The 13 Most Important Aztec Gods and Goddesses

What better way to learn about the Aztec deities than spending some time with them at the gym? After all, who couldn’t do with a bit more exercise?

But  circuit training with actual Aztec gods might be harder than it looks. Some of them look downright mean, and as one cracks his knuckles in anticipation, you realize there’s no turning back.

You can just as well join the gods and goddesses and get it over with.

The 13 Most Important Aztec Gods and Goddesses

While ancient Aztec religion features hundreds of different deities, there are 13 that stood out as being the most influential in the entire Aztec pantheon.

Here they are:

Huitzilopochtli – Aztec God of War

One of the most important Aztec gods

Other Realms: Sacrifice, the Sun, and military victory.
Family: Son of the goddess Coatlicue, the Goddess of the Serpent Skirt.
Fun Fact: His father is a ball of feathers.

Huitzilopochtli prepares you for the killer circuit, erm, the prize. To survive, one must properly warm the muscles and stretch the tendons. The first exercise is simple – you must impersonate this Aztec god’s name.

Huitzilopochtli is also known as “Hummingbird on the Left,” so you stand on your left leg and flap your arms. He’s happy with your birdy efforts.

Next, the god Huitzilopochtli almost murders you by making you walk the route he is most famous for. According to Aztec mythology, Huitzilopochtli led a group of ancestral Aztecs from their homeland in northern Mexico to where they eventually built their great empire. You complete the walk after a few months and several resuscitations.

At this point, you no longer want to gym with the gods. But Huitzilopochtli is not to be defied. He’s one of, if not the most important Aztec god, and he kills his sister on a regular basis.

Indeed, the ancient Aztecs believed the battle occurred every dawn when Huitzilopochtli, as the Aztec Sun god, overcame his sibling, the moon goddess and her four hundred brothers (the star gods). From this unhappy family situation, each day is born.

So when Huitzilopochtli points you in the direction of the next exercise station, staring at you with that turquoise rod in his nose, you obey. He’s also holding a strange smoking mirror in his hand and you leave before Huitzilopochtli decides to demonstrate what the heck that thing is for.

Tonatiuh – Aztec God Of The Sun

Aztec God of the Sun

Other Realms: Fertility, warriors, and human sacrifices.
Fun Fact: According to the Aztec calendar, Tonatiuh rules the current era which is predicted to end with an earthquake.

Huitzilopochtli passes you on to another Sun god. However, Tonatiuh is the main solar deity in Aztec religion and he’s a terrifying god. Not just because he wears a blond wig, either. The ancient Aztecs believed that Tonatiuh’s movement across the sky had to be greased with blood – or he would get stuck. Then, you know, a permanent day. The horror of it.

Since they couldn’t allow that to happen, prisoners were caught on the battlefield and their hearts were given to Tonatiuh.

Aztec human sacrifice was a way of life for the soldiers who worshiped this god. He seems disappointed when you turn down his suggestion to re-enact the past. He really wanted to catch you on the battlefield. Because it’s good exercise and not because of the whole ripping organs from your chest thing.

But as unlikely as it seems, this Sun god has a positive side. He also provides warmth and fertility in living beings. So he laces up your running shoes and tells you to catch a growing family of rabbits until you overheat.

Tlaloc – Aztec Patron God of Rain

One of the most important Aztec gods

Other Realms: Fertility, the seasons, and agriculture.
Family: His consort is Chalchiuhtlicue, a goddess of rain and water, or god of the Jade Skirt.
Fun Fact: Tlaloc’s home was on any mountain top covered by clouds.

Weight training? Oh, come on. You just walked across Mexico and caught a hundred rabbits that didn’t know the meaning of family planning!

You’re about to ask for the lightest dumbbell he has when Tlaloc hands you a bucket. The task is simple: The god of rain tells you to fill the bucket with water, carry the slosh to different places and tip the bucket empty. Hey, Tlaloc can call this weight training all he wants but you smell a fish.

Tlaloc is one of the most ancient gods in Mesoamerica and shifted between cultures. He’s brought rain to the Maya who knew him as Chaac. As the god Cocijo, he served the thirsty needs of the Zapotec of Oaxaca. Thousands of years of rain everywhere made Tlaloc crave a break. You’re that patsy.

He makes you do all his chores. So you water all the maize on the planet. You rain on Mesoamerica. You welcome those who enter Tlalocan, the fourth heaven in Aztec spirituality. Back in the day, this lush paradise was the destination of people who drowned or died during childbirth.

