Aztec Gods: Huitzilopochtli

Aztec Gods 3: Huitzilopochtli

So now we turn to the supreme god of the Mexica. Huitzilopochtli is somewhat different to other gods, in that he definitely originates outside of Mesoamerica. Furthermore, unlike other gods, his worship was limited to the Mexica and a few close allies. Although it was not unusual for individual gods to have a ‘home’ city where they are patron (Quetzalcoatl had Cholula and Tezcatlipoca had Texcoco), they were still generally worshipped throughout the population. Huitzilopochtli was only really worshipped in Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco, and a little in Texcoco, and his shrines are absent from other regions. In addition, Huitzilopochtli is a mysterious god, although in a different way to Tezcatlipoca. While Tezcatlipoca is an elusive god, Huitzilopochtli is a controversial one. As the most prominent god of the Mexica, he is often used as an emblem for Mexica imperial and religious practises in general, ignoring what the Mexica themselves thought of him, or how he fitted into their ceremonial life.

Recognising the Gods:
Like Tezcatlipoca, there are few known sculptures of Huitzilopochtli. However, we do have a few descriptions of the god from Conquistadors who saw his idols before Tenochtitlan’s destruction. Cortés was fairly terse in his description, simply describing them as amaranth dough bound and shaped with human blood. Bernal Díaz gives a much richer, less gory description, ‘He had a very broad face and huge terrible eyes. And there were so many precious stones, so much gold, so many pearls and seed-pearls stuck to him with a paste which the natives made from a sort of a root, that his whole body and head were covered with them.’ Díaz goes on to mention a belt of gold and jewel snakes surrounding the body of the idol, and that Huitzilopochtli was equipped with a bow and arrows. It must be noted that this particular idol was in Tlatelolco. Neither Cortés nor Díaz reported seeing the image contained within the Templo Mayor.

Huitzilopochtli was depicted in several texts, such as the Codex Borboniucus, the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, and of course, the Florentine Codex. He is often recognisable by his Xiuhcoatl, a fire serpent, which he wields. I think that it is intended to represent an atlatl, a type of spear thrower. He also carries a shield to which several darts have been affixed (explaining the atlatl). Lastly, Huitzilopochtli often wears a tall headdress. Occasionally Huitzilopochtli carries the iconography of other gods, such as Tezcatlipoca’s obsidian mirror. This is not unusual for Mesoamerican gods. However, Huitzilopochtli is unique in that only he seems to be associated with hummingbirds and hummingbird symbols. This makes sense, as a relative newcomer to Central Mexico, people outside of Tenochtitlan may not have been too familiar with his specific iconography and may have avoided using it. As a consequence, Huitzilopochtli is absent from the Tonalpohualli.

The Mexica, much like other people, had the habit of mixing mythology and history. Nowhere is this more evident when discussing Huitzilopochtli. During their long migration into the Valley of Mexico, the Mexica were constantly receiving directions, instructions, and sometimes malicious interference, from Huitzilopochtli. It is of course, unclear exactly how much Huitzilopochtli was actually involved. Huitzilopochtli’s most purely mythological story is that of his birth.

The legend begins with the earth goddess Coatlicue sweeping in a temple compound. She noticed a ball of feathers had blown in, and decided to keep it, hiding the ball in her skirt. Later, she found that the ball had disappeared and that she was now pregnant. Coatlicue had many children already, but when her daughter, Coyolxauhqui discovered her mother’s condition, she became enraged. She summoned her other siblings, known as the 400 southerners, to kill Coatlicue. Coatlicue fled to the mountain Coatepec but was pursued by her children. Yet, as Coyolxauhqui began to ascend the mountain, Huitzilopochtli spoke. He told his mother that he would protect her. Then he burst forth, fully armed and wielding the Xiuhcoatl. Charging down the mountain he butchers Coyolxauhqui, and then pursues and kills all of the 400 southerners. This myth is essentially a cosmic parable. Huitzilopochtli is the sun, his mother the earth. By defeating the moon (Coyolxauhqui) and the starts (the 400 southerners), he ensures that the earth continues to live.

Huitzilopochtli’s quasi-mythic involvement in Mexica history is best described in Chimalpahin and Durán’s accounts. The Mexica originally lived in a place known as Aztlan, which was imagined as an island surrounded by water, until Huitzilopochtli instructed them to leave and head south. The Mexica attempted to settle down several times, but never stayed in one place for very long. One interesting story is Huitzilopochtli’s conflict with yet another sister, Malinalxoch. Huitzilopochtli commands his followers to abandon Malinalxoch saying: ‘what Malinalxoch practices is not my practice. I have come forth from there and been sent hither for this; I have been given the arrow and the shield, for my war is my practice.’ So, he quickly identifies himself as a war god. Later the Mexica settled at Coatepec. At first the war god is pleased, but he soon becomes annoyed, believing that the Mexica have become too comfortable at this place, still too far from their destination. He smashes the settlement, forcing them to move on.
The Mexica drift from place to place until the end up in Chapultepec, where the past catches up to Huitzilopochtli. Copil, son of Malinalxoch, tracks down the war god and challenges him. Suffice to say, Copil gets utterly slaughtered. Huitzilopochtli removes his heart, and casts it into the lake of Mexico. Eventually, after a period of vicious fighting with their neighbours (again caused by Huitzilopochtli), the Mexica were driven onto a small island in Lake Texcoco. There they spotted an eagle eating a tunal fruit from a cactus that had grown over where Copil’s heart lay. This was the sign for where the Mexica were to build their city.

