giovedì 8 dicembre 2011


Aztec religion is the Mesoamerican religion practiced by the Aztec empire. Like other Mesoamerican religions, it had elements of human sacrifice in connection with a large number of religious festivals which were held according to patterns of the Aztec calendar. It had a large and ever increasing pantheon; the Aztecs would often adopt deities of other geographic regions or peoples into their own religious practice. Aztec cosmology divided the world into upper and nether worlds, each associated with a specific set of deities and astronomical objects. Important in Aztec religion were the sun, moon and the planet Venus—all of which held different symbolic and religious meanings and were connected to deities and geographical places.
Large parts of the Aztec pantheon were inherited from previous Mesoamerican civilizations and others, such as Tlaloc, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, were venerated by different names in most cultures throughout the history of Mesoamerica. For the Aztecs especially important deities were Tlaloc the god of rain, Huitzilopochtli the patron god of the Mexica tribe, Quetzalcoatl the culture hero and god of civilization and order, and Tezcatlipoca the god of destiny and fortune, connected with war and sorcery. Each of these gods had their own temples within the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan--Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli were both worshipped at the Templo Mayor. A common Aztec religious practice was the recreation of the divine: Mythological events would be ritually recreated and living persons would impersonate specific deities and be revered as a god—and often ritually sacrificed.

Human sacrifice

Human sacrifice was practiced on a grand scale throughout the Aztec empire, although the exact figures are unknown. At Tenochtitlán, the principal Aztec city, according to Ross Hassing "between 10,000 and 80,400 persons" were sacrificed over the course of four days for the dedication of the Great Pyramid in 1487. Excavations of the offerings in the main temple has provided some insight in the process, but the dozens of remains excavated are far short of the thousands of sacrifices recorded by eyewitnesses and other historical accounts. For millennia, the practice of human sacrifice was widespread in Mesoamerican and South American cultures. It was a theme in the Olmec religion, which thrived between 1200 BC and 400 BC and among the Maya. Human sacrifice was a very complex ritual. Every sacrifice had to be meticulously planned from the type of victim to specific ceremony needed for the god. The sacrificial victims were usually warriors but sometimes slaves, depending upon the god and needed ritual. The higher the rank of the warrior the better he is looked at as a sacrifice. The victim(s) would then take on the persona of the god he was to be sacrificed for. The victim(s) would be housed, fed, and dressed accordingly. This process could last up to a year. When the sacrificial day arrived, the victim(s) would participate in the specific ceremonies of the god. These ceremonies were used to exhaust the victim so that he would not struggle during the ceremony. Then five priests, known as the Tlenamacac, performed the sacrifice usually at the top of a pyramid. The victim would be laid upon the table, held down and then have his heart cut out.


  • Acolnahuacatl, or Acolmiztli - a god of the underworld, Mictlan
  • Acuecucyoicihuati (see Chalchiuhtlicue)
  • Amimitl - god of lakes and fishers
  • Atlacamani - goddess of oceanic storms such as hurricanes
  • Atlacoya - goddess of drought
  • Atlatonan (also Atlatonin) - goddess of the coast
  • Atlaua - water god
  • Ayauhteotl - goddess of mist, fog, vanity and fame
  • Camaxtli - god of hunting, war, fate and fire
  • Centeotl
  • Chalchiuhtlatonal - god of water
  • Chalchiuhtecolotl - a night owl god
  • Chalchiuhtotolin (Precious Night Turkey) - god of pestilence and mystery Chalchiuhtlicue (also Chalciuhtlicue, or Chalchihuitlicue) (She of the Jade Skirt). (Sometimes Acuecucyoticihuati) - the goddess of lakes and streams, and also of birth; consort of Tlaloc.
  • Chalmecatecuchtlz - a god of the underworld, Mictlan and sacrifices
  • Chalmecatl the underworld, Mictlan and the north
  • Chantico - the goddess of hearth fires, personal treasure, and volcanoes
  • Chicomecoatl (also ChalchiuhcihuatlChiccomeccatl, or Xilonen) - goddess of new maize and produce, wife of Cinteotl.
  • Chicomexochtli - a patron of artists
  • Chiconahui - a domestic fertility goddess
  • Chiconahuiehecatl - associated with creation
  • Cihuacoatl (also Chihucoatl or Ciucoatl) (Woman Serpent) - an aspect of Ilamatecuhtli and consort of Quetzalcoatl
  • Cinteotl (also Centeotl or Centeocihuatl) - the principal maize god, son of Tlazolteotl
  • Cipactonal - god of astrology and the calendar
  • Citlalatonac (see Ometeotl)
  • Citlalicue - a creator of the stars
  • Coatlicue (She of the Serpent Skirt) - legendary mother of Coyolxauhqui, the Centzon Huitzahua, and Huitzilopochtli
  • Cochimetl (also Coccochimetl) - god of commerce, bartering, and merchants
  • Coyolxauhqui - legendary sister of Huitzilopochtli, associated with the moon, possibly patroness of the Milky Way
  • Cuaxolotl - a goddess of the hearth
  • Ehecatl (also Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl) - the god of the Wind and creator of the earth, heavens, and the present race of humanity. As god of the west, one of the skybearers
  • Huehuecoyotl (also Ueuecoyotl) - a trickster god of indulgence and pranks. A shapeshifter, associated with drums and the coyote
  • Huehueteotl (also UeueteotlXiuhtecuhtliXiutechuhtli) - an ancient god of the hearth, the fire of life. Associated with the pole star and the north, and serves as a skybearer

