Cipactli and Aztec Creation

Cipactli and Aztec Creation

Many ancient civilizations believed that only water was present in the beginning, and that the earth came about through the direct actions of a large creature. Ancient Native Americans, Chinese, and Hindus all thought the earth was formed on, or at least rested on, the back of an enormous creature. The Aztecs of Mexico held a similar belief: that the Earth was created from the destruction of a large sea demon, created by and known to the gods as Cipactli.

According to Aztec mythology, there were initially four gods that represented the four cardinal directions: Huitzilopochtli, Tezcatlipoca, Xipe Totec, and Quetzalcoatl, who were thought to represent the North, South, East and West. These gods first created the water and other gods, as well as Cipactli.

Cipactli was described in many fashions: a crocodile with toad and fish characteristics, a sea demon or monster. Regardless of the description, the Aztecs considered this asexual sea monster the source of the cosmos. Cipactli’s appetite was insatiable, and each joint of the creature bore a mouth. As the gods began the process of creation, they soon realized that their other creations would fall into the void and be devoured by the demon, so they decided to destroy Cipactli. Tezcatlipoca lured the monster in and lost a foot to its insatiable appetite before the gods were able to defeat it. Cipactli put up a fight, but in the end the gods prevailed. They pulled Cipactli’s body in four directions and freed the universe from its body. Then Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl created the heavens and the Earth and everything therein from Cipactli’s body. The creature’s head became the thirteen heavens, its tail the underworld, its midsection the Earth, and so on.

Again, here we find another creation myth that centers on an unusual being—created by gods in the midst of nothingness—from which all life erupts. Could this be another way of narrating a struggle between foreign beings from the sky, a.k.a. extra-terrestrial? Could this struggle, possibly, have led to human invention? If so, is it possible that this intervention is ongoing, given the advances of technology and consciousness that we are currently experiencing?

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    Tezcatlipoca

    Tezcatlipoca ( / ˌ t ɛ z k æ t l i ˈ p oʊ k ə / Classical Nahuatl: Tezcatlipōca Nahuatl pronunciation: [teskatɬiˈpoːka] ( listen ) [2] ) was a central deity in Aztec religion, and his main festival was the Toxcatl ceremony celebrated in the month of May. One of the four sons of Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl. The God of providence, he is associated with a wide range of concepts, including the night sky, the night winds, hurricanes, the north, the earth, obsidian, enmity, discord, rulership, divination, temptation, jaguars, sorcery, beauty, war, and strife. His name in the Nahuatl language is often translated as "Smoking Mirror" [3] and alludes to his connection to obsidian, the material from which mirrors were made in Mesoamerica and which were used for shamanic rituals and prophecy. [4] Another talisman related to Tezcatlipoca was a disc worn as a chest pectoral. This talisman was carved out of abalone shell and depicted on the chest of both Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatlipoca in codex illustrations. [5] [6]

    He had many epithets which alluded to different aspects of his deity: Titlacauan / ˌ t ɪ t l ə ˈ k aʊ ə n / ("We Are His Slaves"), Ipalnemoani ("He by Whom We Live"), Necoc Yaotl ("Enemy of Both Sides"), Tloque Nahuaque ("Lord of the Near and the Nigh") and Yohualli Èhecatl ("Night, Wind"), Ome Acatl [7] ("Two Reed"), Ilhuicahua Tlalticpaque ("Possessor of the Sky and Earth"). [8]

    When depicted he was usually drawn with a black and a yellow stripe painted across his face. He is often shown with his right foot replaced with an obsidian mirror, bone, or a snake—an allusion to the creation myth in which he loses his foot battling with the Earth Monster. Sometimes the mirror was shown on his chest, and sometimes smoke would emanate from the mirror. Tezcatlipoca's nagual, his animal counterpart, was the jaguar and his jaguar aspect was the deity Tepeyollotl ("Mountainheart"). In the Aztec ritual calendar the Tonalpohualli Tezcatlipoca ruled the trecena 1 Ocelotl ("1 Jaguar")—he was also patron of the days with the name Acatl ("reed"). [9]

    The Tezcatlipoca figure goes back to earlier Mesoamerican deities worshipped by the Olmec and Maya. Similarities exist with the patron deity of the K'iche' Maya as described in the Popol Vuh. A central figure of the Popol Vuh was the god Tohil whose name means "obsidian" and who was associated with sacrifice. Also the Classic Maya god of rulership and thunder known to modern Mayanists as "God K", or the "Manikin Scepter" and to the classic Maya as K'awil was depicted with a smoking obsidian knife in his forehead and one leg replaced with a snake. [10] Although there are striking similarities between possible earlier imagery of Tezcatlipoca, archaeologists are split in the debate. It is possible that he is either the same god that the Olmec and Maya reference with their "jaguar deity" or that Tezcatlipoca is a latter, more expanded version of the foundations the Olmec and Maya set, as the Aztecs often took inspiration from earlier cultures.


