- (from huitzilin, "hummingbird," and opochtli, "left") was
the Aztec sun and war god ... what a name !
Humming Bird on the left.
The Aztecs believed that dead warriors came back to
life as hummingbirds and that the south was the left side of the world.
Huitzilopochtli's name, therefore, meant the Warrior of
the South brought back from the dead.
His animal disguise, was the eagle.
Huitzilopochtli's image, in the form of a hummingbird, was carried upon the
shoulders of the priests when the Aztecs invaded, and at night his voice was heard giving
Thus, according to Huitzilopochtli's
command, Tenochtitlan the Aztec capital, was founded in AD 1325 on a small rocky island in
the lake of the Valley of Mexico.
The god's first shrine was built on a spot
where priests found an eagle poised upon a rock and devouring a snake. Successive Aztec
rulers enlarged the shrine until the year "Eight Reed" (1487), when an
impressive temple was dedicated by the emperor Ahuitzotl.
Pictures of Huitzilopochtli usually show
him as a hummingbird or as a warrior with armour and helmet made of humming bird feathers.
His legs, arms and the lower part of his face were painted blue; the upper half of his
face was black. He wore an elaborate feathered head dress and waved a round shield and a
The Aztecs believed that the sun god
needed daily "nourishment" (tlaxcaltiliztli) - that is, human blood and hearts -
and that they, as the "people of the sun," were required to provide the sun god
with his victims. The sacrificial hearts were offered to the sun quauhtlehuanitl
("eagle who rises") and burned in the quauhxicalli ("the eagle's
Warriors who died in battle or on the
sacrificial stone were called quauhteca ("the eagle's people").
It was believed that after their death the
warriors first formed part of the sun's brilliant retinue; then, after four years, they
went to live forever in the bodies of hummingbirds.