The History of the Aztec Civilization: Religious Perspective – A brief overview

The Valley of Mexico, a huge, oval basin about 7,500 feet above sea level, was the center of the Aztec Civilization. There were many cities and towns in the Aztec empire, especially in the Valley of Mexico. The largest city was the capital, Tenochtitlan. The early settlers built log rafts, then covered them with mud and planted seeds to create roots and develop more solid land for building homes in this marshy land. Canals were also cut out through the marsh so that a typical Aztec home had its back to a canal with a canoe tied at the door.

The story of the Aztecs’ rise to power is awe inspiring one, and is one of the most remarkable stories in world history. They were a relatively unknown group of people who came into the Valley of Mexico during the 12th and 13th century A.D., and rose to be the greatest power in the Americas by the time the Spaniards arrived, in the 16th century.

Little is known of the earliest Aztecs, they did not keep a written record. Their history was passed on by word of mouth from one generation to the next. Legend has it that they came from an Island called Aztlan, meaning White PlacePlace of Herons.

In the Aztec codex Tira de la Peregrinacion, commonly called the Migration Scrolls. The scrolls have the Aztecs leaving Aztlan, which was described as an island in a lake with Chicomoztoc depicted as seven temples in the center of the island. The Aztecs felt they were the “chosen people” of Huitzilopochtli. The Aztecs believed Huitzilopochtli their war god was their protector, how had them search for their promised land.

Sometime during the 12th & 13th century the Aztecs straggled into the Valley of Mexico, led by their chieftain Tenoch. They were a poor, ragged people who survived on vermin, snakes, and stolen food. They were hatred and rejected by all the surrounding inhabitants of the valley, for their barbarous and uncultured habits. They were driven from one location to another. Early in the 14th century, Huitzilopochtli told Tenoch to lead his people to a place of refuge on a swampy island in Lake Texcoco. When they reached their destination, they were to look for an eagle perched on a cactus, growing from a rock or cave surrounded by water. At that location, they were to build their city and honor Huitzilopochtli with human sacrifices. The city they built was called Tenochtitlán, the city of Tenoch.

In the beginning stages of Tenochtitlán, development, Aztec life was very difficult in their undesirable location. Tenochtitlán was located on a marshy island with limited resources, they built a few thatch and mud huts, and some small temples. The Aztecs would have to work constantly to maintain a city on swampy land. There was also continuing tensions between the Aztecs and the neighboring peoples on the mainland who despised them. Despite these obstacles, the Aztecs worked hard to improve the quality of their lives. They adopted an agricultural system of farming called the Chinampas. and in a short period of time, the land was transformed into a fertile and highly productive island.

As the Aztec empire expanded, specialized craftsmen and common laborers were brought to Tenochtitlán to expand the city. Since it was built on swamp land, large wooden stakes were driven into the soft ground to provide secure foundations for the new buildings. They were able to use the stone Tezontli to construct the buildings on the unstable ground. Despite these precautions, the larger temples and palaces would often sink below ground level. As a result, the older building were continuously repaired or rebuilt with the newer structures built over the older core.

By 1376, the Aztecs knew that they had to select a emperor of royal lineage, to gain respect of their neighbors. With political genius, they chose a man by the name of Acamapichtli as their emperor. He was related to the last rulers of Culhuacán, and his lineage extended back in time to the great Toltec ruler Quetzalcóatl. With the selection of Acamapichtli as the Aztecs first true emperor, their were able to claim descendancy from the great Toltecs.

During the 15th century the military strength of the Aztecs increased. They grew from a small tribe of mercenaries into a powerful and highly disciplined military force. They also formed alliances with their powerful neighbors Texcoco and Tacuba, known as the Triple Alliance. It was a time for building and the city Tenochtitlán grow and prospered.

Their Place

By the end of Tenochtitlans rule, in 1520, 38 conquered tributary provinces had been made, who had to make payments. However, some of the tribes at the borders stayed strongly independent. This made it easy for the Spanish captain, Cortez to defeat them. The priests reported signs of doom, but Montezuma, the Aztec ruler, thought Cortez was a returning god. When the Spanish saw the gold presents Montezuma offered to them as presents, they wanted to conquer the city. The Spanish defeated the Aztecs and the Catholics felt that it was their duty to destroy every trace of the Aztecs. The few Aztecs that remain have carried on their culture today.

Aztec Gods and Goddesses

Religion was extremely important in Aztec life. They worshipped hundreds of gods and goddesses, each of whom ruled one or more human activities or aspects of nature. The people had many agricultural gods because their culture was based heavily on farming; also they included natural elements and ancestor-heroes.

They believed that the balance of the natural world, the processes that make life possible – like the rain or solar energy – and that the destiny of people depended on the will of these gods. While some deities were benevolent, others had terrifying characteristics.

The Aztecs thought that the power of the gods should be acknowledged and thanks given to them, so as to avoid the catastrophes that their rage or indifference could cause. For this reason, the monumental ceremonial centers were built and there were so many religious rites. The existence of the gods and their goodwill were maintained by offering up the most valuable human possession, life. This then, was the origin of human sacrifice and the ritual of bearing intense physical pain, which believers intentionally caused themselves.


