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A page from the Codex Boturini depicting the departure from Aztlán.

Cōātlīcue, whose name refers to her skirt formed of serpents, is also known as Tēteoh īnnān or the "mother of the gods." It was she who gave birth to the sun, moon and stars. One day, while she was busy with her work about a temple, a ball of feathers fell upon her, which impregnated her, causing her to give birth to the sinister sun god Huītzilōpōchtli. This situation caused much alarm for Cōātlīcue's daughter Coyolxāuhqui, who counselled her 400 children to attack Cōātlīcue.

In the end, Cōātlīcue was decapitated, whereupon Huītzilōpōchtli emerged fully formed and armed for war. He set about his grizzly work, slaying a good number of his siblings, including Coyolxāuhqui, whose severed head became the moon. Another telling, however, suggests that Huītzilōpōchtli was born at an opportune moment and managed to save the life of his mother.

An alternative myth focusses on Ōmeteōtl, a male-female duality which includes the primordial deities Tōnacātēcuhtli or Ōmetēuctli and Tōnacācihuātl or Ōmecihuātl.

The cosmos itself is subject to a repeating cycle of life followed by cataclysms. Five successive ages (or "suns") are outlined: -

  • Nahui-Ocelotl ("Jaguar-Sun"), inhabited by giants devoured by jaguars;
  • Nahui-Ehécatl ("Wind-Sun"), whose inhabitants were turned into monkeys: destroyed by hurricanes;
  • Nahui-Quiahuitl ("Rain-Sun"), whose inhabitants were destroyed by a rain of fire, with only birds surviving;
  • Nahui-Atl ("Water-Sun"), which was flooded, causing the inhabitants to turn into fish, barring two who escaped, who were transformed into dogs; and
  • Nahui-Ollin ("Earthquake-Sun"), the current world, which will end in one or a series of earthquakes.


The Classic Maya vision serpent, as depicted at Yaxchilan.

In the beginning, Kukulkán (in Yucatec Maya: Q'uq'umatz or Gukumatz in K'iche') and Tepeu (possibly of later, Aztec, origin), having made the animals, attempted to create the first earth-bound species in order that they might serve the gods. They were made in the image of those gods. The first attempt was carried out by creating a humanoind shape from mud, but this crumbled after becoming moist. Thus, the pair summoned a council of the gods, who decreed that mankind be made instead from wood. This was done, but the resulting human species were found to be unsuitable: they had no particular loyalty or gratitude towards their creators. Thus, this second humanoid species were destroyed by the rains. The next endeavour involved fashioning humankind from maize. This was a success.

The next phase in creation in Ki'che' lore involved the ascension of Vucub Caquix/Wuqub' Kaqix, a demonic avian, who was opposed by the Hero Twins Hunahpu and Xbalanqué. These were the sons of the ballplayer Hun Hunahpu (himself the brother of his fellow sportsman Vucub Hunahpu and son of Xpiyacoc and Xmucané, "Grandfather" and "Grandmother") and the infernal goddess Xquic, daughter of Cuchumaquic, Lord of Xibalba (the Underworld). Vucub Caquix attempted to be the sun and moon of the twilight world which existed between the formative stage of creation and the present world. His sons were Zipacna and Cabrakan. The former had slain the Four Hundred Boys, who disturbed his sunbathing with their attempts to construct a hut. Hunahpu and Xbalanqué made attempts to kill this trio of nefarious actors, and eventually triumphed, becoming the sun and moon.


In the beginning, there were two brothers: Papan was the elder, and the Moon the younger. They formed the cosmos from nothing, making a beautiful planet. Once they had completed their work, the brothers went out in a canoe to survey the world.

Unfortunately, they came to a series of rapids and were ejected into the water. They swam ashore and found some maize. Once they had eaten, they discarded the cobs, which turned into animals. Papan then threw some into the water, forming fish, and the air, creating birds.

One of the birds was so fascinating to Papan that he ended up stepping into the fire and was set alight. Going up into the sky, he became the sun. Watching this unfold caused his brother to go into the flames, though he was less willing to take up a station in the sky. The sparks arising became the stars, while the brother - eventually consumed - did become a celestial object as his name suggests.


Mixtec king and warlord Eight Deer Jaguar Claw (right) Meeting with Four Jaguar, in a depiction from the pre-Columbian Codex Zouche-Nuttall.

In the beginning, all was covered in water and darkness. The surface of the water was covered with a green slime. Time began when the deer god Puma-Snake and his stag goddess bride Jaguar-Snake assumed human form and proceeded to bring order to the cosmos. The pair made a home for themselves atop a cliff above the waters where they rested the sky upon an axe they put in place there.

Puma-Snake and Jaguar-Snake had two sons, Wind-Nine Snake and Wind-Nine Cave, who frolicked on the cliff. These figures had many powers and learned the arts of agriculture and the sacred use of tobacco. They prayed to the creator for land in which people could plant crops, which was given. The creator raised the earth from the primordial ocean.

In some accounts, this first creation fell prey to a deluge sent by the creator, who proceeded to refashion the heavens and the earth.


A Toltec-style clay vessel.

The creator of the cosmos made five worlds and suns to succeed one another from nothing. These were based upon earth, fire, air, water and rock respectively.

The people of the first world were evil and met their end at the hands - or, more accurately, teeth - of ocelots. Their successors were a foolish race who were transformed into monkeys.

The inhabitants of the third world were impious, which led to their destruction in a fiery conflagration. The fourth was similarly ended, this time by a deluge.

Within the darkness after the end of the fourth earth and sun, the gods met to decide upon the luminary for the fifth world. Tecciztecatl volunteered and was led to the top of a pyramid where he was told to jump into a fire. Tecciztecatl refused, whereupon the ugly Nanautzin jumped in. This caused Tecciztecatl such shame that he too jumped in, forming the fifth sun.

Palace of Mitla, capital of the Zapotec civilization between the 8th and 14th centuries.


The Creator existed prior to everything. He made the cosmos and permeated it with the life-force pee. The male and female manifestations of the creator made humans and animals. These deities were Cozaana, the sun, who made animals, while Huichaana, the goddess of the waters, made people and fish.

Sir Graham