Mesoamerican culture, as a whole, is often poorly understood among the general populace. Part of it is the fact that the names of the gods are long and hard to pronounce.note Part of it is that it's a very complex and, to European sensibilities, insane belief system. Indeed, the whole notion that deities are both good and bad and that all that is created is created as a duality is a very important aspect of pre-Columbian ideology, and something the conquistadors had a hard time wrapping their heads around (as do, to this day, several movie directors). Most importantly, however, is the sacrifices. Their rich culture and mythological tradition is usually boiled down to "They'd sacrifice people." And yes, they did practice human sacrifice to a scale and creativity possibly unique in human history. But this wasn't the only defining feature of their religion, and indeed they believed there was a damn good reason for it.
First of all, let it be known that the Aztecs were never called "Aztecs" in their time. They were known as the Mexica. The various ethnic groups of Central Mexico were generally known as the Nahuanote and their language is called Nahuatlnote Meaning "Clear Speech". The Mexicanote (Mēxihcah in Nahuatl) that dominated the valley of Central Mexico at the time of European contact only migrated there sometime in the mid 1200s, from an unknown northern area that they referred to as Aztlán. Much of their culture was adopted from the surrounding civilizations, or descended from older ones like the Toltecs.
When they first arrived in the Central Valleynote , a number of city-states had been established, and the Mexica wandered around, staying in each city-state earning their keep as mercenaries until they inevitably offended their hosts in some way. In one notable legend, the Mexica asked the ruler of the city-state of Culhuacan (Cōlhuácānnote in Nahuatl), who they were vassals of at the time, for one of his daughters. The king granted it thinking it was a political marriage he was accepting, but when he got invited to a festivity, which he thought was said marriage, he was met with the high priest of the Mexica wearing the flayed skin of his daughter; they had actually asked for her to be a sacrifice. Following this incredible faux pas, the Mexica were banished to a swampy area of Lake Texcoco, with the belief that they'd starve there. According to Mexica myth, their patron god told them to build a new city on a spot where they'll find an eagle eating a serpent while perched on a prickly pear cactus. They saw this happen on top of a small island way out in the middle of the lake. Undaunted, they began to build the city of Cuauhmixtitlánnote , Place of the Eagle Between the Clouds, later renamed Tenochtitlánnote , the Place of the Prickly Pear Cactus (in honor to their first high priest Tenochnote ), and its twin city Tlatelolconote , Place of the Mound of Sand, home of the largest market in the Americas. And thus began the rise of the Mexica, forming later the Triple Alliance with neighboring city-states of Texcoco and Tlacopan, beginning what is now known as the Aztec Empire. Mexico City is there today.
According to the Aztecs, the world was first created by Ometecuhtli/Omecihuatlnote or "Oemeteotl" note in the singular form, a dual god that was both male and female. Shklee thought the world into existence and gave birth to the first group of major gods.
The most important two gods for the Aztec myths are Quetzalcoatlnote , the Plumed Serpent, and Tezcatlipocanote , the Smoking Mirror. These brothers were two archenemies and most of the Aztec myth revolves around the two of them fighting each other. Quetzalcoatl was the god of wind, dawn, the morning star (aka Venus), knowledge, arts, and crafts, and one of the oldest gods, dating back to the Olmec. Tezcatlipoca was the Trickster God of night, magic, slaves, earth, war, discord, rulership, and a host of others. On different versions they are either the two first brother gods, the elder of the first four brother gods or even the same being in antonym aspects battling with himself, indeed "Black Quetzalcoatl" is a name sometimes given to Tezcatlipoca, and "White Tezcatlipoca" is another name for Quetzalcoatl. Once the Spanish arrived, they marked the two as "good and evil" respectively, but to the Aztec sensibilities, neither of them was necessarily "better" than the other, they were just different and on opposite sides. Most famously, Quetzalcoatl became a human and ruled as a king of Tula, the home of the Toltec people. He was a wise and peaceful ruler who ushered in a golden age... and as a result, none of the other gods were being given tribute. Outraged, Tezcatlipoca came to earth, wormed his way into Quetzalcoatl's council by smooth-talking the right people, winning unwinnable battles, and seducing noblewomen. He managed to get Quetzalcoatl rip-roaring drunk, and as a result, he ended up sleeping with his sister, Quetzalpetlatlnote . Ashamed, Quetzalcoatl went into self-imposed exile, then killed himself on a funeral pyre, came back to life, and finally sailed east on a raft of snakes, promising to return someday.
