AZTEC RELIGION - MAJOR DEITIES
AZTEC STUDENT RESEARCH GUIDETEZCATLIPOCA- "The Mirror That Smokes" "One Death"
(C)1997-2005 (Thomas H. Frederiksen)
All rights reserved
NOTE: 1/05 This section is a cut and paste
from the larger work to better organize the study of the handful of major
deities. While all deities had a function in the daily life of the Mexica,
those presented here dominated. Visual representations of these deities
can be found throughout Mexico today. From calendars in gas stations, to
artwork on buildings. There are those today, both in Mexico
and here in the U.S., that long to return to the Old Ways....TF
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 referred to as Moyocoyatzin, (Capricious
Creator), Titlacahuan, (He Whose Slaves we Are), Moquequeloa,
(The Mocker) (*3), 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
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
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
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(*4)", 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(*5) 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"(6). 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
Tezcatliopoca has also been associated with a type of Cupid and
as a seducer, Codex Vaticanus pls. 40, 52, and the Codex
Telleriano-Remensis I, pl 9. Numerous references in legend to
his use of seduction to gain his ends, he was a master of
In the most noted sacrifice to him, his impersonator was given
four wives before he was to be killed, they were called,
Xochiquetzal, Xilonen, Atlatonan, and Huixtocihuatl, representing
in order, sexual pleasure(*8), food, drink, and salt. His ritual
Ixiptla and geographical sacrificial area is curiously in the
territory considered sacred to Huitzilopochtli, the south shore
of the lake.
May have been worshiped as Tepeyollotl, or "Heart of the
Mountain". References to him are in the Codex Vaticanus, pl. 19,
and is seen as a sitting jaguar on a hill that is hollow and full
of stars as evidenced in the Codex Borgia, pl. 63. Signification
of the animals perfection of stealth. Also may have been
worshiped as Monenequi or Macuiltotec as a god of weaponry.
Tezcatliopoca was associated with the Mexica days of "Two Reed",
and "One Death", the enemy. Known in Tula as Huemac, He Who Is
in a Big Hand, and credited with leading the Toltecs during
their own wandering years.
Also known as Tezcatlanextia, "He Who Causes Things to Be Seen in
the Mirror" Tezcatlipoca was also said to have worn a ring into
which he could look into the hearts of men, like an eye. The
mirror, ring and his ability to predict seem to be unique as no
other references of this type of "seer" ability are credited to
other gods. Seer ability among the Mexica appears to only be
practiced by Mexica medical practitioners.
Tezcatlipoca lives by no law, he is invisible, a mocker, a giver
of disease, a player of men's destinies and fortunes.
Tezcatlipoca was said not to hate or love, he held total power,
the Mexica were his slaves and playthings. Also known as "Night
Ax", a ghost(*9) which lived in the night and could be heard as
the sound of a woodsman's ax. He was described as a headless
corpse with a large wound in the chest which rhythmically opened
and closed. This could be a representation of the decapitated
sacrificial victim returning to haunt the Mexica.
Tezcatlipoca was a "withholder" of rain when needed and known as
evil and as a sorcerer. He was also seen as a virgin and young
with seductive powers. He held the knowledge of everything and
everywhere and was considered malicious and at the same time
forgiving. He was perceived as invisible. He lived in caves,
the night sky, and rural areas as well as in the main city. He
ruled with total authority. His power over the Mexica was as a
living presence, where as some of the other more important
deities were removed and considered as abstract. Much has been
written as to no formal head of the Mexica deity order, however,
you would have a hard time finding one more worshiped that
Tezcatlipoca, "He Who Through We Live". The earth was thought to
be held in the hand of Tezcatlipoca and thought of as a place of
exile and danger for mere humans.
The Florentine Codex, as related in Clendennan's book, lists the
following lament to Tezcatlipoca:
O master, O our lord, O master of the necessities of life, who
has sweetness, fragrance, riches, wealth: show mercy, have
compassion for the common folk. May thou honor them, show them
a little of thy freshness, thy tenderness, thy sweetness, thy
fragrance...May they through thy grace know repose for a little
time... If perhaps they should become arrogant, if perhaps they
should become presumptuous...should keep for themselves thy
property, thy possessions; if perchance because of it they should
become perverse, heedless, thou wilt give it to the truly
tearful... the truly sighing one...the truly poverty stricken
one...the meek, those who prostrate themselves, who go saddened
Tezcatlipoca is depicted in the Codex Fejervary-Mayer as tempting
the Earth Monster to come to the surface of the water by using
his foot as bait. The Monster ate his foot but in the engagement
lost her lower jaw. Crippled, the earth monster was unable to
sink into the depths of the seas and the earth as the Mexica knew
it was created from her body.
