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The Ancient Aztecs

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  1. The Ancient Aztecs Presentation created by Andrew Clark, Nikhil Sekher, and Joshua Reitan

  2. Polytheism Polytheism - the doctrine of or belief in more than one god or in many gods.

  3. Aztec Gods • The Aztecs’ mental image of God’s were anthropomorphic- meaning that natural forces they believed in were personified. • The Aztecs were exteremely open minded when it came to religion. They took gods from different regions and different peoples constonatly. • As society grows complex, so do the Gods.

  4. The Manifestation of Aztec Gods • Pantheon - the gods of a particular mythology considered collectively. • As society grew more intelligent, the Pantheon grew larger and larger. • It was the priest’s job to keep track of the ever growing Pantheon- there were so many Gods that the ordinary man was not expected to know them all.

  5. The Role of Priests “All these earth gods were their life. The complicated religious pattern they left to the priests, who told them when to weep, when to get drunk, when to rejoice, when to die. The people seemed content to resign themselves to those who spoke of the unknowable with so great a certainty. (Von Hagen 160)”

  6. The Role of Priests • Priests were the most trusted of men. • Since they were the ones whose job was to keep track of the Gods and know them, they were trusted. • Complicated matters regarding complicated Gods were left to the priests. • These complicated matters will be discussed in further detail later.

  7. Blood - The fluid that circulates in the principal vascular system of human beings and other vertebrates, in humans consisting of plasma in which the red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are suspended.

  8. Blood – “The drink of the Gods.”

  9. “Huitzilopochtli, the Hummingbird Wizard, was the Aztecs' own. They were his children, the "chosen people." He it was who led them out of the dry misery of the north into the promised land of Mexico-Tenochtitlán; he took his place among all the other gods, from the ancient past and from other cultures.

  10. He was the sun, the ever-youthful warrior who fought battles with the other gods for man's survival. Each day he rose, fought the night, the stars, the moon, and, armed with sunbolts, brought on the new day.

  11. Since he fought these battles for them, the Aztecs could only repay him by nourishing him for his eternal wars. The proffered food could be neither the watered-down intoxicant pulque, nor corncakes such as mortal man ate--the god must be nourished on the stuff of life: blood.

  12. It was the sacred duty of every Aztec--for all were part of an agrarian militia--to take prisoners for sacrifice in order to obtain for Huitzilopochtli the nectar of the gods--human hearts and blood. (Von Hagen 160)”

  13. “…for if the beneficent gods were not nourished they would cease to protect man from the other gods, and this might lead to the total destruction of the world. (Von Hagen 161)” How could so many new hearts and blood be provided for the gods so that they may be pleased? War.

  14. Militant Religion What did peace mean to the Aztecs? • Peace was dangerous. • How could new hearts and blood be provided and sacrificed to the Gods if there was peace? • Militant Religion - War and Religion are tied together. • War could be considered the Aztec’s “natural condition.”

  15. Sacrificial Rituals “When the great temple pyramid to Huitzilopochtli was dedicated in Mexico in 1486, "king" Ahuitzotl, after a two years' war campaign in Oaxaca, amassed more than twenty thousand prisoner victims. These were lined up in rows waiting to be spread-eagled over the sacrificial stone. Their hearts were cut out and held briefly to the sun, then, still pulsating, deposited in the heart urn of the recumbent Chac-Mool figure. (Van Hagen 161)”

  16. Rituals • 2 main calenders: • Ritualistic (Not astronomical) • 20 periods of 13 days • 20 x 13 = 260 • The origin of this calendar is not known. It is said to even be more than 1,500 years old! • Solar (Astronomical) • 18 20-day months • 18 x 20 = 360 [+ 5 empty days (explained later)] • 52-year cycles • 365(days) x 52(years) = 18,980-day period

  17. The Role of Priests • Know the pantheon of the gods. • Calculate Rituals • Understand the exact interconnection between each particular god and time according to the calender. • For example, sacrifices had to be made at exact moments in time in order to please the god they wanted to appeal to.

  18. Rituals “All the developed intellect of the Aztec was turned toward this one thing: how to propitiate the right god at the right time. So sacrifice was not mere butchery, it was a parade of elaborately conceived ritual with only one object in view: to preserve human existence. (Van Hagen 165)”

  19. Rituals • Sacrifice was not meaningless “butchery”. • To the Aztecs, sacrifice was they key to preserving human existence. • The Aztecs understood that if they did not offer the gods their drink, the gods would not be pleased; the gods would in turn, cease to protect the human race, and instead, destroy the human race.

  20. Nemontemi • Nemontemi – the “five empty days” • Occurs at the end of every 52-year cycle. (After the 360 days). • These are the “unlucky” days. • Nemontemi was announced by the priests: • All fires were extinguished. • Fasting was general. • Sexual intercourse ceased. • Artists were to remain idle. • Businesses were to remain idle.

  21. Nemontemi • After the priests calculate the end of Nemontemi, and if the world had not ended, they would perform the first ritual of the new cycle: Sacrifice.

  22. Nemontemi • First sacrifice of the new cycle: • A sacrificial victim was chosen. • His chest was cut open and the heart pulled out. • All the fires would than be rekindled in the temples and throughout the land.

  23. Festivals and Holidays • “THE FESTIVAL was almost continuous in ancient Mexico. It is not easy to separate festive and ceremonial, sacred and secular, since everything was bound up together. (Von Hagen 97)”

  24. Festivals and Holidays • There are 18 months in the solar calender. • Each of these months contained some forms of celebration to the gods.

