The essential guide to the world of Aztec mythology, based on Nahuatl-language sources that challenge the colonial history passed down to us by the Spanish.
How did the jaguar get his spots? What happened to the four suns that came before our own? Where was Aztlan, mythical homeland of the Aztecs?
For decades, the popular image of the Mexica people – better known today as the Aztecs – has been defined by the Spaniards who conquered them. Their salacious stories of pet snakes, human sacrifice and towering skull racks have masked a complex world of religious belief.
To reveal the rich mythic tapestry of the Aztecs, Camilla Townsend returns to the original tales, told at the fireside by generations of Indigenous Nahuatl-speakers. Through their voices we learn the contested histories of the Mexica and their neighbours in the Valley of Mexico – the foundations of great cities, the making and breaking of political alliances, the meddling of sometimes bloodthirsty gods – and understand more clearly how they saw their world and their place in it. The divine principle of Ipalnemoani connected humans with all of nature and spiritual beliefs were woven through the fabric of Aztec life, from the sacred ministrations of the ticitl, midwives whose rituals saw women through childbirth, to the inevitable passage to Mictlan, ‘our place of disappearing together’ – the land of the dead.