    The Aztec built their capital city, Tenochtitlan, on Lake Texcoco. Built on two islands, the area was extended using chinampas—small, artificial islands created above the waterline that were later consolidated. Tenochtitlan eventually reached an area of more than 13 square kilometers (five square miles).

    ​In contrast to the large stone temples, Aztec homes were primarily built from wood logs that were interlinked. They may have also used mud bricks (adobe). The floor of the homes was usually just dirt or may have been made of stone.


    In the Aztec pantheon, Huitzilopochtli is the warrior of the Sun. According to Aztec mythology, the Sun can’t move on its own, and so it needs human sacrifices and requires warriors to fight for it to keep it moving.

    Huitzilocpohtli, then, is the warrior who fights for the sun and because of those fights, the Sun keeps moving. This is why he is also identified as the Sun God himself in some versions of Aztec mythology. His name means “hummingbird of the south” and he is often identified as the god of war in Aztec mythology.


    Aztec Creation Story: The Rebirth of The World

    The five suns were the key to the rebirths of the world. The story of creation in ancient Mexico and surrounding areas actually changed as time went by.

    It was likely adopted by the Aztecs for their own political purposes, though even within the Aztec empire there were variations of the story.

    But basic components of the story had evolved over centuries and centuries, so we do see similarities between the Aztec’s stories and the beliefs of earlier cultures.

    The Aztec Creation Story: Rebirth

    The story of creation, according to the Aztecs, is actually a story of birth, death, and rebirth. When the world is destroyed, it’s born again through the sacrifice of one of the gods, and so through the birth of a new sun.

    So you’ll often hear of the legend of the five sunsthe five births of the world. Five suns, and so five different worlds, have existed.

    When the story is told, the order of the worlds is sometimes different, sometimes there are even less than five suns, but the general idea remains the same.

    But it’s not a story of endless cycles, as you may see in other cultures. For the Aztecs, the universe did have an actual beginning…

    In the Beginning

    In the beginning was the void. It was at some ancient time in the Aztec creation story that the dual god, Ometecuhtli/Omecihuatl, created itself.

    (Looking back, of course, the Aztecs believed that the many opposites that they saw in the world would have to somehow unite in the origin of the world.) This god was good and bad, chaos and order, male and female.

    Being male and female, it was able to have children. It had four, which came to represent the four directions of north, south, east and west.

    The gods were Huitzilopochtli (south), Quetzalcoatl (east), Tezcatlipoca (west), and Xipe Totec (north).

    The directions were very important to the Aztecs since their great empire was believed to be at the very center of the universe (remember what I mentioned about the Aztec creation story being political?).

    These four gods began to create. They created water, and other gods, and the sea monster Cipactli. Cipactli was part fish and part crocodile, a massive creature as big as all things that now are.

    This was a consuming monster, a jaw at every joint. Cipactli was to become the source of the cosmos in a strange way.

    As the gods continued to create, they had a problem – their creations would fall into the water and be eaten by the dreadful Cipactli.

    So it was time for war – the four gods attacked the sea monster, pulling her in four directions. She fought back, biting Tezcatlipoca and tearing off his foot. But at last Cipactli was destroyed.

    From this enormous creature, the universe was created (in some traditions this happened between the last two suns). All the 13 heavens stretch into her head.

    The earth was created in the middle, and her tail reaches down to the underworld (Mictlán) (nine underworlds, to be exact).

    You could say that in the Aztec creation story the world is on the back of this sea monster, floating in the water of space (reminiscent of the Iroquois belief that the world rests on the back of a turtle).

    The First Sun – Jaguar Sun (Nahui Ocelot)

    To complete the world, the great source of energy had to be created – the sun. This is the key to the cycles in the Aztec creation story.

    But the sun is so powerful, it can’t just be created. It can only come into being through the sacrifice of a god. The god chosen was Tezcatlipoca.

    Tezcatlipoca only managed to become half a sun, however, making this first creation incomplete. During the first age, the gods created giants from ashes and gave them acorns to eat.

    A fight began, however, between Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca. In the end, the sun was knocked from the sky, and in anger, Tezcatlipoca sent jaguars to destroy the giants.

    The Second Sun – Wind Sun (Nahui Ehecatl)

    At this point, Quetzalcoatl took over for his brother as the sun. Humans were created as they are now (normal size).

