Gods and Myth

The first sun, the watery sun, was carried off by the flood.  All that lived in the world became fish.
The second sun was devoured by tigers.
The third was demolished by a fiery rain that set people ablaze.
The fourth sun, the wind sun, was wiped out by storm.  People turned into monkeys and spread throughout the hills.

Memory of Fire: Genesis, Eduardo Galeano.

This is the age of the fifth sun.  After the destruction of the fourth sun, the gods gathered together to decide who would become the next sun.  Tecciztecatl, proud and rich, volunteered, but they needed someone else.  So Nanauatl, a poor god, was chosen.  A huge bonfire was built, and when the time came, Tecciztecatl attempted to throw himself into the flame, but his fear overwhelmed him.  Nanauatl closed his eyes and jumped.  Ashamed, Tecciztecatl follows him into the fire.  Eventually, two bright suns rose in the sky.  Angry that Tecciztecatl continues to follow Nanauatl, the other gods throw a rabbit at him, dimming the sun and leaving an imprint of a rabbit on his face.  This is why the Aztecs say there is a rabbit in the moon.

But even though they now had a sun, it would not move.  The gods knew that they had to sacrifice themselves in order for the sun to move and the people that they had created to live.  So, the world of the fifth sun, the Aztec world, was created through sacrifice.  Men had to repay the gods with sacrifice to keep the universe in balance.  This is why the Aztecs sacrifice; to prevent the fifth sun from being destroyed like the other four before it.

This myth is only one of several creation myths in Aztec mythology.  This one probably originated from one of the native civilizations that the Aztecs conquered.  The Aztec pantheon is just as diverse as is the mythology, but there are three main gods to speak of:

Huitzilopochtli: a god of the original nomadic Aztecs.  He is the god of war, the sun god– but not the one of the four suns myth above – and the patron of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan.  According to myth, he is the one who guided the Aztecs to Mexico.  His mother is Coatlicue, who gave birth to him after finding a ball of feathers and tucking in her bosom for safekeeping.  Later, when looking for the ball, she couldn’t find it, but discovered herself pregnant.  Her other children, the moon and stars, became jealous and embarrassed, because a goddess was only supposed to give birth to the original pantheon, and Coyolxauhqui, the moon, incited a rebellion among the children against their mother.  Huitzilopochtli sprung from the womb fully dressed in battle gear and defeated his siblings.  He beheaded his sister, Coyolxauhqui, and threw her head into the sky to remain there as the moon.

Huitzilopochtli

Tezcatlipoca: The main Aztec deity, almost an antithesis to Huitzilopochtli.  He is the night sky to Huitsilpochtil’s day sky.  Controls man’s destiny.  Tezcatlipoca is considered to bring war and misfortune into the world, and is rarely credited with good fortune.  He is associated with royalty.  The Jaguar is his symbol.

Tezcatlipoca

Quetzalcoatl: the god of civilization and learning.  Quetzalcoatl himself was the second sun, and created the fourth.  After the creation of the fifth sun, it was Quetzalcoatl who brought agriculture and learning to humans.  He is the feathered serpent featured in the mythology of many Mesoamerican civilizations, not just the Aztec.

Quetzalcoatl

Sources
"Aztec Gods and Religion." Aztec Civilization. Crystalinks Metaphysical and Science Website. <http://www.crystalinks.com/aztecgods.html>

Welker, Glen. "Aztec Creation Story." Indigenous People's Literature. Indians.org. <http://www.indians.org/welker/aztecs.htm>

"Les religions d'Amérique." 14 September 2003. <http://religion.mrugala.net/Ameriques/>

 

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