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Definition and Origins

by Mark Cartwright
published on 04 September 2013
Aztec Sun Stone (Dennis Jarvis)
The Aztec Sun Stone (or Calendar Stone ) depicts the five consecutive worlds of the sun from Aztec mythology. The stone is not, therefore, in any sense a functioning calendar, but rather it is an elaborately carved solar disk, which for the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican cultures represented rulership. At the top of the stone is a date glyph (13 reed) which represents both the beginning of the present sun, the 5th and final one according to mythology, and the actual date 1427 CE, thereby legitimizing the rule of Itzcoatl (who took power in that year) and creating a bond between the divine and mankind.
The stone was discovered in December 1790 CE in the central plaza of Mexico City and now resides in the National Museum of Anthropology in that city. The richly carved basalt stone was once a part of the architectural complex of the Temple Mayor and measures 3.58 metres in diameter, is 98 centimetres thick, and weighs 25 tons. The stone would originally have been laid flat on the ground and possibly anointed with blood sacrifices. When it was discovered, the stone was lying flat and upside down, perhaps in an attempt to prevent the final cataclysm - the fall of the 5th and final sun - as the Aztec world fell apart following the attack from the Old World.

THE SUN STONE WOULD ORIGINALLY HAVE BEEN LAID FLAT ON THE GROUND AND POSSIBLY ANOINTED WITH BLOOD SACRIFICES.

At the centre of the stone is a representation of either the sun god Tonatiuh (the Day Sun) or Yohualtonatiuh (the Night Sun) or the primordial earth monster Tlaltecuhtli, in the latter case representing the final destruction of the world when the 5th sun fell to earth. The tongue is perhaps also a sacrificial knife and, sticking out, it suggests a thirst for blood and sacrifice. Around the central face at four points are the other four suns which successively replaced each other after the gods Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca struggled for control of the cosmos until the era of the 5th sun was reached. The suns are known by the day name on which their final destruction occurred. Beginning from the top right there is the first sun Nahui Ocelotl (4 - Jaguar), top left is the second sun Nahui Ehécatl (4 - Wind), bottom left the third sun Nahui Quiáhuitl (4 - Rain) and bottom right is the fourth sun Nahui Atl (4 - Water).
On either side of the central face are two jaguar heads or paws, each clutching a heart, representing the terrestrial realm. The band running immediately around the suns is segmented into the 20 Aztec day-names (hence the Calendar Stone name).Then there is a decorative ring surrounded by another ring depicting symbols which represent turquoise and jade, symbols of the equinoxes and solstices, and the colours of the heavens. The two heads at the bottom centre represent fire serpents, and their bodies run around the perimeter of the stone with each ending in a tail. The four cardinal and the inter-cardinal directions are also indicated with larger and lesser points respectively.

Mictlantecuhtli › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Mark Cartwright
published on 22 September 2013
Mictlantecuhtli (Dennis Jarvis)
Mictlantecuhtli ( pron. Mict-lan-te-cuht-li) or 'Lord of the Land of the Dead' was the Aztec god of death and worshipped across Mesoamerica. He ruled the underworld (Mictlán) with his wife Mictecacíhuatl. The god was the ruler of the 10th day Itzcuintli (Dog), the 5th Lord of the Night and the 6th (or 11th) Lord of the Day. He was the equivalent of the Maya god Yum Cimil, the Zapotec god Kedo and the Tarascan god Tihuime. Mictlantecuhtli was closely associated with owls, spiders and bats and the direction south.

THE CREATION MYTH

In the Aztec creation myth Mictlantecuhtli attempted to delay the god Ehecatl -Quetzalcóatl on his journey into Mictlán.Quetzalcoatl was searching for the bones of the creatures from the previous world of the 4th Sun in order to make mankind.Amongst the tricks and difficult tasks Mictlantecuhtli set was to insist that Quetzalcoatl could only take the bones away with him if he went around the underworld four times blowing a conch-shell trumpet. This task was not quite as simple as it seemed as the god of the underworld only gave Quetzalcoatl an ordinary conch-shell and so it would not sound. Quetzalcoatl got around the problem by having worms drill holes in the shell and placing bees inside it so that their buzzing would sound like a trumpet. Not to be outdone by this, Mictlantecuhtli let Quetzalcoatl think that he had got the better of things and allowed him to take the bones.

MICTLANTECUHTLI WAS SUCH AN IMPORTANT GOD IN THE AZTEC PANTHEON BECAUSE, AS RULER OF MICTLÁN, ALL SOULS WOULD ONE DAY MEET HIM FACE TO FACE.

Mictlantecuhtli, then, far from giving up, arranged for his assistants, the Micteca, to dig a large pit so that Quetzalcoatl would stumble into it when he tried to leave Mictlán. Sure enough, when passing the pit and, unluckily startled by a passing quail, Quetzalcoatl fell into the trap and the bones became broken and scattered. However, Quetzalcoatl roused himself and gathering up the bones managed to extract himself from the pit and get away unscathed from the clutches of Mictlantecuhtli.Once safely delivered to the goddess Cihuacóatl, the bones were mixed with Quetzalcoatl's blood and from the mixture sprang forth the first men and women.

MICTLÀN

Mictlantecuhtli was such an important god in the Aztec pantheon because, as ruler of Mictlán, all souls would one day meet him face to face, for it was believed that only those who suffered a violent death, women who died in childbirth or people killed by storms or floods avoided the underworld in the afterlife. The Aztecs did not believe in a special paradise reserved only for the righteous but, rather, that all people shared the same destiny after death, regardless of the kind of life they had led. Souls would descend the nine layers of the underworld in an arduous four-year journey until eventually reaching extinction in the deepest part - Mictlan Opochcalocan. Mictlantecuhtli was particularly worshipped in the Aztec month of Tititl where, at the temple of Tlalxicco, an impersonator of the god was sacrificed and incense was burned in his honour.
Mictlantecuhtli

Mictlantecuhtli

REPRESENTATION IN ART

Mictlantecuhtli is usually portrayed in art as a skeleton or covered in bones with red spots representing blood. He may also wear a skull mask, bone ear plugs, a costume of owl feathers and even a necklace of eyeballs. He has curly black hair and powerful eyes which allow him to penetrate the gloom of the underworld. On occasion he can be wearing clothes and a conical hat made from bark-paper.

LICENSE:

Article based on information obtained from these sources:
with permission from the Website Ancient History Encyclopedia
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