The Aztec Gateway

Atlcualo (The Ceasing of Water)

February 13th to March 4th

Presiding Deities: Tlaloc, tlaloque and Chalchihuitlicue.

Traditional Celebration: The festivals of Atlcualo were particularly joyous because it’s coming after the dead days. Atlcualo takes place in the beginning of the dry season. Because of this, the gods and goddesses presiding over waters and sustenance are celebrated during this time, in hopes of pleasing them and causing the rains to fall.

During Atlcualo, the people would decorate poles with banners and erect them in the temple districts, and in the courtyards of private homes. Traditionally, children were sacrificed to Tlaloc during Atlcualo. In addition to being done at the temples, sacrifices during this time also took place on various mountains, as this is the place that the rain clouds form.

In addition, although he was not honored in a major festival, the people prayed to Quetzalcoatl as Ehecatl, the god of wind, in hopes that he would push the storms before him. Tlaloc, the tlaloque, and Chalchihuitlicue were prayed to heavily during this time.

Tlacaxipehualiztli (The Flaying of Men)

March 5th to March 24th

Presiding Deity: Xipe Totec

Traditional Celebration: Tlacaxipehualiztli was a springtime festival in honor of Xipe Totec. Xipe Totec, the god of Spring and new vegetation, flayed himself so that the plants would grow. During this time, gladiatorial sacrifice, Xipe Totec’s favored method of sacrifice, took place for him. In these sacrifices, war captives would have a foot tied to the gladiatorial stone. They would be given maquahuime armed with feathers rather than obsidian. Then, a warrior armed with real weapons would be sent in to fight him. Usually, the captive died in the fighting. However, if he proved himself by besting four warriors, he would be given the option of either being freed for proving himself a great warrior, or being sacrificed the traditional way in the temple.

Those who died in temple sacrifices to Xipe Totec during this time had their skins flayed from them after death. Then, their skins would be worn by priests of Xipe Totec, to symbolize new plant growth sprouting from dead husks. This was referred to as the ‘garmet of gold’. The priests would wear the skins for the twenty day period following the sacrifice, and during this time they would dance throughout the city blessing the people by touching them with a thigh bone.

Tocoztontli (The Little Vigil)

March 25th to April 13th

Presiding Deities: Centeotl and Chicomecoatl, Coatlicue.

Traditional Celebration: At the beginning of Tocoztontli, the skins from the festival for Xipe Totec were removed from the priests and placed in the temple.

During this time, new crops were being planted. Rituals for the corn gods and goddesses were performed during plantings. Sacrifices during this month included flowers and bloodletting, particularly bloodletting of children. This was done from the ear at their home.

Coatlicue was also worshipped during this time. She would be given offerings of flowers. Until the first flowers of the season were given to her, the people were not to smell the flowers, as their scent was reserved for her.

Uey Tocoztli (The Great Vigil)

April 14th to May 3rd

Presiding Deities: Tlaloc and Toci

Traditional Celebration: Sacrifices to Tlaloc took place during this celebration. The sacrifices took place on his mountain, and also at a designated place on Lake Texcoco. Offerings of corn and fruits were given, and corn seeds were blessed. Toci was honored by rituals devoted to the women who had died in childbirth. Purification ceremonies took place on behalf of the departed women’s spirits.

Toxcatl (Dryness)

May 4th May 23rd

Presiding Deity: Tezcatlipoca

Traditional Celebration: The twenty days of Toxcatl mainly revolved around a young man who was chosen as the ixiptla of Tezcatlipoca. This young man was chosen a year before, at the end of the previous Toxcatl. He was chosen based on both appearance and manners- the earthly representative had to be particularly handsome, as well as cultured and refined. After being chosen, he would be adorned in the finery of Tezcatlipoca, and for the rest of the year he was considered the god Himself.

Wherever he went, people would address him as Tezcatlipoca. The ixiptla would be followed by an entourage, and he was to travel the streets at his leisure with them, playing his flute and associating with the people of the city. He was treated as a god and dined with the nobility. He would do this throughout the year.