    They lived on piñon nuts, and for a while things were fine. But the people became corrupt, and perhaps out of revenge, Tezcatlipoca turned them into monkeys. Furious, Quetzalcoatl sent a hurricane to blow the monkeys away.

    The Third Sun – Rain Sun (Nahui Quiahuitl)

    Tlaloc was one of the early creations of the gods, the god of rain and water. He became the next sun. But his personal problems became his downfall. Once again, Tezcatlipoca was the instigator.

    Tezcatlipoca stole Tlaloc’s wife (Xochiquetzal), and Tlaloc was grief-stricken. He shone as the sun but refused to send rain, in spite of the pleas of the people.

    Drought swept the earth, and finally, in a rage Tlaloc made it rain fire, burning away this version of the world. (Another version attributes the destruction of this world directly to the continuing battle between Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl).

    The fourth sun – Water Sun (Nahui Atl)

    The Aztec creation story continues… This time the gods selected Tlaloc’s sister to be the sun. She was Calchiuhtlicue.

    But filled with jealousy, Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl struck down the sun. As she fell, the sky opened up and water flooded the earth. All things were destroyed again.

    In the darkness between the suns, Quetzalcoatl descended into the underworld to bring up the bones of the dead. They would be used to bring to life the people who are nowhere. (That’s a whole other story!)

    The fifth sun – Earthquake Sun

    The gods gathered to bring another sun into being. This is when the Aztec creation story really gets around to explaining what the world is today.

    The proud god Tecuciztecatl offered himself, but the other gods preferred the humble Nanahuatzin. A great fire was built, but Tecuciztecatl was too afraid at the last minute to jump in. Nanahuatzin did a jump. Filled with jealousy, Tecuciztecatl jumped after, followed by a brave eagle and jaguar.

    Two suns began to rise in the east. It was too bright – the gods threw a rabbit into the face of Tecuciztecatl to dim the light, and he became the moon.

    But Nanahuatzin was weak. He was motionless, so the other gods gave their blood to give him the energy to rush across the sky.

    This is the world in which we now live.

    The Aztecs believed its end would come in massive earthquakes. Here’s something else interesting about the Aztec creation story.

    The identity of the final sun isn’t actually as simple as it may seem. Read here for more on the Aztec sun god.


    See also

    Maya mythology is part of Mesoamerican mythology and comprises all of the Maya tales in which personified forces of nature, deities, and the heroes interacting with these play the main roles. The myths of the Pre-Hispanic era have to be reconstructed from iconography. Other parts of Mayan oral tradition are not considered here.

    Qʼuqʼumatz was a deity of the Postclassic Kʼicheʼ Maya. Qʼuqʼumatz was the Feathered Serpent divinity of the Popol Vuh who created humanity together with the god Tepeu. Qʼuqʼumatz is considered to be the rough equivalent of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, and also of Kukulkan of the Yucatec Maya tradition. It is likely that the feathered serpent deity was borrowed from one of these two peoples and blended with other deities to provide the god Qʼuqʼumatz that the Kʼicheʼ worshipped. Qʼuqʼumatz may have had his origin in the Valley of Mexico some scholars have equated the deity with the Aztec deity Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl, who was also a creator god. Qʼuqʼumatz may originally have been the same god as Tohil, the Kʼicheʼ sun god who also had attributes of the feathered serpent, but they later diverged and each deity came to have a separate priesthood.

    Tezcatlipoca was a central deity in Aztec religion, and his main festival was the Toxcatl ceremony celebrated in the month of May. One of the four sons of Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl. The God of providence, he is associated with a wide range of concepts, including the night sky, the night winds, hurricanes, the north, the earth, obsidian, enmity, discord, rulership, divination, temptation, jaguars, sorcery, beauty, war, and strife. His name in the Nahuatl language is often translated as "Smoking Mirror" and alludes to his connection to obsidian, the material from which mirrors were made in Mesoamerica and which were used for shamanic rituals and prophecy. Another talisman related to Tezcatlipoca was a disc worn as a chest pectoral. This talisman was carved out of abalone shell and depicted on the chest of both Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatlipoca in codex illustrations.

    Chalchiuhtlicue [t͡ʃaːɬt͡ʃiwˈt͡ɬikʷeː] is an Aztec deity of water, rivers, seas, streams, storms, and baptism. Chalchiuhtlicue is associated with fertility and she is the patroness of childbirth. Chalchiuhtlicue was highly revered in Aztec culture at the time of the Spanish conquest and she was an important deity figure in the Postclassic Aztec realm of central Mexico. Chalchiuhtlicue belongs to a larger group of Aztec rain gods and she is closely related to another Aztec water god, Chalchiuhtlatonal.

