Friday, January 9, 2015

A bunch of Aztec deities

Mesoamerican religion time! Some of this is probably wrong because I don't really know what I'm talking about. So feel free to steal it for your game, just not for your research paper.

The Aztecs* believed in an overwhelming number of deities, but I’m going to arbitrarily choose to focus on the 13 Lords of the Day, plus a couple I really don't want to leave out. That should be plenty for gaming purposes. I’m not entirely clear on how the priesthoods would have all been structured, but I imagine the high priests of the various gods probably all had a great deal of influence on the royal courts, and were certainly interested in pursuing their own agendas. I can picture temples hiring filthy adventurers to steal holy artifacts or even sacrificial captives from (or just spy on) each other, for example.

Two high priests arguing in Dr. Who and the Aztecs.
Setting new standards for research quality around here.
If you need to figure out how the priesthood of one deity currently feels about another on the fly, roll 2d6 on the following table.

2-4 Openly hostile
5-8 Suspicious
9-10 Dismissive
11-12 Wishes to cooperate

Some general info about the deities themselves: For one thing, they were all anthropomorphic, but most were believed to have alternate nahual forms (some animal, some celestial) that they could transform into. All of the deities relied on human sacrifice for sustenance; every 52 years (1 cycle in the Aztec calendar), they had the option to break their contract with humanity, and the Aztecs saw it as their sacred duty to convince the deities to continue in their duties, basically turning the end of the cycle into the World Series of human sacrifice. Also a bunch of the deities had their own additional feast days. The Aztecs killed a shitload of captives, people.

In Tenochtitlan, the most important deities are believed to have been Huitzilopochtli, Tlaloc, Quetzalcoatl, and Tezactlipoca, and the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan was dedicated to worship of the first two. In the city from the Map Folio 2 pack, there’s no reason you couldn’t mix and match maps of the various levels from the temple, observatory, and palace to include as many temples as you feel like.

I have no idea how the various priests would have dressed. I’m guessing each priesthood would have had different symbols of office, maybe similar to the symbols that distinguished the deities themselves from each other.

The spell domains I'm referencing are from the free and excellent 52 Pages RPG, from Roles, Rules, and Rolls, except Death and Chaos which I made up.

The images are all from Wikimedia except they didn't have any for Mictlantecuhtli or Citlalicue so I stole them from blogs that didn't cite their sources either.

Xiutecuhtli. "Born to Love Volcanoes" is stuck
in my head and won't leave now.
1. Xiutecuhtli - Lord of Fire, volcanos, food during famine, and life after death.
Nahual: Xiucoatl (fire serpent).
Domains: Energy and Restoration.

Tlaltecuhtli. Academics argue about whether he's laying down giving
birth here or standing in a crouch and holding up the Earth.
2. Tlaltecuhtli - Lord of Earth, torn in half to create the sky & stars and the earth.
Nahual: Sea monster.
Domains: Creation and Nature.

Chalchiuhtlicue giving people... something? I dunno.
3. Chalchiuhtlicue - She of the Jade Skirt, life-giving water, rivers, seas, streams, storms, and baptism, sister-wife of Tlaloc, got pissed at him and caused a 52 year flood this one time, but let peeps she was cool with escape to the heavens.
Nahual: Serpent.
Domains: Nature and Abjuration.

Tonatiuh, sort of a poor man's Huitzilopochtli.
4. Tonatiuh - The Fifth Sun, who replaced the fourth sun at the end of the last age.
Nahual: I guess that would just be the sun, right?
Domains: Energy and Change. His priests get kinda screwed to be honest, but I'm okay with that because he's kinda boring.

5. Tlazolteotl - Goddess of lust, sin, vice, adultery, etc, as well as purification and forgiveness.
Nahual: The moon.
Domains: Mental and Abjuration.

Mictlantecuhtli waiting to pounce and tickle the
hell out of you.
6. Mictlantecuhtli - Lord of Mictlan, the afterlife, the lowest portion of the underworld.
Nahual: Owl (closely associated with death by the Aztecs).
Domains: Death and oh I don’t know Planar maybe?

7. Centeotl - God of maize, harvest, etc.
Nahual: None as far as I can tell. I guess maybe he could turn into corn but why would you want to?
Domains: Restoration and Nature.

8. Tlaloc - god of thunder, rain, storms, agriculture and fertility
Nahuals: Heron, amphibians, snail.
Domains: Energy and Creation.

Quetzalcoatl (human form).
I wonder if that thing on his face is a death whistle.
Also Quetzalcoatl. This is what I always want those
D&D "couatl" minis to look like. I guess I could just
clip the wings off one or something.
9. Quetzalcoatl - Lord of the West, wind, the arts, and wisdom
Nahual: Feathered Serpent
Domains: Knowledge and Creation.

Tezactlipoca. A lot of Mesoamerican rituals involved hallucinogens.
10. Tezactlipoca - Lord of the North, night sky and winds, hurricanes, the earth, obsidian, enmity, discord, rulership, divination, temptation, beauty, war, strife. Quite the portfolio. 
Nahual: Jaguar, Chalchihuihtotolin (the Jewelled Fowl)
Domains: Knowledge and Illusion.

Mictecacihuatl on the left, possibly Mictlantecuhtli on the right.
11. Mictecacihuatl - Queen of Mictlan, Lady of the Dead, who presided over what eventually became the Day of the Dead.
Nahual: Pretty sure she was just always a terrifying skeleton woman with a necklace of hands. Maybe she turns into an owl like Mictlantecuhtli, but I can't find anything that says so for sure.
Domains: Death and Chaos. Chaos may be a little off but it makes her Goddess of Metal. Well, her and Coatlicue.

Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli. This deity was a human king before
he died and was reborn, possibly explaining the skull
he's emerging from here. Or it's a really sweet hat.
12. Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, Lord of the Dawn, dangerous and manevolent, kills with “darts”.
Nahual: Morningstar
Domains: Energy and Chaos.

Citlalicue. I think that's the Milky Way
coming out of her mouth.
13. Citlalicue - Stars, death, and darkness.
Nahual: The Milky Way (maybe).
Domains: Creation and Death.

So that’s the Lords of the Day covered, but since I’m using the Aztec versions of all these deities, I really can’t leave out…

Huitzilopochtli - Patron of Tenochtitlan and the Aztecs, god of War, personification of the sun which slew his sister (the moon) and 100 brothers (the stars) to defend their mother (the world), which is why they constantly chase each other, in a never-ending Mesoamerican Ragnarok for which Huitzilopochtli must be continually strengthened with human sacrifice.
Nahual: The Sun.
Domains: Abjuration and… um… Energy?

Also, Huitzilopochtli's mother was the most metal version of Mother Earth I've ever heard of: Coatlicue.

I believe the official Maztica supplement reskinned her as a
demon lord or a sort of alternate beholder or something like that.
Which is understandable I guess because look at her BUT to do it,
they had to completely ignore the dichotomy of Mother Earth
as both nurturing and incredibly dangerous. Not worth the tradeoff.
Nahual: Does she even need one? I would just look like that all the time if I could.
Domains: Nature and Death.

Next time I do one of these Mesoamerican specific posts it'll probably be about monsters. Also, I haven't forgotten about that minotaur comic that you probably all think I've forgotten about.

*I started out writing these about Mesoamerican society in general, but I guess I’m focusing mainly on the Aztecs at this point. This is because A) we (or at least I) know more about them than other Mesoamerican cultures and B) they had dudes that dressed up as jaguars and eagles just to fuck you up. I guess that means they were kind of like furries but also, you know, terrifying.

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