When Toxcatl came the next year, he would be wedded to four women who were themselves ixiptla of the goddesses Xochiquetzal, Xilonen, Atlatonan, and Huixtocihuatl. They represented physical pleasures of life- sexual love, food, drink, and salt, respectively. He would spend the last twenty days of his life being with these women as he desired. In addition, he would also travel about at night during these last days, and those who heard his flute play would touch dirt to their tongue and confess their sins for the god Tezcatlipoca to hear.

At the last of the twenty days, he would dine with the leader of the city. He would then travel to the four directional edges of the city, ending his journey near a temple. He would then be stripped of all his godly decorations, his wives and his entourage would leave him, and he would ascend to the temple where his heart would be offered to Tezcatlipoca.

Etzalqualiztli (Feast of the Corn)

May 24th to June 12th

Presiding Deity: Tlaloc and Chalchihuitlicue

Traditional Celebration: This month signals the ending of the dry season and the coming of the rains. For this reason, Etzalqualiztli was a great festival to the water related deities, particularly Tlaloc. Offerings of jade were made to Tlaloc and his serving tlaloque. The jades were thrown into the lake waters for them, along with human hearts. Jade would be hung above the waters of the lake in hopes that Tlaloc would make the water rise that high. Fresh reeds would be brought to the temples for the celebration, and with these reeds new decorations for the water deities and new mats for the temples would be made. The priests of Tlaloc would fast for four days during this time, letting blood each day. At the finish of the priests’ fast, they would take a series of ritual baths in the waters of the lake.

Tecuilhuitontli (Little Feast of the Lords)

June 13th to July 2nd

Presiding Deities: Huixtocihuatl and Xochipilli

Traditional Celebration: This month, with it’s dedication to the goddess of salt, was a continued celebration of the coming of water, along with the growth of the crops. During this month, the city was decorated with water flowers, and a specially chosen sacrifice of a woman was given to Huixtocihuatl. The makers of salt celebrated their matron with dances that lasted for ten days. The dances were made in pairs, each of the dance partners holding one end of a rope while singing for their goddess.

Xochipilli, as the patron of flowers and dancing, also held some sway in the festivities of this month. The ruler of the city was to dance in the streets among the people and give gifts to them. Tecuilhuitontli was referred to as the “Little Feast of the Lords” because the Lords of the city were obligated to hold feasts for the commoners to attend. The consorts of the great lords walked with the common people through the streets, adorned with flowers. Sacrifices were also offered to the deities of the crops, and the people drank octli in large quantities in celebration.

Uey Tecuilhuitl (Great Feast of the Lords)

July 3rd to July 22nd

Presiding Deity: Xilonen

Traditional Celebration: These twenty days took place during a time when the food would be running low, and whether or not the people would have enough food to eat for the coming year depended upon the success of the crops. Rather than hoarding the food in case of crop failure, however, the Aztecs believed that the proper way to please the vegetation deities and show their appreciation was to be generous with their food. And so, during Uey Tecuilhuitl, the wealthy people of the city were to host feasts for the poor which lasted for eight days.

In addition to the continuation of the Lords feeding the common people, the ruler of the city again dances and distributes gifts to the public. During this festival, warriors would dance in the streets with women. Xilonen was offered the sacrifice of a woman ixiptla during this month, and the various healers would celebrate special rites during this time.

Tlaxochimaco (Birth of Flowers)

July 23rd to August 11th

Presiding Deities: Tezcatlipoca, Huitzilopochtli

Traditional Celebration: For two days at the beginning of this festival, the people would travel outside the city in order to pick wild flowers. The flowers were then offered to the gods and to ancestors. Men and women would touch hands while dancing, however, the dances during the rituals were somber affairs. During this month, a specially designated sacrifice was offered to Huitzilopochtli. Tezcatlipoca was honored in his nahualli form of Chalchiuhtotolin, through feasting of turkey and maize cakes.

Xocotlhuetzi (Great Feast of the Dead)

August 12th to August 31st

Presiding Deity: Xiuhtecuhtli

Traditional Celebration: This festival is the one upon which the current Mexican celebrations of the dead are based. The Spanish relocated the time at which it fell in order for it to approximate Christian holidays, as they were unsuccessful at stopping the celebrations. Xiuhtecuhtli, the old fire god, was the primary god worshipped during this time. Sacrifices were offered to him during fire ceremonies.