His heavenly constellation was what we call the Great Bear, his
single footprint in the night sky. Tezcatlipoca was not seen as
a spirit of goodness and as such could not approach the Pole
Star, the symbol of the divine duality. He hopped about the
north star on his one foot, or the visible circumpolar track of
the Great Bear in the night sky.
This was a complex god associated in many ways but most of all
with the surface of the earth. In the east his color was yellow
in honor of the new sun, the Blue Huitzilopochtli represented him
in the southern sky, in the west his main association was red and
was a symbol of the blood of sacrifice, in the north a black
Tezcatlipoca consumed with witchcraft and magic. Also known as
"he who is closest to the shoulder", as he was thought to be ever
present and resting on all shoulders, placing thoughts and ideas
of trickery and violence into the minds of the Mexica. In the
Codex Cospi two contrasting representations of this god are
depicted. In one he is red and in the form of Xipe Totec, God of
the Sunset and sacrificial pain, the other represents the black
Tezcatlipoca and his association with death, magic and the north.
Both figures are dressed in robes and as warriors.
The Mexica did not think of this god as evil, but rather a
contrast between his representation of darkness or the dark side
of humanity with the light of Quetzalcoatl. The whole concept of
good and evil was not seen to the average Mexica in the same
sense as our teachings, they resigned themselves to fate and
belief in one's destiny.
May have been worshipped as Moquehqueloatzin, meaning "Self
Derider", or "Self Tickler". From the Nahuatl verb Queh-quel-oa,
meaning "to tickle oneself"(*11).
May have been worshipped under the names Tlalticpaqueh, meaning
"World Owner", and as Yaotl. Yaotl is mentioned as a mythical
person in the creation of the scorpion myth(*12).
Also known as "The Prince of this World" and thought to have
whispered directly into the minds of the Mexica most often those
whispers were savage thoughts.
3 Tezcatlipoca seems to have had many names. I have run across
several names and spellings associated with him. It seems that
as the newer books come out some of the spellings change with
them leaving you with a "Who do you trust the most" formula for
inclusion and spelling. Sahagun relates in his accounts many
stories of the cunning and trickery associated with this most
revered and worshiped deity. A lament to his mockery is as
follows: He is arbitrary, he is capricious, he mocks. He wills
in the manner he desires. He is placing us in the palm of his
hand; he is making us round. We roll; we become as pellets. He
is casting us from side to side. We make him laugh; he is making
a mockery of us. Brundage p. 186-187 from his translation of
4 From Nahualli, "A Thing Like a Mask or Disguise", from the verb
nahua? Brundage p. 245-246, gives an account of recent beliefs
in a village near Huamanguillo, Tabasco, of modern beliefs in the
5 The Mexica made jewelry by using what has been called "the lost
wax process". The form of the object was carved and engraved in
a piece of charcoal which held the melted gold as a mold.
Another method of working gold was to mold it around clay and
then scrape out the unwanted clay. The Mixtecs were credited
with supplying much of the fine jewelry to the Mexica.
6 Brundage, notes p. 232.
7 Of interest Sahagun considered the name Nezahualpilli as being
another name for Tezcatlipoca. Nezahualpilli translated to be
8 Tlaltipacayotl in the Mexica tongue was meant "to have known
9 The Mexica warrior would often sing a "ghost song" to summon
the ghost of an ancestor to swell the ranks of the army. These
summoned ghosts would often be led by "ghost kings" and come
"raining", "Scattering", "flying", or "whirling" to the earth in
the form of flowers or birds. Lockhart p. 144.
10 I have a hard time believing the Mexica talked this way and
suspect that the good Friar Sahagun translated this into a more
acceptable and recognizable prayer format.
