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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Mexican Religious Beliefs and Fables
The wondrous country lying between North and South America was long inaccessible, and much told. of it was fabulous, until A. Von Humboldt and some modern travellers lighted up the darkness which hung over the country. The Mexicans accepted four world periods, according thus singularly with the Greeks and the Romans: the first is called Atonatiuh, the period of water; it began with the creation of the world, and its destruction by the flood; the second, Tlaltonatiuh, the period of earth, closed with an earthquake, which ended the human race, and the sun belonging to this period; the third is called Ehekatonatiuh, the period of air, in which men and the sun perished in a frightful storm; the fourth is called Tletonatiuh, the period of fire, the period in which we live, and which will end by a universal destruction by fire. At the end of each period all men perished except a few pairs; they did not die, but were changed into fish, apes, and, lastly, into birds. The Noah of the Mexicans was called Coxcox, and his wife Xokiquetzal. They saved themselves in a small ship, and landed on the mountain Colhuaan.
Their children learned from wise birds languages so different that they could not understand each other. The protecting goddess of, the human race, Omecihuatl, lived in a splendid city of heaven; she gave birth to many children, and lastly to a stone knife, which the children threw to the earth, whereupon sixteen hundred heroes (demi-gods) sprang from it. These had no human beings about them, for all of the latter had perished by the catastrophe of the third period. They, therefore, sent a herald to their mother in heaven, to give them power to produce children. The mother told them to get a bone of a dead human being from the god of the infernal region, and if they would sprinkle it with their blood men would be produced, but they should beware of the god. Xolotl, one of the demi-gods, received a bone from Mietlanteuetli, and, heeding the warning, fled as fast as he could, pursued by the god. They sprinkled the bone with their blood, and a boy and a girl were formed, who propagated the extinguished race.
However, from this originated the horrible custom of human sacrifices. The sun was still lacking. The heroes collected about a great fire, and said, whoever should jump in first would become a sun. Nanahuatzin sacrificed himself, and soon appeared as the sun. But he said he would not move until all the heroes had been slain. The hero Xolotl then killed them all, and finally himself. Their dress fell to their servants, men, and the Spaniards found in various temples clothes, divinely worshipped, which were said to belong to these demigods. In the same manner the moon originated; because the fire was not so intense it did not receive such splendor. The Mexicans hold the souls of men to be immortal; fallen warriors and mothers dying in childbed come into the house of the sun, where they live in pleasures. The number of deified heroes, kings, and demi-gods soon reached three thousand. They had also a distinct idea of a supreme being, Teotl (god), sprung from himself, the originator of all things. A being opposed to the latter was Tlaatewlolotl, i.e., the sensible owl. The Mexicans believed this daemon appeared to torture men and frighten them. Besides this good and this evil principle there were three classes of gods; to the first belonged the mother of all gods, the god of providence, the deities of the constellations, of the elements, of war, of hunting, of fishing, of contracts, of punishment, of protection, etc.; to the second class belonged the gods of time; to the third class the family gods. Their idols were placed in their temples, and priests and priestesses placed over them, and sacrifices made. The supreme, or at least the most worshipped of their gods was the blood-thirsty Huitzilopochtli.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Mexican Religious Beliefs and Fables'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/m/mexican-religious-beliefs-and-fables.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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