Aztec mythology is made up of crazy, bloody, and one-of-a-kind stories. If myths reveal a lot about the culture that produced them, then it should come as no surprise that Aztec religion, like ancient Aztec civilization, incorporated elements of gore and violence. The Aztecs were infamous for their use of blood sacrifice during religious, civic, and political rituals. Given these violent practices, Aztec myths run the gambit from the peculiar to the downright bloody.
These crazy Aztec myths employ a cast of some of the most important gods in their universe. As with crazy and disturbing Greek myths, bloody Aztec myths feature a pantheon of noble, jealous, and vengeful gods that take up insane rivalries, take on various forms, and use humans as playthings. Aztecs, like other civilizations, had their own creation story; however, in their version, the gods repeatedly built and destroyed the world, and humanity suffered.
These stories were not just for entertainment - they also served a purpose by explaining the world, extolling culturally specific virtues and values, teaching particular lessons, and even imagining a mythic history of the Aztec people. These violent Aztec myths demonstrate how complex and culturally rich that world was, especially since each story had several versions. And, at the end of the day, they are also just plain fun to read.
The earth goddess Coatlicue had lived a prolific life. She had given birth to 400 sons and one daughter and was now an old woman. One day, while on a hilltop, she was impregnated by a floating ball of feathers. When her 401 children found out, they were angry at Coatlicue for her apparent promiscuity. So they met and determined that she needed to be punished by death.
Coatlicue's unborn child heard the schemes of his treacherous half-siblings. Desperate to protect his mother, a fully-formed Huitzilopochtli exploded out of his mother's womb, dressed in full battle gear and ready to take on his treacherous siblings - he even wielded a flaming snake-sword of death. He beheaded his sister and held up her severed head so that she could watch him tear apart her bloody body. He then chased his 400 brothers to the heavens and tossed his sister's head to the sky - a sister moon to all the stars in the sky.
One of the most popular, virtuous gods was Quetzalcoatl. Despite his status, Quetzalcoatl might've also suffered the world's worst morning after.
One night, his brother-rival Tezcatlipoca got Quetzalcoatl ridiculously drunk off pulque, the Aztecs' drink of choice. While his brother was drunk and out of senses, Tezcatlipoca proceeded to trick Quetzalcoatl into having sex with their sister, Quetzalpetlatl. When he woke up the next morning, Quetzalcoatl was understandably upset and embarrassed by the incestuous turn of events, so he sailed away on a raft of snakes.
Aztecs believed that Quetzalcoatl would return to them someday, and so they anticipated his second coming.
During the Aztecs' continual wanderings in search of a homeland, they were supposedly led by their god Huitzilopochtli. Tensions in the wandering tribe erupted, however, when Huitzilopochtli's sister Malinalxochitl made things awkward by practicing witchcraft. Under Huitzilopochtli's orders, the Aztecs abandoned Malinalxochitl and her followers in the night, covering their trail so that they could not be followed.
Years later, Malinalxochitl's son Copil - bent on avenging his abandoned mother - tracked down Huitzilopochtli and his followers. Though they began to fight, Huitzilopochtli was a great warrior and could not be defeated. Thus, when he reached Copil, he tore the boy's still-beating heart out of his chest and flung it into the nearby lake, where it landed on an island. A cactus sprung from Copil's heart-blood, and an eagle with a serpent in its mouth perched atop the cactus. The great Aztec city of Tenochtitlan was built on this, the site of Copil's spilled blood, the cactus, and the serpent-munching eagle.
According to mythology, the Aztecs were initially a wandering people without a home, and they spent many years in search of one. Huitzilopochtli was one of the Aztec's most revered deities since he was the god that led them to Tenochtitlan, their capital city.
In the middle of their wanderings, Huitzilopochtli and his followers came upon the city of Culhuacan. Achitometl, the king, was thrilled to have a god at his court. But Huitzilopochtli, being a god of war, wanted to start trouble with the peaceful Culhuacans. So, he decided to play a cruel trick on the king.
Huitzilopochtli offered to marry the king's daughter so that she would become a goddess. Achitometl could not believe his good fortune and enthusiastically accepted - he immediately sent the princess off with the god. Huitzilopochtli then brought her to the temple; but instead of marrying her, he sacrificed her, flayed her, and gave her skin to a priest to wear.
When the Aztecs invited Achitometl - who expected a wedding - into the temple, he saw his daughter's skin hanging loosely on the priest, ran from the horrible scene in grief, and ordered his troops to attack the Aztecs. They in turn fled the city.