CENTEOTL, the corn god. He was a son of Tlazolteotl and the husband of Xochiquetzal.

CHALCHIUHTLICUE: The goddess of running Water. She was the sister of Tlaloc.

CHANTICO: the goddess of Hearth Fires and Volcanoes.

CHICOMECOATL: the goddess of Corn and Fertility.

CIHUACAOTYL: a goddess whose roaring signaled War.

COATLICUE – She of the Serpent Skirt.

EHECATL, the god of wind.

HUEHUETEOTL, “the old, old deity,” was one of the names of the cult of fire, among the oldest in Mesoamerica. The maintenance of fires in the temples was a principal priestly duty, and the renewal of fire was identified with the renewal of time itself.

HUITZILOPOCHTLI, (the war/sun god and special guardian of Tenochtitlan) the deified ancestral warrior-hero, was the Mexica-Aztec patron par excellence.


His temple (next to that of Tlaloc) on the Main Pyramid was the focus of fearsome sacrifices of prisoners captured by Aztec warriors. Victims’ heads were strung as trophies on a great rack, the Tzompantli, erected in the precinct below.

God of War-Lord of the South-The Young Warrior-Lord of the Day- The Blue Tezcatliopoca of the South-Patron God of the Mexica. Known metaphorically as “The Blue Heron Bird”, “The Lucid Macaw”, and “The Eagle”.

The derivation of his name may have come from the ancient Chichimeca “Tetzauhteotl”, possibly meaning “Omen-God”

He is considered an incarnation of the sun and struggles with the forces of night to keep mankind alive. Only to have found a place of major worship among the Aztec peoples. Huitzilopochtli is credited with inducing the Aztecs to migrate from their homeland in “Aztlan” and begin the long wanderings which brought their tribe to the Mexico Valley.

According to Aztec legend, Coatlicue, goddess of the earth had given birth to the moon and stars. The moon, Coyolxauhqui, and the stars called, Centzonhuitznahuac, became jealous of Coatlicue’s pregnancy with Huitzilopochtli. During his birth, Huitzilopochtli used the “serpent of fire” and the sun’s rays to defeat the moon and stars. Every day the battle continues between day and night. The Mexica saw the sunrise as a daily victory for this deity over the forces of darkness.

Huitzilopochtli can only be fed by Chalchihuatl, or the blood of sacrifice, to sustain him in his daily battle. He resides in the seventh heaven of Aztec mythology. The seventh heaven is represented as blue. His temple on the great Pyramid in Tenochtitlan was called Lihuicatl Xoxouqui, or “Blue Heaven”. Over 20,000 victims are thought to have been ritually killed at the opening of his great temple in Tenochtitlan during a four day period.

Duran relates that the great temple contained a wooden statue carved to look like a man sitting on a blue wood bench. A serpent pole extended from each corner to give the appearance of the bench as a litter. On his head was placed a headdress in the shape of a bird’s beak. A curtain was always hung in front of the image to indicate reverence.

Tlacaelel, the Aztec power broker, is thought to have propelled this god into the place of importance that Huitzilopochtli held, some suggest even re-writing Mexican history.

Huitzilopochtli’s creation may have come from the ancient Mexica god “Opochtli”, the Left Handed One, and a leading old Chichimec god of weapons and water. He was called “He Who Divides the Waters”, and was principal in worship in the Huitzilopochco area and it’s famous waters. Opochtli is thought to have been worshipped in ancient Aztlan.

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.

Huitzilopochtli was certainly the most celebrated of the Mexica deities and came to embody the aspirations and accomplishments of the Aztec. His cult could have been considered the “state cult” and was a focus of the powerful economic and political system.

Also known as “The Portentous One”, as he directed the Mexica on their nomadic trek into the Valley of Mexico through a series of signs and omens. It was Huitzilopochtli who sent the eagle to perch on the nopal cactus to indicate the site of the Mexica’s final resting place. His elevation to the rank of a major deity coincided with the formation of the triple alliance between Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. At this formation of the alliance his recognition as the god of war was complete and total.

As the power of Tenochtitlan grew his image was incorporated into the new lands and regions coming under Mexica control and he assumed new prominence and attributes even to the point of usurping the more traditional sun god, Tonatiuh. His main temple in the great temple of Tenochtitlan, (the Temple Mayor), was set alongside Tlaloc, god of rain, the symbolism of these two deities elevated above all others was a reflection of the economic status of the Mexica empire, (agriculture and war-tribute).

Of interest many pictures and statues have survived of Tlaloc and other major deities but relatively few of Huitzilopochtli.

Images of Huitzilopochtli may be found in the Codex Borbonicus in which he is depicted standing in front of a small temple in his honor, in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, in his capacity as symbol of the month of Panquetzaliztli, and in a dual painting with Paynal, (messenger god), in Sahagun’s Primeros Memoriales. His image further adorns the Codex Boturini in his guidance of the Mexica on their wanderings.

In the Codex Azcatitlan he is represented as a combination hummingbird and serpent tail being carried in what might be thought of as a backpack. In the Codex Florentine his birth is recorded as well as his famous battle with the stars. In all painted images his adornments are different, some with a shield of turquoise mosaic, others with a shield of white eagle feathers. The central image in all drawings is that of a warrior and a leader. He is often depicted as a seed dough image or “teixiptla” which was often made and prized during feasts.