At this time, the Aztecs honored the dead through offerings of flowers. Flowers were also strewn about the streets and throughout people’s homes at this time. A felled tree would be brought into the city and decorated with flowers as well.

This was also a great time of competition for the boys. There were contests in which the object was to climb a tall pole. There were prizes and honor for whoever reached the top the fastest.

Ochpaniztli (The Month of Sweeping)

September 1st to September 20th

Presiding Deities: Toci and Tlazolteotl, most earth and vegetation deities.

Traditional Celebration: This was a time of cleansing for the Aztecs. As the name of the month implies, sweeping was given great attention throughout the city. From the smallest common house, to the city streets, to the great temples, the people swept the whole of the city. In general, all things were cleansed. The priests would begin a fast of purification that would last for 80 days.

At this time, the corn was finally harvested. The people paid honors to the corn and earth deities for the harvest. To honor Toci, the grandmother goddess of the Aztecs, a woman past the age of childbirth would be chosen. She would represent Toci and be sacrificed in her honor. After the sacrifice, she was flayed and a high priest donned her skin. For the remainder of the twenty days, he would represent Toci and have the highest place in all the festivities and sacrifices of the month.

As well as being the time of harvest, it was also the beginning of the season of war. The ruler of the city would distribute insignia to his warriors, and the warriors would perform ceremonies at the borders between their homeland and enemy territories.

Teotleco (Arrival of the Gods)

September 21st to October 10th

Presiding Deities: All gods worshipped.

Traditional Celebration: During this time, the gods were said to be arriving at the cities of the Aztecs in order to partake in a great festival for the harvest. And so, Teotleco was a time for the worship of all the gods. It was said that Tezcatlipoca was always the first god to arrive, as he was the youngest and fastest of the gods. His priests would set out a dish of corn flour and when Tezcatlipoca’s footprint appeared, it meant that He had arrived and the celebrations began. Huehueteotl, the oldest of the gods, arrived last. The festivities were particularly joyous during this month, consisting mainly of dancing and music. Offerings of food were made to the gods.

The merchants celebrated greatly during this month, as their god, Yacatecuhtli, was a god of traveling, and Teotleco symbolized his, and consequently their, return home. A great many slaves were sacrificed to him by the merchants at this time.

Tepeilhuitl (Feast of the Mountains)

October 11th to October 30th

Presiding Deities: Tlaloc

Traditional Celebration: Tepeilhuitl was a month for celebrating rain and it’s makers. Sacrifices for Tlaloc were made to each of the four mountains particularly revered by the Aztecs as being generators of rain; Mt. Tlaloc, Popocatepetl, Iztaccihuatl and Matlalcueye. The bodies were taken to the palace of the ruler of the city. Two sisters were chosen to be sacrificed, one represented famine and the other plenty.

During this time, the ritual eating of sacrificial flesh and amaranth dough took place. A great feast was held in honor of the mountains, the favored region of Tlaloc.

Quecholli (The Precious Feather)

October 31st to November 19th

Presiding Deity: Mixcoatl

Traditional Celebration: This was a time in which the Aztecs remembered their Chichimec ancestors, by paying homage to their god of hunting. The first five days of this time passed without festivities. After these five days, the Aztecs would bring their children to temples in order to let blood from their ears. The blood was actually given in honor of the deer that would be killed during the ritual hunt that would follow. For the most part, hunting in Aztec society had been reduced to a pastime for nobles, and the professional occupation of some to bring venison to the markets. However, during Quecholli, many of the men partook in the hunting of deer in remembrance of the more primitive side of their heritage. Even the men who refrained from the hunts were expected to spend some time outdoors.

In addition to the hunts for real deer, a symbolic hunt took place for Mixcoatl. People dressed as deer would be hunted, and upon capture they would be taken to the temple and sacrificed. Afterwards, their meat was used just as if they had been deer.

