According to one version of their legacy, it was the Toltec warlords who persecuted the Mexicas (one of the Mesoamerican warriors who later formed the Triple Aztec Alliance or the Aztec Empire) and forced them to retreat to an island, a precarious effort made successful by La guía de su dios patrono Huitzilopochtli, el colibrí del sur.
And it was on this island that they witnessed the prophecy of «an eagle with a snake in its beak, perched on a nopal,» which led to the founding of the great city of Tenochtitlan in about 1325 AD, by «refugees. The Aztec gods and goddesses are numerous.
There was a god for almost all purposes and aspects of life in Aztec culture. Religion was a very important part of civilization and was woven into their daily practices, beliefs, ceremonies and clothing. Many sources list more than a hundred different gods or goddesses, while others list dozens more. The Aztec rulers considered themselves the incarnation of their gods and were thought to know the disposition and will of the Aztec gods. Click on any of the Images and Discover the History of your Aztec Preferred Deity
Click on any of the Images and Discover the Story of your favorite Aztec Deity
List of Names of the Aztec Gods
Meaning: The Lord of Duality
Like most mythologies, the Aztec pantheon was also «topped» with a primordial god.
Known as Ometecuhtli, this primeval divine being of fertility was perceived as a dual entity representing both men and women, and as such, the name in Nahuatl belongs to «Two Lord» or «Lord of Duality» (also known as Omecihuatl or «Two Lady» ‘).
In essence, Ometecuhtli (or Ometeotl) adopted the antithetical factors of nature, with the masculine and feminine sides representing light and darkness, chaos and order, and even in some aspects good and evil.
Meaning: The feathered snake
Counted among the most important Aztec gods (and Mesoamerican divine entities), Quetzalcoatl, considered the son of the primordial god.
Meaning: He was venerated as the creator of humanity and the earth.
Also known as Kukulkan to the Mayas and Gucumatz to the Quiché (of Guatemala), from the etymological point of view, the same name «Quetzalcóatl» comes from the combination of the Nahuatl words for the quetzal: the emerald feathered bird and the fur or snake.
As for its aspects, often considered the Aztec god of wind and rain, Quetzalcoatl also defended a variety of avenues such as science, agriculture, handicrafts and even merchants.
As for the historical side of the issues, the Feathered Serpent, despite its initial «hybrid» characteristics, was usually represented (post around 1200 AD) in a human form that is usually adorned with shell jewelry and wears a conical hat (copilli).
Meaning (pronounced Tez-cah-tlee-poh-ka) means «Smoking Mirror».
The lord of the night sky and the eternal antithesis of his brother Quetzalcoatl, Tezcatlipoca, among the main Aztec gods and goddesses, is also sometimes credited as the co-creator of the world.
Belonging to this role, according to a version of the mythical narrative, Tezcatlipoca sacrificed his own limb when he attacked it by the female serpent monster Cipactli. And so it was given the honorary title of Ipalnemoani, «the one for whom we live».
The same name Tezcatlipoca is translated as «Mirror that smokes» in Nahuatl, which suggests its connection with obsidian. The Aztec god was also associated with a variety of concepts, including the north, hurricanes, war, government, eternal youth, divination, witchcraft, and jaguars.
Meaning: The southern hummingbird
His name means «hummingbird of the left» and he was the patron saint of war and sacrifice.
Considered one of the main Aztec gods, Huitzilopochtli was also the supreme deity of the Mexicas (whose nobles later formed the Aztec Empire).
In essence, unlike many other Aztec gods and goddesses, Huitzilopochtli was intrinsically a Mexica deity quite uninfluenced by earlier Mesoamerican divine entities.
He was considered the god of sun and war, attributes that elevated him to the position of the patron deity of Tenochtitlan (for the beginning of the 15th century), which intrinsically linked the «hunger» of the gods with the Aztec inclination for ritual warfare.
Meaning: Our Lord the Flayed
Xipe Totec (pronounced Shee-peh Toh-tek) is «Our Lord with skinned skin».
