Aztec Mythos Redux


Dragon Magazine General Discussion

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Well, it doesn't look like WotC is going to continue the "Mythos" series in digital Dragon. For the sake of completeness, I'm posting the last two "Aztec Mythos" articles here. I've also included a list of holy symbols for the Aztec gods. On the up side, I may have found an outlet for the third pantheon in the series; I'll keep you guys posted.

Class Acts: Divine
Aztec Mythos V
By David Schwartz

When the fifth world was created it had no people, so Quetzalcoatl went down below the earth to see Mictlantecuhtli, Lord of the Dead Land. Quetzalcoatl intended to resurrect the bones of the dead, and demanded that Mictlantecuhtli give them to him. The death god instead gave him a trumpet, and told the wind god, “You may have the bones if you can blow my trumpet and circle four times around my beautiful country.” But the trumpet was not hollow.

So Quetzalcoatl called upon worms to hollow out the trumpet; then he called upon hornets to buzz inside the trumpet. Then he marched around the Dead Land with the buzzing trumpet. True to his word, Mictlantecuhtli presented the bones of the dead to Quetzalcoatl, but only on the condition that he eventually bring them back. Quetzalcoatl wanted the people to live forever, but he knew god of death would not allow that, so he promised Mictlantecuhtli that he would return the bones.

Mictlantecuhtli didn’t trust the wind god and he ordered the spirits of the dead to dig a grave for Quetzalcoatl. A flock of quails startled Quetzalcoatl and he fell into the grave. When he awoke, he saw that the quails had pecked at the bones, and they would eventually rot. Saddened, he took the bones back to the living world.

The Central American highland people believe that the soul is eternal. Where one’s soul goes after death, however, is determined not by how a person lived, but how he died. The thirteen heavens are reserved for those who died prematurely – whether through violence, disease, or misadventure. For each manner of death, a heaven is assigned. The souls of warriors who died in battle and women who died in childbirth go to the highest heaven where they aid the sun across the sky; after a time they are reincarnated as tropical birds and insects.

The souls of people who died of natural causes (which is to say, most people) travel through eight terrible underworlds in which the spirit is forced to traverse deserts and mountains, evade great serpents, face a gale of obsidian blades, and eventually swim a wide river. At last, the soul reaches Mictlan, the ninth and final underworld. This is a plutonic realm of eternal quietude.

Guiding the soul to its proper destination is Xiuhtecuhtli, god of fire: he takes the form of a pillar of fire that ascends from Mictlan through every hearth in the world up to the highest heaven.

Xiuhtecuhtli, who makes life possible – both temporal and eternal – is also the god of time. The Aztecs used two calendars: the tonalpohualli, the divine calendar, and the xiuhmopilli, the secular calendar. The former is used to read horoscopes. The latter is a traditional solar calendar consisting of 18 months of 20 days each. Added to these are five nemontemi, or “empty days”, which are considered unlucky. The hearth fire is extinguished and no activity is taken on these extra days except the basic necessities. On the first day of the new year, the hearth is cleaned and its fire relit. In fact, the Nahuatl word for fire, xiuh, is also the word for year.

The two calendars synchronize every 52 years. At that time, all fires are extinguished. The houses are cleansed and the household idols thrown out. As night falls, the people climb to the roofs of their houses. In the darkness the priests climb to the top of a sacred hill. At precisely midnight a captive is sacrificed and a fire drill set in his chest. If fire is produced, it is a sign that all is well for the next 52 years. Runners take the fire to all the temples, schools, and houses in the land. But if the fire is not produced, it indicates the end of the current sun and the beginning of the time of monsters.

