Aztec: Theology and its Interpreters

An account of Aztec theology and the quest for the supreme God, with a deviation on prayers associated with prescribed desired outcomes, and the historical record.
— Orly

The Chihuahuans worshiped a great god called by them the 'captain of heaven' and recognized a lesser divinity as abiding in and inspiring their priests and medicine-men. They rendered homage to the sun; and when any comet or other phenomenon appeared in the heavens they offered sacrifice thereto; their sacrifice being much after the Mexican fashion—fruits, herbs, and such things as they had, together with blood drawn from their bodies by the pricks of a thorn.



In Sonora—the great central heart of Mexico making its beatings more and more clearly felt as we approach it nearer—the vague feelings of awe and reverence with which the savage regards the unseen, unknown, and unknowable powers, begin at last to somewhat lose their agueness and to crystallize into the recognition of a power to be represented and symbolized by a god made with hands. The offerings thereto begin also, more and more, to lose their primitive simple shape, and the blood, without which is no remission of sins, stains the rude altar that a more Arcadian race had only heaped with flowers and fruit. The natives of Sonora bring, says Las Casas, "many deer, wolves, hares, and birds before a large idol, with music of many flutes and other instruments of theirs; then cutting open the animals through the middle, they take out their hearts and hang them round the neck of the image, wetting it with the flowing blood. It is certain that the only offering made in all this province of Sonora was the hearts of brutes."  All this they did more especially in two great festivals they had, the one at seed-time, the other at harvest; and we have reason to rejoice that the thing was no worse, reason to be glad that the hearts of brave men and fair women, and soft children not knowing their right hand from their left, were not called for, as in the land of the eagle and cactus banner, to feed that devil's Minotaur, superstition.

The people of Durango called the principal power in which they believed Meyuncame, that is to say, Maker of All Things; they had another god, Cachiripa, whose name is all we know of him. They had besides innumerable private idols, penates of all possible and impossible figures; some being stone, shaped by nature only. In one village they worshiped a great flint knife that their flint implements of every kind might be good and sure. They had gods of storm and gods of sunshine, gods of good and gods of evil, gods of everything in heaven above or in the earth beneath or in the waters under the earth. Their idols received bloody sacrifices, not always of beasts; a bowl containing beans and the cooked human flesh of an enemy was offered to them for success in war.

Much of the preceding paragraph belongs also to Sinaloa or cannot be exactly located more in the one province than in the other. The Sinaloas are said to have venerated above all the other gods one called Cocohuame, which is, being interpreted, Death. They worshiped also a certain Ouraba, which is Valor, offering him bows, arrows, and all kinds of instruments of war. To Sehuatoba, that is to say Pleasure, they sacrificed feathers, raiment, beads of glass, and women's ornaments. Bamusehua was the god of water. In some parts, it is said, there was recognized a divine element in common herbs and birds. One deity—or devil, as Ribas calls him with the exquisite courtesy that distinguishes the theosophic historian—was the especial patron of a class of wizards closely resembling the shamáns and medicine-men of the north. No one seemed to know exactly the powers of this deity, but everyone admitted their extent by recognizing with a respectful awe their effects; effects brought about through the agency of the wizards, by the use of bags, rattles, magic stones, blowings, suckings, and all that routine of sorcery with which we are already familiar. This deity was called Grandfather or Ancestor.

One Sinaloa nation, the Tahus, in the neighborhood of Culiacan, reared great serpents for which they had a good deal of veneration. They propitiated their gods with offerings of precious stones and rich stuffs, but they did not sacrifice men. With an altogether characteristic insinuation, the Abbé Domenech says, that though highly immoral in the main, they so highly respected women who devoted themselves to a life of celibacy, that they held great festivals in their honor—leaving the reader to suppose that the Tahus had a class of female religious who devoted themselves to a life of chastity and were respected for that reason; the truth is found to be, on referring to the author Castañeda—from whom apparently the abbé has taken this half truth and whole falsehood—that these estimable celibate women were the public prostitutes of the nation.



The Mexican religion, as transmitted to us, is a confused and clashing chaos of fragments. If ever the great nation of Anáhuac had its Hesiod or its Homer, no ray of his light has reached the stumbling feet of research in that direction; no echo of his harmony has been ever heard by any ear less dull than that of a Zumárraga. It is given to few men to rise above their age, and it is folly to expect grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles; yet it is hard to suppress wholly some feelings of regret, in poring upon those ponderous tomes of sixteenth and seventeenth century history that touch upon Mexican religion; one pities far less the inevitable superstition and childish ignorance of the barbarian than the senility of his Christian historian and critic—there was some element of hope and evidence of attainment in what the half-civilized barbarian knew; but from what heights of Athenian, Roman, and Alexandrian philosophy and eloquence, had civilization fallen into the dull and arrogant nescience of the chronicles of the clergy of Spain.

We have already noticed the existence of at least two schools of religious philosophy in Mexico, two average levels of thought, the one that of the vulgar and credulous, the other that of the more enlightened and reflective. It has resulted from this that different writers differ somewhat in their opinions with regard to the precise nature and essence of that religion, some saying one thing and some another. I cannot show this more shortly and—what is much more important in a subject like this—more exactly, than by quoting a number of these opinions:

"Turning from the simple faiths of savage tribes of America, to the complex religion of the half-civilized Mexican nation, we find what we might naturally expect, a cumbrous polytheism complicated by mixture of several national pantheons, and beside and beyond this, certain appearances of a doctrine of divine supremacy. But these doctrines seem to have been spoken of more definitely than the evidence warrants. A remarkable native development of Mexican theism must be admitted, in so far as we may receive the native historian Ixtlilxochitl's account of the worship paid by Nezahualcoyotl, the poet-king of Tezcuco, to the invisible supreme Tloque-Nahuaque, he who has all in him, the cause of causes, in whose star-roofed pyramid stood an idol, and who there received no bloody sacrifice, but only flowers and incense. Yet it would have been more satisfactory, were the stories told by this Aztec panegyrist of his royal ancestors confirmed by other records. Traces of divine supremacy in Mexican religion are especially associated with Tezcatlipoca, 'Shining Mirror,' a deity who seems in his original nature the Sun-god, and thence by expansion to have become the soul of the world, creator of heaven and earth, lord of all things, Supreme Deity. Such conceptions may, in more or less measure, have arisen in native thought, but it should be pointed out that the remarkable Aztec religious formulas collected by Sahagun, in which the deity Tezcatlipoca is so prominent a figure, show traces of Christian admixture in their material, as well as of Christian influence in their style. In distinct and absolute personality, the divine Sun in Aztec theology was Tonatiuh whose huge pyramid-mound stands on the plain of Teotihuacan, a witness of his worship for future ages. Beyond this the religion of Mexico, in its complex system, or congeries of great gods, such as results from the mixture and alliance of the deities of several nations, shows the solar element rooted deeply and widely in other personages of its divine mythology, and attributes especially to the sun the title of Teotl, God."



"It is remarkable," says Professor J. G. Müller, "that the well-instructed Acosta should have known nothing about the adoration of a highest invisible God, under the name of Teotl. And yet this adoration has been reported in the most certain manner by others, and made evident from more exact statements regarding the nature of this deity. He has been surnamed Ipalnemoan, that is, He through whom we live, and Tloquenahuaque, that is, He who is all things through himself. He has been looked upon as the originator and essence of all things, and as especially throned in the high cloud-surrounded mountains. Rightly does Wuttke contend against any conception of this deity as a monotheistic one, the polytheism of the people being considered—for polytheism and monotheism will not be yoked together; even if a logical concordance were found, the inner spirits of the principles of the two would still be opposed to each other. Another argument stands also clearly out, in the total absence of any prayers, offerings, feasts, or temples to or in the honor of this god. From this it is evident that Teotl was not a god of the common people. Yet this, on the other hand, cannot justify us—the so-frequently-occurring statements of well-informed authorities being taken into account—in denying in toto all traces of a pantheistic monotheism, as this latter may easily spring up 184among cultivated polytheists as a logical result and outcome of their natural religion. Nezahualcoyotl, the enlightened king of Tezcuco, adored as the cause of causes, a god without an image. The chief of the Totonac aborigines of Cempoallan had, if we may credit the speech put in his mouth by Las Casas and Herrera, an idea of a highest god and creator. This abstract idea has also here, as in other parts of America, intertwined itself with the conception of a sun-god. Hence the Mexicans named the sun-god pre-eminently Teotl; and that enlightened king of Tezcuco, who built a temple of nine stories—symbolizing the nine heavens—in honor of the stars, called the sun-god his father."

"To the most ancient gods," says Klemm, "belonged the divinities of nature, as well as a highest being called Teotl, God. He was perfect, independent, and invisible, and consequently not represented by any image. His qualities were represented by expressions like these: He through whom we live, He who is all in himself. This god coincides very nearly with the Master of Life of the North Americans. In opposition to him is the evil spirit, the enemy of mankind, who often appears to and terrifies them. He is called Tlacatecololotl, that is to say, Rational Owl, and may possibly, like the Lame-foot of the Peruvians, be a survival from the times when the old hunter-nations inhabited the forests and mountains. Next to Teotl was Tezcatlipoca, that is to say, Shining Mirror; he was the god of providence, the soul of the world, and the creator of heaven and earth. Teotl was not represented by any image, and was probably not worshiped with offerings nor in any special temples; Tezcatlipoca was, however, so represented, and that as a youth, because time could have no power over his beauty and his splendor. He rewarded the righteous, and punished the ungodly with sickness and misfortune. He created the world, and mankind, and the sun, and the water, and he was himself in a certain degree the overseer thereof."



