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t Important Gods and Goddesses of the Aztec Empire
The Aztecs believed in a complex and diverse pantheon of gods and goddesses. In fact, scholars have identified more than 200 deities within Aztec religion.
In 1325 AD, the Aztec people moved to an island in Lake Texcoco to set up their capital, Tenochtitlán. The story goes that they saw an eagle holding a rattlesnake in its talons, perched on a cactus. Believing this vision was a prophesy sent by the god Huitzilopochtli, they decided to build their new home on that exact site. And so the city of Tenochtitlán was founded.
To this day, this story of their great migration from their legendary home of Aztalan is pictured on the coat of arms of Mexico. It is clear, then, that mythology and religion played a key role in Aztec culture.
The Aztec gods were divided into three groups, each supervising one aspect of the universe: weather, agriculture and warfare. Here are 8 of the most important Aztec gods and goddesses.
1. Huitzilopochtli – ‘The Hummingbird of the South’
Huitzilopochtli was the father of the Aztecs and the supreme god for the Méxica. His nagual or animal spirit was the eagle. Unlike many other Aztec deities, Huitzilopochtli was intrinsically a Mexica deity with no clear equivalent in earlier Mesoamerican cultures.
Huitzilopochtli, as depicted in the ‘Tovar Codex’
Image Credit: John Carter Brown Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
He was also the Aztec god of war and the Aztec sun god, and of Tenochtitlán. This intrinsically tied up the “hunger” of gods with the Aztec penchant for ritual war. His shrine sat on top of the pyramid of Templo Mayor in the Aztec capital, and was decorated with skulls and painted red to represent blood.
In Aztec mythology, Huitzilopochtli was engaged in a sibling rivalry with his sister and the goddess of the moon, Coyolxauhqui. And so the sun and the moon were in a constant battle for control of the sky. Huitzilopochtli was believed to be accompanied by the spirits of fallen warrior, whose spirits would return to earth as hummingbirds, and the spirits of women who died during childbirth.
2. Tezcatlipoca – ‘The Smoking Mirror’
Huitzilopochtli’s rival as the most important Aztec god was Tezcatlipoca: god of the nocturnal sky, of ancestral memory, and of time. His nagual was the jaguar. Tezcatlipoca was one of the most important gods in post-classic Mesoamerican culture and the supreme deity for the Toltecs – Nahua-speaking warriors from the north.
Aztecs believed that Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatlipoca together created the world. However Tezcatlipoca represented an evil power, often associated with death and cold. The eternal antithesis of his brother Quetzalcóatl, the lord of the night carries with him an obsidian mirror. In Nahuatl, his name translates to “smoking mirror”.
3. Quetzalcoatl – ‘The Feathered Serpent’
Tezcatlipoca’s brother Quetzalcoatl was the god of winds and rain, intelligence and self-reflection. He plays a key role in other Mesoamerican cultures such as Teotihuacan and the Maya.
His nagual was a mix of bird and rattlesnake, his name combining the Nahuatl words for quetzal (“the emerald plumed bird”) and coatl (“serpent”). As the patron of science and learning, Quetzalcoatl invented the calendar and books. He was also identified with the planet Venus.
With his dog-headed companion Xolotl, Quetzalcoatl was said to have descended to the land of death to gather the bones of the ancient dead. He then infused the bones with his own blood, regenerating mankind.
4. Coatlicue – ‘The Serpent Skirt’
Venerated as the “mother of gods and mortals”, Coatlicue was the feminine god who gave birth to the stars and moon. Her face was made up of two fanged serpents, her skirt of interwoven snakes and she wore a necklace of hands, hearts and a skull.
Coatlicue was as feared as she was beloved, symbolising the antiquity of earth worship and of childbirth. She was also associated with warfare, governance and agriculture.
In Aztec mythology, Coatlicue was a priestess who was sweeping a shrine on the legendary sacred mountain Coatepec, when a ball of feathers fell from the sky and impregnated her. The resulting child was Huitzilopochtli, god of war.
5. Tonatiuh – ‘The Turquoise Lord’
Tonatiuh was the sun god, depicted as a symbolic sun disk, or sometimes as a squatting man with a disk on his back. Tonatiuh was a nourishing deity who required sacrificial blood to provide warmth to the people. He was also the patron of warriors.
In many post-classic Mesoamerican cultures, the hearts of sacrificial victims were seen as symbolic nourishment for the sun. Tonatiuh was the god most associated with ritual sacrifice; he needed the nourishment to defeat darkness on a daily basis.
Soldiers would be tasked with defeating and rounding up prisoners of war, many of which would be chosen as sacrificial victims for him.
6. Tlaloc – ‘He Who Makes Things Sprout’
The enigmatic god of rain, Tlaloc was represented wearing a mask with large round eyes and long fangs. He bore a striking familiarity to Chac, the Maya rain god. Tlaloc was seen both as a benevolent deity, providing life-giving rain to crops, but also as an unforgiving and destructive being who sent storms and drought.