The god of rain grins happily. As friendly as he is, now that he’s taking the day off, no smile can improve his appearance. His eyes are curling snakes that meet in the middle to form his nose. Worse, below his large upper lip, Tlaloc also has a pair of fangs that will make a Rottweiler faint.

Chalchiuhtlicue – Aztec Goddess of Water; Goddess of the Jade Skirt

Aztec goddess of the jade skirt

Other Realms: Streams, lakes, oceans, marriage, children, and navigation.
Family: Her consort is Tlaloc.
Fun fact: Aztec myths spoke of newborns that floated on a stream flowing from her skirt.

As a rain god, Chalchiuhtlicue’s partner Tlaloc is responsible for the water that falls from the sky. Chalchiuhtlicue, on the other hand, rules over water that is already on the earth. Together, they reign supreme as the Aztec water gods. But since the ancients travelled on lakes, rivers, and the ocean, they also associated navigation with this Aztec goddess.

You guessed it. This is your water aerobics instructor.

For safety reasons – and not to entertain herself at all – she makes you wear an inflated ring with a duck’s head. Once again, it’s not a good time to argue. In Aztec culture, she ruled the world for 676 years and when she decided to destroy Earth, Chalchiuhtlicue once turned all humans into fish.

More disturbingly, Aztec ritual sacrifice was also a thing in her case. The people desperately wanted to please this goddess. They believed she brought drought by withholding water from the mountains, which in turn, made the rivers run dry. To ensure her happiness and a rainy season, they dressed women up to resemble Chalchiuhtlicue and then Aztec priests sacrificed them. Children also fell victim.

To avoid landing on her plate as fish and chips, or a sacrifice, you obediently follow the aerobics class. Even when she pelts you with jade (her favorite stone) and tries to scare you with her hideous face. Yep, Chalchiuhtlicue also wears snake goggles like Tlaloc. But she has additional snake accessories including a serpent headdress and a nose plug. Impressed with your poker face, she throws you a towel and tells you to skip along to the next instructor.

Tezcatlipoca – Aztec God of Creation

Aztec creation god

Other Realms: Warriors, sustenance, day, night, change brought through conflict, bringer of good and evil.
Family: Son of Ometeotl, brother of Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli and Xipe Totec.
Fun Fact: He created the first dogs. It was an elderly couple he punished for disturbing the stars with their cooking fire.

At first, you cannot see anyone. But when you finally see Tezcatlipoca, you wish you never did. He’s not hideous. There’s just too much of him. The Aztec faith had many important gods but none compared to this deity’s reach.

The reason you failed to see him upon arrival? He’s invisible when he wants to be. But once he appears, you grasp why the Aztecs, with their different groups and states, worshiped him in their own way without letting go of their regional beliefs. His names and attributes are legion.

He represented the things they needed and the things that they feared. In other words, Tezcatlipoca was a force of good and evil. As such, he directly influenced the life of each Aztec. They placed tragedies and good luck equally on the shoulders of this god.

One of the good things he did was to create the world. Well, the way he did it wasn’t exactly white hat. He and his brother Quetzalcóatl wildly slaughtered a monster and mined the corpse for building blocks. But let’s make lemonade from the violence. The body turned into the earth, sky, and everything on it. Presto. Earth.

This part of the circuit training requires cardio. He mentions that you’ll be running but forget about a treadmill. This god wants you to run away screaming. Hey, you can totally do that because the fear is there. Tezcatlipoca is a magician of the black arts, destruction, and death.

He also does weird things with a smoking mirror. Sometimes he wears it on his head and sometimes he uses the mirror as a foot. It’s impossible to run away from an omnipotent god. But after trying your best, it turns out to be an excellent exercise. The muscle action improved your blood circulation while the screaming expanded the lungs nicely. The terror also shaved years off your lifespan but you make it to the next god in one piece.

Quetzalcoatl – Aztec God of Air

Quetzalcoatl Aztex god of air

Other Realms: Wind, Aztec priesthood, merchants, Venus, dawn, crafts, and learning.
Family: Brother of Tezcatlipoca, his twin brother is Xolotl.
Fun Fact: He is famously depicted in Aztec stories as a plumed serpent.

What is it with Aztec gods and snakes? To be fair, Quetzalcoatl handles this fixation with style. He appears before you as a large serpent with feathers. He’s four paws away from being a breathtaking dragon.