11 Alacaron notes p. 231.
12 For additional information on the creation of the scorpion as
known to the Mexica see Alcaron's book. See also goddess
Tlazoteotl. Yappan, meaning "Flag having the color of black
maize", was a metaphorical name for the black scorpion.
TLALOC- "He who makes things grow"
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
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 (*16), 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
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
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
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 stumbling.
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
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.
16 Whether or not this wife stealing actually happened or the
Mexica were trying to prop up the image of Tezcatlipoca is a
matter of debate. Tlaloc is an old god and has been worshiped by
other Mesoamerican cultures long before the arrival of the Mexica,
it would be interesting to review other cultures legends and
compare. The Mexica were famous for manipulating and re-writing
history to further their own ends.
17 Townsend, p. 114.
18 There are several references to being naked before the gods.
The ruler elect of the Mexica is said to have spent a night naked
before the image of Tezcatlipoca. In addition a common practice
was to wear a cape with a large knot tied in it. When sitting
the know would be placed over the back of the neck exposing
genitals, when standing the knot would be placed at the shoulder.
Clendinnen p. 319.
19 The blood would often be flicked towards the sun or allowed to
drip onto special paper or to paint their faces.
20 The Mexica referred to blood as "Our Most Precious Water".
TLALOQUE or TEPICTOTON- "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(*22) or a type of digging
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
21 Townsend, pp. 133-140, details this importand center of
worship to the Mexica and provides photographs and results and
findings from his own archaeological mapping of the area in 1989.
22 Mexica referred to the male penis as "xipitl or xipittl",
"xipintli", may have referred to foreskin.
23 When beaten on the ground, this stick was thought to produce
rain and thunder. The gods of fertility, Xipe Totec and
Cinteotl, were also known to carry this rattlestaff.
Correlation have been made between the staff and the tree called
Chicahuazteotl, "The God of Vigor" ripeness?, which was worshiped
XIPE(*37) TOTEC- "Our Lord of the Flayed One"
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.
Note Winter 2005 - this Deity is making a strong come back and is
quite popular with the new AZTLAN activists here in the U.S, both in
illustrations and for lack of a better term "name dropping". One
wonders if they have bothered to research the daily rites practiced to this
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(*38) 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
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(*39) 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
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.
37 Xipe may mean "He With the Penis".
38 Diseases in general were thought to be caused by small insect-
like spirits that were sent out by the gods. These insects would
fasten themselves on the victim and suck blood or steal away the
39 The aspect of the falling blood was to signify rain and
fertility of the earth, the blood representing semen falling on
the Earth mother to impregnate her. This sacrifice was called
"Tlacacaliztli", the sacrifice by arrows.
40 Alacaron notes p. 231.
XOCHIQUETZAL- "Flower Quetzal-or Plumage"
"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(*45) to this goddess. The victim's
legs were crossed after cutting out their hearts and then sent
rolling down the steps(*46) 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
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(*47), 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
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
God associated with maize and vegetation. Goddess of flowers,
grains, and patroness of weavers. God of sculptors and
embroiders. Quail(*48) and incense(*49) 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
Goddess of flowers(*50) 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
May have been worshipped under the name Tonacacihuatl, meaning
In Alcaron's book when the speaker of an incantation is
impersonating a god, the speaker's wife assumes the role of
Worshipped during the festivals of Matlalcueyeh, Huei Pachtli, and
44 Butterflies were regarded as an emblem of richness and well
watered vegetation. They were treated as the returning spirits
of the dead. These visits from butterflies were thought to be
happy visits from the dead assuring the living relatives that
they were fine and much joy would be felt seeing the butterflies
fly around the ever-present bouquet of flowers in the home. Of
note it was considered impolite to smell a bouquet of flowers
from the top. The proper way was from the side as the top was
reserved for the dead souls that may return. The blood of
butterflies is reported in Gillmor's book, p. 114 to have been
mixed with the blood of snakes and birds during pre-human
sacrifice rites in ancient Tula.
45 Virginity was taken quite seriously in everyday life. During
a wedding night if a young bride was found not to be a virgin,
the husband would deliver baskets with no bottoms to his guests,
which told of the shame and deception he had suffered, and the
girl's family was disgraced and forced to pay compensation.
