Flying Dragon mystery
Dr Iwan suwandy,MHA
I am jus seen at discovery channel TV about the legend of Aztec bigger flying dragon Qetzal or quetzalos(?0. This legend very interesting due to the recent discovery of the bigger flying dynosaurus which near same with the Aztec quetzal dragon legend. In that legend told that every 52 years the world will became worst if the ritual with sacrifice to the Aztec dragon did not done.
To open The mystery I will research the informations realted with this Aztec Quetzal flyingdragon.
I hope this informations will useable for the next generations especially for my grandson Antoni and grand daughter cessa and celine for them this study dedicated.
Jakarta Mei 2012
Dr Iwan suwandy,MHA
THE INFORMATIONS REALTED WITH QUETZALCOALTZ AZTEC DRAGON
FLYING DINOSAURS, FLYING REPTILES, PTEROSAURS
Flying reptiles have captured the popular imagination ever since Arthur Conan Doyle made them part of his science fiction story The Lost World. These great creatures have been extinct since the Mesozoic era ended 65 million years ago. Scientists named them “flying lizards” or pterosaurs (TERA sores), nearly two centuries ago, when their fossil remains were first found. How such large animals could actually fly has long been a scientific puzzle, since they weighed about as much as a human being. Today’s hang-glider pilots must solve the problem of getting themselves airborne by using other aircraft, or leaping from great heights. How a giant lizard would take off is an unanswered question. The flying reptile was called “one of the greatest freaks of all time” by the late Harvard professor Percy Raymond. The flight mechanism was bat-like rather than bird-like. A membrane of skin stretched from the trunk to the front limb, but was attached to a greatly elongated fourth finger of the hand, and not to all four fingers as with a bat. Flying reptiles were probably soarers and gliders rather than active flyers. They could fold their wings like bats, and may have had similar roosting habits.
Until recently, it was thought that a wingspan of about 24 feet was the maximum size, for one of these winged lizards. Then in 1971, Douglas Lawson, a University of Texas student, discovered the fossil bones of an even larger specimen, with a wingspan of 36 to 39 feet. It was named after the Aztec god who looked like a feathered serpent: Quetzalcoatlus northropi. Pronounced “kwet zel KWAT lus,” this creature was one of the last of the pterosaurs to survive. Its neck was extremely long, its slender jaws were toothless, and its head was topped by a long bony crest. Like other pterosaurs, it had fingers on the front edge of its wing with sharp claws that could grip prey.
The eating habits of Quetzalcoatlus are
unknown, and there are different theories about the feeding habits of flying reptiles. Some experts think they ventured far out to sea, skimming over the surface of the water, and skillfully fed on fish. Others think they may have been carrion feeders, like modern vultures, and fed upon the carcasses of dinosaurs. Their long beaks and necks made them capable of probing deeply for food, on sea or land.
Aeronautical engineers and paleontologists have theories about how large animals launched themselves into space and stayed there. As a flying machine Quetzalcoatlus lacked the muscle power to run rapidly until it reached an airspeed that allowed it to take off. Likewise, it did not have the muscle or skeletal structure to flap its wings constantly to maintain flight. Perhaps it became airborne by dropping from the height of a cliff, or the crest of a wave. Or perhaps it waited until the hot sun warmed the ground and created strong thermal updrafts. Maybe it could stand up on its hind legs and catch an appropriate breeze, and with a single flap of its wings and a kick of its feet become airborne. Once aloft, it may have stayed in the air for long periods, riding air currents with minimal effort as it soared slowly and gracefully over land or water looking for prey. Its aeronautical design suggests that it could coast more slowly than a bird, before it stalled and had to land. The great wings may have allowed it to land gently, but its size, weight and long, weak hind limbs suggest that it did not live in trees as birds do.
Flying reptiles became extinct about the same time that dinosaurs did, at the close of the Age of Reptiles, or the Mesozoic Era. Even as they reached new records of size, a changing geography and their failure to adapt to new environments doomed pterosaurs. The Inland Sea, which covered so much of the interior of North America, drained away, and similar events around the globe affected the climate and food supply. Birds were better suited to flight and adapting for survival in almost every way, and became increasingly diversified.
THE LEGEND: Does The Cloud Dragon Live On?
Policeman Arturo Padilla of San Benito, Texas, was driving his police cruiser through the wee hours of the morning in 1976 when something unusual appeared in his headlights. It looked like a big bird. Only a few minutes later fellow officer Homer Galvan reported it too. A black silhouette that glided through the air. According to Galvan it moved without ever flapping it’s wings.
A short time later Alverico Guajardo, a resident of Brownsville, Texas, reported he’d heard a thumping noise outside his mobile home at about nine-thirty at night. When he looked out the door he saw a monstrous bird standing in his yard. “It’s like a bird, but it’s not a bird,” he said. “That animal is not from this world.”
Sightings of the big bird multiplied. A radio station offered a reward for the creature’s capture. A television station broadcast a picture of an alleged bird track. It was some twelve inches long. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, concerned that hunters might mistake a large rare and protected bird, like a whooping crane, for this creature announced that, “All birds are protected by state or federal law.”
In February 1976 several school teachers told of a large flying creature, at least 12 foot across, diving at their cars as they drove to work. One of them checked the school library and found a name for the animal: A Pterosaur.
Pterosaurs were an order of reptiles that lived, and went extinct, with the dinosaurs. They were the first true flying animals with vertebrates. Their wings were composed of a membrane of skin that stretched from the side of the body, along the arm, out to the tip of an enormously elongated fourth finger, and then back to the ankle.
Computer analysis of pterosaur fossils suggest that they were slow gliders capable of making very tight airborne turns. A large Pteranodon, with a wingspan of 30 feet could turn, in mid-flight, in a circle only 34 feet in diameter.
The largest known Pterosaur (indeed the largest known flying animal of all time), the Quetzalcoatlus, had a wingspan of 50 feet (larger than that of many small planes) and weighed about 190 pounds. Unlike many of the other Pterosaurs Quetzalcoatlus lived inland and probably had a vulture-like existence. It’s long neck would have helped it to “probe” dinosaur carcasses for meat.
Quetzalcoatlus, interestingly enough, brings us back to Texas. The first Quetzalcoatlus fossils were discovered in Big Bend National Park, Texas, in 1972, just four years before the first sightings of the Texas “Big Bird.” Is there a connection?
Have there been Pterosaurs hiding in Texas for the last 65 million years? Or could it be the publicity surrounding the discovery of Quetzalcoatlus four years before triggered the misidentification of normal large birds like the sandhill crane, brown pelican or the vulture? We may never know, because after the two month flap of sightings in 1976, reports of the big birds dwindled. The Pterosaurs, if they ever existed, have gone back into hiding.
THE ABOVE ARTICLE: Copyright Lee Krystek 1996. All Rights Reserved.
Petroglyph found among Native American rock art,
San Rafael Swell, Black Dragon Wash, Utah
Above : A generalized pterosaur wing (hum= humerus, r= radius, u= ulna, mc= metacarpus, pt= pteroid, c= carpus, I-IV= numbered digits). Also pictured: A generalized pterosaur pectoral girdle (sc= scapula, cor= coracoid, hum= humerus, ster= sternum).
The pterosaur wing (shown above) was supported by an elongated fourth digit (that is, like on a hand, a “pinky finger” several feet long). Pterosaurs had other morphological adaptations for flight, such as a keeled sternum (shown above) for the attachment of flight muscles, a short and stout humerus (the first arm bone), and hollow but strong limb and skull bones. Pterosaurs also had modified scales that were wing-supporting fibers, and that possibly formed hairlike structures to provide insulation — bird feathers are analogous to the wing fibers of pterosaurs, and both are thought to possibly have been evolved originally for the primary purpose of thermoregulation (which implies, but does not prove, that both pterosaurs and the earliest birds were endothermic). Pterosaurs also had a bone unique to their clade. It is called the pteroid bone, and it pointed from the pterosaur’s wrist towards the shoulder, supporting part of the wing membrane. Such a novel structure is rare among vertebrates, and noteworthy; new bones are unusual structures to evolve — evolution usually co-opts bones from old functions and structures to new functions and structures rather than “reinventing the wheel”. The wing membrane of pterosaurs most likely did not include the hindlimbs; there is no evidence for the existence of such a membrane, but if such a membrane were to exist, a gliding origin for pterosaur flight would probably be more feasible.
For an interesting comparison in wing design and flight adaption between the elongated fourth finger approach used by the pterosaurs and the feathered bird-wing structure used by the twenty-five foot wingspan Teratorn
THE LEGEND OF AZTEC QUETZAL FLYING DRAGON
Moctezuma’s headdress is a large and elaborate 16th century crown which according to legend once belonged to Aztec emperor Moctezuma II, made from the iridescent green tail feathers of the Resplendent Quetzal. Moctezuma either gave it to Hernán Cortés as a gift upon his arrival at Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire and modern day Mexico City, or it was pillaged by Cortés’ forces after the siege of Tenochtitlan in 1521.
There is no record of where it was taken, nor is there any evidence that it belonged to Moctezuma. We don’t even know for sure that it’s a headdress. It doesn’t match any of the headdresses depicted in contemporary accounts. In the 19th century the assumption was that it was a mantle, and recent scholarship suggests they might have been right about it being a mantle, but that it was worn by a priest to ritually transform him into the incarnation of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, rather than by the king.
What we do know is that by 1575 it was in the extensive private collection of Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria, at Ambras Castle in Innsbruck. Ferdinand was the nephew of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V who was also King of Spain during the Conquista. He could easily have gotten his hands on the headdress via his family connections.
It remained in the castle until the early 19th century when Vienna’s Museum of Ethnology was entrusted with most of the Castle Ambras collection. The headdress was the subject of much anthropological fascination from then on, including from Zelia Nuttall, the American archaeologist, anthropologist and expert in pre-Columbian Mexico who in 1890 first identified it as an Aztec “quetzalapanecayotl” or a featherwork crown.
The piece is 46 inches high at the peak and 69 inches wide. In addition to the 400 dramatic quetzal tail feathers that adorn the outer layer, there are rows of blue Lovely Cotinga feathers, pink flamingo feathers, smaller quetzal feathers and white and red feathers from the squirrel cuckoo. The inner rings are studded with gold and gemstones. The Aztecs venerated the Resplendent Quetzal as the god of the air, a symbol of rebirth and of freedom.
Given its beauty, historical significance and powerful symbolism, it’s no surprise that the headdress has been the subject of a long-standing dispute between Mexico and Austria.
There are no Aztec headdresses left in Mexico because the Spanish took them all — the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City only has a replica of Moctezuma’s headdress on display — so Mexico has been trying for decades to get this one back, even going so far as to petition the United Nations for its return, but to no avail.
In 2008, the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) entered into talks with the Austrian Government and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the parent institution of the Museum of Ethnology. They agreed first to do an extensive scientific analysis on the headdress to assess its condition and do any conservation necessary that will allow the piece to travel. In 2011, a tentative deal was struck: Mexico would officially recognize Austria’s uncontested ownership of the headdress, Austria would loan Mexico the headdress and in return Mexico would loan Austria the golden stagecoach of Maximilian I of Mexico, emperor of the Second Mexican Empire (1863-1867) and brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria.
There was still one major stumbling block, however. According to Mexican law, all pre-Columbian artifacts belong to the nation. Once they cross the border, no matter who else might lay claim to them, they become property of the state and cannot leave the country. No matter the terms of the loan agreement, Austria had no intention of letting the headdress into Mexico until the government’s assurances had the force of law.
A new bilateral cultural exchange agreement between Austria and Mexico that would resolve the issue has just been approved by the Mexican Senate and Austria’s cabinet. The Senate’s amendments to the cultural property law allow for long-term loans of artifacts while acknowledging the lender’s ownership rights. Austria’s legislature has to approve the deal, which is expected to happen within the next few months, and both parties need to sort out how to transport the fragile headdress without damaging it, but it looks like the biggest obstacle to the return of this glorious symbol of Mexican heritage might just have been overcome.
