Tezcatlipoca





Tezcatlipoca was one of the most important gods of the Aztecs of central Mexico. His name, meaning Lord of the Smoking Mirror, refers to the mirrors made of obsidian, a shiny black stone, that Aztec priests used in divination.

divination act or practice of foretelling the future

deity god or goddess

patron special guardian, supporter, or protector

Tezcatlipoca played many contradictory roles in Aztec mythology. Like other Aztec deities, he could be both helpful and destructive. As a god of the sun, he ripened the crops but could also send a burning drought that killed the plants. The patron god of helpless folk such as orphans and slaves, he was also the patron of royalty, and he gloried in war and human sacrifice. Another of Tezcatlipoca's roles was to punish sinners and cheats, but he himself could not be trusted.

Although associated with the sun, Tezcatlipoca was even more strongly linked with night and its dark mysteries, including dreams, sorcery, witches, and demons. Legend said that he roamed the earth each night in the form of a skeleton whose ribs opened like doors. If a person met Tezcatlipoca and was bold enough to reach through those doors and seize his heart, the god would promise riches and power in order to be released. He would not keep his promises, though.

trickster mischievous figure appearing in various forms in the folktales and mythology of many different peoples

As a trickster god, Tezcatlipoca delighted in overturning the order of things, causing conflict and confusion. Sometimes, these disruptions could also be a source of creative energy and positive change. Tezcatlipoca's ultimate trick was one he played on his fellow god Quetzalcoatl. After introducing Quetzalcoatl to drunkenness and other vices, he used his mirror to show Quetzalcoatl how weak and degraded he had become. Quetzalcoatl fled the world in shame, leaving it to Tezcatlipoca. He did, however, promise to return at the end of a 52-year cycle.

See also Aztec Mythology ; Quetzalcoatl .



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