46 In Aztec legend when Huitzilopochtli defeated his sister
Coyolxauhqui, he decapitated her and rolled her body down the
mountain, this may have some bearing on the significance of the
sending the victim down the temple steps.
47 The Mexica saw monkeys as mischievous creatures. A stone
representation of a Mexica monkey shows a sitting monkey with
fruit in one hand and a symbol representing the female sex
organs, "Oyoualli", on his chest. Burland p. 91.
48 Quail were often sacrificed as they generated a quick spurt of
blood and were thought to represent the quickness of the warrior,
as anyone who has seen a quail could relate to. Quil were often
sacrificed in the home by the common family. As the head was
quickly removed the continuation of the bird's wings beatings
would scatter the pulsing blood over the room and especially
over the hearth fire.
49 A few words about incense. On the day One Dog offerings were
made to the Fire God with baskets of "clean white pure incense",
common people were using mere handfuls of "course common
incense", and very poor people were using aromatic herbs.
Florentine Codex 4:25:88, Clendinnen p. 351.
50 For an interesting legend concerning Xochiquetzal and her
association with flowers see the Quetzalcoatl listing.
51 See the description of the thirteenth level of heaven AZTEC RELIGION section
of this work.
52 Brundage in his notes, p. 38, references that Xolotl probably
means either "beast" or "monster".
QUETZALCOATL(*68)- "The God of Wind"
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. 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(*69).
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(*70). 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(*71) bonnet or sometimes a small cap. A sharp bone
protrudes from the headgear which flows the blood that nourishes
his nahualli, the Quetzal bird(*72) .
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 (*73) 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
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 refered to
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"(*75). 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(*76),
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(*77). 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(*78), 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(*79).
Quetzalcoatl's priests(*80) 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
This deity is depicted on a statue, currently in the British
Museum, with ocelot claw ear-rings. The roar of this animal(*81)
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 Auto sacrifice.
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
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(*82). 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(*83), Quetzalcoatl was also
known as "Matl", which meant "hand" in Nahuatl(*84).
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. See also TLOQUE NAHUAQUE
listing with accompanying footnote for further information on
this subject. See also TLILPOTONQUI.
66 Flowers in general were thought to have been made by honey
sucking bats descending into Mictlan, the land of the dead.
Brundage, p. 243.
67 Brundage p. 243.
68 Quetzalcoatl translates to plumed serpent. The word quetzalli
eventually came to mean "treasure, or precious". The word coatl
came to mean "dragon" as well as "snake" and occasionally "twin",
hence it could mean "Precious Twin". The Quetzal bird provided
the beautiful green tail feathers for the plumes of this god.
69 Venus was an important astrological symbol for the Mexica and
was called "Tlauixcalpantecuhtli", which means - Lord of the
House of Dawn. The planet had two aspects and was shown and
revered as two gods. One, as Morning Star, was kind, and was the
Precious Twin, Quetzalcoatl. He held the sun in the sky in the
morning. His dark twin Xolotl ruled Venus in the Evening and
during the night. Xolotl pushed the sun into darkness. Of
interest the only sacrifices to Quetzalcoatl was during the time
that Xolotl ruled over Venus. The Mexica regarded travel under
the night stars as dangerous where as to be under the morning
star was good fortune.
70 This act probably begins the association and credited
invention of auto-sacrifice, or self-letting of blood, to the
71 The jaguar symbol was especially important to the priests, who
carried an insence bag made form jaguar skin. This pouch may
have carried their drugs and tobacco. Common drugs used by the
priests were Obsidian-knife-water and "yauhtli", (powered Tagetes
lucida?) which gave a sedative effect probably used in
controlling captives on their way to the killing stones. Duran
was convinced that Obsidian-knife-water was water used to wash
the sacrificial killing knife mixed with chocolatl, which
bewitched the user into a state of euphoria.
Some say this mysterious water was nothing more than pulque. The
priests were also known to have experimented with hallucinogens.
For more information consult the Florentine Codex in the "Book of
Earthly Things". Related in detail are "ololiuqui", the morning
glory whose seeds would derange the taker and "peyotl", which
grows only in Mictlan, the land of the dead. There are many
72 Maslow's book describes a scene of a soaring Quetzal bird that
may appear to look like a feathered serpent in flight as it soars
over a man's head.