Quetzalcoatl and the Nak
Stories of a plumed serpent named Kukulcan emerged around 500 BC to AD 900, and around the end of the 12th century, the king of the Toltecs, Topiltzin conferred upon himself the title of Quetzalcoatl. At some point, the Aztecs incorporated legends of the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl into their pantheon.
According to one legend, after a series of conflicts and the treachery of his nemesis Tezcatlipoca, Quetzalcoatl was said to have left the Americas on a raft of entwined serpents, sailing to the east, although the Aztecs predicted one day he would return.
The Plumed Serpent, Quetzalcoatl: A Symbol of Connectedness
Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent,” played a dominant role as a god, model, myth, historical figure and symbol in ancient Mexican consciousness of Aztecs, Mayans and other cultures. He was an hombre-dios (“man-god”), who incarnated on earth, to bring spirit and matter into harmony. In his human form, according to legend, he founded the fabulous capital of the Toltecs, Tollan, where art and culture thrived. The myth of Quetzalcoatl also becomes intricately tied to the fortunes of a later empire, the Aztecs.
A Scaly Lizard-like Image of Quetzalcoatl from crystalinks.com
The history of the Aztec Empire begins with the Toltecs, since the Aztecs borrowed “Tollan” and “Quetzalcoatl” as symbols of authority and legitimation of their rule. These words became associated with different places and men, as symbols of connection to classical lineage of the Toltec rulers. Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztecs, borrowed the legend of Quetzalcoatl to justify its pre-eminence in Mesoamerica along with linking the origins of the Aztecs to ancient Tollan, “the city of the Gods.” However, the legend of Quetzalcoatl also contained within it the seeds of destruction for their civilization under the Spanish.
The modern ruins of the fabled Tollan of the Toltecs
The Plumed Serpent has proved to be an illusive figure for scholars, so many interpretations have emerged about him. The three main schools of thoughts are the diffusionist, symbolic and historical. Diffusionist writers view Quetzalcoatl as originating outside ancient Mexico in a Judeo-Christian, Asian or other foreign culture. They claim that the bearded depictions of Topiltzin, the legendary ruler connected to the god Quetzalcoatl, are not characteristic of American Indians. Therefore, he must have come across a Transatlantic journey to teach the indigenous people a mystical, visionary religion that encouraged high moral standards of penance and self-sacrifice.
This school has been discredited among serious scholars due to unusual claims, including claims of Topiltzin’s extraterrestrial origins. Many writers in this school also exhibit ethnocentric biases, particularly with the assumption that original thought in Indian peoples must have an outside source.
The historical school wishes to uncover the actual Quetzalcoatl who inhabited Tollan. It takes an extremely rational and empiricist attitude to myth and legend of Quetzalcoatl. The problem with this approach lies in the lack of authentic Pre-Columbian sources. So their arguments cannot go beyond speculation.
The symbolic school because of its acceptance of myth as testament of Mesoamerica’s imagination offers the most depth. Quetzalcoatl as a symbol represents the Ancient Mexicans search for wholeness and integration. His name can be divided into Quetzal, a beautifully plumed bird, and Coatl, a snake or serpent.
|The Quetzal represented the aspiration of the spirit in its flight, and many tales were told of her ability to communicate with the gods in flight similar to the eagle in North American Indian stories.|
|The serpent, in contrast, represented an association with the earth, since it crawls upon the ground or borrows underneath. It represented the energies of the earth in fertility and cyclic renewal.|
Quetzalcoatl, called Kukulcan and Gugumatz among the Mayans, was not merely an historical figure to the Ancient Mexicans but he was a figure that united spirit and matter. The quetzal bird represented the spiritual urge to take flight and transcend the bounds of corporeal existence and the serpent represented being grounded in physical reality to the rhythms and cycles of nature.
Myths embody the the universal quest for meaning in life, and the desire to know the transcendent spiritual world. Quetzalcoatl as the legendary Topiltzin, tried to overcome the duality of spirit and matter, and reconciled them in a holistic vision as embodied in the Plumed Serpent. Topiltizin becomes the Redeemer of humankind through his reconciliation of opposites.
The ancient Mexicans were largely concerned with sublime mysticism and transcendence of the human spirit but the Aztecs degraded this spiritual vision as a cult of human sacrifice grew, even though the original Quetzalcoatl myth extolled the virtues of self-sacrifice over the killing of others.
During the creation of a new age or sun, according to mythic accounts, Quetzalcoatl through his own blood gave life to humans, formed from the bones and ashes of people from the previous age. When Quetzalcoatl appears in the form of Topiltzin, he teaches people to turn away from human sacrifice and instead to engage in self-sacrifice in service of others. Legends also attribute him with encouraging his followers to be creative through the arts.
Under Topiltzin, the human incarnation of Quetzalcoatl, Tollan prospered under his peaceful rule but priests wanting to reinstate human sacrifice conspired against him. He was forced to flee to the Yucatan, where afraid of being captured he sacrificed himself in a burning pyre and his heart rose to heaven as the morning star, Venus. The Aztec account varies. In their version, he says farewell to his followers with the prophecy to return one day from the East and reclaim his rule. He then floats away on a raft of snakes.
Quetzalcoatl’s brother, Huitzilopochtli, becomes the main god in the Aztec pantheon. He is the sun god and the god of war who requires human sacrifice. In Aztec cosmology, the sun required energy from human blood in order to continue. Without those sacrifices, the present age and their rule would come to an end. The Queztalcoatl tradition extolled virtues of self-sacrifice, which the Aztec rulers reduced to the massive sacrifice of others. In this way, the Aztec empire betrayed its spiritual inheritance to gain worldly power.
Painting by Susanne Iles, a painter and writer. Visit her site for detailed information on dragon mythology by clicking her name above.
The Aztecs legitimated their rule by claiming they were Topiltzin’s descendants and they would rule until the return of their god, Quetzalcoatl. When Montezuma met Cortez, he thought that Quetzalcoatl had returned. The myth that justified Aztec power also ironically became the cause of its demise, since the Aztec ruler was paralyzed to ask his warriors to attack a god. The Spanish conquerors took advantage of this weakness with the eventual domination of Spanish colonial rule and the suppression of indigenous cultures.
The study of Quetzalcoatl is complicated by the fact that he takes on many aspects, though underlying motif remains an attempt to reconnect body and spirit. The Plumed serpent becomes a perfect representation of wholeness, since it combines the spirit’s longing for spiritual transcendence, yet the body is the vehicle through which we can serve others. Sublime teachings such as these can be lost when worldly power guides rulers. The balance between the spiritual and physical then is broken.
Personally I developed a fascination with snakes during my childhood in Central India where I grew up in an undeveloped, forested area at that time. I was able to see different species of snakes or their old skin left behind after shedding it. I also heard mythic stories of snakes in Indian folklore. Later in my university life, the myth of Quetzalcoatl piqued my interest and imagination in another direction. Those experiences along with study of Quetzalcoatl, find expression in our novel.
Quetzalcoatl: Manifestations of the Feathered Serpent
Of all deities that can be found throughout the ancient world, none has inspired the human imagination and curiosity more than the concept of the Feathered Serpent from ancient Mexico. The reason for this curious phenomenon would of course be obvious. The elemental concept of the Feathered Serpent is wholly a human conceptualization of nature, consisting of two opposites converging that amounts to a being that was at first a (Feathered) Bird, and then also finally a Serpent. The question then, and which has haunted the contemporary mind for so many decades now is: “How did this Serpent ever become feathered?” There almost seems to be a process involved, now forgotten over the long era’s of time since this deities inception, which came shortly after the birth of Mesoamerica perhaps now almost 3,000-years ago. Furthermore, the image and iconography of the Feathered Serpent is in itself intriguing, as the image seems to conjure up so much uplifting emotion, and flights of fancy that relate to the notion of a transformation of the mind, within the environmental entrapment’s of matter that finally congeal pointedly to emerge in the realization of an ultimate oneness that is found between the opposite forces of matter the (Serpent), and the mental spirit or the (Feathered Bird). Therefore, with this intriguing symbol we are summoned to seek the psychological transformation that we innately sense as our own personal right, and as our ultimate human duty. The intuitive conclusion is that Quetzalcoatl as the Feathered Serpent, is a symbol of the spiritual enlightenment that is found and discovered through the convergence and full consolidation of life’s lessons, which are to be perceived within the infinite potential of the moment at hand. To this degree, the Feathered Serpent is indeed a symbol of personal fulfillment through the endorsement of transformed perception – thus the implication of this deities resplendent feathers that grace the body of the symbolically rejuvenated reptile. The very word “Quetzalcoatl,” is a joint Nahuatl word meaning, Quetzal (Bird) and Coatl (Serpent). However, because the deity in concept is older than the Nahuatl language itself, it has of course then taken on other names throughout the time of Mesoamerican history. For that matter, the deity is a cultural inheritance that was for the most part, previously derived from the southeastern regions of the rainforests where the ancient Olmec and Maya had once dwelled. One of the oldest monuments dedicated to the likeness of the Feathered Serpent, in fact comes from the rainforest region of La Venta, which displays a priest involved in a ritualistic adornment, and who almost seems to be coiled and emerging, as he is pulled upwards along with the large beaked serpent whose head travels up towards the heavens with a characteristic crest of feathers indicating its transformed status from one being into another. A being which like a cloud emerges from the lower worlds of water, and evaporates up into the higher worlds of the air through the dynamic element of fire. Indeed, the flight of clouds thru the air is in reality one of the original and preeminent symbols of the Feathered Serpent, since its initial conceptualization with the original agricultural societies within Mesoamerica.
One of the earliest depictions of Quetzalcoatl, as “The Feathered Serpent,” from the ancient Olmec site of La Venta. The deity as a full fledged concept is plainly pronounced with the depiction of a crest of feathers atop the serpents head, which itself has been endorsed with the beak of a bird to indicate the transformed status of the zoological phenomenon that bridges the opposites of the higher, and the lower worlds as a indication of the precipitation and floral bounty found throughout the rainforests. The human being at the center of the stela does not necessarily itself have to represent Quetzalcoatl as the human archetype found in later representations throughout ancient Mesoamerica, however it could very well be just that, implying that the figure is beginning a trip into the underworld via the path of the Feathered Dragon.
In the premier agricultural realm of Teotihuacan, we find many iconographic displays of this deity’s image strewn all throughout the ancient city. This is especially prevalent upon the frontal decoration of what is presumed to be the temple of this deity at Teotihuacan, where carved serpent heads with crested feather collars alternate with another deity that is presumed to be an ancient version of the goggled eyed rain god later known as Tlaloc. This ancient Teotihuacan version of Tlaloc was previously in those times a war god, whose frightening characteristics of thunder and lightning no doubt then colored his later emergence as a war god, right along with the multitudinous drops of rain that fell like arrows across the land. This is despite this deities previous positioning as an agricultural god, which he would by default naturally retain along with the attractive company of the Feathered Serpent as a companion deity; and or, as an avatar as some prefer to see these two separate deities as operating within the realms of rain, water, and fecundity.
The opposite of water is fire, and the direct manifestation of the earthly fire is the upward solar fire or sun, which is the true source of rain and its deliverance. When in coming to terms with the ancient Tlaloc deity, one must go beyond singular definitions of godhead, and instead journey into the realm of the multifaceted manifestations that permeate various monotheistic concepts. In this respect, the ancient Tlaloc is not only the primordial and fecundate earth monster, but it is also the sun that arises out of the bowels of earth at dawn, and that will plunge into the darkness of evening to be finally delivered to the hour of midnight in the form of an owl – the midnight solar bird of darkness. The solar connection of the ancient Tlaloc deity to the owl is obvious, with the trademark goggled eyes that designate this god all throughout Mesoamerican history. The origins of this goggled eyed characteristic are to be found specifically with the Zapotec conceptual rain deity of “Cocijo.” As well, goggled eyed deities are to be found within the Maya realm as well, although usually in more of a subtle form, but nonetheless just as frequently. In short, these goggled eyes, which permeate Mesoamerican iconography could just as well be said to represent the midnight sun. Indeed, the true identity of the ancient Tlaloc deity is the midnight sun, in the form of an owl that finally picks up the water serpent at the midnight hour. Upon rising upward, these two animals merge as one to become a Feathered Serpent, or more specifically the form of a rain cloud.