Although Huitzilopochtli was worshipped greatly during the entire Mexica year he was of particular importance during the feast of Toxcatl, Dry Thing, Tlaxochimaco, Giving of Flowers, Teotleco, Arrival of Gods, and Panquetzaliztli, Raising of Banners. The feast honoring the raising of banners is generally thought to be his major yearly feast.

Nowhere was Huitzilopochtli more honored than in his main temple atop the great pyramid in Tenochtitlan in the Temple Mayor. His main cult statue stood in the southernmost corner of the twin shrines to him and Tlaloc. The shrine to this deity is described in detail by Duran as well as accounts by several of the soldiers with Cortes, namely Andres de Tapia and Bernal Diaz as well as Cortes himself.

Duran claims to describe the statue based on reports from native informants and from direct interviews with surviving conquistadors. He describes the image as a wooden statue carved to look like a man seated on a blue wooden bench in the form of a liter. The liter poles contained images of serpents long enough to be carried on the shoulder of men. The bench was in the traditional Huitzilopochtli “sky blue” color. The image itself had a blue forehead with a blue band reaching from ear to ear also blue.

The image had a headdress shaped like a hummingbird beak made of gold. The feathers adorning the headdress were a beautiful green. In his left hand he held a shield, white, with five bunches of white feathers in the form of a cross. Four arrows extended from the handle of the shield. In his right hand he held a staff in the image of a serpent which was also blue. Gold bracelets were on his wrists and he wore blue foot sandals. This image was covered from view with a type of curtain adorned with jewels and gold. Bernal Diaz also relates an account and it is certainly worth reading.

Huitzilopochtli shared the top of the great temple with Tlaloc in Texcoco as well as in Tenochtitlan and is described in detail in Pomar’s book. Pomar’s Huitzilopochtli was an image of a standing young man, made from wood adorned with a cloak of rich feathers and wearing an ornate necklace of jade and turquoise surrounded by golden bells. His body paint was blue with a blue striped face. His hair was of eagle feathers and had a headdress of quetzal(*46) feathers.

Oh his shoulder was a form of a hummingbird’s head. His legs were adorned and decorated with gold bells. In his hand was held a large spear, a spearthrower, and a feathered shield covered with a lattice work of gold stripes.

There was no greater worshipped image to the Mexica and the stone idol that was atop the pyramid in Tenochtitlan that was removed under the eyes of Cortes. The idol was entrusted to a man called Tlatolatl. Tlatolatl successfully was able to hide this image of Huitzilopochtli as was uncovered during an investigation by the Bishop Zummaraga during the 1530’s. The statue has never been found and is probably resting and waiting today in a cave somewhere in northern Mexico.

Listed in the Codex Boturini, the sacred bundle of Huitzilopochtli carried during the wandering years was born by four “bearers”, named Tezacoatl, (Mirror Serpent), Chimalma, (Shield Hand), Apanecatl, (Water Headdress), and Cuauhcoatl, (Eagle Serpent). The Codex Azcatitlan shows only two god bearers. Duran agrees that there were four bearers but does not name them. Juan de Torquemada in his “Monarquia indiana also confers the four god bearers. Hernando Alvarado Tezozomoc keeps the bearer Cuauhcoatl but replaces the other three with Quauhtlonquetzque, Axoloa, and Ococaltzin. To further confuse this issue the Cronica Mexicayotl replaces Cuauhcoatl, (Eagle Serpent), with Iztamixcoatzin, (White Cloud Serpent).

ITZPZPALOTL: a goddess of Agriculture.

IXTLILTON: the god of Healing, Feasting, and Games.

MACUILXOCHITL: the god of Music and Dance.

METZTLI: the Moon god.

MICTLAN: the underworld and home of all the dead except warriors and women who died in labor.

MICTLANTECIHUATL: the lady and goddess of Mictlan and the Realm of the Dead.

MICTLANTECUHTLE, god of the dead.

OMETECUHLTI and his wife OMECIHUATL created all life in the world the god of Duality.

PATECATLl: the god of Medicine.

PAYNAL: the messenger to Huitzilopochtli. 

QUETZALCOATL, (the god of civilization and learning) “quetzal (feather) serpent,” had dozens of associations.

God of civilization and learning

It was the name of a deity, a royal title, the name of a legendary priest-ruler, a title of high priestly office. But its most fundamental significance as a natural force is symbolized by the sculpture of a coiled plumed serpent rising from a base whose underside is carved with the symbols of the earth deity and Tlaloc.

The image of the serpent rising from the earth and bearing water on its tail is explained in the Nahuatl language by a description of Quetzalcoatl in terms of the rise of a powerful thunderstorm sweeping down, with wind raising dust before bringing rain.

The Creator God-The Feathered Serpent-The Founder of Agriculture- Precious Feather Snake- The Road Sweeper often portrayed with a black beard to represent age or as an old man.

***Image6*** Covering his mouth there is often a red mask in the form of a bird’s beak. His mask identifies him as the god of wind and he was worshiped under the name of Ehecatl, or wind. One of the greatest gods, god of wind, light, and Venus.