  25. Ceremonies, parades, sacrifice. • Priests dance in the skin of sacrificial victims. • Fasting, skin dancing, children sacrifices. • Worship of the new corn, god impersonation ceremonies, altars created in houses with cornstalks, children sacrifices. • Dances of workers. • Aztecs feast on corn. • Feasts that lasted for days. • Prisoners of war held captive by the Aztecs danced with the Aztecs themselves.

  26. The Afterlife

  27. An Aztec Funeral Chant Where shall I go?Where shall I go?The road of the god of duality.Is your house perchance in the place of the fleshless?Perchance inside heaven?or here on earth onlyis the place of the fleshless?

  28. The Afterlife • Occupation, rather than conduct or how one acted in life, was the key to where one would go in the afterlife. • Warriors and certain women (who were considered equal to men in some cases) went to paradise in the land of Tlaloc, the god of water and rain. • This land was filled with flowers.

  29. The Afterlife • Women who died during childbirth also went to paradise in another area. • They also haunted children and other women on earth. • Aztecs who were unclassified journeyed to the land of the Lord of the Dead through rivers, mountains, and deserts. When they reached the realm of the Lord of the Dead, he assigned them to one of nine hells.

  30. Key Gods and Myths

  31. Huitzilopochtli’s Myth • Huitzilopochtli was the son of the goddess Coatlicue, she had 400 other sons and one daughter. • When no one could figure out who the father ( he was actually born from a ball of humming bird feathers) Huitzilopochtli’s siblings attempted to kill him to prevent embarrasing the family name

  32. Huitzilopochtli’s Myth (cont.) • Huitzilopochtli was born battle ready and defeated all of his brothers using a shield and his weapon called the turquoise snake staff. He cut out his sister’s heart and kicked her body off a cliff because she convinced Huitzilopochtli’s brothers to fight him in the first place • From then on sacrifices were conducted by cutting out a victims heart and tossing the body off a cliff

  33. Huitzilopochtli’s role in Aztec Religion • He was God of War, the Sun, lord of the South, and also known as the hummingbird, and I represented by the color blue • He is a warrior in armor covered by hummingbird feathers, and he is usually represented by hummingbirds and sometimes eagles • Huitzilopochtli is one of the main gods of the Aztecs, at the top of the pantheon of Gods as God of the sun

  34. Myth of Quetzalcoatl • Known as the feathered serpent, god of life, breath, and the wind • He fell to land of the dead Mictlantecuhtli • where he gathered bones and returned to the world of the living where he sprinkled blood on them and created humans • He was king and god of the sun at one point and afterward sailed East. It was believed that he would return one day for his kingdom

  35. Quetzalcoatl’s symbols • He was white in his human form and said to glow as well • He represented priesthood, knowledge and the arts and crafts • He was represented by snakes and butterflies which symbolized perfection • He has the most compassion for humans and asks for only and one sacrifice • He was a main god of the Aztecs, but not as important as Huitzilopochtli

  36. Tlaloc • He was one of the 3 Major Gods of the Aztecs • God of rain, thunder, lightning, floods, droughts, and fertility • He has jaguar fangs, a cloud cape, foam sandals, a rattle to make thunder, and a crown of heron feathers • He was known for being both kind and wrathful • In a myth similar to the greek myth of winter Tlaloc married the goddess of flowers Xochiquetzal, but she was kiddnapped by the god of night Tezcatlipoca

  37. Tlaloc ( cont.) • He asked for children as sacrifices • Tlaloc is represented by the alligator,lightning bolts, storms and disaster • He carried rain in jars and poured them on the world one caused life, the second blight, the third brought frost, and the fourth complete destruction • With Huitzilopochtli he was a god honored in the temple Teotihuacan

  38. Aztec Sacrifice • Every Aztec god asked for sacrifice though some less than others. The ritual follows a similar pattern that was established by Huitzilopochtli.

  39. Aztec Sacrifice (cont.) • Priests took the hearts of war prisoners or the hearts of brave warriors. Their heart was cut out while still beating and offered to the sun. Their body would then be thrown off a cliff or carried if it was a respected warrior. Aztecs offered the heart and blood of their enemies because they believed that the gods needed blood to survive

  40. Quetzalcoatl and Cortes • Quetzalcoatl was a god believe to have fled his kingdom and went East because he lost his place as the second sun and ruler of the world. • When Cortes the Conquistador arrived in the New World the Aztecs believed he was Quetzalcoatl because like Quetzalcoatl he had light skin. Unfortunately they learned the truth too late

  41. The Creation Story • The father of the gods Ometeotl gave birth to four gods Tezcatlipoca (Quetzalcoatl’s archrival), Quetzalcoatl, Tlaloc, and Chalchiuhtlicue ( she would be Tlaloc’s wife after Tezcatlipoca kiddnapped his first wife)

  42. Creation Story (cont.) • Tezcatlipoca, the jaguar, became the sun and claimed to be ruler of the world • Quetzalcoatl did not like that and hit Tezcatlipoca into the ocean and turned himself into the sun • Tezcatlipoca feeling angrier now knocked Quetzalcoatl out of the sky, this created a powerful gale killed almost all of the humans on the planet only a few survived but became monkeys

  43. Creation Story ( cont. 2) • Tlaloc took the opportunity while Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca were fighting and became the third sun and repopulated the planet. Quetzalcoatl then rained fire on humans killing them all again this time a few escaped but became birds • Chalchiuhtlicue then established herself as the fourth sun while her brothers were squabbling and repopulated the earth once more