The Abbé Brasseur believes in the knowledge by the Mexicans and certain neighboring or related nations, of a Supreme God; but he thinks also that the names of great priests and legislators have often been used for or confounded with the one Name above every name. He says: "In the traditions that have reached us the name of the legislator is often confused with that of the divinity; and behind the symbolic veil that covers primitive history, he who civilized and brought to light in the Americans a new life, is designedly identified with the Father of the universal creation. The writers who treat of the history of the ancient American nations avow that, at the time of the landing of the Spaniards on the soil of the western continent, there was not one that did not recognize the existence of a supreme deity and arbiter of the universe. In that confusion of religious ideas, which is the inevitable result of ignorance and superstition, the notion of a unique immaterial being, of an invisible power, had survived the shipwreck of pure primitive creeds. Under the name Tloque-Nahuaque, the Mexicans adored Him who is the first cause of all things, who preserves and sustains all by his providence; calling him again, for the same reason, Ipalnemoaloni, He in whom and by whom we are and live. This god was the same as that Kunab-Ku, the Alone Holy, who was adored in Yucatan; the same again as that Hurakan, the Voice that Cries, the Heart of Heaven, found with the Guatemalan nations of Central America; and the same lastly as that Teotl, God, whom we find named in the Tzendal and Mexican books. This "God of all purity," as he was styled in a Mexican prayer, was, however, too elevated for the thoughts of the vulgar. His existence was recognized, and sages invoked him; but he had neither temples nor altars—perhaps because no one knew how he should be represented—and it was only in the last times of the Aztec monarchy that Nezahualcoyotl, king of Tezcuco, dedicated to him a teocalli of nine terraces, without statues, under the title of the unknown god."

Mr Gallatin says of the Mexicans: "Their mythology, as far as we know it, presents a great number of unconnected gods, without apparent system or unity of design. It exhibits no evidence of metaphysical research or imaginative powers. Viewed only as a development of the intellectual faculties of man, it is, in every respect, vastly inferior to the religious systems of Egypt, India, Greece, or Scandinavia. If imported, it must have been from some barbarous country, and brought directly from such country to Mexico, since no traces of a similar worship are found in the more northern parts of America."

"The Aztecs," writes Prescott, "recognized the existence of a Supreme Creator and Lord of the Universe. But the idea of unity—of a being, with whom volition is action, who has no need of inferior ministers to execute his purposes—was too simple, or too vast, for their understandings; and they sought relief as usual, in a plurality of deities, who presided over the elements, the changes of the seasons, and the various occupations of man. Of these, there were thirteen principal deities, and more than two hundred inferior; to each of whom some special day, or appropriate festival, was consecrated."



According to Mr Squier: "The original deities of the Mexican pantheon are few in number. Thus when the Mexicans engaged in a war, in defense of the liberty or sovereignty of their country, they invoked the War God, under his aspect and name Huitzlipochtli. When suddenly attacked by enemies, they called upon the same god, under his aspect and name of Paynalton, which implied God of Emergencies, etc. In fact, as already elsewhere observed, all the divinities of the Mexican, as of every other mythology, resolve themselves into the primeval God and Goddess."

"The population of Central America," says the Vicomte de Bussierre, "although they had preserved the vague notion of a superior eternal God and creator, known by the name Teotl, had an Olympus as numerous as that of the Greeks and the Romans. It would appear—the most ancient, though, unfortunately, also the most obscure legends being followed—that during the civilized period which preceded the successive invasions of the barbarous hordes of the north, the inhabitants of Anáhuac joined to the idea of a supreme being the worship of the sun and the moon, offering them flowers, fruits, and the first fruits of their fields. The most ancient monuments of the country, such as the pyramids of Teotihuacan, were incontestably consecrated to these luminaries. Let us now trace some of the most striking features of these people. Among the number of their gods, is found one represented under the figure of a man eternally young, and considered as the symbol of the supreme and mysterious God. Two other gods there were, watching over mortals from the height of a celestial city, and charged with the accomplishment of their prayers. Air, earth, fire, and water had their particular divinities. The woman of the serpent, the prolific woman, she who never gave birth but to twins, was adored as the mother of the human race. The sun and the moon had their altars. Various divinities presided over the phenomena of nature, over the day, the night, the mist, the thunder, the harvest, the mountains, and so on. Souls, the place of the dead, warriors, hunters, merchants, fishing, love, drunkenness, medicine, flowers, and many other things had their special gods. A multitude of heroes and of illustrious kings, whose apotheosis had been decreed, took their place in this vast pantheon, where were besides seated two hundred and sixty divinities of inferior rank, to each of whom nevertheless one of the days of the year was consecrated. Lastly, every city, every family, every individual, had its or his celestial protector, to whom worship was rendered. The number of the temples corresponded to that of the gods; these temples were found everywhere, in the cities, in the fields, in the woods, along the roads, and all of them had priests charged with their service. This complicated mythology was common to all the nations of Anáhuac, even to those that the empire had been unable to subjugate and with which it was at war; but each country had its favorite god, such god being to it, what Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, was to the Aztecs."

The Mexican religion, as summed up by Mr Brantz Mayer, "was a compound of spiritualism and gross idolatry; for the Aztecs believed in a Supreme Deity, whom they called Teotl, God; or Ipalnemoani, He by whom we live; or Tloque Nahuaque, He who has all in himself; while their evil spirit bore the name of Tlaleatcololotl, the Rational Owl. These spiritual beings are surrounded by a number of lesser divinities, who were probably the ministerial agents of Teotl. These were Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, and Teoyaomiqui, his spouse, whose duty it was to conduct the souls of warriors who perished in defense of their homes and religion to the 'house of the sun,' the Aztec heaven. Huitzilopochtli, or Mextli, the god of war, was the special protector of the Aztecs; and devoted as they were to war, this deity was always invoked before battle, and recompensed after it by the offering of numerous captives taken in conflict."



"The religion of the Mexicans," writes Señor Carbajal Espinosa,[VI-18] plagiarizing as literally as possible from Clavigero, "was a tissue of errors and of cruel and superstitious rites. Similar infirmities of the human mind are inseparable from a religious system originating in caprice and fear, as we see even in the most cultured nations of antiquity. If the religion of the Mexicans be compared with that of the Greeks and Romans, it will be found that the latter is the more superstitious and ridiculous and the former the more barbarous and sanguinary. These celebrated nations of ancient Europe multiplied excessively their gods because of the mean idea that they had of their power; restricting their rule within narrow limits, attributing to them the most atrocious crimes, and solemnizing their worship with such execrable impurities as were so justly condemned by the fathers of Christianity. The gods of the Mexicans were less imperfect, and their worship although superstitious contained nothing repugnant to decency. They had some idea, although imperfect, of a Supreme Being, absolute, independent, believing that they owed him tribute, adoration, and fear. They had no figure whereby to represent him, believing him to be invisible, neither did they give him any other name, save the generic one, God, which is in the Mexican tongue teotl, resembling even more in sense than in pronunciation the theos of the Greeks; they used, however, epithets, in the highest degree expressive, to signify the grandeur and the power which they believed him endowed with, calling him Ipalnemoani, that is to say, He by whom we live, and Tloque-Nahuaque, which means, He that is all things in himself. But the knowledge and the worship of this Supreme Essence were obscured by the multitude of gods invented by superstition. The people believed furthermore in an evil spirit, inimical to mankind, calling him Tlacatecololotl, or Rational Owl, and saying that oftentimes he revealed himself to men, to hurt or to terrify them."

"The Mexicans and the Tezcucans," following Señor Pimentel, "recognized the existence of a Supreme Being, of a First Cause, and gave him that generic title Teotl, God, the analogy of which with the Theos of the Greeks, has been already noted by various authors. The idea of God is one of those that appear radical to our very existence.... With the Mexicans and Tezcucans this idea was darkened by the adoration of a thousand gods, invoked in all emergencies; of these gods there were thirteen principal, the most notable being the god of providence, that of war, and that of the wind and waters. The god of providence had his seat in the sky, and had in his care all human affairs. The god of the waters was considered as the fertilizer of earth, and his dwelling was in the highest of the mountains where he arranged the clouds. The god of war was the principal protector of the Mexicans, their guide in their wanderings from the mysterious country of Aztlan, the god to whose favor they owed those great victories that elevated them from the lowly estate of lake-fishermen up to the lordship of Anáhuac. The god of the wind had an aspect more benign.... The Mexicans also worshiped the sun and the moon, and even, it would appear, certain animals considered as sacred. There figured also in the Aztec mythology an evil genius called the Owl-man, since in some manner the good and the bad, mixed up here on earth, have to be explained. So the Persians had their Oromasdes and Arimanes, the first the genius of good, and the second of evil, and so, later, Manicheism presents us with analogous explanations."



Solis, writing of Mexico and the Mexicans says: "There was hardly a street without its tutelary god; neither was there any calamity of nature without its altar, to which they had recourse for remedy. They imagined and made their gods out of their own fear; not understanding that they lessened the power of some by what they attributed to others.... But for all so many as were their gods, and so complete as was the blindness of their idolatry, they were not without the knowledge of a Superior Deity, to whom they attributed the creation of the heavens and the earth. This original of things was, among the Mexicans, a god without name; they had no word in their language with which to express him, only they gave it to be understood that they knew him, pointing reverently towards heaven, and giving to him after their fashion the attribute of ineffable, with that sort of religious uncertainty with which the Athenians venerated the Unknown God."

The interpreter of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis calls the Supreme God of the Mexicans by the name Tonacateotle. The interpreter says: "God, Lord, Creator, Governor of all, Tloque, Nauaq, Tlalticpaque, Teotlalale-Matlava-Tepeva—all these epithets they bestowed on their god Tonacateotle, who, they said, was the god that created the world; and him alone they painted with a crown as lord of all. They never offered sacrifices to this god for they said he cared not for such things. All the others to whom they sacrificed were men once on a time, or demons."

We have already seen from Herrera that "the Mexicans confessed to a Supreme God, Lord, and maker of all things, and the said God was the principal that they venerated, looking towards heaven, and calling him Creator of heaven and earth." In contradistinction to this it may be well to consider the following extract from the same author: "Such was the blindness of the Mexicans, even to the natural light, that they did not think like men of good judgment that all created things were the work and effect of some immense and infinite cause, the which only the First Cause and true God is.... And in Mexico alone (according to the common opinion) they had and adored two thousand gods, of whom the principal were Vizilipuztli and Tezcatlipucatl, who as supreme were set up in the height of the great temple, over two altars.... Tezcatlipucatl was the god of providence, and Vizilipuztli the god of war."

Speaking of Mexican temples and gods, Oviedo says: "But Montezuma had the chief [temple], together with three other prayer-houses, in which he sacrificed in honor of four gods, or idols, that he had; of these they had one for god of war, as the Gentiles had Mars; to another they gave honor and sacrifice as god of the waters, even as the ancients gave to Neptune; another they adored for god of the wind, as the lost heathen adored Æolus; and another still they revered as their sovereign god, and this was the sun.... They had further other gods; making one of them god of the maize-fields, attributing to him the power of guarding and multiplying the same, as the fable-writing poets and ancients of antiquity did to Ceres. They had gods for everything, giving attributes to each according to their surmises, investing them with that godhead which they had not, and with which it was not right to invest any save only the true God."

Speaking in general terms of probably a large part of New Spain, Torquemada, says: "These idolaters did not deny that they had a god called Ypalnemoaloni, that is to say, Lord by whom we live, and his nature is that his existence is in himself:  the which is most proper to God, who is in his essence life. But that in which these people erred was in distributing this divinity and attributing it to many gods; yet, in reality, and verily, they recognized a Supreme God, to whom all the others were inferior. But for the greatness of their sins, they lacked faith and ran into this error like the other nations that have done so."



Acosta, as has been already noticed by Professor J. G. Müller, either never heard of or disbelieved in the existence of the name Teotl and of the ideas connected therewith by so many historians.  The said Acosta says: "If wee shall seeke into the Indian tongue for a word to answer to this name of God, as in Latin, Deus; in Greeke, Theos; in Hebrew, El; in Arabike, Alla; but wee shall not finde any in the Cuscan or Mexicaine tongues. So as such as preach, or write to the Indians, vse our Spanish name Dios, fitting it to the accent or pronounciation of the Indian tongues; the which differ much, whereby appeares the small knowledge they had of God, seeing they cannot so much as name him, if it be not by our very name: yet in trueth they had some little knowledge.... The Mexicaines almost in the same manner [as the Peruvians] after the supreame God, worshiped the Sunne: And therefore they called Hernando Cortez, Sonne of the Sunne, for his care and courage to compasse the earth. But they made their greatest adoration to an Idol called Vitzilipuztli, the which in all this region they called the most puissant and Lord of all things: for this cause the Mexicaines built him a Temple, the greatest, the fairest, the highest, and the most sumptuous of all others.... But heere the Mexicaines Idolatrie hath bin more pernicious and hurtfull than that of the Inguas, as wee shall see plainer heereafter, for that the greatest part of their adoration and idolatrie, was employed to Idols, and not to naturall things, although they did attribute naturall effects to these Idolls, as raine, multiplication of cattell, warre, and generation, even as the Greekes and Latins have forged Idolls of Phœbus, Mercurie, Jupiter, Minerva, and of Mars. To conclude, who so shall neerely looke into it, shall finde this manner which the Divell hath vsed to deceive the Indians, to be the same wherewith hee hath deceived the Greekes and Romans, and other ancient Gentiles, giving them to vnderstand that these notable creatures, the Sunne, Moone, Starres, and Elements, had power and authoritie to doe good or harme to men." 



Mendieta says: "It is to be noted for a general rule that, though these people, in all the continent of these Indias, from the farthest parts of New Spain to the parts of Florida, and farther still to the kingdoms of Peru, had, as has been said, an infinity of idols that they reverenced as gods, nevertheless, above all, they still held the sun as chiefest and most powerful. And they dedicated to the sun the greatest, richest, and most sumptuous of their temples. This should be the power the Mexicans called Ipalnemohuani, that is to say, 'by whom all live,' and Moyucuyatzin ayac oquiyocux ayac oquipic, that is to say, 'he that no one created or formed, but who, on the contrary, made all things by his own power and will.' ... So many are the fictions and fables that the Indians invented about their gods, and so differently are these related in the different towns, that neither can they agree among themselves in recounting them, nor shall there be found any one who shall understand them. In the principal provinces of this New Spain, they had—after the sun, which was the common god of them all—each province, its particular and principal god, to which god above all others they offered their sacrifices; as the Mexicans to Uzilopuchtli—a name that the Spaniards not being able to pronounce called Ocholobos, 'eight wolves', or Uchilobos; as the Tezucans to Tezcatlipuca; as the Tlaxcalans to Camaxtli, and as the Cholulans to Quetzalcoatl; doubtless all these were famous men that performed some notable feats, or invented some new thing, to the honor and benefit of the state; or perhaps again these gave the people laws and a rule of life, or taught them trades, or to offer up sacrifices, or some other thing that appeared good and worthy to be rewarded with grateful acknowledgements.... The demon, the old enemy, did not content himself with the service that these people did him in the adoration of almost every visible creature, in making idols of them, both carven and painted, but he also kept them blinded with a thousand fashions of witchcrafts, parodies of sacraments, and superstitions."

"It is well to remark," writes Camargo, "that although the Indians had a divinity for each thing, they were aware of the existence of a Supreme God that they named Tloque-Nahuaque, or He who contains all, regarding the same as superior to all the other gods." This Tlascaltec author has also preserved us a native prayer couched in the following terms: "O, all-powerful gods, that inhabit the heavens, even as far as the ninth, where abides your master and ours, the great Tloque-Nahuaque (this name means, He that accompanies the other gods)—you that have all power over men forsake us not in danger. We invoke you, as well also as the sun Nauholin, and the moon, spouse of that brilliant luminary, the stars of heaven also, and the wind of the night and of the day."

According to the somewhat vague and incomplete account of Fray Toribio de Benavente, or Motolinia—the latter his adopted name and that by which he is best known—another of the original and early authorities in matter concerning the gentile Mexicans: "Tezcatlipoca was the god or demon that they held for greatest and to whom most dignity was attributed.... They had idols of stone, and of wood, and of baked clay; they also made them of dough and of seeds kneaded into the dough.... Some of them were shaped like men, ... some were like women; ... some were like wild beasts, as lions, tigers, dogs, deer, and such other animals as frequented the mountains and plains; ... some like snakes of many fashions, large and coiling.... Of the owl and other night-birds, and of others as the kite, and of every large bird, or beautiful, or fierce, or preciously feathered—they had an idol. But the principal of all was the sun. Likewise had they idols of the moon and stars, and of the great fishes, and of the water-lizards, and of toads and frogs, and of other fishes; and these they said were the gods of the fishes.... They had for gods fire, water, and earth; and of all these they had painted figures.... Of many other things they had figures and idols, carved or painted, even of butterflies, fleas, and locusts."



Nezahualcoyotl, king of Tezcuco, was he who—according to the no doubt somewhat partial account of his descendant Ixtlilxochitl—pushed the farthest into overt speech and act his contempt of the vulgar idolatry and his recognition of a high, holy, and to a great extent unknowable supreme power. This thoughtful monarch "found for false all the gods adored by the people of this land, saying that they were statues and demons hostile to the human race; for he was very learned in moral things, and he went to and fro more than any other, seeking if haply he might find light to affirm the true God and creator of all things, as has been seen in the discourse of his history, and as bear witness the songs that he composed on this theme. He said that there was only One, that this One was the maker of heaven and earth, that he sustained all he had made and created, and that he was where was no second, above the nine heavens; that no eye had ever seen this One, in a human shape nor in any shape whatever; that the souls of the virtuous went to him after death, while the souls of the bad went to another place, some most infamous spot of earth, filled with horrible hardships and sufferings. Never—though there were many gods representing many idols—did the king neglect an opportunity of saying when divinity was discussed, 'yntloque in nauhaque y palne moalani,' which sentence sums up his convictions as above expressed. Nevertheless he recognized the sun as his father and the earth as his mother."

Now it is in the face of much that has been said denying or doubting Ixtlilxochitl's account of the creed of Nezahualcoyotl that I have selected the passage above translated, from among other passages touching the same subject in the Historia Chichimeca and in the Relaciones. I have selected it not because it is the most clearly worded, or the most eloquent, or the most complete; but solely on account of the sentence with which it concludes: Nezahualcoyotl "recognized the sun as his father and the earth as his mother." These few words occurring at the end of a eulogy of the great Tezcucan by a confessed admirer, these few words that have passed unnoticed amid the din and hubbub raised over the lofty creed to which they form the last article, these few words so insignificant apparently and yet so significant in their connection—should go far to prove the faithfulness of Ixtlilxochitl's record, and the greater or less completeness of his portrait of his great ancestor. Were Ixtlilxochitl dishonest, would he ever have allowed such a pagan chord as this to come jangling into the otherwise perfect music of his description of a perfect sage and Christian, who believed in a God alone and all-sufficient, who believed in a creator of all things without any help at all, much less the help of his dead material creatures the sun and the earth? Let us admit the honesty of Ixtlilxochitl, and admit with him a knowledge of that Unknown God, whom, as did the Athenians, Nezahualcoyotl ignorantly worshiped; but let us not be blinded by a glitter of words—which we may be sure lose nothing in the repetition—as to the significance of that 'ignorantly;' let us never lose sight across the shadow of that obscure Athenian altar to the Unknown God, of the mighty columns of the Acropolis and the crest of the Athena Promachos. Nezahualcoyotl seems a fair type of a thoughtful, somewhat sceptical Mexican of that better-instructed class which is ever and everywhere the horror of hypocrites and fanatics, of that class never without its witnesses in all countries and at all times, of that class two steps above the ignorant laity, and one step above the learned priesthood, yet far still from that simple and perfect truth which shall one day be patent enough to all.