73 For a well written account of the Quetzalcoatl man/legend and
his influence on the entire Mesoamerican region read THE LORD OF
THE DAWN: THE LEGEND OF QUETZALCOATL, By Rudolfo A. Anaya.
74 There is a legend that when the man/god Quetzalcoatl left Tula
he entered a mountain, which closed behind him. See Duran's works
for some of the many legends of Quetzalcoatl.
75 See the God YACATECUHTLI as these names suggest his
relationship with merchants.
76 p. 206.
77 This is the only reference to deities masturbating I have
78 Autosacrifice took many forms: Piercing lips, ears, legs or
arms with maguey spines and putting the blood on paper which was
then taken to a god. After use, the maguay spines were put in a
special place to be seen by the gods. Drilling a hole through
your tongue was considered a good Autosacrifice into which a cord
with spines was pulled through. The Mexica thought of
Autosacrifice as a service to the group rather than just for the
individual letting blood and was revered for his service to his
79 In Aztec legend Iztacmixcoatl with his sacred knife engaged
Chimalma, Shield Hand, "The Naked Goddess", and impregnated her.
Her son was to become Quetzalcoatl, who later was ruler in Tula.
Mercatante, p. 38 relates the spellings of these parents as
"Chimamatl and Iztacmixcoatl".
80 C.A. Burland's book Moctezuma, p.45, references that the high
priest to Quetzalcoatl wore a high helmet and a red, black, and
81 Animals in general were looked to by the Mexica for
delivering signs or omens. An owl hooting would signify
sickness or death was approaching. A home that was entered by a
rabbit would mean the house would suffer calamity. The chafer, a
larger form of beetle , may cause shame to enter into the home. A
wild weasel that crossed in front of a Mexica citizen could often
bring bad fortune.
82 Mercatante, p. 38.
83 P. 230.
84 The Mexica revered a medicinal tree referred to as
"macpalxochiquauhitl", meaning -hand flower. Known scientifically
as Chiranthodendron pentadactylon. Emboden, pp. 16-18.
HUITZILOPOCHTLI- "Left Handed Hummingbird(*37)"
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(*38). 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
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(*40), the Aztec power broker, is thought to have
propelled this god into the place of importance that
Huitzilopochtli held, some suggest even re-writing Mexica(*41)
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(*42).
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
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
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(*43)
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
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(*44).
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(*45) 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
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
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(*47) in his "Monarquia indiana
also confers the four god bearers. Hernando Alvarado
Tezozomoc(*48) keeps the bearer Cuauhcoatl but replaces the
other three with Quauhtlonquetzque, Axoloa, and Ococaltzin. To
further confuse this issue the Cronica Mexicayotl(*49) replaces
Cuauhcoatl, (Eagle Serpent), with Iztamixcoatzin, (White Cloud
37 The editors of Alarcon's book, notes p. 228, give a strong
argument that his name, Huitzilopochtli, did not mean Hummingbird
on the Left, but contained the phrases "small bell", and "thorn".
38 A parthenogenetic birth of Huitzilopochtli occurred with the
mother's conceiving this deity. This birth was a common practice
in Mesoamerican mythology.
39 There is some debate as to the accuracy of the 20,000 victim
legend. Some say priests exaggerated the figure, others say the
figure may be even higher.
40 For further information on this colorful character in Mexica
history refer to the AZTEC RULERS section elsewhere on this
41 The name "Mexica" derives from the word Mecitin, to Mexitin
and then to Mexica. This change occurred during the wandering
years. The name derives from an ancient Mexica deity called
"Mecitli", who insisted that the people be named in his honor.
Mecitli is credited with the famous "Broken Tree" incident during
the wandering years when the Mexica broke away from the other
wandering tribes on the direction of Mecitli. Some sources claim
that Mecitli is nothing but another name for Huitzilopochtli, or
it could mean "Maguay Grandmother", indicating a female goddess.