Other important gods include the rain god Tlalocnote , a monstrous blue creature with goggle eyes, a cleft lip, and jaguar fangs. Tlaloc was one of the oldest gods in Mesoamerica, with analogues dating back to the Olmec civilizations, and he's mostly famous for his child sacrifices. Another was Xipe Totecnote , the Flayed Lord, the god of fertility, spring, and renewal, also being Red Tezcatlipoca. He represented the maize plant, a golden food wrapped in a husk, so Xipe Totec was a golden god... wrapped in human skin. A tradition that his priests would emulate, killing a sacrificial victim and wearing their skin. Nowhere near last, and certainly not least, was Huitzilopochtlinote , Left-Handed Hummingbird, the majordomo war god and Blue Tezcatlipoca. Unlike almost every other god listed here, who were venerated throughout Nahua culture, Huitzilopochtli seems to have originated with the Mexica and been brought south with them. And Huitzilopochtli loved his heartburgers. You know the classic image of hundreds of prisoners being brought up an enormous step-pyramid where a high priest would methodically tear their hearts out and raise them to the sky? That was Huitzilopochtli's festival day.
The Nahua Creation myth tells that four worlds existed before the current one:
- The first world, known as the Jaguar Sun, was ruled by Tezcatlipoca, and was populated by a race of giants. These giants were stupid and ate acorns. Tezcatlipoca's sun was black, giving off only half as much light as the others. Quetzalcoatl, enraged, knocked down Tezcatlipoca with a club. Upon falling to the ground, Tezcatlipoca turned into a giant jaguar and ate the world and everyone on it.
- The second world, known as Wind Sun, was ruled by Quetzalcoatl, and was populated by humans. Tezcatlipoca, still enraged, knocked down Quetzalcoatl with a massive jaguar paw. As he fell, the world was destroyed in a massive hurricane. The few humans who survived turned into monkeys.
- The third world, known as Rain Sun, was ruled by Tlaloc. He reigned until Tezcatlipoca stole his first wife, the beautiful flower goddess Xochiquetzalnote . Furious, Tlaloc gave the people no rain. Drought occurred until Quetzalcoatl overthrew Tlaloc and told him to make it rain. Out of spite, Tlaloc made it rain fire, destroying the world. The humans who survived turned into birds.
- The fourth world, known as Water Sun, was ruled by Chalchiuhtlicuenote , She of the Jade Skirt, the water goddess and Tlaloc's second wife. Both Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca were jealous of her, and so they both overthrew her, ending the world in a massive flood. The surviving humans turned into fish.
After the fourth sun was destroyed, the world was completely covered in water. As such, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca decided to put aside their grudge to make a new world. However, all the land was on the back of Cipactlinote , a giant caiman-fish monster, who was chillaxing at the bottom of the ocean. So, to lure it up, Tezcatlipoca lowered his foot to lure it to the surface. After getting it bit clean off, the two gods turned into snakes and strangled Cipactli, thus forming the North American continent.
Now, there was the issue of people. The Aztecs believed that, much like corn seeds grew into new corn plants, human bones would give birth to new humans. So, Quetzalcoatl journeyed into Mictlánnote , the Aztec underworld alongside Xolotlnote , a dog-headed lightning god who was Quetzalcoatl's spirit twin. He beseeched Mictlantecuhtlinote , the Lord of the Dead, to see the bones. Mictlantecuhtli agreed, if Quetzalcoatl could play an acceptable tune on a trumpet, then gave him a conch shell with no holes in it. Quetzalcoatl used worms to bore holes in the shell, then went to see the bones on a strict "look, but don't touch" condition. Quetzalcoatl had Xolotl cause a ruckus while he absconded with the bones. He succeeded, but the deformed Xolotl was unable to escape with him, and thus took the role of psychopomp, bringing the souls of the dead to their final resting place. Quetzalcoatl ground up the bones and mixed them with his blood, then taking the mix, shaping them into people, and burying them in the ground, cultivating humanity like a crop.