Turning from the discussion of a point so obscure and intangible as the monotheism of Nezahualcoyotl and the school of which he was the type, let us review the very palpable and indubitable polytheism of the Mexicans. It seems radically to differ little from other polytheisms better known, such as those of Greece, Rome, and Scandinavia; it seems to have been a jumble of personified powers, causes, and qualities, developed in the ordinary way from the mythical corruption of that florid hyperbolical style of speech natural to all peoples in days before the exact definition of words was either possible or necessary; just such a jumble as the Aryan polytheisms were in the days of the Euhemerists, and for too long after unfortunately; such a jumble as Aryan mythology was till the brothers Grimm led the van of the ripest talent and scholarship of the nineteenth century into the paths of 'word-shunting,' which led again into god or hero shunting, if the term may be invented. Unfortunately the philologic and mythologic material for such an exhaustive synthesis of the origin and relations of the American creeds as Mr Cox, for example, has given to the world on the Aryan legends, in his Mythology of the Aryan Nations, is yet far from complete; which fact indeed makes the raison d'être of works like the present. There is nothing for me at present but to gather, sift, and arrange, with such sifting and arrangement as may be possible, all accessible materials relating to the subject in hand; that done let more skilled workmen find and give them their place in the wall of science. For they have a place there, whether or no it be found to-day or to-morrow; a breach is there that shall be empty until they fit and fill it.

Tezcatlipoca seems to have been considered on the whole, and the patron-gods of different cities aside, as the most important of the Mexican gods. We have seen him identified in several of the preceding quotations with a supreme invisible god, and I now proceed, illustrating this phase of his character, to translate as closely as possible the various prayers given by Sahagun as addressed to this great deity under his various names, Titlacoan, Yautl, Telpuchtli, Tlamatzincatl, Moiocoiatzin, Iaotzin, Necociautl, Necaoalpilli, and others:—

O, thou almighty God, that givest life to men, and art called Titlacaoan, grant me in thy mercy everything needful to eat and to drink, and to enjoy of thy soft and delicate things; for in grievous toil and straitness I live in the world. Have mercy on me, so poor I am and naked, I that labor in thy service, and for thy service sweep, and clean, and put light in this poor house, where I await thine orders; otherwise let me die soon and end this toilful and miserable life, so that my body may find rest and a breathing-time.

In illness the people prayed to this deity as follows: O God, whose name is Titlacaoan, be merciful and send away this sickness which is killing me, and I will reform my life. Let me be once healed of this infirmity and I swear to serve thee and to earn the right to live; should I by hard toil gain something, I will not eat it nor employ it in anything save only to thine honor; I will give a feast and a banquet of dancing in this poor house.

But the sick man that could not recover, and that felt it so, used to grow desperate and blaspheme saying: O Titlacaoan, since thou mockest me, why dost thou not kill me?




Then following is a prayer to Tezcatlipoca, used by the priest in time of pestilence: O mighty Lord, under whose wing we find defense and shelter, thou art invisible and impalpable even as night and the air. How can I that am so mean and worthless dare to appear before thy majesty? Stuttering and with rude lips I speak; ungainly is the manner of my speech as one leaping among furrows, as one advancing unevenly; for all this I fear to raise thine anger, and to provoke instead of appeasing thee; nevertheless thou wilt do unto me as may please thee. O Lord, that hast held it good to forsake us in these days, according to the counsel thou hast as well in heaven as in hades—alas for us, in that thine anger and indignation has descended in these days upon us; alas, in that the many and grievous afflictions of thy wrath have overgone and swallowed us up, coming down even as stones, spears, and arrows upon the wretches that inhabit the earth—this is the sore pestilence with which we are afflicted and almost destroyed. Alas, O valiant and all-powerful Lord, the common people are almost made an end of and destroyed; a great destruction and ruin the pestilence already makes in this nation; and, what is most pitiful of all, the little children that are innocent and understand nothing, only to play with pebbles and to heap up little mounds of earth, they too die, broken and dashed to pieces as against stones and a wall—a thing very pitiful and grievous to be seen, for there remain of them not even those in the cradles, nor those that could not walk nor speak. Ah, Lord, how all things become confounded; of young and old and of men and women there remains neither branch nor root; thy nation and thy people and thy wealth are leveled down and destroyed. O our Lord, protector of all, most valiant and most kind, what is this? Thine anger and thine indignation, does it glory or delight in hurling the stone and arrow and spear? The fire of the pestilence, made exceeding hot, is upon thy nation, as a fire in a hut, burning and smoking, leaving nothing upright or sound. The grinders of thy teeth are employed, and thy bitter whips upon the miserable of thy people, who have become lean and of little substance, even as a hollow green cane. Yea, what doest thou now, O Lord, most strong, compassionate, invisible, and impalpable, whose will all things obey, upon whose disposal depends the rule of the world, to whom all is subject—what in thy divine breast hast thou decreed? Peradventure hast thou altogether forsaken thy nation and thy people? Hast thou verily determined that it utterly perish, and that there be no more memory of it in the world, that the peopled place become a wooded hill and a wilderness of stones? Peradventure wilt thou permit that the temples, and the places of prayer, and the altars, built for thy service, be razed and destroyed and no memory of them be left? Is it indeed possible that thy wrath and punishment, and vexed indignation are altogether implacable and will go on to the end to our destruction? Is it already fixed in thy divine counsel that there is to be no mercy nor pity for us, until the arrows of thy fury are spent to our utter perdition and destruction? Is it possible that this lash and chastisement is not given for our correction and amendment, but only for our total destruction and obliteration; that the sun shall nevermore shine upon us, but that we must remain in perpetual darkness and silence; that nevermore thou wilt look upon us with eyes of mercy, neither little nor much? Wilt thou after this fashion destroy the wretched sick that cannot find rest nor turn from side to side, whose mouth and teeth are filled with earth and scurf? It is a sore thing to tell how we are all in darkness, having none understanding nor sense to watch for or aid one another. We are all as drunken and without understanding, without hope of any aid; already the little children perish of hunger, for there is none to give them food, nor drink, nor consolation, nor caress—none to give the breast to them that suck; for their fathers and mothers have died and left them orphans, suffering for the sins of their fathers. O our Lord, all-powerful, full of mercy, our refuge, though indeed thine anger and indignation, thine arrows and stones, have sorely hurt this poor people, let it be as a father or a mother that rebukes children, pulling their ears, pinching their arms, whipping them with nettles, pouring chill water upon them; all being done that they may amend their puerility and childishness. Thy chastisement and indignation have lorded and prevailed over these thy servants, over this poor people, even as rain falling upon the trees and the green canes, being touched of the wind, drops also upon those that are below. O most compassionate Lord, thou knowest that the common folk are as children, that being whipped they cry and sob and repent of what they have done. Peradventure, already these poor people by reason of thy chastisement weep, sigh, blame, and murmur against themselves; in thy presence they blame and bear witness against their bad deeds and punish themselves therefor. Our Lord most compassionate, pitiful, noble, and precious, let a time be given the people to repent; let the past chastisement suffice, let it end here, to begin again if the reform endure not. Pardon and overlook the sins of the people; cause thine anger and thy resentment to cease; repress it again within thy breast that it destroy no farther; let it rest there; let it cease, for of a surety none can avoid death nor escape to any place. We owe tribute to death; and all that live in the world are the vassals thereof; this tribute shall every man pay with his life. None shall avoid from following death, for it is thy messenger what hour soever it may be sent, hungering and thirsting always to devour all that are in the world and so powerful that none shall escape: then indeed shall every man be punished according to his deeds. O most pitiful Lord, at least take pity and have mercy upon the children that are in the cradles, upon those that cannot walk. Have mercy also, O Lord, upon the poor and very miserable, who have nothing to eat, nor to cover themselves withal, nor a place to sleep, who do not know what thing a happy day is, whose days pass altogether in pain, affliction, and sadness. Than this, were it not better, O Lord, if thou should forget to have mercy upon the soldiers and upon the men of war, whom thou wilt have need of sometime; behold it is better to die in war and go to serve food and drink in the house of the sun, than to die in this pestilence and descend to hades. O most strong Lord, protector of all, lord of the earth, governor of the world, and universal master, let the sport and satisfaction thou hast already taken in this past punishment suffice; make an end of this smoke and fog of thy resentment; quench also the burning and destroying fire of thine anger: let serenity come and clearness; let the small birds of thy people begin to sing and to approach the sun; give them quiet weather so that they may cause their voices to reach thy highness and thou mayest know them. O our Lord, most strong, most compassionate, and most noble, this little have I said before thee, 204and I have nothing more to say, only to prostrate and throw myself at thy feet, seeking pardon for the faults of this my prayer; certainly I would not remain in thy displeasure, and I have no other thing to say.



