Aztecs are one of the most important ancient civilisations. The Aztec empire thrived in central Mexico from 1300 to 1521. The Aztecs worshipped various gods. Scholars believe that the Aztecs had over 200 deities! The Aztec Gods are divided into three groups. These 3 groups are agriculture, war and weather, all important aspects of the Aztec empire. Additionally, Aztecs performed rituals and sacrifices for appeasing their deities. Below we have compiled a list of the names of 5 important Aztec Gods and Goddesses.
Let us explore 5 important Aztec Gods and rituals
1) Tlaloc/Tlāloc- The formidable God of rain
Tlaloc is one of the most important and formidable God in the Aztec religion. He is the foremost God of rain, water and Earth’s fertility. Aztecs revered him for his kind nature, but at the same time, feared him when he sent storms and hail.
His symbol is the Mexican Marigold. Its incense was burned during rituals and ceremonies. His animals are all the creatures that dwell in the water. Including amphibians, snails and shellfish.
His cult is one of the oldest cults in Central Mexico. He is a popular deity even today. Coatlinchan in Mexico has a statue of the deity and its people pray to it. In this way, Tlaloc still plays an important role in the lives of the people.
Rituals performed in his honour.
The blue shrine at the top of the Great Temple belongs to Tlaloc. It was here that regular rituals and ceremonies were conducted for appeasing him. These rituals include blood sacrifices. In this shrine, hearts were kept in a bowl and offered to him.
Another important place was the peak of Mount Tlaloc. Here Aztec rulers would conduct rituals annually for good rainfall.
Additionally, Atlcahualo festivals were conducted for the rain Gods and Tlaloc. An unfortunate part of these festivals were the children sacrifices. These children were slaves or second born of nobility. They were dressed beautifully and led to the shrine. Many children cried during this. Their crying was seen as a sign of good rainfall. Once at the shrine, their hearts would be pulled out by the priests and offered to the rain gods.
2) Huitzilopochtli-The father of the Aztecs
Huitzilopochtli was the name of the Aztec God of sun and war. He is the sun and war deity of the Aztecs. Additionally, he is one of the two main deities of the Aztecs. He is depicted as a hummingbird or an eagle. He is also the foremost God of the Mexica people. His name means Hummingbirds South and is commonly translated to Southern Hummingbird. Aztecs believed that dead soldiers took rebirth as hummingbirds. They also considered the left to be the south of the world. Hence Huitzilopochtli was known as the ‘warrior of the south’.
He is also called the Father of the Aztecs. It is because it was he who guided the Aztecs during the great migration from their home in Aztalan. Moreover, It was he who told them where they should set up their capital city of Tenochtitlan.
His daily need for nourishment.
Huitzilopochtli was said to be struggling with darkness every day. He needed daily nourishment for his fight. The nourishment was given in the form of human sacrifices. Human blood was considered very powerful by the Aztecs. It was essential to chase the darkness away.
The Aztecs had 10 holiest days, one of them was celebrated for Huitzilopochtli. This day fell on the 15th month of the Mexican calendar. On this day slaves and prisoners were bathed in spring water. Afterwards, they were sacrificed at the red shrine. Huitzilopochtli’s shrine was on top of the Temple Mayor. The steps towards the shrine are painted red. Red depicts the importance of blood and war. Additionally, after the ritual, they made an idol of the God. This idol was fashioned out of beetroot paste and human blood. This was then divided and eaten by all the devotees.
Another ritual for him was held every 52 years. The Aztecs believed that the world will end every 52 years. By offering human blood to Huitzilopochtli, they believed that they could keep the world going for another 52 years.
3) Quetzalcoatl- The Aztec God of wind and wisdom
Literally, the Aztec God’s name means ‘serpent of precious feathers’ and symbolically it means ‘wisest of men’. Quetzacoatl is the God of wind, air, fertility and wisdom. One of the earliest mentions of him originates in the city of Teotihuacan in the 1st century BCE or 1st century CE. He is also instrumental in contributing to the creation of mankind. He is also one of the deities represented by the planet Venus. It is believed that at the dawn of the fifth sun, he descended to the land of the dead and gathered the bones of the humankind. He infused these bones with his own blood and thus regenerated mankind of the present world era.
The sacrifices required by Quetzalcoatl.
The sacrifices for the God of wind were butterflies and hummingbirds. Additionally, humans were also sacrificed for his appeasement.
4) Chalchiuhtlicue- The Goddess of running water
Chalchiuhtlicue was the name of the foremost water Goddess of the Aztecs. She is the deity of oceans, rivers, seas, storms. Additionally, she is also the patron of the newborn and sick. She was one of the highly revered Aztec Gods. Depending on the text she was either the wife or the sister of the rain God Tlāloc. The two Gods have similar attributes. However, Chalchiuhtlicue was mainly associated with groundwater.
Moreover, she held the dual-title of a life-giver and a life ender. It is said that she destroyed the fourth Sun of the five Aztec suns. Due to her mistreatment by Tlāloc, she drowned the world in flood and rain for 52 years and essentially destroyed it.
She is often credited for deaths relating to water. Additionally, she played an important role in the bathing of the sacrificial victims.
Ceremonies and rituals dedicated to her.
During the celebrations dedicated to her, priests would bath in rivers and lakes and croak like frogs. They believed that this would result in rains. Additionally, the entire month of February was dedicated to rituals and ceremonies in her honour. Another notable part of the ceremonies were the children sacrifices. During the festival, a girl would be drowned in Lake Texcoco at Pantitlan in her honour and subsequently a boy would be sacrificed for Tlaloc.
5) Xipe Totec- The flayed God
Xipe Totec is the name of the Aztec God of agriculture, life, death, rebirth and vegetation. He is often depicted wearing flayed skin. The flayed skin symbolised the renewal of seasons. After wearing human skin for 20 days he sheds it. He then dons a new skin, this symbolises new vegetation. Aztecs also believed that he was the God who invented war. A temple called Yopico is dedicated to him. This temple is in the Temple Mayor.
Ritualistic flayings in his honour.
An annual festival was celebrated in the honour of Xipe Totec called as the Tlacaxipehualiztli. There was a gladiator ceremony held during this festival. Slaves were made to fight with Aztec warriors. The sacrifice of the slaves during it signified the start of the festival. Other victims were by shot by the Aztecs with arrows. Their pouring blood signified rains. Following this, the skins from the victims were removed. The priests and men who participated in these ceremonies wore their skin for 20 days. Afterwards, the skins were buried at the temple of Xipe Totec.