What Were the Aztec Beliefs About Human Creation?

Carvings of Quetzalcoatl adorn many ruins in Mexico.
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The Aztecs were a nomadic people who eventually settled in the area of northern Mexico. Their mythology revolved around nature and the concern for keeping the often hostile natural world in balance. According to Aztec mythology, four ages preceded the creation of the world, each presided over by a different god. Each god took his turn at being the supreme sun god. Every time a god created an earth, inter-deity conflict destroyed it with fire, wind and floods.

1 Aztec Genesis

The two earliest ancestral deities were Ometecuhtli or "Lord of Duality," and Omecihuatl or "Lady of Duality." They had four sons: Xipe Totec, Tezcatlipoca, Quetzalcoatl and Huitzilopochtli. Tezcatlipoca, and Quetzalcoatl were sent to create life, including the first man and woman, Oxomoco and Cipactonal. These first humans bore a son, Piltzin-tecuhtli, who married a maiden created from the hairs of the maiden, Xochiquetzal. After this original "Genesis," comes a sequence of Four World Ages, each overseen by a sun god.

2 Tezcatlipoca -- Jaguar Sun

The first of the sun gods was Tezcatlipoca, “lord of the night sky.” His tenure as sun god is known as “Nahui Ocelotl” or Jaguar Sun. During this age, humans were giants. Tezcatlipoca battled with Quetzalcoatl and was defeated. After Tezcatlipoca was deposed by Quetzalcoatl, he turned into a jaguar, ate all the humans and destroyed the world.

3 Quetzalcoatl -- Wind Sun

Quetzalcoatl’s age was “Nahui Ehecatl” or Wind Sun. Quetzalcoatl appears as a feathered serpent in carvings and paintings. During the age of Quetzalcoatl, humans were turned into monkeys. Tezcatlipoca in the form of a jaguar knocked Quetzalcoatl out of the sky. A great hurricane destroyed human life.

4 Tlaloc -- Rain Sun

Tlaloc’s age was “Nahui Quiahuitl” or Rain Sun. Humans lived on water lilies and were turned into turkeys, butterflies and dogs. They were destroyed by a rain of fire cased by Quetzalcoatl’s jealousy of Tlaloc.

5 Chalchiuhtlicue -- Water Sun

Tlaloc’s sister, Chalchiuhtlicue, presided over the age of “Nahui Atl” or Water Sun. Both Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl were jealous of Chalchiuhtlicue and forced her from the sky. As she fell, the sky opened up and water flooded the earth, and humans were turned into fish.

6 Nanauatl -- Earthquake Sun

Finally, in the age of the Earthquake Sun or “Nahui Olin,” the gods formed a council, built a great bonfire and decided that the last sun should jump into the fire so that the world and its people would survive. They chose two gods: Tecciztecatl, a wealthy and powerful god, and Nanauatl, a lowly and humble god. Tecciztecatl, hoping for immortality, tried four times to jump in, but feared the intense heat of the flames. Finally, Nanauatl jumped in, followed by the shamed Tecciztecatl. Quetzalcoatl then journeyed to the underworld and brought back human bones. The gods ground the bones and mixed them with their own blood, finally bringing humans to life. Year 1 of this age began in A.D. 978 and is the current age. According to prophecy, it will end with a great earthquake.

Dee Shneiderman, former librarian and paralegal, has been writing for 40+ years. Published in Compute! Magazine, she helped found The Crescent Review literary magazine. Owner of Frugal-Foto Photography, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, a Master of Library Science and a North Carolina Truck Driver Training certificate.