AZTEC RELIGION - Introduction and Section Bibliography

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  • The Aztec Account of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico
  • Aztec deities(*1) are listed here in alphabetical order. The first listing is for quick reference followed by a more detailed listing(*2) and description. This list should not be taken as a complete list of all deities worshipped by the Aztecs. Further information on the deities listed in this section can be found in the Aztec Calendar/Astrology section located elsewhere in this work.

    As the Chichimec bands descended into the valley of Mexico they brought a well defined list of deities with them. As the tribes encountered a town or region they would "capture" the area and also capture the deities worshipped in the region. The new deities were then added to their own family of gods.

    Many deities worshipped by the Mexica assumed different names for different functions and the process of keeping track of all of them takes a little getting used to, for that matter so does the entire concept of dualism in Mexica thought and culture. As you will soon see the Mexica tended to think of their deities metaphorically and in abstract terms, often worshipping a deity under his/her attribute.

    It is for this reason that academic study of this area is so difficult, on the other hand it can be rewarding if you take the time to learn them. It is my opinion that this study area is the key to knowing and understanding the Mexica culture.

    Cursory looks at the Mexica and their customs do not give an accurate picture of the culture and validity of their religion. Most books available concern themselves with reporting the obligatory horrors of sacrifice and mention one or two of the major deities. Personally I did not begin to form an opinion of my own until well after I began to look into the religion. I recommend reflection and time. With time you are able to digest the mass amount of information. My own thoughts on understanding the secrets of their religion was to be born into it.

    Only by growing up with the stories, names and pageantry could one possibly begin to understand the underlying messages and metaphors the religion held to the common man and woman, this process would take a considerable amount of time to learn and comprehend, a concept foreign to the product of western Christian thought and teachings(*3).


    I received the following letter and am posting it next to the section it references.

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: W M

    Subject: A question - do the Mexica aim to please or appease their Gods?

    I enjoyed reading your page ...I am writing to comment on your statement

    "Only by growing up with the stories, names and pageantry could one possibly begin to understand the underlying messages and metaphors the religion held to the common man and woman, this process would take a considerable amount of time to learn and comprehend, a concept foreign to the product of western Christian thought and teachings(*3).
    I do agree that to comprehend anything well, one does need to study the subject.

    But I do think that many diligent students of the Bible throughout history and today would disagree with your assessment that dedication to "learn and comprehend" is a concept "foreign" to Christian thought and teachings.

    I personally know many who make study a primary and important part of their lives.

    I also don't understand the basis for your footnote 3 "A concept of one god is certainly easier to teach and learn when compared to the diverse collection of deities the Mexica children were forced to learn. Additionally the children must have had to cope with the concept of duality and metaphors."

    I think that the Christian concept of a TRIUNE God is actually MORE difficult to teach than a collection of deities.

    Perhaps it is our English language which handicaps us. English does not have a word which the Hebrew and Greek language use to describe a compound unity -- one God in several persons (God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit).

    Moreover, the old testament speaks of a "mystery" which is not revealed until later. That hidden teaching is revealed in the New Testament, which talks about a part of God in the person of Jesus Christ, who as God became a man to be sacrificed so that his people could join him in heaven.

    However, I would agree that metaphors in the Christian and Hebrew Bible may be easier to present because it presents prophets and saints as examples of how God deals with his people. They are real people dealing with real problems all humans face. We can relate to these people more than deities.

    I think that the difficulty people have with Christian traditions is not in comprehending the metaphors, but in accepting great grace and forgiveness -- that God is willing to allow Himself to be the sacrifice. This concept is why Christians , out of gratitude, love their God. Christians fear God from a position of wanting to please rather than appease.

    Do the Mexica love their Gods?


    This listing started as a place for my own study to collect bits and pieces of information about Mexica deities. As with all sections of this software program you may edit this file for your own use and expand in the areas that are of interest to you. The bibliography contained at the end of this section contains many of the books that were most useful in the preparation of this section, there were countless others that I have read and retained segments of information that is contained within, I recognize their work gratefully and en mass.

