Religion in ancient Mexico occupied a central and prominent place of life for all Anahuacnhabitants.
In part by ancestral mysticism and spirituality; and partly because the social system was totally immersed in the moral and ethical religious values of Cem Anahuac. All activities: family life, government, agriculture, health, education, art, sport, etc. was intricately linked to religious aspects. As any ancestral religion, our sought the transcendence of the spiritual "self" beyond death. Eternal life from consciousness.
Where will I go?
Where will I go?
The path of the Dual God.
is your house at the place of the gaunt?
Perhaps inside heavens?,
or only here on earth is the place of the gaunt?
Is it that indeed life prevails on earth?
not forever on earth: just a little.
even if it is jade, it breaks,
if its gold it breaks,
even if it is quetzal feathers, they tear off,
not forever on earth: just a little.
(Mexican folk songs)
To understand ancient Mexico it is highly recommended to know the ways of life and values of people called "indigenous" that until today jealously keep millenarian values and spiritual principles that engendered them since agriculture invention, eight thousand years ago and in essence they seek to get close together human beings with the sacred and divine, with transcendent and immeasurable values.
"Finally we reach the God worship in ideal way chosen by oneself." Hindus have represented God in countless ways and, they claim, it is fitting. Each representation is not more than a symbol pointing to something beyond, and as none consume the true nature of God, a full range is needed to complete God figure and manifestations aspects... As we have seen, life goals are to transcend smallness of the finite being. "This can be accomplished by identifying the absolute transcendental that resides deep in one's self or displacing interest and affection towards the personal God that feels like an entity other than the own." (Huston Smith. 1997)
All civilizations and cultures point in their top vertex to achieve the transcendence of our material-carnal shape to a luminous-spiritual eternal life. Prepare to physically die and be spiritually reborn for an eternal life; this has been the challenge of all conscientious human beings in mankind history. This perennial challenge has shaped all civilizations and cultures of the world, as well as religions.
"...man is the beginning of the world creation and responsible for its preservation and development towards perfection." Over this concept builds itself and builds the world around. This is how was built the culture that, until today, we are exclusive heirs." (Ruben Bonifaz Nuño. 1992)
The supreme divinity
To our ancestors there was only a single representation of the supreme divinity, it was invisible and impalpable, had no name and no one had created it. In ancient Mexico did not exist the Judaeo-Christian concept of "God" and this is why many mistakes developed from Hernán Cortés up to our colonized contemporary Mexico researchers. The ancient Mexican supreme divinity conception is closer to the Hindu than the Christian. Maintaining the basic principle that the supreme divinity is inaccessible and unknowable to human beings, the "flexibility" to represent the many aspects of this complex concept is understood.
"The uniqueness principle inherent to religion - principle that has little to do with the quality and quantity of gods - means that man has discovered a center in him and conceives the universe from that center." I.e. that the essence of any religious system lies in the revelation of an individual soul closely linked to the cosmic soul: it is, in short, the divinization of man.
These are nothing but perishable intellectual productions subjected to social circumstances, the gods are secondary and considered as an end in itself, they can only induce to an error. Hence, if we don't want that a religion hides under bunches of inert technical details, it is necessary to strive to rediscover the revelation that, inevitably, is in its origin". (Laurette Séjurné. 1957)
We must take into account how little is indeed known about our ancestors religion. Partly because during the postclassical period (850 to 1521 CE.) the own decadence leaders, ignored the religious norms that the Toltec masters had dictated, that provided a millennium of peace and harmony for the Anahuac peoples. Moreover, when Tlacaelel and the Aztecs had reforms eighty-one years before the conquest, it dramatically changed the religious, from a spiritual mystical sense, to a warrior imperialist material sense.
And also partially by the denial and inability of the spaniards invaders and missionaries to understand a religion that was completely different to theirs. And in addition, the epithet of demonic and primitive weighed. Contemporary researchers continue taking as "scientific" basis what the defeated said and was interpreted by the victors", without developing an un-colonial mentality in trying to decipher our millenary religious heritage. Within this heritage we find a vast philosophical treasure, full of eternal universal wisdom.