  • Ilamatecuhtli (also Cihuacoatl or Quilaztli) - aged goddess of the earth, death, and the Milky Way. Her roar signalled war Huitzilopochtli (also MextliMexitlUitzilopochtli) - the supreme god of Tenochtitlan, patron of war, fire and the sun
  • Huixtocihuatl (also Uixtochihuatl) - a goddess of salt and saltwater
  • Itztlacoliuhqui-Ixquimilli - god of stone, obsidian, coldness hardness, and castigation. Aspect of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli
  • Itzli - god of sacrifice and stone knives.
  • Itzpapalotl - Queen of Tomoanchan and one of the Cihuateteo (night demons) and tzitzimime (star demons)
  • Ixtlilton - the god of healing, dancing, festivals and games. Brother of Xochipilli.
  • Macuilcozcacuauhtli (five vulture) - one of the Ahuiateteo (gods of excess)
  • Macuilcuetzpalin (five lizard) - one of the Ahuiateteo (gods of excess)
  • Macuilmalinalli (five grass) - one of the Ahuiateteo (gods of excess)
  • Macuiltochtli (five rabbit) - one of the Ahuiateteo (gods of excess)
  • Macuilxochitl (five flower) - the god of games and gambling, and chief of the Ahuiateteo (gods of excess)
  • Malinalxochitl - sorceress and goddess of snakes, scorpions and insects of the desert
  • Matlalceuitl (also Matlalcueje) - goddess of rainfall and singing. Identified with Chalchiuhtlicue.
  • Mayahuel (also Mayahual, or Mayouel) - the goddess of maguey, and by extension, alcohol
  • Metztli (also MetztliTecuciztecatlTecciztecatl)- lowly god of worms who failed to sacrifice himself to become the sun, and became the moon instead, his face darkened by a rabbit.
  • Mextli - a god of war and storms
  • Mictecacihuatl (also Mictlancihuatl) - goddess of death and Lady of Mictlan, the underworld
  • Mictlantecuhtli (also Mictlantecuhtzi, or Tzontemoc) - the god of death and Lord of Mictlan, also as god of the south, one of the skybearers
  • Mixcoatl (cloud serpent) - god of hunting, war, and the Milky Way. An aspect of Tezcatlpoca and father of Quetzalcoatl
  • Nanahuatzin (also NanaNanautzin, or Nanauatzin) - lowly god who sacrificed himself to become sun god Tonatiuh
  • Omacatl
  • Omecihuatl
  • Ometecuhtli
  • Ometeotl (also Citlatonac or Ometecuhtli (male) and Omecihuatl (female)) - the god(s) of duality, pregenator(s) of souls and lord/lady of heaven
  • Ometotchtli (two rabbit) - drunken rabbit god, leader of the Centzon Totochtin
  • Opochtli - left-handed god of trapping, hunting and fishing
  • Oxomoco - goddess of astrology and the calendar
  • Patecatl - the god of medicine, husband of Mayahuel
  • Paynal - the messenger to Huitzilopochtli
  • Xipe Totec - the god of the seasons, seed germination and renewal, considered the patron of goldworkersXilonen - the goddess of young maizeTecciztecatl (see Mextli)
  • Temazcalteci (also Temaxcaltechi) - goddess of bathing and sweatbaths
  • Teoyaomicqui (also Teoyaomiqui)- the god of dead warriors
  • Tepeyollotl - (The jaguar form of Tezcatlipoca) god of the heart of the mountain, associated with jaguars, echoes, and earthquakes
  • Tepoztecatl (also Tezcatzontecatl) - god of pulque and rabbits
  • Teteoinnan - mother of the gods
  • Tezcatlipoca (also OmacatlTitlacauan) - omnipotent god of rulers, sorcerers and warriors; night, death, discord, conflict, temptation and change. A sinister rival to Quetzalcoatl. Can appear as a jaguar.
  • Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli - destructive god of the morning star (venus), dawn, and of the east. One of the skybearers
  • Tlaloc (also Nuhualpilli) - the great and ancient provider and god of rain, fertility and lightning
  • Tlaltecuhtli - goddess of earth, associated with difficult births
  • Tlazolteotl (also TlaelquaniTlazolteotli)- the goddess of purification from filth, disease or excess
  • Tloquenahuaque - a creator god or ruler
  • Toci (also Temazcalteci) - grandmother goddess, heart of the earth and mother of the gods. Associated with midwives and war
  • Tonacatecuhtli - the aged creator and provider of food and patron of conceptions
  • Tonacacihuatl - consort of Tonacatecuhtli
  • Tonantzin - a mother goddess
  • Tonatiuh - a sun god and heavenly warrior, associated with eagles and with the Maya
  • Tzitzmitl - aged grandmother goddess
  • Xiuhcoatl (fire serpent or turquoise serpent) - embodiment of the sun's rays and emblem of Xiuhtecuhtli
  • Xiuhtecuhtli -(also called Huehueteotl)
  • Xochipilli - the young god of feasting, painting, dancing, games, and writing. Associated with Macuilxochitl and Cinteotl
  • Xochiquetzal - goddess of love, beauty, female sexuality, prostitutes, flowers, pleasure, craft, weaving, and young mothers
  • Xocotl - star god associated with fire
  • Xolotl - canine companion of Quetzalcoatl and god of twins, sickness and deformity. Accompanies the dead to Mictlan
  • Yacatecuhtli (also Yactecuhtli) - the god of merchants and travellers