He was associated with any rain-related meteorological events, such as storms, floods, lightning, ice and snow. He also ruled the other-worldly paradise of Thalocan, which hosted the victims of floods, storms and diseases such as leprosy.
Tlaloc’s main shrine was the second shrine after Huitzilopochtli’s, on top of the Templo Mayor, the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan.
7. Chalchiuhtlicue – ‘She Who Wears a Green Skirt’
The wife (or sometimes sister) of Tlaloc, Chalchiuhtlicue was the Aztec goddess of running water and all aquatic elements. Like other water deities, Chalchiuhtlicue was often associated with serpents. She was mostly depicted wearing a green or blue skirt from which flows a stream of water.
Chalchiuhtlicue in ‘Codex Borgia’, page 65. Chalchiuhtlicue pictured at right
Image Credit: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Chalchiuhtlicue was also the patroness of childbirth and a protector of newborn babies. In Aztec mythology, she played a key role in the Mexica version of the deluge myth. However, despite bringing forth a cataclysmic flood, she transformed humans into fish – thereby saving them.
The festival of Chalchiuhtlicue usually involved rituals such as fasting, feasting, bloodletting and brutal human sacrifice – sometimes even including that of women and children.
8. Xipe Totec – ‘Our Lord the Flayed One’
The Aztec god of agricultural fertility, Xipe Totec was usually represented wearing a flayed human skin symbolising the death of the old and the growth of new vegetation. The gruesome-sounding Nahuatl moniker originated from the legend where the Aztec god flayed his own skin to feed humanity.
Xipe Totec was usually venerated with human sacrifice, carried out during the March festival of Tlacaxipehualiztli – which literally translates as “flaying of men”. A prisoner would be tied to a stone and given a macuahuitl – a wooden club with obsidian blades – made of feathers instead of knives – and made to ‘fight’ an Aztec warrior.
His skin would then be ritually flayed and worn by reenactors of Xipe Totec who were then worshipped and treated as gods. These reenactors would then be killed and have their hearts cut out, their skins worn by Aztec priests for 20 days and then shed to represent the rebirth aspect of Xipe Totec.
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Frequently Asked Questions About about how many deities did the aztecs worship
If you have questions that need to be answered about the topic about how many deities did the aztecs worship, then this section may help you solve it.
What gods did the Aztecs revere?
Tonatiuh, god of the sun, Tlaloc, god of rain, and Quetzalcóatl, the Feathered Serpent, who was both a god and a cultural hero, were prominent figures in the Aztec pantheon. Human sacrifice, particularly by offering a victim’s heart to Tonatiuh, as well as bloodletting, were frequently practiced.
Did the Aztecs have a pantheon of gods?
Every aspect of life was represented by one of the hundreds of different gods and goddesses worshipped by the Aztecs.
Which four main Aztec gods were they?
In Aztec mythology, Creator-gods are the only four Tezcatlipocas, the children of the creator couple Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl “Lord and Lady of Duality”, “Lord and Lady of the Near and the Close”, “Father and Mother of the Gods”, “Father and Mother of us all”, who received the gift of the ability to create other …
What were the Aztecs devout to?
The Aztecs believed they lived in the era of the fifth sun and that any day the world could end violently. In order to postpone their destruction and appease the gods, men sacrificed human beings. The Aztecs had many gods but worshipped b>Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and war/b> above all others.
Who served as the Aztecs’ chief god?
One of the two main deities in Aztec religion, Huitzilopochtli, also spelled Uitzilopochtli, is also known as the sun god and war god of the Aztecs. He is also known by the names Xiuhpilli (Turquoise Prince?) and Totec (Our Lord).
Who was the chief deity of the Aztecs?
One of the most revered gods in the Aztec pantheon, Huitzilopochtli (pronounced Huit-zi-lo-pochtli), also known as the “Hummingbird of the South” or “Blue Hummingbird on the Left,” was also the supreme deity of the Méxica people.
What methods of worship did the Aztecs practice?
Depending on the god to be appeased and the ceremony being performed, blood sacrifice in various forms was performed, including self-mutilation for some priests of some gods who occasionally required their priests to provide their own blood.
Who was the most revered god in Aztec culture?
The Feathered Serpent, also known as Quetzalcoatl (pronounced Keh-tzal-coh-atl) and revered by many other Mesoamerican cultures, including Teotihuacan and the Maya, is arguably the most well-known deity associated with the Aztecs.
What kind of religion were the Aztecs?
MATOS MOCTEZUMA: The Aztec religion was primarily polytheistic; there were numerous gods, both male and female, including Tonatiuh, the sun god, who was revered during regular celebrations and lavish offerings.
Why did the Aztecs have such a large number of gods?
The Aztecs were a polytheistic society, which means they had many gods and each god represented various significant areas of the world for Aztec people. The Aztecs, like other Mesoamerican societies, had a broad pantheon of gods.