Although he was widely worshiped by several Mesoamerican cultures, including the Maya and Aztecs, Quetzalcoatl doesn’t seem burdened with vanity. Indeed, his name means “wisest of men” as well as “feathered serpent.”

One of the most noteworthy Aztec pyramids belonged to his cult. Located in Cholula, it was the biggest in the world. When the Spaniards noticed the throngs that migrated to worship at the center, they likened it to Mecca or Rome. His image and name were also used as titles and emblems in the military as well as for leaders and priests.

One reason why the Aztecs respected this god so much was that he resurrected humans. Aztecs are full of mentions about the world ending after one such catastrophe, all the people were wiped out. Quetzalcoatl used their bones and his own blood to create new humans.

Then his wise face cracks a little. You realize that he’s been posing and now that the other Aztec gods aren’t looking anymore, he wants to confide something in you. That makes your chest swell with pride. The great Quetzalcoatl favors you and not his sacred buddies. But as it turns out, you’re not chosen for a glorious quest.

He wants you to do push-ups and each time you are near the floor, pick a mushroom with your teeth. There’s a tiny basket to spit them into. These are sacred mushrooms that once sent his followers on spirit journeys but the rest of the Aztec gods don’t want the fungus around. They think Quetzalcoatl has a problem and forbid him to pick the caps. You just want to get this over with. After a few pushups and mouthfuls of mushrooms, you leave one very happy serpent and head over to the next god.

Xipe Totec – Aztec God of Renewal

Aztec god flayed himself

Other Realms: Vegetation, disease, war, agriculture, spring, silversmiths, goldsmiths, the seasons (specifically the east), liberation, life, death, and rebirth.
Fun Fact: This god is associated with pimples.

As far as Aztec symbols go, nobody beats Xipe Totec. You realize this during a slideshow that shows you everything he stands for. The god feels his story will entertain you as you go through the yoga routine he gave you. While you struggle to align your spine with an unpronounceable posture, he clicks through the images.

Great, he flayed himself. Without his skin, Xipe Totec represented the way maize shed their outer leaves before the seeds could grow and how snakes lost their old layers. But, somehow, in Aztec religious culture, when this Aztec god flayed himself, this brought food to the people. To them, when Sipe Totec shed his rotting skin, it brought renewal to himself and vegetation.

Then he goes a little too far. The next slide shows a statue of him wearing the skin of an Aztec human sacrifice. People touched the flayed hide to cure themselves of certain diseases. Xipe Totec received offerings to remove zits, blisters, eye problems, smallpox, and inflammation. He was said to cause such maladies and enough respect from the people could reverse or prevent them.

The slides show more ways this Aztec god was honored. During a yearly festival, multiple slaves were chosen and dressed to resemble him. This crowd of Xipe Totecs were killed and the next day, their skins were worn by gladiators who fought warriors (who only wore their own skins, thank goodness).

Afterwards, those wearing the flayed slaves went around town and handed out alms or gifts. Metalworkers also revered him. They sacrificed thieves to Xipe Totec, especially those who stole gold and silver.

Mayahuel – Aztec Goddess Of The Maguey

Aztec Goddess of the Maguey

Family: Her grandmother is Tzitzímitl.
Fun Fact: The Maguey plant is also known as the agave. One species, the blue agave, is used to make tequila.

For once, you don’t want to tear out your eyeballs. This goddess isn’t strange-looking or wearing somebody’s ears as jewellery. In fact, Mayahuel is gentle and beautiful. She allows you to rest at her station, drink tequila, and listen to her legends.

According to Aztec mythology, she was held captive by her own grandmother. The older woman was jealous of Mayahuel’s looks and never allowed her to have friends. But Mayahuel wanted a good dose of romance. So she persistently clung to a cloud every night and sang. It worked. One night, a wind god named Ehecatl heard her voice and flew up to her. The couple fell madly in love and met every night.

This didn’t sit well with the grandmother. Mind you, this wasn’t your average Nana speckled with cookie flour. Tzitzímitl was a deadly goddess who commanded a host of demons. When Ehecatl and Mayahuel realized that Tzitzímitl planned to kill them, they fled. To hide, the lovers merged and turned into a gorgeous plant, the Maguey. She found them and hacked the plant to pieces. But a fragment survived and so did the couple.

Among Aztec symbols, the Maguey stands for transformation, passion, magic, and love.

Tlaltecuhtli – Aztec Goddess Of Fertility

Goddess of fertility

Other Realms: Earth, life, and midwives.
Fun Fact: The creator god Tezcatlipoca lost his left foot when he fought this goddess.