    Tlaltecuhtli is a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican deity worshipped primarily by the Mexica (Aztec) people. Sometimes referred to as the "earth monster," Tlaltecuhtli's dismembered body was the basis for the world in the Aztec creation story of the fifth and final cosmos. In carvings, Tlaltecuhtli is often depicted as an anthropomorphic being with splayed arms and legs. Considered the source of all living things, she had to be kept sated by human sacrifices which would ensure the continued order of the world.

    Huracan, often referred to as U Kʼux Kaj, the "Heart of Sky", is a Kʼicheʼ Maya god of wind, storm, fire and one of the creator deities who participated in all three attempts at creating humanity. He also caused the Great Flood after the second generation of humans angered the gods. He supposedly lived in the windy mists above the floodwaters and repeatedly invoked "earth" until land came up from the seas.

    Itzamna is, in Maya mythology, an upper god and creator deity thought to reside in the sky. Itzamna is one of the most important gods in the Classic and Postclassic Maya pantheon. Although little is known about him, scattered references are present in early-colonial Spanish reports (relaciones) and dictionaries. Twentieth-century Lacandon lore includes tales about a creator god who may be a late successor to him. In the pre-Spanish period, Itzamna was often depicted in books and in ceramic scenes derived from them. Before the names of the Maya deities were deciphered, Itzamna was known as "god D", and is still sometimes referred to as "god D" by archeologists.

    In Maya mythology, Camazotz is a bat god. Camazotz means "death bat" in the Kʼicheʼ language. In Mesoamerica, the bat is associated with night, death, and sacrifice.

    Tohil was a deity of the Kʼicheʼ Maya in the Late Postclassic period of Mesoamerica.

    Mesoamerican calendars are the calendrical systems devised and used by the pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica. Besides keeping time, Mesoamerican calendars were also used in religious observances and social rituals, such as for divination.

    The religion of the Olmec people significantly influenced the social development and mythological world view of Mesoamerica. Scholars have seen echoes of Olmec supernatural in the subsequent religions and mythologies of nearly all later pre-Columbian era cultures.

    San Bartolo is a small pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site located in the Department of Petén in northern Guatemala, northeast of Tikal and roughly fifty miles from the nearest settlement. San Bartolo's fame derives from its splendid Late-Preclassic mural paintings still heavily influenced by Olmec tradition and from examples of early and as yet undecipherable Maya script.

    The traditional Maya religion of the extant Maya peoples of Guatemala, Belize, western Honduras, and the Tabasco, Chiapas, and Yucatán states of Mexico is part of the wider frame of Mesoamerican religion. As is the case with many other contemporary Mesoamerican religions, it results from centuries of symbiosis with Roman Catholicism. When its pre-Spanish antecedents are taken into account, however, traditional Maya religion has already existed for more than two millennia as a recognizably distinct phenomenon. Before the advent of Christianity, it was spread over many indigenous kingdoms, all after their own local traditions. Today, it coexists and interacts with pan-Mayan syncretism, the 're-invention of tradition' by the Pan-Maya movement, and Christianity in its various denominations.

    Mesoamerica, along with Mesopotamia and China, is one of three known places in the world where writing is thought to have developed independently. Mesoamerican scripts deciphered to date are a combination of logographic and syllabic systems. They are often called hieroglyphs due to the iconic shapes of many of the glyphs, a pattern superficially similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs. Fifteen distinct writing systems have been identified in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, many from a single inscription. The limits of archaeological dating methods make it difficult to establish which was the earliest and hence the forebear from which the others developed. The best documented and deciphered Mesoamerican writing system, and the most widely known, is the classic Maya script. An extensive Mesoamerican literature has been conserved, partly in indigenous scripts and partly in postconquest transcriptions in the Latin script.

    Vucub-Caquix is the name of a bird demon defeated by the Hero Twins of a Kʼicheʼ-Mayan myth preserved in an 18th-century document, entitled ʼPopol Vuhʼ. The episode of the demon's defeat was already known in the Late Preclassic Period, before the year 200 AD. He was also the father of Zipacna, an underworld demon deity, and Cabrakan, the Earthquake God.

    Like other Mesoamerican people, the traditional Maya recognize in their staple crop, maize, a vital force with which they strongly identify. This is clearly shown by their mythological traditions. According to the 16th-century Popol Vuh, the Hero Twins have maize plants for alter egos and man himself is created from maize. The discovery and opening of the Maize Mountain – the place where the corn seeds are hidden – is still one of the most popular of Maya tales. In the Classic period, the maize deity shows aspects of a culture hero.

