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The Aztec Religion
The Aztecs believed in many different gods and goddess. This is just a small selection of them.
One of the most important gods, was Quetzalcoatl. Quetzalcoatl was the god of life (creation), stars, and wind. He was very important because he taught the native Aztecs to do many things. Also he lived on earth with them, even though he was a feathered serpent, not a human. The things that he taught them were writing, astronomy, science, religion, and art. Also he taught them how to work with the materials they had, and keep themselves healthy. He gave them their calendar, and helped them build beautiful houses. He helped them sculpt their houses out of silver, green stone, white and colored shell, turquoise, and exquisite feathers.
Quetzalcoatl also stood out because he was tall and light skinned, with long blond hair and a beard, while the natives tended to be short, have black hair, and dark skin. Quetzalcoatl also wore a big flowing robe, unlike the natives.
Since he did all these wonderful things, the Aztecs loved him and worshiped him day and night. But for some unknown reason , one night at sunset Quetzalcoatl sailed away down the river on a raft made of serpents. He told the Aztecs that he would return, so they were always looking into the river to see if he was coming back. But he never did.
His name (Quetzalcoatl) translates to many different variations of “feathered serpent”. For example: serpent of precious feathers, plumed serpent, or green-feathered-serpent. It translates to these names because a Quetzal is a green bird from Guatemala, and coatl is a serpent.
A feathered serpent (Quetzalcoatls symbol) is a symbol for many things. It’s not just native to the Aztecs, but to many other religions too. For the Aztecs a serpent is a symbol of rain and clouds, and feathers are a symbol of spring plants.
The next god was Ehecatl. Ehecatl was a part of Quetzalcoatl. Ehecatl was just a wind god though, not a star and creation god. According to the Aztecs, Ehecatl’s breath was the wind. It pushed the rain away by moving the sun. When Quetzalcoatl was Ehecatl he had a love. He fell in love with Mayahuel, a beautiful human woman. So things were a little tough for Quetzalcoatl because he could only be in the form of Ehecatl when he saw Mayahuel.
Another god that has to do with Ehecatl and Quetzalcoatl was Omecatl. Omecatl was Quetzalcoatl’s brother, but part of the god Tezcatlipoca. Omecatl was the god of feasting, holidays, and all around happiness. Omecatal was mostly worshiped by the wealthy, and wore fancy clothing, a crown on his head, and a decorated cloak with flowers on it. He carried a scepter too.
Sadly, Ehecatl didn’t marry Mayahuel. Instead Macuilxochitl did. Macuilxochitl was also called Xochipilli. He was the god of games, beauty, dance, flowers, song, and maize. He had a twin sister Xochiquetza, and was worshiped when the Aztecs had dances. Macuilxochitl’s other name (xochipilli) Translates into “flower prince” because xochitl means flower and pilli is prince or child.
Mictlan was another very important god. He was the lowest underworld god. Everybody went to him after life except women who died giving birth, warriors who died in battle, and people who got struck by lightning. When you went to him, your journey would be four years long. But it didn’t matter, because life wasn’t as important as afterlife was, and you were cared for by Xolotl, a wolf headed god.
If you were a woman who died giving birth. a warrior who died in battle, or someone who got struck by lighting, you went to Tonatiuh. Tonatiuh was a sun god. The Aztec people also thought that he was the heaven and the fifth sun, the period they were living in. About 20,000 sacrifices were made to him a year. They were made so that the world didn’t stop, and every time the sun set they knew they had another day to live. As Tonatiuh went across heaven, he carried with him, all the women, warriors, and people who had come to him.
Another god they made sacrifices to, was Chicomecoatl. She was actually a goddess. Every September the Aztecs sacrificed a girl to her. The blood from the girl was poured over a statue of Chicomecoatl, and the girls skin was worn by a priest. Chicomecoatl was just the god of food and produce (especially maize). But they sacrificed to her because they believed that she wouldn't make food for them if they didn’t make food for her. Her symbols and how she was shown varied. Three of them were: A young girl carrying flowers, a woman who brings death with her embraces, and a mother who uses the sun as a shield.
Chantico, which means she who dwells in the house, was a goddess of fire and volcanoes. One of the myths about her was that she was turned into a dog by Tonacatecuhtli because she broke her fast by eating paprika on roasted fish. Instead of a dog though, Chantico can take the form of a red serpent, and wore a crown of poisonous cactus spikes.
The Aztecs worshipped and believed in many other, and different gods, but there was more to their religion then just gods. There were also rituals. Mostly their rituals were sacrificing. It was a practice all through mesoamerica, not just for the Aztecs. The most important god to sacrifice to was the sun god. They sacrificed to him so that the sun would rise in the morning and stay in orbit and to not let the age of the fifth sun die. Another reason why they sacrificed is because they believed that the gods would only give them things if they gave the gods things. So sacrificing was the most important part of the Aztec religion.
Without this belief system, their culture would have been way different. For one, there would have been more people around, and they wouldn’t have been at war because they wouldn't have had to bring enemies in to sacrifice. But on the other hand, their empire would probably not have grown so much, and they would just have been a small empire. Also if they didn’t believe in so many gods there wouldn’t be as much worshipping.
Since they did believe in this system it influenced them a lot. They were a big and well known empire, because of their war. Also I think it influenced them, because if you were someone who was going to Tonatiuh you knew that your after life was going to be good. I also think that believing in the gods made them feel better about their life, because all they had to do was sacrifice and they could live.
I would say that their religion was very successful, because it made them kill many of their enemies, know what after life they were going to, and made their life a little more interesting.