Mesoamerican Culture, History, and Religion

The Rise Of The Eagle

One of the core cycles of myth belonging to the Aztecs is the multipart epic of how they went from their humble beginning as an obscure band of nomads to the lords of Tenochtitlan and the founders of a great empire, all under Huitzilopochtli’s watchful eye. In honor of the festival months of Quecholli (beginning today) and Panquetzaliztli, the veintanas celebrating the Chichimec past and the god who led them to glory, I will be kicking off a special storytelling event. Over the course of November and first week of December, I will be retelling the highlights of the series of legends that comprise this important saga of the Mexica-Tenochca people.

The basic timeline of the Foundation Cycle starts with the big entrance of Huitzilopochtli onto the scene with the Battle of Coatepec. I’ve already posted that one, and I recommend checking it out if you haven’t read it yet, as it sets the stage for things to come.

Once Huitzilopochtli’s arrived, He picks out the Mexica as His own favorite tribe and calls them to leave their ancestral homelands in the north and begin their migration south, deep into the Anahuac Valley. He promises to guard them and guide them to a new home, a place where they will found a mighty empire. They trust in Him and head out, overcoming both human and divine opponents until they eventually reach the place where the eagle perches on the nopal cactus, eating a heart — the sign that they have finally found their new home… Tenochtitlan.

Stay tuned!

The Founding of Tenochtitlan, Plate 1 of the Codex Mendoza

The Founding of Tenochtitlan, Plate 1 of the Codex Mendoza

3 responses

  1. Xuchilpaba

    How interesting! I look forward to it.

    Btw ever hear of the theory that Huitzilopochtli may have originally been a actual living person, much like Quetzalcoatl Ce Acatl? Um the one old guy posted it that was really cool but left several times for some strange reason under two accounts.

    To be honest I have no kept up with the months. I was until Tlacaxipehualiztli. When I had this religious experience where the gods forbid me from doing a ritual to Xipe Totec during this time… I realized it wasn’t because they had something against Xipe or that one of them didn’t want it, but because they were trying to protect me from something attacking me… ): I’ve been kinda off-puttish since then.

    but I am planning Atemoztli. I will fast before all the Xmas dinner stuff, like i did last year. Maybe I will attempt my first Huitzilopochtli rituals in honor of him in one of these months. I just have to obtain permission from my main two first. Especially Tlaloc.

    October 31, 2008 at 10:54 PM

  2. cehualli

    Hi Xuchil,

    Thanks! I realized this cycle doesn’t really seem to be widely available online, so there was a need for it. Plus, it involves Huitzilopochtli, so of course they’re some of my favorite stories, and it gives me an excuse to talk about Him…

    Then I realized Panquetzaliztli was coming up, and it was something special I could do to honor Him. Decided to really go all out and get started in Mixcoatl’s month, Quecholli, and provide the backstory leading up to Tenochtitlan.

    And I am familiar with this particular theory. It’d make both Quetzalcoatl and Huitzilopochtli “culture heroes,” to get technical. (Hey, wtf, WordPress’s auto-spellchecker recognizes Q’s name, but not Huitzil’s! Lame.)

    Funny you bring it up actually, I just got my copy of the Codex Chimalpopoca the other day, and it brings up Quetzalcoatl’s birth narrative and unusual parentage. I recall you have an interest in the tzitzimime and Itzpapalotl, so you might find this particularly interesting. Anyway, the Huitznahua strike me as being very very similar to the tziztimime, as they’re both nocturnal celestial star-spirits, and rather unfriendly. Mixcoatl sleeps with a Huitznahua woman, Chimalman, and she gives birth to… Quetzalcoatl/Ce Acatl. This version of the story makes the link of day Ce Acatl with disaster make more sense to me.

    Don’t feel bad, I’m not great at tracking the months either. I need to make a printed calendar I think. Maybe I will make one for next year and make a PDF people can download as an “Aztec New Year’s” gift, after the Nemontemi pass this February. I just keep an especial watch out for Panquetzaliztli, for obvious reasons.

    If you would like to do something for Huitzil, I recommend waiting for Panquetzaliztli, as that’s His main festival. Quecholli is Mixcoatl’s time to shine, a very cool Teotl in his own right, and a god often linked to both Huitzilopochtli *and* Tezcatlipoca. (Depends on who you’re reading at the moment.)

    November 3, 2008 at 4:07 AM

  3. Xuchilpaba

    (Spell checker spells Hutizil’s name “Huitzilopitchli” everytime it tries to correct me on FIREFOX. IDK where this spelling came from!)

    Yeah the Chimalpopoca confused me. it sounds as though Mixcoatl was also a actual person and I think it’s Chimalman he was later said to marry. After you get done with Ce Acatl then there’s the five suns myths. I liked that the translator put everything in perspective for us, but I had to speculate a lot chronology amongst other things. Like if five suns becomes before Quetzalcoatl already exists and helps with the creation of mankind, but yet Mixcoatl is his father when he is Ce Acatl. The five suns had to have existed before/i> Quetzal’s stint in Tula (And I believe he was created by Ometeotl then) however when he was a person his birth was from Mixcoatl and Chimalman. (And I believe Mixcoatl dies and Quetzalcoatl mourns him and wonders about his father.) It gets more confusing if I started saying Cihuacoatl is Quetzalcoatl’s consort in the five suns myth (and the same as Itzpapalotl) and Mixcoatl’s mother. I swear Quetzalcoatl’s parentage story has always been crazy. lol

    With the Chimalman story, well i enjoyed that story a lot. I felt she had supernatural abilities because she kept catching his darts. To do that to a god, says something. there were other beings mentioned in the codex “Ixcuinan” .(pl. Ixcuiname) Ixcuinan is a name for Tlazolteotl, the book calls them “Tlazolteotls” but the actual Nahuatl for the plural is Tlazolteteo. The eytmology of their name is from the Huaxtec menaing “female kapok”. They descend to earth much like star demons & appear to be adapt at magic. I think they might be the same as the Tzitzimime. Interestingly a passage in Chimalpopoca says they had husbands.

    I felt that the Chimalpopoca was written in the perspective of someone who knew about the cultural and for people who were familer with it. I felt confused in several passages because things aren’t explained to me since I am not THAT familer with it like the author. For example, Mixcoatl kills Itzpapalotl and then ties her hair on his weapon. The codex never says why. But anyone familer with Itzpapalotl’s myths figures out that she is a Cihuateteo and Mixcoatl has her hair there for a reason.

    I think when I start reading more stuff about the Aztecs and look at things like the Florentine the pieces of the puzzle will come together.

    Phew, now i don’t feel so bad! I have never seen Mixcoatl in my life that I can recall! I see Itzpapalotl on a daily basis, yet Mixcoatl is always missing. What always scared me about Tezcatlipoca is that there is a myth where he ‘imitates’ Mixcoatl and tricks people into thinking that he’s Mix. I am always afraid that after I see Mixcoatl that Tezcatlipoca will do that to me!

    November 3, 2008 at 11:13 AM

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