The Aztecs and the Eagle
Originating North of the Colorado River, the Peoples who were to become the Aztec leaders began a
southward migration as six traveling tribes. They were searching for the prophesised appearance of an
eagle with a Snake in its mouth, sitting on top of a Nopal cactus. These pilgrims wandered in what is now
northern Mexico, arriving at Zumpango in the central Valley of Mexico in 1216.
The exisiting ruler there, Tochpanecatl, invited the wanderers to present a wife to his son, Ilhuicatle, and
this marriage, combined with the sighting of the foretold Eagle, began the Aztec Empire's rule over
A transcription of the legendary communication between their god and these earliest Aztecs follows :
" Verily I shall lead you where you must go. I shall appear as a white eagle; and wherever you go, you shall
go singing. You shall go only where you see me, and when you come to a place where is shall seem good
to me good that you stay, there I shall alight, and you shall see me there. Therefore in that place you shall
build my temple, my house, my bed of grasses - where I have come to rest, poised and ready for flight.
And in that place the people shall make their home and their dwelling. Your first task shall be to beautify
the quality of the eagle, the quality of the tiger, the Holy War, the arrow and the shield. You shall eat what
you have need of. "
In this transcription of the early Aztec prophecy, the eagle is representing an animal incarnation of the
people's God, Hiutzilopochtli, the sun. It is he who instructs them to become fierce warriors who create
tremendous material wealth for themselves, leading to the conquest of all surrounding native peoples.
So strongly did the Aztecs believe in their mythologies and gods, that when the Spanish conquistador
Cortez appeared on their shore several hundred years later, they believed him to be a prophesized return of
a god and were easily overtaken by a small band of Cortez's men, thus ending the Aztec empire.
The transcription recounted above was recorded by Mexican anthropologist Alfonso Caso, and gathered
from Mythology of the Americas, by Burland, Nicholson, Osborne; published by Hamlyn 1970, pg. 259.
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