"Now well: in this religious condition, the Spaniard invasion occurred." Ensuing disaster follows. Missionaries arrive, who wisely seek something to escape, and seek to preserve testimonies of the defeated religion through information from those who had practiced it. And they, understandably, do not reveal, because they dont have it or because they do not want to share the greatest knowledge, of the experts. Then they only communicate what is cognitive knowledge of the community: physical traits, general qualities such as that the Tlaloc entity is the God of rain or fertility promoter. This is what is registered in the texts collected then.
Chroniclers and historians later take this image, decidedly mutilated, as when the religious community was destroyed, the expert knowledge cease to transfuse within it, and left it foundationless and with a fragmented truth.
Now come the next scholars. Possibly driven by their inability to understand the so-called archaeological testimonies, i.e., images by members of the community, where their secrets were drawn, have gone to what is understandable to them: written sources. And have taken as the full truth the superficial rootless knowledge contained in the texts. Hence the poor information, incessant error repetition, contradictions and repeated superficiality manifested in their works. "And also, fruit of their misunderstanding of images, false iconographic attributions, that came, thoughtlessly repeated, to integrate an inescapable network of lies and confusion, difficult escape." (Ruben Bonifaz Nuño. 1986)
The Supreme divinity had many representation forms, of what is erroneously known as minor gods, but which were different avocations of the same reality. As the Virgin Mary in the Catholic religion, it is one, with multiple representations of the same reality. This advanced God interpretation, was poetically named by our ancestors as the, "owner of the one near and the together, he for whom we live, night wind, he who invents himself". Poetic attempts to refer to the unpronounceable, divine, immeasurable, unnamable. A concept more philosophical than religious, surely was managed as esoteric knowledge by persons living in what we now know as archaeological zones and which were devoted to the study and research of the human energy opportunities.
"Master our Lord, Tloque Nahuaque, Yoalli Ehecatl, that can see and know the tree and stone interior, and in truth now also know our interior, listen in our interior;" hear and know what we say inside of us, what we think; our face and our heart as smoke and fog rise before you." (Sixth book of the Florentine Codex)
This philosophical figure is represented in a more accessible plane, called "Dual divinity, divine duality or two God", as a dual divinity half male and half female, understanding that everything created on earth, arises from a pair of complementing opposites, one male one female, life death, hot cold, dark, black and white light (Ying Yang). etc.
Ometeótl is a profound philosophical metaphor. The universe itself consists of a pair of complementary opposites. The dialectical principle is conclusively present in the divine duality". Occupies the most relevant iconographic spaces, repetitively. As two serpent heads looking at each other, or as two Quetzal heads facing each other.
"First of all, therefore, it behooves to consider the generally accepted idea, of the dualistic conception of the existing world among ancient Mexican." Originating from a dual divinity, according to authors, the world was conceived by them as a result of this principle; "as a perpetual struggle between opposites that would engender new stages of existence". (Ruben Bonifaz Nuño. 1996)
This supreme divinity representation in the next inferior plain of Tloque Nahuaque or he for whom one lives, perhaps managed by the high priests and the high religious hierarchy. The truth is that this dual representation of serpents or quetzals, can be found in all cultures of the three periods, as an important and central iconography element. It is the struggle of opposites in the universe creation and life in the Anahuac. Religious-philosophical figure that speaks about the need to humanize the world, through the mission received by mankind.
"We will now reflect on what was note thus far.It has been stated that the; actions of two conflicting principles that fight; of opposing sides struggles; the idea of the struggle; of opposing forces crashing... That third element, by necessity, at the same time is not one or other of the two, but has something similar to both of them and something different, by which its transmutation is allowed and its unity with the creative action.
"By intervening, given that this element can be called neutral, positive and negative elements, gives rise at that point the possibility of something that previously did not exist." (Ruben Bonifaz Nuño. 1996
TLÁLOC & QUETZALCÓATL.
The third approximation of this same divinity representation, is found in a pair of opposite and complementary religious figures. For our ancestors, all that existed in the world was formed of two classes of energy. One was light and the other one was the spiritual. Luminous energy, is the essence of the material" world, because matter in its most intimate nature this conformed by energy. In our days it is easier to understand this advanced understanding of the world, because we know that the smallest "matter" part is composed of atoms and these in turn by small energy loads, so what we call "matter", is not more than energy condensed to varying degrees.
