Kamis, 26 Juni 2008

The Birth of Huitzilopochtli

Unlike most pre-Hispanic myths, which share many of the same characteristics, the myth of Huitzilopochtli is uniquely Aztec. Huitzilopochtli is therefore considered to be the cult god or the patron god of the Aztec. As a solar deity, Huitzilopochtli is closely related to and overlaps with Tonatiuh. Huitzilopochtli’s mother was Coatlicue, or She of the Serpent Skirt. Coatlicue, known for her devout nature and virtuous qualities, was at Mt. Coatepec one day, sweeping and tending to her penance, when she discovered a bundle of feathers on the ground. She decided to save them and placed them in her bosom. Without her realizing, the feathers impregnated her. Coyolxauhqui, Coatlicue’s daughter, and her 400 brothers, collectively called the Centzon Huitznahua, became enraged when they saw that their mother was pregnant. Prompted by Coyolxauhqui, and in an episode of pure anger and disgrace, they plotted to kill their own mother.

Coatlicue, aware of her children’s plants, was consoled and assured by her unborn son. Then, as Coyolxauhqui and the Centzon Huitznahua reached Coatepec to slay their mother, Coatlicue gave birth to Huitzilopochtli. In a move to save his mother, Huitzilopochtli, who was born fully armed, stabbed and beheaded Coyolxauhqui with his xiuhcoatl, or “turquoise serpent,” a sharp weapon. Her body fell from Coatepec, and broke into pieces at the base of the mountain. He then proceeded to kill his half brothers, murdering nearly all of them with the exception of the few that got away and fled south. It was believed that Huitzilopochtli was the Sun, and the Centzon Huitznahua constituted the stars, disappearing with the rising of the Sun. The Great Temple in the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, served as a monument to this myth. The pyramid’s south side represented Coatepec, the Serpent Mountain, and it was there at the base that a huge round stone of Coyolxauhqui’s dismembered body was excavated. This massive carved stone served as a reminder of Huitzilopochtli’s defeat of his enemies. Incidentally, it was at the Great Temple that many sacrifices took place, as if reenacting the slaying of Coyolxauhqui, for the sacrificed bodies, usually of captives or prisoners, were thrown down from the top of the pyramid, landing on the Coyolxauhqui stone. Like Tonatiuh, Huitzilopochtli required blood and hearts from sacrificed subjects in order to make his track across the heavens and assuring the Sun’s appearance in the east every morning.

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