The Gods of Ancient Mexico
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The Gods of Ancient Mexico

A vast collection of gods and goddesses were worshipped by the societies of ancient Mesoamerica. Some are associated with heavenly bodies, such as the stars, sun and moon. Some had calendric importance, while others held control over creation, death and the various aspects of daily living. Frequently, gods were handed down from one civilization to another, and in the process, they were given different names.

These divinities were feared as much as honored.  If they had created the world, and ran it, they could just as easily obliterate it.  Consequently, it was necessary to appease the gods as often as possible, usually by offering human sacrifice.

Rain Gods

(Fragments of a brazier depicting Tlaloc from Stage IVB of the Templo Mayor in Mexico City) Image source

Abundant rainfall was crucial to farming communities, and rain and lightning gods were highly honored in all the nations of ancient Mexico.  Tlaloc was the central Mexican god of rain and lightning.  He can be recognized by his goggle-like eyes and jaguar teeth, while Chaac, the Maya god of rain and lightning, was often depicted on buildings.

Creator Gods

Image source  

Mesoamerican civilizations had varying accounts of creation.  According to one version from central Mexico, Tonacatecuhtli, "lord of our sustenance," dwelt in the 13th, or topmost, heaven with Tonacacihuatl, his wife.  From here, they sent down souls for newly born children on earth. 

The Sun God

Image source

The Classic and Post-classic Maya worshipped Kinich Ahau, the "great sun" or "sun-eyed" lord, which was associated with the jaguar in ancient Mexico, an animal that came to symbolize power and supremacy of the rising sun. 

Quetzalcoatl

(Quetzalcoatl in feathered serpent form as depicted in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis) Image source

The most well known Mexican god was Quetzalcoatl (called Kukulcan by the Maya), often depicted as a feathered serpent; he was a mixture of quetszal bird and rattlesnake.  The first carvings of him were made by the Olmecs (1500 BC to 500 BC).  Different representations of Quetzalcoatl/Kukulcan can be seen at many ancient sites in Mexico.

Gods of the Underworld

(Ceramic representation of Mictlantecuhtli recovered during excavations of the House of Eagles in the Templo Mayor in Mexico City) Image source

Only the souls of those who died a violent death went directly to one of the heavens, but all other mortal souls were doomed to the nine levels of the underworld.  In Aztec mythology, the soul had to go through a series of perils before reaching the deepest level, the dreadful Mictlan, ruled over by Mictlantecuhtli and Mictecacihuatl, his wife.  The Aztecs portrayed their god of death as fearsome skeletal figure.

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Comments (5)

very interesting indeed

A very interesting and informative article, Eddie. Really great illustrations, too.

This is very interesting as I am not really familiar with their culture and history..

Good article and my kind too.

Thanks.  Very good article and pictures.

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