I would like to make it clear that Aztec forms of magic are
separate from the religion. While there is some overlap (some
things that the Aztec priesthoods were well-versed in, such
as divination, were clearly magical, while some Aztec spells
called upon particular gods for help), belief in magic is
not a focus nor a necessity in ancient Aztec religious beliefs.
The Aztec religion is focused mainly upon devotion and worship
directed to the gods, rather than upon the practice of spells
as the major form of religious ritual (unlike many modern
forms of Paganism). Religion and magic were two different
things, which may be combined, but were often separated.
I would like to say here that I prefer not to spell such things
as "magick." I am not a fan of Aleister Crowley,
nor do I care much for numerology. Thirdly, I will clarify
that the Aztec sorcery I am talking about here is historical,
and has nothing to do with the New Age "Toltec nagualism"
trend. That said...
is a term which denotes two different, yet connected things.
In one use, the word nahualli is the term used for a spiritual
twin of a person, almost always an animal form. The gods have
nahualli as well. For example, Tezcatlipoca’s nahualli
form is Tepeyollotl, a jaguar god, and Huitzilopochtli’s
are the hummingbird and the eagle.
person has a nahualli. The nahualli is an animal that you have
a spiritual connection to. In this form, a nahualli is much
like the concept of a totem animal found in other Native American
cultures. Usually, the nahualli has traits that reflect those
of the person they belong to. Unlike the concept of a totem
animal, the nahualli denotes an actual individual animal believed
to exist, either in the spirit world or in the physical world
itself (depending on regional beliefs). The nahualli is the
spiritual twin of a person, said to have been born at the same
time and share the portion of the soul known as the tonalli.
the spiritual realms, a person might take the form of their
nahualli at times. In other cases, a nahualli may appear much
like the European concept of a familiar animal, showing itself
as an individual animal of a person’s nahualli species
which the person has a mental and spiritual connection to in
this world. While this connection gave strength, it also gave
weakness; a person could be harmed or killed by doing the same
to their nahualli animal. For a person to find another's nahualli
required powerful magical abilities, however.
other definition for nahualli is a sorcerer. Nahualli sorcerers
have mastered control over their animal spiritual twin, as well
as other forms of magic. The most famous trait attributed to
the Nahualli of legend is the ability to shape shift into their
animal forms. Belief in this form of sorcery outlasted even
the conquest; the Spanish friars were frightened of the Aztec
sorcerers and often recorded events attributed to them. In modern
Mexico, the term nahualli has been turned into “nagual,”
and the concept still survives in some form.
Nahualli sorcerers could use their spiritual animals for many
things, and the most powerful were said to “collect”
spiritual animals to use their powers. In order to do this,
the sorcerer was said to journey into the spiritual realms
during his sleep and trap an animal there. Different species
of animals granted different powers and allowed the sorcerer
to assume more forms, but no matter how many animals a person
collected, he would only have one true nahualli, one animal
twin connected to his soul.
addition to the powers of animals, Aztec sorcerers were well
versed in herbs and magical concoctions, and often seemed to
walk a fine line between curer one moment and hired hexer the
next. There is significant evidence that a great deal of Aztec
sorcery relied on a knowledge of very real forms of seemingly
mystical assassination. In the purely mystical realm, however,
Aztec sorcerers were also feared and revered for their strong
abilities in navigating the spiritual worlds through their dreams.
A truly accomplished nahualli could strike at his enemies’
souls or heal his clients’ spirits during sleep. Such
sleeps were usually preceded by extremely lengthy rituals and
supplications made to the gods upon whose territory the nahualli
wished to proceed. It is important to note, however, that asking
permission to proceed with your will is a very different matter
than calling upon the gods to run errands for you, as so many
modern magical practitioners seem to believe is proper.