The Aztec god Huitzilopochtli was numerous things come the Mexica people. When Huitzilopochtli led them to Tenochtitlan and also unrivaled success, that was also closely tied to empire’s ultimate fall.

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Huitzilopochtli wielding his snake spear, Xiuhcoatl. Illustration indigenous the Codex Ramírez (also known as the Tovar Codex).World Digital Library / windy Domain

In the second story, Huitzilopochtli to be born come Coatlicue, a primordial planet goddess. He to be conceived as soon as his mother put a ball of hummingbird feathers underneath she breasts. As hummingbirds represented reincarnated warriors, the implicit was the Huitzilopochtli had been sired through an cotton warrior. This was exactly how Coatlicue’s 400 other youngsters took the news. Offended by the nature of your mother’s pregnancy they either killed her, check to death her, or attempted to kill the unborn Huitzilopochtli, depending upon the version of the legend being told. In any type of case, a completely armed Huitzilopochtli then arised from the womb and also swiftly beat his attack siblings.

Mythology

Huitzilopochtli played countless roles within the Aztec pantheon. The led the Mexica world to Tenochtitlan, the eventual seat of power of the Aztec Empire, and also was venerated as the major god of war. Sacrifices were made come him after every victory and also defeat, and also the dawn of creation even paused and also waited because that his arrival. It was foretold the Huitzilopochtli would at some point be defeated, and that the Aztec empire would fall with him.

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Aztec priests sacrifice prisoners to Huitzilopochtli at Templo Mayor, in the center of Tenochtitlan (now modern day Mexico City).iStock

While Huitzilopochtli to be an undeniably significant divine being within Aztec mythology, part scholars have argued that the Spanish attributed higher significance come him 보다 the Aztecs ever before did. Bernardino de Sahagun’s seminal text, Historia basic de las cosas de la Nueva España, attracted parallels in between the Aztec gods and also their ancient Mediterranean counterparts, playing up details gods that much better fit europe archetypes.3 Huitzilopochtli’s virgin birth, in enhancement to his place as god of battle (akin to Mars), set him up perfect to be received by Europeans together a god of preeminent importance.4

Origin Myth: child of Ometecuhtli and also Omecihuatl

The earliest beginning myth that Huitzilopochtli inserted him together the fourth and also final kid of Ometecuhtli and also Omecihuatl. Huitzilopochtli “was born without flesh (nacio sin carne), however only bones,” and remained fleshless because that 600 years.5 after ~ those 600 years had passed, Huitzilopochtli and his brothers began the procedure of producing the world and also its laws.

Origin Myth: kid of Coatlicue

The 2nd origin myth because that Huitzilopochtli resembled Jesus’ conception. The is unsure how countless of these parallels were coincidental and how many were the direct an outcome of the Spanish grafting Christianity ~ above Aztec mythology.

The story started with the Mexica people departing their genealogical home the Aztlan looking for a prophesied city the would come to be the seat of a great empire. Your exodus indigenous Aztlan and subsequent journeying took numerous years. Periodically, the Mexica would avoid to erect holy places to Huitzilopochtli in the wishes that that would overview them.

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A statue the Huitzilopochtli’s mother, Coatlicue.Luidger / CC BY-SA 3.0

According come the Codex Ramirez, throughout a stopover close to a place dubbed Coatepec (Serpent Hill) “Quatlique that was a virgin, take it a small quantity of white feathers and placed them in her bosom, indigenous which she conceived without having known man, and also there to be born of her Vchilogos .”6 outraged by the nature of her mother’s pregnancy, Coyolxauhqui led 400 of she brothers in an assault on Coatlicue. In the middle of this attack, Huitzilopochtli arised from his mother’s womb “in full war regalia” and destroyed his brothers and sisters.7

Tenochtitlan

Prior to the starting of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec people lived in the city native which they derived their name: Aztlan. About 1064CE, the Aztecs left Aztlan, probably prompted by the supernova that produced the Crab Nebula. Because that the following 270 years, the Aztec people were semi-nomadic, settling under from time to time prior to ultimately moving along. In 1325 they concerned a lake where an eagle was eating a snake while perched atop a cactus. This to be a authorize that had been prophesied by Huitzilopochtli and identified Tenochtitlan as the place that would come to be the chair of the Aztec empire.

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The imagery that the eagle eat a snake has actually remained a prominent part of Mexican social heritage—here shown on the mexican flag.Public Domain

Some have suggested that the structure myth the Tenochtitlan readily available insight right into Huitzilopochtli’s standing as more recent member of the Aztec pantheon. Read and also Gonzalez noted that “one tale an initial describes that as an image carried in a bundle on the ago of the early Mexica ancestors wandering the land. This bundle looked like the bundle dead rulers to be wrapped into...this human being may have actually been a chief called for the god, or a great chief who later died and became the god.”8

The Templo Mayor erected at the facility of Tenochtitlan was specialized to both Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc, the god that rain. Read and also Gonzalez took this shared temple space as another indication of Huitzilopochtli’s fairly recent origin among the Aztec gods. The temple served as Huitzilopochtli’s main sacrificial altar, and rituals including ceremonial sculptures and human sacrifice were generally carried out on site.

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Ruins the the Templo Mayor, the Aztec temple committed to Huitzilopochtli, in what is now contemporary day Mexico City. The initial temple was located at the facility of Tenochtitlan, the capital city of the Aztec Empire during the 15th century.iStock

The loss of Huitzilopochtli and the Aztec Empire

The Aztecs attributed much of their dominance in main Mexico come Huitzilopochtli. It to be his guidance that instructed castle to leave Aztlan and also his prophecy that directed them to Tenochtitlan. As the Aztec god that war, Huitzilopochtli was crucial in their conquest of neighboring groups. When the Aztecs thought Huitzilopochtli to be fairly powerful, they did not think about him to be invincible. They recognized that the god of war would ultimately fall. Huitzilopochtli’s loss would in turn bring around the finish of the Aztec Empire.

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Illustration indigenous the 16th century Ramírez Codex depicting the Aztec temple dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, Templo Mayor. The right side the the image features a tzompantli, a form of wood rack provided for the public display of skulls.World Digital Library / publicly Domain

During Moctezuma I’s reign, one of Huitzilopochtli’s temples shed down. The fire to be “uncontrollable...throwing water ~ above the flames only made lock worse.”9 This event was taken together an angry omen and also a sign of points to come. These predictions would be proven correct during the reign of Moctezuma II. The very first Spanish attack versus the Aztec came once the conquistador Pedro de Alvarado struck the city that Tenochtitlan during Toxcatl, a day of feasting committed to Huitzilopochtli.

Pop Culture

Huitzilopochtli renders an appearance in the trading card game Vampire: The Eternal Struggle as—somewhat unsurprisingly—a vampire. In the game’s lore, Huitzilopochtli “used the… Aztecs as devices to drive out the werebeasts that lived in the lands.”

References

Bibliography

Pohl, man M. D. And also Claire L. Lyons. The Aztec Pantheon and the arts of Empire. Los Angeles: Getty Publishing, 2010.

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Read, Kay Almere and Jason J. Gonzalez. Handbook of Mesoamerican Mythology. Oxford: ABC-CLIO, 2000.