The Gods of Creation in Aztec Mythology

The Aztecs were a powerful civilization that ruled central and southern Mexico for more than 250 years, between 1300 and 1541 AD. They had a rich and complex mythology that included hundreds of gods and goddesses, each with their own attributes and domains.

In this blog post, we will explore the creation myths of the Aztecs, including the roles of deities such as Ometeotl, Huitzilopochtli, and Coatlicue. We will also discuss how these myths shaped the Aztec understanding of the universe.

Aztech Mythology Gods and Creation Myths

Ometeotl: The Supreme Creator

Ometeotl was the supreme creator god of the Aztecs, also known as Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl. Ometeotl was a dualistic deity, composed of both male and female aspects, representing the balance and harmony of all things.

Ometeotl resided in the highest heaven, called Omeyocan, meaning “the place of duality”. Ometeotl was the source of all life and gave birth to four sons, who were also creator gods: Quetzalcoatl, Tezcatlipoca, Xipe Totec, and Huitzilopochtli. These four sons were known as the Tezcatlipocas, meaning “smoking mirrors”, because they could see everything in their reflective obsidian mirrors.

The Tezcatlipocas: The Four Suns

The Tezcatlipocas were responsible for creating and destroying different eras of the world, each associated with a different sun. According to the Aztec mythology, there have been five suns so far, and we are living in the fifth one. Each sun was destroyed by a cataclysmic event, such as floods, winds, fires, or jaguars. The Tezcatlipocas also had different attributes and domains, as follows:

  • Quetzalcoatl: The feathered serpent god of life, light, wisdom, wind, and agriculture. He was also the patron god of priests, learning, books, and the calendar. He was known as the White Tezcatlipoca and the Supreme God. He created the first sun and the first humans by retrieving their bones from the underworld and sprinkling them with his blood. He was also associated with Venus as the morning and evening star.
  • Tezcatlipoca: The smoking mirror god of providence, invisibility, darkness, night, and war. He was also the patron god of sorcerers, rulers, and warriors. He was known as the Black Tezcatlipoca and the Enemy of Both Sides. He created the second sun and ruled over it until he was knocked down by Quetzalcoatl. He was also associated with the Ursa Major constellation.
  • Xipe Totec: The flayed god of force, regeneration, seasons, and crafts. He was also the patron god of goldsmiths and other craftsmen. He was known as the Red Tezcatlipoca and Our Lord the Flayed One. He created the third sun and ruled over it until he was devoured by jaguars. He was also associated with spring and fertility.
  • Huitzilopochtli: The hummingbird god of war, will, sun, and fire. He was also the patron god of the Aztec people and their legendary leader. He was known as the Blue Tezcatlipoca and the Left-Handed Hummingbird. He created the fourth sun and ruled over it until he was destroyed by a flood. He was also associated with sacrifice and bloodshed.

The Fifth Sun: The Era of Tonatiuh

After the fourth sun was destroyed by a flood, only Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca survived. They decided to create a new sun by sacrificing themselves in a sacred fire at Teotihuacan, an ancient city that predated the Aztecs. However, Tezcatlipoca hesitated at the last moment and only threw his foot into the fire, while Quetzalcoatl jumped in wholeheartedly. As a result, Quetzalcoatl became Tonatiuh, meaning “the one who goes forth shining”, while Tezcatlipoca became Metztli, meaning “the moon”. Tonatiuh became the fifth and current sun, but he refused to move across the sky until the other gods sacrificed themselves to him. Quetzalcoatl then cut out the hearts of the gods and offered them to Tonatiuh, who finally began his journey. The Aztecs believed that they had to keep feeding Tonatiuh with human blood and hearts to ensure his movement and the survival of the world.

Coatlicue: The Earth Mother

Coatlicue was the earth mother goddess of the Aztecs, also known as Teteoinan, meaning “the mother of the gods”. She was the mother of Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli, and many other deities.

She was depicted as a woman wearing a skirt of snakes and a necklace of human hearts, hands, and skulls. She also had two serpent heads as her breasts and a third one as her head.

Coatlicue represented the cycle of life and death, as she gave birth to all living things and also devoured them at the end. She was also associated with fire, volcanoes, and warfare.

Coatlicue was the protagonist of one of the most famous myths of Aztec mythology, which explains the birth of Huitzilopochtli. According to the myth, Coatlicue was sweeping the temple of the sun when a ball of feathers fell from the sky and impregnated her.

Her daughter Coyolxauhqui, the moon goddess, and her four hundred sons, the stars, were enraged by this and decided to kill their mother.

However, as they approached her, Huitzilopochtli emerged from her womb fully armed and ready for battle. He then killed Coyolxauhqui and threw her body down the hill, where it was dismembered. He also chased away his brothers, who became the Southern Stars. This myth symbolized the eternal struggle between the sun and the moon, as well as the triumph of life over death.

How did the Aztec civilization end?

The Aztec civilization came to an end in 1521, when it was conquered by the Spanish invaders led by Hernán Cortés. Cortés arrived in Mexico in 1519, looking for gold and glory.

He was welcomed by Motecuhzoma II, the ninth emperor of the Aztecs, who mistook him for Quetzalcoatl returning from exile. Cortés took advantage of this and took Motecuhzoma prisoner in his own palace. He then tried to rule through him, but faced resistance from the Aztec people, who rebelled against his demands for tribute and conversion to Christianity.

In June 1520, Cortés had to flee from Tenochtitlan after a massacre of Aztec nobles during a religious festival. He returned in May 1521 with a large army of Spanish soldiers and native allies, and laid siege to Tenochtitlan for three months.

The Aztecs fought bravely, but were weakened by hunger, disease (especially smallpox), and lack of water. They were also outnumbered and outmatched by the Spanish weapons and horses. On August 13, 1521,
Cortés captured the city and destroyed its temples and palaces. He then built a new city on its ruins,
which became the capital of New Spain. The surviving Aztecs were enslaved or killed, and their culture
was suppressed by the Spanish colonizers. Thus, the Aztec empire came to an end, but its legacy lives on in the history, art, and language of Mexico.

Conclusion

The Aztec mythology was a fascinating and intricate system of beliefs that reflected their worldview and culture. The creation myths of the Aztecs revealed their understanding of the origin and destiny of the universe, as well as their relationship with nature and the divine. The gods of creation played a crucial role in shaping these myths, as they represented different aspects of reality and human experience. By learning about these gods and their stories, we can gain a deeper insight into the Aztec civilization and its legacy.

References

: https://historycooperative.org/aztec-gods/
: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aztec_creator_gods
: https://www.worldhistory.org/collection/65/15-aztec-gods/
: https://www.godchecker.com/aztec-mythology/QUETZALCOATL/
: https://mythopedia.com/topics/aztec-gods