Aztec mythology features some of the most interesting and mysterious characters ever depicted. Their amazing life stories could only have been thought up by drug-loving shamans – which is why psychoactive plants are so often shown on Aztec monuments. Many of the Aztec gods were so fearsome as to be regularly offered human sacrifice – but many of the Aztec gods were kind to humans, blessing them with good harvests or helping them find their way home when lost in the wilderness. From the ultimate destroyer of worlds to the god of war, this is a list of 10 badass Aztec gods (and goddesses).
Xiuhtecuhtli – The Lord Of Fire
Xiuhtecuhtli is the god of fire and volcanoes in Aztec mythology. Due to the necessity of fire to Aztec society, he was one of the most revered and worshipped gods. They believed that Xiuhtecuhtli could decide to turn his back on them at any moment – and fire would never be lit by humans ever again. In order to prevent this, a festival was held for the fire god every 52 years. During the festival, a human victim would be sacrificed in a desperate plea for Xiuhtecuhtli to continue blessing them with fire. They believed that if he didn’t bless them with fire, he would send a group of skeletal monsters to kill them all.
Quetzalcoatl – The Feathered Serpent
Quetzalcoatl is the god of wisdom, knowledge, and energy. His name means feathered serpent and he was possibly the most worshipped of the Aztec gods. This would make sense as he basically gave us everything we have. He created our planet – and human life. The story of how he created human life is so bizarre. Apparently he Journeyed to the underworld where he stole some ancient bones. He then took the bones back to heaven and used them to generate life on Earth. Legend tells that he burned himself to death after a one night stand he was ashamed of… I’m not making that one up – google it!
Mictlantecuhtli – Lord Of The Underworld
Mictlantecuhtli is the lord of Mictlan. Mictlan is the deepest level of the underworld, where most people are taken when they die. Here their character is tested through a series of tasks, like swimming past deadly jaguars, giving them the chance to earn a place in paradise. As lord of this deadly world, Mictlantecuhtli was one of the most feared Aztec gods. The was described as a skeletal figures who wore a necklace made from human eyeballs. Legend tells that he was once a human; he was sacrificed to the gods before he grew into adulthood.
Itzpapalotl – Warrior Goddess
Itzpapalotl is an unbelievably frightening skeletal goddess with claws sharp enough to kill any living creature. She would prey on weak humans, as she had a strange desire for murder. With the power of shape-shifting, she would take on the form of a beautiful young woman in order to lure men into deadly traps. Itzpapalotl rules over a mysterious world called Tamoanchan. Tamoanchan was sometimes represented by the symbol of a tree leaking human blood. And if you didn’t think she was badass enough already, she is also associated with fire. Also she was the goddess of sacrifice… so she’s one to avoid!
Tepeyollotl – God Of Earthquakes
Tepeyollotl is the god of earthquakes and echoes. He uses the vibrations of his voice to create both earthquakes and echoes. Known for his giant roar, he is described as a giant humanoid jaguar monster! Apparently he used to live in the underworld – but he jumped into our world with a plan to eat the sun god. His plan ultimately failed but he stayed in our world to cause destruction. To avoid having him destroy entire civilizations, the Aztec worshipped Tepeyollotl constantly. He was known to wear the skin of other animals to disguise himself. This allowed him to fool not only humans but other Aztec gods.
Tonatiuh – God Of The Sun
Tonatiuh is the sun god in Aztec mythology. He is the current sun but there were 4 previous suns. Apparently he killed the 4th sun god so he could take his place in the centre of the universe. Tonatiuh obviously thought the whole world revolved around him… because he demanded humans worship him! In fact, he demanded human sacrifice in his name. As people were worried the sun might stop shining on them, there were long periods when the Aztec engaged in human sacrifice every single day.
Xolotl -The Lightning God
Xolotl is the Aztec god of lightning. Depicted as a dog-like beast, he is associated with genetic deformity in humans. He was described as looking like a cross between a gorilla and a wolf which explains why he was associated with genetic deformity. Some believe he is just an incarnation of the god of the planet Venus. This would mean his job is to defend the sun god from danger. The other role of Xolotl was to guide the souls of dead humans to the underworld where their character will be tested. He would so this by striking lightning in the direction that souls were to follow.
Xipe Totec – Lord Of Violence
Xipe Totec is the god of disease, rebirth, spring, and violence. He would remove his own skin every Spring in order to bless humanity with a good harvest. But he would only ever do this if he was happy with the tributes paid towards him. The Aztec would pay tribute to Xipe Totec through human sacrifice, and particularly brutal human sacrifice. The preferred method was to skin a victim alive before removing and eating their heart. Another popular method was to shoot the victim with arrows until their blood drips onto the ground. Soaking temple ground was considered a direct message to the god of which the temple was dedicated.
Cihuateteo – Ghost Deities
Cihuateteo is the name given to the ghost of a woman who died during childbirth. Women who died during childbirth would be awarded the same fate as mighty warriors – their souls would be taken to paradise, rather than the underworld. The souls of these women would occasionally return to our world to carry out their duty. They were given the responsibility of accompanying the souls of regular dead people to the underworld. This is one of the reasons why they were deeply feared – because you only saw them when they were in the process of claiming someone’s soul. Also they had a tendency to kidnap children and cause people to go mad.
Mixcoatl – Lord Of War
Mixcoatl is the god of both hunting and war. As these were 2 of the most important things to Aztec life, an entire calender month would be dedicated to the worship of Mixcoatl. This month would see the ritualistic hunting of animals and frequent human sacrifice. A special type of sacrifice was offered in tribute to Mixcoatl in the hope he would bless them with victory in hunting and in warfare. Some historians believe that he was based on a real person. Perhaps a real warrior was once renown for his hunting skill. Stories of his travels could have been passed down for several generations through oral history. Oral history is known for perverting history, so maybe that’s how he came to be known as a god.
And so there you have it – 10 badass Aztec gods.