God of twins and monsters. Legend has Quetzalcoatl and his twin brother Xolotl, descending to hell and retrieving human bones. By dripping his blood onto the bones, human resurrection began.

Men therefore, are the children of Quetzalcoatl. He is always presented as benevolent. He wears about his neck a “Wind Jewell” made from a conch and his head was adorned with a jaguar bonnet or sometimes a small cap. A sharp bone protrudes from the headgear which flows the blood that nourishes his nahualli, the Quetzal bird.

He taught men science and the calendar and devised ceremonies. He discovered corn, and all good aspects of civilization. Quetzalcoatl is a perfect representation of saintliness. His cult transformed into a type of nobility cult and only special sacrifices selected from the Nobel classes were made to him, and then only in secret.

Quetzalcoatl is a very ancient god known to the Mayas and ancient Teotihuacan ruins. Quetzalcoatl was said to be the son of Camaxtli and Chimalma and he was born in Michatlauhco, “Fish Deeps”.

His mother died during his birth and he was raised by his grandfathers. The multiplicity of Quetzalcoatl’s roles attest to the antiquity of his cult following and his adoration.

He is credited with allowing the Spanish and Cortes to march into the Aztec lands. The Aztec people thought Cortes was an incarnation of Quetzalcoatl returning from the East to retake his lands as told in legend.

It was not uncommon for a hundred years after the conquest for merchants in smaller towns to work and save for twenty years just to throw a large banquet to this most revered god. Before the conquest slaves would have been bathed and sacrificed for this feast.

The “Ehecailacacozcatl” or the winds that proceed a rain downpour were associated with Quetzalcoatl. Lightning as it contains a serpentine shape was also associated with this god in the name xonecuilli.

Also considered to be worshiped under the names Tlilpotonqui, “Feathered in Black”, and possibly as Ecacouayo Mixtli, “A Twister”, in association with his capacity as God of the Wind. In the Codex Magliabechiano, pl. 34, Quetzalcoatl was referred to as Tlaloc.

The Codex Cospi pls. 9-11 contain references to his association with the planet Venus and it’s destructive powers as well as the Codex Borgia, pl. 53f.

In the Vienna Codex this god is depicted as an alert youth sitting at the feet of the “Old Ones”, The dual divinity. Could also appear as “Yacateuctli, Lord of the Vanguard, or one who goes forth, Yacacoliuhqui, “He with the Aquiline Nose”, and as Yacapitzahuac, “Pointed Nose”. May have been worshiped under the name of “Our Reverend Prince”, and Ocelocoatl in his black or night form.

In Boone’s translation of the Magliabechiano Codex, Quetzalcoatl is mentioned as being the son of Miclantecutli, Lord of the Place of the Dead. Boone relates in her translation an interesting story concerning Quetzalcoatl as having washed his hands and then touched his penis and caused semen to drop on a rock). A bat grew from this union of semen and rock who other gods sent to bite the flower goddess Xochiquetzal. This bat bit off a piece of her vagina while she was sleeping and took it to the gods. They then washed it and from the water that was spilled came forth flowers that smelled bad. This same bat took the flesh to Mictlantecuhtli where he washed the piece of flesh and the water that he used brought forth sweet smelling flowers the Indians called xochitrls.

Often depicted holding a thorn used to let blood. He created auto-sacrifice, a forerunner to human sacrifice. He is said to have let blood in honor to Camaxtli (Mixcoatl), who the Aztec believed to be Quetzalcoatl’s father.

Quetzalcoatl’s priests would bang a drum in the morning and in the evening in reverence to Quetzalcoatl. At that time merchants could leave the city and visitors could enter Tenochtitlan. The drum of Quetzalcoatl may be compared with the flute of Tezcatlipoca. The drum separated night from day. The flute was heard at night. The sound of the flute was shrill and anxiety followed it’s music.

According to Sahagun, Quetzalcoatl’s temple was high with a narrow staircase with steps so narrow that feet had a hard time holding. The image was covered with tapestries with an ugly and bearded face.

This deity is depicted on a statue, currently in the British Museum, with ocelot claw ear-rings. The roar of this animal was believed to help bring the sun into the sky. This statue also holds a studded club in the right hand and in the left a skull, the sign of his twin brother Xolotl. The statue venerates the rising from the jaws of the feathered serpent as the morning star Venus rises to announce the sunrise. The statue further bears a collar symbol of the sun. According to Burland’s book, this statue commemorates a transit of Venus in the year 1508.

Lord of Healing and magical herbs, known as a symbol of thought and learning, of the arts, poetry, and all things good and beautiful. Lord of Hope and Lord of the Morning Star. He has been likened to England’s King Arthur, both a real person and myth. According to the Vienna Codex a series of nine different Toltec kings succeeded the original man/god all calling themselves Quetzalcoatl. In the Codex Laud, Quetzalcoatl is seen as wind blowing in the waters. Sitting on the water, displaying her genitals, was a tempting Tlazoteotl. The wind of Quetzalcoatl is the breath of life and will fertilize her. Quetzalcoatl was the god of life and gave penitence, love, and exemption from rituals of sacrifice and Autosacrifice.

