According to Aztec mythology and as evidenced in the Aztec Calendar (Sun Stone), before the present age there were four previous ages, or worlds. Each world had a name that corresponded to the calendar, as well as a deity and a race of people. Each world was also associated with one of the four elements: earth, water, fire, and wind. In addition to sharing the attributes of its corresponding element, the demise of that world would be dictated by its ruling element.
The previous worlds, better known as “suns,” were each created out of destruction. Each sun’s demise was due to a natural catastrophe prompted by a fight between the two conflicting deities, Quetzalcoatl, representing life, fertility, and light, and the Black Tezcatlipoca, representing darkness and war. Each cataclysm was prescribed by the sun’s ruling element and would bring an end to the world and death to all of its inhabitants.
Out of death and destruction, however, a new and better world was born, in which humanity lived in a more perfect stage than that of the previous suns. The four previous ages were the sun of ocelotl (jaguar) or earth, the air or wind sun, the fire sun, and the sun of water. Note that these are the suns of the four elements.
After the destruction of each world, the Black Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl were in charge of recovering the lost cosmic order together, with the winner of the argument of the previous age presiding over the next sun. All four Tezcatlipocas were engaged in the re-creation of the entire world and universe and its inhabitants.
The first sun, the world of the ocelotl or earth, was ruled by the Black Tezcatlipoca and was populated by giants. This sun ended as a result of Quetzalcoatl overpowering and defeating Tezcatlipoca by throwing him into the sea, whereupon Tezcatlipoca emerged as a jaguar. Other deadly jaguars also emerged, devouring the giants that roamed the Earth and thus ending the first sun. As a result of Quetzalcoatl’s victory over Tezcatlipoca, he presided over the second sun, the wind sun. Tezcatlipoca returned to Earth to topple Quetzalcoatl and was victorious, bringing this sun to an end by a hurricane wind. The third sun, the sun of fire rain, was presided over by Tlaloc, the rain god. For the second time, Quetzalcoatl was responsible for ending another world, this one destroyed by fire that rained from the sky. The fourth sun was presided over by Chalchiuhtlicue, Tlaloc’s sister. This sun of water was destroyed by a deluge, in which the resulting flood cleared out everything. As a result, the people of this previous world were turned into fish. After the deluge that ended the fourth world, the present age, the sun of movement, came into existence. The fifth sun will conclude on a day called nahui-ollin (4 Movement), as a result of earthquakes.