Skip to main content
Select Source:

Huitzilopochtli

Huitzilopochtli

Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war, was associated with the sun. His name, which means "hummingbird of the south," came from the Aztec belief that the spirits of warriors killed in battle followed the sun through the sky for four years. After that, they were transformed into hummingbirds. In some myths, the warlike Huitzilopochtli appears in contrast to his brother the god Quetzalcoatl*, who represented life and the gifts of civilization.

According to legend, Huitzilopochtli's mother was the goddess Coatlicue. One day she found a bunch of hummingbird feathers and stuffed them into her breast. She immediately became pregnant with Huitzilopochtli. However, some of her other childrena daughter named Coyolxauhqui and 400 sonswere jealous of the unborn child. They plotted to kill Coatlicue, but when they attacked her, Huitzilopochtli emerged from his mother's womb fully grown. He cut off the head of his sister and killed most of his brothers as well.

The Aztecs believed that to nourish Huitzilopochtli and keep the world in motion, they needed to feed the god human blood every day. For this reason, Aztec priests conducted daily human sacrifices at the Great Temple in their capital city of Tenochtitlán. During these rituals, victims were led up the steps of a pyramid, and while they were still alive, their hearts were cut out of their chests. The victims' bodies were then thrown down the steps of the pyramid onto a stone that featured a carved image of Coyolxauhqui. In this way, the sacrifices reenacted the story about the young god killing his sister.

ritual ceremony that follows a set pattern

Another tale about Huitzilopochtli tells how he led the Aztecs to settle on the island where they built the great city of Tenochtitlán. Originally from the north of Mexico, the Aztecs followed Huitzilopochtli on

* See Nantes and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

a long journey south in search of a new home. The god told them to settle at a place where they saw an eagle perched on a cactus growing out of a rock. As predicted, they saw the sign described by the god and ended their journey. This story echoes some events in Aztec history. In 1345 the Aztecs were driven onto an island in the middle of a lake by a tribe called the Culhua. There they founded Tenochtitlán, which would later become the capital of the Aztec empire.

See also Animals in Mythology; Aztec Mythology; Coatlicue; Quetzalcoatl; Serpents and Snakes.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Huitzilopochtli." Myths and Legends of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Huitzilopochtli." Myths and Legends of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/huitzilopochtli

"Huitzilopochtli." Myths and Legends of the World. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/huitzilopochtli

Huitzilopochtli

Huitzilopochtli (wē´tsēlōpōcht´lē), chief deity of the Aztec, god of war. He is said to have guided the Aztecs during their migration from Aztlán. Usually represented in sculptured images as hideous, he was the object of human sacrifice, particularly of war prisoners. He was also god of the sun, and it was believed that he was born each morning from the womb of Coatlicue, goddess of earth. His temple at Tenochtitlán was a great architectural achievement of pre-Columbian America.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Huitzilopochtli." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Huitzilopochtli." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/huitzilopochtli

"Huitzilopochtli." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/huitzilopochtli

Huitzilopochtli

Huitzilopochtli Chief deity of the Aztec, revered as a Sun god, god of war and protector of the fifth era. He is usually shown in armour decorated with humming-bird feathers. His cult required a daily nourishment of human blood. See also Central and South American mythology

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Huitzilopochtli." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Huitzilopochtli." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/huitzilopochtli-0

"Huitzilopochtli." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/huitzilopochtli-0