Thus, for that matter the true facial identity of the ancient Tlaloc Serpent Mask is that of an owl picking up a serpent with its beak, only that the owl beak for aesthetic reasons has long ago disappeared from the iconographic record. For that matter, it is also true that the Tlaloc Mask also bears features of the “Midnight Mountain Jaguar,” Tepeyollotl, and therefore making this Tlaloc being a mixed combination of owl and jaguar. The fangs of the Tlaloc being indeed are to be understood as elongated drops of rain falling from the bitten ‘rain serpent’, and in essence representing the serpents blood, which has fallen as a result of being consumed by the midnight owl. However, it could also be added that at least in concept that if this ‘ midnight sun owl’ has indeed arrived to the center of the earth, then in keeping with tradition it has in a sense died there as well. Thus, for having caught the rain serpent at the hour of midnight, the midnight bird has died as well along with the water serpent, and now (at least theoretically) the spirit of both beings will emerge to finally rise from the head of the dead owl (now a Jaguar being) as one entity, in the form of the resplendent and luminous Feathered Milky Way being, which is the true iconographic source of the “Quetzalcoatl Concept” since its initial inception so long ago. With this idea we also become more familiar with Quetzalcoatl’s vague iconographic Jaguar affiliation. (From the Author: October 1, 2011).
By applying this intuitive hypothesis variably, we perhaps can now become more acquainted with how the Quetzalcoatl Milky Way being had ever become the symbol of the wind, with the notion that this luminous Milky Way being could indeed be the ‘released spirit’ of the physical midnight sun, which theoretically had died with the water serpent in its mouth within a heroic act of service towards life and humanity. Of course, the traditional Quetzalcoatl symbol displays the more esteemed and colorful feathers of the Guatemalan Quetzal Bird, and this is perhaps indicative of the difference that is found between the two formulations in the whole process of the resurrection, and diffusion of energy that is finally symbolized with the fecundate, dark-gray bloated rain clouds that vacillate over head. These will bring about the desirable and renewed greenness to the land, thus the implication of the green Quetzal Bird.
Also deep within the former glory of the Feathered Dragon as a zoological stellar being, and also as a being, which for having been related to the production of weather it was to also have had by default very specific ‘solar associations’ that were more pronounced with the ‘solar Tlaloc war god affiliation’ that had denoted the cycles of the sun as the seasonal cause of annual precipitation. Along with the daily, and the yearly cycles of the sun, the cycle of Venus as a companion of the sun on its journey throughout the parameters of space and time had been closely noted long ever since the time of Mesoamerica’s beginnings. The connection of the planet Venus to a water and fertility Milky Way Dragon has naturally been lost due to the misappropriation of the stellar cosmologies that once permeated the Mesoamerican psychological landscape. Along with the stellar orientation of the summer solstice sun, we are also to find and discover the most important and brightest star in the sky “Sirius,” shining brightly in the Milky Way Dragons tail near the ecliptic when the sun entered the summer months. Due to the inherit brightness of the star Sirius, and the planet Venus, a simulacrum had been long developed between the two bodies, which could have also hinged on the cycle of the rains found during those summer months when the sun was generally conjunct the star Sirius. With this innate affiliation of the star Sirius and the planet Venus we might finally resurrect a connection between the planet Venus and the cycles of rain that are aptly an integral part of the Quetzalcoatl legacy. Because the brightness of the star Sirius directly opposes the Galactic Center at the opposite end of the Milky Way Dragon, there may indeed be the bases of a long lost concept of death and resurrection of the solar god head at the two ends of the winter and summer solstices.
Traditionally, as well the planet Venus had always had associations of war due to its observed cycles falling in conjunction with the various conflicts throughout the land. For this reason, the following archetype of Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl was to retain certain attributes of battlefield skills that aided the warrior on the battlefield; these were retained in the form of the Venus War lord “Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli.” These warrior like aspects of Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl could even indeed be said to have been initially garnered from the even more ancient deity of “Mixcoatl,” a Nahuatl word meaning “Cloud Serpent,” that also referred to the Milky Way Dragon. The two mythologies of Quetzalcoatl, and Mixcoatl in fact have so much in common that in one corpse of mythologies, Mixcoatl was said to be the father of Quetzalcoatl under his veneration of the date name of “Ce Acatl,” or 1-Reed, which outlined Quetzalcoatl’s jurisdiction as the Toltec god of warriors. Here again, Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli would configure heavily within the Quetzalcoatl mythologies, and more specifically we might even conclude that Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli is actually a regenerated derivative of the earlier Mixcoatl aboriginal legacy. 5
Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli: Lord of the House of Dawn, was more likely a derivative of the aboriginal hunter plains deity of Mixcoatl. In this observation, we are more likely to derive a Dragon aspect for the Venus War Lord, which could take on many aspects of the fearful portent that went along with the sight of Venus as both the Morning or Evening Star. Above we see a turquoise back shield made in the image of the god, which encapsulates the four directions. It is being assumed here by this author that the “Bird-Dragon,” aspect of the symbol has been extracted specifically from the southern end of the Milky Way as a Double Headed Dragon. The eye of the deity in this case sits in an area where the summer solstice currently resides, there can also be found as well various stellar filaments that resemble an eye; giving new meaning to the concept of “Gem in Eye.” The mouth in this case incloses the 1st brightest star Sirius, counterpart of the Venus War Lord, and then curves upward geometrically to surmount the 14th brightest star of Procyon. Orion in this case forms the lower jaw of the Dragon. (Personal Discovery of the Author: 2002). Both the legacy of Mixcoatl as an ancient aboriginal hunter-warrior, and the legacy of the meaning of the ‘reed shaft’ as an arrow used in the art of the hunt and war may variably and justifiably be related to the star Sirius, and the similar stellar locality of the hunter constellation of Orion. Indeed for that matter, Mixcoatl in the Mesoamerican mythologies was known as a god of the rains, which was demonstrated by the red and white body paintings that signified a rain of blood falling like water from the whiteness of clouds above; and which were also symbolized by way of a simulacrum with the “White Milky Way Cloud Dragon.” Mixcoatl was indeed related though somewhat confusingly along with Quetzalcoatl to the planet Venus, but this can be further confirmed and corroborated with the star Sirius and planet Venus connection. The legacy of Mixcoatl in Mesoamerica, can very much resemble that of Osiris in the ancient Egyptian world as a superintendent of the dead signified by the white road of the Milky Way, the passage way to the underworld.
Intrinsic to the Quetzalcoatl / Mixcoatl archetypical affiliation garnered through the Milky Way Dragon, and the planet Venus associations, there was to remain as well, the underworld association brought forth from the earlier Mixcoatl blueprint that survived in the newly emerging Quetzalcoatl archetype within the form of his inherit twin deity known as “Xolotl,” who is outlined as specifically a god of death, the place of the underworld, and it’s inherit dark contraption of the ball game. Within this dualistic two fold mythology between Quetzalcoatl and Xolotl, we then find the appropriation of the two different phases of Venus as a Morning and Evening star as being assigned to each one of these two Quetzalcoatl archetypes. Naturally, as Xolotl was to absorb the more dark and deathly element of the Quetzalcoatl religion, this deity would of course be identified with the Evening Star phase of Venus, which follows the sun into the dark underworld after sunset. Accompanying the sun on it’s underworld journey, this deity was aptly to absorb the classic affiliation of the ‘dog servant ‘ companion of the sun through the underworld. The vestiges of Sirius as the “Dog Star,” are evident here with the earlier mention of the Sirius / Venus connection that pervades the cyclic nature of the sun, and it’s celestial journeys through the encampments of night, and the passageways of the ecliptic throughout the year where the sun once again meets with Sirius for a helical setting in May, and later a helical rising in August. 6
Due to the dual nature of the Quetzalcoatl / Xolotl archetype, the planet Venus with its dual modes of Morning and Evening Star appearances has been the most formally accepted version of the Quetzalcoatl identity. However, this “Venus Archetype,” for the Quetzalcoatl legacy has suffered on certain accounts of iconographic identification since in reality, once again, the true meaning of ‘Quetzalcoatl’ is indeed the image of the “Feathered Serpent,” while Venus can only fulfill the nature of a serpent form conceptually, and perhaps only as being a ‘forerunner’ and providing the official path of the sun on its journey throughout the heavens. For this matter, in reality, as we saw earlier the true identity of the Feathered Serpent image should come to be understood as being originally derived from the Milky Way, mean while the location of the star Sirius within the Milky Way Dragons tail could indeed provide some good evidence for the further associations of the planet Venus to the legacy of the Feathered Dragon and its iconographic designations. However, this does not mean that there are not to be other stellar iconographic legacies that are to be related to the Quetzalcoatl archetype as it was exercised throughout Mesoamerican history. Germane to the Quetzalcoatl iconographic legacy is also the scepter that he is often seen carrying, which is called the “xoniquilli,” and which is usually seen encrusted with seven stars that have been said to represent the ‘little dipper’ or Ursa Minor. The specifics of the stellar connection to Quetzalcoatl’s scepter have been outlined by various authors (Brundage.1981:85). Yet along with Ursa Minor, the curved constellation of Leo may configure strongly as well in this regard since the scepter held by Quetzalcoatl has implications of royalty. These royal implications are stressed as well by the location of Ursa Major in the sky, which serves as the rotating pivotal center symbolized by the star Polaris. While authors have noted this inherent connection of Ursa Minor, what has not been well noted, or understood is the fact that a stellar representation of Quetzalcoatl is actually holding the royal xoniquilli in the northern sky. (From the Author: June 1986) This formal image of Quetzalcoatl is indeed the stellar body of Perseus as it appears to be standing on the Pleiades star cluster. For this reason, Quetzalcoatl has been referred to as the “god who stands on the marketplace stars.” This perception is instructively reinforced with the pointed constellation of Cassiopeia that is seen routinely emerging out of the northeastern sky as a symbol of Quetzalcoatl’s pointed “Huaxtec Cap.”
The relative relationship of Xipe Totec, and Quetzalcoatl is reinforced and yet suppressed all at once, with the location of the spring rites of the second 20-day Metztli of “Tlacaxipeualiztli,” and finally the 3rd and 4th Metztli’s of “Tozoztontli,” and “Huey Tozoztli,” the Small and Great Feasts of “Vigilance,” implying ‘penance’. Xipe and Quetzalcoatl are the two gods of penance and sacrifice, except that Quetzalcoatl had become the god of self-sacrifice and penance. This idea is recognized and put forward in the 40-day period of Tozoztli, but strangely these two 20-day Metztli cycles found in late March and April are not ruled by him. It is the supposition of this author that possibly these two Metztli cycles were at one time perhaps related to Quetzalcoatl in other cultures, but were to have been later suppressed by the Mexica-Azteca. If this is by any chance the case, then it is no wonder that Quetzalcoatl has no official rulership of any of the 20-day Metztli cycles found in the later Mexica-Azteca religions. The first smaller feast was officially ruled by the earth goddess Coatlique, while the great feast was ruled by the corn god “Centeotl,” and “Chicome Coatl,” or 7-Serpent; two deities which are variably Quetzalcoatl affiliations. It is also worth noting as well that these two ceremonies took place, and still occur when the sun is within a relative vicinity to the Perseus constellation complex.
In the case of Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, the legacy of his implied rulership centers around the abolishment of human sacrifice throughout the land, and pointing therefore to the controversial need to do so in Mesoamerica. In place of the old edict, the divine ruler only demanded that there should be the sacrifice of butterfly’s, snakes, birds, and other animals, as offerings to the gods. As an aspect of social legitimacy, the offering of one’s own blood was the center piece of the royal edict, which then became part of the essential symbolism repeated within the iconographic legacy associated with the divine ruler. As earlier mentioned above, this may have been part and parcel of the spring rites of “Tozoztontli,” and “Hue Tozoztli,” the Small and Great Vigil, which took place after the rites of Xipe Totec. However, for the mythological reputation associated with Quetzalcoatl as being anti-human sacrifice, the later Mexica-Azteca may have suppressed this aspect of the deities affiliation with those ceremonies. Nonetheless, this spring ceremony affiliation might have been principally recognized in places sacred to the Quetzalcoatl mythology, such as in the ancient city of Cholula, (circa 100-1521 CE) where the largest pyramid in Mesoamerica now stands; and where in truth the original edict for the abolishment of human sacrifice may have actually ever arrived from, if it indeed is true. The city of Cholula was an eventual mecca point for the authority of kings who had arrived there from throughout the land to receive royal legitimacy born from out of the Quetzalcoatl concept.