42 Brundage, p.144.
43 In 1950 a young Mestizo boy, Bulmaro Gomez Lopez, who was
hunting with his father in the forests of Chiapas, wounded an
Eagle. They carted the wounded Eagle forty miles to the small
zoo on the outskirts of the regional capital. The residents were
amazed as no one had seen a harpy eagle in years. The large
black and white bird with a gray hood had a six-foot wingspan and
legs the size of a man's arm. The harpy was fond of nesting in
the giant ceiba, (silk-cotton), tree. This tree was also refereed
to as the "tree of life" in many Mesoamerican cultures.
The eagle needs approximately 25,000 to 720,000 acres to forage
for the monkeys and other prey it needs. Harpies may still be
alive in two rainforests in southern Mexico, the Chimalapas and
the Lancandona. There have been reports of sightings in recent
years. The Peregrine Fund, at the World Center for Birds of
Prey, is trying to create a stable breeding herd from captive
harpies. The outlook is bleak.
This lack of surviving records may be due to the sheer hatred of
Huitzilopochtli by the conquering Spaniards. Boone's book p. 3-
4, gives accounts of how difficult it was for post conquest
historians to accurately re-construct a painted image of
Huitzilopochtli and many of the drawings we see today were drawn
to represent his functions as the artist saw fit, and not from
actual historical models.
44 According to Boone p. 10, there is but one surviving statue of
Huitzilopochtli and is a small jade figure in the possession of
the Musee de LHomme in Paris. There is some debate that the
statue is actually a statue of Tezcatlipoca, however the picture
in Boone's book leads me to conclude it is of Huitzilopochtli.
This book contains many pottery images as well as other
pictures of Huitzilopochtli that are worth the effort to see.
The Bishop Zarramunga partly traced the main temple idol of
Huitzilopochtli and the image is believed to be hidden in a cave
somewhere in Northern Mexico today. Bernal Diaz related the
account of the removal of the image in his book.
45 These seed dough images were prevalent even after the conquest
to the point that the Spanish were forbidding the cultivation of
amaranth, the main grain crop used in the construction of these
eatable idol images. Reports in 1570 by the Spanish
administration recorded the grinding of amaranth into dough
images. Reports in 1900 revealed a transition into animal
formation of the dough as well as a transition into modern
Christian rituals as the dough was being made into Catholic
Today on the streets of Mexico City "alegria", which is a small
cake mixed with homey can be purchased, some in the image of more
modern Mexican heroes such as Hildago or Benito Juarez, I suspect
it would not be too hard to find one in the image of a deity.
46 The Quetzal bird, (Pharomachrus mocinno, The Resplendent
Quetzal), belongs to the Trogon family with green or blue plumage
of iridescent color that appears to change color due to the
changes of light. The male displays the brilliant colors and
prized tail feathers while the female is drab. The bird lives in
subtropical and humid regions of southern Mexico through western
Panama in elevations from 4000 to 10000 feet. From February
through April the Quetzal searches for an old tree trunk to nest.
The hen will lay one or two eggs for an 18 day incubation period.
Both the male and female tend the nest. Worms, forest fruit, and
wild avocados, (aguacatillo), are the preferred food for the bird.
If a Quetzal is captured and confined in a cage, it dies,
smashing itself against the cage. For this reason it is looked
upon as a symbol of freedom.
The feathers were considered as a form of monetary exchange and
the bird was revered for it's beauty. There are reports of the
feathers of this bird being used as far north as New Mexico by
the Zuni Indians, and as far south as tribes of the Inca empire.
Today the bird is almost extinct and expected to be gone by the
year 2000. In Guatemala the Quetzal had originally been living
in over 30,000 square kilometers, by 1981 the area had been
reduced to less that 2,500 square kilometers.
47 Monarquia indiana (1975-79), vol 1, p. 114.
48 Cronica mexicana (1975), p. 225.
49 1949 #26.
50 This discrepancy of what should be a simple historical matter
to document, is typical of the study of the Mexica. It is also
the reason why I tend to be more concerned with general themes
and not as interested in specific spellings or attributes. In a
general sense I tend to believe these contradictions are due to several main influences.
The most important being, the Mexica had a tendency to re-write
their history to suit a particular purpose. For sixty eight
years the power broker Talaellel was a master of this craft. See AZTEC
RULERS section of this work.)
Other Aztec related links:
Religion of the Modern Aztlan Movement
Religion of the Mexica & Bibliography
Minor Deitites of the Mexica
Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity?
The Aztec Account of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico