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Atzanteotl

by Jennifer Guerra

From a lecture by Gregoras Tarchaniotes, instructor at the Alasiyan University, Tel Akbir, Thyatis:


Scholars of the surface world are only just beginning to study the vast array of cultures which have recently been discovered to exist beneath our very feet. The cultures of the Hollow World have seemingly arisen in complete isolation from those of the surface, and as such unique societies, have their own fascinating religions.

We have very little information so far concerning the Azcan Empire. What little we do know is evidence of a highly advanced, but brutal civilisation. Wars and human sacrifice are parts of everyday life in Azca. The religion of the empire is that of Atzanteotl, a dark Immortal worshipped on the surface only by the barbarian humanoid and Atruaghin Clans cultures (Tiger Clan in particular).

In Azca, worship of Atzanteotl is universal. He is venerated in a number of aspects, each of them more disturbing than the last. In this brief overview, I will tell you of the many known aspects of Atzanteotl, and of Azcan myths and beliefs which were recorded by Adrik Ivetscu, a member of the Karameikan Hollow World expeditions of the last decade, and by members of our own ill-fated Thyatian expedition to Azcan lands.

Atzanteotl is also known as "The Plumed One," "The One Death," "The Enemy on Both Sides." Known aliases include Tezcatlipoca (The Mirror That Smokes),Necocyautl (Sower of Discord on Both Sides), Titlacahuan (He Whose Slaves We Are), Moquequeloa (The Mocker), Ipalnermoani (Lord of the Near and the Nigh), Nahuaque (Storm Wind). Frightening as he may seem, he is also regarded as something of a patron Immortal, as "He Through Whom We Live," "He Who is Closest to the Shoulder," "The Lord of the Here and Now." "The Prince of This World," and "Patron of Princes." The origin of the Azcans' worship of Atzanteotl is unknown; some of their myths picture him as a mortal king who turned the Azcans' worship from "more corrupt" Immortals (hard as that may be to imagine). However, in Acza mythology, he is also known as Moyocoyani (Maker of Himself), which might imply a more ancient veneration of the Plumed One.

The Azca apparently believe most of the other Immortals to be figures out of myth. Atzanteotl is the true invisible Immortal who walked over the red sky and surface of the earth and afterlife. Wherever he went wars, anxiety, and trouble were sure to follow. He is thought to incite wars between his own followers and so is called "The Enemy on Both Sides." His cruel hand is felt to be at fault when a rich man is brought to misfortune. When Atzanteotl chooses to appear in the mortal world he brings destruction, and only rarely does he provide good fortune to an individual.

Atzanteotl is also worshipped under the name Titlacahuan, "He Whose Slaves We Are," who is the master of human destiny. He represents the eternal blood-red sky of the Hollow World.

His name "Tezcatlipoca" was derived from the painting of his image with soot containing shining metal flakes which the natives called "Tezcapoctli" or "shining smoke". Tezcatlipoca is often referred to in art as a shadowy jungle lurker (therefore, he is sometimes sculpted as a jaguar-faced serpent), and is represented by black colouring. His hair is often portrayed cut in two different lengths, characteristic of warrior classes. Tezcatlipoca is the patron of sorcerers. His "Nahual," or disguise, is that of a half-Jaguar, half-serpent. In this guise he is revered as master of men's destinies.

In some of the older mythology we have managed to piece together, he was the adversary of his brother Otzitiotl (Ixion). The ill or afflicted would pray to Atzanteotl in his name of Titlacaoan in the hope of getting well by his mercy. On all road and street crossings a stone seat, called Momuztli, was placed for this most revered Immortal, adorned with feathers and flowers which were replaced every five days.

There are many stories of the cunning and trickery associated with this most revered and worshipped deity. A lament to his mockery is as follows:


He is arbitrary, he is capricious, he mocks.
He wills in the manner he desires.
He is placing us in the palm of his hand; he is making us round.
We roll; we become as pellets.
He is casting us from side to side.
We make him laugh; he is making a mockery of us.


The Azca know that intercourse is necessary for conception, but the child is "seated" in the womb by Atzanteotl where it will receive its fate. Family characteristics are explained as the whim or fancy of Atzanteotl.

An obsidian highly polished black idol of Atzanteotl is the common form of veneration. In some smaller towns a wooden idol painted black from the temples down is used. The forehead, nose, and mouth are painted in a pale, sickly colour. An intricate lip plug of crystalline beryl with a green or blue feather compliments the image. Around his neck is placed a huge golden necklace and on his arm, golden bracelets. In his left hand is placed a fan of blue, green and yellow feathers, surrounding a round plate of gold, polished like a mirror. His mirror is called Itlachiayaque, "Place from Which He Watches," as Atzanteotl could see all by looking into the mirror (perhaps some kind of magical scrying device). In his right hand the idol carries four arrows signifying punishment for sin he inflicts on the evils of man. On his ankles he wears twenty golden bells. Tied to his right foot is a deer hoof, which represents his swiftness and agility. His main temple in Chitlacan is reportedly a dark and mysterious place where the idol is kept behind a curtain with only special priests allowed to view and serve the image.

Atzanteotl is also said to wear a ring into which he can look into the hearts of men, like an eye. The mirror, ring and his ability to predict seem to be unique as no other references of this type of "seer" ability are credited to other Immortals. Seer ability among the Azca appears to only be practised by Azca medical practitioners, which may imply that the practice of the healing arts is restricted to his priesthood.

Atzanteotl lives by no law, he is invisible, a mocker, a giver of disease, a player of men's destinies and fortunes. He is said not to hate or love; he holds total power, the Azca are his slaves and playthings.

He is a withholder of rain when needed and is known as a sorcerer. He is also seen as a young ruler with seductive powers and elflike charm. He holds the knowledge of everything and everywhere and is considered malicious and yet at the same time forgiving, as he permits the Azcan Empire to survive and thrive.

He is perceived as invisible, though perhaps not as completely ascended. He "lives" in caves, the red sky, and rural areas as well as in the main city. His faith rules with total authority. His power over the Azca is as a living presence, where as some of the other major Immortals of the Hollow World are considered as abstract figures of mythology.

The world is thought to be a womblike hollow held in the hand of Atzanteotl and thought of as a place of exile and danger for mere humans.

Furthermore, Atzanteotl is also known as "He Who is Closest to the Shoulder", as he is thought to be ever present and resting on all shoulders, placing thoughts and ideas of trickery and violence into the minds of the Azca. In the records of the ill-fated first Thyatian expedition, two contrasting representations of this Immortal are depicted. In one he is red and in the form of Xipe Totec, Immortal of the Bloody Sun and sacrificial pain; in the other he is black and in the form of Tezcatlipoca, and is associated with death and magic. Both figures are dressed in robes and as warriors.

The Azca do not think of this Immortal as evil, in our sense of the word, but rather a contrast between his representation of darkness or the dark side of humanity with the light.

According to the expedition's Azca guide:


Everywhere was his living place - the place of the dead, the earth, the heavens. When he lived on earth he gave life to vice, to sin. He revealed to his followers anguish and affliction. He created all, and he made it come down. He shadowed one with, he made one take all evils brought on one. He mocked one, he ridiculed one. But at times he gave one wealth, possessions, manliness, leadership, lordship, rulership, nobility, honour.








Based on "Tezcatlipoca," copyright Thomas H. Frederiksen, of the AZTEC Student Teacher Resource Centre