    Unfortunately for us today there is very little in the way of written material left to us to study concerning this subject. The Spanish destroyed a great deal of original material, in fact the only material left are a few codices and works produced by the clergy some years after the conquest. Over the centuries many scholars have come to conclusions concerning the roles of the deities listed here. For all of the work by a great many scholars, many of the conclusions are still subjective and new discoveries and thoughts are still being put forth. For a list and further information on the surviving original research material consult theĀ  AZTEC CODICES section contained the the major body of this book.

    Spellings and attributes of some of the deities listed here are subject to interpretation as over the centuries new discoveries have been made that shed new light on some of the initial work done extensively by Sahagun and Duran(*4). Where a choice was necessary I have chosen a more modern spelling. Scholars certainly would not agree with me but I personally think the spellings are un-important. I would rather have at my disposal a knowledge of the deity itself and it's place in the grand scheme of Mexica religion and it's impact on the daily life of the individual.

    Also contained here are as many metaphorical listings as I could find in my research that pertain to the deities. Some of them are wrong and poorly researched. The problem is deciding which ones are wrong. Do you take as fact the original works of Sahagun or credit modern scholars such as Clendinnen or Townsend? A good argument could be made for the acceptance of both eras of historians. Personally I would like to see more publications that deal with speculation by our noted modern historians and less attention to the re-hashing of well known events and refining of spellings(*5).

    1 In the Mexica language the word for god was "teotl", and a generic glyph was the sun. Teotl further held meanings to the Mexica such as difficult, vast, and dangerous.

    2 The verbose listing is a compilation of facts, legends, and gleaning from several books, and personal research listed in this section's bibliography.

    3 A concept of one god is certainly easier to teach and learn when compared to the diverse collection of deities the Mexica children were forced to learn. Additionally the children must have had to cope with the concept of duality and metaphors.

    4 I'm being kind here, it seems that everyone who publishes on this subject feels it necessary to "redefine" the spellings. After a while you tend to feel shell shocked and start to trust your own instincts or best guesses. For a fun time, try spell checking a few hundred pages of Nahuatl text and I think you will begin to get the idea.

    5 For anyone interested in this area I recommend reading R.C. Padden's "The Hummingbird and the Hawk" and Inga Clendinnen's "Aztecs", both books are listed in the bibliography and reviewed in the Aztec Research suggested reading list.