Panquetzaliztli (The Raising of Banners)

November 20th to December 9th

Presiding Deity: Huitzilopochtli

Traditional Celebration: Panquetzaliztli was the major festival of Huitzilopochtli. His priests would begin the preparations for this celebration forty days in advance. An image of Huitzilopochtli was made out of seed dough, and would be used throughout the time of the festival.

Banners were raised throughout the city, and the celebration began with great parades throughout the streets. A great many warrior captives would be sacrificed to Huitzilopochtli during this time, and those who had captured them would fast for five days before their captives were to be sacrificed. Those who were to be sacrificed dance and sang for their captors before their deaths. A ritual race called Ipaina Huitzilopochtli (Velocity of Huitzilopochtli) took place, where boys would compete against each other for the honor of being the fastest. There was a great deal of drinking of octli during this time. The ending of the festival consisted of the eating of the dough image of Huitzilopochtli.

Atemoztli (The Descent of Water)

December 10th to December 29th

Presiding Deity: Tlaloc and the tlaloque

Traditional Celebration: There were often mild rains during this time period, and so the Aztecs would honor the bringers of rain. Although most of the population engaged in bloodletting during this time, and all men were expected to abstain from sex, most of the festivities of Atemoztli were actually celebrated by the nobility. Amaranth dough images of the Tlaloc and his tlaloque were made in homes. These images were to be ritually ‘killed’ with a weaving stick. Priests would travel through the city and visit the homes in order to do so, but it was also acceptable for the woman of the house to kill the image. Sacrifices were made by the nobles; the chosen were adorned with feathers and sacrificed in the mountains, or sacrificed by drowning in one of Tlaloc’s ritual pools.

Tititl (The Stretching)

December 30th to January 18th

Presiding Deities: Ilamatecuhtli, most goddesses, and Yacatecuhtli

Traditional Celebration: Ilamatecuhtli was the primary public recipient of worship during this month. A High Priest would dress like Ilamatecuhtli, and several other priests would dress in the likeness of other deities. A woman was chosen to represent Ilamatecuhtli. During the ceremony she would sing and dance before being sacrificed. After being sacrificed, her head was cut off and the priest dressed as Ilamatecuhtli would dance while holding her head by the hair. Tonantzin was also honored during this time.

Merchants held private celebrations during this time. They would sacrifice several slaves to Yacatecuhtli during rites to initiate new members of the merchant’s guild, which took place during this month.

Izcalli (Rebirth)

January 19th to February 7th

Presiding Deity: Xiuhtecuhtli

Traditional Celebration: As Izcalli is the last of the Aztec months. Xiuhtecuhtli, the old fire god and Lord of the Year, rules over this month, for the end of the year and the hope for a new beginning. As Xiuhtecuhtli is old, during Izcalli, old men were particularly honored for their age and wisdom. An image of Xiuhtecuhtli was made of amaranth dough for the rituals during this festival.

In honor of the dying year, the dead were also honored during this time. In hope for renewal, children received godparents during Izcalli. There was much drinking of octli in celebration for the year. All of the gods were worshipped in the hope that they would look favorably upon the people and grant them another year.

Many tamales were made during Izcalli. The people would present their tamales as gifts to their neighbors and to temples. The people of the house would gather around the hearth fire in a circle, and cast their tamales in as offerings.

Nemontemi (Dead/Useless Days)

February 8th to February 12th

Presiding Deity: None

Traditional Celebration: The Nemontemi were the time of the year’s death. During this time, the year was literally considered dead, and thus it was a fearful time as the year may not come back to life again. It was considered an unlucky and dangerous time.

As a result, the population stayed near their homes throughout this time. Conflict of any kind was expressly avoided, and talking took place in a whisper. This was considered a time to reflect and contemplate rather than interact with others. No fires burned during the Nemontemi, and no cooking took place. The only food eaten were tortillas prepared ahead of time, and this was eaten only once in the day. All were to abstain from sex. The breaking of these rules was believed to attract the attention of unfavorable spirits, and thus cause bad luck upon the one who broke them.


All materials ©2002-2007 J. Quipoloa. Do not reproduce without permission.