DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> The Creation Cycle: Indigenous Myths of the Americas

The Creation Cycle: Indigenous Myths of the Americas

I have a huge and growing interest in Native Mexican Indian Tribes. Why? Well, my mother’s ethnic heritage is equal parts Native Mexican Indian (my grandfather) and Chamorro (my grandmother). My father is, for those of you wondering, Italian and German. I am still mystified as to what exactly my ethnicity should be called; should you come up with a proper name be sure to let me know. I will, until then, be forced to check that “other” box on applications and such.

At any rate, I have been engaging Toltec, Mayan, and Aztec religious myths and legends, to start. I must say, they are rich and beyond interesting. What incredible stories are told by these indigenous peoples. These tribes created and sustained quite a culture. Their culture was characterized by incredible architecture, arts, and literature. They built cities adorned with breathtaking palaces, temples, waterways, stone sculptures, and mosaics. These people were managing quite well, at least until the Spaniards invaded Central America and brought forced Christianization to the indigenous masses. In spite of the Christianization, and the subsequent destruction of much of their culture, myth, and legend, some stories remain. I’m interested in reading and understanding these stories for the sake of reading and understanding.

I will be starting with the small collection of Aztec myths collectively known as “The Creation Cycle.”

Creation and Destruction of Four Worlds and Suns

The first section of “The Creation Cycle” is titled “The Five Worlds and Their Suns.” This story is about the consecutive creation and destruction of four worlds and their suns. The creation of each world, and each world’s sun, was facilitated by the gods who choose different illuminative elements for each one (i.e., sun of the earth, sun of air, sun of rain and fire, sun of water, consecutively). The people, in the first four created worlds, angered the gods by acting improperly, unwisely, irreverently, and selfishly. These people, as a result, were punished by the gods. The people of the first world were devoured by jaguars and died; their sun died along with them. The people of the second world were afflicted with hurricane winds and were turned into apes; their sun died when they turned into animals. The third world’s people were punished by volcanic eruptions and died fire deaths; their sun died too. The fourth world’s inhabitants were punished with a great flood and people were turned into fish; their sun drowned.

The Creation of a Fifth World by an Unlikely God

The gods assembled to discuss the creation of a fifth world and a fifth sun. Nanautzin received the call from the assembly, which shocked even him. Nanautzin, you see, was a misshapen, ugly god. Nanautzin was covered with disgusting sores and clothed in drab clothing fashioned from woven reeds. He was the lesser god among royal gods. Yet, it is Nanautzin who sacrifices his being to create a fifth world that seems to have actually worked, unlike the first four worlds which were created by the noble and royal sort of gods one would expect.

Nanautzin, because of his courageous and self-sacrificing act, is honored among the gods to this day.

A Goddess Torn and the Creation of the Earth

The “Light One”, Quetzalcoatl, and the “Dark One,” Tezcatlipoca, were greatly agitated at the monstrous goddess who floated below them upon the water. Why the divine agitation? Well, from their positions high in the sky the two gods watched as the goddess floated around eating everything they attempted to create. Nothing escaped the goddess’ countless eyes and mouths. Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca united in an attempt to stop the monstrous goddess.

The two great gods transformed themselves into two enormous serpents. Each one grabbed the goddess by her arms and feet. They stretched the goddess until she was torn in half. Her body, torn apart at the middle, formed the universe. Her head and shoulders became the earth; her lower parts rose into the sky and formed the heavens.

The other gods were angry at Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca. They came down and gifted the goddess. The gods decided that whatever humans needed would be provided by the goddess. Trees, grass, and flowers were created out of her hair; fine grasses and flowers were formed from her skin; caves, fountains and wells were shaped from her eyes; hills and valleys were products of her nose; and mountains were shaped from her shoulders.

The goddess, however, was not happy. She, as a result, withholds her products from time to time. This is why, on occasion, humans are forced to endure, drought, famine and soil that produces no fruit. The goddess is not happy, and understandably so.

