From the rain, to the war…
Meet the deities that guided their spirituality!
The Aztecs, also known as Tenochcas or Mexicas, were a civilization that dominated the center-south of Mexico until the arrival of the conquistadors, in the XV century. Its territory includes what we know today as Mexico City, Veracruz, Puebla, Guerrero, Oaxaca, the coast of Chiapas, Hidalgo and part of Guatemala, with Tenochtitlán being the capital of the empire.
His language was Nahuatl, the same one that he imposed on the neighboring towns. His great power was linked to the control he exercised over the trade routes and the diversity of products in his different towns.
Like many civilizations in Mesoamerica, they had a very rich cosmovision, with rites and offerings to the different goddesses as central elements. Today we want to talk about the 10 most important Aztec gods, those deities that played a very specific role in the life of this pre-Hispanic people.
1. Huitzilopochtli: God of the sun and war
For the Mexicans, the supreme god; for the Aztecs, one of the most important deities. It was associated with gold, warriors and rulers. According to the legend, he was the son of the goddess Coatlicue (of whom we will talk later) and as an offering, human sacrifices were made in his honor, which were said to give power to the god.
In the representations of art, the god Huitzilopochtli appears carrying a spear in the shape of a snake, a shield and arrows of blue feathers.
2. Quetzalcoatl: God of the winds and rain
Also known as the Feathered Serpent, it was linked to science, agriculture, crafts and art. Although he is one of the most well-known Aztec gods, the Mayans knew him as Kukulcán and the Quiches of Guatemala, Gucumatz. The legend tells that Quetzalcóatl participated in the creation of humanity, when he descended to Mictlán (underworld) to extract some bones, and deceiving the rulers of the underworld with his cunning, transformed them into people by mixing them with corn and its blood. It represents like a mix between pájaro and serpiente de cascabel, since its name comes from the Nahuatl words “quetzal”, which means feathered bird and “coatl”, which means snake.
3. Yacatecuhtli: God of travelers
Travelers and goods are recommended in this figure. If you think Yacatecuhtli had its origin in Pochtlán, Xochimilco, where merchants typically met. The rituals of sacrifice and offerings to these gods were intended to keep the roads on which the travelers would travel safe and sound. Another ceremony used to honor was the washing of the feet of the merchants when they arrived from their journeys, accompanied by offerings to the local temple.
His name means “el señor de la nose” in Nahuatl. I have represented as an ancient with a staff formed by the union of rods that guides the path of the walkers. His headdress is made of quetzal feathers and gold earrings.
4. Coatlicue: Goddess of the earth or fertility
They have called her “mother of all the gods” and the legend tells that she was the mother of Centzon Huitznáhuac, goddess of the southern stars, as well as of the goddess Coyolxauhqui and Huitzilopochtli, whom she unexpectedly became pregnant with. The first felt threatened after this pregnancy and decided to kill their mother. Huitzilopochtli defends her, killing her brothers.
It represents a decapitated woman, showing elements of the earth and supernatural beings in her clothing, as her name means “the one with the lap of snakes”. These are the characteristics of the dual nature of the earth: kind but insatiable.
5. Mictlantecuhtli: God of death
The lord of Mictlán (underworld). Their existence responds to the belief that there could be no life without death, so they will create Mictlantecuhtli. The Aztecs believed that the same fate awaited the dead and they did not conceive of the existence of an exclusive paradise for those who did well in life. The souls had to descend through the nine layers of the underworld.
His name means “the lord of the mansion of the dead” and represented as a skeleton with red dots, representing blood.
Place of interest the Aztec gods, also read: The 9 more important Mayan gods.
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6. Chipe Totec: God of corn regeneration and war
You consider and two of fertility and savior, since he sacrificed himself for humanity. The big ugliness realizes that it shed its skin in order to feed people. That is why, during the rituals in his honor, the best warriors were flayed to obtain a good harvest.
It is represented in yellow-dyed skin clothing, with stripes on the face made with quail paint, a conical crown, a skirt of zapote leaves and a shield in hand.
7. Ixtlilton: God of medicine
Healer of diseases and guardian of children’s health. He had the ability to cure sick children, who came to the temple to ask for their healing through pre-Hispanic dances and concoctions. When the child gets better, his parents throw a celebration at their homes.
His name means “The one with the black face” and his representations embody precisely this.
8. Xiuhtecuhtli: God of fire
Purifier of the earth and renewer of things. Associated with warriors and rulers. The Xihuitl word means “year”, “time” and “fire” in Nahuatl, so some sculptures in his honor have turquoise mosaics (the same ones that were buried during the rituals).
Represents with reeds on the head, as a tocado, to bring out the fire. His figure is pointed to that of an ancient hunchback carrying a huge brazier, to symbolize his ancient origin and wisdom.
9. Tláloc: God of rain
This deity had power over meteorological phenomena and, therefore, that is important for the prosperity of the agriculture of the town. You perform rituals to communicate with him and be able to predict if there will be droughts in the fields or if the harvests will be successful. It is said that he was the husband of Chalchiuhtlicue, goddess of water and love. His children, known as tlalocas, manifest in our world like clouds in the sky.
He is depicted dressed in jade, with a gold pectoral and in his hand a serpentine stick that symbolized lightning.
You might also be interested in: Ajolote, mythical Mexican amphibian.
10. Metztli: Goddess of the moon
In Mayan culture, it is also known as Ixchel. Its name means “the black moon”. Lunar observation was of great importance to the Aztecs, eclipses, comets and other celestial phenomena could have catastrophic connotations. In addition, these observations allowed them to create a schedule to improve their things. He had the power to dominate the water through the middle of a snake that appears in his different representations. She can also be seen wearing a skirt with embroidered crossbones, symbolizing the death that can be caused by the inclement weather of floods.
The religion of youth and the fundamental role in the history of the Aztecs. Although we only mention the 10 main Aztec gods here, the list is much more extensive and includes deities from other cultures. Each god and goddess has a complete story linked to the cosmos and human frailty, and at the same time, these stories intertwine to create the most magnificent laws. They tell us how they conceived the world and how their spirituality largely guided their survival. Learning about them helps us preserve the cultural wealth and honor the vestiges of their empires, among which the temples stand out for their greatness.
Did you already know these Aztec gods? Tell us which culture you would like us to talk about in our next blog.