His association with the feathered serpent is an interesting story. The quetzal bird, native to the western area of Guatemala and Mexico, was regarded as the most beautiful bird and called Quetzaltotolin, meaning “most precious”. The symbol of the feathered serpent was Quetzalcoatl, meaning not just feathered serpent, but “most precious serpent”. Quetzalcoatl is not the feathered serpent but the one who emerges from the serpent as Venus rises from the morning horizon.

He has been depicted occasionally on statues showing him as a great priest, the Lord of Penitence, with a painted black stripe beside the eyes and a red ring surrounding the mouth and blue areas on the forehead. As Ehecatl, Lord of the Winds, he is depicted wearing a mask with a pointed snout covering his lower face. This is known as his “wind mask”, and is usually painted bright red. According to Burland this was derived from the Mexican whistling toad, Rhinophryne dorsalis. It’s shape suggested the earth monster, a cross between an alligator and a toad. Temples to Ehecatl were circular as the god of wind could blow or breath in any direction.

In the Vienna Codex, Quetzalcoatl is depicted holding the heavens with his hands, symbolic of holding the rain clouds and sky in place.

The Spanish missionaries early adopted the myth of Quetzalcoatl and thought that he was actually St. Thomas the Apostle, who had come to Mexico to help convert the Aztec Indians to Christianity and that the spirit of St. Thomas was in Cortes. Today the figure of Quetzalcoatl can be seen in department store windows in Mexico City replacing a traditional Santa Claws 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.

According to the Treatise by Alarcon, Quetzalcoatl was also known as “Matl”, which meant “hand” in Nahuatl.

Often depicted as a white skinned god with a black beard. Recent scholarly theories suggest that the man-god may have been a wandering Viking who had lost his way.

TEOYAOMQUI: the god of Dead Warriors.

TEZCATLIPOCA, (god of Night and Sorcery) “Smoking Mirror” (obsidian), characterized as the most powerful, supreme deity, was associated with the notion of destiny. His cult was particularly identified with royalty, for Tezcatlipoca was the object of the lengthy and reverent prayers in rites of kingship.

God of Night and Sorcery

The creator God – The God of the Hunt – Patron of Princes – God of Providence. The Lord of the Here and Now – The Enemy on Both Sides. The true invisible god who walked over the heavens and surface of the earth and hell. Where ever this god went wars, anxiety, and trouble were sure to follow. Tezcatlipoca was thought to incite wars against one another and was called Necocyautl, which means “sower of discord on both sides”.

Also metaphorically refered to as Moyocoyatzin, (Capricious Creator), Titlacahuan, (He Whose Slaves we Are), Moquequeloa, (The Mocker) , Moyocoyani, (Maker of Himself), Ipalnermoani, (Lord of the Near and the Nigh), Nahuaque, (Night Wind).

His cruel hand was felt to be at fault when a rich man was brought to mis fortune. When Tezcatlipoca chose to appear on the earth he brought destruction, and only rarely did he provide good fortune to an individual, after all why should he? The ruler of the Mexica was said to be “The Flute of Tezcatlipoca” in his title of Great Speaker.

Tezcatlipoca was also worshiped under the name Titlacahuan, “He Whose Slaves We Are”, who was the master of human destiny. In some ways like Huitzilopochtli who represented the blue sky, or day sky, Tezcatlipoca represented the night sky.

He was the warrior of the North while Huitzilopochtli was the warrior of the South. He was the god of sin and misery and had a fetish for the obsidian knife. A young god, legend has him carrying off the wife of aging Tlaloc, “Xochiquetzal”, goddess of flowers and love.

His name was derived from the painting of his image with soot containing shining metal flakes which the Indians called “Tezcapoctli” or “shining smoke”. He can be identified in codices by a smoking mirror and a mirror drawn in place of a foot torn off by the earth monster, a representation of myth why at Southern latitudes one of the stars of the Ursa Major is missing form the night heavens. Tezcatlipoca is nocturnal and represented by black coloring and his hair and is often represented cut in two different lengths characteristic of warrior classes.

Tezcatlipoca is the patron of sorcerers and related to the stellar gods, the moon and to those that represent death, evil, and destruction. His “Nahual”, or disguise, is that of the Jaguar. Master of men’s destinies.

In Toltec mythology he was the adversary of his brother Quetzalcoatl, the Mexica borrowed much of this legend adding and deleting where it suit the purpose of the Mexica. Sahagun relates that the ill or afflicted would pray to Tezcatlipoca in his name of Titlacaoan in the hope of getting well by his mercy. On all road and street crossings a stone seat, called Momuztli, adorned with flowers was placed for this most revered god, the flowers were replaced every five days.

The Mexica knew that intercourse was necessary to help in the birthing process, but the child was “seated” in the womb by Tezcatlipoca where it would receive it’s fate. Family characteristics were explained as the whim or fancy of Tezcatlipoca, not a matter of genetics.

An obsidian highly polished black idol of Tezcatliopoca was the common veneration to this god, in some smaller towns a wooden idol painted black from the temples down was used. The forehead, nose, and mouth were painted in a human Indian color.