The following is a prayer to the same deity, under his names Tezcatlipuca and Yoalliehecatl, for succor against poverty: O our Lord, protector most strong and compassionate, invisible, and impalpable, thou art the giver of life; lord of all, and lord of battles, I present myself here before thee to say some few words concerning the need of the poor people, the people of none estate nor intelligence. When they lie down at night they have nothing, nor when they rise up in the morning; the darkness and the light pass alike in great poverty. Know, O Lord, that thy subjects and servants, suffer a sore poverty that cannot be told of more than that it is a sore poverty and desolateness. The men have no garments nor the women to cover themselves with, but only certain rags rent in every part that allow the air and the cold to pass everywhere. With great toil and weariness they scrape together enough for each day, going by mountain and wilderness seeking their food; so faint and enfeebled are they that their bowels cleave to the ribs, and all their body reëchoes with hollowness; and they walk as people affrighted, the face and the body in likeness of death. If they be merchants, they now sell only cakes of salt and broken pepper; the people that have something despise their wares, so that they go out to sell from door to door and from house to house; and when they sell nothing they sit down sadly by some fence, or wall, or in some corner, licking their lips and gnawing the nails of their hands for the hunger that is in them; they look on the one side and on the other at the mouths of those that pass by, hoping peradventure that one may speak some word to them. O compassionate God, the bed on which they lie down is not a thing to rest upon, but to endure torment in; they draw a rag over them at night and so sleep; there they throw down their bodies and the bodies of children that thou hast given them. For the misery they grow up in, for the filth of their food, for the lack of covering, their faces are yellow and all their bodies of the color of earth. They tremble with cold, and for leanness they stagger in walking. They go weeping, and sighing, and full of sadness, and all misfortunes are joined to them; though they stay by a fire they find little heat. O our Lord, most clement, invisible, and impalpable, I supplicate thee to see good to have pity upon them as they move in thy presence wailing and clamoring and seeking mercy with anguish of heart. O our Lord, in whose power it is to give all content, consolation, sweetness, softness, prosperity and riches, for thou alone art lord of all good—have mercy upon them for they are thy servants. I supplicate thee, O Lord, that thou prove them a little with tenderness, indulgence, sweetness, and softness, which indeed they sorely lack and require. I supplicate thee that thou will lift up their heads with thy favor and aid, that thou will see good that they enjoy some days of prosperity and tranquillity, so they may sleep and know repose, having prosperous and peaceable days of life. Should they still refuse to serve thee, thou afterwards canst take away what thou hast given; they having enjoyed it but a few days, as those that enjoy a fragrant and beautiful flower and find it wither presently. Should this nation, for whom I pray and entreat thee to do them good, not understand what thou hast given, thou canst take away the good and pour out cursing; so that all evil may come upon them, and they become poor, in need, maimed, lame, blind, and deaf: then indeed they shall waken and know the good that they had and have not, and they shall call upon thee and lean towards thee; but thou wilt not listen, for in the day of abundance they would not understand thy goodness towards them. In conclusion, I supplicate thee, O most kind and benificent Lord, that thou will see good to give this people to taste of the goods and riches that thou art wont to give, and that proceed from thee, things sweet and soft and bringing content, and joy, although it be but for a little while, and as a dream that passes. For it is certain that for a long time the people go sadly before thee, weeping and thoughtful, because of the anguish, hardship, and anxiety that fill their bodies and hearts, taking away all ease and rest. Verily, it is not doubtful that to this poor nation, needy and shelterless, happens all I have said. If thou answerest my petition it will be only of thy liberality and magnificence, for no one is worthy to receive thy bounty for any merit of his, but only through thy grace. Search below the dung-hills and in the mountains for thy servants, friends, and acquaintance, and raise them to riches and dignities. O our Lord, most clement, let thy will be done as it is ordained in thy heart, and we shall have nothing to say. I, a rude man and common, would not by importunity and prolixity disgust and annoy thee, detailing my sickness, destruction, and punishment. Whom do I speak to? Where am I? Lo I speak with thee, O King; well do I know that I stand in an eminent place, and that I talk with one of great majesty, before whose presence flows a river through a chasm, a gulf sheer down of awful depth; this also is a slippery place, whence many precipitate themselves, for there shall not be found one without error before thy majesty. I myself, a man of little understanding and lacking speech, dare to address my words to thee; I put myself in peril of falling into the gorge and cavern of this river. I, Lord, have come to take with my hands blindness to mine eyes, rottenness and shrivelling to my members, poverty and affliction to my body; for my meanness and rudeness this it is that I merit to receive. Live and rule for ever in all quietness and tranquillity, O thou that art our lord, our shelter, our protector, most compassionate, most pitiful, invisible, impalpable.




This following is a petition in time of war to the same principal god, under his name of Tezcatlipoca Yautlnecociautlmonenequi, praying favor against the enemy: O our Lord, most compassionate, protector, defender, invisible, impalpable, by whose will and wisdom we are directed and governed, beneath whose rule we live—O, Lord of battles, it is a thing very certain and settled that war begins to be arranged and prepared for. The god of the earth opens his mouth, thirsty to drink the blood of them that shall die in this strife. It seems that they wish to be merry, the sun and the god of the earth called Tlaltecutli; they wish to give to eat and drink to the gods of heaven and hades, making them a banquet with the blood and flesh of the men that have to die in this war. Already do they look, the gods of heaven and hades, to see who they are that have to conquer, and who to be conquered; who they are that have to slay, and who to be slain; whose blood it is that has to be drunken, and whose flesh it is that has to be eaten;—which things the noble fathers and mothers whose sons have to die, are ignorant of. Even so are ignorant all their kith and kin, and the nurses that gave them suck—ignorant also are the fathers that toiled for them, seeking things needful for their food and drink and raiment until they reached the age they now have. Certainly they could not foretell how those sons should end whom they reared so anxiously, or that they should be one day left captives or dead upon the field. See good, O our Lord, that the nobles who die in the shock of war be peacefully and agreeably received, and with bowels of love, by the sun and the earth that are father and mother of all. For verily thou dost not deceive thyself in what thou doest, to wit, in wishing them to die in war; for certainly for this didst thou send them into the world, so that with their flesh and their blood they might be for meat and drink to the sun and the earth. Be not wroth, O Lord, anew against those of the profession of war, for in the same place where they will die have died many generous and noble lords and captains, and valiant men. The nobility and generosity of the nobles and the great-heartedness of the warriors is made apparent, and thou makest manifest, O Lord, how estimable and precious is each one, so that as such he may be held and honored, even as a stone of price or a rich feather. O Lord, most clement, lord of battles, emperor of all, whose name is Tezcatlipoca, invisible and impalpable, we supplicate thee that he or they that thou wilt permit to die in this war may be received into the house of the sun in heaven, with love and honor, and may be placed and lodged between the brave and famous warriors already dead in war, to wit, the lords Quitzicquaquatzin, Maceuhcatzin, Tlacahuepantzin, Ixtlilcuechavac, Ihuitltemuc, Chavacuetzin, and all the other valiant and renowned men that died in former times—who are rejoicing with and praising our lord the sun, who are glad and eternally rich through him, and shall be for ever; they go about sucking the sweetness of all flowers delectable and pleasant to the taste. This is a great dignity for the stout and valiant ones that died in war; for this they are drunken with delight, keeping no account of night, nor day, nor years, nor times; their joy and their wealth is without end; the nectarous flowers they sip never fade, and for the desire thereof men of high descent strengthen themselves to die. In conclusion, I entreat thee, O Lord, that art our lord most clement, our emperor most invincible, to see good that those that die in this war be received with bowels of pity and love by our father the sun, and our mother the earth; for thou only livest and rulest and art our most compassionate lord. Nor do I supplicate alone for the illustrious and noble, but also for the other soldiers, who are troubled and tormented in heart, who clamor, calling upon thee, holding their lives as nothing, and who fling themselves without fear upon the enemy, seeking death. Grant them at least some small part of their desire, some rest and repose in this life; or if here, in this world, they are not destined to prosperity, appoint them for servants and officers of the sun, to give food and drink to those in hades and to those in heaven. As for those whose charge it is to rule the state and to be tlacateccatl or tlacochcalatl, make them to be fathers and mothers to the men of war that wander by field and mountain, by height and ravine—in their hand is the sentence of death for enemies and criminals, as also the distribution of dignities, the offices and the arms of war, the badges, the granting privileges to those that wear visors and tassels on the head, and ear-rings, pendants, and bracelets, and have yellow skins tied to their ankles—with them is the privilege of appointing the fashion of the raiment that every one shall wear. It is to these also to give permission to certain to use and wear precious stones, as chalchivetes, turquoises, and rich feathers in the dances, and to wear necklaces and jewels of gold: all of which things are delicate and precious gifts proceeding from thy riches, and which thou givest to those that perform feats and valiant deeds in war. I entreat thee also, O Lord, to make grace of thy largess to the common soldiers, give them some shelter and good lodging in this world, make them stout and brave, and take away all cowardice from their heart, so that not only shall they meet death with cheerfulness, but even desire it as a sweet thing, as flowers and dainty food, nor dread at all the hoots and shouts of their enemies: this do to them as to thy friend. Forasmuch as thou art lord of battles, on whose will depends the victory, aiding whom thou wilt, needing not that any counsel thee—I entreat thee, O Lord, to make mad and drunken our enemies so that without hurt to us they may cast themselves into our hands, into the hands of our men of war enduring so much hardship and poverty. O our Lord, since thou art God, all-powerful, all-knowing, disposer of all things, able to make this land rich, prosperous, praised, honored, famed in the art and feats of war, able to make the warriors now in the field to live and be prosperous, if, in the days at hand, thou see good that they die in war, let it be to go to the house of the sun, among all the heroes that are there and that died upon the battle-field.




