AZTECS

 

 

The Aztecs =  (the Mexica and 6 other tribes all speaking the language Nahua) came from the north;

from Aztlan where they had emerged from Chicomoztoc (7 Caves) -- they were one of seven Nahua

speaking tribes; 

                         Acolhua,

                         Chalca,        

                         Tepaneca,

                         Tlalhuica,

                         Tlaxcalteca,

                         Xochimilca,

                         Mexica.  (last to arrive in Valley of Mexico)

 

Mexica left Aztlan, migrated to Valley of Mexico; settled, sometime after l25O A.D., in Chapultepec (near the Western shore of the Lake of Texcoco). 

In l3l9 they were captured by their neighbors and expelled from Chapultepec.  In l325 they saw eagle carrying serpent crouched on a prickly pear on an Island in Lake Texcoco.  There on the island of Tenochtitlan they settled, eventually defeated the Tepanecs (1428), and went on to create an empire.   Aztec empire grew on a foundation of Mexica aggressiveness. 

 

 

 

AZTEC COSMOLOGY

 

CREATION - originally there were two primordial deities –

Ometecuhtli ("Lord of Duality") and Omecihuatl ("Lady of Duality")

                They had four sons: (all 4 could be seen as manifestations of Tezcatlipoca)

  l) Xipe Totec  (Red Tezcatlipoca)           (Tezcatlipoca = "Smoking Mirror")

  2) Tezcatlipoca   (Black Tezcatlipoca)   (lord of the night sky)

  3) Quetzalcoatl   (White Tezcatlipoca)  ("Feathered Serpent" -- Morning Star Associations.)

  4) Huitzilopochtli   (Blue Tezcatlipoca)   

 

Quetzalcoatl and Huitzilopochtli commissioned to create further life

          (including gods, humans, animals, etc.:

          lst created  fire  &  a half-sun

      then   the first man and woman  (Oxomoco and Cipactonal)

                    (which one is male varies) (who are direct ancestors

                    of the common people -- the macehualtin)

      then the lord and lady of the underworld (Mictlantecuhtli & Mictecacihuatl)

               &       the calendar was fixed

               &      the heavens and waters were created, and floating

                              on the waters was the great crocodilian

                              monster Cipactli, which became the earth's

                              surface(crocodile and toad are earth

                                         metaphors).

               &    Tlaloc the rain god was created, and his spouse, Chalchiuhtlicue 

 

             then      Oxomoco and Cipactonal bore a son, Piltzin-tecuhtli,

                          the first man to marry; he married a maiden

                          created from the hairs of the maiden Xochiquetzal

 After this original "Genesis" comes a sequence of Four World Ages:

 

     l) Jaguar Sun - (Nahui Ocelotl) -  assigned to the Earth, Tezcatlipoca

                     presiding.  World populated by giants, subsisting on

                    acorns.  Man (the giants) was eaten by jaguars, which

                         ended this world age.


     2) Wind Sun - (Nahui Ehecatl) -  assigned to Wind/Air,  Quetzalcoatl

                    presiding.  Human population living on piñon nuts,

                    transformed into monkeys, and the age was terminated by

                    Hurricanes.

 

     3) Rain Sun - (Nahui Quiahuitl) - assigned to Fire, Tlaloc presiding. 

                    Population subsisting on a wild aquatic, seed bearing

                    plant (perhaps water lily), was transformed into turkeys,

                    butterflies, and dogs, and then destroyed by a great

                    fiery rain.

 

     4) Water Sun - (Nahui Atl) - assigned to Water, presided over by

                    Chalchiuhtlicue.  Age terminated by a great deluge/flood,

                    after which the population (which had lived on another

                    wild seed bearing plant) was turned into fish.

 

     5) Earthquake Sun - (Nahui Olin) - (Olin/Ollin, usually called

                    "Movement") - this is the age in which we are living

                    now:  it is to terminate in great earthquakes.  After

                    the end of the fourth Age, Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl

                    had to initiate the present Age.  In one version, they

                    split the Cipactli monster in half, and the upper half

                    formed the earth and the lower half formed the heavens. 