Now, there was the matter of who would be the fifth sun. The gods met on the city of Teotihuacánnote to decide who would be The Chosen One. Two gods volunteered to become the fifth sun. One was the poor, crippled Nanahuatzinnote , the other was the rich, beautiful Tecciztecatlnote . To become the sun, they would have to jump into a fire. Tecciztecatl tried several times, but hesitated each time. Nanahuatzin leapt in without fear and, wanting to save face, Tecciztecatl followed. The two became suns, but the gods decided that because Nanahuatzin showed greater bravery, Tecciztecatl's sun should be dimmer than his. The gods threw a rabbit at Tecciztecatl to diminish his size and his light, turning him into the moon. Nanahuatzin became Tonatiuhnote , the solar disk, but the strength of the sun was too great, and as such he had no ability to move across the heavens. The other gods realized that a greater power was needed to move Tonatiuh across the sky.
So, the gods must continuously, to the point of constantly dying and returning to life, give their blood and their hearts to power Quetzalcoatl, in his aspect as Ehecatlnote , the wind, to send Tonatiuh on his daily path from dawn to dusk. As such, the Aztecs owed an enormous debt to their gods. Quetzalcoatl gave his blood to give humanity new life. The other gods are always giving their blood to allow the sun to rise each morning. They sacrificed many gifts to their gods: incense, chocolate, animals ranging from snakes to eagles to jaguars... but the greatest gift they could give their gods was human blood and human hearts.
Another version of the myth is that Huitzilopochtli became the fifth sun in order to oppose his sister Coyolxauhqui, the moon goddess, and her army of Tzitzimimeh, star-demons intent on devouring the world and everything on it. Since Huitzilopochtli was the patron god of the Mexica and the Fifth Sun, the Mexica claimed superiority to the surrounding nations.
Then, a bunch of Spaniards came. A lot has been writen about the idea that the Aztecs might have confused them for gods, or, more specifically, that they assumed conquistador Hernán Cortés to be the reincarnation of Quetzalcoatl. However, the history is rather spotty and it's plagued with ambiguous sources, bias from the conquistadors themselves, and straight up myths that have popped up through the centuries, dating as far back as the conquest. The best account most modern historians can agree on is that some Mesoamerican peoples probably assumed that the Spaniards were either supernatural beings or aided by supernatural forces (the Nahuatl word they used, teotl, could indicate a god, a spirit, or simply something or someone extraordinary, similarly to a Greek hero). And some of those same people may have believed Cortés was Quetzalcoatl, but it's entirely possible they only did so after the Aztec Empire had fallen, as a retroactive way of framing and mythologizing the conquestnote . Whatever the case, Cortés and other conquistadors alied themselves with the Aztecs' enemies and conquered Tenochtitlán, beginning the conquest and colonization of Central America and later of most of the Americas.
For information on other cultures in the region, see:
- Animorphism: Tezcatlipoca was the most prominent, usually appearing in the form of a jaguar. In this guise, he was called Tepeyollotlnote , or "Heart of the Mountain," and his roar was believed to cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
- Artificial Limbs: Tezcatlipoca's right foot was replaced with, depending on the version, an obsidian mirror, a snake, or a deer's hoof.
- Artistic License Paleontology:
- Badass Adorable: The war god Huitzilopochtli was also associated with hummingbirds. Anyone familiar with hummingbird behavior will know how appropriate this is.
- Bat Out of Hell: The war goddess and leader of the Tzitzimimeh Itzpapalotl was often associated with bats and depicted with bat wings. Her name literally means "obsidian butterfly" in Nahuatl and is thought to be a reference to a bat.
- Beat Still, My Heart: Oh, where to begin?
