Tezcatlipoca (Tez-ca-tlee-POH-ka), whose name means “Smoking Mirror”, was the Aztec god of night and sorcery, as well as the patron deity of Aztec kings and young warriors. As with many Aztec gods, he was associated with several aspects of Aztec religion, the sky and the earth, winds and the north, kingship, divination, and war. For the different aspects he embodied, Tezcatlipoca was also known as the Red Tezcatlipoca of the West, and the Black Tezcatlipoca of the North, associated with death and cold.

According to Aztec mythology, Tezcatlipoca was a vengeful god, who could see and punish any evil behavior or action happening on earth. For these qualities, Aztec kings were considered Tezcatlipoca’s representatives on earth; at their election, they had to stand in front of the god’s image and perform several ceremonies in order to legitimize their right to rule.

Recent research suggests that Tezcatlipoca was one of the most important gods in the Late Postclassic Aztec pantheon. He was an old-style pan-Mesoamerican god, considered the embodiment of the natural world, a frightening figure who was both omnipresent–on earth, in the land of the dead, and in the sky–and omnipotent. He rose to importance during the politically dangerous and unstable times of the Late Postclassic Aztec and early Colonial periods.

Tezcatlipoca was known as the Lord of the Smoking Mirror. That name is a reference to obsidian mirrors, circular flat shiny objects made of volcanic glass, as well as a symbolic reference to the smoke of battle and sacrifice.

According to ethnographic and historical sources, he was very much a god of light and shadow, of the sound and smoke of bells and battle. He was closely associated with obsidian (itzli in the Aztec language) and jaguars (ocelotl). Black obsidian is of the earth, highly reflective and a vital part of human blood sacrifices.

Jaguars were the epitome of hunting, warfare, and sacrifice to the Aztec people, and Tezcatlipoca was the familiar feline spirit of Aztec shamans, priests, and kings.

Leave a Reply