    ACOLNAHUACATL- "The One From the Twisted Region"
    AMAPAN- "Ball Court God" "Patron deity of the Ball"
    AMIHMITL- "Chichimec God"
    ATLACOAYA- "Pulque God"
    ATLATONAN- "Goddess of Lepers"
    ATLAUA - "Master of Waters"
    CAMAXTLI- "Lord of the Chase"
    CENTEOTL (Cinteotl)- "The Corn God" "Young Lord Maize Cob"
    CHALCHIHUITLICUE- "Goddess of the Sea(*6) and Lakes" "Jade Skirt"
    CHALMECCACIHUATL- "The Sacrificer"
    CHANTICO- "In the House"
    CHICOMECOATL- "The Goddess of Sustenance"
    CHIMAMATL- "Shield Hand"
    CHIUACOATL- "Woman Snake"
    CHIUATETEO- "Celestial Princess"
    CHIUHNAUHYOTEUCTLI- "Lord of the Nine"
    CHIMALMAN- "One Who Has Sat Like A Shield"
    CIPACTONAL- "Calendar God"
    CITLALICUE- "God of the Night Sky"
    CITLALATONAC- "The Milky Way"
    COATLICUE- "Mother of Gods"
    COLHUACATZINCATL- "Pulque Deity"
    COYOLXAUHQUI- "She with the Belled Cheeks"
    COZCAMIAHUATL- "Cornflower Necklace"
    CUAUHTLAXAYAUH- "Eagle Face"
    CUEXCOCH- "Blue Sky"
    HUEHUETEOTL- "Old, Old Deity"
    HUITZILOPOCHTLI- "Left Handed Hummingbird" "God of War(*7)"
    HUIXTOCIHUATL- "Goddess of Water" "Goddess of Salt"
    ILAMATECUHTLI- "Old Mother Goddess"
    ILANCUEYE- "She of the Old Lady Skirt"
    ILHUICAMINA- "He Who Shoots Arrows at the Heavens"
    ITZCAQUE- "He Who Has Obsidian Sandals"
    ITZLACOHUIHQUI- "Curved Obsidian Knife" "God of Frost"
    ITZPAPALOTL- Obsidian Butterfly"
    IXILLAN TONAN- "Goddess of Grass Mountain"
    IXPUZTEQUE- "He of the Broken Foot"
    IXQUIMILLI- "The Blindfolded One"
    IXQUITECATL- "God of Sorcerers"
    IXTILTON-"Little Black One"
    IZTACCIHUATL- "White Woman"
    IZTACMIXCOATL- "Father of Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatliopoca"
    MACUILTOTEC- "God of the Arsenal"
    MACUILXOCHITL- "Patron of Gambling" "Deity of Flowers & Song"
    MATLALCUEYE- "Blue Skirt"
    MAYAHUEL- "Goddess of the Maguay Plant"
    METZTLI - "The Moon"
    MICAPETLACALLI- "The Box of Death"
    MICTECACIHUALTL- "Mistress to Mictlantecahtli"
    MICTLANTECAHTLI- "The Lord of the Dead" "Lord of Darkness"
    MIXCOATL (CAMAXTLI)- "Cloud Snake" "Ruler of the Milky Way"
    NANAUTZIN - "The Sun"
    NAPPATECUTLI- "God of Mat-Makers"
    NAUHYOTEUCTLI- "Lord of the Four Directions"
    NESOXOCHI- "The One Who Strews Flowers"
    NEXTEPEUA-"He Who Rains Ashes"
    NOCHPALLI ICUE- "Her Skirt is Prickly Pears"
    OMACATL- "Two Reed" "The God of the Feast"
    OMETEOTL- "Duel Divinity"
    OMETECUHTLI-"The Creator God"
    OMETOCHTLI- "God of Pulque"
    OZTOTEOTL- "The God of Caves"
    PAPAZTEC- "Pulque Deity"
    PATECATL-"Pulque God"
    PAYNAL- "Messenger God"
    PILTZINTECUHTLI-"Youthful God" "The Planet Mercury"
    POPOCATEPETL- "Smoke Mountain"
    PPILIMTEC- "God of Music"
    QUETZALCOATL- "God of Wind" "The Creator God"
    QUILAZTLI- "She Who Makes Legumes Grow" "God of Midwives"
    TECCIZTECATL - " The Moon God"
    TECHALOTL- "Squirrel"
    TECHLOTL- "God of the Underworld"
    TETEO INNAN-(TOCI)- "Mother of the Gods"
    TEPEYOLLOTL- "Heart of the Mountain"
    TEZCATLIPOCA-"The Mirror That Smokes""He Whose Slaves We Are"
    TEZCATZONCATL- "Pulque God?"
    TLACAHUEPAN- "Younger Brother of Huitzilopochtli"
    TLACHIHUALTEPETL- "Lord of Many Colors"
    TLALCHITONATIUH- "Groundward Sun"
    TLALOQUE or TEPICTOTON- "Tlaloc's dwarfish attendants"
    TLALOC- "The Rain God" "He Who Makes Things Grow"
    TLALTECAYOA- "He of the Round Earth"
    TLALTECUHTLI- "The Frog Monster" "The Earth-Lord"
    TLAZOLTEOL- "The Goddess of Filthy Things"
    TLAZOPILLI - "Precious Lord"
    TLILPOTONQUI- "Feathered In Black"
    TLOQUE NAHUAQUE- "Immanent One"
    TONATIUH- "The Sun(*8) God" "The Old One"
    TONACATEUCTLI-Agricultural Deity"
    TORQUEMADA II- "Underworld God"
    TOTEC CHICAHUA- "Our Aged Lord"
    TZAPATLAN TENEN- "The Goddess of Turpentine"
    TZINTEOTL- "The Goddess of the Rump"
    TZITZIMITL-"Demonic Night Creatures"
    TZONTEMOC- "He Who Fell Head First"
    UAPPATZIN- "Ball Court God" "Patron deity of the Ball Court"
    UIXTOCIHUATL- "Goddess of cultivated foods"
    XIPE TOTEC- "Our Lord of the Flayed One" "Ruler of the East"
    XOCHIPILLI- "The Prince of Flowers"
    XOCHIQUETZAL- "Flower Quetzal" "Patroness of Erotic Love"
    XILONEN- "Tender of the Ear of Corn"
    XIPPILLI-"The Jeweled Prince"
    XIUHTEUCTLI- Turquoise Lord" "Fire God" "Prince of the Dawn"
    XOLOTL- "The Dog Headed Monster" "Twin Brother to Quetzalcoatl"
    YACATECUHTLI- "The Long-Nosed God" "The God of Merchants"
    YAOMICQUI- "One Who Has Died at the Hands of the Enemy"
    YAUHTECATL- "Pulque God"
    YOHUALTONATIUH- "The Night Sun"
    YOHUALTICITL- "Midwife of the Night"
    ZACAZONTLI- "God of Roads"