- Beware the Silly Ones: Without doubt, Huehuecoyotlnote . Sure, he was an incorrigible prankster whose tricks backfired more often than not and caused more damage to him than his victims, and actively treated his worshipers as close friends. However, do not mistake his bad luck and laid-backness for harmlessness — he was shapeshifter capable of changing the fate of man (regardless to the other gods' will), and he was famous for starting wars among mortals for fun.
- Blue-and-Orange Morality:
- The Aztec views of what was good and evil were rather alien to the sensibilities to the Spanish conquistadors. Being sacrificed was considered an honor. Indeed, it was the only surefire way to get inducted into the "best" Aztec heaven. Your afterlife was based not on how you lived, but how you died, and none of those afterlives could be considered truly hellish. And, in spite of the war and sacrifices, a lot of Aztec society was pretty progressive. Their treatment of slaves was downright amazing, and they're one of the first societies that had compulsory education for EVERYONE, not just the upper class.
- The Aztec view of good and evil was considered strange even by neighboring groups with similar cultures and religious systems. Most of their neighbors though they'd gone off the deep end when it came to human sacrifices, for instance. While blood sacrifices were ubiquitous in the region (and sometimes consisted of just blood drawn through specially inflicted wounds), the Aztecs were known to wage wars for the purpose of acquiring sacrificial victims, and on some particularly important occasions would sacrifice thousands of people in a day.
- Bond Creatures: Known as nagualnote , this was a person's "shadow self", a piece of a person's soul in animal form. Even the gods had these. Quetzalcoatl had Xolotl, the dog-headed god of fire who guided the dead to their resting place.
- Celibate Hero: Quetzalcoatl. Well, at least he USED to be.
- Continuity Snarl: As with most mythologies, consistency — especially in regards to the gods — wasn't exactly a strong point.
- Cosmic Horror Story: Arguably one of the earliest examples. A pantheon with very weird gods with bizarre sets of morality and behaviour (even the friendliest ones), that demands huge amounts of blood sacrifice (see below on Human Sacrifice), and if their needs aren't heeded, it will leave them too weak to perform their job to maintain the cosmos, and to make matters worse, it will also let even worse things to wreck havoc on earth and destroy humanity. In the end, it's them or the Tzitzimimeh.
- Dark Action Girl: Itzpapalotl and the Tzitzimimeh.
- Dem Bones: The common depiction of Mictlantecuhtli is of a skeleton in the regalia of a king.
- The End of the World as We Know It: The Aztecs believed that the world we currently live in is actually the FIFTH world. There were four previous worlds destroyed, each with a different god serving as the sun. Our current sun is gonna end with an earthquake. And there's only one way to prevent it.
- Dragons Are Divine: The Aztec god Quetzalcoatl was often depicted as a feathered serpent, and more modern depictions describe him as akin to a dragon.
- Everybody Loves Zeus: Inverted for Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec sun god. The Aztec's infamous reputation for Human Sacrifice came from their rituals in which still-beating hearts were offered to him so as to give him the strength to prevent eternal night from covering the land. And yet the threat of daylight ending forever wasn't enough to prevent the Aztec's vassals (from who the sacrifices were taken) from joining the conquistadors.
- Feather Boa Constrictor: Aside from Quetzalcoatl being a literal version of this trope, a few Aztec gods had snakes in their regalia. Tezcatlipoca, in some versions, had a snake as a prosthetic foot. Huitzilopochtli carried a Xiuhcoatlnote (turquoise fire serpent) as a weapon, using it like a spear-thrower (or possibly a club-sword, seeing that the snake had obsidian studded on it in some depictions)
- Feathered Serpent: Quetzalcoatl.
- Fluffy Cloud Heaven: Tlalocánnote , run by Tlaloc, the rain god who demanded child sacrifices. This heaven was restricted to people who drowned, were struck by lightning, or died of several illnesses associated with water. This was a cheerful place of eternal springtime and plenty.
- Four Is Death: The journey undertaken to Mictlán, the Aztec underworld, took four years.
- Giant Flyer: Quetzalcoatl, who became the namesake of the Real Life Giant Flyer, Quetzalcoatlus. Though whether or not Quetzalcoatl had wings depends on the writer, he was always depicted as giant and capable of flight.