It is difficult to know how much of these chronicles reflect real events. Nevertheless, it is certain that the Mexica belonged to a group of people, known as the Nahua’s, who migrated into Central Mexico after the fall of Tollan. Of course, they were probably already familiar with Mesoamerican culture, but moving into the core of the region transformed them, as well as Mesoamerica itself. The Mexica were simply the last of the major Nahua groups to enter the Valley. The chaos Huitzilopochtli seems to induce is certainly a reflection of the political struggles that the group faced during its migration, both with internal factions and rival nations.

Archaeological excavations at the Templo Mayor indicate that Huitzilopochtli was the patron of Tenochtitlan from its earliest days. This lends credence to the mythical history, making it clear that Huitzilopochtli originated outside of Mesoamerica and was brought in by the Mexica. He remained in this position as both Tenochtitlan and the Templo Mayor grew. With the formation of the Mexica Empire after 1428 he became the source of the Mexica’s spiritual justification for conquest. However, the Mexica made no attempt to introduce Huitzilopochtli to the people they conquered, and so he never became popular in the provinces.

The great feast of Huitzilopochtli was Panquetzaliztli, the Raising of Banners. This ritual involved quite a large sacrificial ritual. Captives were ceremonial bathed, had their bodies painted with blue stripes, and given reed and feather headdresses. After being involved in several dances and other ceremonial activities, the captives were sacrificed by having their hearts removed. The ceremony also involved communal feasting, as the people ate amaranth seed tamales. Mexica priests created an amaranth seed dough figure of Huitzilopochtli. Warriors fought mock battles in the streets using wooden staves and branches. Interestingly, warrior youths w…

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Your Most Hated Christmas Song, 2018 Edition

It’s time (and then some) for that old Cauldron tradition of having a thread for griping about those cheesy, insipid, overplayed Christmas songs that make us want to get a copy on vinyl or CD for the sheer satisfaction of smashing it to bits. This is that thread!

This year, my main irritation is arrangements of ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ that are as slow as possible, presumably for fear that people won’t notice it’s wistful unless it’s outright dirge-like.

What’s yours?


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The Presentation Of Deities

It occurs to me that Deities might appear differently to different people. If we connect with a Deity through our mind or spirit, then the appearance and characteristics of that Deity might be seen through the filter of our minds. I am not just talking about the physical appearance of a God or Goddess, but also characteristics, personalities, etc. So, if I am color-blind and see green as grey, a deity that might appear green to others would be grey to me. I mean this metaphorically. If I have a compassionate, forgiving mind, a Deity might respond to that and be more caring. Whereas if I had a more combative mind, a Deity might appear to me more aggressive.

So each God or Goddess might present themselves differently to different people based on the limitations of the perceptions of the person interacting with that Deity. Therefore, the appearance, personality, and characteristics of a Deity might be sort of “customized” to the particular worshipper, and so could perhaps be highly personalized. I do not know this particular idea to be true (“unconfirmed personal gnosis”, a term I saw in some of the SIGs). I am just speculating. What do you think? I think Gods and Goddesses are highly mysterious, and perhaps present different facets of themselves to different people for different purposes.

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Self Protection

I do not have much experience with magick (I prefer that spelling for myself). I grew up Roman Catholic, so I have experience in Prayer and Contemplation. I also spent years practicing Martial Arts and Zazen Meditation, so Meditation.

Anyway, I am looking for advice on starting with folk magick methods for self protection. I come from a line of military on my Father’s side, but I never served myself. My point is that I have a somewhat militant nature. I bring that up because I have had aggressive interactions with various negative forces/spirits/entities, whatever you might call them. Rather than try and get rid of my naturally combative nature, I want to channel that fighting spirit into constructive paths.

I am trying to dedicate myself to a militant spirit of nonviolence. Sort of a soldier for peace. So, I am very interested in starting with some basic aspects of magickal self protection so that I can evade and escape some of the negative forces that I have mentioned. I had a particularly bad spiritual experience last September that also served as a kind of awakening.

Well, if anyone has any suggestions on self protection magick, I would appreciate any suggestions. I am a bit put off my fancy ceremonial magick, and am more interested in practical, natural FolkMagick. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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Closing an Energy Healing

I am mostly a faith healer.  I have mostly worked only on close friends and family members.  I have not closed a healing.  Ever. I have had this gift for at least 35 years.  I am aware that a persons healing can continue after initial contact with me for a period of time.  They can feel it at night or when they are at rest for days sometimes.

If I do a full body healing and there is an area that needs lots of work, I get fatigued or physically uncomfortable holding my position and it still needs more work, so I continue on to the next area knowing the healing will continue in the areas needing the most work.

My mother-in-law had much training and she closes off her healing sessions and does things differently from me.  However, she concedes that her guides say I do not need to change my ways.  That my ways work for me.

If I heal for someone outside of a family member, will they become frightened or disturbed by my not closing the healing?

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Welcome to the Cauldron

Welcome folks who have found us recently! This is a post to say welcome, and to let you know about The Cauldron (c. late 2018). We’ve had an influx of new people, so it seemed a good time to say hi, and tell you a bit about the place.

Like any community that’s been around for a while (over twenty years!), we’ve got our own quirks and habits. This post has links to some additional useful resources.

Up All Night is our yearly celebration of the Solstice (this year it’s starting on 12/21 at sunset, your local time).

People hang out in the designated thread, share thoughts, ideas, and what they’re up to. Some people also hang out in our chat space (this year, as last year, that’s our Discord server).  Some people stay up all night, but plenty of people come and go, depending on their needs and lives. There will be more specific plans shared as we get closer to the event.

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