Mictlantecuhtli
Intermediate God (Lawful Neutral)

Mictlantecuhtli is god of the dead, and ruler of the Land of the Dead. The souls of people who die of natural causes end up in Mictlan (the ‘Dead Land’) a quiet and restful kingdom. Mictlantecuhtli with his wife, Mictlancihuatl oversees the Dead Lands and allows nothing to disturb the spirits that reside there, and for this reason he is also seen as the god of peace.
Mictlantecuhtli appears as a skeleton draped in a robe and bearing a staff.
Mictlantecuhtli’s main focus is death and the dead. His clergy teach the inevitability of death, and respect for one’s ancestors. His followers also seek to live peaceful, ordered lives, much like that of Mictlan.
Portfolio: Death, peace
Domains: Death, Destruction, Law, Protection, Repose
Favored Weapon: Quarterstaff
Cleric Training: Clerics of Mictlantecuhtli are trained in proper funerary rites and ancestral invocations. Meditation is an important part of worship of the death god.
Quests: Typical quests include maintaining peace between rival city-states, preventing a resurrection, and aiding a spirit to its proper afterlife.
Prayers: Obeisance is made to Mictlantecuhlti whenever a person calls upon his ancestral spirits for wisdom or blessing. Prayers of peace are often addressed to Mictlantecuhlti.
Temples: Temples dedicated to the Lord of the Deadlands are smaller and less ornate than other temples. The shrine does not act as a mortuary; instead it serves as a place for quiet meditation for clerics and mourners.
Rites: Funerary rites are presided over by clerics of Mictlantecuhtli. The deceased is wrapped entirely in a shroud. In many cases, the body is burned. Typically the deceased’s remains are interred under his family home; however, a well regarded person may be entombed. If the corpse is unavailable (such as a warrior who dies in battle), the deceased is buried in effigy. Objects (and sometimes dogs and slaves) are sacrificed to aid the deceased in the afterlife.
Clerics of Mictlantecuhtli also participate in celebrations of the honored dead.
Herald and Allies: Mictlantecuhtli’s skeletal herald has the characteristics of a nightwalker. Allies are formian taskmasters, bone devils, and horned devils.

Xiuhtecuhtli
Intermediate God (Neutral)

Xiuhtecuhtli (Lord of Fire, Lord of the Year, Huehueteotl – the Ancient God) is regarded as the oldest deity in the Central American mythos. As god of fire he is the lightning bolt and the volcano, but he is also the hearth fire that warms the home and cooks the food. As god of time he is the patron of the sacred rituals that keep the world running smoothly, but he is also the patron of the everyday rituals that make a household run smoothly.
Xiuhtecuhtli is sometimes depicted as a man with red skin and a black face bearing a yellow serpent on his back. Other times he is depicted as a pillar of flame that runs from the depths of the earth, through every hearth, up to the sun.
Xiuhtecuhtli asks only that people perform the necessary rites to keep the world running smoothly. Most of his clerics worship Xiuhtecuhtli in his guise as god of the hearth, using the power given them to aid the community. However, a few worship the fire god seeking to harness the power of lightning and volcanoes.
Portfolio: Fire, hearth, time
Domains: Fire, Knowledge, Protection
Favored Weapon: Battleaxe
Cleric Training: Clerics of Xiuhtecuhtli are students of history, but they also must be well versed in many domestic skills. Clerics of the fire god often serve as teachers.
Quests: Typical quests include clearing a house of mischievous fey, lighting a sacred fire with flame from a distant volcano, and preventing evil aberrations from hastening the time of monsters.
Prayers: An offering of food and drink is traditionally made first thing in the morning to Xiuhtecuhtli seeking his protection over hearth and home.
Temples: Most homes have a shrine to Xiuhtecuhtli. Larger temples are often built on volcanic mountains – between the fires of the earth and the fires of the sky.
Rites: The last day of each year is important to Xiuhtecuhtli. Each household extinguishes their hearth fire, cleans the hearth, and lights a new fire. This is a time to clean house and settle accounts, in preparation for a new year. Every 52 years a more elaborate ritual celebrates the new age (see above).
Herald and Allies: Xiuhtecuhtli’s herald is a fire monolith (from Complete Arcane). Allies are Medium, Large, and Huge fire elementals.