- The Great Flood: The end of the Water Sun.
- Gender Bender: Huehuecoyotl
- Hell Hound: Sort of. The Aztecs associated dogs, ALL dogs, with death. Xolotl, the Aztec psychopomp, was represented as a crippled dog-headed human. Additionally, the dead would be buried with a dog, to serve as their guide on their four-year journey to Mictlán.
- A Hell of a Time: Mictlán was the Aztec underworld. There were nine levels, and it took a soul four years to reach its final resting place. The journey was grueling and fraught with peril, but, once you arrived, the land of the dead wasn't so bad. Mictlán was a relaxing, if somewhat dreary place. You spent ten years living there before your soul became a monarch butterfly.
- Herbivores Are Friendly: Averted. Naguals had no particular bearing on how ferocious the deity attached to it was, as was shown by the nagual of Itzpapalotl, Queen of the Tzitizimimeh and certified badass being a freaking deer.
- Hijacked by Jesus: After the Conquest, most of the Aztec gods were demonized, save Quetzalcoatl, who basically became a saint.
- There is also debate as to whether the popular legend that Montezuma believed Cortez was Quetzalcoatl was true or made up by the Spaniards post-Conquest.
- And Coatlicuenote /Tonantzinnote , the fertility goddess who gave birth to Huitzilopochtli, got her cult assimilated into the Catholic religion as Our Lady of Guadalupe in order to evangelize the Aztecs. It helped that the Virgin Mary got her church built nearby a hill where the Aztecs used to worship Tonantzin, as well as the supposed apparition to Saint Juan Diego with a lot of Aztec iconography involved.
- In an example of this going somewhere no one really expected, Mictlantecuhtli's wife, Mictecacihuatlnote , is believed to have evolved over time into Santa Muerte, or "Saint Death". The Mexican archdiocese is not pleased with this, to say the least.
- Hot God: If you didn't look monstrous, you were this. And even then, you usually had some sort of monstrous form.
- Humanoid Abomination:
- Human Sacrifice: The Aztecs are infamous for this. Ripping out hearts of war prisoners on a massive scale was the standard fare. Ceremonies to bring rain required the deaths of crying children (and yes, they had to be crying). Harvest festivals involved sacrifice victims being flayed alive and their skins being worn by priests. The "Festival of New Fire" involved a couple being married, then thrown onto a giant bonfire. However, while rituals definitely took a toll on the population (to the point that warfare was primarily based on acquiring victims), the overwhelming majority of sacrifices were simply bloodletting, to the point that some gods never had casualties in their name. Granted, when bloodletting includes piercing your genitalia, you might start to wonder if it's better than death...
- I Have Many Names: Pretty much every god has a number of different names. In some cases, these come with a change of costume.
- I'm a Humanitarian: The human sacrifices are widely believed to cross over with this; there was a practical reason for all of the sacrifices, after all. And it worked both ways: priests consumed certain fruits that were meant to be the symbolic heart of specific deities.
- Light Is Not Good: Tzitzimimeh are the goddesses of the stars-the stars you can see during a solar eclipse were taken to be them attacking the sun. Played with in that they were also protectors of women, particularly of women in labor and their midwives.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: There are over 100 specific deities and supernatural creatures that can be found in the myths.
- Lovecraft Lite: All things said and done, there's still a clear moral dichotomy between the gods and the monsters like Tzitzimimehnote , and between gods like Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl, though given how bizarre it is, it's still very alien.
- Love Goddess: Several.
- Xochiquetzal ("Precious Flower"), goddess of beauty and erotic love.
- Xochipilli ("Flower Prince"), Xochiquetzal's twin, god of homosexuality.
- Chalchiuhtlicue ("Jade Skirted One"), goddess of chaste love.
- Tlazolteotl ("Eater of Filth"), goddess who inspires and forgives sin, particularly sexual sins.
- Massive Numbered Siblings: Coyolxauhqui, "Face painted with Bells", and the Centzonhuitznahua, the Four Hundred Southerners are a notable example. Their baby brother Huitzilopochtli made them regret attacking their mother.
