The Aztecs were a group of 12th century conquerors who entered the geographical area that later was to become Mexico.¹
The new Aztec religion synthesized their own gods with those of the conquered population, along with nature deities.
The Aztecs are known for their ritual calendar gods but their chief God Huitzilopochitli stood apart and was not a calendar deity. The term “Mexico” is based on his name.
In Aztec creation myth, the earth began as a huge toad, brought down from heaven by the gods Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl. All natural landforms sprang from the toad’s body. Next, the sky fell down and the two gods transformed themselves into trees in order to support it.
The Aztecs inherited pyramids that pointed toward the sun. Human sacrifices were common. It was believed that human sacrifices maintained the sun’s course in the sky, so to be sacrificed (apparently) was regarded as an honorable spiritual duty. It’s hard to know, however, how the victims really felt. And to contemporary thinking, these kinds of actions are just barbarous folly.
Doctors and fortune-tellers practiced magic but the people’s religious life was dominated by a powerful priestly class, not unlike the Catholic Church in the European Middle Ages.
For sport the Aztecs played an outdoor game with two competing teams in which a rubber ball was believed to represent a planet.
Their best-known ruler is Montezuma II, under whom the Aztecs had a sophisticated agricultural system, irrigation, swamp drainage and artificial islands and lakes.
Because the Aztecs had their own form of hieroglyphic writing, a detailed calendar and pyramid-shaped temples, a some kind of connection with ancient Egyptians has been suggested. Some believed the Aztecs were in fact of the same peoples as the Egyptians, and went to great lengths trying – unsuccessfully – to prove this with archaeological evidence.
Others, like the Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung, maintain that the similarities between the Aztecs and the Egyptians support the idea of a collective unconscious—that is, some kind of fundamental connection, partly biological and partly spiritual, among all peoples.
The Aztecs were overthrown by the Spanish in the 16th century. Archaeological evidence suggests that some Aztecs butchered and cannibalized the Spanish.
¹ According to Wikipedia the idea of the Aztecs is variously defined. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aztec
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