    6 The Mexica viewed the sea as extending outward and up until it merged with the sky. The sea and sky were one, the sea was known as "Sky Waters" or according to Sahagun, "teoatl", meaning marvelous water. The sky was known to contain water which descend on the Mexica as a flood or life giving sustenance. Some legends have four trees holding the sky at the corners of the world. There are many legends concerning creation myths, consult Duran, Sahagun, and Brundage.

    7 The Mexica word for war was "yaoyotl", meaning "The Warriors Business". There was a glyph symbol called "teoatl tlachinolli", meaning divine liquid and burnt things, (blood and fire). The glyph was in the form of an eagle's beak as he sat on the cactus where Tenochtitlan was founded. Symbolized the screaming of the eagle for war. The Mexica thought war was an influence of the sun. All gods took pleasure watching the exertion of battle, the chaos. Gods were thought to enjoy watching human conflict and manipulated the Mexica.

    8 The Mexica thought that the sun spent half of it's time in the dark underworld as a sort of wrinkled and ugly being, or "Night Sun". In general the Mexica shunned the night and only trained and brave priests ventured forth into the night.


    ALARCON, Hernando Ruiz de. Trans. by J. Richard Andrews and Ross Hassig. TREATISE ON THE HEATHEN SUPERSTITIONS THAT TODAY LIVE AMONG THE INDIANS NATIVE TO THIS NEW SPAIN, 1629. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984(*136).

    ANDERSON, Arthur J. O., Frances F. Berdan and James Lockhart. BEYOND THE CODICES. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976.

    ANDREWS, Richard J. INTRODUCTION TO CLASSICAL NAHUATL. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1975.

    BIERHORST, John. CANTARES MEXICANOS: SONGS OF THE AZTECS. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1985(*137).

    BIERHORST, John. THE MYTHOLOGY OF MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA. New York: William Morrow and Company Inc., 1990.

    BOONE, Elizabeth H. INCARNATIONS OF THE AZTEC SUPERNATURAL: THE IMAGE OF HUITZILOPOCHTLI IN MEXICO AND EUROPE. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, Vol. 79, part 2, Transactions, 1989(*138.

    BRADEN, Charles S. RELIGIOUS ASPECTS OF THE CONQUEST OF MEXICO. Durham: Duke University Press, 1930.

    BRAY, Warwick. EVERYDAY LIFE OF THE AZTECS. New York: Dorset Press, 1987.

    BRUNDAGE, Burr Cartwright. THE FIFTH SUN: AZTEC GODS, AZTEC WORLD. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979(*139).