Class Acts: Divine
Aztec Mythos VI
By David Schwartz

When the gods sacrificed themselves to the new sun, the people were left without gods among them. One man walked all the way to the eastern ocean looking for the Tezcatlipoca. As he stood on the shore, the god appeared to him in the sky. The spirit said, “Go to the sun’s house and bring back singers and instruments, so that you can make music in memory of us. Call the whale, the sea turtle, and the manatee, and tell them to form a bridge across the water.” The man did so, and soon he saw the sun surrounded by singers dressed in many colors and playing drums. Looking up, the sun noticed the trespasser and said to the singers, “A thief is here. If he calls out to you, don’t answer, because whoever answers him will have to go with him.” Then the man called out with a song so sweet the courtiers could not resist answering. When he turned to go back, they fell in behind him, playing their drums and singing along. From that time on, people held celebrations and sung songs to honor the gods. Hearing the music, the spirits would descend from the sky to sing with the people and join in their dances.

Though the Aztecs are best known for warfare and sacrifice, they were by no means a Spartan people. The pleasant things in life are the purview of Xochipilli and Xochiquetzal, the twin gods of flowers and birds. The Central American people prize bright flowers and feathers. They used vibrant colors to decorate everything from clothes and household items to temples and warriors’ armor. Elaborate carvings adorn many buildings, and public art abounds.

The Central American people respect oratory skill, especially lyric poetry. Their musicians play hide and wood drums and simple wind instruments, propelling the people into ecstatic dancing.

When not engaged in business or war, the Central American people enjoy sports and board games. The most popular sport is tenachtli, a team sport played with a solid rubber ball. Players can hit the ball only with their knees, hips, or elbows. The formal version of this game is played on an I-shaped walled court before nobles and clergy. Gambling on sports and games is common; among the elite, the stakes can become extravagant. Gamblers give prayers and sacrifices to the gods to sway the odds in their favor.

Though Xochipilli is a joyous deity, life – like a beautiful flower – is ephemeral. The flower god is also the guardian of eternal souls. The gods allow deserving souls to reincarnate as birds and insects, Xochipilli’s sacred animals.

Xochipilli
Lesser God (Chaotic Good)

Xochipilli (Noble Flower, Macuilxochitl – Five Flowers) and his twin sister Xochiquetzal (Precious Flower) are the gods of flowers, birds, and insects. The Central American people – even the bloodthirsty Aztecs ¬– prize brightly colored flowers and feathers which they use to decorate everything from household items to warriors’ armor.
As well as decorative arts, Xochipilli is the god of music and dance, and the god to whom gambler pray for luck. The Prince of Flowers is not a frivolous deity, however. Xochipilli is also the patron of alchemist and herbalists. He is the god of souls and reincarnation.
The flower gods are depicted as attractive young people, brightly attired. Xochipilli is often surrounded by medicinal and psychoactive plants, while Xochiquetzal is bordered by plants that provide cloth fibers and dyes.
The flowers gods teach that the soul is eternal but mortal life is transient. Xochipilli exhorts his followers to experience all the beauty and wonder in life while they can. He encourages them to take risks and seek advenutre: if the gods favor you, you have little to fear.
Portfolio: Flowers, birds, spirits
Domains: Animal, Chaos, Good, Luck, Plant.
Favored Weapon: Club
Cleric Training: Clerics of Xochipilli practice transcendentalism. They ingest hallucinogenic plants in order to commune with the spirits. When not meditating, they practice arts, crafts, and music.
Quests: Typical quests include reuniting a reincarnated warrior with the lover from his previous life, collecting a rare flower for a noble bride, and protecting an honored soul from jealous underworld spirits.
Prayers: The most common prayers to Xochipilli are those asking for luck in an endeavor (especially gambling).
Temples: Shrines dedicated to Xochipilli and Xochiquetzal are painted bright colors and decorated with a variety of flowers, and often house colorful birds and insects.
Rites: The flower gods are celebrated in the springtime, when flowers are in bloom. These rites are joyous occasions with much music and feasting.
Herald and Allies: Xochipilli and Xochiquetzal each have a 20th-level bard whom they send as heralds. Allies are bralani eladrin, ghaele eladrin, and planetar angels.

