What Did the Aztecs Believe? Facts About Aztec Religion

Here are some facts about Aztec religion.

  • Religion was incredibly important to the the Aztecs.
  • The Aztecs worshipped many gods and goddesses, and the number increased as more and more cities and tribes were forced to pay tribute to the Aztecs. Tenochtitlan (the most important Aztec city) was introduced to gods from all over the Aztec world.

  • It is estimated that there were more than 40 main Aztec gods and goddesses.
  • Even Hernan Cortes was permitted to set up a cross and Christian shrine in one of the Aztec temples.
  • The Aztecs believed that every day they had to take part in rituals and acts of worship to please the gods and allow the sun to rise again, and  the seasons to pass.
  • Huitzilopochtli, the sun god and the Aztec god of war, was very important in the day to day religious practices of the Aztecs. They believed that he fought a daily battle at dawn with the moon and stars. If he was successful, the sun would rise and a new day would begin. If he failed, the world would be plunged into never-ending darkness. To ensure he was victorious, the Aztecs believed that he needed to the blood from a human beings’ hearts.
  • This need for human hearts completely shaped Aztec society, and meant that the Aztecs were constantly at war in order to take captives to sacrifice.
  • The Aztecs fought ‘Wars of Flowers’ (battles for the sole purpose of capturing sacrificial victims) against the Tlaxcalans, a neighbouring state.
  • If there weren’t enough prisoner-victims, local Aztec people were sacrificed.  Those who died in this way were believed to go to a paradise in the afterlife as a reward.
  • In addition to Huitzilopochtli, other Aztec gods also demanded human sacrifice. Children were drowned to satisfy Tlaloc, the rain god, for example.
  • Quetzalcoatl, the god of agriculture, painting and music, didn’t require human hearts. Snakes, butterflies and birds were killed in his honour instead.
  • Although human sacrifice was a huge part of Aztec religion, festivals were also important, too. Most of these celebrations were linked to the growth of the maize crop.
  • The Aztecs believed that they were living in a period of time called the ‘fifth sun’. They thought that when the fifth sun came to an end, the world would be destroyed by earthquakes.
  • Aztec temples were the largest and most important buildings in their settlements. These usually took the form of stepped pyramids with a shrine at the top.
  •  Aztec priests were very powerful people, and their advice was sought by the Aztec rulers before decisions were made. The priests were able to understand the sacred calendar, and they could use if to determine whether the day was going to be lucky or unlucky for the proposed action.

What next? Discover more Aztec facts by visiting our Aztecs resources page.

Aztec Gods and Goddesses: Chalchiuhtlicue Facts

Here are some facts about Chalchiuhtlicue

  • Chalchiuhtlicue was an important goddess during much of the Aztec reign in Central America. She was the goddess of the sea, rivers and storms and storms, and of baptism.

  • She was believed to make crops fertile, and was also the protector of women and children. However, legend has it that she also ate the sun and moon, and caused terrible flooding.
  • She was the wife of the rain god Tlaloc, and the mother of the moon god Tecciztecatl. Some Aztec legends say that Tlaloc was her brother, as well as her husband.
  • Chalchiuhtlicue was seen as being very beautiful. She often carried a cross, a symbol of fertility, and had water flowing from her clothing, a symbol of baby boys and girls.
  • Several sculptures of Chalchiuhtlicue are made from green jade. Sculptures and statues also show her with frogs, an important creature during the Aztec culture.
  • A 20 ton statue was discovered at the city of Teotihuacan, in the 19th century. The statue was on top of the city’s Pyramid of the Moon which was probably dedicated to her.
  • A tomb dedicated to her was also discovered in Teotihuacan. It contained over 400 items, some carved from green stone, and the skeletons of a jaguar, wolf, serpent and bird.
  • She is often described as wearing a green or blue skirt, and has black lines across her face. Her name translates as She of the Jade Skirt, or Owner of the Green Skirt.
  • Festivals dedicated to Chalchiuhtlicue took place in February and lasted all month. Priests jumped into the river, and often imitated frogs in an attempt to bring rain.
  • Chalchiuhtlicue ruled over the fourth world, or fourth sun. During this time, the sky turned into water, there was a huge flood and all the people in the world were turned into fish.

What next? Discover more Aztec facts by visiting our Aztec resources page.

Aztec Gods and Goddesses: Tezcatlipoca Facts

Here are some facts about Tezcatlipoca,

  • Tezcatlipoca was an important god in the Aztec religion. He was the god of material things and of night, and was also associated with winds, the earth, magic and war.

