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Central and South American mythology

Central and South American mythology Traditional beliefs of the native peoples of Mexico and Central and South America. The Aztecs had a rich and complex mythology, much of it based on the earlier cultures of the Toltecs and Mayas. The Aztecs believed that there had been four eras (suns) before the one in which they were living, and that each sun had ended in universal destruction. They expected that their own era, the fifth, would end with an earthquake. The Aztec pantheon was headed by Huitzilopochtli. Other important deities included Quetzalcóatl, Tezcatlipoca (god of the night sky) and Tlaloc (rain-god). Mictlantecuhtli, the god of death, ruled the underworld. Human sacrifice was a central feature of Aztec culture. They believed that the Sun would cease to rise unless constantly supplied with human blood. Religious festivals in which sacrificial victims were offered to the gods were held throughout the year. The Mayas of the Yucatán peninsula in Central America had a god of creation, Hunab Ku, remote from human affairs. His son, Itzamna, usually depicted as a toothless old man, was the inventor of drawing and writing, and also offered help to the sick. Another important god was Cukulan, the bird snake – the Mayan equivalent of Quetzacóatl. In Guatemala there were creator divinities and also the ancient god Huracán who gave the Mayas fire. In South America the vast Inca empire of Peru worshipped, Inti, the sun god and ancestor of the ruling dynasty. Another important deity was Viracocha, the creator god. Ancestor worship played a central role in Inca religious observances. The dead were venerated and the mummies of previous emperors accorded special honours. Tribal peoples have evolved elaborate magical practices in order to control spirits. In these groups the shaman still enjoys considerable authority.

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