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Statue of Xiuhtecuhtli in the British Museum.[1]

In Aztec mythology, Xiuhtecuhtli ("Turquoise Lord" or "Lord of Fire"),[2] was the god of fire, day and heat.[3] He was the lord of volcanoes,[4] the personification of life after death, warmth in cold (fire), light in darkness and food during famine. He was also named Cuezaltzin ("flame") and Ixcozauhqui,[5] and is sometimes considered to be the same as Huehueteotl ("Old God"),[6] although Xiuhtecuhtli is usually shown as a young deity.[7 ] His wife was Chalchiuhtlicue. Xiuhtecuhtli is a manifestation of Ometecuhtli, the Lord of Duality, and according to the Florentine Codex Xiuhtecuhtli was considered to be mother and father of the Gods,[8] who dwelled in the turquoise enclosure in the center of earth.[9]

The Nahuatl word xiuhuitl means "year" as well as "turquoise" and "fire",[10] and Xiuhtecatl was also the god of the year and of time. In the 260-day ritual calendar, the deity was the patron of the day Atl ("Water") and with the trecena 1 Coatl ("1 Snake").[11] Xiuhtecuhtli was also one of the nine Lords of the Night and ruled the first hour of the night, named Cipactli ("Alligator").[12] Xiuhtecuhtli was the patron god of the Aztec emperors, who were regarded as his living embodiment at their enthronement.[13] The deity was also one of the patron gods of the pochteca merchant class.[14]

Stone sculptures of Xiuhtecuhtli were ritually buried as offerings, and various statuettes have been recovered during excavations at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan with which he was closely associated.[15] Statuettes of the deity from the temple depict a seated male with his arms crossed.[16] A sacred fire was always kept burning in the temples of Xiuhtecuhtli.[17] In gratitude for the gift of fire, the first mouthful of food from each meal was flung into the hearth.[18]



The mask of Xiuhtecuhtli, from the British Museum, of Aztec or Mixtec provenance.[7 ]

Xiuhtecuhtli was usually depicted adorned with turquoise mosaic, wearing the turquoise xiuhuitzolli crown of rulership on his head and a turquoise butterfly pectoral on his chest,[19] and he often wears a descending turquoise xiuhtototl bird (Cotinga amabilis) on his forehead and the Xiuhcoatl fire serpent on his back.[20 ] Xiuhtecuhtli is closely associated with youthful warriors and with rulership, and was considered a solar god.[21] His principal symbols are the tecpatl (flint) and the mamalhuatzin, the two sticks that were rubbed together to light ceremonial fires.[22] A staff with a deer's head was also an attribute of Xiuhtecuhtli, although not exclusively so as it could also be associated with Xochiquetzal and other deities.[23]

Many of the attributes of Xiuhtecuhtli are found associated with Early Postclassic Toltec warriors but clear representations of the god are not common until the Late Postclassic.[20 ] The nahual, or spirit form, of Xiuhtecuhtli is Xiuhcoatl, the Fire Serpent.[24 ]

Xiuhtecuhtli was embodied in the teotecuilli, the sacrificial brazier into which sacrificial victims were cast during the New Fire ceremony.[24 ] This took place at the end of each cycle of the Aztec calendar round (every 52 years),[25] when the gods were thought to be able to end their covenant with humanity. Feasts were held in honor of Xiuhtecuhtli to keep his favors, and human sacrifices were burned after removing their heart.

Annual festival

The annual festival of Xiuhtecuhtli was celebrated in Izcalli, the 18th veintena of the year.[26] A framework image of the deity was constructed from wood and was richly finished with clothing, feathers and an elaborate mask.[26] Quails were sacrificed to the idol and their blood spilt before it and copal was burnt in his honour.[27] On the day of the festival, the priests of Xiuhtecuhtli spent the day dancing and singing before their god.[28] People caught animals, including mammals, birds, snakes, lizards and fish, for ten days before the festival in order to throw them into the hearth on the night of the festival.[29] During the night the image of the god was lit with using the mamalhuatzin.[30] Food was consumed ritually, including shrimp tamales, after first offering it to the god.[29]

Xiuhtecuhtli in his role as one of the lords of the night, from the Codex Borgia.[31]

Every four years a more solemn version of the festival was held at the temple of Xiuhtecuhtli in Tenochtitlan, attended by the emperor and his nobles. [32] Slaves and captives were dressed as the deity and sacrificed in his honour.[33] Godparents were assigned to children on this day and the children had their ears ritually pierced. After this, the children, their parents and godparents all shared a meal together.[32]