The following prayer is one addressed to the principal deity, under his name Tezcatlipoca Teiocoiani Tehimatini, asking favor for a newly elected ruler: To-day, a fortunate day, the sun has risen upon us, warming us, so that in it a precious stone may be wrought, and a handsome sapphire. To us has appeared a new light, has arrived a new brightness, to us has been given a glittering axe to rule and govern our nation—has been given a man to take upon his shoulders the affairs and troubles of the state. He is to be the image and substitute of the lords and governors that have already passed away from this life, who for some days labored, bearing the burden of thy people, possessing thy throne and seat, which is the principal dignity of this thy nation, province, and kingdom; having and holding the same in thy name and person some few days. These have now departed from this life, put off their shoulders the great load and burden that so few are able to suffer. Now, O Lord, we marvel that thou hast indeed set thine eyes on this man, rude and of little knowledge, to make him for some days, for some little time, the governor of this state, nation, province, and kingdom. O our Lord, most clement, art thou peradventure in want of persons and friends?—nay verily, thou that hast thereof more than can be counted! Is it, peradventure, by error, or that thou dost not know him; or is it that thou hast taken him for the nonce, while thou seekest among many for another and a better than he, unwise, indiscrete, unprofitable, a superfluous man in the world. Finally, we give thanks to thy majesty for the favor thou hast done us. What thy designs therein are thou alone knowest; perhaps beforehand this office has been provided for: thy will be done as it is determined in thy heart; let this man serve for some days and times. It may be that he will fill this office defectively, giving unrest and fear to his subjects, doing things without counsel or consideration, deeming himself worthy of the dignity he has, thinking that he will remain in it for a long time, making a sad dream of it, making the occupation and dignity thou hast given him an occasion of pride and presumption, making little of everybody and going about with pomp and pageantry. Within a few days, thou wilt know the event of all, for all men are thy spectacle and theatre, at which thou laughest and makest thyself merry. Perhaps this ruler will lose his office through his childishness, or it will happen through his carelessness and laziness; for verily nothing is hidden from thee, thy sight makes way through stone and wood, and thine hearing. Or perhaps his arrogance, and the secret boasting of his thoughts will destroy him. Then thou wilt throw him among the filth and upon the dung-hills, and his reward will be blindness, and shrivellings, and extreme poverty till the hour of his death, when thou wilt put him under thy feet. Since this poor man is put in this risk and peril, we supplicate thee, who art our Lord, our invisible and impalpable protector, under whose will and pleasure we are, who alone disposes of and provides for all—we supplicate thee that thou see good to deal mercifully with him; inasmuch as he is needy, thy subject and servant, and blind; deign to provide him with thy light, that he may know what he has to think, what he has to do, and the road he has to follow, so as to commit no error in his office, contrary to thy disposition and will. Thou knowest what is to happen to him in this office both by day and night; we know, O our Lord, most clement, that our ways and deeds are not so much in our hands as in the hands of our ruler. If this ruler after an evil and perverse fashion, in the place to which thou hast elevated him, and in the seat in which thou hast put him—which is thine—where he manages the affairs of the people, as one that washes filthy things with clean and clear water, (yea in the same seat holds a similar cleansing office the ancient god, who is father and mother to thyself, and is god of fire, who stands in the midst of flowers, in the midst of the place bounded by four walls, who is covered with shining feathers that are as wings)—if this ruler-elect of ours do evil with which to provoke thine ire and indignation, and to awaken thy chastisement against himself, it will not be of his own will or seeking, but by thy permission or by some impulse from without; for which I entreat thee to see good to open his eyes to give him light; open also his ears and guide him, not so much for his own sake as for that of those whom he has to rule over and carry on his shoulders. I supplicate thee, that now, from the beginning, thou inspire him with what he is to conceive in his heart, and the road he is to follow, inasmuch as thou hast made of him a seat on which to seat thyself, and also as it were a flute that, being played upon, may signify thy will. Make him, O Lord, a faithful image of thyself, and permit not that in thy throne and hall he make himself proud and haughty; but rather see good, O Lord, that quietly and prudently he rule and govern those in his charge who are common people: do not permit him to insult and oppress his subjects, nor to give over without reason any of them to destruction. Neither permit, O Lord, that he spot and defile thy throne and hall with any injustice or oppression, for in so doing he will stain also thine honor and fame. Already, O Lord, has this poor man accepted and received the honor and lordship that thou hast given him; already he possesses the glory and riches thereof; already thou hast adorned his hands, feet, head, ears, and lips, with visor, ear-rings, and bracelets, and put yellow leather upon his ankles. Permit it not, O Lord, that these decorations, badges, and ornaments be to him a cause of pride and presumption; but rather that he serve thee with humility and plainness. May it please thee, O our Lord, most clement, that he rule and govern this, thy seignory, that thou hast committed to him, with all prudence and wisdom. May it please thee that he do nothing wrong or to thine offense; deign to walk with him and direct him in all his ways. But if thou wilt not do this, ordain that from this day henceforth he be abhorred and disliked, and that he die in war at the hands of his enemies, that he depart to the house of the sun; where he will be taken care of as a precious stone, and his heart esteemed by the sun-lord; he dying in the war like a stout and valiant man. This would be much better than to be dishonored in the world, to be disliked and abhorred of his people for his faults or defects. O our Lord, thou that providest to all the things needful for them, let this thing be done as I have entreated and supplicated thee.



The next prayer, directed to the god under his name Tezcatlipoca Titlacaoamoquequeloa, is to ask, after the death of a ruler, that another may be given: O our Lord, already thou knowest how our ruler is dead, already thou hast put him under thy feet; he is gathered to his place; he is gone by the road that all have to go by, and to the house where all have to lodge; house of perpetual darkness, where there is no window, nor any light at all; he is now where none shall trouble his rest. He served thee here in his office during some few days and years, not indeed without fault and offense. Thou gavest him to taste in this world somewhat of thy kindness and favor, passing it before his face as a thing that passes quickly. This is the dignity and office that thou placedst him in, that he served thee in for some days, as has been said, with sighs, tears and devout prayers before thy majesty. Alas, he is gone now where our father and mother the god of hades is, the god that descended head foremost below the fire, the god that desires to carry us all to his place, with a very importunate desire, with such a desire as one has that dies of hunger and thirst; the god that is moved exceedingly, both by day and night, crying and demanding that all go to him. There, with this god, is now our late-departed ruler; he is there with all his ancestors that were in the first times, that governed this kingdom, with Acamapichtli, with Tyzoc, with Avitzotl, with the first Mocthecuzoma, with Axayacatl, and with those that came last, as the second Mocthecuzoma and also Mocthecuzoma Ilhuicamina. All these lords and kings ruled, governed, and enjoyed the sovereignty and royal dignity, and throne and seat of this empire; they ordered and regulated the affairs of this thy kingdom—thou that art the universal lord and emperor, and that needest not to take counsel with another. Already had these put off the intolerable load that they had on their shoulders, leaving it to their successor, our late ruler, so that for some days he bore up this lordship and kingdom; but now he has passed on after his predecessors to the other world. For thou didst ordain him to go, and didst call him to give thanks for being unloaded of so great a burden, quit of so sore a toil, and left in peace and rest. Some few days we have enjoyed him, but now forever he is absent from us, never more to return to the world. Peradventure has he gone to any place whence he can return here, so that his subjects may see his face again? Will he come again to tell us to do this or that? Will he come again to look to the consuls or governors of the state? Peradventure will they see him any more, or hear his decree and commandment? Will he come any more to give consolation and comfort to his principal men and his consuls? Alas, there is an end to his presence, he is gone for ever. Alas, that our candle has been quenched, and our light, that the axe that shone with us is lost altogether. All his subjects and inferiors, he has left in orphanage and without shelter. Peradventure will he take care henceforward of this city, province, and kingdom, though this city be destroyed and leveled to the ground, with this seignory and kingdom? O our Lord, most clement, is it a fit thing that by the absence of him that died shall come to the city, seignory, and kingdom some misfortune, in which will be destroyed, undone, and affrighted the vassals that live therein? For while living, he who has died gave shelter under his wings, and kept his feathers spread over the people. Great danger runs this your city, seignory, and kingdom, if another ruler be not elected immediately to be a shelter thereto. What is it that thou art resolved to do? Is it good that thy people be in darkness? Is it good that they be without head or shelter? Is it thy will that they be leveled down and destroyed? Woe for the poor and the little ones, thy servants, that go seeking a father and mother, some one to shelter and govern them, even as little children that go weeping, seeking an absent father and mother, and that grieve, not finding them. Woe for the merchants, petty and poor, that go about by the mountains, deserts, and meadows, woe also to the sad toilers that go about seeking herbs to eat, roots and wood to burn, or to sell, to eke out an existence withal. Woe for the poor soldiers, for the men of war, that go about seeking death, that abhor life, that think of nothing but the field and the line where battle is given—upon whom shall they call? who shall take a captive? to whom shall they present the same? And if they themselves be taken captive, to whom shall they give notice, that it may be known in their land? Whom shall they take for father and mother, so that in such a case favor may be granted them? Since he whose duty it was to see to this, who was as father and mother to all, is already dead. There will be none to weep, to sigh for the captives, to tell their relatives about them. Woe for the poor of the litigants, for those that have lawsuits with those that would take their estates. Who will judge, make peace among, and clear them of their disputes and quarrels? Behold when a child becomes dirty, if his mother clean him not, he must remain filthy. And those that make strife between themselves, that beat, that knock down, who will keep peace between them? Those that for all this go weeping and shedding tears, who shall wipe away their tears and put a stop to their laments? Peradventure can they apply a remedy to themselves? Those deserving death, will they peradventure pass sentence upon themselves? Who shall set up the throne of justice? Who shall possess the hall of the judge, since there is no judge? Who will ordain the things that are necessary for the good of this city, seignory, and kingdom? Who will elect the special judges that have charge of the lower people, district by district? Who will look to the sounding of the drum and fife to gather the people for war? who will collect and lead the soldiers and dexterous men to battle? O our Lord and protector see good to elect and decide upon some person sufficient to fill your throne and bear upon his shoulders the sore burden of the ruling of the state, to gladden and cheer the common people, even as the mother caresses the child, taking it in her lap; who will make music to the troubled bees so that they may be at rest? O our Lord, most clement, favor our ruler-elect, whom we deem fit for this office, elect and choose him so that he may hold this your lordship and government; give him as a loan your throne and seat, so that he may rule over this seignory and kingdom as long as he lives; lift him from the lowliness and humility in which he is, and put on him this honor and dignity that we think him worthy of; O our Lord, most clement, give light and splendor with your hand to this state and kingdom. What has been said I only come to propose to thy majesty; although very defectively, as one that is drunken, and that staggers, almost ready to fall. Do that which may best serve thee, in all and through all.