"Hence, Tlaloc face is serpentine; but not only that: it is also human. "Because the image of Tlaloc represents a face formed by the meeting of two snakes joining together their snouts, face that, usually sits on the body of a man or woman, seen in whole or in part." (Ruben Bonifaz Nuño. 1996)
Our ancestors symbolically represented this energy with water, given that by water influence the material world reproduces. A desert can become an orchard by water intervention. Water is only a symbol to represent the wonderful life momentum in its broadest sense, always associated with fertility. The symbol is confirmed by the presence of water as the announcement of life. This religious symbol was called Tlaloc by the Nahua, Chac by the Mayas, the Zapotec called it Cosijo and the Totonac Tajín. The concept is the creative manifestation of the creative forces of a couple of opposing and complementary energies that make the world. It is a single religious-philosophical structure used by all cultures of a same civilization.
This is how the Tlaloc symbol, not only presents energy with which the world around us is made out of, but, moreover, permanently reminds us that man's duty is to "humanize" the material world he lives in.
The second energy that constituted the world was spiritual energy, generated by humans alive, from an Ant to a whale, but that in humans is generated with greater intensity through the consciousness of being. For our ancestors, the difference with other living beings becomes a responsibility and not superiority. The human being through its potential of spiritual energy generator is compromised with the creative force to maintain universal order and assist with various representations of the supreme divinity to humanize the world. Sustain, preserve, and humanize the world was the divine mission of the ancient Mexicans in the universal cosmic order of life.
"Creation is not an instantaneous act, but a never-ending process." Man has to comply without interruption, taking upon himself the duty of moving towards perfection what was initially created.
This explains, within the basic cultural unity, the manifestations dynamic. This explains, for example, the differences between the urbanization of La Venta and Palenque or Monte Alban and Tenochtitlan. "A single concept guides them: the human obligation to ally with the gods to create, maintain and improve what exists." (Ruben Bonifaz Nuño. 1995)
The second representation, opposite and complementary to the first, is found in the so-called "Wind God ". Understanding this symbolism that life becomes its "essence" when receives the "divine breath which gives the consciousness of being". Indeed, our ancestors claimed that the life phenomenon reached its most sublime perfection when the immeasurable spirit force blew inside of the light energy. "The wind Dios" was called Ehécatl-Quetzalcoatl by the Nahuas. Also, metaphorically called him "the roads sweeper" that announces life. Wind announces rain arrival, and therefore life development. The divine breath that encouraged spiritual consciousness was associated with Quetzalcoatl.
"They spoke of a national hero, civilizer and master, that at the same time was identified with the supreme deity and the world creator."
"Leon Portilla considered that more important than the existence of Quetzalcoatl as man (whose life, mainly in the Mayan world, constitutes a complex whose clarification has quite a few problems) which has been regarded as central spiritual character in Mexico before the conquest, to the extent that the philosophical thought, attributed to him, dominates the entire cultural stage." (Alfredo López Austin. 1989)
These extremely complex and profound symbolic representations of philosophical realities were shared by all cultures in time and space. From the Preclassical to the Postclassical periods, from north to south and from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Its iconography retained common features and characters and mainly their names varied according to the language, but meant the same. For example: Quetzalcoatl in Nahuatl and Kukulcán in Maya means in both cases "Bird-Serpent" or precious snake as Nuhu Coo Tnumiii in Mixtec language. Various forms of expressing the same religious philosophical matrix, which speaks of a conducting thread from the Olmecs in the Preclassical, to the Toltec in classical period and to the Mexicas or Aztec in the Postclassical period. A single philosophical-cultural array, a varied iconography but maintaining and sharing universal aesthetic values between them, and finally, one religion with many variations in its expression in time and space.
"The book, Thought and religion in ancient Mexico" by Laurette Séjurné makes un-colonial approximation to what must have been the essence of the Anahuac religion.
"In this same path followed by the soul: descends from its celestial abode, enters the darkness of matter to raise again, glorious, at the time of the body dissolution." The Quetzalcoatl myth does not mean anything else. The absolute purity of the King refers to its planet state, when it is still only light. Its sins and remorse correspond to this light incarnation phenomenon and to the painful but necessary awareness of mankind; "his abandonment of worldly things and the fatal bonfire built with his own hands signal the precepts to follow so that existence is not lost: achieves eternal unity by the detachment and sacrifice of the transitional self"...
