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Religions of Mesoamerica Term Paper

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Updated: Apr 10th, 2019

How the Codex Fejervary represents the body as the center of the world

The Codex Fejérváry has represented the human body as the central point of the world using various imageries. In order to achieve the in-depth understanding of the correlation that exists between the human body and the world, certain unique elements of the tonalpohualli have been used in form of a Mesoamerican augural cycle. It has a cycle of 260 days. The world has been divided into five main parts.

In addition, the compass points have been delineated using vivid T-shaped tress. As such, the top side has been marked as the eastern direction while the bottom side of the sculpture has been labelled as the western direction. On the other hand, the northern direction has been positioned to the left side of the figure while the right side depicts the southern position.

Carrasco (1998) notes that “the history of religions teaches us that, at one time or another, almost everything has been considered sacred” (65). This explains why the centre of the world has been taken as the central and sacred point that is being surrounded by the four directions. On the overall, the god of fire also known as Xiuhtecuhlti takes the centre stage and this is why the central part that has been surrounded by the four cardinal points is taken to be sacred.

The importance in Aztec religions of the head and its connection to “tonalli”

Those who believed in the sacred practices of the Aztec religions (such as the Nahuatl people) held a belief system that there were three key essences in a human being. These essences were largely responsible for life and overall wellbeing of an individual. The most significant of these three essences was the tonalli. The latter was located right at the top of the head. Hence, tonalli always resided on the head. In addition, every individual had his or her own tonalli.

The fact that tonalli was located on the head meant that it controlled every fate in the life of an individual. For example, tonalli fashioned and controlled individuals in terms of who they were or what a person would be destined to perfect in life. In addition, it directed the kind of actions or activities which a person was most likely to engage in while still alive.

According to Carrasco (1998), another significance of the head was the grown hair on it. As such, the energy possessed by tonalli and which was being needed by an individual on day-to-day life was extracted by the hair on the head of a person carrying the tonalli. This would symbolize getting hold of the tonalli himself. Their souls would be equally grasped in the same process.

The importance of the heart and its connection to “teyolia”

Teyolia was the second most important essence of an individual. It is kept in the heart of a person because it is largely believed to be the actual soul of an individual that supports the breath of life. It also provides the much needed energy in the process of thinking and acting. It also rules and directs the status and genetic makeup of an individual. The feelings and subsequent response to stimuli are also governed by teyolia.

Moreover, the energy provided by teyolia explains the reason why people are alive and can make rational decisions. This implies that a person cannot remain alive if the teyolia does not provide the much needed energy. Hence, a person will die without this form of energy from teyolia. It is also pertinent to note that the human blood also contains some elements and sacred power of teyolia (Carrasco, 1998).

The world centering role of the sacred mountain in Aztec religion

The Nahuatl people greatly valued and revered the Serpent Mountain which was also called Coatepec. The mountain was a sacred place of worship where the gods resided. Huitzilopochtli god was also born at the Serpent Mountain and hence the location served as a very important spot where godly powers emanated from.

This mountain also signified a place of sacred war bearing in mind that a fully armed and newly born god exterminated Coyolxauhqui who was his sister. This is because the latter had attempted to murder Coatlicue (their mother) in collaboration with the 400 Southerners who were her brothers. When the Mexica/Aztecs were migrating towards Aztlan which was to be their mythical homeland, they made a temporary stop at the Serpent Mountain.

However, this group of people stayed longer than expected because they resided in this mountain for close to 30 years. During their stay at this mountain site, they constructed a temple. According to Carrasco (1998), “each community had a public ceremonial precinct, which oriented all human activity and influenced social life” (70). Hence, this sacred structure was built in order to give honor to Huitzilopochtli who was their patron deity. Hence, the Serpent Mountain was also a significant place of worshiping gods.

The Aztec foundation myth and the world centering role of the great temple

The Aztec foundation based its belief system on the patron god who was known as Huitzilopochtli. The emergence of the Aztecs boosted the significance of this god bearing in mind that he was initially of negligible value among the Nahuas. Most of the mythical foundations of the Aztec religion were based on this supernatural being especially when he was finally made the solar god thereby taking the position of Nanahuatzin.

The latter was known to regularly struggle with the absence of light. It also needed to be nourished as one way of making sure that the cycle of the sun would remain uninterrupted for fifty two years. This was yet another foundational myth among most Mesoamerican religions such as the Aztecs.

in addition, the festive seasons were specifically set aside for offering sacrifices for this god although this practice was supposed to done on a daily or regular basis. Huitzilopochtli was accorded only a single day for sacrifice although there were eighteen festive days.

All the generations of Nahuas lived through constant feat over the possibility of the world coming to an end. On the same note, the Aztec religion held a belief system that if Huitzilopochtli was offered human blood as the sacrifice, the termination of the world would not take place (Carrasco, 1998).

The Great temple was also associated with the two gods because they were considered to be integral in the survival and overall wellbeing of the people. Hence, the temple was reserved for them. It was mythically believed that the unity of the two gods was supposed to be maintained because they were specifically destined to be together. Hence, the role of the Great Temple was boosted both as a place of offering sacrifices and a symbol of unity between the two gods (Carrasco, 1998).

Human sacrifice in the New Fire Ceremony and the Festival for Tezcatlipoca

The early Aztec civilization practiced human sacrifice as one way of appeasing the gods. However, it is important to note that this practice was also widespread among other civilizations. The Aztec religion valued a lot the 52-year cycle because it was believed that this cycle always marked the end of the word.

Hence, a New Fire Ceremony was held after every 52 years coupled with a human sacrifice. This practice was meant to renew the world. It was deemed to be successful if the sun appeared the next day (Carrasco, 1998).

On the other hand, Tezcatlipoca was a very influential and mighty god. He controlled and dominated human destiny, sorcery and the night. This religion also believed that people obtained all types of foods as a result of the battle that was triggered by this god. This god also performed the role of renewing the world because he could relive diseases and forgive sins. The god could also liberate a person from natural fate from life (Carrasco, 1998).


From the discussion above and also based on the material that I read when compiling the task, the ancient Mesoamerican religion sheds light on the contemporary culture bearing in mind that the modern cosmopolitan society is also characterized with myriads of religious beliefs and practices. Each religious group tends to exalt its belief system similar to how it was during the ancient Mesoamerican civilizations.

Although we live in a technologically advanced world, people still have strong belief in the existence of gods. The development of science has not dissipated belief systems of people. In addition, we may not be sure of the existence of gods because these are intangible beings that cannot be seen or felt.

However, there is a deep conviction in the belief system of people that gods exist. These gods are also believed to supply mankind with hope and restoration of life. Generally, good deeds result into positive results. Therefore, the belief system of the modern has not changed remarkably.


Carrasco, D. (1998). Religions of Mesoamerica: Cosmovision and Ceremonial Centers. San Francisco: Waveland Press.

Victor, D. H (2000). Carnage and Culture. New York: Doubleday.

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