Tlaltecuhtli is a toad. Or something resembling a toad. She’s huge, with fangs and large claws, and her elbows and knees have mouths that scream for flesh. Kind of a shocker after the benevolent Mayahuel but one must look past… well, looks, and acknowledges that the toad played an important role in the existence of humanity.

Sure, Mayahuel brought tequila but Tlaltecuhtli’s body became the world. You recall that the creator god Tezcatlipoca and his brother killed a monster to create the planet. That’s our toad girl.

While Tlatecuhtli times your spin class, she tells you her side of the story. She put up a good fight but in the end, they tore her in half. The two sides formed heaven and earth. But the other Aztec gods and goddesses were displeased by her death. So they decreed that every piece of Tlaltecuhtli had to be used to shape the world’s plants, rivers, mountains, and valleys.

Even though she had been killed, the Aztecs treated her as one of the living Aztec goddesses. The people mistook any strange sounds coming from the earth as her voice. Thinking that she was calling for blood sacrifice, the Aztecs provided Tlaltecuhtli with a constant supply of human hearts. This wasn’t to shut her up. Should her thirst for blood go unheeded, this goddess killed crops. It’s blackmail but hey, what can you do? To be fair, she was also credited with helping midwives during difficult births.

This goddess was regularly carved into Aztec temples. The artists placed her near the earth, under special boxes that contained hearts, and even on cornerstones of Aztec pyramids. The carvings and their locations symbolize the aspects of her that nourished the earth.

Mictlantecuhtli – Aztec God of Death

One of the Aztec gods of death

Other Realms: The underworld Mictlán, the south, owls, bats, and spiders.
Family: His wife is Mictecacíhuatl.
Fun Fact: The bones used by the serpent god, Quetzalcoatl, to resurrect humanity, were stolen from the underworld. Mictlantecuhtli tried but failed to prevent the god from taking the remains.

A key Aztec god is Mictlantecuhtli. When you meet him, your creep antennae buzz at high alert. You stand by the door and decide to check things out before entering.

First off, his circuit is in the basement. The dark basement. Secondly, the guy inside looks like a skeleton – ribcage and all. You don’t know what the deal is with the cone hat he’s wearing, but you guess correctly that the red spots on his body symbolize blood and his strange eyes are designed to see in gloomy places. Like the land of the dead, which he rules. Like a basement with no exercising equipment or windows. Not suspicious at all…

Finally, recognizing him as the Mexica deity who cracked his knuckles when you arrived to exercise with the gods, erodes your trust even further. He mutters about how the ancient Aztecs believed they’d encounter him personally after they died. Mictlantecuhtli shuffles closer, bones rattling.

As the god of death, it’s his responsibility to make sure that the dead stay in his realm. Nobody escapes. He’s still angry that Quetzalcoatl stole the bones from him. Fine, the feathered serpent god resurrected the human race with these gruesome relics but it messed with Mictlantecuhtli’s OCD about keeping the deceased underground.

He whispers for you to stay… forever. A boney hand rattles towards you, the fingers reaching for your aorta. Since you have no desire to hang out with Mictlantecuhtli for eternity – in a boring basement, no less – you slam the door in his face.

Xōchiquetzal – Aztec Goddess Of Women

Aztec goddess of women

Other Realms: Fertility, pregnancy, childbirth, women’s crafts, beauty, female sexual power, protector of young mothers.
Family: Mother of Quetzalcoatl. Her twin brother is Xochipilli. Unlike some Aztec goddesses, she had several different husbands.
Fun Fact: Her name means “flower precious feather.”

The serpent god Quetzalcoatl was surrounded by mushrooms. Similarly, this goddess sits on a carpet of marigolds. Indeed, she’s his mother and the flowers are sacred to her. Xochiquetzal is also easy on the eyes.

In Aztec religious culture, she’s always depicted as a beautiful young woman wearing high-class clothing. The latter can be seen as suitable since Xochiquetzal is the patron goddess of people who manufacture luxury goods.

She makes you wear a mask, adorned with flowers and the face of an animal. Her followers held a special festival every eight years when everyone wore a flower or animal mask. As if that’s not bizarre enough (because you’re not a groupie), she gives you stretching exercises that involve hanging nectar feeders in high places around the gym.