"That is to say, that creation is not considered possible other than by sacrifice: sacrifice of the dismembered sun in humanity (evening star is a fragment of light tore before its decline)." "Men sacrifice to restore the original star unity "...
"The Sun is called the King of those that return: hardly a more rigorous test might be found, than the hypothesis of the Nahuatl belief in the celestial origin of the individual"
"As we have seen, the Quetzalcoatl message is in solving the human nature duality problem." "With the parable of the Tollan King, sets forth detachment principles and renouncing by which man can rediscover its own unit"...
"Quetzalcoatl throws upon him a bridge so his "pages" or disciples can follow him." This action to create a bridge tells us, once again, that his mission is to establish communication between earth and heavens, unite man to God.
That are fulfilled during life or after death, these rites which reproduce the parable of man converted to planet certainly constitute a test for stepping to higher spiritual levels which should gradually lead to unite with the transcendent.
"Actually, existence was conceived as a preparation to death, and this represented the real birth that was reached releasing our limited and mortal self."
"The blood that Quetzalcoatl sprayed on bones taken from death represents the divine fire that saves matter (see later that blood and fire have the same symbolic meaning) and it is clear that this myth talks about the birth of man to spirituality."
"This indicates that, far from constituting a useless element that does nothing more than bothering the spirit, matter it is necessary because liberation is achieved only by the reciprocal action of one over the other."
"It would seem that if matter is saved by the spirit, matter in turn needs spirituality to transform into something like a conscious energy, without which creation would cease to exist."
"This vital energy for the universe's functions can only occur from more than man, because only he possesses the capability of transforming the spirit that will be destined to be lost in matter." Saving himself, the man (of which Quetzalcoatl is the archetype) then saves the creation.
This is why he is the redeemer par excellence. As noted by the parable of the Tollan King, this salvation is not easily achieved. To reconcile spirit and matter of which he is formed, the individual must sustain throughout his life, a painful conscious struggle that turn him into a battlefield, in which two mercilessly enemies face each other. The victory of one or the other will decide his life or his death: If matter wins, his spirit dies; if the opposite occur his body "flourishes" and a new light will strengthen the Sun."
"The Sun that gives life to the universe is fed from slaughter [spiritual N.A.] of man, and not can survive but by its inner strength." "Thus, by a different path, we again have the hypothesis according to which, the Quetzalcoatl era is the soul advent, the unifying center, essence of all religious thought." (Laurette Séjurné. 1957)
It is important to stress, that the abstraction and depth degree of the religion achieved by the people of our ancestors, is far ahead even nowadays. What happens is that from 1521 all knowledge and value of the ancient civilization has been prejudiced and misinterpreted, especially in the religion and philosophy aspects, because they were the "moral" bases that justified the invasion. Indeed, the Spanish Crown expresses that invaded peoples were wild and primitive. The Church for its part authorizes the invasion while "releasing" the natives of their demonic religion and is saved their souls, taking them into the bosom of the Catholic Church.
An example of the advanced religious vision can be seen by a celebration in a ceremony that from the Olmecs to Aztecs was repeated exactly every 52 years.
An astonishing measure that prevented fanaticism and objects cult, maintaining people without the aberrant traits of deceit and idolatry. We refer to the New Fire ceremony that was celebrated every "bundle of years" and that among all rituals required that the inhabitants of all communities, large and small, climbed a tutelary hill carrying all their "religious relics" that were accumulated over 52 years, both in the temples and homes.
These figures made from clay and various materials belonged to the different ways in which the supreme divinity was represented and its various avocations or "small gods". The pieces were destroyed the last day before the end of the cosmic cycle, because if the Sun rose the next day, they were guaranteed another 52 years of life of the Fifth Sun. So not only initiated a new fire, but also new deities representations were built to start a new cycle without old "relics" that would make people fanatical, that removed the abstract sense of divinity. It is impressive to understand how, with a religious tradition of an extremely mystical and spiritual civilization, prevented their peoples from becoming fanatical and convert objects into religious fetishes, while maintaining the Supreme divinity at the abstract plane. Our ancestors became idolatrous precisely with the imposition of Catholicism, because this is where originates the images devotion.