A deity of agricultural renewal, vegetation, seasons, goldsmiths and liberation, Xipe Totec was included among one of the leading Aztec gods and gods. And while her related concepts and powers seem quite innocuous, the cult (and its mode) of Xipe Totec was anything but that. This is somewhat different from his sinister name which means, in general terms, «our lord with skinned skin».
The Nahuatl nickname comes from the mythical narrative where the Aztec god skinned his own skin to feed humanity, thus symbolizing how corn stripped of its outer skin cover before germination («rebirth»).
Suffice it to say that, with the images of skinned skin and also the cult of death (and rebirth) associated with Xipe Totec, the Mexicas tended to worship this Aztec god with human sacrifices, mostly during the March festival of Tlacaxipehualiztli (meaning ‘skinning of men’).
One of the popular modes of sacrifice was the simulacrum of gladiator combat where the prisoner (chosen because of his bravery) was tied to a stone and given a «false» macuhuuitl with feathers instead of sharp obsidian blades.
He had to defend himself (irremediably) against an experienced Aztec warrior who was fully armed and armed. After his «glorious» death, his skin was ritually scraped, painted yellow and used by the recreators of Xipe Totec (usually slaves), who were later worshipped and treated as gods by the local people. Annually, a quota of captured slaves and warriors was also selected for sacrifice.
And after their hearts were cut off, Aztec priests wore their skins for 20 days, often adorned with shiny feathers and gold jewelry. At the end of the festival period, the priest threw away the skinned and rotten skins, symbolizing once again the aspect of Xipe Totec’s rebirth.
Meaning: The one who makes things sprout
The supreme deity of rain, Tlaloc was considered an enigmatic entity among the main Aztec gods and goddesses. With its association with rain and consequent fertility, Tlaloc was probably worshipped as a beneficent Aztec god.
However, like some other entities in Aztec mythology, it was also represented with a dual aspect, and this «dark» side was related to its ability to produce thunder, hail and storms.
Now, judging from the above timeline, it is safe to assume that Tláloc and his cult were one of the oldest in Mexico, possibly centered around the mysterious origins of the city of Teotihuacan (not to be confused with Tenochtitlan).
As for the symbolic side of matters, given its association with rain and water, Tlaloc often correlated with caves, springs and mountains, more specifically the sacred mountain on which it was believed to have its abode.
Meaning: She of the jade skirt
Her name means «the one in the jade skirt». She was the patron saint of childbirth.
The Aztec goddess of water «collected» on earth, representing rivers, lakes and oceans, Chalchiuhtlicue was considered as the female (protective) deity of navigation, childbirth and newborn babies.
Because of its association with water, Chalchiuhtlicue was often related to Tláloc, one of the main Aztec gods of rain and thunder.
Curiously, in that sense, she was often worshipped as Tlaloc’s wife (or sister), while in some cases, she was even worshipped as the female form of Tlaloc.
Their festival coincided with the month of February (at the beginning of the rains), usually with various rituals, such as fasting, banquets, bleeding, and brutal episodes of human sacrifice (which even included women and children).
Meaning: The Serpent of the Cloud
Most of these cultures, along with the Aztecs, also tended to associate the lord of hunting with the Milky Way, the stars and the heavens.
Curiously, while in the Aztec pantheon, Mixcoatl played a secondary role in Huitzilopochtli, sometimes revered as the «red» aspect of Tezcatlipoca («The Smoking Mirror»).
As for its worship, Mixcoatl was worshipped during November (Quecholli, the twentieth Aztec month), and the festival involved hunters dressed as the god who engages in hunting, roasting games, and banqueting.
Meaning: The Snake Skirt
Worshipped as the «mother of the gods», Coatlicue among the main Aztec gods and goddesses, was also considered as the female entity that gave birth to the stars, the moon and Huitzilopochtli (the patron god of the sun and war).
In addition, two different Aztec goddesses – Tocih «our grandmother» and Cihuacóatl «snake woman» (who was worshipped as the patron goddess of women who died during childbirth) were perceived as aspects of Coatlicue.
