Creationism Aztec Style

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Creationism versus evolution. It’s a debate that doesn’t look likely to simmer down any time soon. But just as there are multiple facets to evolution, so are there also multiple creation stories. And many of these are far more fascinating than the one you get from the Bible. Consider the Aztec creation story, for instance.

The Aztecs were, like many civilizations, dualistic in their approach to religious beliefs. Powerful forces for both good and evil, darkness and light, permeated their mythology. They had room for both a male and female deity, Oometeotl and Omechihuatl. This cosmic couple in turn produced four offspring. There was Xipe Totec, who ruled the East; Huitzilopochtli, who ruled the south; Quetzalcoatl, who ruled the west; and Tezcatlipoca who ruled the north. In addition, there was also a rain god and a goddess of water and fertility.

Creationism Aztec style tells the story of struggles taking place between these participants; struggles that led to both the creation and the ultimate destruction of various imperfect worlds. That a cycle of creation and destruction lies at the heart of a people who lived constantly with the threat of earthquakes is not surprising. The Aztecs view of creation rested upon the belief that there would five different creations that would each be identified with a natural disaster that would ultimately destroy it.

Following one of these creations, the world came to an end by being overcome with a great flood. (Sound familiar?) This flood served to turn all humans into lowly little sea creatures, while Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca were turned into huge trees that towered over the earth below. Fortunately for humanity, Quetzalcoatl took it upon himself to visit the Netherworld below and bring back the bones of those who had drowned in the great flood. These bones were then ground into powder and mixed with Godly blood in order to recreate the flesh of human beings. Once again the earth was populated, but darkness still reigned.

Another creation was needed so the Gods met to plan how to bring about another world, the Aztec empire. Throwing himself into a fire, the God Nanahuatzin created the blazing sun. But the sun was still unable to move across the sky, so the other Gods performed a blood sacrifice in order to create the energy needed to draw the sun across the sky every day. It is this sacrificial part of the creation myth of the Aztecs that were replayed in the form of actual human sacrifice. The Aztec ritual involved cutting out the hearts of the victims and offering them—still beating—to the sun. They believed that only by continuing to offer the blood sacrifice would their sun God Huitzilopochtli gain the strength that is so obviously needed in order to rise each and every day. Before you snicker at this belief, just remember that there are some people who actually believe they are eating the flesh of Jesus Christ when they eat a mass produced cracker.

A historically relevant side note to this creation myth: At one point, a struggle took place between Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca. The latter was the god who required the human sacrifices, whereas Quetzalcoatl was considered much gentler, asking only for the sacrifice of snakes and insects. This battled was won by Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl was forced into exile. However, upon his departure, he made a MacArthur like “I shall return” promise, indicating that he would regain his dominance over the Aztecs. Not only did he predict his return, but Quetzalcoatl even gave the exact date he would return, or at least the exact year. In one of those bizarre coincidences that lead people of a certain ilk to scream conspiracy, that year just so happened to be the year that Cortes and his Spanish soldiers landed in Mexico.

There has always been a question to how so few Spanish soldiers could have dominated so many Aztec warriors, as well as questions to why Aztec emperor Montezuma acted in such an indecisive manner that probably sealed his fate. The answer may just lay in his belief in this creation myth and how the Spanish soldiers may have represented destruction of yet another world at the hand of Quetzalcoatl. Whether that is the case or not, you have to admit that creationism Aztec style certainly has a flair about it.