What follows is a kind of greater excommunication, or prayer to get rid of a ruler that abused and misused his power and dignity: O our Lord, most clement, that givest shelter to every one that approaches, even as a tree of great height and breadth, thou that art invisible and impalpable; that art, as we understand, able to penetrate the stones and the trees, seeing what is contained therein. For this same reason thou seest and knowest what is within our hearts and readest our thoughts. Our soul in thy presence is as a little smoke or fog that rises from the earth. It cannot at all be hidden from thee, the deed and the manner of living of any one; for thou seest and knowest his secrets and the sources of his pride and ambition. Thou knowest that our ruler has a cruel and hard heart and abuses the dignity that thou hast given him, as the drunkard abuses his wine, as one drunken with a soporific; that is to say that the riches, dignity, and abundance that for a little while thou hast given him, fill him with error, haughtiness, and unrest, and that he becomes a fool, intoxicated with the poison that makes him mad. His prosperity causes him to despise and make little of every one; it seems that his heart is covered with sharp thorns and also his face: all of which is made apparent by his manner of living, and by his manner of talking; never saying nor doing anything that gives pleasure to any one, never caring for any one, never taking counsel of any one; he ever lives as seems good to him and as the whim directs. O our Lord, most clement, protector of all, creator and maker of all, it is too certain that this man has destroyed himself, has acted like a child ungrateful to his father, like a drunkard without reason. The favors thou hast accorded him, the dignity thou hast set him in, have occasioned his perdition. Besides these, there is another thing, exceedingly hurtful and reprehensible: he is irreligious, never praying to the gods, never weeping before them, nor grieving for his sins, nor sighing; from this it comes about that he is as headstrong as a drunkard in his vices, going about like a hollow and empty person, wholly senseless; he stays not to consider what he is nor the office that he fills. Of a verity he dishonors and affronts the dignity and throne that he holds, which is thine, and which ought to be much honored and reverenced; for from it depends the justice and rightness of the judicature that he holds, for the sustaining and worthily directing of thy nation, thou being emperor of all. He should so hold his power that the lower people be not injured and oppressed by the great; from him should fall punishment and humiliation on those that respect not thy power and dignity. But all things and people suffer loss in that he fills not his office as he ought. The merchants suffer also, who are those to whom thou givest the most of thy riches, who overrun all the world, yea the mountains and the unpeopled places, seeking through much sorrow thy gifts, favors, and dainties, the which thou givest sparingly and to thy friends. Ah, Lord, not only does he dishonor thee as aforesaid, but also when we are gathered together to intone thy songs, gathered in the place where we solicit thy mercies and gifts, in the place where thou art praised and prayed to, where the sad afflicted ones and the poor gather comfort and strength, where very cowards find spirit to die in war—in this so holy and reverend place this man exhibits his dissoluteness and hurts devotion; he troubles those that serve and praise thee in the place where thou gatherest and markest thy friends, as a shepherd marks his flock.  Since thou, Lord, hearest and knowest to be true all that I have now said in thy presence, there remains no more but that thy will be done, and the good pleasure of thy heart to the remedy of this affair. At least, O Lord, punish this man in such wise that he become a warning to others, so that they may not imitate his evil life. Let the punishment fall on him from thy hand that to thee seems most meet, be it sickness or any other affliction; or deprive him of the lordship, so that thou mayest give it to another, to one of thy friends, to one humble, devoted, and penitent; for many such thou hast, thou that lackest not persons such as are necessary for this office, friends that hope, crying to thee: thou knowest those for friends and servants that weep and sigh in thy presence every day. Elect some one of these that he may hold the dignity of this thy kingdom and seignory; make trial of some of these. And now, O Lord, of all the aforesaid things which is it that thou wilt grant? Wilt thou take from this ruler the lordship, dignity, and riches on which he prides himself, and give them to another who may be devout, penitent, humble, obedient, capable, and of good understanding? Or, peradventure, wilt thou be served by the falling of this proud one into poverty and misery, as one of the poor rustics that can hardly gather the wherewithal to eat, drink, and clothe himself? Or, peradventure, will it please thee to smite him with a sore punishment so that all his body may shrivel up, or his eyes be made blind, or his members rotten? Or wilt thou be pleased to withdraw him from the world through death, and send him to hades, to the house of darkness and obscurity, where his ancestors are, whither we have all to go, where our father is, and our mother, the god and the goddess of hell. O our Lord, most clement, what is it that thy heart desires the most? Let thy will be done. And in this matter in which I supplicate thee, I am not moved by envy nor hate; nor with any such motives have I come into thy presence. I am moved only by the robbery and ill-treatment that the people suffer, only by a desire for their peace and prosperity. I would not desire, O Lord, to provoke against myself thy wrath and indignation, I that am a mean man and rude; for it is to thee, O Lord, to penetrate the heart and to know the thoughts of all mortals.



The following is a form of Mexican prayer to Tezcatlipoca, used by the officiating confessor after having heard a confession of sins from some one. The peculiarity of a Mexican confession was that it could not lawfully have place in a man's life more than once; a man's first absolution and remission of sins was also the last and the only one he had to hope for:—O our most compassionate Lord, protector and favorer of all, thou hast now heard the confession of this poor sinner, with which he has published in thy presence his rottenness and unsavoriness. Perhaps he has hidden some of his sins before thee, and if it be so he has irreverently and offensively mocked thy majesty, and thrown himself into a dark cavern and into a deep ravine; he has snared and entangled himself; he has made himself worthy of blindness, shrivelling and rotting of the members, poverty, and misery. Alas, if this poor sinner have attempted any such audacity as to offend thus before thy majesty, before thee that art lord and emperor of all, that keepest a reckoning with all, he has tied himself up, he has made himself vile, he has mocked himself. Thou thoroughly seest him, for thou seest all things, being invisible and without bodily parts. If he have done this thing, he has, of his own will, put himself in this peril and risk; for this is a place of very strict justice and very strait judgment. This rite is like very clear water with which thou washest away the faults of him that wholly confesses, even if he have incurred destruction and shortening of days; if indeed he have told all the truth, and have freed and untied himself from his sins and faults, he has received the pardon of them and of what they have incurred. This poor man is even as a man that has slipped and fallen in thy presence, offending thee in divers ways, dirting himself also and casting himself into a deep cavern, and a bottomless well. He fell like a poor and lean man, and now he is grieved and discontented with all the past; his heart and body are pained and ill at ease; he is now filled with heaviness for having done what he did; he is now wholly determined never to offend thee again. In thy presence, O Lord, I speak, that knowest all things, that knowest also that this poor wretch did not sin with an entire liberty of free will; he was pushed to it and inclined by the nature of the sign under which he was born. And since this is so, O our Lord, most clement, protector and helper of all, since also this poor man has gravely offended thee, wilt thou not remove thine anger and thine indignation from him? Give him time, O Lord; favor and pardon him, inasmuch as he weeps, sighs, and sobs, looking before him on the evil he has done, and on that wherein he has offended thee. He is sorrowful, he sheds many tears, the sorrow of his sins afflicts his heart; he is not sorry only, but terrified also at thoughts of them. This being so, it is also a just thing that thy fury and indignation against him be appeased and that his sins be thrown on one side. Since thou art full of pity, O Lord, see good to pardon and to cleanse him; grant him the pardon and remission of his sins, a thing that descends from heaven, as water very clear and very pure to wash away sins, with which thou washest away all the stain and impurity that sin causes in the soul. See good, O Lord, that this man go in peace, and command him in what he has to do; let him go to do penance for and to weep over his sins; give him the counsels necessary to his well living.




At this point the confessor ceases from addressing the god and turns to the penitent, saying: O my brother, thou hast come into a place of much peril, a place of travail and fear; thou hast come to a steep chasm and a sheer rock, where if any one fall he shall never come up again; thou hast come to the very place where the snares and the nets touch one another, where they are set one upon another, in such wise that no one may pass thereby without falling into some of them, and not only snares and nets but also holes like wells. Thou hast thrown thyself down the banks of the river and among the snares and nets, whence without aid it is not possible that thou shouldst escape. These thy sins are not only snares, nets, and wells, into which thou hast fallen, but they are also wild beasts that kill and rend both body and soul. Peradventure, hast thou hidden some one or some of thy sins, weighty, huge, filthy, unsavory, hidden something now published in heaven, earth, and hades, something that now stinks to the uttermost part of the world? Thou hast now presented thyself before our most clement Lord and protector of all, whom thou didst irritate, offend, and provoke the anger of, who to-morrow, or some other day, will take thee out of this world and put thee under his feet, and send thee to the universal house of hades, where thy father is and thy mother, the god and the goddess of hell, whose mouths are always open desiring to swallow thee and as many as may be in the world. In that place shall be given thee whatsoever thou didst merit in this world, according to the divine justice, and to what thou hast earned with thy works of poverty, misery, and sickness. In divers manners thou wilt be tormented and afflicted in the extreme, and wilt be soaked in a lake of intolerable torments and miseries; but here, at this time, thou hast had pity upon thyself in speaking and communicating with our Lord, with him that sees all the secrets of every heart. Tell therefore wholly all that thou hast done, as one that flings himself into a deep place, into a well without bottom. When thou wast created and sent into the world, clean and good thou wast created and sent; thy father and thy mother Quetzalcoatl formed thee like a precious stone, and like a bead of gold of much value; when thou wast born thou wast like a rich stone and a jewel of gold very shining and very polished. But of thine own will and volition thou hast defiled and stained thyself, and rolled in filth, and in the uncleanness of the sins and evil deeds that thou hast committed and now confessed. Thou hast acted as a child without judgment or understanding, that playing and toying defiles himself with a loathsome filth; so hast thou acted in the matter of the sins that thou hast taken pleasure in, but hast now confessed and altogether discovered before our Lord, who is the protector and purifier of all sinners. This thou shalt not take for an occasion of jesting, for verily thou hast come to the fountain of mercy, which is like very clear water, with which filthinesses of the soul are washed away by our Lord God, the protector and favorer of all that turn to him. Thou hast snatched thyself from hades, and hast returned again to come to life in this world, as one that comes from another. Now thou hast been born anew, thou hast begun to live anew, and our Lord God gives thee light and a new sun. Now once more thou beginnest to radiate and to shine anew like a very precious and clear stone, issuing from the belly of the matrix in which it was created. Since this is thus, see that thou live with much circumspection and very advisedly now and henceforward, all the time that thou mayest live in this world under the power and lordship of our Lord God, most clement, beneficent, and munificent. Weep, be sad, walk humbly, with submission, with the head low and bowed down, praying to God. Look that pride find no place within thee, otherwise thou wilt displease our Lord, who sees the hearts and the thoughts of all mortals. In what dost thou esteem thyself? At how much dost thou hold thyself? What is thy foundation and root? On what dost thou support thyself? It is clear that thou art nothing, canst do nothing, and art worth nothing; for our Lord will do with thee all he may desire and none shall stay his hand. Peradventure, must he show thee those things with which he torments and afflicts, so that thou mayest see them with thine eyes in this world? Nay verily, for the torments and horrible sufferings of his tortures of the other world are not visible, nor able to be seen by those that live here. Perhaps he will condemn thee to the universal house of hades; and the house where thou now livest will fall down and be destroyed, and be as a dung-hill of filthiness and uncleanness, thou having been accustomed to live therein with much satisfaction, waiting to know how he would dispose of thee, he our Lord and helper, the invisible, incorporeal and alone one. Therefore I entreat thee to stand up and strengthen thyself and to be no more henceforth as thou hast been in the past. Take to thyself a new heart and a new manner of living, and take good care not to turn again to thine old sins. Consider that thou canst not see with thine eyes our Lord God, for he is invisible and impalpable, he is Tezcatlipoca, he is Titlacaoa, he is a youth of perfect perfection and without spot. Strengthen thyself to sweep, to clean, and to arrange thy house; for if thou do not this, thou wilt reject from thy company and from thy house, and wilt offend much the very clement youth that is ever walking through our houses, and through our streets, enjoying and amusing himself—the youth that labors, seeking his friends, to comfort them and to comfort himself with them. To conclude, I tell thee to go and learn to sweep, and to get rid of the filth and sweepings of thy house, and to cleanse everything, thyself not the least. Seek out also a slave to immolate him before God; make a feast to the principal men, and let them sing the praises of our Lord. It is moreover fit that thou shouldst do penance, working a year or more in the house of God; there thou shalt bleed thyself, and prick thy body with maguey thorns; and, as a penance for the adulteries and other vilenesses that thou hast committed, thou shalt, twice every day, pass osier twigs through holes pierced in thy body, once through thy tongue, and once through thine ears. This penance shalt thou do not alone for the carnalities above mentioned, but also for the evil and injurious words with which thou hast insulted and affronted thy neighbors; as also for the ingratitude thou hast shown with reference to the gifts bestowed on thee by our Lord, and for thine inhumanity toward thy neighbors, neither making offerings of the goods that were given thee by God, nor sharing with the poor the temporal benefits given by our Lord. Thou shalt burden thyself to offer paper and copal; thou shalt give alms to the needy and the hungry, to those that have nothing to eat nor to drink nor to cover themselves with; even though thou thyself go without food to give it away and to clothe the naked: look to it, for their flesh is like thy flesh, and they are men as thou. Care most of all for the sick, they are the image of God. There remains nothing more to be said to thee; go in peace, and entreat God to aid thee to fulfill what thou art obliged to do; for he gives favor to all.