Other Aztec Gods
The Aztec religion is animistic and the people revere countless spirits which preside over every object and activity. Though the major deities described in this series provide a sufficient range of gods for a typical campaign, they represent only a small fraction of the spirits revered in Central America. What follows is a sampling of other Aztec gods you might use in your campaign. These deities have portfolios that are either smaller or less relevant to adventurers, but they can rise to prominence when your campaign enters their portfolio.

Centeotl
Lesser God (Neutral Good)
Centeotl (Corn God, Xilonen – ‘the Hairy One’) is the god of corn – the staple food of Central America – and like Tlaloc (the rain god) is widely worshipped. This deity takes many forms and is variously described as male or female. The Corn God is generally kind, but sometimes capricious. Perhaps Centeotl takes after his/her mother Tlazoteotl, goddess of (among other things) manure.
Portfolio: Corn
Domains: Earth, Good, Plant.

Huehuecoyotl
Lesser God (Chaotic Neutral)
Huehuecoyotl (Ancient Coyote) is a trickster deity. He is the patron of shapechangers. Many popular comic stories are told about the exploits of Old Coyote. Unlike Tezcatlipoca, Huehuecoyotl works mischief only on those who deserves it; his nonviolent tricks are intended to teach the victim (and the audience) a lesson. As often as not, Huehuecoyotl runs afoul of his own prank.
Portfolio: Trickery
Domains: Animal, Chaos, Knowledge, Trickery.

Ixtliltan
Demigod (Lawful Good)
Ixtlilton (Little Black Face) is the god of medicine, and patron of healers and witchdoctors. He is depicted as a short, black-skinned man who lives in a shack. Ixtliltan brews a panacea called tlilatl (‘black water’), and his clerics emulate him through alchemy and potions.
Portfolio: Medicine
Domains: Good, Healing, Law, Magic

Mayahuel
Lesser Goddess (Chaotic Neutral)
Mayahuel is the goddess of maguey. Fiber from this succulent is used to make linen, while the sap is distilled to make an alcoholic drink called pulque or octli. Her children are the Centzon Totochtin (‘400 Rabbits’) the countless gods of drunkenness. Though a popular deity, Mayheul has been the ruin of many.
Portfolio: Maguey, drunkenness
Domains: Chaos, Plant, Trickery.

Mixcoatl
Lesser God (Neutral)
Mixcoatl (Cloud Serpent) is the god of hunters, and to some tribes the god of war. The Central American people have few domestic animals, and thus it falls on hunters to provide the luxury of red meat. Mixcoatl is the patron of archery; though the Aztecs consider ranged combat inferior to melee (where foes can be captured), archery is an integral part of their military strategy. Mixcoatl favored weapon is the shortbow.
Portfolio: Hunting
Domains: Air, Animal, War.

Ometecuhtli
Greater God (Neutral)
Ometecuhtli (Dual Lord) is the androgynous creator god, the spirit of everything. To the Central American people all things exist as part of a duality: day and night, male and female, order and chaos. Ometecuhlti is the personification of this duality. Ometecuhtli is rarely worshipped directly, but rather through the various gods who are, ultimately, aspects of the Dual Lord.
Portfolio: All, Duality
Domains: Ometecuhtli does not have clerics.

Yacatecuhtli
(Guiding Lord)
Lesser God (Lawful Neutral)
As Aztec dominion grew, the task of administering and policing the market bazaars and trading routes fell to the pochteca, or merchant class. Though a vital part of the social structure, the merchant houses are a society unto themselves, with their own laws, customs, and even gods. Their chief deity is Yacatecuhtli, god of merchants. Clerics of the Guiding Lord promote diplomacy and trade, and mete out punishment to thieves and swindlers.
Portfolio: Merchants
Domains: Knowledge, Law, Protection, Travel.