An intricate lip plug of crystalline beryl with a green or blue feather complimented the image. Around his neck would be placed a huge golden Jewell and on his arm golden bracelets. In his left hand was placed a fan of blue, green and yellow feathers, surrounding a round plate of gold, polished like a mirror.

His mirror was called Itlachiayaque, “Place from Which He Watches”, as Tezcatliopoca could see all by looking into the mirror. In his right hand the idol would carry four arrows signifying punishment for sin he would inflict on the evils of man.

On his ankles he wore twenty golden bells.

Tied to his right foot was a deer hoof, which represented his swiftness and agility. His main temple in Tenochtitlan was a dark and mysterious place where the idol was kept behind a curtain with only special priests allowed to view and serve the image.

In the chamber of this god was an altar approximately 6 feet tall upon which rested a wooden pedestal, on this pedestal stood the idol.

His name spelled properly is Tezcatl Ipoca, “Mirror that Smokes”.

An early Mexica prince “Texcatlpopocatzin”, bore his name. Tezcapoctli, is the Mexica name for the black obsidian with a reflecting surface used in the making of mirrors. Tezcatlipoca was left handed and also known as Opoche, “He Who Has Left Handedness”, one of his priests was known as “His Left Hand”. Also known as Itzcaque, “He Who Has Obsidian Sandals”.

Also known as “Ixquimilli, “A Blindfold” and is represented as a spirit of darkness in codex Cospi, pl. 12, Codex Borgia, pl. 15, Codex Laud, pl. 13, and in the Dresden Codex pp. 15, 35, and 69. Tezcatliopoca was possibly seen as a form of the planet Venus.

TLALOC, the rain deity, belonged to another most memorable and universal cult of ancient Mexico.


The name may be Aztec, but the idea of a storm god especially identified with mountaintop shrines and life-giving rain was certainly as old as Teotihuacan. The primary temple of this major deity was located atop Mt. Tlaloc, where human victims were sacrificed to fertilize water-rocks within the sacred enclosure. In Tenochtitlan another Tlaloc temple shared the platform atop the dual Main Pyramid, a symbolic mountain.

TLALOCAN: Tlalocan was the earthly paradise of Tlaloc, located in the East, the place of Light and Life. It was where the souls of those killed by lightning, dropsy, skin diseases, and those sacrificed to Tlaloc went.

The Rain God-God of Vegetation-Ruler of the South. In ancient Chichimec times may have been worshipped under the name of Tlalocateuctli, meaning “Land-lier-Lord”. Tlalocateuctli was considered by Alcaron to be a metaphor for the owner of a sown field.

Known to the Olmec as “Epcoatl”, meaning Seashell Serpent. There is speculation that this deity originated with the Olmec. Known to the Maya as Chac, to the Totonacs as Tajin, to the Mixtecs as Tzahui, to the Zapotecs as Cocijo and throughout Mesoamerica.

A water god probably one of the oldest gods worshiped as a result of the importance of rain for crop production. Called Choc by the Maya and Cocijo by the Mixtecs, the principal worship god of the Olmec culture. Tlaloc was not a creator God but one created by other Gods. His first wife Xochiquetzal, Goddess of flowers and love , was stolen from him by Tezcatlipoca. His second wife was the Goddess Matlolcueitl, “The Lady of the Green Skirts”, an ancient name for the mountain known as Malinche, located in Tlaxcala.

Although a beneficent god Tlaloc certainly had the power to unleash floods, lightning and drought when angry. To please him children were sacrificed to him as well as prisoners dressed in his image. It is said that the more the babies and children cried the more Tlaloc was pleased. During the sacrifice the tears of the screaming children were seen as representations of falling rain, the more the children cried, the better the rain season.

Tlaloc is easily identified by his characteristic mask giving the impression of eyeglasses and a mustache. Blue is his dominant color and of his mask. His body and face are often painted black, and water is often depicted dripping from his hands. The name Tlaloc, derives from the term “tlalli”, meaning earth, with the suffix “oc”, meaning something that is on the surface. Townsend alludes to the fight of clouds welling up in canyons and hovering around mountaintop in the rainy season to explain this metaphor.

Those who died from drowning, lightning or things thought to be associated with water went to Tlacocan, the paradise of Tlaloc located in the South and was known as the place of fertility.

His home in Tenochtitlan was next to the same temple of the venerated Huitzilopochtli, where a special chamber was built. His statue was made of stone in the shape of a horrible monster. The image was dressed in red with a green feather headdress. A string of green beads called chalchihuitl, “jade”, hung from his neck. His ears, arms, and ankles were adorned with bracelets of precious stones. Apparently no other idols in the Mexica city were adorned with as many precious jewels at Tlaloc. In his right hand was a representation of a purple wooden thunderbolt, in his left hand was a leather bag filled with copal. The idol was placed upon a green cloth draped over a dais. His body was sculpted as a man and the face like a monster.

Known as Epcoatl, (Seashell Serpent), to the Olmec, and his religious themes were associated with children with that culture as well.

Also known as Tlalteuctli, (Earth Lord). May have been known as Oztoteotl, (The God of Caves), who was principally worshipped in the Chalma area. In the codex Vaticanus, Tlaloc is depicted as living inside of a mountain.

