In the mythology of the Aztecs of central Mexico, Xiuhtecuhtli was a god of fire. A young and vigorous deity, he was regarded as a patron of kings and warriors. His name meant Turquoise Lord, and images of Xiuhtecuhtli often show him wearing a crown and ornaments made of that much-prized blue stone. Xiuhtecuhtli had another name—Huehueteotl, the Old God—and a different image. As Huehueteotl, he appeared as an elderly man, usually bent over and carrying a brazier, or small stove, on his head.
Xiuhtecuhtli played a vital role in the Aztec cosmology. According to myths, he rose from a hearth in Mictlan, the Aztec underworld, and passed through earth to the heavens as a pillar of fire. If that fire—which held the parts of the universe together—were to die, everything would fall apart. Because he linked all the realms of the universe together, Xiuhtecuhtli was thought to be the guide who led souls from this life to the afterlife.
deity god or goddess
patron special guardian, protector, or supporter
cosmology set of ideas about the origin, history, and structure of the universe
underworld land of the dead
Xiuhtecuhtli also served as the god of time and the calendar—the word xihuitl, related to his name, meant "year." Festivals in his honor were held twice a year, once in midsummer and once in midwinter. A much more significant ceremony took place every 52 years, at the end of a time-keeping cycle called the Calendar Round. On this occasion, the Aztecs put out every fire in their empire. The priests of Xiuhtecuhtli lit a new sacred fire to begin the new Calendar Round. From this fire all the other fires were relit, first in the temples and then in people's homes.
See also Aztec Mythology; Fire; Huehueteotl.