- Mayincatec: Averted.
- Moon Rabbit: The gods threw a rabbit at Tecciztecatl to diminish his size and his light, making him the moon instead of the sun.
- Multiple-Choice Past: There's a number of origin stories for the various gods. For instance, Huitzilopochtli is either the Blue Tezcatlipoca and brother of Quetzalcoatl and the Black Tezcatlipoca; or he is the Fifth Sun, the son of the Earth Goddess Coatlicue, and the brother of the evil moon goddess Coyolxauhqui.
- Never Smile at a Crocodile: Cipactli, whose very name means "caiman", was a massive crocodilian Animalistic Abomination who swam in the primordial ocean and ate everything it came across, including Tezcatlipoca's right leg.
- Noble Bird of Prey: The Aztecs venerated two animals above all others, and one was the golden eagle. Eagles were associated with Huitzilopochtli, the war god, and as such people of high military rank became Eagle Knights, who wore bird costumes.
- Noble Demon: It's a very rare Aztec god that doesn't have entirely positive or negative traits. Even the Tzitzimimeh are actually quite fond of their descendants, humans, and will fight to protect them from worse monsters.
- Odd Job Gods: A bunch of them. For example, Tlazlteotlnote , the goddess known as the Sin Eater. And was literally depicted eating sins... represented as feces.
- Ominous Owl: Owls were the Aztec symbol of death, and associated with Mictlantecuhtli.
- One Bad Mother: Tzitzimimeh. Not of monsters, no, they and their queen Itzpapalotl are the ancestors of humanity. And in all fairness, they were actually all very protective of mothers in general.
- Only Sane Man / Token Good Teammate: Quetzalcoatl sure seems this way, being the only god to not only do fine without Human Sacrifice, but to outright condemn it.
- The Old Gods: Quetzacouatl was already an established god by the time the Teotihuacan civilization was built (since there are depictions of him on their pyramids), and by the time the Aztecs became a thing, he was worshipped in some capacity in pretty much all of mesoamerica. Whereas most gods have an origin story that establishes them and why you should care, Quetzacouatl does not, probably because everyone already worshipped him, so why bother.
- Our Dragons Are Different: Quetzalcoatl — depicted as a feathered serpentnote — probably qualifies as this. Of note, he was never winged. The wings are an addition of modern popular culture; none of Quetzalcoatl's original depictions give him wings. He was just a very big, very feathery snake.
- Our Gods Are Different: Technically, the Aztecs didn't consider the gods "gods" the way Europeans did. Their word for it was "teotl," which indicated a powerful force of nature that did not necessarily have an Anthropomorphic Personification. However, due to the similar nature and the fact that "teotl" sounds like "teolog" (close enough to "teologia", the Spanish word for "theology"), the word became "god."
- Our Monsters Are Weird: Some highlights...
- The ahuitzotlnote , an otter-dog-monkey water monster that had a hand on its tail and let out a cry like a child, to lure people to the water, whereupon it would drown them and eat their eyes, toenails, and fingernails.
- Cipactli, a crocodilian Animalistic Abomination with mouths on every joint.
- The Night Axe, a wandering monster resembling a large headless corpse with its chest and belly slit open. Its wound would open and close periodically with a sound like an axe chopping wood. If you came across it while walking at night, you were supposed to approach it fearlessly and, timing it correctly, thrust your hand into the open wound and tear out its heart. If you did this, it would grant you a wish. If you ran away, you would die miserably.
- Then there's the tzitzimeme, star goddesses said to harrow the world during a solar eclipse. They're beautiful women with skeletal faces and rattlesnakes for penises. Yes, they're distinctly female, and they have rattlesnakes for dicks.
- Pals with Jesus: Huehuecoyotl's "worshipers" are depicted as being more like his friends than people cowering in fear at displeasing him... even though he starts wars and genocides when bored.
- Panthera Awesome: Aztecs venerated the jaguar as king of the beasts, and high ranking military officials could become Jaguar Knights. Tezcatlipoca was represented by a jaguar, as were a few other gods of the Aztecs and surrounding cultures.