However, royal lineage was a legacy of Mesoamerica in whole since its beginning, therefore there is no need to associate the bases of the royal lineage with the mythological legacy of Topitzin Quetzalcoatl. Rather instead, the Feathered Serpent concept had gained this aspect of social hegemony, for the very element of reliability and stability that the Feathered Serpent had portended as a good omen pertaining to a generous rainfall, and the blossoming of vegetation that came about as a result. Quetzalcoatl was the myth of plenty, and the promise of fulfillment found in a structured world of divine order. For this reason, his early mythology related heavily to the needs of man for the bases of rain, and the abundant foods it produced. Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent was therefore the god of universal generosity, and an advocate for the survival of man as being apart of his very spirit as the movement of the winds.
Naturally, as a part of the overall Milky Way serpent legacy, the virtual image of man was to be found there in the heavens as well. The suggestion has been earlier given by default, with the explanation of so many deities arriving out of the heavens in the basic form of man with his serpent like body, and other serpent like extensions to aid him in the environment. Therefore, the Feathered Dragon had early on in Mesoamerica, had become the god of man both in physical form, and therefore in religious resolution. In Mesoamerica, the 5-fold star created by the 584-day journey of Venus upon the ecliptic may have been a symbol of man’s body, although admitting as well that there is no official word of this found in any codices. Nonetheless, most anything associated with man was associated with Quetzalcoatl as the Feathered Dragon in Mesoamerica; and that included both man’s life at birth, and as well as his death. For this reason when we see the image of a man arriving out of the jaws of a Feathered Dragon in Mesoamerica, we do not necessarily see the image of Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl as an ancient king, but rather our own image as a divine mortal of periodic reawakening’s.
James W. Salterio Torres
Jordan High School for Careers
The impact of the Latin American intellectual explosion in literature dramatically increased the number of books written by Latin American writers translated from Spanish to English and the number of persons reading this literature. After the Mexican Revolution, the awakened interest in Mexican authors (such as Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz, Juan Rulfo, Rosario Castellanos, and other writers) in Mexican mythology and culture was reflected in their works.
In art, Mexican mural painters Diego de Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo, and painter Frida Kahlo expressed their deeply felt Mexican heritage by focusing on traditional pre-Columbian art and artifacts, especially on the art and mythology of the Aztecs.
This unit will introduce students to the Aztec major and minor gods and their attributes and functions within Aztec society. Unfortunately, the rich range of the mythology of the Aztecs has been overshadowed by their belief in their sun’s need for human sacrifice to survive, a practice that was especially repugnant to the Spanish priests, and was a direct cause of the destruction of Aztec temples and religious writings and practices. Enough, however, has survived and been rewritten, often by churchmen themselves, to once again describe these gods and the rites that accompanied their worship. In this unit I shall retell some of these tales.
This unit will describe unique characteristics belonging to each god and his influence in the everyday life of the people. For example, Yacatecutli was a god important to the economy of the state. He was the god of the merchants or pochtecas. Much like the Greek god Hermes, he protected merchants from all sorts of dangers during their travels. Tezctzoncatl, the god of pulque wine, was blamed for the offences of his intoxicated followers, similar to the Greek god Dionysus whose ate, or madness, overpowered his maenads. Others gods are responsible for providing men with sustenance, such as Chicomencoatl, the goddess of corn maize, and the god Opochtli, worshiped by fishermen, who is said to have invented the fishing net and type of spear used by fishermen.
This unit will point out similarities between Aztec mythology and other world mythologies. From the Aztecs’ creation myth and its variations, to the long northern trek of the Aztecs led by their tribal god Huitzilopochtli, who refers to them as “the chosen,” until they received a sign indicating where they should build their capital, Tenochtitlan. Students will compare this journey to Moses leading the Jews from Egypt into the promised land of Israel.
I will use this unit to argue that the Mexican psyche has been enormously shaped by its mythological background and history, that the celebration of the Day of the Dead, the Mexican belief that “la vida no vale nada” (life is worthless), and other aspects of popular Mexican culture are reflections of this mythology, and that this Mexican worldview works itself into literary works, such as Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo, where the protagonist descends to a town called Comala, an allegorical descent into Hell, and walks among and speaks to the dead, while
seeking an almost mythical cacique long since dead and El llano en llamas; Ruben Romero’s La vida inútil de Pito Pérez; Octavio Paz’s brilliant essays on the Mexicans’ fundamental nature El laberinto de la soledad; Agustin Yanez’s Al filo del agua; Carlos Fuentes’ La muerte de Artemio Cruz; and other Mexican writings.
Students will discuss specific authors who have used Aztec mythology, in one form or another in their writings, including the Chilean Nobel prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda in his Canto General. Students will discuss the mythological elements in Carlos Fuentes’ science fiction story Chac Mol, even though the story deals with a Mayan, not an Aztec, deity.
This unit is written for a 12th grade Advanced Placement course in Spanish and Spanish-American Literature. It will expose my Spanish AP students to Mesoamerican mythology, allowing them to study and compare the similarities and differences with the better-known classical Greek and Roman myths. Students will study and use handouts and visual aids, that is, illustrations of the gods taken from the various codices.
This unit will be taught completely in Spanish; therefore, all of the material in the unit will be translated into Spanish.
This unit will meet the following Project Clear for Languages Other Than English (Foreign Language) objectives:
Goal 1: Communication (Reading) 9.1.h Students will read to discover meaning through context and visual clues.
Goal 1: Communication (Writing) 9.1.i Students will write in the target language to convey a message or to exchange information about everyday activities or oneself.
Goal 2: Cultures: 9.2.a Students will describe some of the daily activities of the people of the target language and how this is reflected in their culture and language.
9.2.b Students will locate the major countries and areas of the world where the target language is spoken and identify some well-known personalities as well as some of the characteristics of the people.
Goal 3: Connections: 9.3.a Students will use the language to make connections with other subject areas and to acquire information.
Goal 4: 9.4.a Students will compare and contrast one language and culture to another language and culture.
Desde ‘ab inicio’ adoramos nuestros dioses y los tenemos por buenos, así deben ser los vuestros y no cureis más al presente de hablarnos de ellos./Throughout all time we have worshipped our own gods and thought they were good. I do not doubt the goodness of the god whom you worship, so do not trouble to speak to us about them at present. (Díaz del Castillo 317)
Moctezuma’s words to Cortes contain the seed for the destruction of the Aztec religious system by the Spanish Catholic Church. The religious intolerance of the Spaniards, which had been reinforced by their long and bloody reconquista of Spain from the Moors, ending with the expulsion of the Moors and the Jews from Spain in 1492, was in sharp contrast to the Aztec religion, which had already incorporated a great number of ancient Mesoamerican gods into its pantheon. Edith Hamilton contrasts the gods of the Greeks with those of primitive man as follows:
Horrors lurked in the primeval forest, not nymphs and naiads. Terror lived there, with its close attendant, Magic, and its most common defense, Human Sacrifice…These and their like were what the pre-Greek world worshipped. One only need place beside them in imagination any Greek statue of a god, so normal and natural with all its beauty, to perceive that a new idea had come into the world. With its coming, the universe became rational. (4, 8)
It is precisely the Aztec’s desire to make their world rational that gave rise to many, even the most terrifying of their myths. Many of the Aztec gods are agricultural gods, and the need to appease these gods through ritualistic planting and sacrifices is shared by cultures that depend on agriculture. The Aztec’s creation myths are an attempt to explain the origins of the universe and of man. Unfortunately for the Aztecs, human sacrifice, the most disgusting ritual, is normally the focus of a study of the Aztecs and their religion.
The Aztec religion was polytheistic and some of the anthropomorphic gods in the Mexican pantheon were originally human heroes elevated to divine stature, for example Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl of Tula and Mixcoatl among the Chichimecs. Mesoamerican religion is pervasive in every aspect of their culture. In a very crowded pantheon it is difficult to assign lordship over a distinct sphere – sun, moon, maize, pulque or earth – to one specific god. To add more confusion, the Aztec gods often have a number of avatars (e.g. Quetzalcoatl, Ehecatl, Xolotl Tlahuizcalpentecuhtli).
In the end, the Spaniards destroyed Indian libraries, temples, and idols, and other religious manifestations of the Mesoamerican Indians. Most of the accounts and descriptions of the Aztecs and Mayan gods that have survived are seen through a Hispanic prism. But, you only have to attend the Catholic rituals in some of the regions populated by the descendants of the Aztecs and the Maya in Mexico and Central America and of the Incas in Peru, and you will witness the power these religions had to assimilate the gods of other cultures. The semblance may be a normal Catholic mass, but it is always refreshing to see that the conqueror’s religion has been assimilated into the religion of the conquered, which has discovered under the guise of the saints and prophets of the Catholic faith many of their old, familiar gods. They are as familiar to them as when an old, Mexican peasant still addresses corn, the sacred plant, as “Your Lordship.”
The Origin of the Aztecs
About nine hundred years ago, a tribe of Native Americans called the Aztecs were told by their gods that to the south lay a fertile land where they would found a great city. Led by their tribal god Huitzilopochtli, they abandoned their homeland, reportedly Chicomoztoc, or Seven Caves, or, according to other accounts, from another place called by different names, Aztlan and Azcatitlan, probably located in northwestern Mexico. Modern researchers have not been able to locate this site. According to legend, eight different tribes abandoned this site, among them the Mexica-Azteca.
Huitzilopochtli smeared resin on their ears and foreheads and stuck balls of feather-down on them as a sign that they were his chosen people. The god also commanded them to change their name from Aztecs to Mexica. They began an arduous three-hundred-year journey southward in search of a new place to live.
About AD1250 the Aztecs arrived and settled in Chapultepec, or Grasshopper Hill, but they made many enemies among the surrounding tribes by stealing their married women and because of their repugnant sacrifices. They were driven from Chapultepec and forced to hide in the swamps surrounding the Lake of Tezcoco (Lake of the Moon). Later, they settled in some small islands in the Lake of Tezcoco, near what is now Mexico City.
The fertile highland valley in which they settled had been under the rule of the Toltecs who had consolidated their power gradually in the area after founding their capital Tula about AD 950. The Toltecs enjoyed a rich legacy of myths and legends. In 1168, the Chichimecs destroyed the city of Tula and Toltec rule came quickly to an end. When the Aztecs arrived in the Valley of Mexico, they found several tribes living in the area, but after the fall of the Toltecs no dominant power had risen to take their place. The Toltecs’ influence over the Aztecs, however, was significant because the Aztecs adopted their culture, including their myths and legends. As historian Nigel Davies puts it:
Basic to the Mexica version of their history is the reported intermarriage of their elite with the Culhua nobility, par excellence, the guardians of the Toltec tradition. This injection of Culhua blood served the Mexica as a pretext, however contrived, to pose as the true heirs of Tula, depicted in Aztec legend as a fabulous city whose temples were faced with gold and turquoise. By virtue of this claim, in their future career of conquest they were merely regaining what was theirs by right, as the ‘Colhua Mexica,’ or the latter-day Toltecs. (224)
Religion permeated every aspect of Aztec life. The Aztecs assimilated many of the gods from other cultures into their pantheon, including such vital gods as Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc, and others, from early Mesoamerican cultures, such as the Toltecs and other neighboring tribes.
As the chosen people of the Sun God Huitzilopochtli, the Aztecs had the divine mission to feed the god the hearts and blood needed to make sure the Sun God had the strength to keep moving through the sky. Rather than apply mechanical methods to meet life’s challenges, the Aztecs applied spiritual methods. For this reason they practiced countless ceremonies, rituals, divinations, magical phrases and formulas to appease or coerce their gods to grant their wishes.
