Aztec Mythology Archive

  • In Aztec cosmology, the soul's journey to the Underworld after death leaves them with four destinations: the Sacred Orchard of the Gods, the Place of Darkness, the Kingdom of the Sun, and a paradise called the Mansion of the Moon. The most common deaths end up on their way to Mictlán with its nine levels, crashing mountains and rushing rivers, and four years of struggle. This pantheon of gods and goddesses and the expanse of the 13 Heavens provides the cultural basis for the Day of the Dead customs and celebrations.

    Mythological Journey to the Aztec Underworld

    In Aztec cosmology, the soul's journey to the Underworld after death leaves them with four destinations: the Sacred Orchard of the Gods, the Place of Darkness, the Kingdom of the Sun, and a paradise called the Mansion of the Moon. The most common deaths end up on their way to Mictlán with its nine levels, crashing mountains and rushing rivers, and four years of struggle. This pantheon of gods and goddesses and the expanse of the 13 Heavens provides the cultural basis for the Day of the Dead customs and celebrations.

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  • In San Francisco, the Mission District has celebrated Day of the Dead every year in since the early 70’s with altars in Garfield Park, serving as a community graveyard for the night and through art, music, other live performances and a walking procession. With the neighborhood in transition from rapid gentrification, will this vibrant culture rite continue? Yes, for now... Photos by Jack Eidt from 2015.

    Is Day of the Dead Culture in SF’s Mission Endangered?

    In San Francisco, the Mission District has celebrated Day of the Dead every year in since the early 70’s with altars in Garfield Park, serving as a community graveyard for the night and through art, music, other live performances and a walking procession. With the neighborhood in transition from rapid gentrification, will this vibrant culture rite continue? Yes, for now... Photos by Jack Eidt from 2015.

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  • Part of the Mesoamerican myth of the origin of people, where Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent, descends into the Land of the Dead, Mictlán, to rescue the bones of humanity and bring them back to life.

    Aztec Myth: Quetzalcoatl Rescues Humanity in the Land of the Dead

    Part of the Mesoamerican myth of the origin of people, where Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent, descends into the Land of the Dead, Mictlán, to rescue the bones of humanity and bring them back to life.

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  • In the pre-Hispanic era, skulls were kept as trophies and displayed during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. These ancestors passed down the knowledge that souls exist after death, resting in Mictlan, the land of the dead, not for judgment or resurrection, but for the day each year when they could return home to visit their loved ones.

    Day of the Dead: Aztec Dance Honoring the Soul’s Rest

    In the pre-Hispanic era, skulls were kept as trophies and displayed during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. These ancestors passed down the knowledge that souls exist after death, resting in Mictlan, the land of the dead, not for judgment or resurrection, but for the day each year when they could return home to visit their loved ones.

    Continue Reading...

  • Part II of the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe, part of the Spanish colonial appropriation of the Aztec Earth Mother Tonantzin: The future St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin explained to the Bishop of Mexico City how the Virgin appeared to request a temple be built at Tepeyac in her honor.

    Tonantzin Transforms into Our Lady of Guadalupe

    Part II of the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe, part of the Spanish colonial appropriation of the Aztec Earth Mother Tonantzin: The future St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin explained to the Bishop of Mexico City how the Virgin appeared to request a temple be built at Tepeyac in her honor.

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  • A Mexican Indian Catholic convert experiences visions of an obscure Aztec goddess, Tonantzin, challenging his faith. Thereafter the goddess becomes associated with the Virgin Mary in post-Spanish-conquest church.

    Virgin of Guadalupe: The Apparitions of An Aztec Goddess

    A Mexican Indian Catholic convert experiences visions of an obscure Aztec goddess, Tonantzin, challenging his faith. Thereafter the goddess becomes associated with the Virgin Mary in post-Spanish-conquest church.

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  • In pre-Hispanic Nahua culture (Aztec and the many other peoples of Central Mexico), life was seen as a dream, and only in dying could a human truly awaken. Death would set free the soul.

    Drums and Dance of Día de los Muertos

    In pre-Hispanic Nahua culture (Aztec and the many other peoples of Central Mexico), life was seen as a dream, and only in dying could a human truly awaken. Death would set free the soul.

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  • Short poems, anecdotes, mocking or reverent tributes, called calaveras or “skulls,” are given to celebrate public or private figures.  In Los Angeles, for the last seven years Tropico de Nopal Gallery has taken the custom into the realm of performance art-fashion show-walking altar display.

    Day of the Dead Ofrendas: Calavera Fashion Show and Walking Altars

    Short poems, anecdotes, mocking or reverent tributes, called calaveras or “skulls,” are given to celebrate public or private figures. In Los Angeles, for the last seven years Tropico de Nopal Gallery has taken the custom into the realm of performance art-fashion show-walking altar display.

    Continue Reading...