chant, blood, and fire rituals.
Here is a brief introduction to the most important and still vital Aztec gods, along with their essential stories.
"The four hundred gods of the south, seeing their mother was with child, were very annoyed and said:
Goddess of the Serpent Skirt
The lady of Serpent Skirt prepares for the creation of a new prehistoric world age.
The Earth goddess of life and death and the mother of the Aztec gods. Coatlicue generally has a horrifying appearance.
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Coyolxauhqui was the Aztec Moon goddess, slain by her brother the sun god at the moment of his full-grown birth by immaculate conception from the womb of the Earth goddess, Coatlicue.
Coyolxauhqui decapitated her own mother, Coatlicue, when she became pregnant in what her children deemed unseemly circumstances. Immediately the sun-god Huitzilopochtli sprang fully armed from Coatlicue's womb and slew Coyalxauhqui and many of their kin.
In Tenochtitlan, ritual sacrifice was performed at the top of the Templo Mayor. The bodies of the victims were rolled down the mountain of serpent stairs, landing upon the stone after their still beating hearts had been torn out and offered up the warrior god Huitzilopochtlito, whose temple crowned the pyramid. This assured the Aztec people that the eternal cycle of life might continue. The placement of the stone at the base of the pyramid stairs served to integrate the central myth of their people into everyday ritual.
The blue staff represents the fire serpent, Xiuhcoatl, with which he cut off the head of the moon goddess Coyolxauhqui. He is shown as a blue man fully armed with hummingbird feathers on his head.
The great main temple in Tenochtitlan was dedicated to Huitzilopochtli. Before the Spaniards destroyed it, it was the scene of innumerable sacrifices of captives. The high bloody praise given related to the mystical conception of warfare. The Aztec "people of the sun," pledged themselves to the conquest of all other nations, which also assured a steady supply of captured victims for sacrifice. For Huitzilopochtli, the sun god and source of all life, would die unless he was fed with human blood.
ITZPAPALOTL Obsidian Butterfly.
Beautiful, demonic, armed with the claws of a jaguar.
The female counterpart of Itzcoliuhqui.
Principal god of the Aztecs. Sun God of war and son of Coatlicue. His warrior aspect is symbolized by the eagle.
Huitzilopochtli, the warrior,
Coatlicuethe, Mother of the Gods, was impregnated by a falling ball of down while ritually sweeping a temple. Her daughter, Coyolxauhqui, incited her brothers, the Centzon Huitznahua (the Four Hundred Stars) to destroy Coatlicue, because her pregnancy brought disgrace on the family. Still in the womb, Huitzilopochtli swore to defend his mother and immediately on being born put on battle armor and war paint. Just before the mob of warriors reached the top of the serpent mountain, Coatlicue gave birth to Huitzilopochtli as a full grown warrior. Huitzilopochtli cut off Coyolxauhqui's head and threw it in the sky to become the Moon. Coyolxauhqui's decapitated body rolled down the mountain, to lay dismembered at the bottom. Huitzilopochlti then triumphed over the remaining siblings, and lay claim to his title as God of War.
His name translates literally as Hummingbird on the left; left refers to the South, suggesting the cyclical nature of the sun's rebirth. According to Aztec belief, the hummingbird died in the dry season, attaching itself by its bill to the bark of a tree until the beginning of the spring, when it was reborn once more.
Unlike the compassionate god, the plumed serpent QUETZALCOATL, who was central to the Aztec mother tribe (the Toltecs), Huitzilopochtli was an Aztec god with no clear precedence among Mesoamerican mythology. He does not appear in the first Aztec creation story or their "Migration Myth," but does lead the Aztecs on their long journey to the place of their destiny, Tenochititlan.
Huitzilopochtli is said to be a representation of Tezcatlipoca in midsummer, as the high sun in the southern sky. His name may have derived with his association with the color blue, as when staring at the sun, spots of blue are seen by the eyes after looking away. His association with "on the left" was because when facing in the direction of the sun's path, east to west, the sun passed on the left. http://www.crystalinks.com/aztecgods.html
Lord of the Vanguard
He who sustains the four seasons, represented by the cross. The patron god of travelers, especially merchant travelers.
trickster, revered particularly by soldiers and magicians. The name refers
to the black obsidian mirrors used by magicians which become cloudy when
scrying. A god of wealth and power, Tezcatlopoca's favors can only be won by
those willing to face his terrors. Ruler over the early years of a man's
master of human destiny
The Feathered Serpent. The Precious Twin who lifts the sun out of darkness, god of the winds and the breath of life, Lawgiver, civilizer, creator of the calendar. LORD of the DAWN.
Quetzalcoatl created humans and rules the fifth world cycle, which nears it end on the winter solstice of 2012. He takes on different espects: Ehecatl, god of the wind; Tlahuizcalpantechtli, god of Venus as the morning star; Ce Acatl (One Reed), a warrior. Quetzalcoatl represented the forces of good and light. The most benevolent of Aztec and Toltec gods, Quetzalcoatl nightly would be swallowed by the sky goddess and resurrected every morning, thus symbolizing the integration of the four directions with the self to find peace with the universe.