The Founding of Tenochtitlán
The witch, Malinalxochitl, sister of the god Huitzilopochtli, did nothing but cause trouble for the Mexica during their long journey from the north. She charmed spiders and scorpions and ordered them to bite her enemies. The Mexica asked her brother, Huitzilopochtli, what could be done with her. “Leave her behind,” he replied, “when she is fast asleep, pick up and leave her behind.” And the Mexica did just that. They left her behind at Malinalco.
When the goddess woke up, she became extremely angry with the Mexica. Malinalxochitl learned that the Mexica were at Chapultepec and ordered her young son Copil to avenge her. Copil went and stirred up trouble among the local tribes against the Mexica. He climbed a hill near Chapultepec to watch the Mexica’s defeat.
But two Mexica priests climbed up the hill behind him and captured him. They sacrificed him, cut out his heart and threw it away near the present site of the Zocalo.
Copil’s heart landed on a rock and from that rock grew a nopal cactus that would later give its name to Tenochtitlán (Place of the Cactus Stone). The date of the founding of Tenochtitlan is generally given as 1324 or 1325, but other dates as early as 1280 and as late as 1362 have been suggested.
The Origin of the Nopal Cactus
A long time ago, the Aztecs, who called themselves the Mexica, from whence we get the name “Mexican,” were a tribe that inhabited northern Mexico. The gods spoke to the tribal priests and said to move south to a fertile land where they would found a great city. Led by their tribal god, the warlike and cruel Huitzilopochtli, they began a journey to the south that lasted several hundred years, undergoing many hardships, until they reached a fertile valley surrounded by mountains and two volcanoes. In the middle of this valley was the Lake of Texcoco dotted with large and small islands. Peaceful tribes inhabited the shores of the lake. The Aztecs settled on one of the islands to wait for a sign from the gods, a beautiful eagle sitting atop a plant, where the gods had instructed them to build their capital.
Huitzilopochtli, their tribal god and god of war, was a cruel deity who demanded human sacrifices every day. Soon, the Aztecs were at war with their peaceful neighbors to capture prisoners to sacrifice to the god.
To the North lived Huitzilopochtli’s sister with her husband and their son, Copil. Young Copil grew up hearing stories of his uncle’s cruelty. Copil felt his uncle’s behavior brought shame to the family and it was especially painful to his mother. Copil promised his mother that he would raise an army to capture his uncle and stop the killing and suffering. He reached the shores of the Lake of Texcoco, the Lake of the Moon, and in the distance, in the middle of the lake, he saw the island inhabited by the Aztecs and their god. Tired of the long day’s march, Copil decided to rest his men and make camp for the night. He would carry out his plan early the next morning.
But, little did the naïve Copil know that his uncle had received warning of his approach from his innumerable spies. Huitzilopochtli flew into a rage and angrily ordered three of his priests to paddle across the lake under the darkness of night and, while Copil and his men slept, cut out his nephew’s heart and bring it to him as an offering. At midnight, the three priests paddled across the dark lake, and found Copil and his men asleep after their long journey. The high priest easily cut Copil’s chest open with an obsidian sacrificial knife and ripped out his heart. They brought back Copil’s heart to Huitzilopochtli and asked him what he wanted done with the bloody offering. They were ordered to bury it on the island in the middle of the lake. The next morning they found a green plant with red flowers growing where the heart was buried. The high priest told Huitzilopochtli that the plant was called a nopal cactus. According to the priest, it grew from Copil’s heart to remind them throughout the ages of his courage and nobility. A few days later, the Aztecs saw an eagle with a serpent in its beak standing on top of a branch of the nopal cactus. The Aztecs built a beautiful city on this spot. They called the city Tenochtitlán, the place of the tenochtli, the hard-fruited prickly pear.
Creation of the Earth and the Sky
The dualistic gods Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, lightness and darkness, looked down from their dwelling in the sky at the water below. Floating on top of the water was an enormous Earth Monster goddess who devoured all things with her many mouths, for the goddess had gaping mouths at the knees, elbows and other joints.
Everything the twins created, the enormous, floating, terrible, insatiable goddess ate. The twin gods, normally implacable enemies, agreed she had to be stopped. They transformed themselves into two enormous, slithering snakes, and slid silently into the dark, cool water, their cold eyes and flicking tongues seeking her body.
One of the snakes wrapped itself around the goddess’s arms and the other snake coiled itself around her legs and together they tore the immense Earth Monster goddess in two. Her head and shoulders became the earth and her belly and legs became the sky. Some say Tezcatlipoca fought the Earth Monster goddess in his human form and the goddess ate one of his feet, therefore his one-legged appearance. Angered by what the dual gods had done, and to compensate for her dismemberment, the other gods decided to allow her to provide the people with the provisions they needed to survive.
From her hair were created the trees, the grass and flowers; from her eyes, caves, springs and wells; rivers flowed from her mouth; and hills and mountains grew from her nose and shoulders.
The goddess, however, was unhappy, and after the sun sank into the earth the people would often hear her crying. Her thirst for human blood made her weep, and the people knew the earth would not bear fruit until she drank. This is the reason she is given the gift of human hearts. In exchange for providing food for human lives, the goddess demanded human lives.
Virgin Birth of Huitzilopochtli
Our mother, the earth goddess Coatlique, was impregnated by an obsidian knife and gave birth to Coyolxanuhqui, goddess of the moon, and male children, the stars. She was doing holy work at Serpent Mountain, near Tula, when she picked up a ball of feathers and tucked it in her bosom. She looked for it later, but it was gone. Coatlique soon realized she was pregnant. She told her children, the moon and the stars, the story, but they did not believe her. The gods grew angry because a goddess could only give birth once to an original brood of gods and they vowed to kill her. They gathered an army led by the moon goddess Coyolxanuhqui. High above in the mountain shrine, Coatlique heard their raised voices planning her death. She shivered in fear, but then she heard a voice from her womb telling her to not be afraid and that her new child will protect her.
At that moment, Coatlique gave birth to Hutzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war, who sprang forth fully grown and fully armed from her womb, much like Athena from the head (or some say thigh) of Zeus. With the help of a xiuhcoatl, or fire-snake, he killed and decapitated his sister, Coyolxanuhqui, tore her body into pieces, and threw the pieces into a mountain gorge where her body lies dismembered forever. He threw her head into the sky, which became the Moon. Then he scattered and killed his four hundred brothers who became the stars. This victory established Huitzilopochtli as the principal god in the Aztec pantheon.
The Myth of Tepoztecatl
According to Tepoztlan oral tradition, Tepoztecatl’s mother was a young virgin who would go to the river every day to wash clothes. As she dashed her clothes against the rock a small bird landed on her shoulder and danced on it. A short time later, the virgin became aware the she was pregnant. Ashamed, she told her parents and added that the only contact she had was with a bird. Determined to hide her and her family’s dishonor, they decided they would get rid of the baby. They made several attempts; on one occasion, the baby’s grandfather threw him from a cliff hoping to dash him against the rocks below, but the winds carried and deposited the baby safely onto a plain; on another occasion, they left the baby near some maguey plants to starve, but the maguey plants bent over and gave the baby honeyed-water to drink; and then he was thrown among giant, black ants, but instead of biting and devouring him, they fed him. Finally, they placed the baby in a box and tossed it in the river, but on that day two old villagers named El Coli and La Nana heard the baby’s cry and rescued him from drowning. And they raised him as their own.
The boy grew tall and strong. He asked La Nana to knit him a matlat or net bag, and he asked El Coli to make him a bow. With his matlat and his bow, he ventured out into the hills to hunt game and collect obsidian stones.
Near Tepoztecatl’s home lived a monster-serpent called Mazacoatl. Every year the village had to sacrifice one of its oldest citizens to the monster-serpent. One year the villagers chose El Coli to be sacrificed to the beast. Tepoztecatl decided he would face Mazacoatl in his father’s place. During their encounter, the giant serpent swallowed him whole; however, it also swallowed Tepoztecatl’s obsidian knife. Tepoztecatl knifed his way through the belly of the beast, killing it instantly.
Then, Tepoztecatl smoke signaled his victory to the people in the valley who immediately began celebrating the god’s victory at the house of the family with the largest patio in the village of Tepoztlan. All of the villagers came to the celebration dressed in their finest clothes.
Soon, a stranger arrived dressed in dirty, ragged, linen clothes. Mud covered his feet and body. The host of the party was angered by the uninvited guest’s appearance and asked him to leave. No one had recognized the god underneath the mud and the dirty clothes. Tepoztecatl returned to his temple angry and sad. He washed in a stream and put on his finest white, cotton clothes embroidered in bright colors and flashing feathers, and his sandals, symbols of his lordship. Then, he descended to Tepoztlan where he was received with the great admiration, reverence and honor a god deserves. The feasters offered him the most exquisite food and drink and were surprised the god did not open his mouth to eat but instead offered the food and drink to his clothes.
“You feed the clothes, not the man,” the god told everyone present. “I am the same shabbily-dressed, mud caked man you turned away. I had just knifed my way out of the belly of the beast.” The god lowered his majestic head, his precious feathers quivering in the air, and he cast his shining eyes upon the host and his family. “Now that I am dressed in my divine clothes you wish to honor me. But you failed to do so when I first appeared as an honest, poor, unknown stranger. Pointing his finger at the man who had offended him earlier that day, Tepoztecatl thundered an awful punishment. “I order you and your family to leave this valley!” (Miguel Ibarra’s The Myth of Tepoztecatl translated and edited by the author)
Since then, when a Tepoztlan family organizes a feast, they do not deny anyone entrance and they do not ask for the name of any unknown guests. They treat all who enter with respect.
Aztec Gods and Goddesses
The creator of all things, an androgynous god whose masculine and feminine sides are Ometecuhtli, Lord of Duality, and Omecihuatl, Lady of Duality, also known as Tonacatecuhtli, Lord of Sustenance, and Tonacacihuatl, Lady of Sustenance. This cosmic pair gave birth to four gods: Tezcatlipoca, Quetzalcoatl, Tlaloc, and Chalchiuhtlicue, who would later create the Four Suns and all of the other gods. Responsible for the creation of the world and the gods, he had nothing to do with the creation of mankind. He is said to have created the earth on the back of a giant crocodile. (Redrawn by the author from the Codex Borgia)
Sun, Moon, and Venus
Huitzilopochtli (left-handed hummingbird) Lord of War and Thunderstorms, Lord of the Sun
The most important god in the Aztec pantheon is Hutzilopochtli. He is the Aztec’s own special tribal god and a patron saint of the nobility. He led the Aztecs on their lengthy and perilous journey from the North and gave them the sign – the eagle and the serpent on top of a nopal cactus – for the spot where they would found their capital Tenochtitlan.
Huitzilopochtli is the son of the virgin goddess Coatlique and is said to have sprung from her womb fully grown and in battle-gear to save his mother from being killed by her daughter and sons. He is the Aztec ’s answer to the Greek war god Ares. Huitzilopochtli is very robust, has extraordinary strength and is a very belligerent destroyer of cities and slayer of peoples. His adversaries fear him as living fire. As protector of the sun, he puts the night gods to flight. Also, he is a necromancer able to change himself into the shape of birds and beasts.
Huitzilopochtli is pictured wearing a helmet in the form of a hummingbird ’s head and holding a terrible snake-dragon that breathes fire from its mouth. He carries a shield (chimalli) with five balls of down, and also darts and bow and arrows. He is a relative latecomer, but his primacy before and after the founding of Tenochtitlan is not to be doubted. During the migration and the settlement in a new place, Huitzilopochtli was the driving force. But like Dionysus, he is a new comer and is seen as the usurper of the supreme role of Tezcatlipoca in Mesoamerica.