    The traditional Mayas generally assume the Moon to be female, and the Moon's perceived phases are accordingly conceived as the stages of a woman's life. The Maya moon goddess wields great influence in many areas. Being in the image of a woman, she is associated with sexuality and procreation, fertility and growth, not only of human beings, but also of the vegetation and the crops. Since growth can also cause all sorts of ailments, the moon goddess is also a goddess of disease. Everywhere in Mesoamerica, including the Mayan area, she is specifically associated with water, be it wells, rainfall, or the rainy season. In the codices, she has a terrestrial counterpart in goddess I.

    The Feathered Serpent was a prominent supernatural entity or deity, found in many Mesoamerican religions. It is still called Quetzalcoatl among the Aztecs, Kukulkan among the Yucatec Maya, and Q'uq'umatz and Tohil among the K'iche' Maya.

    The pre-Columbian Maya religion knew various jaguar gods, in addition to jaguar demi-gods, (ancestral) protectors, and transformers. The main jaguar deities are discussed below. Their associated narratives are still largely to be reconstructed. Lacandon and Tzotzil-Tzeltal oral tradition are particularly rich in jaguar lore.

    God L of the Schellhas-Zimmermann-Taube classification of codical gods is one of the major pre-Spanish Maya deities, specifically associated with trade. Characterized by high age, he is one of the Mam ('Grandfather') deities. More specifically, he evinces jaguar traits, a broad feathery hat topped by an owl, and a jaguar mantle or a cape with a pattern somewhat resembling that of an armadillo shell. The best-known monumental representation is on a doorjamb of the inner sanctuary of Palenque's Temple of the Cross.


    Teotihuacan: Temple of the Feathered-Serpent


    W2-0037: Temple of Quetzalcoatl Until very recently, the Temple of the Feathered-Serpent at Teotihuacan was called the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, and it is also called the Temple of the Plumed-Serpent as a result of the Spanish name Templo de la Serpiente Emplumada. The Temple of the Feathered-Serpent takes its name from the iconic carved heads that adorn the eastern side (figs. W2-0037 & W2-0035 ). The exquisitely crafted beastly heads were added during the Temple of Quetzalcoatl’s initial construction in the 3rd century. The high-relief images alternate between a serpent’s head surrounded by feathers, and a crocodile’s head who wears a headdress. The former is easily identified as the Aztec creator god, Quetzalcoatl (a Nahuatl term which translates to “Feathered Serpent”). The latter was believed to be another central deity of the Aztec, named Tlaloc, on account of its goggle-eyes, but is now thought to the either the crocodile Cipactli or the Fire-Serpent. Between the heads is a bas-relief of a snake’s body, which features the skeletal rattle of a rattlesnake. On the talud section (the small sloping wall beneath the vertical tablero section) there are full-length bas-relief images of an undulating serpent.

    W2-0035: Temple of Quetzalcoatl Teotihuacano art was designed to convey ideas and record events – it was effectively their written language. It uses combinations of elements, known as pictographs and ideograms, to resemble objects, portray people, denote places, recount traditions, describe religious concepts, and record historical or celestial events. On the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, we are given a number of elements that are probably designed recount a story, a religious concept and an historical event all at once – which is very common. The most easily identifiable elements are found within the carved representations of Quetzalcoatl (fig. W2-0035C ). Here, the feathers that surround the serpent’s head tell us that this is the feathered-serpent the feathers then represent the petals of flowering crops and tell us that he brings the harvest the feathers also represent rays of light and associate him with the Sun meanwhile,
    W2-0035C – Feathered Serpent the curling eyebrow represents duality (its a double spiral), infinity and the swirling cosmos. Unfortunately, the crocodile element is not so well known and is still being hotly debated. Aztec legend speaks of a crocodilian god, named Cipactli, who ate the other gods’ failed attempts at creating man at the end of each aborted epoch known as a Sun. Following the creation of the Fifth Sun, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca ensnared her and ripped her in two to create the land on which humans could live (the hilly terrain of the highlands is very reminiscent of the scaly back of a crocodile). Because of her role at the beginning of the Fifth Sun, she was designated the first of the 20 days signs on the ritual 260 day calendar and can be seen on the Aztec Calendar Stone in the first position anti-clockwise from the top on the inner-circle. The crocodilian element wears a headdress that features a talud-tablero temple and two circles (possibly obsidian mirrors, the eyes of Tlaloc, or warrior goggles), which represents Teotihuacan. Therefore the crocodilian aspect together with the Feathered-Serpent tells us that the Fifth Sun was created by Quetzalcoatl at Teotihuacan.


