The Myth of the Fifth Sun

The Aztecs believe that the sun, stars, and moon are gods from heaven. These celestial bodies and many others play a vital role in Aztec society, as exemplified in the following myth. This myth depicts the creation of the present-day fifth sun, and it explains why the Aztecs are the People of the Sun.

After creating the four gods of the previous four suns, Ometeuctli, the supreme creator of all, bears 1,600 more gods. Each god is a star in the heavens. The four creator-gods realize that a fifth sun can only be made through a sacrifice of another god. As a result, the four creator-gods construct a huge bonfire, yet none of the four are willing to sacrifice themselves. The finally decide on two other gods, Nanahuatl, and Teucciztecatl. The four gods do not choose Nanahuatl because he is too poor and ugly--his whole body is covered with sores. However, Teucciztecatl runs four times toward the firepit but always retreats. He is too afraid of sacrificing himself. Nanahuatl then displays his bravery by throwing himself into the fire to become the sun. Teucciztecatl finally gains enough courage to throw himself into the firepit, and as a result becomes the moon. The four creator-gods all look at different directions but are unable to see the new sun. They later discover that Nanahuatl will not rise unless he receives hearts and blood of other gods for his food and drink. This angers Morning Star, the most menacing of the 1,600 gods, and he challenges Nanahuatl to a duel. Nanahuatl destroys Morning Star, who is cast into the underworld. The 1,600 gods agree to sacrifice themselves and Nanahuatl is seen rising from the east.

The Aztecs believe they must continue the ritual of sacrifice for the sun to move. The Aztecs kill captives of war and offer the hearts and blood to Nanahuatl, so that he may continue to rise for the rest of the world. Because the Aztecs keep the sun going for themselves and others, they consider themselves the People of the Sun. The myth of the fifth sun portrays the importance of celestial bodies to the Aztecs. Every object in the sky is thought to be a heavenly being. The Aztecs obviously consider the sun to be the most important celestial body, as exemplified by their numerous sacrifices.

Written by Wes Dunn.