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Tezcatlipoca: Trickster and Supreme Deity

EDITED BY Elizabeth Baquedano
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Tezcatlipoca: Trickster and Supreme Deitybrings archaeological evidence into the body of scholarship on "the lord of the smoking mirror," one of the most important Aztec deities. While iconographic and textual resources from sixteenth-century chroniclers and codices have contributed greatly to the understanding of Aztec religious beliefs and practices, contributors to this volume demonstrate the diverse ways material evidence expands on these traditional sources.

    The interlocking complexities of Tezcatlipoca's nature, multiple roles, and metaphorical attributes illustrate the extent to which his influence penetrated Aztec belief and social action across all levels of late Postclassic central Mexican culture.Tezcatlipocaexamines the results of archaeological investigations-objects like obsidian mirrors, gold, bells, public stone monuments, and even a mosaic skull-and reveals new insights into the supreme deity of the Aztec pantheon and his role in Aztec culture.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-288-7
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Symbolizing Tezcatlipoca
    (pp. 1-6)
    Nicholas J. Saunders and Elizabeth Baquedano

    A presence of absence defines the ambivalent nature of Tezcatlipoca, the supreme deity of the Late Postclassic Aztec pantheon. In the dark ephemeral reflection of his obsidian mirror and the transient sound of his ceramic flower pipes lies the sensuous nature of a god who mediates materiality and invisibility with omniscience and omnipresence. These qualities are evident not only for the Aztecs but also for scholars today. As Michael Smith (this volume) points out, only recently have we begun to move beyond the written words and painted images of the codices to assess a different kind of Tezcatlipoca’s material traces...

  6. 1 The Archaeology of Tezcatlipoca
    (pp. 7-40)
    Michael E. Smith

    From the seminal nineteenth-century works of Eduard Seler (1990–98) through the present day, scholars have emphasized the works of the chroniclers (primarily Sahagún and Durán) as primary sources on Aztec gods, myths, and ceremonies, coupled with ample use of the ritual or divinatory codices to illustrate religious themes and activities. This body of scholarship can be considered the standard or dominant approach to Aztec religion. Although intellectual perspectives and paradigms have changed through the decades, scholars return again and again to this same small set of primary sources. As a result, ethnohistorians and art historians now pose questions far...

  7. 2 Iconographic Characteristics of Tezcatlipoca in the Representations of Central Mexico: The Ezpitzal Case
    (pp. 41-58)
    Juan José Batalla Rosado

    The representation of Tezcatlipoca has a set of very similar iconographic features in most Mesoamerican cultures. They consist primarily of the “smoking mirror,” the absence of one leg, and the characteristic breast-plate, among others. In addition, through iconographic sources (especially Mesoamerican codices), one observes that in central Mexico, during the Postclassic period as well as in Early Colonial times, there is an additional element not found in any other area or indigenous culture. I am referring to what Sahagún’s sources call theezpitzal. This particular iconographic feature is formed by a stream of blood on the deity’s forehead, in which...

  8. 3 Enemy Brothers or Divine Twins? A Comparative Approach between Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl, Two Major Deities from Ancient Mexico
    (pp. 59-82)
    Guilhem Olivier

    According to Jean-Pierre Vernant (1974, 110), the great specialist on the pantheon of ancient Greece, “investigations done by historians of the religions, such as Georges Dumézil, have shown that one can understand a religious system as being a linguistic system only by studying the relationship between gods.”¹ This introduction may come as a surprise, especially from one who spent several years working on the monography of a single deity, Tezcatlipoca, chosen from the particularly rich Mesoamerican pantheon. That said, let me quote from the conclusion of the book I wrote about him: “As I kept tracking Tezcatlipoca, I felt ever...

  9. 4 Tezcatlipoca and Huitzilopochtli: Political Dimensions of Aztec Deities
    (pp. 83-112)
    Emily Umberger

    In post-conquest scholarship there are two basic approaches to Aztec deities,² a term that generally refers to anthropomorphic figures rather than other forms ofixiptla(clothed and decorated representations of supernatural beings).³ The first approach focuses on Aztec ideas about the forces of the supernatural world. In this approach the costume parts and implements of ixiptla are considered for their functions as references to these forces, but that consideration examines neither the complexity of the metaphorical references of costume parts nor their material forms (Hvidtfeldt 1958).⁴ The second approach starts with the visual traits and focuses on generalizing their distributions...

  10. 5 Tezcatlipoca as a Warrior: Wealth and Bells
    (pp. 113-134)
    Elizabeth Baquedano

    This chapter examines Tezcatlipoca as a warrior and the use of gold as a symbol of power and status. Both qualities were present in the cult of Tezcatlipoca. The descriptions given by the Spanish chroniclers of the sixteenth century emphasized the use of gold in his distinctive iconographic features, as will be seen. Likewise, warrior gods carry gold, gold symbols, and metal objects such as bells. The Mexica kings were also representative of the warrior class and made lavish use of gold jewelry. It is clear, therefore, that warfare, rulers, and Tezcatlipoca go hand in hand, especially as he was...

  11. 6 Gender Ambiguity and the Toxcatl Sacrifice
    (pp. 135-162)
    Cecelia F. Klein

    At the time of the Spanish conquest of central Mexico in 1521, the Aztecs in control of the region were staging elaborate rituals in and around their capital Tenochtitlan, located on a small but densely populated island in Lake Texcoco.¹ One of the most important and unusual rites occurred during the Aztec month Toxcatl, when the heart of a young enemy captive chosen the previous year to impersonate the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca, “Smoking Mirror,” was removed atop a small pyramid located near a place named Tlapitzauayan. According to the sixteenth-century Franciscan Bernardino de Sahagún, who in 1529 had arrived at...

  12. 7 The Maya Lord of the Smoking Mirror
    (pp. 163-196)
    Susan Milbrath

    One way to better understand Tezcatlipoca, a paramount god among the Aztecs, is to study his counterpart among the Maya. Both Kawil and Tezcatlipoca are represented with a smoking mirror and a serpent foot, and both share associations with the celestial realm and royalty (figures 7.1, 7.2; Milbrath 1999, 230–31). The namek’awilork’awiilin Classic Maya glyphic texts usually includes a mirror glyph (T617a) with volutes of smoke (Macri and Looper 2003, 171; Schele and Miller 1983, 3–22). Often the mirror has a smoking ax, but occasionally this element is replaced by a smoking bone or...

  13. References
    (pp. 197-230)
  14. Index
    (pp. 231-239)