This is how it can be asserted, that the supreme divinity, which had no name, nor could be represented, view or touched, manifested itself in the universe, nature and great human feelings. Hence, the Sun was a manifestation of this immeasurable power, but also water, wind, earth, mountains, lightning, fire. It is not that they were "gods", but various manifestations of the same reality. As in the Catholic religion there are many virgins, but all are Virgin Mary avocations. The pigeon repeatedly found in paintings, sculptures, stained glass or metal, may be another example. Catholics do not "worship" the Dove. It is only an accepted symbol by all, of a more profound and abstract concept as it is the Holy Spirit.
For the common people, for "masehuales", for "the wing and tail", the Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc symbols were immediate representations of creative forces, of the supreme divinity. The symbols were used by the people to guide their ethics and moral senses. To strengthen their customs and tradition. Certainly, this this third level of religious conception allowed our ancestors to have social community life in harmony and peace, for over ten centuries, while allowing knowledge development of the venerable Toltec masters "working", in what we know today as archaeological zones.
There is a common historical memory shared by all Anahuac peoples regarding their origin. Will be review later in the philosophy chapter, but it is worth pointing out the existence of a series of shared stories in one way or another by the peoples of the Anahuac, such as: Earth creation, the divine twins, the suns legend, the struggle between Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, the first divine couple and their four children, the pilgrimage in search of a promised land.
This suggests that religion origin becomes a very old, profound and shared philosophical conception.
Religious divinity symbols
To close this chapter, will enumerate the Anahuac best known religious symbols. Understanding that these are not "gods" in the Judaeo-Christian concept, but various avocations of the same unmentionable, impalpable and invisible reality. These multiple manners of referring to the various ways of perceiving the immeasurable, at times would seem to repeat or have great similarities. This assessment is correct, because they are abstract symbols that speak of universal truths seeking to be re-thought or conceptualized for popular use.
When we deal with the Anahuac multiple supreme divinity avocations, the precise period we are referring to must be clarified: formative, splendor or decadent. And at what level: If the philosophical investigated by knowledgeable individuals; the religious managed by the priesthood hierarchy or; the popular, worshiped the masehuales or people in general; and finally, of what culture, given that although all avocations had a single source, in every culture had a different name (even if the meaning was similar) and had different iconography, according to each cultural style. But should point out that all shared common features. For example, in the case of Tlaloc and its avocations in all cultures. The graphical representation always had goggles, fangs, and a biped tongue.
The exception to the rule is Huitzilopochtli, divinity representation unique of the Aztecs. Indeed, when they reached the Anahuac Valley in the 12th century, they brought it from the north, as their spiritual guide. Later, when the Aztecs are cultured with Toltec wisdom remnants, from the classic period, they added their "tribal God" to the ancestral Anahuac Pantheon and embed it as one of the four sons of the divine couple. This happened during the philosophical - religious reforms made by Tlacaelel 81 years before the invaders arrival.
There is also an array of "small gods", which very spatial references of human activities and, immersed in extremely religious world, were envisaged not as gods in the Judaeo-Christian context, but rather as a "sacred essence". We refer to the multiple "gods", such as: hunting, pulque, trade, and others. Something similar to what "saints" represent in the Catholic religion.
The confusion arises from the European and Judeo-Christian vision of the 16th century, which had no elements, or intentions to understand a much more ancient religion, abstract, and advanced. It is born of the prejudiced and intolerant attitude of the first "foreign scholars" and their successive researchers. Also born from a series of lies, erroneous appreciations and distorted thesis of the foreign researchers and local colonized followers, that have been formed and repeating through five centuries and have become the official version of official history.