In essence, all these narratives place her as the supreme matronial goddess of Aztec mythology who nurtures with her feminine capacity (as opposed to the abstruse nature of the double gender presented by Ometecuhtli, the primordial entity among the Aztec gods).
On the symbolic plane, she was also considered the incarnation of the earth; however, with dual characteristics: that of a loving and nourishing mother and an insatiable force that required the vital blood of her hosts.
Meaning: The flower of the precious feather
Among the main Aztec gods and goddesses, Xochiquetzal (also known as Ichpōchtli, meaning «maiden») was a female deity of beauty, love and sexual power, fertility and arts and crafts.
Beyond her powers of sexuality, Xochiquetzal was also revered as the patron saint of young mothers, pregnancy, weaving and embroidery.
Meaning: The Lord of the Land of the Dead
Among the main Aztec gods and goddesses, Mictlantecuhtli was the deity of death and the underworld and was generally associated with creatures such as owls, spiders and bats (along with the southern direction).
As the Aztec god of death, Mictlantecuhtli was perceived as the singular entity that all human souls had to find, regardless of their righteousness or immorality.
The only souls exempt from the arduous journey to the underworld (located at the deepest level) were those who died of violent death, whether by childbirth or by storms and floods.
Meaning: Mr. Turquoise
A fierce deity representing the Fifth Sun (the final era in Aztec mythology, i.e., the present era), Tonatiuh, among the main Aztec gods and goddesses, was probably the one most associated with the act of ritual sacrifice.
Essentially, in many post-classic Mesoamerican cultures (around the 10th century to the beginning of the 16th century), including that of the Nahua-speaking Aztecs, the hearts of the sacrificial victims were perceived as the symbolic «food» of the sun.
And Tonatiuh, like the sun, needed such food in order to overcome the darkness daily so that it would rise intensely during the morning.
This outreach made Tonatiuh one of the Aztec gods of warriors in Mexica society, as these soldiers were in charge of defeating and gathering the prisoners of war, many of whom were chosen as sacrificial victims of the sun god.
Over time, Tonatiuh also became associated with the guardian deity that accompanied the spirits of fallen warriors into the rigorous future life. Arriving at the historical representation.
What Were the Aztec Gods and the Aztec Dress Like ?
Here is a brief description of some of the Aztec gods:
The name Tezcatlipoca is often portrayed as an evil power, associated with death and cold.
Tezcatlipoca in many ways represented the opposite of his brother, Quetzalcóatl. His image has black stripes on his face and carries an obsidian mirror.
Chalchiuhtlicue: She is most often illustrated wearing a green/blue skirt from which a stream of water flows.
Tlaloc: The Aztecs believed that the cries and tears of newborn children were sacred to the god, and therefore many ceremonies for Tlaloc involved the sacrifice of the children.
Centeotl: He was closely related to Tlaloc and is usually depicted as a young man with a corn cob sprouting from his headdress.
Xipe Totec: He is usually portrayed with a skinned human skin representing the death of the old and the growth of new vegetation.
Mictlantecuhtli: often depicted as a skeletal figure with bloodstains or an ominous entity wearing a skull mask and a necklace of eyeballs.
Tonatiuh: it was often depicted as a symbolic solar disk, with the motif carved into the walls of monuments and temples.
Xochiquetzal: it had a fairly simple representation in the mythical narrative, as it was often depicted as an attractive, youthful woman wearing her exquisite dress adorned with flowers and followed by a vibrant retinue of birds and butterflies.
Coatlicue: When it came to her description, as the name «Snake Skirt» suggests, Coatlicue was depicted with her skirt made of twisted, interwoven snakes (possibly alluding to fertility) and sagging breasts (suggesting her pregnancy).
Tlaloc: Especially with his first representations (implying a divine being masked with large round eyes and extended fangs, possibly Inspired by the contemporary Mayan god Chac.
How Did the Aztec Gods Live ?