    W4-0005: Aztec Calendar Stone However, other sources suggest that the crocodilian element, with its protruding snout, may refer to the Fire Serpent who was known to the Aztecs as Xiuhcoatl. He also appears on the Aztec calender stone around the outer-edge with his left and right profiles meeting at the bottom with his elongated snout curling back (fig. W4-0005 ). He was was believed to guide the sun across the sky and represented the ecliptic plane. Looking at the crocodilian element on the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, it does appear that the snout curls up when viewed in profile. Looking at the Aztec Calendar Stone, the same rattle element that appears on the Temple of Quetzalcoatl is also found near Xiuhcoatl’s tail (at about 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock on the outer ring. Therefore, it would appear that the projecting carved heads on the tablero section of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent are alternating images of the Feathered Serpent, with a normal snake tail (leading to the right in figs. W2-0037 & W2-0035 ), and the Fire Serpent, with its rattlesnake tail (leading to the right in figs. W2-0037 & W2-0035 ).

    W2-0024: Tepantitla Headdress Identical symbolism can be found in the headdresses worn by the priests of the Teotihuacan precinct of Tepantitla. The priests are depicted sowing seeds or giving offerings to the earth (see fig. W2-0024 ). Their headdresses combine an elongated curling snout with the eye of an owl and the feathers of the quetzal. The curling snout is identical to that found on the Aztec Calendar Stone – which, considering the mural of Tepantitla was created before 400 AD and the calendar stone was produced in 1479 AD, is quite exceptional. But, at Tepantitla the element is clearly crocodilian and looking again at the Aztec Calendar Stone, there is clearly a crocodilian arm located just behind each of Xiuhcoatl’s heads at the very bottom of the disc. Also, the imagery on the Calendar Stone reflects the legend of Cipatli being ripped in two, so perhaps the Fire-Serpent and Cipatli are two aspects of the same being. Either way, both characters appear to represent a fundamental element of the ritual calendar and possibly even the creation of time and the cosmos.


    W1-GR: The serpentine Great Rift descends to earth A tunnel beneath the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl also contains strong references to the cosmos, with hundreds of clay spheres covered in golden pyrite littering the floor and metallic dust rubbed on the walls. The combined effect resembles a passage-way through space when illuminated by torchlight. Discoveries are still being made by archaeologists with the assistance of a small robot named Tlaloc II, but thus far there is no evidence that either the tunnel or the three caves located at its end were used or designed for elite burials as had once been thought. Instead, it appears the tunnel and cave network was a shrine to the cosmos and the gods of creation. Caves themselves are though to have been the place where gods were born, and it is possible that the Teotihuacan elite used the caves beneath the Temple of Quetzalcoatl to give birth, with the newborn baby being carried through the starry tunnel and out into the world, as though they were being born from a cosmic womb or descending from the heavens. In Mayan mythology, the crocodile was associated with the Great Rift, a darkened patch within the Milky Way. This strange darkened, serpent-like, passage was also considered the womb (or vagina) of the galaxy, from which planets, stars, the cosmos and time itself were born (see fig. W1-GR ). It is very possible that the crocodilian form on the Temple of the Feathered was also associated with this facet of the night-sky and therefore represents the birth of the cosmos, and the beginning of time. With four stepped, talud-tablero levels, it is also possible that the Temple of the Feathered Serpent was also designed to commemorate the four preceding suns, with a temple on top dedicated to the Fifth Sun.


    W2-0032: Adosado platform adjoined to the Temple of Quetzalcoatl The reason that the western face of the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl has been so well preserved is that it was buried beneath the “Adosado” platform that was added to the front (fig. W2-0032 ). Some suggest that this was a deliberate attempt to cover the Pyramid’s iconic façade and alter its purpose. However, all three of Teotihuacan’s great pyramids had one of the features added – for reasons unknown – and the three other faces of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent were still left exposed. Taking the exposed face as an approximate, it is thought that the combined four faces would have totalled 260 Feathered-Serpent heads, thus equalling one for each day of the ritual calendar. It is then thought that the small gap between the teeth at the front would have been used to leave offerings or place a day marker, leaving a visible indication to the population of what day it was. Burials found within the foundations of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent also suggest a strong link with the ritual calendar. Thus far, more then 200 sacrificial victims have been found, with their hands bound behind their backs and their bodies strategically placed. Archaeologists are convinced that once excavation is complete, this body count will equal 260 and therefore each represent one day of the Sacred Calendar.