  • He was sometimes known as owner of the sky and the Earth, and Lord of the Smoking Mirror. The name was used because of the shiny black mirrors often used by Aztec priests.
  • He was sometimes described as being invisible, or black in colour. He is often shown wearing a feathered headdress, and sandals, and carrying a bow and arrows and shield.
  • Many temples built to honour Tezcatlipoca were aligned east to west, as he was associated with the sun. His main temple in Tenochtitlan included a platform reached by 80 stone steps.
  • According to many Aztec legends, Tezcatlipoca and his brother the god Quetzalcoatl created the world. The Aztecs believed they lived in the last of five cycles, or periods of creation.
  • He was the son of the god Ometéotl. He had two sons named Itzli and Ahpuch, a daughter named Mictlantecuhtli, and several nieces and nephews.
  • To create the world, Tezcatlipoca first used his foot as bait to capture a fierce crocodile-like monster. Because of this, he is often depicted as having just one foot.
  • The ceremony honouring Tezcatlipoca was one of the most important in the year, and took place in May. A young man was sacrificed, and he was believed to represent the gods on earth.
  • It was believed that he could see any illegal or evil behavior happening anywhere on earth. Aztec kings had to stand in front of his statue and prove themselves worthy of the position of leader.
  • The priests who worshipped Tezcatlipoca often dressed to look like him. They would often cover themselves in black soot and wear a headdress made from turkey feathers.

What next? Discover more facts about the Aztecs by visiting our Aztec resources page.

Aztec Gods and Goddesses: Tlaloc Facts

Here are some facts about Tlaloc.

  • Tlaloc was an important god in Aztec religion. He was the god of water, rain, fertility and springs, as well as caves and it was believed that he lived in a cave.

  • Tlaloc was also the ruler of the Third Sun, a place with lots of water. The Third Sun disappeared after heavy rain, and people were replaced by animals such as dogs and turkeys.
  • He was an important god 800 years before the Aztecs thrived. He was married to the goddess of flowers, Xochiquetzal, who also made sure that pregnant women were healthy.
  • Many people were scared of him because he was able to send hail, lightning and thunder. He ruled the 4th layer of the heavens, a place where victims of drowning went to.
  • He is usually described as having long fangs and bulging eyes. He is sometimes shown as looking like a jaguar, and jaguar skulls and skeletons were often left as offerings to him,
  • A sanctuary dedicated to Tlaloc has been found on top of the 4,151 metre Mount Tlaloc in central Mexico. Evidence of human sacrifice has been found at the site.
  • It was said that Tlaloc owned four different large jugs of water. One of the jugs watered plants, one caused the plants to die, one caused frost, and one would lead to total destruction.
  • The followers of Tlaloc were buried with seeds and a stick for digging, when they died. They were dressed in paper and their foreheads were painted blue.
  • Ceremonies dedicated to Tlaloc took place at the end of the dry season, during March or April. Children were sacrificed to the god, to make sure it would rain during the year.
  • A huge 160 ton statue, possibly representing Tlaloc, was found in the Mexican town of Coatlinchan. It poured down with rain as the statue was taken away to a museum.

What next? Discover more about the Aztecs by visiting our Aztec resources page.

Tenochtitlan: Facts About the Aztec Capital

Here are some facts about Tenochtitlan.

  • Tenochtitlan was founded in 1325 and it became the capital of the Aztec Empire in the 15th century.
  • It was located in the Vally of Mexico, constructed on an island in Lake Texcoco.

  • It is estimated that the city of Tenochtitlan covered an area of more than 3 square miles.
  • The city was connected to the mainland by giant causeways. The causeways contained bridges to allow for canoes to pass through them. Canals linked all parts of Tenochtitlan and people could get about by foot or by canoe.
  • The Aztecs used some very sophisticated farming methods to grow enough food to feed the population of Tenochtitlan. Fields were placed around the lake to take advantage of the fertile soil and chinampas (fields created on platforms on the surface of the lake) were also used. A network of dikes and canals were used to control the flow of freshwater.
  • Teracotta aqueducts provided the city with water from the springs at Chapultepec. This water was used only for washing and cleaning. The city’s drinking water was taken from mountain springs.
  • There were lots of different types of buildings in Tenochtitlan. There were several markets, schools, temples, palaces and courts for playing ball games (tlachtli), zoos, botanical gardens and an aquarium.
  • Approximately 200,000 people lived in Tenochtitlan at its peak. The Spanish Conquistador, Hernan Cortes, arrived in Tenochtitlan on 8th Novemeber 1519 and he thought that the city was as large as Seville.
  • The ceremonial area of the city, located to the center of Tenochtitlan, included a giant pyramid dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war. It also contained temples dedicated to the gods Tlaoc and Quetzalcoatl.
  • The Spanish conqustadors, led by Hernan Cortes and supported by thousands of native allies, attacked Tenochtitlan several times between 1519 and 1521. They finally managed to gain control of the city and set about pulling down most of the city’s buildings.
  • Mexico City was constructed on the site of Tenochtitlan and very few Aztec buildings can be seen. Archaeologists are constantly working on the remains, and the Great Temple was located in 1978.
  • Tlatelolco was the sister city-state to Tenochtitlan and it was also located on the northern part of the island in Lake Texcoco.
  • The famous Aztec calendar stone has been found in the ruins of Tenochtitlan’s Great Temple. It weighs more than 20 tonnes. No one really knows for certain how the stone was used and what it was used for.

What next? Learn more facts about the Aztecs by visiting our Aztec resources page.