(Redrawn by the author from the Codex Borbonicus)
Quetzalcoatl (Plumed or Precious Serpent) Lord of the Morning Star, Lord of the Wind
Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent, also known by the names of his avatars or nahaulsTlahuizcalpantecuhtli, Lord of the House of Dawn, or Morning Star, or Venus, Ehecatl, Lord of the Wind, Ce Atl (One Reed) and Xolotl (Monster), and White Tezcatlipoca to contrast him with the black Tezcatlipoca. An ancient Mesoamerican deity, he is one of the main gods worshipped by many Mexican and Central American civilizations, including the Olmec, the Mixtec, the Toltec, the Maya and the Aztecs. The Mayans call him Kukulkan and the Quiche Gukumatz. He is the god of life and fertility. He is the creator of man, for whom he invented agriculture and to whom he gave the calendar. He gave man maize corn, having stolen kernels of corn by changing into an ant and stealing them from the ants that had hidden it. He is the patron of many arts and industries. He is also the patron of twins, being himself a twin god.
Quetzalcoatl was the creator of the Second Sun that was knocked from the sky and destroyed by his dualistic opposite Tezcatlipoca. Quetzalcoatl was deceived by his avatar Tezcatlipoca into committing a sin with his sister and went into exile on a raft of serpents. He promised to return in the year Ca Atl; unfortunately about the time Cortes appeared in Mexico, with devastating results for the Aztec Empire.
Quetzalcoatl’s appearance is as follows: he wears a pointed ceremonial hat on his head with quetzalli plumes. The hat is painted like a jaguar’s skin. His face and body were stained black and he wears a worked, loose fitting shirt reaching down to his waist. He wears turquoise earrings, a gold collar with small, precious, marine shells hanging from it, and on his back an emblem resembling flames. His shoes are made of jaguar skin, in his left hand he carries a painted shield with five angles and in his right hand he carries a scepter. He is the temple’s high priest.(Redrawn by the author from the Codex Borbonicus)
(Smoking Black Mirror) Creator of Fire, Lord of Death, Lord of the Night Sky, Warriors, Jaguars and Sorcery
In the Toltec’s dualistic belief system, Tezcatlipoca is Quetzalcoatl’s opposite but equal god. Smoking Black Mirror is the black god who can assume any shape, is omnipotent and omnipresent, and is connected with the night sky, stellar deities, the moon, and with night monsters of evil and destruction. He is the god of night, patron of highwaymen, of sorcerers, and of mysterious goings-on. In the place of a leg bitten off by the Earth Monster, he wears a smoking mirror. When he is on earth he causes wars, enmity, and discord. Called the “fomenter of discord on both sides” he provokes one group to war upon another; and only he understands the world order, and he alone gives man prosperity and fame when it pleases him.
He is the most important god of the priests. He is an enemy of Huitzilopochtli and of Quetzalcoatl, and is symbolized as a jaguar, whose spotted skin represents the night sky. He is connected with all phases of native religion because of his many functions, attributes, and disguises.
Tezcatlipoca is usually depicted holding a dart in an atl (spear thrower) in his right hand and his shield or mirror with four spare darts in his left hand. In his mirror he can see the actions and deeds of mankind reflected. He wears a round leather ring with a yellow ribbon on his chest that symbolizes eternity (anahuatl), which his three brothers occasionally borrow. His face is striped black and yellow.
He is the avenger of secret sin, the punisher of crime, and a god who can bring luck and good things, but who is often quick to take offense, becoming destructive and evil. He will take on a grotesque human form to give battle to warriors who are alone at night, testing their courage. A warrior who seizes Tezcatlipoca can ask as a ransom a number of maguey spines, signifying the number of prisoners he will capture in his next battle. A gruesome disguise the .god sometimes assumed is a headless body with two doors in his chest that open and close and make a noise like a tree being chopped down with an axe. (Redrawn from the Codex Borgia)
Tlahuizcalpentecuhtli, Lord of the Star of Dawn, Venus as Morning Star
Another avatar of the god Quetzalcoatl, as the morning star he is known as Tlahuizcalpentecuhtli, which means literally “the Lord of the Star of Dawn.” He is the inventor of books and the calendar, the giver of maize corn to mankind, and sometimes a symbol of death and resurrection because the morning star also dies and is reborn each day. Quetzalcoatl is also the patron of priests and the title of the Aztec high priest. (Restored by the author from the Codex Borgia)
Xolotl, Lord of the Evening Star
Another avatar of the god Quetzacoatl, Xolotl is also the god of fire and of bad luck. He is a celestial twin of Quetzalcoatl, the pair being sons of the virgin Coatlique, and he is the evil personification of Venus, the Evening Star. He guards the sun when it travels through the underworld at night. He also brought forth humankind and fire from the underworld. His abilty to change shapes makes him a patron of magicians and sorcerers. He is the god of monsters and of twins, and is also associated with dogs. He is also a patron of the Mesoamercian ballgame. He is identified with Xocotl as being the Aztec Lord of Fire. Xolotl is depicted as a skeleton, a dog-headed man or a monster animal with reversed feet. (Restored by the author form the Codex Borgia)
Tonatiuh, Lord of the Sun
The Aztecs believe the sun takes different forms at different times of the day. He is reborn every day as the ancient god Tonatiuh. He is a young, vibrant man with an ochre and red painted face and a red painted body. At its zenith, the sun turns into Huitzilopochtli. As the sun descends it is devoured by the Earth Monster Tlaltecuhtli; by night, the sun travels through the dread realms of the underworld Mictlan in the shape of Tepeyolohti, a jaguar named “Heart of the Hard Mountain.” Dawn is a time for concern. The moment of transition between dark and light might be the world’s last. (Redrawn by the author from the Codex Borgia)
Coyolxanuhqui (Golden Bells) Lady of the Moon
Coyolxanuhqui (which means “golden bells”) is the goddess of the Moon. She is the daughter of Coatlique and sister of Huitzilopochtli. She was slain and her body was dismembered by Huitzilopochtli. He threw her head into the sky — it became the Moon. A frieze shaped like a shield was found at the base of the Great Temple in Tenochtitlan that depicts Coyol-xanuhqui lying on her side. Her arms, legs and head have been cut from her body. She is drawn with balls of eagle down in her hair, a bell symbol on her cheek, and a skull at her belt. (Drawn by the author from the above-mentioned frieze).
(Obsidian or Clawed Butterfly)
Star goddess is associated with fire and lightning. She is depicted disguised as a butterfly or wearing a suit studded with obsidian knives on its wings. She has a skeletal face and rules over Tomoanchan. She wears a cape that makes her invisible. Her fingers are like a jaguar’s claws and her feet are like an eagle’s talons. She is considered the collective archetype of wisdom and is a powerful sorceress. (Restored by author from the Codex Borgia)
Earth and Fertility
Xipe-Totec (Our Lord the Flayed One) Lord of Fertility and Springtime
Xipe-Totec is the god of spring and fertility. His cult is especially repugnant to us because of his ritual that consists of skinning a slave alive and having his priest wear the flayed skin symbolic of the rebirth of earth renewing its mantle of vegetation. Xipe –Totec is pictured wearing the skin of a flayed human being laced up the back, and his body is painted red and white. During tlaxipeoalitzi, a 20-day celebration to this god, a band of his followers wear the skin of flayed prisoners and fight with another band of brave soldiers. After the game, the worshippers go from door to door and demand alms for their god. They are rewarded with strings of corn place around their necks and pulque. (Restored by the author from the Codex Borgia)
Xochipilli (Principal Lord of the Flowers) Lord of Games, Dance and Love
Xochipilli is the god of love, games, beauty, dance, flowers, maize, and song. He is also known as Macuuilxóchitl (five flowers) and is the god who most often dwells in the homes of gentlemen and the palaces of princes. Feasts are held in this god’s honor and all who celebrate must fast for four days before the feast. If any man has contact with a woman or a woman with a man during this fast, the fast is pronounced tainted. This annoys Xochipilli, and he will spread such diseases as hemorrhoids and rot to the private parts of those who break it. (Redrawn by the author from the Codex Borgia)
Cioacoatl or Coatlique, The Earth-Mother Goddess
The Earth-Mother Goddess is called the “Snake Woman” or the “One with the Serpent Skirt.” She is also known as Tonantzin, which means “Our Mother.” Coatlique is the mother of Huitzilopochtli. This goddess brings adverse things like poverty and ruin. The dress and ornaments of this goddess are white. Her hair is arranged to look like two horns crossed on her forehead, she carries a baby’s cradle on her back, and she will go to the market, mingle among other women and leave the cradle there. When the other women notice that the cradle has been left behind, they look to see what is in it and will find a flint rock as hard as an iron lance with which the sacrificed are killed. And people know the goddess Coatlique has left it there.
Centeotl, The Lord of Maize
Centeotl, or Cinteotle, is the god of maize or corn. He is pictured as a young man with his body painted yellow. He has ears of corn on his headdress, back or in his hands. He has a distinctive black line drawn that runs from his forehead down his cheek to his jaw. (Redrawn from by the author from the Codex Borgia.)
(Seven Serpents) or Xilonen(The Hairy One) Lady of Vegetation, Ripening Corn and Sustenance
Chicomecoatl is Tlaloc’s sister; she is also known as Chicomolotzin. She carries the nickname “The Hairy One” because of the tassels that grow on corn. She is the goddess of vegetation, maintenance, ripening corn and of sustenance, what is eaten as well and what is drunk. She is pictured with a red-painted face, a four-sided paper crown on her head, and flowers on her dress and blouse. In her right hand she holds a glass, in her left hand a shield with a large flower. The adornments on her feet, known as cueitl, and her skirt, or uipilli, and sandals, are all red. (Redrawn by the author from the Codex Maglabecchiano)
(Precious Flower or Flower Feather) Lady of Flowers and Weaving
Xochiquetzal is the Goddess of Love, fertility, flowers, pregnancy and manual and domestic skills. She is the Mother of the twin gods Quetzalcoatl and Xolotl. She was married to Tlaloc but kidnapped by Tezcatlipoca. Other versions have her married to Macuuilxochitl or to Xochipilli. She is also associated with the ball game. In appearance she has her hair fixed in double trellises or has two quetzal feathers on her head. She wears a checkered shirt. She is the patron of wives, prostitutes, lovers, weavers, painters and sculptors. (Restored by the author from the Codex Borgia)
Mayahuel, Lady of the Maguey Plant
Mayahuel is the sister of the Tlaloques and of Centzontotchin. She is depicted as a beautiful young woman and a maguey plant.
She represents the maguey plant and all of its products which include not only the fermented drink pulque, but leaves for burning of roofing, roots for making food or sugar, needles and nails, fiber for twine and clothing, and candy. The maguey plant forms part of her body, and she has pulque foam in her hair or dress. She is often conceived of as full of milk and having one hundred breasts.
Mayahuel is also the goddess that brought love to mankind; Quetzalcoatl fell madly in love with Mayahuel, the granddaughter of one of the terrible night-demons called tzitzimine. Quetzalcoatl stole her away to Mesoamerica where the two expressed their love by turning into an entwined two-fork tree. Mayahuel’s enraged grandmother tracked her down. Mayahuel was torn to pieces by her grandmother and a host of tzitzimine who fed on her flesh. Weeping, Quetzalcoatl buried the goddess’s remains. His tears saturated the earth. In time the remains of Mayahuel grew into the maguey cactus from which men and women learned to make pulque from the cactus’s milky sap. (Redrawn by the author from the Codex Borgia)
Tlazolteotl, Lady of Fertility, Love and Eater of Filth or Sin
Lady of Fertility, the Purification of Filth, Sickness and Excesses, she embodies the dual aspects of goddess of fertility and childbirth and goddess of purification of filth, lust, and sexual excesses. In her role as sin eater, she comes to a man at life’s end and “confesses” him and cleanses his soul by eating its filth, or sins, if he is willing to make amends and perform the penitential acts prescribed by her priestesses. (Redrawn by the author from the Codex Nuttal)
Death and Destiny
Tezcatlipoca (See Sun, Moon, and Venus)
Rains, Winds, and Waters
Tlaloc, Lord of the Rain
Tlaloc Tlamacazqui, also know as Nuhualpilli, is the god of rain and fertility. He brings the rains to irrigate the earth, and the rains make grass, trees, fruits and other goods grow. He also sends hail, and lightning, and thunder, and storms, and the dangers of the rivers and the seas.