- Jaguars caused The End of the World as We Know It (well, the first one... we are living in the fifth world).
- According to some stories- shared by the Maya it seems- four chained jaguars will be unchained in the future to destroy the world again, this time for good.
- Also, jaguars were said to have been sent by the gods to destroy the giants that ruled the Earth before humans, as the giants were becoming too powerful. You know jaguars are badass when they are used by the gods as giant slayers.
- Pet the Dog: Tezcatlipoca was the god of slaves. Indeed, one of his names is "He whose slaves we are." As such, Tezcatlipoca severely punished anyone who mistreated their slaves.
- Psychopomp: Xolotl.
- Razor Wings: A goddess called Itzpapalotl (the Flint Lock Butterfly, who was the ruler of the afterlife for sacrificed babies, among other things) could appear as a skeletal warrior goddess with butterfly wings made out of obsidian knives.
- Religion of Evil: To most non-Aztecs this is what the Aztec beliefs were.
- Sacred Flames: The god of fire Xiuhtecuhtli had the New Fire Ceremony on 52 year intervals. On the day in which the 365-day solar and the 260-day sacred calendars ended on the same day, a procession of priests dressed as Aztec gods would make the trip to the summit of the extinct volcano Huizachtecatlnote while every flame in the Aztec realm was put out. Upon reaching the summit, they would wait until the "fire drill" constellationnote was above the horizon before sacrificing a person, removing his heart, and using a fire drill to make a fire on the chest of the sacrificial victim.note This fire would then be taken by runners to every city and village in order to relight their fires. If the ritual was not completed, it was believed Aztec civilization would end.
- Sibling Rivalry: Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca were archenemies, as were Huitzilopochtli and Coyolxauhqui.
- Skull for a Head: Cihuacoatl and Mictlantecuhtli.
- The Tzitzimimeh and their queen Itzpapalotl were beautiful women with grinning skulls for heads. Despite their terrifying looks the were mainly protectors of women in labor and midwives and Itzpapalotl ruled Tamoanchan, the afterlife for children who died at birth and the realm were humans were made. It still isn't wise to mess with them.
- Springtime for Hitler: When in Tula, many people tried to sabotage Tezcatlipoca's attempts to worm his way into the upper crust, but all these attempts failed. One such attempt is when he was sent into battle commanding a legion of hunchbacks and dwarfs. He won anyway.
- Stop Worshipping Me: Huehuecoyotl stands out for frequently being depicted being friendly (in some cases, a tad too friendly) with humans, rather than being venerated by them.
- Top God: There's little consensus as to who actually rules the pantheon. Huitzilopochtli, as the Mexica's patron, usually gets this role, thanks to Spanish translations. Others place Tezcatlipoca as this role, others Tonatiuh. Usually it depends on who you're asking and which city-state they came from. Cosmologically, however, it's clear that it's the sun god; it is described as the ruler of Tollan, the heavenly abode, and the sun has been a role performed by the dominant god of each of the world's era. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Huitzlilopochtli is sometimes said to be the current sun god, while Tezcatlipoca was the very first.
- Tears of Blood: In one version of the Water Sun story, Tezcatlipoca accuses Chalchiuhtlicue of only pretending to be kind and loving to humanity just so they'd worship her. The Great Flood happened because she was so hurt that she cried blood for 52 years.
- Those Wily Coyotes: Huehuecoyotl is depicted as a humanoid coyote and he/she is a trickster deity.
- Trickster God: Tezcatlipoca (again), and Huehuecoyotl, which is fitting as he's an old coyote-man that loves to party.
- Turtle Island: The Aztecs believed the land was created from the corpse of Cipactli, a giant caiman-like monster.
- The Unpronounceable: While Mexica names aren't actually that hard to say if you hear them, they sure look unpronounceable.
- War God: Several, but particularly Huitzilopochtli, who is all about this. Tezcatlipoca has shades of this, but he's more about the chaos brought on by war than war itself.
And you thought Classical Mythology was trippy...