The Aztec Gateway

At the time of the Spanish conquest, five suns had existed in the world. The gods created the physical world, and upon doing so it became clear that that whichever god became the sun would have greater power and prestige. Each time that a particular god was overthrown from having the position of the sun, that age of the world was destroyed and a new one began when another deity (usually the one who did the overthrowing) took up the position of the sun. The suns are named for the Aztec date on which they ended.

The first sun was ruled by Tezcatlipoca, the Lord of the Smoking Mirror. Being a god of the night and darkness, Tezcatlipoca chose to shine only half the light of the sun upon the earth. His sun was known as Four Jaguar. He ruled this sun until his rival and brother, Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, overcame Him. Jaguars, the nahualli (spirit animal) of Tezcatlipoca, tore the earth apart. Quetzalcoatl ruled the second sun, Four Wind. It was destroyed by great winds, which blew the earth away. The third sun, Four Rain, was ruled by Tlaloc, the god of rain, and was destroyed by a great rain of fire. The fourth, Four Water, was ruled by Tlaloc’s sister, Chalchihuitlicue, She of the Jade Skirt, goddess of flowing waters. It was destroyed by flooding.

After this, the world had been pretty well ruined, and so all the gods convened at the site of Teotihuacan to decide what they would do. First, the gods would have to decide who would next become the Sun, but in order to do so, whichever god was chosen would need to sacrifice himself by throwing himself into a great bonfire which the gods had made for this purpose. Two gods volunteered themselves for this honor: Tecuciztecatl, the Lord of the Conch shell, a very rich god, and Nanahuatzin, the Pimply One, a very ill and poor god.

For four days the two gods prepared themselves for the sacrifice, and for each thing that needed to be done, Tecuciztecatl always had the richest and finest implements, and Nanahuatzin the poorest. For example, Tecuciztecatl burned the finest white copal as his incense, while Nanahuatzin could afford no such thing, and so used the scabs of his own body to burn as incense. At the end of the fourth day, the two gods stood before the bonfire and Tecuciztecatl, as the first volunteer and more prestigious god, was given the honor of trying first. He rushed forward to throw himself into the fire, but just as he was to leap, he stopped in his tracks, too frightened to jump. Four times he rushed at the fire, and each time he was too frightened to throw himself in.

And so, the other gods called Nanahuatzin forward. The poor god rushed at the fire, and instantly threw himself in. He rose as the sun in the east, and was so brilliant that the other gods called him Tonatiuh (He Who Goes Forth Shining). Tecuciztecatl was so ashamed of himself for his cowardice that, upon seeing the new sun rise he threw himself into the bonfire. The gods were dismayed as he rose in the sky as a second sun. And so, they threw a rabbit in his face to bruise it and dim Tecuciztecatl's light, turning him into the moon.

But, neither the sun nor the moon would move. Quetzalcoatl attempted to make them move across the sky by blowing his wind, but they would not move. And so, knowing what must be done, the gods lined up to be sacrificed by Quetzalcoatl. They all had their hearts torn out to give the sun their blood, and with the end of the sacrifice, both the sun and the moon set forth in the sky. It is because of the sacrifices the gods made to create the world and the sun that sacrifices were made to the gods in return.

 

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