    W2-0033: North flank of the Citadel Around the perimeter of the Ciudadela complex in which the Temple of the Feathered Serpent sits, there are 11 other much smaller pyramidal structures constructed on a raised base, with four on each side and three to the rear (four of these are visible in fig. W2-0024 ). Add the Adosado platform and the Temple of the Feathered-Serpent to these smaller pyramids and you have 13 – one for each day of a Trecena. This final piece of evidence appears to conclusively demonstrate that the Pyramid of the Feathered-Serpent was dedicated to the Ritual Calendar and the festivities that took place. The Ciudela enclosure is the largest defined space at Teotihuacan and measures a massive 130m 2 . It would have been able to accommodate the entire population, which numbered in excess of 100,000 people. Two large complexes of rooms that mirror one another on either side of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, would have provided ideal preparation areas for the festivities and accommodation for the priests who kept account of the days. At the heart of this complex lies the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, which appears to have been designed to record the creation of the cosmos and the passing of time from that day hence. Put simply, the Temple of the Feathered-Serpent appears to be a monument to time and the heart of a giant clock, by which the Teotihuacano’s honoured their gods.


    THE HEAVENS OF THE AZTECS

    There(*12) is a great deal of written material about the concept of Heaven and several discrepancies between authors. Sahagun, Duran, and Alcaron each seem to give a slightly different account even as to the correct number of levels associated with heaven. Listed here is a collection of notes I have taken.

    It is important to remember that the Mexica had no notion of eternity as we today may have. Their concept of Heaven or Hell must have been as a temporary storage place for the soul. Manipulation even after death by the all powerful deities. Men were truly toys of the gods.


    1- realm of the moon (*13). Presided over by Xiuhteuctli, "Turquoise Lord".

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    11 The Mexica religion reflected a mood of darkness and this mood carried over into the day to day life. Even the god of fire and light lives in blackness in the underworld. Tezcatlipoca was the "Prince of Darkness"

    12 A competing tradition of only nine heavens was practiced in the communities of Chalco and Tlaxcala. Maya ruins at Chichen Itza also has references to a nine level heaven concept as evidenced by recent findings in the interior of the Castillo, or temple of Quetzalcoatl. According to Alcaron's book a general term for Heaven was Topan.


    2- realm of the stars . In this level there were women who had no flesh, just bones, and were called Tetzuahcihua, or Tzitzimine. These women were to devour the people during the destruction of the fifth sun, or end of the world. According to Alcaron, notes p. 238, this level was presided over by Tlalteuctli, meaning "Lord of the Land". Duran also makes reference to this deity and the second level of heaven. There is some debate as to the gender of this deity and several spelling are common. Spelling may have been TLAHUIZCALPANTECUHTLI, Meaning "The Dawn Lord" .
    3- realm of the sun
    4- realm of the planet Venus or birds
    5- realm of comets and fire serpents
    6- realm of winds and the color black
    7- realm of the color blue and dust . Presided over by Huitzilopochtli.
    8- realm of storms . Presided over by Tlaloc.
    9- realm of the White god
    10- realm of the Yellow god . Presided over by Tezcatlipoca.
    11- realm of the red god
    12- Omeyocan, the Place of Duality , where the primordial creators lived, the lord and lady of duality. According to Alcaron's book(*14), this level of Heaven, or "Topan" , as he refers to the concept was presided over by a deity refereed to as Tlahuizcalpan Teuctli, meaning, "Lord at the Dawn" . This may have been a representation of Quetzalcoatl.


    NOTE: Alcaron makes reference (*15) to a deity called Tonacacihuatl, Meaning "Sustenance Woman" , as presiding over the thirteenth level of Heaven, or Topan as he refers to the concept. The entry further makes reference to Tonacacihuatl being another name for Xochiquetzal, or "Flower Princess" .


    Hasan A. Yahya, Ph.Ds, a writer from the Unholy Land

    How did the world begin?  The Aztec creation story has its own answer - or you could say, answers, to that question.  The five suns were the key to the rebirths of the world.

    The story of creation in ancient Mexico and surrounding areas actually changed as time went by.  It was likely adapted by the Aztecs for their own political purposes, though even within the Aztec empire there were variations of the story.  But basic components of the story had evolved over centuries and centuries, so we do see similarities between the Aztec's stories and the beliefs of earlier cultures.

    Rebirth: The story of creation, according to the Aztecs, is actually a story of birth, death, and rebirth.  When the world is destroyed, it's born again through the sacrifice of one of the gods, and so through the birth of a new sun.  So you'll often hear of the legend of the five suns - the five births of the world.  Five suns, and so five different worlds, have existed.  When the story is told, the order of the worlds is sometimes different, sometimes there are even less that five suns, but the general idea remains the same.

    But it's not a story of endless cycles, as you may see in other cultures.  For the Aztecs, the universe did have an actual beginning.