Holy Symbols
Quetzalcoatl: Couatl
Tezcatlipoca: Obsidian Mirror
Chihuacoatl: Snake
Huitzilopochtli: Eagle (eating a snake)
Chalchihuitlicue: Jade fish
Tlaloc: Wide-eyed, tusked, green face
Tonatiuh: Sun with face
Xipetotec: Ear of maize
Mictlantecuhtli: Skull
Xiuhtecuhtli: Pillar of fire
Xochipilli: Flower


Nice work David... wish WotC could see that. I don't think it's so much the articles themselves, it doesn't look like they are really doing class acts as an article series.

On the Dungeon side, they similarly appear to have done away with Campaign Workbooks. It's really sad.

Thanks for posting those articles here for the fans though!

- Ashavan

PS - Good luck on the Open Call.

Contributor

Koldoon wrote:
Nice work David... wish WotC could see that.

Thanks.

Koldoon wrote:
PS - Good luck on the Open Call.

Ditto.

Dark Archive Contributor

I understand that they might resurrect Class Acts after 4e comes out. Right now, understandably, they're shying away from articles with rules stuff in them. Not that the Aztec articles were rules heavy, of course, but they were Class Acts articles... :\

Nonetheless, thank you for finishing off the series here, David. I'm sad that it apparently won't run its course in the "pages" of Dragon.

Contributor

"Kalevala Mythos" - my take on Finnish mythology for D&D - is in Targum #4.


I really enjoyed your work in dungeon. Quite often that was the treasure of the issue for me so to speak.

I am glad to see your doing something similar. I love the culture and the past and hopeful will check it out soon.


Wow, thanks for posting it. I really enjoyed seeing a return to the 1e/2e pantheons your Aztec article represented. I'll have go check that PDF magazine out with the Finnish mythos...

Liberty's Edge

I've always enjoyed mezzoamerican culture and was glad to see the pantheon represented in the pages of Dragon. Thanks for putting up the last couple of articles.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Great stuff, David! Thanks for doing all that work in filling out the holes left in 3.0's "Deities and Demigods" book.

That said, where are Tlazolteotl and Metzli? Did I miss them somewhere in the articles and/or post?

Contributor

Bellona wrote:
That said, where are Tlazolteotl and Metzli? Did I miss them somewhere in the articles and/or post?

I put Tlazoteotl as the female aspect of Texcatlipoca. I recommend using the same domains for her clerics. She's the patron of harlots, witches, and sin-eaters. Supposedly her church provided sacred prostitutes the the Aztec army, and afterwards the women were ritual sacrificed to cleanse the sin of all involved. The sin-eaters apparently ate the petitioners' excrement as a physical representation of their sin. Although her name is translated as "filth goddess", filth is just a euphemism for s$@~; thus she's also the patron of gong farmers and the mother of the corn goddess.

As for Metzli, the simple reason I didn't include her was because I didn't find any myths concerning her. Ignoring Victorian naturalist speculation, I couldn't find anything about a Nahuatl moon deity. Being the excellent astronomers that they were, they recognized that the moon merely reflected the sun's light, and described the satellite as a giant shell carried across the sky on the back of an old man.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
David Schwartz wrote:
Bellona wrote:
That said, where are Tlazolteotl and Metzli? Did I miss them somewhere in the articles and/or post?

I put Tlazoteotl as the female aspect of Texcatlipoca. I recommend using the same domains for her clerics. She's the patron of harlots, witches, and sin-eaters. Supposedly her church provided sacred prostitutes the the Aztec army, and afterwards the women were ritual sacrificed to cleanse the sin of all involved. The sin-eaters apparently ate the petitioners' excrement as a physical representation of their sin. Although her name is translated as "filth goddess", filth is just a euphemism for s#@%; thus she's also the patron of gong farmers and the mother of the corn goddess.

