Aztec gods were an extremely important part of Aztec myths and rituals. In fact, the Aztecs worshipped hundreds of different gods and goddesses as all Aztec gods played an important role in human life and nature. The Aztec religion also believed the destiny of each individual person was dependent upon the will of the various gods and goddesses. In addition, they believed some of their gods were kind and loving, while others were frightening and cruel.
This sense of loyalty, respect, and even fear lead the Aztecs to perform a variety of rituals, including human sacrifices, in order to appease their gods. Their belief was that by performing these rituals, they could avoid being harmed in any way by the gods. Therefore, Aztec temples were built in order to perform these precise and elaborate rituals and sacrifices.
One Aztec god, Huitzilopochtli, was of particular importance to the Aztec myths. This Aztec sun god, also referred to as “The Eagle,” was the god of war. He was considered to be the guardian of Tenochtitlan and the incarnation of the sun. A special temple on the Main Pyramid was created for this Aztec sun god. Many sacrifices took place here and the heads of the victims were placed on a rack.
Huitzilopochtli was the son of Coatlicue, who was one of the most revered of the Aztec goddesses. Coatlicue was the goddess of the earth and was also thought to have given birth to the stars (named Centzonhuitznahuac) and the moon (called Coyolxauhqui).
According to an Aztec legend, the moon and the stars were jealous of the sun, or Huitzilopochtli. Therefore Huitzilopochtli used the “serpent of fire” during his birth to defeat them. From that point forward, the stars and the moon continued to battle the sun. Therefore, the Aztecs considered each sunrise to be a celebration of the victory of the sun over the moon and the stars. The human sacrifices made to the Aztec gods were meant in part to help Huitzilopochtli gain strength for this regular battle. Historians believe over 20,000 victims were sacrificed in his honor during the four day period when Tenochtitlan first opened.
Another of the Aztec gods, Tezcatlipoca, was the god of Sorcery. In some ways, he was thought to represent the night sky, as well. He was considered to be the most powerful of the Aztec gods and was also responsible for starting wars. Tezcatilipoca was thought to sometimes disguise himself as a jaguar. He represented evil, death, and destruction.
Tezcatilipoca was considered to be one of the invisible Aztec gods who walked in both the heavens and on earth. He was thought to be the cause of all bad occurrences, no matter how bad or small. He incited wars and he made the rich become poor. Everywhere he went, destruction followed.
In addition to the Aztec gods, many Aztec goddesses played an important role in the Aztec culture. Xochipilli was the Aztec goddess of feasting and was also referred to as the “Patroness of Erotic Love.” An important Farewell to the Flowers festival took place every year in her honor. During this time, the Aztecs would smell flowers and feast as they recognized the fact the flowers would soon dry up for the season.
Virgins were also sacrificed in order to honor Xochipilli. A special ceremony in which the victim’s legs were crossed before cutting out their hearts was held for this Aztec goddess. There bodies were then taken to “the house of the mist,” which was created specifically for these sacrifices.
A woman representing Xochiquetzal would also be ritually killed in her honor. A priest would then wear her skin and sit in front of the temple while craftsman would dance around the priest as he pretended to weave. The craftsmen would dress as dogs, monkeys, coyotes, ocelots, and jaguars as they held symbols of their craft, such as a paintbrush.
The Aztec gods and goddesses were an important part of the lives of the Aztec people. Every aspect of their lives, from farming to marriage, from life to death, from birth to human sacrifices were all thought to be controlled by the power of the Aztec gods.