                    The Earthquake Sun began in the year 1 Tochtli 978 A.D.

 

This splitting of Cipactli angers the other gods, who descend to console her by decreeing that henceforth

from her shall come all things necessary for man's life.  From her hair they made trees, flowers, and herbs;

        from her skin comes grass and small flowers; from her eyes come wells, springs, and small caverns;

from her mouth, rivers and large caves;  

       from her nose, mountain valleys; and from her shoulders, mountains.   "And then this terrible creature

cried out in the night and refused to bring forth fruit if not soaked with blood and fed with human hearts".

     

      Next Tezcatlipoca turned into Mixcoatl-Camaxtli and produced fire,

       twirling the fire sticks.

 

     Next, Mankind is created... Quetzalcoatl gets bones, the gods drip

         their own blood on the bones, and after four days a male child

         emerges and after four more days, a female comes.

 

Creation of Mankind - Quetzalcoatl descended to the underworld to obtain from its ruler, Mictlantecuhtli,

bones and ashes of the previous generation of humanity, from which to recreate man.  Mictlantecuhtli

grants the request, but harasses the departing Quetzalcoatl, so that Quetzalcoatl drops the bones, breaking

them into pieces, accounting for the varying stature of man.  Finally Quetzalcoatl delivers his precious cargo

to the gods assembled in Tamoanchan.

 

     Cihuacoatl-Quilaztli grinds the bone fragments into a mass, places them

           into a precious vessel.

 

     The gods then perform auto-sacrifice, permitting their blood to drip

      thickly on the mass of ground up bones.  After four days a male child

      emerges and after four more days, a female infant.

 

Sustenance Mountain - Quetzalcoatl finds maize in mountain, but can't bring

           it back.  Nanahuatl brings it back for mankind. 


(Another version has Centeotl, son of Piltzintecuhtli (himself the son of the Oxomoco and Cipactonal) and Xochiquetzal, having his body parts turned into the wild plants.

           

  Version A.  Quetzalcoatl, transformed into a black ant, was led to

     "sustenance Mountain" (Tonacatepetl) by a red ant.  Here he got some

     maize grains and brought them back to Tamoanchan, where the gods

     decided after tasting it that mankind should have it.  Quetzalcoatl

     fails to carry "sustenance mountain" on his back to mankind, but

     Nanahuatl (a diseased, pauper god) succeeds.

 

  Variant B.   The gods descended to the cavern where lived Piltzintecuhtli,

          son of the primal couple (Oxomoco and Cipactonal), and his wife,

          Xochiquetzal.  Their son, Centeotl was buried.  From his hair

          sprang cotton; from his ears, two useful seed bearing wild plants; 

          from his nose, chia;  from his fingers the sweet potato; 

          from his nails a long variety of maize;  from the remainder of

          his body, many other food plants.

 

        

Alcohol / Octli - Mayahuel, a moon maiden, torn to pieces and bones buried.

From the grave sprang up the maguey, from which octli (pulque) was derived.

 

          For man's enjoyment:  Mayahuel, the maiden, was torn to pieces by

               her monster guardians (Tzitzimime), after she had been

               stolen from them by Quetzalcoatl.  Quetzalcoatl-Ehecatl buried

               the mangled bones of Mayahuel, and from the grave sprang the

               agave/maguey plant, from which pulque / octli is made. 

 

Sun and Moon Created -  26 years after the creation of the earth, the

          diseased but courageous pauper god Nanahuatl,  and the rich

          but cowardly Tecciztecatl leap into a great fire and are

           transformed into the sun and the moon respectively. 

 

Autosacrifice (death) of the Gods -  The gods assembled and sacrificed

      themselves into the fire so as to provide the newly created sun with  nourishment.