As for Metzli, the simple reason I didn't include her was because I didn't find any myths concerning her. Ignoring Victorian naturalist speculation, I couldn't find anything about a Nahuatl moon deity. Being the excellent astronomers that they were, they recognized that the moon merely reflected the sun's light, and described the satellite as a giant shell carried across the sky on the back of an old man.

Thanks for the extra info!


Greetings, David.

By any chance did you make an adaptation for the celtic pantheon too ?
I happen to use it a lot in my own campaign, so i made my own conversion, but it would be interesting to compare it to yours...

Scarab Sages

Seldriss wrote:

Greetings, David.

By any chance did you make an adaptation for the celtic pantheon too ?
I happen to use it a lot in my own campaign, so i made my own conversion, but it would be interesting to compare it to yours...

I would be quite interested in that as well. Not to use in game mind you (invented our own pantheon for that), but I am big into Celtic culture, so this would be great, seeing as how well you did the Aztec mythos. probably my favorite series of class act articles I ever read.

Contributor

Seldriss wrote:
By any chance did you make an adaptation for the celtic pantheon too ?

Haven't done Celtic yet. I tend write these article around a narrative (Epic of Gilgamesh, Codices, Kalevala); any suggestions for a good Celtic epic?

Silver Crusade

David Schwartz wrote:
Seldriss wrote:
By any chance did you make an adaptation for the celtic pantheon too ?
Haven't done Celtic yet. I tend write these article around a narrative (Epic of Gilgamesh, Codices, Kalevala); any suggestions for a good Celtic epic?

Cúchulainn is the main one that stands out in my mind. Admittedly mostly because of the Morrigan's presense.

Scarab Sages

Mikaze wrote:
David Schwartz wrote:
Seldriss wrote:
By any chance did you make an adaptation for the celtic pantheon too ?
Haven't done Celtic yet. I tend write these article around a narrative (Epic of Gilgamesh, Codices, Kalevala); any suggestions for a good Celtic epic?
Cúchulainn is the main one that stands out in my mind. Admittedly mostly because of the Morrigan's presense.

Ya, that's probably the closest you're going to get to an Epic along the lines of Beowulf, Odyssius or Gilgamesh. Because of the way the mythology is formulated, the stories about gods are seperate from the stories about man, and the stories about man are usually much more realistic and gritty then most epics I know. If I remember corerectly, the older a story is the more magic is in it, and since that's one fo the first stories it still has something to do with gods and shape-shifting. gotta love celtic shape-shifting magic.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Hey I know this is a long time late but David I loved these articles and I was wondering, if you were going to add a 5th domain to these gods what would they be, in particular what would you add to Tonatiuh the 5th sun?

Contributor

doc the grey wrote:
Hey I know this is a long time late but David I loved these articles and I was wondering, if you were going to add a 5th domain to these gods what would they be, in particular what would you add to Tonatiuh the 5th sun?

Hmm, interesting question. If I were giving them 5 domains from the PF list it might look something like this:

Quetzalcoatl: Air, Community, Good, Law, Travel
Tezcatlipoca: Chaos, Darkness, Evil, Knowledge, Trickery
Chalchihuitlicue: Charm, Good, Healing, Liberation, Water
Tlaloc: Air, Law, Plant, Water, Weather
Cihuacoatl: Animal, Death, Earth, Plant, Repose
Huitzilopochtli: Law, Evil, Nobility, Strength, War
Tonatiuh: Destruction, Evil, Protection, Sun, War
Xipetotec: Community, Earth, Law, Liberation, Plant
Mictlantecuhtli: Death, Destruction, Law, Protection, Repose
Xiuhtecuhtli: Artifice, Community, Fire, Knowledge, Protection
Xochipilli: Animal, Chaos, Good, Luck, Plant

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Holy crap thanks David. I loved those articles and finally seeing some south american mythology finally get some love was a real treat. I really can't wait for paizo to give us more stuff in this vein.

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