January 8, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: History, World History, Aztec
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The Religion of the Aztecs By:

Caitlin Brogan Deirdre Wylie Kathleen McGowan Ryan McBride

A Brief Background • Located in central Mexico • Empire spanned from the 14th -16th centuries

A Brief Background • The Aztecs referred to themselves as Mexica • Tenochtitlan, the center of their civilization, is modern day Mexico City • An Aztec myth states that one of their gods, Huitzilopochtli, told them to settle on the site where they witnessed an eagle on a cactus devouring a serpent. They named that land Tenochtitlan.

A Brief Background • Practiced a Mesoamerican religion which served to: -unify the people -solve the mysteries of life -maintain order

• Fall of empire marked by takeover of Tenochtitlan by Spanish conquistadors in 1520s

A Syncretistic Religion • Prior to the arrival of the conquistadors, the empire was highly successful and rapidly growing • Success attributed to combining beliefs and practices of conquered people into one religion • Practiced a syncretistic religion

Priestly Hierarchy • Organized priestly hierarchy governed empire • Priestly duties: -ensure regularity of seasonal cycles -servants to the deities -rule over people -conduct ritual ceremonies -lead military -govern schools

Priestly Hierarchy • Levels of ascension: novice priests, offering priests, fire priests, Quetzalcoatl, and Tlatoani • Tlatoani -high priest with divine right -head of the military -people were not allowed to look him in the eye

Priestly Hierarchy • Quetzalcoatl was the title given to the two priests who ranked below Tlatoani (not to be confused with the god Quetzalcoatl) -presided over shrines atop the Great Temple -only priests allowed to marry and have families of their own • Fire priests were the priests in charge of human sacrifices

Beginning of human sacrificing • Idea started because of belief in main sun god Hulzilopochtli – They believed that the sun god fought the moon and star gods every night to bring life to the earth so mankind could live – Aztec people worshiped the sun god and felt obligated to repay him for fighting their battle by nourishing him

How to repay the Sun God • They realized that they cannot nourish a god on what mere mortals would eat. • They came to the conclusion that the gods must be nourished on what gives life, which is blood.

Types of Sacrifices • Varied according to: – Specific god being nourished – The celebration that was going on

Sacrifice by God • 3 examples: – Name unknown • What was required? – sacrifice was a mature woman from a noble family of Aztec descent

– Sacrifice to Rain God Tlaloc • What was required? – The sacrifice of a child with two cowlicks in their hair

– Sacrifice to strengthen Sun God during eclipse • What was required? – The sacrifice of the blood and heart of an Albino • (believed they were “full of light”)

Sacrifice by Celebration • 2 important celebrations – God’s Feast Day • During this day the priests of the community would kill their slaves for the gods • done to try to sway the gods to provide the people with sustenance

– O’Nothing Days • During the night, priests would dress up as one of the supreme gods • would then wait on top of an extinct volcano and wait for the evening star to reach the top of the sky • The priest would then open the victim’s chest and light their heart on fire – while the heart was still beating they would tear the heart out of the sacrifices body and put it in a bowl to offer to the gods


Gods • The Aztecs believed in gods for different situations – – – – –

Creation of their world For fertility, regeneration Death War Sacrificial nourishment of the sun

Categories of the Gods • • • • • •

Nature gods Gods of creation Gods of excess Gods of maize and fertility Gods of death and the underworld The trade gods

Hulzilopochtli – Also known as hummingbird – Most important god – the patron god of the entire Aztec society • “patron god” is believed to be one who the Aztecs created their entire society around • “patron god” is assumed to have created their remote ancestors as well as assigned the people their language, customs, characteristics, and professions • The god of war, sacrifice, and the sun

Tezcatlipocatl • Also known as smoking mirror

• The shaman god

Quetzalcoatl • also known as feathered serpent

• The god of life

Levels of the world 1. Human World 2. Upper World 3. Nether World

Upper World • Inaccessible to humans • Has 13 layers • Also known as Tialocan

Human World

• Also known as the earth world

Nether World • Has 9 layers

• Also known as Mictlan

• The life cycle consists of birth, life, death, and rebirth. • When someone dies they go to either to Mictlan, Tialocan, or the sun

• Fallen warriors and women who died during childbirth were thought to have their souls “transform into hummingbirds that would follow the sun on its journey thorough the sky • People that drowned went to Tialocan • All others go to Mictlan

2 Types of Calendars • Xiuhpohualli -Year Count

• Tonalpohualli - Day Count

Xiuhpohualli • Xiuhpohualli – Year Count • 365 day calendar that followed the agricultural year. • Consisted of 18 months with 20 days in each • 52 years

Tonalpohualli • Tonalpohualli - Day Count

• 260 days

• Religious calendar

• A day consists of a number and a symbol. Each day sign is dedicated to a god.

Festivals • Each month had its own festival • Each festival had its own deity that was worshipped • All of the festivals had agricultural themes – Sowing, planting, and harvesting

Xiuhmolpilli • Xiuhmolpilli – To prevent the end of the world.

• Abstinence from work, fasting, ritual cleansing, ritual bloodletting, destruction of old household items and observance of silence

Toxcatl • Fifth twenty-day month • Sacrifice of a young man • Tezcatlipoca- God of God’s

References • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Beltran, A. (1961). The Ancient sun kingdoms of the americas. Cleveland & New York: The World Publishing Company Brundage, Burr Cartwright. (1983). The Fifth Sun: Aztec Gods, Aztec World. Austin: University of Texas. Carrasco, David (1998). Daily Life of the Aztecs: People of the Sun and Earth. Greenwood Press, Connecticut Davies, Nigel (1973) The Aztecs: A History. Macmillan. European Voyages of Exploration: Aztec Empire. (2010, April 4). Home | University of Calgary. Image posted on eurvoya/ aztec.html. Introduction to the Aztec Calendar. (2010, April 9) Aztec Calendar: Today in the Tonalpohualli, the Sacred Aztec Calendar of Mexico. Mexico Lock & Key. (2010, April 4) About Us. Image posted on http://mexico Moctezuma, E.M. (2002). Aztec. London: Royal Academy of Arts. Smith, Michael Ernest. (1998). The Aztecs. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. The Aztec Gateway. (2010, April 9). Townsend, Richard F. (1992). The Aztecs. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd. Vaillant, S.B. (1962). Aztecs of Mexico: Origin, rise and fall of the Aztec nation. Garden City, N.Y.: Boubleday & Company, Inc. Van Tuerenhout, Dirk (2005). The Aztecs: New Perspectives. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-Clio.

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