See also


  1. ^ Website of the British Museum.
  2. ^ Fernández 1992, 1996, p.104. Matos Moctezuma & Solis Olguín 2002, p.476. Miller & Taube 1993, 2003, p.189.
  3. ^ Matos Moctezuma & Solis Olguín 2002, p.433.
  4. ^ Coe & Koontz 2002, p.55.
  5. ^ Sahagún 1577, 1989, p.47. (Book I, Chapter XIII).
  6. ^ Fernández 1992, 1996, p.104.
  7. ^ a b Matos Moctezuma & Solis Olguín 2002, p.476.
  8. ^ Fernández 1992, 1996, p.104. León-Portilla 2002, pp.25, 26.
  9. ^ Matos Moctezuma 1988, p.94.
  10. ^ Matos Moctezuma 1988, p.94.
  11. ^ Miller & Taube 1993, 2003, p.190. Smith 1996, 2003, pp.246-7. Díaz & Rodgers 1993, p.xix.
  12. ^ Díaz & Rodgers 1993, p.xix. Smith 1996, 2003, p.248
  13. ^ Matos Moctezuma & Solis Olguín 2002, p.447.
  14. ^ Coe & Koontz 2002, p.197.
  15. ^ Matos Moctezuma & Solis Olguín 2002, pp.172, 476.
  16. ^ Matos Moctezuma & Solis Olguín 2002, p.172.
  17. ^ Matos Moctezuma & Solis Olguín 2002, p.414.
  18. ^ Matos Moctezuma & Solis Olguín 2002, p.447.
  19. ^ Miller & Taube 1993, 2003, p.189. Barrera Rodríguez & López Arenas 2008, p.19.
  20. ^ a b Miller & Taube 1993, 2003, p.189.
  21. ^ Miller & Taube 1993, 2003, p.189. Matos Moctezuma & Solis Olguín 2002, pp.419-20.
  22. ^ Fernández 1992, 1996, pp.104-6.
  23. ^ Matos Moctezuma & Solis Olguín 2002, p.468.
  24. ^ a b Fernández 1992, 1996, p.107.
  25. ^ Smith 1996, 2003, p.249.
  26. ^ a b López Austin 1998, p.10. Sahagún 1577, 1989, p.47 (Book I, Chapter XIII).
  27. ^ Sahagún 1577, 1989, p.47 (Book I, Chapter XIII).
  28. ^ Sahagún 1577, 1989, p.48 (Book I, Chapter XIII).
  29. ^ a b López Austin 1998, p.10. Sahagún 1577, 1989, p.48 (Book I, Chapter XIII).
  30. ^ López Austin 1998, p.10.
  31. ^ Díaz & Rodgers 1993, pp.xix, 64.
  32. ^ a b Sahagún 1577, 1989, pp.48-9 (Book I, Chapter XIII).
  33. ^ López Austin 1998, p.10. Sahagún 1577, 1989, p.98 (Book II, Chapter XVIII).


Barrera Rodríguez, Raúl; and Gabino López Arenas (2008). "Hallazgos en el recinto ceremonial de Tenochtitlan". Arqueología Mexicana, Vol. XVI, número 93, September-October 2008, pp.18-25 (Mexico: Editorial Raíces). ISSN 0188-8218. OCLC 29789840.   (Spanish)
Coe, Michael D.; with Rex Koontz (2002). Mexico: from the Olmecs to the Aztecs (5th, revised and enlarged ed.). London and New York: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-28346-X. OCLC 50131575.  
Díaz, Gisele; and Alan Rodgers (1993). The Codex Borgia: A Full-Color Restoration of the Ancient Mexican Manuscript. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-27569-8. OCLC 27641334.  
Fernández, Adela (1992, 1996). Dioses Prehispánicos de México. Mexico City: Panorama Editorial. ISBN 968-38-0306-7. OCLC 59601185.   (Spanish)
León-Portilla, Miguel (2002). "Mitos de los Orígenes en Mesoamérica". Arqueología Mexicana, Vol. X, número 56, July-August 2002, pp. 20-27 (Mexico: Editorial Raíces). ISSN 0188-8218. OCLC 29789840.   (Spanish)
López Austin, Alfredo (1998). "Los ritos: Un juego de definiciones". Arqueología Mexicana, Vol. VI, número 34, November-December 1998, pp.4-17 (Mexico: Editorial Raíces). ISSN 0188-8218. OCLC 29789840.   (Spanish)
Matos Moctezuma, Eduardo (1988). The Great Temple of the Aztecs: Treasures of Tenochtitlan. New Aspects of Antiquity series. Doris Heyden (trans.). London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-27752-4. OCLC 17968786.  
Matos Moctezuma, Eduardo; and Felipe Solis Olguín (2002). Aztecs. London: Royal Academy of Arts. ISBN 1-90397-322-8. OCLC 56096386.  
Miller, Mary; and Karl Taube (1993, 2003). An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-27928-4. OCLC 28801551.  
Sahagún, Bernardino de (1577, 1989). Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España, Tomo 1. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes. ISBN 968-29-2508-8. OCLC 24728390.   (Spanish)
Smith, Michael E. (1996, 2003). The Aztecs (second ed.). Malden MA; Oxford and Carlton, Australia: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-23016-5. OCLC 59452395.  


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