Soon enough, her retinue of birds and butterflies enjoy a good meal at your expense. Then Xochiquetzal gives you something. It’s a ticket. She says it’s to apologize that you hurt your foot after standing on your toes too many times. The gift reflects her other realms. Apart from being the goddess of women, she also represents dancing, music, singing, vegetation, and pleasure.

That vegetation part should’ve warned you. The card is a free pass to a sing-along with the Aztec gods next week where everyone dresses up as their favorite plant. There’s no way you’re attending. The world cannot know your dirty secret – that you love the blue agave. Fine, you love the tequila. But you’re not going to a party dressed as a bottle of liquor. You tried that once and somebody called your mother.

Mictecacihuatl – Aztec Goddess Of Death

The 13 Most Important Aztec Gods and Goddesses 3

Other Realms: The lowest level of the underworld, a place called Mictlan.
Family: Her husband is Miclantecuhtl.
Fun Fact: Some believe that festivals that honored this couple were passed down almost unchanged into the modern age. Today’s “Day of the Dead” celebrations would look very familiar to the Aztecs.

Mictecacihuatl is married to the creepy guy in the basement. This goddess is thought to have descended into the underworld after she was sacrificed as a baby. By the time she arrived in Mictlan, she was presumably a grown woman as she became the consort of the Aztec god of death, the similarly named Miclantecuhtl.

They make a suitable couple, that’s for sure. Just like her husband, Mictecacihuatl’s appearance is graphic. If they competed, she might actually win the Aztec Gore Trophy. Her mouth is large and open. This maw swallows the stars during the day. But that’s not the worst part. She’s often depicted as a defleshed corpse wearing a dress woven with snakes.

The husband and wife team rule the underworld together. However, Mictecacihuatl also governs festivals of the dead and guards the skeletons of the deceased. When someone died, the Aztecs offered grave goods to both gods, hoping to appease the couple enough to protect the deceased.

She doesn’t seem offended that you broke her hubby’s face with a door. It’s not like he can get any uglier or any more dead. Instead, Mictecacihuatl wants to celebrate the fact that you’re almost done with your circuit training. During an offensively short festival in your honour, she paints your face like a skull, hangs garlands around your neck, and shoves you toward the last god.

Centeotl – Aztec Patron God Of Maize

The 13 Most Important Aztec Gods and Goddesses 4

Other Realms: Crop production and harvests.
Family: His mother was Tlazolteotl or Toci, the goddess of fertility and childbirth. He was also married to Xochiquetzal, the first woman to give birth.
Fun Fact: The Aztecs had several corn gods and goddesses but Centeotl was chief among them.

To your relief, Centeotl isn’t interested in Pilates. As the last god, it’s his job to cool you down like a horse after a race. During the stroll, he notices your limp and kindly offers a foot spa for the injury that you picked up while feeding the birds.

While he exfoliates your heels with a corn cob, you learn that he’s one of the most important gods in Aztec culture. Heck, even other Mesoamerican people, like the Maya and Olmec, worshiped this maize god in one form or the other.

But there’s irony in Centeotl’s story. Despite his importance as a maize god, he never gave the first corn to humans. Instead, he brought things like cotton and sweet potatoes. Nevertheless, a number of festivals and ceremonies showed appreciation for this god. Some went a little too far. One called for self-injury and then to sprinkle the blood around the family home. If that’s not enough to freak the kids out, during the eleventh month of the Aztec calendar, a woman was killed and Centeotl’s priest wore her skin as a mask.

With that last bit of information, you decide to call it a day. Not just because of the terrifying mask story but because his “hair” gives an entirely new meaning to cornrows. His scalp is sprouting maize. Centeotl probably reaches for his head when he wants popcorn. You thank the maize god for the cornmeal-paste-sole-detox and go home.

Aztec Religion and the Aztec Empire   

These 13 Aztec gods were by far the most important to the ancient Aztecs . They ruled over everything from the sun and fertility to creation and death, and everything in between. But beyond their specific realms, religion played an important role in the growth and development of the Aztec Empire, which was the most powerful of all the ancient civilization, at least until the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century.

Believing they were blessed from the heavens above, and also in need of a constant supply of human sacrifices, these ancient people expanded their political control from the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (modern Mexico City) throughout central Mexico, conquering hundreds of different people along the way. As they did, they used religion to justify their actions, and also to send countless people to their deaths atop their infamous temples.

Nevertheless, despite ruling for more than 200 years, they were replaced by the Spanish in less than ten, a change that dramatically changed the course of Mexican and world history.

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