Called Tlaloc Tlamacazqui means that he is the god that inhabits the earthly paradise and gives men the sustenance they need to live. Responsible for floods, Tlaloc is the force that brings the rain and droughts. He is commonly depicted as a goggle-eyed blue being with fangs. (Redrawn from the Codex Borbonicus)
Ehecatl, Lord of the Winds and Birds
Using the attributes of Ehecatl, Lord of the Winds, Quetzalcoatl represents the winds that bring the rain. He sweeps the path for the gods of rain as evidenced by when rains are preceded by great gusts of wind and dust. His breath moves the sun and pushes away rain. He fell in love with a human girl named Mayahuel and gave mankind the ability to love so that she could return his passion. He is depicted wearing his “wind mask,” a bright red mask in the form of a protruding beak or nose and mouth that covers his lower face. (Redrawn from the Codex Borgia)
Chalchiuhtlique, Lady of the Water
Chalchiuhtlique is said to be the sister of the rain gods called tlaloques. She is worshipped because she has power over rivers and the seas to drown those who traveled these waters, to create storms and whirlwinds in the water, and sink ships, boats, and other barks that move through the waters. Those who worship this goddess and celebrate her rites are all those who have their farms in the water, those who sell water from their canoes and those who sell water from earthen jars in the plaza. (Restored by the author from the Codex Borbonicus)
Itztlacoliuhqui, Lord of Winter, Cold, Stone and Punishment, and Blind-folded Justice
Itztlacoliuhqui is the god of coldness and of punishment. He is usually drawn blindfolded and colorless except for his neatly sculpted black obsidian face. He carries a tlachpanoni(decorated straw broom) in his hand as a symbol of cleansing.
(Restored by the author from the Codex Borbonicus)
Mixcoatl (Cloud Serpent) Lord of Hunting
He is one of Tonacatecuhtli and Cihuacoatl’s four children. Mixcoatl is identified with the Milky Way, the stars, and the heavens. In the Aztec pantheon his role is lesser that Huitzilopochtli’s. He is often worshipped as the red aspect of Tezcatlipoca. He is represented with a black mask over his eyes and distinct red and white candy stripes on his body. He carries a bow and arrows and a net or basket to carry dead game. (Restored by the author from the Codex Borgia)
Opochtli (The Left-handed One) Lord of Hunting, Fishing and Bird-Snaring
This god is included among the gods called Tlaloques, which means “Inhabitants of an Earthly Paradise.” Opochtli is said to have invented fishing nets and a harpoon-like instrument called minacachalli which has three points in a triangle, like a trident, and is used kill fish and birds. He also invented snares to kill birds and oars to row. When worshippers hold a festival for this god, the fishermen offer him things to eat and the wine they drink which is called uctli, or by another name pulque. They also offer him stalks of green corn and white incense called copalli. (Restored by the author from the Codex Rios)
Huehueteotl or Hiuhtecuctli (Lord of the Year) Lord of Fire
This god is know by many other names, among them Ixcozauhqui, which means “yellow-faced,” another is Cuezaltzin, or “Flame of Fire,” also Huehueteotl, which means the “Ancient or the Oldest of the Gods,” and finally Tata which means “Our Father.” He is represented as a wrinkled old man with one tooth, bent over or squatting, with brazier on back or head. Everyone considers him as his father when one considers all that he does. He burns, and his flames rise and consume things causing fear. At other times he causes love and reverence. He provides warmth to persons who are cold. He cooks meat to eat, and roasts, boils, toasts and fries food to eat. He makes salt and thickens honey; he makes carbon and coal; he heats the bath waters to bathe in; and he makes the oil called úxitl. He heats up the lye and the water to wash dirty clothes. And at festivals, he is always the last one to arrive because he walks very slowly, indicating his antiquity. (Drawing from the Codex Borgia)
Hutzilopochtli (See Sun, Moon and Venus)
Yacatecuhtli, Lord of Merchants or Pochtecas, Traders and Travelers, and Birds
Yacatecuhtli, like the Greek Hermes, is the god of merchants, traders and travelers. He is pictured with white and black facial decorations, his hair is bound in a high sheaf, and he carries a staff and a flywhisk. He is honored by having his statues wrapped in paper wherever they are found. Merchants hold their walking stick, a massive cane called an utlatl in high esteem. They carry these walking sticks when traveling and when they arrive at a place they are to sleep, they gather all of their sticks in one bundle and tie them together, lay them at the head where they are to sleep and spill drops of blood in front of them from their tongue, ears or arms and legs; they offer copal and light a fire that burns before the walking sticks which they hold as the image of the god himself. This is their way of asking for the god’s protection from all dangers. (Restored by the author from the Codex Fejervany Mayer)
Ancestral Gods/Cultural Heroes, and Others
Chantico (She Who Dwells in the House) Lady of the Hearth and Volcanoes
Chantico is the goddess of fires in the family hearth and volcanoes. She wears a crown of poisonous cactus thorns, and takes the form of a red serpent. Tonacatecuhtli changed her into a dog for eating pepper on a roasted fish violating a day pepper was banned. (Restored by the author from the Codex Rios)
Queztalcoatl-Topiltzin, Another attribute of Quetzalcoatl
Huitzilopochtli (See Sun, Moon and Venus)
Mixcoatl (See Hunting)
Medicine and Foods
Patecatl, Lord of Healing and Fertility. Lord of the Pulque Root
Patecatl is the god of healing, fertility and the discoverer of peyote. He is the consort of Mayahuel and the father of the Centzon Totochin (The Four Hundred Rabbits), the divine rabbits, and the gods of drunkenness. Like Mayahuel and the Centzon Totochin, Patecatl himself is a god of pulque, the alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant. (Redrawn by the author from the Codice Borgia)
The Mesoamerican underworld was a frightening place. It was the resting place of all persons who died but escaped a violent death. Mictlantecuhtli and his wife Mictecacihatl ruled over the underworld where they live in a house without windows.
Mictlantecuhtli, God of the Underworld
Lord of the Land of the Dead. With a skull for a head, is often accompanied by skulls and bones. He wears a diadem called Xihuitzolli and paper rosettes. He is painted as a bleached-white skeleton with red blood spots, and long, curly, black hair sprinkled with stars. His clothes are strips of bark paper. He has huge claw like hands that can rip a body into pieces. He wears a necklace made of eyeballs and his liver hangs from a hole in his stomach. He wears sandals to show his lordly standing. He is the patron god of dogs. (Redrawn by the author from the Codex Borgia)
Mictecacihuatl, Goddess of the Underworld
Queen of the Land of the Dead she is the wife of Mictlantecuhtli. She is said to keep watch over the bones of the dead and also to preside over the festivals of the dead. She and her husband live in Mictlan in a house without windows.
Paynal, Swift Runner
Painal is Huitzilopochtli’s second in command. When Huitzilopochtli decides to make war against a province, Painal moves swiftly to meet the enemy, because painal, which means “speed,” or “celerity,” is always necessary in war. This god wears a black mask with white dots on the edge. His body is stained with blue and yellow paint.
During a feast held in his honor, one of the satraps takes his image made of rich ornaments and leads a lengthy procession during which the god’s image is carried at a run by him and other of the god’s worshippers. This ritual represents the speed needed to face the enemy who often unsuspectingly run into ambushes. (Restored by the author from the Codex Rios)
Ciuapipilti or Ciaopipilli
The goddesses called Ciuapipilti are said to be women who have died giving birth to their first child and have been elevated to the position of warriors and goddesses. They fly through the air and appear before the living at will. They give children diseases such as palsy by entering the body. They lie in wait at the crossroads to cause harm. For this reason parents forbid their children from leaving the house on certain days of the year so they will not be harmed when these goddesses descend from the sky. And when someone gets palsy or falls suddenly ill, these goddesses are to blame. This is the reason feasts are held in their honor and during these feasts they are offered bread shaped into different figures in their temple or at the crossroads.
One of the Tlaloques, he is the god who invented the art of making mats know as petates, seats called icpales, and cane screens called tolcuextli, and that is why artisans engaged in this craft worship him. By his virtue, sedge, reeds, and canes sprout and grow. He is also a rainmaker. His worshippers hold celebrations in his honor to demand he give them the things he normally provides such as water, sedges, reeds, and canes.
Napatecutli is represented as a man dyed in black except for a few white specks on his face. He wears a paper crown painted black and white. In his left hand he carries a shield shaped like a water lily and in his right hand he holds a stalk of flowering paper flowers.
Tepoztecatl or Tezctzoncatl, Lord of Pulque
Tepoztecatl is the Lord of pulque, drunkenness, fertility, and rabbits. One of the four hundred children of the god Pantecatl and Mayahuel he is associated with fertility cults and with Tlaloc.
The Aztec religion is open, their pantheon is hospitable, and this is why Tepoztecatl, a rustic god of the harvest, a local deity worshipped by agricultural people of Tepoztlan, easily found his way in. Tepoztecatl’s temple is found on a hillside near the town of Tepoztlan.
Tepeyollohti or Tepeyollotl (Heart of the Mountains) The Jaguar God
Tepeyollohti, the most important of the jaguar gods, is the god of earthquakes, echoes and is associated with the night, caves and the Underworld. He is related to Tezcatlipoca. He is depicted as a jaguar leaping towards the sun. (Restored by the author from the Codex Borgia)
Huehuecoyotl (Old Coyote). The Trickster God, the God of Deception
Huehuecoyotl, Old Coyote, the Trickster, god of deception, this god is a prankster who loves to pull pranks on people and on the gods. Sometimes, he unwittingly pulls pranks on himself. The god is a shape-changer. He is able to turn himself into any shape, animal or human. (Restored by the author from the Codex Borgia)
Chalchihuitotolin (The Jeweled Fowl)
Chalchihuihtotolin is a powerful sorcerer. An avatar of Tezcatlipoca he tempts human into self-destruction. When he takes on the shape of a guajolote or turkey, he can cleanse men of contamination, guilt and overcome fate. (Restored by the author from the Codex Borgia)
Tzitzimitl (Star Demon of Darkness
The most feared of all demons are the tzitzimene. To initiate a new 52-year cycle, the people put out all fires and wait in darkness for the conclusion of the New Fire ceremony. Priests stand on the Hill of the Stars at midnight the day before the New Year to see if Venus, or the Pleiades pass overhead. Then, they sacrifice a victim and start a New Fire in the chest cavity of the victim. It is believed that if the New Fire is not created on the Hill of Stars, the tzitzimene will attack the sun and also dive headfirst from the heavens and destroy earth. The tzitzimeneare usually considered women and are compared to spiders hanging upside down from their thread.
The tzitzimenes are most to be feared during an eclipse of the sun or the moon when they dive down from their dwelling in the sky and devour humans. (Restored by the author from the Codex Magliabechiano).
This unit will meet the following Project Clear for Languages Other Than English (Foreign Language) objectives:
Goal 1: Communication (Reading) 9.1.h Students will read to discover meaning through context and visual clues.
Goal 1: Communication (Writing) 9.1.i Students will write in the target language to covey a message or to exchange information about everyday activities or oneself.
Goal 2: Cultures: 9.2.a Students will describe some of the daily activities of the people of the target language and how this is reflected in their culture and language.
9.2.b Students will locate the major countries and areas of the world where the target language is spoken and identify some well-known personalities as well as some of the characteristics of the people.
Goal 3: Connections: 9.3.a Students will use the language to make connections with other subject areas and to acquire information.
Goal 4: 9.4.a Students will compare and contrast one language and culture to another language and culture.
Lesson Plan 1
Spanish AP students will read and discover early Mesoamerican cultures through the history and mythology of the Aztec Nation and their lengthy journey and founding of their capital. Students will compare the Aztec foundation myth with the Biblical account of Moses leading the people of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. The students will compare similarities and differences between the two foundation myths.
Read the section titled the Origin of the Aztecs.
Students will discuss and fully answer or complete the following:
- After reading the foundation myth, and “The Origin of the Nopal Cactus,” are there any facts to be discerned from the mythical foundation of Tenochtitlan?
- Rewrite the “Origin of the Nopal Cactus” as if you were reporting a factual occurrence in a newspaper leaving out any part of the story that might seem dubious.
- What famous Biblical exodus does the journey of the Aztecs remind you of?