Migrational period

The Nahua peoples began to migrate into Mesoamerica from northern Mexico in the 6th century. They populated central Mexico dislocating speakers of Oto-Manguean languages as they spread their political influence south. As the former nomadic hunter-gatherer peoples mixed with the complex civilizations of Mesoamerica, adopting religious and cultural practices the foundation for later Aztec culture was laid. During the Postclassic period they rose to power at such sites as Tula, Hidalgo. In the 12th century the Nahua power center was in Azcapotzalco, from where the Tepanecs dominated the valley of Mexico. Around this time the Mexica tribe arrived in central Mexico.

Rise of the Triple Alliance

At the time of their arrival, the Valley of Mexico had many city-states, the most powerful of which were Culhuacan to the south and Azcapotzalco to the west. The Tepanecs of Azcapotzalco soon expelled the Mexicas from Chapultepec. In 1299, Culhuacan ruler Cocoxtli gave them permission to settle in the empty barrens of Tizapan, where they were eventually assimilated into Culhuacan culture.Based on these codices as well as other histories, it appears that the Mexicas arrived at Chapultepec in or around the year 1248.
According to Aztec legend, in 1323, the Mexicas were shown a vision of an eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus, eating a snake. This vision indicated that this was the location where they were to build their home. In any event, the Mexicas eventually arrived on a small swampy island in Lake Texcoco where they founded the town of Tenochtitlan in 1325. In 1376, the Mexicas elected their first Huey Tlatoani, Acamapichtli, who was living in Texcoco at the time.
For the next 50 years, until 1427, the Mexica were a tributary of Azcapotzalco, which had become a regional power, perhaps the most powerful since the Toltecs, centuries earlier. Maxtla, son of Tezozomoc, assassinated Chimalpopoca, the Mexica ruler. In an effort to defeat Maxtla, Chimalpopoca's successor, Itzcoatl, allied with the exiled ruler of Texcoco, Nezahualcoyotl. This coalition was the foundation of the Aztec Triple Alliance, which defeated Azcapotzalco in 1428.
Two of the primary architects of the Aztec empire were the half-brothers Tlacaelel and Montezuma I, nephews of Itzcoatl. Moctezuma I succeeded Itzcoatl as Hueyi Tlatoani in 1440. Although he was also offered the opportunity to be tlatoani, Tlacaelel preferred to operate as the power behind the throne. Tlacaelel reformed the Aztec state and religion. According to some sources, he ordered the burning of most of the extant Aztec books claiming that they contained lies. He thereupon rewrote the history of the Aztec people, thus creating a common awareness of history for the Aztecs. This rewriting led directly to the curriculum taught to scholars and promoted the belief that the Aztecs were always a powerful and mythic nation; forgetting forever a possible true history of modest origins. One component of this reform was the institution of ritual war (the flower wars) as a way to have trained warriors, and created the necessity of constant sacrifices to keep the Sun moving.The Triple Alliance of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan would, in the next 100 years, come to dominate the Valley of Mexico and extend its power to both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific shore. Over this period, Tenochtitlan gradually became the dominant power in the alliance.