Here is a brief description of how the Aztec gods lived
During the great migration of their legendary home of Aztalan, Huitzilopochtli told the Aztecs where they should establish their capital city, Tenochtitlan, and urged them to move forward.
Their sanctuary, at the top of the pyramid of the Great Temple in Tenochtitlan, was decorated with skulls and painted red to represent blood.
Tlaloc is one of the oldest deities in all of Mesoamerica. Its origins go back to the civilizations of Teotihuacan, Olmec and Maya.
The main sanctuary of Tlaloc was the second sanctuary after Huitzilopochtli’s, located at the top of the Great Temple, the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan. Its sanctuary was decorated with blue bands representing rain and water.
Tezcatlipoca was the patron saint of the night, of the north. He was one of the main Aztec gods in the later pantheon, whose temple was located south of the Great Temple in Tenochtitlan, while its main festival, the Toxcatl ceremony, was held in the month of May.
He was the god of corn, and as such was based on a Pan-Mesoamerican god shared by the Olmec and Mayan religions.
Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent
is known in many other Mesoamerican cultures such as Teotihuacan and the Mayas.
Tenochtitlan was the focal point of Huitzilopochtli worship, with the capital city housing the sanctuary and wooden statue of the Aztec god (at the top of the Templo Mayor).
Incredible as it may seem, the steps leading to Huitzilopochtli’s own temple on the south side were painted in striking red to indicate the essence of blood and war.
How Did the Aztec Gods Disappear ?
The Spaniards destroyed as many Aztec documents and images as they could, believing that the Aztec religion was not only pagan but diabolical.
At the same time, however, much of what we know about the customs of Tenochtitlán and Azteca comes from stories of Spanish writers who witnessed the last days of the Aztec empire.
It is also important to remember that the Spanish conquerors did everything possible to destroy the Aztec religion, which they believed was created by the devil.
The Aztecs under Spanish rule were not allowed to practice their ancient religion and were expected, under penalty of law, to adopt the dominant Spanish Catholic religion.
Some have apparently disappeared completely or their identities were mixed with other deities, so that today they are unrecognizable as separate deities.
One of the main gods of the Aztecs at the time of the conquest was Huitzilopochtli («Hummingbird-Left»), the god of war and sacrifice who, along with many other deities associated with war, is no longer worshipped by the people.
Many of the remaining gods continue to be revered, but in fact they may be mixtures of different Aztec deities, or ancient gods combined with sacred figures from Spanish Catholicism.
The Aztec high creator god was Ometeotl («Two-Gods»), whose wife was called Omecihuatl («Two-Lady»).
The contemporary Aztecs in northern Veracruz have a god they call Ometotiotsij, who also has a wife (or feminine aspect). Ometotiotsij can be translated as «Two, our Honored God», but the name can also be interpreted as «Lord and Lady of Duality».
The name and beliefs surrounding this sacred being reveal that he is a direct descendant of the ancient deity.
These different gods exist in many forms today and continue to be worshipped in Native American communities throughout Mexico.
Today, the Aztecs in northern Veracruz refer to Chalchiutlicue as Apanchanej («Dweller Water»). She is conceived as a woman with long hair and fish tail instead of her legs and looks like a mermaid.
For the contemporary Aztecs, Sahua («San Juan» or «San Juan Bautista») has replaced Tlaloc. He is believed to have a fierce temperament and lives at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
In the case of the Mythological Gods the definition of worship refers to the worship that is rendered to all these deities due to their great powers and attributes.
As a synonym is often used the word Reverence. And its etymology comes from the Latin «venerari» which means to show devotion towards something or someone, generally towards Gods or Deities.
It is often confused with the word Worship, although its etymological essence is the same, you can worship people or earthly things but not worship them. To venerate is destined to Gods and Special Beings.
Studies of Other Mythological Gods in ALPHAPEDIA
Astrology in ALPHAPEDIA
Other Topics of Interest in ALPHAPEDIA
Images, Photos or Drawings of the Aztec Gods