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Deities of the World: The most feared pre-Hispanic gods in Aztec mythology

These deities terrified the souls of pre-Hispanic Mexico.

Among all the gods celebrated in pre-Hispanic Mexico, three could still be considered terrifying in our days. Not only because of their actions but also because of what it implied to worship them. These are the three Aztec gods you should be very careful of because they are truly fearsome.

Tezcatlipoca

If a pre-Hispanic deity should be considered the personification of fatality, that should be Tezcatlipoca. In his book El Pueblo del Sol, Alfonso Caso states that his name “originally means the ‘night sky’ and is therefore connected with all the star gods, with the moon and with those that mean death, evil and destruction.”

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Tezcatlipoca is a villain who only wants humans to succumb to his misfortune. In the place where his left foot should be, he has a mirror (hence his name means the “smoking mirror”), and there you can see the destiny that awaits you. He gives fortune, but he also takes it away at will. He is a very fickle god, which is why he is considered so dangerous.

In some cultures, it is said that he appeared at night as a giant carrying an axe and only sought to spread terror. This is how Fray Bernardino de Sahagún describes him:

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“It was heard when the land of the all had fallen asleep when no one spoke aloud anymore. (...) It was going to be heard far away, very threatening; It was going to frighten the people, to make them faint.”

Xipe Tótec

Xipe Tótec is not what we could consider an evil god, but how his cult was developed can be frightening in our days. It turns out that Xipe Tótec is the firstborn of the first divine couple Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl, gods of duality. He is the older brother of Huitzilopochtli, Quetzalcoatl, and Tezcatlipoca.

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“Our lord the flayed” is the god of harvests, fertility, and the rebirth of plants, but he is also one of the patrons of war. Legend has it that he took his own skin to feed humanity for the first time. He gave his eyes to create corn, and you can imagine how he was worshiped during his liturgical feasts.

Cihuateteo

The codices tell that, before the arrival of the Spaniards, Moctezuma heard one night the lament of a woman in the streets of Tenochtitlan: “Oh, my children, where will I take them?” That woman was a Cihuateteo, who during the conquest the Spaniards transformed into La Llorona.

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The Cihuateteo were women who passed during childbirth and were collected by the Ciuhcoatl (the collector of souls) and sent to the Mictlán, the Underworld. Their status, we could say, is equal to that of warriors who passed in battle.

Cihuateteo could be found mourning for their children at crossroads, but it is also said that they flew together at night at specific times of the year to make children sick. It could produce paralysis of the body and take control of them to make mischief. Their crying is a sign of doom.

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Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva

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