Spanish conquest

Despite some early battles between the two, Cortés allied himself with the Aztecs’ long-time enemy, the Confederacy of Tlaxcala, and arrived at the gates of Tenochtitlan on November 8, 1519.The empire reached its height during Ahuitzotl's reign in 1486–1502. His successor, Motehcuzōma Xocoyotzin (better known as Moctezuma II or Moctezuma, or Montezuma), had been Hueyi Tlatoanifor 17 years when the Spaniards, led by Hernándo Cortés, landed on the Gulf Coast in the spring of 1519.
The Spaniards and their Tlaxcallan allies became increasingly dangerous and unwelcome guests in the capital city. In June, 1520, hostilities broke out, culminating in the massacre in the Main Temple and the death of Moctezuma II. The Spaniards fled the town on July 1, an episode later characterized as La Noche Triste (the Sad Night). They and their native allies returned in the spring of 1521 to lay siege to Tenochtitlan, a battle that ended on August 13 with the destruction of the city. During this period the now crumbling empire went through a rapid line of ruler succession. After the death of Moctezuma II, the empire fell into the hands of severely weakened emperors, such as Cuitláhuac, before eventually being ruled by puppet rulers, such as Andrés de Tapia Motelchiuh, installed by the Spanish.
Despite the decline of the Aztec empire, most of the Mesoamerican cultures were intact after the fall of Tenochtitlan. Indeed, the freedom from Aztec domination may have been considered a positive development by most of the other cultures. The upper classes of the Aztec empire were considered noblemen by the Spaniards and generally treated as such initially. All this changed rapidly and the native population were soon forbidden to study by law, and had the status of minors.

The Tlaxcalans remained loyal to their Spanish friends and were allowed to come on other conquests with Cortés and his men.


The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica from the 14th to 16th centuries.
"Aztec" is the Nahuatl word for "people from Aztlan", a mythological place for the Nahuatl-speaking culture of the time, and later adopted as the word to define theMexica people. Often the term "Aztec" refers exclusively to the Mexica people of Tenochtitlan (now the location of Mexico City), situated on an island in Lake Texcoco, who referred to themselves as Mexica Tenochca or Colhua-Mexica. Sometimes the term also includes the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan's two principal allied city-states, the Acolhuas of Texcoco and the Tepanecs of Tlacopan, who together with the Mexica formed the Aztec Triple Alliance which controlled what is often known as "the Aztec Empire". In other contexts, Aztec may refer to all the various city states and their peoples, who shared large parts of their ethnic history and cultural traits with the Mexica, Acolhua and Tepanecs, and who often also used the Nahuatl language as a lingua franca. In this meaning it is possible to talk about an Aztec civilization including all the particular cultural patterns common for most of the peoples inhabiting Central Mexico in the latepostclassic period.
From the 13th century, the Valley of Mexico was the heart of Aztec civilization: here the capital of the Aztec Triple Alliance, the city of Tenochtitlan, was built upon raised islets in Lake Texcoco. The Triple Alliance formed a tributary empire expanding its political hegemony far beyond the Valley of Mexico, conquering other city states throughout Mesoamerica. At its pinnacle Aztec culture had rich and complex mythological and religious traditions, as well as reaching remarkable architectural and artistic accomplishments. In 1521 Hernán Cortés, along with a large number of Nahuatl speaking indigenous allies, conquered Tenochtitlan and defeated the Aztec Triple Alliance under the leadership of Hueyi Tlatoani Moctezuma II. Subsequently the Spanish founded the new settlement of Mexico City on the site of the ruined Aztec capital, from where they proceeded with the process of colonizing Central America.
Aztec culture and history is primarily known through archaeological evidence found in excavations such as that of the renowned Templo Mayor in Mexico City; from indigenous bark paper codices; from eyewitness accounts by Spanish conquistadors such as Hernán Cortés and Bernal Díaz del Castillo; And especially from 16th and 17th century descriptions of Aztec culture and history written by Spanish clergymen and literate Aztecs in the Spanish or Nahuatl language, such as the famous Florentine Codex compiled by the Franciscan monk Bernardino de Sahagúnwith the help of indigenous Aztec informants.