Texcatlipoca seated on a basketwork throne in his temple. He holds a shield with the five directions of space and three arrows, as well as a spear. He wears a red cloak covered with skulls and bones and his hair contains white feathers.
Texcatlipoca, or “Smoking Mirror,” was an omnipresent and omnipotent god, the god of the night sky and memory. Here he carries the same shield as Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and war. The volutes on his temple represent butterflies or fallen soldiers. White feathers were placed in the hair of sacrificial victims.
He had many names each alluding to different aspects of his deity: Titlacauan (“We are his Slaves”), Ipalnemoani (“He by whom we live”), Necoc Yaotl (“Enemy of Both Sides”), Tloque Nahuaque (“Lord of the Near and the Nigh”) and Yohualli Èhecatl (“Night, Wind”), Ome Acatl (“Two Reed”), Ilhuicahua Tlalticpaque (“Possessor of the Sky and Earth”).
When depicted he was usually drawn with a black and a yellow stripe painted across his face. He is often shown with his right foot replaced with an obsidian mirror, bone, or a snake—an allusion to the creation myth in which he loses his foot battling with the Earth Monster. Sometimes the mirror was shown on his chest, and sometimes smoke would emanate from the mirror. Tezcatlipoca’s nagual, his animal counterpart, was the jaguar and his jaguar aspect was the deity Tepeyollotl (“Mountainheart”). In the Aztec ritual calendar the Tonalpohualli Tezcatlipoca ruled the trecena 1 Ocelotl (“1 Jaguar”)—he was also patron of the days with the name Acatl (“reed”).
As Fray Bernardino de Sahagún observed: the Mexicans “are held to be barbarians and of very little worth; in truth, however, in matters of culture and refinement, they are a step ahead of other nations." We explore the history and legacy of the Nahua and Maya civilizations, both of which challenge our preconceptions.