- What did the god Huitzilopochtli do to show his tribe that they were his “chosen people”?
- How does the concept of “the chosen people” fit in with the Biblical story?
- What sign were the Aztec people given by their god Huitzilopochtli regarding where they would build their capital? What was the name of the capital? What does it mean?
- The sign given to the Aztecs is still present in the lives of the descendants of the Aztec nation. Where are these symbols still being used today? Bring a sample. (A Mexican flag, Mexican currency, etc.)
- Why were the Aztecs so willing and eager to marry into the Colhua nobility?
- Later, these marriages were used to justify what Aztec policies?
Lesson Plan 2
The students will improve their understanding of other cultures, read the mythical story of the founding of the great city of Tenochtitlan and its companion piece on the origin of the nopal cactus, compare the two versions of the myth, tour the city of Tenochtitlan through computer generated graphics, compare this magnificent Mesoamerican city as witnessed by Cortes and his followers with European cities of the time, and understand that Mesoamerican culture was as advanced, and in some cases, more advanced than the European cultures prevailing at that time.
Students will discuss and fully answer or complete the following:
- Is the emphasis of the two myths placed on the same issue? If not, what are the differences?
- Examine the way each of the main characters of the two myths is portrayed. Is there a difference in their characterization? Why do you think the authors chose to portray them differently?
- Using the Internet, do research on the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. As part of this investigation, make a map of the capital city of Tenochtitlan once located in the middle of the Lake of Tezcoco that coincides with contemporary descriptions of the city. Include quotations of the description of the city of Tenochtitlan from the works of contemporary authors on which you based your drawing.
- Locate the site of the Sacred Precinct, or the religious center of Tenochtitlan, in a modern map of Mexico City. Where would the Sacred Precinct be located today? What happened to the Sacred Precinct following Cortes’ conquest of the Aztec empire? What happened to the great temples dedicated to the gods Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc in the Sacred Precinct?
- There is a discrepancy in the meaning of the word Tenochtitlan in Nahuatl in the two accounts you have read. What reasons can you give for this discrepancy? Are there any other discrepancies between the two stories?
Students will watch a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation that includes impressive computer-generated graphics of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan (Los Aztecas).
Lesson Plan Three
To improve students’ understanding of other cultures. Students will read the two Aztec creation myths. Students are to compare the Aztec creation myth with any other creation myth they may know.
Students will discuss and fully answer or complete the following:
- The first creation myth is an account of the dismemberment of a Monster goddess to form the earth and the sky. Read the Babylonian myth of Marduk and Tiamat. Compare the creation of the earth and the sky in the Aztec myth and the Babylonian myth.
- Using the details given in the story, in your own words, describe the Earth Monster goddess in as frightening a description as you can muster.
- In the myth that narrates the birth of Huitzilopochtli, what is the reason given by the gods for their anger against their mother, the earth goddess Coatlique? Do you believe the reason for plotting against their mother is really what they say it is, or do you think there is an underlying reason for their anger?
- Write a one-page, single-spaced essay confirming or denying the following statement: Gods fear being usurped by the next generation of gods. Do they have a legitimate reason to fear? Give examples from other myths to support your argument.
- In the story of Huitzilopochtli’s birth, the god is described as born a fully grown god, in full-battle gear, and ready to fight against his half-brothers and half-sister. What other famous warrior goddess reportedly sprung from her father’s head, or thigh, in other accounts, fully armed? What Babylonian god is also said to have been born fully grown?
- Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec’s tribal god, gained power over all of the other gods in Mesoamerica. In a historical context, what does this myth convey regarding the position of Aztecs in relation to the surrounding tribes?
- The myth also serves to explain the birth of the Moon and stars. According to this myth, what is the origin of these celestial bodies?
- The myth describes how Hutzilopochtli comes from the womb of the Earth Mother with a ray of light and kills the Moon and the stars. On what daily occurrence is this myth based?.
Lesson Plan Four
To improve the students’ understanding of other cultures. Students will read the Myth of Tepoztecatl. This myth deals with a local hero and was possibly not known to the Aztecs. But I have included it for reading because of its moral teaching. Students are to compare the Tepoztlan hero’s myth with other known Christian stories and Greek myths.
Students will discuss and fully answer or complete the following:
- The virgin birth at the beginning of the Tepoztecatl myth is similar to many other stories and myths. Compare this myth with other well-know stories and myths you know.
- In many myths, a child is abandoned or exposed to the elements to avoid the fulfillment of a prophesy. Compare this myth with the biblical story of Moses and the myth of Oedipus. How are they similar? How do they differ? What is the motive for killing the newborn infant in each case? Why did King Herod order the killing of all children less than two years of age in and around Bethlehem?
- Compare Mazacoatl’s swallowing of the god Tepoztecatl whole with other tales of monsters or Leviathans swallowing of a person or hero whole. Compare and discuss the differences.
- When the god enters the patio where the celebration of his successful fight against Mazacoatl has begun, he goes unrecognized by the revelers and is ill treated because he is dressed in dirty, torn rags. What other mythical heroes suffer the same fate? Discuss fully.
- There is an old saying that states, “Clothes make the man.” How does this myth support or destroy the saying. Explain fully.
- What social custom does the myth of Tepoztecatl establish and enforce by exiling the host’s family from the Valley and village of Tepoztlan? How does the god feel about hospitality?
Define the following new words: insatiable, implacable, dismemberment, impregnated, obsidian knife, decapitated, pantheon, necromancer, cacique and avatar.
A Brief Key to Pronunciation of Names of Aztec Gods
Most of the names in this unit come from Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Aztecs, and still spoken today by about 1.45 million people living in Mexico (Censo general de población y vivienda 2001).
The Aztecs had a fine tradition of picture writing. Their history was written in pre-Hispanic painted books called codices. Most of these were destroyed during the conquest and scarcely a dozen pre-Hispanic codices survive. (Peterson 231)
As soon as the Aztecs and the Mayas learned to use the alphabet they transcribed some of the codices into Spanish letters, among the most important of these the Mayan Popol Vuh (Book of the Council), the Aztecs Leyenda de los soles, and Anales de Cuauhtitlan.
Nahuatl and Spanish vowels are pronounced alike with a few exceptions. Vowels are pronounced as follows: a as in dart, e as in bet, i as in elite, o as in bore, and u a in loot. Most consonants are pronounced like in English, except j is like the English h, and g before e or i is like the English h, otherwise it is pronounced like a regular g, as in goat.
Unlike Spanish, the h is pronounced.
Many Aztecs words have the consonant cluster tl pronounced like the tl in beetle, the x which is pronounced like s or sh, qu is pronounced like in Kay, and z is pronounced like s.
Nahuatl words are stressed in the next-to-the-last syllable, except when they end in n or s, and then they are stressed on the last syllable.
Ometecohtli (Tonacatecuhtli) = Omecihuatl (Tonacacihuatl)
Barlow, Genevieve. “The Origin of the Nopal Cactus.” Stories from Latin America. Chicago: Passport Books, 1995.
Side-by-side book (Spanish-English) that includes sixteen legends from Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.
Censo general de población y vivienda. Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática /National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Information Science, 2001.
Davies, Nigel. The Aztec Empire: The Toltec Resurgence. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987.
Nigel argues that the Mexica’s version of history allows them to pose as the true heirs of the Toltec tradition “through marriage of their elite with the Culhua nobility, par excellence the guardians of the Toltec tradition.” Thus, in their future conquests “they are merely regaining what was theirs by right.”
Díaz del Castillo, Bernal. La historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España. Linkgua S. L., 2007: 317.
An interesting account of the conquest of Mexico as retold by one of Cortez’ men. The description of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan is especially captivating.
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 1942.
This is still my favorite introduction for young students to Greek mythology.
Ibarra, Miguel. “El mito de Tepoztecatl.” 5 April 2007. <http://es.catholic.net/jovenes/216/550/articulo.php?id=7743>.
This is the source for the Tepoztecatl myth which I have translated and edited from Spanish to English.
Los Aztecas. 25 Feb 2007. <http:www.louisville.edu.a s/cml spanish/classes/laculture/aztecas.pdf>
A Microsoft PowerPoint presentation on Aztec civilization with impressive computer generated graphics of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán.
Peterson, Frederick. Ancient Mexico: An Introduction to Pre-Hispanic Cultures. New York: Capricorn Books, 1962.
Professor Peterson’s is a good one-volume introduction to the history of ancient Mexico that includes a concise history of the rise and sudden fall of its great empires, its daily life, religion, art and social relations.
Aztecs at Mexicolore. 22 March 2007. <http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/index.php?one=azt&two=aaa>.
From the U.K. comes one of the most exciting sites for Aztec enthusiasts. Packed with information and illustrations. Among my favorites topics “Aztec Music” (hear and see actual Aztec instruments), “Ask the Experts”, and “Aztec Pronunciation” that includes the correct pronunciation of the names of Aztec gods.
Aztec Mythology: The Gods of Ancient Mexico. 2 Feb 2007. <http://godchecker.com/pantheon/aztec-mythology.php>.
A very complete list of Aztec gods including many minor deities.
Diana Doyle. “Aztec and Mayan Mythology” Yale-New Haven Teacher’s Institute. 2 Feb. 2007. <http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1993/3/94.03.04.x.html.>.
Yale-New have Teacher’s Institute report on Aztec and Mayan Mythology which includes some excellent reading materials for young students.
Díaz, Gisele. Codex Borgia: A Full-Color Restoration of the Ancient Mexican Manuscript. New York: Dover Publications. 1993.
A beautiful facsimile of the Codex Borgia with restoration of the original pictographic language.
Green, Jen, Fiona MacDonald, Philip Steele, and Michael Stotter. The Encyclopedia of the Ancient Americas. London: Anness Publishing Limited, 2001.
Profusely illustrated. Contains numerous projects for middle and high school students.
Helland, Janice. “Aztec Imagery in Frida Kahlo’s Paintings: Indigenity and Political Commitment.” Woman’s Art Journal 11.2 (Autumn 1990 – Winter 1991): 8-13.
The article provides information on Kalo’s expression of her Mexican identity through a depiction of indigenous Mexican mythology in her paintings, especially Aztec mythology.
Kirkpatrick, Berni. “The Creation and the Legend of the Four Suns.” 2 Feb. 2007. <http://www.create.org/myth/997myth.htm.>.
Gives an account of the legend of the Fours Suns, and the creation of the Fifth Sun, our current sun.
Lapesa, Rafael. Historia de la Lengua Española. Madrid: Editorial Gredos, S. A. 1991.
A classic work on the history of the Spanish language. Ever wonder the origins of the English words hurricane, Caribbean, hammock, maize, chocolate, iguana, jaguar, toucan and many others came from?
“Los Dioses.” <http://www.angelfire,com.bernaldiaz/boton.htm>.
This article includes illustrations of the gods taken from various codices and descriptions of the Aztecs gods. It is written in Spanish.
Miller, Mary and Taub, Karl. An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd. 2004.
Profusely illustrated with copies form the codices and photographs of the archeological sites.
Phillips, Charles. The Mythology of the Aztec and Maya: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Gods, Myths and Legends of the Aztecs, Maya and Other Peoples of Ancient Mexico. London: Southwater, 2006.
Pohl, John. “Mesoamerica.” 18 April 2007. <http://www.famsi.org/spanish/research/pohl/index.html>.
The Fundación para el avance de los estudios mesoamericanos (Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies) FAMSI is by far the most complete site on the Internet to cover Mesoamerican cultures. It includes history of Mesoamerican cultures, chronological timeline, writing systems, archeological sites, archives of the Spanish conquest, ancient texts (complete facsimiles of the Indian codices), and so forth
Soustelle, Jacques. The Daily Life of the Aztecs. London: Phoenix Press, 2003.
Soustelle paints a vivid, sympathetic picture of the Aztecs at the moment in history of their greatest achievement.
“Two Aztecs Creation Myths.” 2 Feb. 2007. <http://www.crystallinks.com/azteccreation.html>.
Article gives two different Aztec creation myths.
Valiant, George C. The Aztecs of Mexico. New York: Penguin, 1950.
Although somewhat dated it is still a very readable, factual account of the Aztec Civilization