    BURLAND, C.A. MONTEZUMA, Lord of the Aztecs. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1973.

    BURLAND, Cottie, and Werner Forman. THE AZTECS: GODS AND FATE IN ANCIENT MEXICO. New York: Galahad Books, 1975.


    CASO, Alfonso. Trans. by Lowell Dunham. THE AZTECS, PEOPLE OF THE SUN. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970.

    CLENDINNEN(*140), Inga. AZTECS: AN INTERPRETATION. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

    CRONICA MEXICAYOTL. Cronica Mexicayotl (attributed to Fernando Alvarado Tezozomoc. Trans. by Adrian Leon. Mexico: Instituto de Investigaciones Historicas, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 1949.

    DAVIES, Nigel. PEOPLE OF THE SUN. London: Macmillan & Co., 1973.

    DAVIS, Audrey and Tobey Appel. BLOODLETTING INSTRUMENTS IN THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND TECHNOLOGY. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979.

    DURAN, Diego d. Trans. by Fernando Horcasitas and Doris Heyden. BOOK OF THE GODS AND RITES AND THE ANCIENT CALENDAR. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971.

    EMBODEN, William A. BIZARRE PLANTS: MAGICAL, MONSTROUS, MYTHICAL. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1974. FREDERIKSEN, Thomas H. AZTEC MEDICINE, Tucson, SPD Press, 1997

    GIBSON, Charles. THE STRUCTURE OF THE AZTEC EMPIRE. Handbook of Middle American Indians, Vol 10, pp. 323-394. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971.

    GRUZINSKI, Serge. Trans. from French by Paul G. Bahn. THE AZTECS: RISE AND FALL OF AN EMPIRE. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., (Discoveries Series), 1992.

    KARTTUNEN, Frances. AN ANALYTICAL DICTIONARY OF NAHUATL. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983.

    LEON-PORTILLA, Miguel. Trans J. Eruory Davis. AZTEC THOUGHT AND CULTURE. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963.

    LOCKHART, James. NAHUAS AND SPANIARDS: POSTCONQUEST CENTRAL MEXICAN HISTORY AND PHILOLOGY. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center Publications, University of California, and Stanford University Press, 1991.

    INNES, Hammond. THE CONQUISTADORS. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969.

    MASLOW, Jonathan E. BIRD OF LIFE, BIRD OF DEATH: A Naturalist's Journey Through a Land of Political Turmoil. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986(*141).

    MERCNTANTE, Anthony S. ZOO OF THE GODS: ANIMALS IN MYTH, LEGEND, & FABLE. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.

    MEYER(*142), Michael C., & Sherman, Wm. L. THE COURSE OF MEXICAN HISTORY. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.


    NICHOLSON, Irene. MEXICAN AND CENTRAL AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1985.

    PADDEN, R. C. THE HUMMINGBIRD AND THE HAWK: CONQUEST AND SOVEREIGNTY IN THE VALLEY OF MEXICO 1503-1541. New York: Harper and Row Inc., Torchback Books, 1970.

    POMAR, Juan Bautista. RELACION DE TEZCOCO. Facsimile of 1891 edition of Joaquin Garcia Icazbalceta. Mexica: Biblioteca Enciclopedica del Estado de Mexico, 1975(*143).

    PONCE, Pedro. BREVE RELACION DE LOS DIOSES Y RITOS DE LA GENTILIDAD. Mexico: Anales del Museo Nacional de Mexico, 1892.


    PRESCOTT, William H. HISTORY OF THE CONQUEST OF MEXICO. VOL. I. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott and Company, 1873.


    SAHAGUN(*144), Bernardino de Fr. HISTORIA GENERAL DE LAS COSAS DE NUEVA ESPANA. Mexico D.F.: Biblioteca Porrua, 1968.

    SAHAGUN, Bernardino de Fr. Trans. by Fanny R. Bandelier from the Spanish version of Carlos Maria de Bustamante. A HISTORY OF ANCIENT MEXICO. Nashville: Fisk University Press, 1932. Republished by Blaine Ethridge Books, Detroit, 1971.