The following prayer is one addressed to Tezcatlipoca by a recently elected ruler, to give thanks for his election and to ask favor and light for the proper performance of his office: O our lord, most clement, invisible and impalpable protector and governor, well do I know that thou knowest me, who am a poor man, of low destiny, born and brought up among filth, and a man of small reason and mean judgment, full of many defects and faults, a man that knows not himself, nor considers who he is. Thou hast bestowed on me a great benefit, favor, and mercy, without any merit on my part; thou hast lifted me from the dung-hill and set me in the royal dignity and throne. Who am I, my Lord, and what is my worth that thou shouldst put me among the number of those that thou lovest? among the number of thine acquaintance, of those thou holdest for chosen friends and worthy of all honor; born and brought up for thrones and royal dignities; to this end thou hast created them able, prudent, descended from noble and generous fathers; for this end they were created and educated; to be thine instruments and images they were born and baptized under the signs and constellations that lords are born under. They were born to rule thy kingdoms, thy word being within them and speaking by their mouth—according to the desire of the ancient god, the father of all the gods, the god of fire, who is in the pond of water among turrets surrounded with stones like roses, who is called Xiuhtecutli, who determines, examines, and settles the business and lawsuits of the nation and of the common people, as it were washing them with water; in the company and presence of this god the generous personages aforementioned always are. O most clement Lord, ruler, and governor, thou hast done me a great favor. Perhaps it has been through the intercession and through the tears shed by the departed lords and ladies that had charge of this kingdom. It would be great madness to suppose that for any merit or courage of mine thou hast favored me, setting me over this your kingdom, the government of which is something very heavy, difficult, and even fearful; it is as a huge burden, carried on the shoulders, and one that with great difficulty the past rulers bore, ruling in thy name. O our Lord, most clement, invisible, and impalpable, ruler and governor, creator and knower of all things and thoughts, beautifier of thy creatures, what shall I say more, poor me? In what wise have I to rule and govern this thy state, or how have I to carry this burden of the common people? I who am blind and deaf, who do not even know myself, nor know how to rule over myself. I am accustomed to walk in filth, my faculties fit me for seeking and selling edible herbs, and for carrying and selling wood. What I deserve, O Lord, is blindness for mine eyes and shriveling and rotting for my limbs, and to go dressed in rags and tatters; this is what I deserve and what ought to be given me. It is I that need to be ruled and to be carried on some one's back. Thou hast many friends and acquaintances that may be trusted with this load. Since, however, thou has already determined to set me up for a scoff and a jeer to the world, let thy will be done and thy word fulfilled. Peradventure thou knowest not who I am; and, after having known me, wilt seek another and take the government from me; taking it again to thyself, hiding again in thyself this dignity and honor, being already angry and weary of bearing with me; and thou wilt give the government to another, to some close friend and acquaintance of thine, to some one very devout toward thee, that weeps and sighs and so merits this dignity. Or, peradventure, this thing that happened to me is a dream, or a walking in sleep. O Lord, thou that art present in every place, that knowest all thoughts, that distributest all gifts, be pleased not to hide from me thy words and thine inspiration. I do not know the road I have to follow, nor what I have to do, deign then not to hide from me the light and the mirror that have to guide me. Do not allow me to cause those I have to rule and carry on my shoulders to lose the road and to wander over rocks and mountains. Do not allow me to guide them in the tracks of rabbits and deer. Do not permit, O Lord, any war to be raised against me, nor any pestilence to come upon those I govern; for I should not know, in such a case, what to do, nor where to take those I have upon my shoulders; alas for me, that am incapable and ignorant. I would not that any sickness come upon me, for in that case thy nation and people would be lost, and thy kingdom desolated and given up to darkness. What shall I do, O Lord and creator, if by chance I fall into some disgraceful fleshly sin, and thereby ruin the kingdom? what do if by negligence or sloth I undo my subjects? what do if through my fault I hurl down a precipice those I have to rule? Our Lord, most clement, invisible and impalpable, I entreat thee not to separate thyself from me; visit me often; visit this poor house, for I will be waiting for thee therein. With great thirst I await thee and demand urgently thy word and inspiration, which thou didst breathe into thine ancient friends and acquaintances that have ruled with diligence and rectitude over thy kingdom. This is thy throne and honor, on either side whereof are seated thy senators and principal men, who are as thine image and very person. They give sentence and speak on the affairs of the state in thy name; thou usest them as thy flutes, speaking from within them and placing thyself in their faces and ears, opening their mouths so that they may speak well. In this place the merchants mock and jest at our follies, with which merchants thou art spending thy leisure, since they are thy friends and acquaintances; there also thou inspirest and breathest upon thy devoted ones, who weep and sigh in thy presence, sincerely giving thee their heart. For this reason thou adornest them with prudence and wisdom, so that they may look as into a mirror with two faces, where every one's image is to be seen; for this thou givest them a very clear axe, without any dimness, whose brightness flashes into all places. For this cause also thou givest them gifts and precious jewels, hanging them from their necks and ears, even like material ornaments such as are the nacochtl, the tentetl, the tlapiloni or head-tassel, the matemecatl or tanned strap that lords tie round their wrists, the yellow leather bound on the ankles, the beads of gold, and the rich feathers. In this place of the good governing and rule of thy kingdom, are merited thy riches and glory, thy sweet and delightful things, calmness and tranquillity, a peaceable and contented life; all of which come from thy hand. In the same place, lastly, are also merited the adverse and wearisome things, sickness, poverty, and the shortness of life; which things are sent by thee to those that in this condition do not fulfill their duty. O our Lord, most clement, knower of thoughts and giver of gifts, is it in my hand, that am a mean man, to know how to rule? is the manner of my life in my hand, and the works that I have to do in my office? which indeed is of thy kingdom and dignity and not mine. What thou mayest wish me to do and what may be thy will and disposition, thou aiding me I will do. The road thou mayest show me I will walk in; that thou mayest inspire me with, and put in my heart, that I will say and speak. O our Lord, most clement, in thy hand I wholly place myself, for it is not possible for me to direct or govern myself; I am blind, darkness, a dung-hill. See good, O Lord, to give me a little light, though it be only as much as a fire-fly gives out, going about at night; to light me in this dream, in this life asleep that endures as for a day; where are many things to stumble at, many things to give occasion for laughing at one, many things like a rugged road that has to be gone over by leaps. All this has to happen in the position thou hast put me in, giving me thy seat and dignity. O Lord, most clement, I entreat thee to visit me with thy light, that I may not err, that I may not undo myself, that my vassals may not cry out against me. O our Lord, most pitiful, thou hast made me now the back-piece[VI-58] of thy chair, also thy flute; all without any merit of mine. I am thy mouth, thy face, thine ears, thy teeth, and thy nails. Although I am a mean man I desire to say that I unworthily represent thy person, and thine image, that the words I shall speak have to be esteemed as thine, that my face has to be held as thine, mine eyes as thine, and the punishment that I shall inflict as if thou hadst inflicted it. For all this I entreat thee to put thy spirit within me, and thy words, so that all may obey them and none contradict.





Now with regard to the measure of the genuineness of the prayers to Tezcatlipoca, just given, it seems evident that either with or without the conscious connivance of Father Bernardino de Sahagun, their historian, a certain amount of sophistication and adaptation to Christian ideas has crept into them; it appears to be just as evident, however, on the other hand, that they contain a great deal that is original, indigenous, and characteristic in regard to the Mexican religion. At any rate they purport to do so, and as evidence bearing on the matter, presented by a hearer and eye-witness at first hand, by a man of strongly authenticated probity, learning, and above all, of strong sympathy with the Mexican people, beloved and trusted by those of them with whom he came in contact, and admitted to the familiarity of a friend with their traditions and habits of thought—for all these reasons his evidence, however we may esteem it, must be heard and judged.




Source:  HHB [1]

Aztec: Hymn to Tlaloc

Inca: Murder of the Inca Manco