Naming the most important Cem Anahuac supreme divinity avocations, on the understanding that it is not a complete list:
1. Tloque Nahuaque or He who is here and everywhere.
2. Ometéotl o Dual divinity
3. Ometecutli Of the two The Lord.
4. Ometecihuatl Of the two the Lady.
5. Quetzalcóatl, Divine breath or air representation.
6. Tláloc, God of water or fertility;
7. Tlaltecutli y Tlalecihuatl Earth Lord and Lady
8. Coatlicue or The one with serpent skirt
9. Cihuacoátl o Serpent Woman Earth represented in three
10. Tlazolteotl o Eater of waste;
11. Tezcatlipoca, Smoking mirror or the Interior Enemy;
12. Mictlantecutli y Mictlantecihuatl, Death Lord and Lady.
13. Tonantiuh, The Sun.
14. Tonacatecutli y Tonacatcihuatl, "The Lord and Lady of
15. Xochiquetzalli, Precious flower.
16. Huehueteotl, The ancient fire god;
17. Chantihco, Earth heat, home fire or female energy part.
18. Tonatzin, Our beloved mother.
19. Mixcoátl, The nebulous serpent referring to the Milky Way.
20. Xipe Totec, The gaunt Lord, nature cleaner or the action of
separating matter from the spirit.
21. Xolotl, The twin or nagual of Quetzalcoatl.
22. Macuilxochitl, Five Flower or spirit enhancer by exercise and
23. Mayahuel associated with pulque as spirituous beverage;
24. Yspapalotl, Obsidian Butterfly;
25. Toci, The venerable grandmother.
26. Chicomecóatl, or Seven Serpent, corn deity.
27. Xilonen The Young corn mother;
28. Tlaloques smaller rain entities;
29. Chalchihuitlicue, "The jeweled mantle", female avocation of
30. Patécatl; From the medicine land;
31. Metztli, The Moon.
32. Tepeyolohtli, The heart of the mountains;
33. Yacatecuhtli, The Lord guide of traveling merchants;
34. Ixtliton, sicknesses healer avocation, Lord of health;
35. Chiuatetéotl, avocation of dead women while giving birth;
36. Xiuhtecuhtli, fire avocation.
Almost all cultures share the same avocations, but the iconography is slightly changed, the name completely changed according to each language.
One of the most important legacies today from old Mexico, indisputably is the spiritual and mystical vision that Mexicans have about the world and life. Our ancestors knew very wisely how to adjust to the imposed religion. Changed everything on the outside, but inside maintained the fundamental bases of their millenarian religion until today, especially in the original Anahuac towns.
One of the many legacies of the religious world which lasted, perfectly structured, for at least 30 centuries before the arrival of the Spanish invaders, can be found today in the way in which native peoples relate with the divine and sacred. Natives don't need "middle men" to come into contact with the supreme divinity. They currently use Catholic images, but assign names in their native languages and worship them in personal and community cults where they officiate without the need of priests or vergers.
In closing it is stated that religion is and has been one of the bases of the Mexican people. The mystic and spiritual meaning of life is one of the valuable legacies of our ancestors.
In 1881, Carl Bovallius, Swedish researcher, Member of the Swedish society of anthropology and geography, made an exploration and research journey to Central America, among other places visited the Zapatera and Ometepe Islands in Lake Nicaragua. In 1886 he published the book Nicaraguan Antiquities, in the English language; following are a few paragraphs from pages 6 and 7:
Indeed, reading the scanty descriptions of the last days of these nations, one feels tempted to assert that in harmonic development of the mental faculties they were superior to that nation, which, by its crowds of rapacious and sanguinary adventurers, honored in history with the name of los Conquistadores, has fixed upon itself the heavy responsibility for the annihilation of this civilization. For indeed so swift and radical was this annihilation, through the fanatical vandalism of Christian priests and the bloody crimes of a greedy soldatesca, that history knows of no similar example. Thus the investigator of the comparatively modern culture of Central America is obliged to travel by more toilsome and doubtful roads than the student of the ancient forms of civilization of Egypt and India, although these were dead several thousands of years ago.
So much, however, has come to the knowledge of our time, as suffices to prove that the nations of Central America were very far advanced in political and social development as well as in science and art. But no other way is left to us of gaining an insight in this culture, than to search the country perseveringly for the purpose of disclosing the monuments, hidden in the ground or enviously concealed by the primeval vegetation, that now reigns alone in many of those places, which were formerly occupied by populous and flourishing cities, and artistically ornamented temples.
By comparing these monuments with those of Mexican culture, somewhat better known in certain respects, we may hope finally to arrive at the solution of some of the intricate problems concerning the ancient nations of Central America and their history."