    SAHAGUN, Bernardino de Fr. THE FLORENTINE CODEX GENERAL HISTORY OF THE THINGS OF NEW SPAIN. Twelve books in thirteen vols. Trans. by Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles Dibble. Sante Fe: School of American Research and the University of Utah Press, 1950-1982(*145).

    SKUTCH, Alexander F. THE LIFE HISTORY OF THE QUETZAL. The Condor 46, no. 5, Sep-Oct, 1944, pp. 213-35.

    SORENSEN, Ella D.; Dibble, Charles E.; Rahr, Guido. AN AZTEC BESTIARY: from butterflies to jaguars, a rare 16th-century text records the rich natural life of preconquest Mexico. Audubon magazine, Jan-Feb 1993 v95 n1 p50(6)

    SOUSTELLE, Jacques. Trans. from the French by Patrick O'Brian. THE DAILY LIFE OF THE AZTECS: ON THE EVE OF THE SPANISH CONQUEST. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1962.

    SPENCE, Lewis. THE GODS OF MEXICO. London: Unwin Press, 1923.

    TOOR, Francis. A TREASURY OF MEXICAN FOLKWAYS. New York: Crown Publishers, 1947.

    TORQUEMADA, Juan de. Ed. by Miguel Leon-Portilla. MONARQUIA INDIANA. Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 5 Vols., 1975-79.

    TOWNSEND, Richard F. THE AZTECS. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc., 1992.

    WOLFGANG von HAGEN, Victor. THE ANCIENT SUN KINGDOMS OF THE AMERICAS. Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1961.

    136 Another look at Alcaron's work can be found in: Ruiz de Alarcon, TRATADO DE LAS SUPERSTICIONES Y COSTUMBRES GENTILICAS QUE OY VIUEN ENTRE LOS INDIOS NATURALES DESTA NUEVA ESPANA. In Tratado de las idolatrias, supersticiones, dioses, ritos, hechicerias y otras costumbres gentilicas de las ruzas aborigines de Mexico: Mexico, Navarro, 1953.

    137 Lockhart's book applauds the work of Brierhorst , however, Lockhart greatly changes most of the translations and is quite sure he is right. For anyone interested in the "songs of the Mexica", I suggest allowing time to read both books.

    138 You would be hard pressed to find a more thought provoking work than this relatively short publication. Of particular interest is her research into the view of Huitzilopochtli through European eyes.

    139 This author also wrote A RAIN OF DARTS, also by the University of Texas Press which is a wonderful book about the eleven Mexica kings that preceded Cortes.

    140 This book is a great place to start reading after having achieved a general background on the Aztec. Clendenen's book is reviewed in the additional reading section of this software program.

    141 The Quetzal bird is the primary focus of this book, however the author does a fine job of describing the poverty and social conditions existing in 1980's Guatemala as he avoids death squads to view and describe what may be the last of this historical bird.

    142 Dr. Meyer is a past director of the Latin American Area Center, University of Arizona, and is currently a professor of history at that institution. This book is considered a standard textbook on the history of Mexico. While visiting the University of Arizona library, I decided to try to see Dr. Mayer and lurked about his office in the summer of 1993, meeting briefly with him in the hallway. I found him to be a kind and warm person. His historical and academic reputation is at the top of the field.

    143 John Eric S. Thompson has published a book in 1941 titles "The Missing Illustrations of the Pomar Relacion", published by the Carnegie Institution.

    144 See the Authors and Historians section of this work for short biography of this historian.

    145 Alarcon's book p. 389-390 lists the volume and book titles as follows:

    1961 THE PEOPLE. BOOK 10
    1970 THE GODS. BOOK 1

    Other Aztec related links:

    Religion of the Modern Aztlan Movement

    Major Deitites of the Mexica

    Minor Deitites of the Mexica

    Mexica Culture

    Mexica Medicine

    Aztec Life

    Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity?

    The Aztec Account of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico

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