    In the beginning was the void.  It was at some ancient time in the Aztec creation story that the dual god, Ometecuhtli/Omecihuatl, created itself.  (Looking back, of course, the Aztecs believed that the many opposites that they saw in the world would have to somehow unite in the origin of the world.)  This god was good and bad, chaos and order, male and female.  Being male and female, it was able to have children.  It had four, which came to represent the four directions of north, south, east and west.  The gods were Huizilopochtli (south), Quetzalcoatl (east), Tezcatlipoca (west), and Xipe Totec (west).

    The directions were very important to the Aztecs, since their great empire was believed to be at the very centre of the universe (remember what I mentioned about the Aztec creation story being political?).

    These four gods began to create.  They created water, and other gods, and the sea monster Cipactli.  Cipactli was part fish and part crocodile, a massive creature as big as all things that now are.  This was a consuming monster, a jaw at every joint.  Cipactli was to become the source of the cosmos in a strange way.

    As the gods continued to create, they had a problem - their creations would fall into the water and be eaten by the dreadful Cipactli.  So it was time for war - the four gods attacked the sea monster, pulling her in four directions.  She fought back, biting Tezcatlipoca and tearing off his foot.  But at last Cipactli was destroyed.

    From this enormous creature the universe was created (in some traditions this happened between the last two suns).  All the 13 heavens stretch into her head.  The earth was created in the middle, and her tail reaches down to the underworld (Mictlán) (nine underworlds, to be exact).

    You could say that in the Aztec creation story the world is on the back of this sea monster, floating in the water of space (reminiscent of the Iroquois belief that the world rests on the back of a turtle).

    The first sun - Jaguar Sun (Nahui Ocelotl): To complete the world, the great source of energy had to be created - the sun.  This is the key to the cycles in the Aztec creation story.  But the sun is so powerful, it can't just be created.  It can only come into being through the sacrifice of a god.  The god chosen was Tezcatlipoca.

    Tezcatlipoca only managed to become half a sun, however, making this first creation incomplete.  During the first age, the gods created giants from ashes, and gave them acorns to eat.

    A fight began, however, between Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca.  In the end, the sun was knocked from the sky, and in anger Tezcatlipoca sent jaguars to destroy the giants.

    The second sun - Wind Sun (Nahui Ehecatl): At this point Quetzalcoatl took over for his brother as the sun.  Humans were created as they are now (normal size).  They lived on piñon nuts, and for a while things were fine.  But the people became corrupt, and perhaps out of revenge Tezcatlipoca turned them into monkeys.  Furious, Quetzalcoatl sent a hurricane to blow the monkeys away.

    The third sun - Rain Sun (Nahui Quiahuitl): Tlaloc was one of the early creations of the gods, the god of rain and water.  He became the next sun.  But his personal problems became his downfall.  Once again, Tezcatlipoca was the instigator.  Tezcatlipoca stole Tlaloc's wife (Xochiquetzal), and Tlaloc was grief-stricken.  He shone as the sun but refused to send rain, in spite of the pleas of the people.  Drought swept the earth, and finally in a rage Tlaloc made it rain fire, burning away this version of the world.  (Another version attributes the destruction of this world directly to the continuing battle between Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl).

    The fourth sun - Water Sun (Nahui Atl): The Aztec creation story continues.  This time the gods selected Tlaloc's sister to be the sun.  She was Calchiuhtlicue.  But filled with jealousy, Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl struck down the sun.  As she fell, the sky opened up and water flooded the earth.  All things were destroyed again.

    In the darkness between the suns, Quetzalcoatl descended into the underworld to bring up the bones of the dead.  They would be used to bring to life the people who are now here.  (That's a whole other story!)

    The fifth sun - Earthquake Sun: The gods gathered to bring another sun into being.  This is when the Aztec creation story really gets around to explaining what the world is today.

    The proud god Tecuciztecatl offered himself, but the other gods preferred the humble Nanahuatzin.  A great fire was built, but Tecuciztecatl was too afraid at the last minute to jump in.  Nanahuatzin did jump.  Filled with jealousy, Tecuciztecatl jumped after, followed by a brave eagle and jaguar.

    Two suns began to rise in the east.  It was too bright - the gods threw a rabbit into the face of Tecuciztecatl to dim the light, and he became the moon.

    But Nanahuatzin was weak.  He was motionless, so the other gods gave their blood to give him the energy to rush across the sky.

    This is the world in which we now live.  The Aztecs believed its end would come in massive earthquakes.

    Here's something else interesting about the Aztec creation story.  The identity of the final sun isn't actually as simple as it may seem.  (1167 words) www.askdryahya.com

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    Sources: University of Texas page for a quick summary of the Aztec Creation Story.


    Watch the video: The Fifth Sun - Aztec Myths - Extra Mythology