He brought seeds, a gift from the gods, and introduced agriculture. Quetzalcoatl also taught astronomy, metallurgy and medicine and was bestowed with the ability to heal the sick. He is also a god of wind, wisdom, water and fertility. His breath moved the sun and pushed away rain. He fell in love with a human girl named Mayahuel, and gave mankind the ability to love so that she could return his passion.
He was one of four Creator Gods born to the Divine Pair, Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl, the Mother and Father from the Thirteenth Heaven called Omeyocan, ‘The Place of God.’
In the days after the fall of the Toltecs, Quetzalcoatl as the Feathered Serpent became the symbol of legitimate authority, a kind of coat of arms for any ruler who pretended to power beyond the circuit of his own walls. The Aztecs considered themselves the descendents of this political tradition, even if Huitzilopochtli had become their primary tribal god.The Codex Cospi pls. 9-11, as well as the Codex Borgia, pl. 53f, contain references to his association with the planet Venus and it's destructive powers.
Quetzalcoatl was thought to have a pale, bearded face; his eventual return was a central belief. This was one reason Montezuma mistook Cortez in 1519 for the returning benevolent deity. The god has a great affinity with the priest-king Topiltzin Ce Acatl Quetzalcoatl, who ruled the Toltecs in Tula in the 10th century, and perhaps Chichen Itza as well.
The early Spanish missionaries adopted the myth of Quetzalcoatl, and some thought that he was actually St. Thomas the Apostle, who had earlier come to Mexico to help convert the Aztec Indians to Christianity.
Quetzalcoatl is the most widely known deity among the dozens which populate the many stories of our Mesoamerican mythical inheritance. The Book of Morman calls him the Aztec Christ. Both were considered to be men who ascended into heaven upon their death; Christ to sit at the right hand of God, Quetzalcoatl to become the Morning Star. Both were tempted by evil powers; Christ by Satan, Quetzalcoatl by the wizard-god Tezcatlipoca. And both were prophecied to one day return to earth: Christ as the Prince of the Kingdom of Heaven, Quetzalcoatl as a god-king returned to claim his kingdom in Central Mexico.
Today the figure of Quetzalcoatl can be seen in department store windows in Mexico City replacing a traditional Santa Claus figure. This figure wears a garland of feathers and a representational mask of the old venerated god, and symbolizes the bringing of life and gifts.
God of the Sun
Poor and ill, Tonatiuh cast himself into the flames, was burnt up, and then resurrected. Daily, Tonatiuh repeats his passage across the heavens, down into darkness, and back again into the sky. Tonatiuh carries all brave warriors who have died in battle and all brave women who have died in childbirth with him. He carries the greatest heroes with him to the greatest heights. In Tonatiuhican, the House of the Sun, dwell those who have won even greater enlightenment than those who dwell in Tlillan-Tlapallan.
This decoration is taken from a stone altar often called the Sun Stone, or the Aztec Calendar. Huitzilopochtli also represents the sun god, Tonatiuh. His tongue is formed by the tecpatl (stone knife), a reference to the human hearts offerings necessary to keep the sun rising and hold the end of the 5th age at bay.
vessel from the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan, Mexico, depicting the rain
Tlolac brought on great wrath upon the Aztec people. He often used his lightning bolts to make the people sick. It is said that he had four different jugs of water in his possession. When he emptied the first one, it brought life to plants. The second would cause blight, the third brought on frost, and the fourth would bring total destruction.
MICTLAN Below the world of living men there are nine underworlds; the lowest of the nine levels was Mictlan proper, a vast cave filled with skeletons and ruled by the Lord and Lady of Death, Mictlantechupi and his consort Mictlancihuntl. Souls who win no merit in life come here after death, but they do not suffer as in the Christian hell. Instead, they merely endure a rather drab and colorless existence before passing again into the world of the living. As a man disappears into the West, the direction of the dead, the seeds of his rebirth are sown.
TLALOCAN Kingdom of Tlaloc, a heaven of sensual delights, of rainbows, butterflies and flowers, of simple-minded and shallow pleasures. Souls spend only four years here before returning to the land of the living. Unless it strives for higher and nobler things while living, a soul is destined for this endless round of mortal life and Tlalocan. When a life had been particularly evil, a soul might journey instead to Mictlan.
LILLAN-TLAPALLAN The land of the fleshless. The Land of the Black and Red: the colors signifying wisdom. A paradise for those who successfully follow the teachings of Quetzalcoatl. Those souls who come to Tlillan-Tlapallan have learned to live without fleshly bodies, a state greatly to be desired.
"Lord and Lady of Duality," "God of the
Near and Close," "He Who Is at the Center," the
god above all, the being both male and female who created all life
Ometeotl is dualistic, embodying both male and female, light and
dark, positive and negative, yes and no.
Among the nobility the belief in a supreme God of Duality was strong. This power with both male and female aspects encompassed: Mictlantecuhtlitli and Mictecacihuatl; also Tloque-Nahuaque, "Lord of the Close Vicinity"; sometimes Ipalemohuani, "Giver of Life"; sometimes Moyocoyatzin, "He who Creates Himself." The being was was also invoked as Ometeotl, or given the double names Ometeccuhtli & Omecihuatl.
Aztec god of spring and rebirth. Also the god of the west and the patron of goldsmiths. SHEE-pay TO-tec
Synonymous with the plant god group
including Cinteotl (corn god),
Xochipilli (Flower Prince) and