 

Human Wars and Human Sacrifice -  The death of the gods was not enough for

      the sun.  The sun and earth had an insatiable craving for hearts and blood.

   And that is where man becomes responsible for the burden.   War was instituted, for the primary purpose of obtaining sacrificial victims.

 

GODS  - Tezcatlipoca  (Smoking Mirror) - black god of the night sky, a

      transformer.  Missing a foot (or a leg, which was bitten off by the

     Cipactli (or Acipactli) monster.

    

     Quetzalcoatl -  Also found in the guises and/or names of

               Ehecatl, Nine Wind, Nine Snake, and

               Xolotl (Xolotl, the canine deity and equivalent of the evening

                    star, is the twin of Quetzalcoatl).

               God of Life and Fertility, Inventor of Agriculture, Patron of

                      Twins. 

 

     Tlaloc - God of Rain and Thunder

 


     Xipe Totec - ("Flayed Lord"), God of Spring Planting, patron of

               jewelers.  Also called Yopi.

                         

     Huitzil-opochtli - God of War, Hunting, and the Sun.  Later

               associated with the eagle, emblem of the sun (cf.

                  Mixe witzn 'eagle')

 

     Mictlantecuhtli - 'Lord of the Land of the Dead' in the underworld.

            (as with the Greeks, only part of the underworld was the land of

               the dead)

 

     Huehueteotl -  Aged God, a god of Fire

 

     Coatlicue  - "Serpent Skirt"  earth fertility an creator goddess. 

               Has skull or serpent for her head;

               wears a necklace of human hearts. 

               Has taloned feet (cf. matlacihuatl - La llorona)

 

     Tlazolteotl - Goddess of Filth.   Earth goddess; also procreation,

               carnal sin, and confession.

 

     Yacatecuhtli - God of Merchants  

 

 

 

 

NINE LEVELS OF THE UNDERWORLD, TRAVERSED BY THE SOULS OF THE DEAD

 

For the hazardous journey after death the dead were provided with food, warm blankets, paper flags, water, and dogs.  A jade bead was placed in the mouth of a dead person, to serve as a substitute heart, and he took presents for the lord and lady of the underworld...

 

Levels ‑ Hazards

     1.  River    (dogs helps person across, reddish color)

     2.  Clashing high mountains

     3.  obsidian mountain

     4.  icy winds

     5.  flapping flags all over

     6.  arrows shot at soul

     7.  ferocious beasts eat hearts

     8.  narrow passages between hard rocks

     9.  darkness and restChicnahuamictlan. 

 

     dead souls could return to earth for food once a year, and at that time the people on earth made big festivals.  (cf. today:  Todos Santos and día de los muertos)

 

 

 

SOCIAL STRUCTURE (Major Divisions)

 

Nobility

 

 Rulers     tlatoque (pl.)   'supreme rulers of major political bodies (empires,

                               cities, towns)'    tlatoani (sing.)

    

"Chiefs"    tetecutin (pl.)  'high military and governmental positions'

                                  tecuhtli (sing.)

 

Nobles      pipiltin (pl.)  'children of rulers and "chiefs", occupied

                             governmental, religious, and military positions)

                                  pilli (sing.)

 

 

Intermediate positions

 

Merchants     pochteca (pl.)     Merchants organized into guilds and trading over

                                 long distances.  pochtecatl (sing.)

 

Luxury artisans   toltecca (pl.)  Artisans of crafts such as gold and

                                   featherworking.  some guild organized, others

                                   worked for the state.   tolteccatl (sing)

 

 

Commoners

 

"Free commoners"  macehualtin (pl.)     'common man', organized into

                                      calpulli, agriculturalists, fishers and utilitarian

                                      craftsmen.    macehualli (sing.)

 

Rural tenants     mayeque (pl. & sing.)  commoners who worked on the private


                                             lands of the nobility.

    

Slaves            tlacotin (pl.)     slaves - attained their status through gambling,

                                     economic necessity, or a criminal act (usually theft)

                                       tlacotli   (sing.)