Aztec Religion - Central America
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Aztec Religion

xipe totec
The Aztec god of seeds,
Xipe Totec (ca 1500 AD)

October 2016 - Aztec people, like the people of China, India, or Africa at this time, were polytheistic - they had many gods. Many of these gods were parts of nature. Coatlicue was the god of creation. Xipe Totec was the seeds to be planted, that would grow into food (like Persephone for the Greeks). Tlaloc was the god of rain (like Cheng-huang in China or Demeter for the Greeks). He had a companion Chalchiuhtlicue, the god of water. They worked with Chicomicoatl, who was the god of actually producing food.

green stone carving of a male figure
Huitzilopochtli, the god of war
(Now in Quai Branly Museum, Paris)

Other Aztec gods represented ideas. Huitzilopochtil, for instance, was the god of war (like Ares or the Egyptian god Horus). But Huitzilopochtil was also a sun god, like Apollo. Quetzalcoatl was less important than Huitzilopochtil, but he was the god of civilization - and also the god of wind, like the Egyptian god Amon. Quetzalcoatl's brother was Tezcatlipoca, the god of wars that were fought at night (when Huitzilopochtil was resting). There were many more gods who were just the god of one small village or one particular place. Religious holidays happened according to calendars based on astronomical observations.

Aztec people built big stone temples for their gods, and sometimes killed people - probably usually prisoners of war but sometimes enslaved people - in human sacrifices to their gods. They also prayed to their gods at smaller shrines in their houses and stores, and at sacred places like waterfalls and caves.

Learn by doing: making guacamole
More about Maya religion
More about the Aztec people

Bibliography and further reading about Aztec religion:

Aztec people
Inca people home

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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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  • Carr, K.E. . Study Guides, . Web. 28 March, 2017