Quetzalcoatl Creates a New Race of Humans

Quetzalcoatl entered the fifth world ready to populate it with a brand new race of human beings. Humans would, however, need food to eat. So, Quetzalcoatl, before creating the human beings, sought out a food source. He traveled the fifth earth in search of food. He examined every plant and animal in his search for the best human food. Finally, he discovered the corn the ants ate. The corn was perfect human food, but the ants would not give it to him. So, Quetzalcoatl morphed himself into a black ant and pretended to help the ants transport their corn to storage. Quetzalcoatl, in actuality, was stealing the corn one kernel at a time. When he had enough to give to human so they could plant a crop he morphed out of his ant form.

Lord of the Dead Land and the Jade Circle

Quetzalcoatl decided to form humans from the bones of his dead father, which were buried and now belonged to the Lord of the Dead Land. The Lord of the Dead Land promised to part with the bones if Quetzalcoatl would take a conch shell in one hand, the bones in the other, and walk around the jade circle, blowing the conch all the while. Quetzalcoatl did so, but was still refused the bones. So, sneakily, Quetzalcoatl stole the bones and ran.

Quetzalcoatl Pit and the Goddess Woman Snake

The Lord of the Dead Land was not fooled. He sent his servants to the fifth world to dig a pit for Quetzalcoatl, to capture him. Quetzalcoatl fell into the pit and was so terrified of the birds surrounding him he passed out. The birds pecked the bones into fragments.

When Quetzalcoatl awoke he gathered the fragments and returned home. The goddess Woman Snake ground the bits of bones into a dust. Quetzalcoatl pierced his body and mixed his blood with the bone dust to form a paste. A new race of human beings were formed from the paste.

Quetzalcoatl Brings Music to Earth.

Tezcatlipoca, god of the heavens, descended upon the earth to wander around a bit, taking in the beauty of it. While impressed with Earth Monster’s mountains, valleys, rivers and streams, and in spite of the Sun’s rays and affected meadows, flowers and grassess, something seemed to be missing. The earth creation, though filled with many, many things to make happy the human heart, lacked something. Tezcatlipoca believed the earth needed music!

Tezcatlipoca Orders Quetzalcoatl to the House of Sun

Quetzalcoatl, in the form of wind, came to rest at the feet of Tezcatlipoca. Tezcatlipoca informed wind of the earth’s need of music. Tezcatlipoca said to wind, “Life must contain music! Music must accompany the awakening dawn. It must inspirie the dreaming man. It must comfort the waiting mother. One must be able to hear it in the wings of the bird overhewad and in the waters of the nearby brook.”

Tezcatlipoca then gave Quetzalcoatl directions to the House of Sun, Father of all Life, where many musicians were housed. Quetzalcoatl was to go and ask Sun to give him musicians to live on earth. The House of Sun, however, could only be reached by traveling to the shore of the ocean where three of Tezcatlipoca’s servants dwelled. Water Monster, Water Woman, and Cane and Conch would unite their bodies nd form a bridge upon which wind could travel to reach the Hose of Sun. Quetzalcoatl followed Tezcatlipoca’s direction and reached the House of Sun.

Sun Refuses Wind

Sun, Father of all Life, saw Wind appraoching and oredered all of his musicians to be silent, speaking not one word. Quetzalcoatl arrived and asked the musicians to foolow him back to earth where they could sing beauty into the creation. No one responded. They were silent, as Sun ordered them to be. Quetzalcoatl asked a gain but still no one offered a sound. This angered Tezcatlipoca very much. Tezcatlipoca sent a huge storm cloud which swallowed up Sun and terrified the mucisians. The terrified musicians decided to accomapy wind to earth, where they could play their beautiful music.

Sun’s Musicians and Singers Upon Earth

Suns musicians were brought back to earth by wind. They wandered off in small groups. Music began filling all distant corners of the earth. All were happy. Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl had successfully worked together to create music.


  1. Posted July 22, 2007 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    Just to let you know, National Geographic has a pretty interesting article this month on the Mayans. If your interested you can borrow my copy. I got into the Central American myths when my younger sister (who is actually Puerto Rican) was exploring her cultural heritage (at the time she thought she was Mexican, its to long of a story for this reply, but you already know most of it)

  2. Posted July 22, 2007 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Wes! I’ll check it out!

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