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Aztec culture is generally grouped with the cultural complex known as the Nahuatl because of the common language they shared. According to legend, the various groups who were to become the Aztecs arrived from the north into the Anahuac valley around Lake Texcoco. The location of this valley and lake of destination is clear – it is the heart of modern Mexico City – but little can be known with certainty about the origin of the Aztec.
There are different accounts of their origin. In the myth the ancestors of the Mexica/Aztec came from a place in the north called Aztlan, the last of seven nahuatlacas (Nahuatl-speaking tribes, from tlaca, "man") to make the journey southward, hence their name "Azteca." Other accounts cite their origin in Chicomostoc, "the place of the seven caves," or at Tamoanchan (the legendary origin of all civilizations).
The Mexica/Aztec were said to be guided by their god Huitzilopochtli, meaning "Left-handed Hummingbird" or "Hummingbird from the South." When they arrived at an island in the lake, they saw an eagle which was perched on a nopal cactus full of its fruits (nochtli). (Due to a mistranslation of an account by Tesozomoc, it became popular to say the eagle was devouring a snake, but in the original Aztec accounts, the snake is not mentioned. One states that it was eating a bird, another indicates that it was only perched in the cactus, and a third just says it was eating something.) This vision fulfilled a prophecy telling them that they should found their new home on that spot. The Aztecs built their city of Tenochtitlan on that site, building a great artificial island, which today is in the center of Mexico City. This legendary vision is pictured on the Coat of Arms of Mexico.
According to legend, when the Mexicans arrived in the Anahuac valley around Lake Texcoco, they were considered by the other groups as the least civilized of all, but the Mexican/Aztec decided to learn, and they took all they could from other people, especially from the ancient Toltec (whom they seem to have partially confused with the more ancient civilization of Teotihuacan). To the Aztec, the Toltec were the originators of all culture; "Toltecayotl" was a synonym for culture. Aztec legends identify the Toltecs and the cult of Quetzalcoatl with the legendary city of Tollan, which they also identified with the more ancient Teotihuacan.
The Aztec adopted and combined several traditions with their own earlier traditions, therefore they had several creation myths; one of these, the Five Suns describes four great ages preceding the present world, each of which ended in a catastrophe. Our age – Nahui-Ollin, the fifth age, or fifth creation – escaped destruction due to the sacrifice of a god (Nanahuatl, "full of sores," the smallest and humblest of the gods) who was transformed into the Sun. This myth is associated with the ancient city of Teotihuacan, which was abandoned but still extant when the Aztec arrived. Another myth describes the earth as a creation of the twin gods Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl. Some sources say Tezcatlipoca lost his foot in the process of creating the world and some representations of these gods show him without a foot and with a bone exposed. Others say he had one foot which was the foot of a beast, a representation for his speed. Quetzalcoatl is also called "White Tezcatlipoca."
- Acolnahuacatl, or Acolmiztli - a god of the underworld, Mictlan
- Acuecucyoicihuati (see Chalchiuhtlicue)
- Amimitl - god of lakes and fishers
- Atlacamani - goddess of oceanic storms such as hurricanes
- Atlacoya - goddess of drought
- Atlatonan (also Atlatonin) - goddess of the coast
- Atlaua - water god
- Ayauhteotl - goddess of mist, fog, vanity and fame
- Camaxtli - god of hunting, war, fate and fire
- Centeotl (see Cinteotl)
- Chalchiuhtlatonal - god of water
- Chalchiuhtecolotl - a night owl god
- Chalchiuhtlicue (also Chalciuhtlicue, or Chalchihuitlicue) (She of the Jade Skirt). (Sometimes Acuecucyoticihuati) - the goddess of lakes and streams, and also of birth; consort of Tlaloc.
- Chalchiuhtotoliq (Precious Night Turkey) - god of pestilence and mystery
- Chalmecatecuchtlz - a god of the underworld, Mictlan and sacrifices
- Chalmecatl the underworld, Mictlan and the north
- Chantico - the goddess of hearth fires, personal treasure, and volcanoes
- Chicomecoatl (also Chalchiuhcihuatl, Chiccomeccatl, or Xilonen) - goddess of new maize and produce, wife of Cinteotl.
