How the World Will End, According to the Aztecs

How the World Will End, According to the Aztecs

Stephanie Schoppert - March 6, 2017

The Aztecs were a Mesoamerican civilization that existed from the 13th to the 15th centuries. They dominated central Mexico and united numerous city-states by the 15th century. Their language of Nahuatl was the dominant language of central Mexico by the mid-13th century, and many words from their language were incorporated into Spanish and English, including chili, avocado, coyote, and chocolate.

The Aztecs had a creation myth known as the Five Suns which referred to the five worlds that existed. According to the Aztecs, there had been four worlds before the current world, and that the current world or sun was the final one. Each of the worlds that the Aztecs focused on had ended in very specific ways large based upon the anger of the Gods.

The Aztec creation myth began with one god, Ometeotl, who emerged from the void of the universe. Ometeotl was both male and female and ended up giving birth to four children, known as the four Tezcatlipocas. Each Tezcatlipoca presided over one of the four cardinal directions. The White Tezcatlipoca, Quetzalcoatl, presided over the West as the god of light, mercy, and wind. The Blue Tezcatlipoca, Huitzilopochtli, presided over the South as the god of war. The Red Tezcatlipoca, Xipe Totec, presided over the East as the god of gold, farming, and Spring. Finally, the Black Tezcatlipoca, Tezcatlipoca, presided over the North as the god of judgement, night, deceit, sorcery, and the Earth itself.

How the World Will End, According to the Aztecs
Huitzilopochtli. Mythopedia

These four gods created the world and all other gods. They created Chalchiuhtlicue for the bodies of water, and Tlaloc to be the god of rain. But there was no light, so Black Tezcatlipoca was chosen to be the sun, but for some reason he only managed to become half a sun. Then they created the people who were giants. This world flourished for a period until Quetzalcoatl became jealous of his brother Tezcatlipoca and knocked him out of the sky, plunging the world in darkness. Tezcatlipoca retaliated by having jaguars eat all the people of the world.

The gods created a new people to inhabit the Earth and this time they were of average size. Quetzalcoatl became the new sun and again the world flourished for a time. Eventually the people became less civilized and stopped showing the gods the honor that they deserved. Tezcatlipoca decided that the humans needed to be punished and turned them all in to monkeys. This angered Quetzalcoatl, who had loved the people regardless of their flaws, so he sent a hurricane to Earth to blow all the monkeys away.

Then the gods decided once again to create a new world and this time it was Tlaloc that would be the next sun. Once again, for a period the world flourished until Tezcatlipoca seduced the wife of Tlaloc. The rain god became distraught and would do nothing but wallow in grief over the loss of his wife. The world suffered a severe drought which led to the people constantly praying for rain. Tlaloc became angry at their prayers and rained fire down on the people. All of them were destroyed except for the birds and those people who managed to become birds.

What was the final end to the world, and how do the Aztecs believe our current world will end? Read on to find out.

How the World Will End, According to the Aztecs
Aztec Sun Stone with representations of the five suns at the center. Wikipedia

The honor of the fourth sun was given to Chalchiuhtlicue, who was also the new wife of Tlaloc. She was a loving god and very kind toward the people. Texcatlipoca did not like her kindness on the people and told the goddess that she was not truly loving and only faked it in order to get praise. This greatly upset Chalchiuhtlicue and she cried blood for 52 years. This caused a flood that wiped out the Earth and only the fish, and those that managed to become fish survived.

Quetzalcoatl could not take the death of the people one more time and therefore he traveled down to the underworld. He stole their bones back and dipped them into his own blood in order to bring them back to life. The fifth and final sun was now Huitzilopochtli and the Aztec people were desperate to prevent another end of the world. In this world, the stars, known as Tzitzimitl, remain jealous of their brother Huitzilopochtli for being the brighter as the sun. So, every night, led by the moon, they launch an attack on Huitzilopochtli but are beaten back each morning.

To give Huitzilopochtli strength and to avoid the judgement of Tezcatlipoca, the Aztecs performed brutal sacrifices. To honor Quetzalcoatl for saving them they do blood sacrifices for Quetzalcoatl dislikes the death of his people. There were sacrifices made to honor all the gods, for the seasons and to ask for rain or strength in battle. The Aztecs believed that if they failed to please the Gods for any reason, namely with the stopping of sacrifices, that the world would go black and Tzitzimitl would slay Huitzilopochtli and the rest of humanity. Then a catastrophic earthquake would shatter the world completely.

There are variations of all these myths across regions and people that lived under Aztec rule. However, this version of the myth seems to be the most common and the least contradictory of the myths. The other variations change the identity Ometeotl or the identity of the fifth sun god, but the method of destruction for each sun stays the same.

The Aztec belief in the five suns was central to their beliefs, and as such each ruler would be given a sun stone. The sun stone depicted each of the four previous suns around a center face representing the current sun. A sun stone with a date of 1427 was found to be the stone that legitimized the rule of Izcoatl. The stone would have been kept on ground and some believed anointed with the blood of sacrifices in order to secure the rule of the leader and prevent the destruction of the fifth sun. While some refer to sun stones as calendar stones because they feature depictions of the 20 Aztec day names, they do not function as a calendar. This means there is no exact date for when the Aztecs believed the world would end, just that it would end at the will of the gods.