The 10 Most Important Aztec Gods and Goddesses

The Aztec God Tezcatlipoca from the Borgia Codex
Borgia Codex

The Aztecs, the Late Postclassic civilization that the Spanish conquistadors met in Mexico in the 16h century, believed in a complex and diversified pantheon of gods and goddesses. Scholars studying the Aztec (or Mexica) religion have identified no fewer than 200 gods and goddesses, divided into three groups. Each group supervises one aspect of the universe: the heaven or the sky; the rain, fertility and agriculture; and, finally, war and sacrifice.

Often, the origins of the Aztec gods can be traced back to those from earlier Mesoamerican religions or shared by other societies of the day. Such deities are known as pan-Mesoamerican gods and goddesses. The following are the most important of the 200 deities of the Aztec religion. 

01
of 10

Huitzilopochtli, Father of the Aztecs

Aztec God Huitzilopochtli from the Codex Telleriano-Remensis
Codex Telleriano-Remensis

Huitzilopochtli (pronounced Weetz-ee-loh-POSHT-lee) was the patron god of the Aztecs. During the great migration from their legendary home of Aztalan, Huitzilopochtli told the Aztecs where they should establish their capital city of Tenochtitlan and urged them on their way. His name means “Hummingbird of the Left” and he was the patron of war and sacrifice. His shrine, on top of the pyramid of the Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlan, was decorated with skulls and painted red to represent blood.

02
of 10

Tlaloc, God of Rain and Storms

Aztec God of Rain Tlaloc, from the Rios Codex
Rios Codex

Tlaloc (pronounced Tláh-lock), the rain god, is one of the most ancient deities in all Mesoamerica. Associated with fertility and agriculture, his origins can be traced back to Teotihuacan, the Olmec and the Maya civilizations. Tlaloc's main shrine was the second shrine after Huitzilopochtli's, located on top of the Templo Mayor, the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan. His shrine was decorated with blue bands representing rain and water. The Aztec believed that the cries and tears of newborn children were sacred to the god, and, therefore, many ceremonies for Tlaloc involved the sacrifice of children.

03
of 10

Tonatiuh, God of the Sun

Aztec God Tonatiuh from the Codex Telleriano-Remensis
Codex Telleriano-Remensis

Tonatiuh (pronounced Toh-nah-tee-uh) was the Aztec sun god. He was a nourishing god who provided warmth and fertility to the people. In order to do so, he needed sacrificial blood. Tonatiuh was also the patron of warriors. In Aztec mythology, Tonatiuh governed the era under which the Aztec believed to live, the era of the Fifth Sun; and it is Tonatiuh's face in the center of the Aztec sun stone. 

04
of 10

Tezcatlipoca, God of Night

The Aztec God Tezcatlipoca from the Borgia Codex
Borgia Codex

 Tezcatlipoca (pronounced Tez-cah-tlee-poh-ka)'s name means “Smoking Mirror” and he is often represented as an evil power, associated with death and cold. Tezcatlipoca was the patron of the night, of the north, and in many aspects represented the opposite of his brother, Quetzalcoatl. His image has black stripes on his face and he carries an obsidian mirror.

05
of 10

Chalchiuhtlicue. Goddess of Running Water

Aztec God Chalchiutlicue from the Rios Codex
Aztec God Chalchiutlicue from the Rios Codex. Rios Codex

Chalchiuhtlicue (pronounced Tchal-chee-uh-tlee-ku-eh) was the goddess of running water and all aquatic elements. Her name means “she of the Jade Skirt”. She was the wife and/or sister of Tlaloc and was also patroness of childbirth. She is most often illustrated wearing a green/blue skirt from which flows a stream of water. 

06
of 10

Centeotl, God of Maize

Aztec God Centeotl from the Rios Codex
Aztec God Centeotl from the Rios Codex. Rios Codex

Centeotl (pronounced Cen-teh-otl) was the god of maize, and as such he was based on a pan-Mesoamerican god shared by Olmec and Maya religions. His name means “Maize cob Lord”. He was closely related to Tlaloc and is usually represented as a young man with a maize cob sprouting from his headdress.

07
of 10

Quetzalcoatl, The Feathered Serpent

Quetzalcoatl from the Codex Borbonicus
Quetzalcoatl from the Codex Borbonicus. Codex Borbonicus

Quetzalcoatl (pronounced Keh-tzal-coh-atl), “the Feathered Serpent”, is probably the most famous Aztec deity and is known in many other Mesoamerican cultures such as Teotihuacan and the Maya. He represented the positive counterpart of Tezcatlipoca. He was the patron of knowledge and learning and also a creative god.

Quetzalcoatl is also linked to the idea that the last Aztec emperor, Moctezuma, believed that the arrival of the Spanish conquistador Cortes was the fulfilling of a prophecy about the return of the god. However, many scholars now consider this myth as a creation of the Franciscan friars during the post-Conquest period.

08
of 10

Xipe Totec, God of Fertility and Sacrifice

Xipe Totec, Based on the Borgia Codex
Xipe Totec, Based on the Borgia Codex. katepanomegas

Xipe Totec (pronounced Shee-peh Toh-tek) is “Our Lord with the flayed skin.” Xipe Totec was the god of agricultural fertility, the east and the goldsmiths. He is usually portrayed wearing a flayed human skin representing the death of the old and the growth of the new vegetation.

09
of 10

Mayahuel, Goddess of Maguey

Aztec Goddess Mayahuel, from the Rios Codex
Aztec Goddess Mayahuel, from the Rios Codex. Rios Codex

Mayahuel (pronounced My-ya-whale) is the Aztec goddess of the maguey plant, the sweet sap of which, aguamiel, was considered her blood. Mayahuel is also known as "the woman of the 400 breasts" to feed her children, the Centzon Totochtin or “400 rabbits”.

10
of 10

Tlaltecuhtli, Earth Goddess

Monolithic Statue of Tlaltecuhtli from the Aztec Templo Mayor, Mexico City
Monolithic Statue of Tlaltecuhtli from the Aztec Templo Mayor, Mexico City. Tristan Higbee

Tlaltechutli (Tlal-teh-koo-tlee) is the monstrous earth goddess. Her name means "The one who give and devours life" and she required many human sacrifices to sustain her. Tlaltechutli represents the surface of the earth, who angrily devours the sun every evening to give it back the next day.  

Updated by K. Kris Hirst