God of darkness, lord of the night, ruler of the north

Tezcatlipoca is one of the most important and complex deities in Aztec mythology. His name, which means “Smoking Mirror” in Nahuatl, reflects his association with obsidian, a volcanic glass used to make mirrors and knives. These mirrors were believed to be tools for divination and seeing into the future, and they also symbolized the smoke that rises from a fire, which was thought to carry prayers and offerings to the gods.

Tezcatlipoca is often depicted with a black stripes across his face, a smoking mirror on his chest or foot, and sometimes with a missing foot, which was said to have been sacrificed to defeat a primordial monster. He is associated with the night sky, the north, and the color black. Tezcatlipoca is usually depicted wearing elaborate and richly decorated attire, including a headdress made of flint knives, a war mask of a human skull, golden earrings, and other ornaments.

As a god of contrasts, Tezcatlipoca had many domains, including magic, divination, war, rulership, and the earth. He was also associated with both creation and destruction, as well as with conflict and change.

Tezcatlipoca is often depicted in a dualistic relationship with Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god. They were seen as opposing forces, with Tezcatlipoca representing the darker, more chaotic aspects of the world, while Quetzalcoatl represented light, order, and civilization. Their rivalry is a recurring theme in Aztec mythology, with stories describing their battles and the alternating periods of dominance in the cosmos.

Tezcatlipoca was one of the Aztec gods to whom human sacrifices were made. Captives taken in war were often sacrificed to him in elaborate ceremonies, reflecting his role as a god of conflict and power.

In some myths, Tezcatlipoca is associated with jaguars and is sometimes depicted as a jaguar or with jaguar attributes. The jaguar was a symbol of strength, stealth, and the night, all qualities that were attributed to Tezcatlipoca.


The legend of the tzitzimime says they were celestial demons or star deities associated with the darkness and the night sky. They were feared as malevolent beings that could descend to Earth during solar eclipses or at the end of a calendar cycle to devour humans. These beings were large, strong, and heavily muscled, and the Mesoamerican equivalent of the Scandinavian trolls.

Tezcatlipoca was a channeler with tzitzimime blood, making him particularly fearsome both in the waking world and the world of dreams. The site of his eventual death was just to the north east of Tenochtitlan in Santa María Regla, a site famous for its basalt column prisms lining a deep ravine where lore of the tzitzimime remains strong today.


The most important part of the Tōxcatl ritual was the sacrifice of a young man who had been impersonating Tezcatlipoca since the last Toxcatl festival, and the selection of a new man to take that role in the year to come.

The youth chosen to be the impersonator of Tezcatlipoca was normally a handsome, young war captive whose skin was without blemish. He was taught courtly speech, singing and to play the flute. Throughout the year he would parade in the streets of Tenochititlan and worshiped as if he was the god himself. His skin was painted black in the style of the god except for a ribbon across his eyes, he was dressed in precious jewelry and elaborate clothes.

In the last month, he would wed four beautiful maidens impersonating four goddesses and engage in carnal pleasure for twenty days. On the day of the main ceremony, he would ascend the largest pyramid where upon reaching the summit, priests would lay him on a sacrificial stone, open his chest with Tezcatlipoca’s obsidian dagger, and remove his heart. He was beheaded and his skull was placed on the skull rack, his body was flayed and his flesh was distributed among the nobles of the city and eaten. The war captive who was to be the next impersonator of Tezcatlipoca also took part in the flesh and probably also wore the skin of his predecessor.

Although channelers were long deceased, this festival and others like it, continued until the empire fell in the 1500’s. Atharim priests who ventured to the “New World” saw to it that most all evidence of worship of the gods was destroyed.



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