Known by the Olmec as “Epcoatl”, or Seashell Serpent.

An interesting ceremony to Tlaloc by his priests was for the priests to throw themselves into frigid lake waters at midnight and imitate the sound and splashing of water birds to the point of exhaustion. This was apparently done just to please Tlaloc. In another ritual a priest would climb a mountain naked(*18) and painted black, carrying fir boughs and a conch trumpet. He would chew tobacco and periodically blow the horn. After piercing his ears and thighs with spines(*19) to let blood(*20), he would retrace his steps stumblin

The direction of the rains Tlaloc sent were also of importance. The western rain was red colored from the sunset. This rain represented the richness of autumn. The southern rain was a rich blend of rain and summer fertility and considered a , Tlaloc’s color.

The eastern rain was a golden rain which fell lightly over the crops making the crops grow, a promise of life. The north rain was a hail and thunder message from Tlaloc often bringing destruction. Snow and hail were thought of as representations of the bones of the past dead.

The temple to Tlaloc, on Mt. Tlaloc, is approximately at the 4000 meter level with views of the twin volcanoes Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl and the entire valleys of Pueblo and Mexico. Mt. Tlaloc was located approximately twenty-five miles due east of Tenochtitlan and directly north of the twin volcanoes. In the Spring, at the height of the dry season, the leaders of Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoco, Tlacopan, and Xochimilco would make a pilgrimage to the shrine to call for rain from within the mountain.

While the Mexica leaders were conducting their ceremony, a large tree called “Father”, or Tota, was erected near the great shrine to Tlaloc in Tenochtitlan and surrounded with small trees to symbolize a forest. An impersonator of Chalchiuhtlicue, Goddess of the sea and lakes, was selected to sit in the forest and symbolize the lake. As the leaders were returning, the great tree was felled and rafted out to the Pantitlan shrine, located in the center of the lake, where a great fleet of canoes met the returning leaders. The impersonator was then sacrificed, her blood poured into the water of the lake, jewelry given to the water of the lake, and the tree symbolically planted to indicate a renewal of life and growth. The tree was left to stand with the remains of trees planted in past years ceremonies.

Attendants of Tlaloc:

Resided in the mountains, where rain and clouds are formed. Not deities themselves but close enough. May be likened to devilish imps who served the rain god Tlaloc. The Tlaloque were worshiped in special ceremonies during the sixteenth month of the Aztec calendar, (Dec. 11-Dec. 30), known as Atemoztli, meaning “The Descent of Water”.

The Tlaloque were the bearers of the rattlestaff (chicahualilizti), “That Which Makes Things Strong”. A signification of a male erect penis or a type of digging stick.

The Tlaloque numbered four and lived in the halls of the great palace of Tlaloc, Tlalocan, the terrestrial paradise, and represented the four directions. On Tlaloc’s orders one of the Tlaloque would take a particular jug and pour it over the world, thunder was thought to be the sound of the jugs breaking. The Mexica considered the Tlaloque to be brothers to the goddess of corn.

TLAZOLTEOTL: the goddess of Licentiousness.

TONACATECUHTLI: the creator and provider of Food.

TONATIUH, the sun, was perceived as a primary source of life whose special devotees were the warriors. The warriors were charged with the mission to provide the sun with sacrificial victims. A special altar to the sun was used for sacrifices in coronation rites, a fact that signifies the importance of the deity. The east-west path of the sun determined the principal ritual axis in the design of Aztec cities.

TONANTZIN, “honored grandmother,” was among the many names of the female earth-deity.

XILONEN, “young maize ear,” and Chicomecoatl, “seven serpent,” were principal deities of maize representing the chief staple of Mesoamerican peoples.

XIPE TOTEC, the god of springtime and regrowth.

God of suffering. God of Spring-God of Jewelers-Ruler of the East- The Red Tezcatlipoca. Also known as “The Red Mirror” and his disguise was that of the Eagle.                                              


May have been worshiped by the name Tlatlauhqui Tezcatlipoca, meaning the red Tezcatlipoca.

According to Sahagun this god was originally from Zapotlan, a town in the state of Xalisco and was well honored by all those living near the seashore. Itching, diseases of the eyes, and tumors were attributed to this well worshiped god. His cult was greatly enhanced by Tlacaelel, half brother to Moctezuma I.

Also called Yopi and is found in the Teotihuacan culture as the “God With A Mask”. His cult is centered around flaying a slave and covering a priest with the skin of his victim. The rite signified that with the arrival of spring the earth must cover itself with a new skin or coat of vegetation and swap old skin for new.

Represented in codices as a red Tezcatlipoca and all clothes and adornments are red and his face is colored red with yellow stripes. His Nahual or disguise is the Tlauhquechol or “spoon bird”. He ruled over the East, the region of light, therefore fertility and life. Would afflict those who did not worship him with boils, blisters, and festering sores.

Those chosen to wear the flayed skin of the victim dedicated to this god would wear the skin bloody side out with the victims hands left to hang flapping as the priest celebrated this rite.

Another well practiced sacrificial rite to Xipe required a victim to be tied to a framework and then riddled with arrows until death. The victim’s blood dripping was thought to make the ground fettle and to simulate the falling of rain.