- Chicomexochtli - a patron of artists
- Chiconahui - a domestic fertility goddess
- Chiconahuiehecatl - associated with creation
- Cihuacoatl (also Chihucoatl or Ciucoatl) (Woman Serpent) - an aspect of Ilamatecuhtli and consort of Quetzalcoatl
- Cinteotl (also Centeotl or Centeocihuatl) - the principal maize god, son of Tlazolteotl
- Cipactonal - god of astrology and the calendar
- Citlalatonac (see Ometeotl)
- Citlalicue - a creator of the stars
- Coatlicue (She of the Serpent Skirt) - legendary mother of Coyolxauhqui, the Centzon Huitzahua, and Huitzilopochtli
- Cochimetl (also Coccochimetl) - god of commerce, bartering, and merchants
- Coyolxauhqui - legendary sister of Huitzilopochtli, associated with the moon, possibly patroness of the Milky Way
- Cuaxolotl - a goddess of the hearth
- Ehecatl (also Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl) - the god of the Wind and creator of the earth, heavens, and the present race of humanity. As god of the west, one of the skybearers
- Huehuecoyotl (also Ueuecoyotl) - a trickster god of indulgence and pranks. A shapeshifter, associated with drums and the coyote
- Huehueteotl (also Ueueteotl, Xiuhtecuhtli, Xiutechuhtli) - an ancient god of the hearth, the fire of life. Associated with the pole star and the north, and serves as a skybearer
- Huitzilopochtli (also Mextli, Mexitl, Uitzilopochtli) - the supreme god of Tenochtitlan, patron of war, fire and the sun
- Huixtocihuatl (also Uixtochihuatl) - a goddess of salt and saltwater
- Ilamatecuhtli (also Cihuacoatl or Quilaztli) - aged goddess of the earth, death, and the Milky Way. Her roar signalled war
- Itztlacoliuhqui-Ixquimilli - god of stone, obsidian, coldness hardness, and castigation. Aspect of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli
- Itzli - god of sacrifice and stone knives.
- Itzpapalotl - Queen of Tomoanchan and one of the Cihuateteo (night demons) and tzitzimime (star demons)
- Ixtlilton - the god of healing, dancing, festivals and games. Brother of Xochipilli.
- Macuilcozcacuauhtli (five vulture) - one of the Ahuiateteo (gods of excess)
- Macuilcuetzpalin (five lizard) - one of the Ahuiateteo (gods of excess)
- Macuilmalinalli (five grass) - one of the Ahuiateteo (gods of excess)
- Macuiltochtli (five rabbit) - one of the Ahuiateteo (gods of excess)
- Macuilxochitl (five flower) - the god of games and gambling, and chief of the Ahuiateteo (gods of excess)
- Malinalxochitl - sorceress and goddess of snakes, scorpions and insects of the desert
- Matlalceuitl (also Matlalcueje) - goddess of rainfall and singing. Identified with Chalchiuhtlicue.
- Mayahuel (also Mayahual, or Mayouel) - the goddess of maguey, and by extension, alcohol
- Metztli (also Metztli, Tecuciztecatl, Tecciztecatl)- lowly god of worms who failed to sacrifice himself to become the sun, and became the moon instead, his face darkened by a rabbit.
- Mextli - a god of war and storms
- Mictecacihuatl (also Mictlancihuatl) - goddess of death and Lady of Mictlan, the underworld
- Mictlantecuhtli (also Mictlantecuhtzi, or Tzontemoc) - the god of death and Lord of Mictlan, also as god of the south, one of the skybearers
- Mixcoatl (cloud serpent) - god of hunting, war, and the Milky Way. An aspect of Tezcatlpoca and father of Quetzalcoatl
- Nanahuatzin (also Nana, Nanautzin, or Nanauatzin) - lowly god who sacrificed himself to become sun god Tonatiuh
- Omacatl (see Tezcatlipoca)
- Omecihuatl (see Ometeotl)
- Ometecuhtli (see Ometeotl)
- Ometeotl (also Citlatonac or Ometecuhtli (male) and Omecihuatl (female)) - the god(s) of duality, pregenator(s) of souls and lord/lady of heaven
- Ometotchtli (two rabbit) - drunken rabbit god, leader of the Centzon Totochtin
- Opochtli - left-handed god of trapping, hunting and fishing
- Oxomoco - goddess of astrology and the calendar
- Patecatl - the god of medicine, husband of Mayahuel
- Paynal - the messenger to Huitzilopochtli
- Quetzalcoatl (also Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli) (quetzal-feathered serpent) - creator god and patron of rulership, priests and merchants. Associated with Ehecatl as the divine wind
- Quilaztli (see Ilamatecuhtli)
- Tecciztecatl (see Mextli)
- Temazcalteci (also Temaxcaltechi) - goddess of bathing and sweatbaths
- Teoyaomicqui (also Teoyaomiqui)- the god of dead warriors
- Tepeyollotl - (The jaguar form of Tezcatlipoca) god of the heart of the mountain, associated with jaguars, echoes, and earthquakes
- Tepoztecatl (also Tezcatzontecatl) - god of pulque and rabbits
- Teteoinnan - mother of the gods
- Tezcatlipoca (also Omacatl, Titlacauan) - omnipotent god of rulers, sorcerers and warriors; night, death, discord, conflict, temptation and change. A sinister rival to Quetzalcoatl. Can appear as a jaguar.
- Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli - destructive god of the morning star (venus), dawn, and of the east. One of the skybearers
- Tlaloc (also Nuhualpilli) - the great and ancient provider and god of rain, fertility and lightning
- Tlaltecuhtli - goddess of earth, associated with difficult births
- Tlazolteotl (also Tlaelquani, Tlazolteotli)- the goddess of purification from filth, disease or excess
- Tloquenahuaque - a creator god or ruler
- Toci (also Temazcalteci) - grandmother goddess, heart of the earth and mother of the gods. Associated with midwives and war
- Tonacatecuhtli - the aged creator and provider of food and patron of conceptions
- Tonacacihuatl - consort of Tonacatecuhtli
- Tonantzin - a mother goddess
- Tonatiuh - a sun god and heavenly warrior, associated with eagles and with the Maya
- Tzitzmitl - aged grandmother goddess
- Xilonen - the goddess of young maize
- Xipe Totec - the god of the seasons, seed germination and renewal, considered the patron of goldworkers
- Xiuhcoatl (fire serpent or turquoise serpent) - embodiment of the sun's rays and emblem of Xiuhtecuhtli
- Xiuhtecuhtli -(also called Huehueteotl)
- Xochipilli - the young god of feasting, painting, dancing, games, and writing. Associated with Macuilxochitl and Cinteotl
- Xochiquetzal - goddess of love, beauty, female sexuality, prostitutes, flowers, pleasure, craft, weaving, and young mothers
- Xocotl - star god associated with fire
- Xolotl - canine companion of Quetzalcoatl and god of twins, sickness and deformity. Accompanies the dead to Mictlan
- Yacatecuhtli (also Yactecuhtli) - the god of merchants and travellers
- Ahuiateteo (also Macuiltonaleque) - five gods who personify excess
- Cihuateteo (also Civatateo) - souls of women who died in childbirth who lead the setting sun in the western sky. Also night demons who steal children, and cause seizures, insanity and sexual transgression. They also accompany warriors to heaven.
- Centzon Huitznahua - southern stars, children of Coatlicue
- Centzon Totochtin (400 rabbits) - gods of pulque
- Skybearers - associated with the four directions, supported the vault of the sky.
- Tzitzimime - star demons of darkness that attack the sun during eclipses and threaten the earth
- Ahuitzotl - a human-eating water-dwelling dog-monkey with a hand on its tail
- Cipactli - the caiman at the foundations of the earth
- Cihuateteo - the spirits of women who died in childbirth (mociuaquetzque.)
- Nagual - a tutelary animal or vegetable spirit
- Nahual - a shapeshifting sorcerer or witch
- Tlaltecuhtli - a drunken toad goddess
- Popocatepetl - Legendary warrior
- Apanoayan (where one crosses the river)- the first of the nine levels of Mictlan, also known as Itzcuintlan.
- Aztlán (land of the herons) - the original home of the Mexica before the peregrination and the establishment of Tenochtitlan
- Iztaccihuatl - the sleeping lady
- Mictlan - the underworld.
- Popocatepetl - the smoking mountain
- Tlalocan first paradise.
- Tehuantepec place of the hill of the sacred jaguar
- Tlillan-Tlapallan middle realm of the heaven (middle paradise).
- Tonatiuhichan highest paradise
Aztec gods are the subject of a composition for string quartet entitled Macuilli Mexihcateteouch - Five Aztec Gods, written in 2005 by Italian composer Lorenzo Ferrero.
- Boone, Elizabeth H. (Ed.) (1982). The Art and Iconography of Late Post-Classic Central Mexico. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks. ISBN 0-88402-110-6.
- Brinton, Daniel G. (Ed.) (1890). "Rig Veda Americanus". Library of Aboriginal American Literature. No. VIII. Project Gutenberg reproduction. http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/14993.
- Leon-Portilla, Miguel (1990) . Aztec Thought and Culture. Davis, J.E. (trans). Norman, Oklahoma: Oklahoma University Press. ISBN 0-8061-2295-1.
- Miller, Mary; and Karl Taube (1993). The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya. London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05068-6.
- Rig Veda Americanus, Daniel Brinton (Ed) at Project Gutenberg ; late 19th C. compendium of some Aztec mythological texts and poems appearing in one MS. version of Sahagun's 16th C. codices.
- Aztec history, culture and religion B. Diaz del Castillo, The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico (tr. by A. P. Maudsley, 1928, repr. 1965)
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