He was the God of Goldsmiths as when the skin of a victim aged it turned gold colored, representation of the gold the workers used.

Was also called Xipe-Totec-Tllatlauhquitezcatl. Totec meaning “awesome and terrible lord who fills one with dread”, Xipe meaning “man who has been flayed and ill-treated”, Tlatlauhquitezcatl, meaning “Mirror of fiery brightness”. Xipe was worshipped through out Mesoamerica with references to his worship even being found in Teotihuacan II culture. His festivals had more sacrifices than any of the other gods because the common people found it a popular ceremony and had more fun.

The image of this idol was that of a man with mouth open and dressed in the skin of a sacrificed man. On his wrists hung the hands of the victim. In his right hand was placed a staff with rattles attached at the ends. In his left hand was a shield adorned with yellow and red feathers.

A red ribbon tied in a fancy bow was placed on his forehead and in the middle of the bow was placed a golden object. A well worked breechcloth, (human skin?), completed his look. His image was always kept in this manor. Skins worn and decomposed by warriors in reverence to this god were collected and stored in a special vault under his special temple.

In old times may have been known as Moyohualihtoatzin, Meaning “Night Volunteer”, in more modern eras Moyohualihtoatzin became a metaphor for sleeping and was linked with the land of the dead, or Mictlan(*40). Also may have been worshipped at Tlatlauhqui Texcatl, meaning “Red Smoking Mirror”, obvious connection with Tezcatliopoca. See Mixcoatl.

His name is derived from Xipe, meaning “Flayed ones”, and Totec or ToTeuc, meaning “Our Lord”.

Also known as Yohuallahuantzin, meaning “inebriated in the night”, or “one who has become inebriated in the night”. This term was an ancient term used in the worship of Xipe Totec.

XIUHTECUHTLE the fire god.

XOCHIPILLI: the god of Feasting and young Maize.

“Patroness of Erotic Love” “Goddess of the Flowering Earth”. Celebrated during the “Farewell to the Flowers” festival signifying the coming of frost. This was a solemn festival. People would make merry and smell flowers knowing they were about to dry up and wither for the season. A feast in honor of the flowers would occur.

Xochiquetzal was also the divinity of painters, embroiders, weavers, silversmiths and sculptors.

The image of this deity was of wood in the shape of a young woman. A gold ornament was placed over her mouth and a crown of red leather in the form of a braid was placed on her head. Green bright feathered decorated this headband in the shape of horns.

She was dressed in a blue tunic adorned with woven flowers made from delicate feather work. Her arms were open as in the form of a woman dancing. Her idol was placed on a tall alter and her attendants were the same as those who tended Huitzilopochtli as her temple was small and had no specially assigned priests.

This is one of the exceptions the Aztec made and were fond of sacrificing virgins to this goddess. The victim’s legs were crossed after cutting out their hearts and then sent rolling down the steps of the temple. At the foot of the temple special priests took the bodies of the sacrificed virgins to the Ayauhcalli, “the house of the mist”, which was a sort of cellar built especially for this sacrifice, where the bodies were kept.

A woman in the guise of Xochiquetzal was ritually killed and flayed and a priest wearing her skin would sit at the foot of the temple while area craftsmen dressed as monkeys, ocelots, dogs, coyotes, and jaguars would dance about her while she pretended to weave cloth. Each of the dancing craftsmen would carry in their hands a symbol of their craft, a painter his brush, etc.

Also refereed to as Precious Feather Flower-Goddess of Song, Dance, and Sexual Pleasure. Patron of prostitutes. Goddess of Artistry and Delight. In Duality she was also Macuilxochitl, a male representation.

God associated with maize and vegetation. Goddess of flowers, grains, and patroness of weavers. God of sculptors and embroiders. Quail and incense were often offered to this god and depending on the devotion fasting of from 20 – 80 days was common. People who were born on One Flower or Seven Flower were pre-destined to become good at these crafts and worship this god. Said to have afflicted those who displeased her with boils.

in legend she was taken to the underworld by Xolotl and ravaged. She also is said to have eaten forbidden fruit from an aphrodisiac tree and became the first female to submit to sexual temptation. She was expelled from paradise and the tree split into two. She transformed into Ixnextli, “Ashes in Eyes”, a metaphor for being blinded by crying. Her pain at not being able to look into the sky that she once lived in is why men can not look directly into the sun.

Goddess of flowers and romantic love depicted with flowers in her head-dress and as a young married woman with a wrap around skirt and a Quechquimitl, or highly decorated type of poncho. Xochiquetzal’s flower was the marigold. Today in early November Mexico celebrates the day of the dead, or “All Souls”, in which the ground is strewn with marigolds, combining old and new customs.

May have been worshipped under the name Tonacacihuatl, meaning “Sustenance-Woman”.

In Alcaron’s book when the speaker of an incantation is impersonating a god, the speaker’s wife assumes the role of Xochiquetzal.

Worshipped during the festivals of Matlalcueyeh, Huei Pachtli, and Macuilxochiquetzal.

YACATECUHTLI: the god of Merchant Adventurers.

– Aztec Religion