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In Nahuatl mythology, Tezcatlipoca or "smoking mirror" was the god of the night, the north, temptation, sorcery, beauty and war.


Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl originally came from the pre-Aztec traditions of the Olmecs and the Toltecs.

The Aztecs assimilated them in their religion, and the two deities were equated and considered twin gods. They were both equal and opposed. Thus Tezcatlipoca was called "Black Tezcatlipoca", and Quetzalcoatl "White Tezcatlipoca". Mixcoatl was sometimes added to this complex as "Red Tezcatlipoca."

Omacatl, Titlacahuan and Tezcatlanextia were also considered aspects of Tezcatlipoca; the four Tezcatlipocas were the sons of Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl, lord and lady of the duality, and were the creators of all the other gods, as well as the world and man.

Tezcatlipoca appears on the first page of the Codex Borgia carrying the 20 day signs of the Aztec calendar; in the Codex Cospi he is shown as a spirit of darkness, as well as in the Codex Laud and the Dresden Codex.

Main Belief

According to the Aztecs, he was also the god of discord and deceit as well as the god of robbers, but he was also the god of rulers, warriors and sorcery. He was associated with the notion of destiny or fate and with the jaguar, and was known for inciting wars between peoples.

He owned the mirror Itlachiayaque ("Place From Which He Watches") that gave off smoke, killing his enemies; he saw everything and he punished wrong doers with illness and poverty, and rewarded good people with wealth and fame. He was the antithesis, rival, and eventually the twin of Quetzalcoatl.

It was believed then when a baby was conceived, it was placed there by Tezcatlipoca to decided its fate as he prophesised the success or failure of the newborn’s future, as well as the way he/she looked.

It was thought the God would appear at night as a shrouded corpse, a bundle of ashes or a headless man with his chest and stomach slit open. Anyone who was brave enough to rip out his heart could demand a reward for returning it, although there is no recorded case of anyone doing this.


In one of the Aztec accounts of creation, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca joined forces to create the world. Before their act there was only the sea and the monstress of earth, Cipactli. To attract her, Tezcatlipoca used his foot as bait, and Cipactli ate it. The two gods then captured her, and distorted her to make the land from her body. After that, they created the people, and people had to offer sacrifices to comfort Cipactli for her sufferings. Because of this, Tezcatlipoca is depicted with a missing foot, and the bone of his leg exposed.

After the world had been created, Tezcatlipoca kidnapped Xochiquetzal, the goddess of flowers, because he felt that he deserved her more than her husband, Tlaloc. He was also said to be married to Chicomecoatl or Xilonen.

As Mixcoatl, Tezcatlipoca invented fire by rotating the heavens on its axis as a drill.

Another story of creation goes that Tezcatlipoca turned himself into the sun, but Quetzalcoatl couldn’t bear his enemy ruling the universe, so he knocked Tezcatlipoca out of the sky. Angered, Tezcatlipoca turned into a jaguar and destroyed the world. Quetzalcoatl replaced him and started the second age of the world and it became populated again. Tezcatlipoca overthrew Quetzalcoatl when he sent a great wind that devastated the world, and what men that survived were turned into monkeys. Tlaloc, the god of rain, became the sun, but Quetzalcoatl sent down fire which destroyed the world again, except for a few men who survived who were turned into birds. Chalchihuitlicue, the Water Goddess became the sun, but the world was destroyed by floods, with what men surviving being turned into fish.

It is not hard to see how Tezcatlipoca was renowned for his destructive and generally negative properties.

Other names

Tezcatlipoca was known by other descriptive names, such as:

Ipalnemoani (Lord of the Near and Nigh)
Necocyautl (Sower of Discord on Both Sides)
Telpochtli (The Young Man)
Titlacauan (We His Slaves)
Tloque Nahuaque (Night, Wind)
Yaotl (The Warrior)
Yoalli Ehecatl (Nocturnal Wind).


Tezcatlipoca was usually depicted with a black stripe painted across his face, and is usually shown with his right foot replaced with a mirror made of obsidian or haematite. Sometimes though the mirror was shown on his chest.

He would carry four arrows in his right hand to punish the sins of man with.

His hair was black and in the style of a warrior, as well as carrying a shield and weapon.

He wore twenty gold bells on his ankles, and on his right foot he wore a deer hoof, representing his swiftness and agility.


The temple of Tezcatlipoca was in the Great Precinct of Tenochtitlan. It was dark, and his idol would have been kept behind a curtain. The idol would have only been seen by special priests. It would have been on a wooden pedestal on top of an altar. The idol itself would have been made of obsidian, but in smaller towns they would have had a wooden idol painted black. The forehead, nose and mouth would have been painted an ochre-red colour, and it would have had a lip plug of beryl with a green or blue feather. It would have gold jewellery around its neck and arms, with a fan of blue, green and yellow fan in his left hand around a mirror.

His cult was associated with royalty, and was the subject of the most lengthy and reverent prayers in the rites of kingship, as well as being mentioned frequently in coronation speeches. The priests would have played the flute at night, after Quetzalcoatl’s priests had played drums in the evening, and the flute was shrill and anxiety followed its music. Tezcatlipoca was left-handed, and one of his priests was called His Left Hand. Human sacrifice was a part of his cult.

Tezcatlipoca’s feast was in the fifth month of the Aztec calendar. A sacrifice would conclude the ceremonies honouring the gods, where the heart of the victim was ripped out and held up to the sun. The preparations began a year early, when a young man was chosen by the priests, who would live for the next year like a lord, wearing expensive jewellery and having eight attendants. He would have married four young women, and spent his last week singing, feasting and dancing. He would have had to have climbed the stairs to the top of the temple on his own where the priests would have seized him and sacrificed him. Immediately after he died a new victim for the next year’s ceremony was chosen. Tezcatlipoca was also honoured during the ceremony of the 9th month, when the Little Fest of the Dead was celebrated to honour the dead, as well as the Raising of the Banners ceremony in the 15th month.

There is a mask of Tezcatlipoca in the British Museum, the Mosaic Mask of Tezcatlipoca. It is from between 1400 AD to 1521 AD. It was found in Mexico, and donated to the British Museum by Henry Christy in the 1860's. The mosaic is made by pieces of turquoise and lignite, and the eyes from iron pyrites in rings of shell, all of which have been placed directly onto a human skull of a man who was in his 30’s. The teeth are original to the skull, and only the four top front teeth are missing. The back of the skull has been cut away and lined with leather. The jaw of this skull is joined to the skull with leather, making it moveable. It is 19.5cm in height and 12.5cm in width. It was probably tied around the wearer’s waist. It is not know where the mask was found, worn perhaps by a high priest or the emperor himself.

Popular Culture

  • Tezcatlipoca plays a major part in the story of the PC adventure game Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror.
  • He is also present in the independent comic El Muerto.
  • Tezcatlipoca was believed to be a former Mayan ruler of alien origin who came to Earth years ago, according to the Sprigganstoryline. He defeated a reincarnation of Quetzalcoatl, who took the form of a stone being.
  • Tezcatlipoca is also the name of the "Jungle God" in the PC game Hitman: Codename 47.
  • Tezcatlipoca in DC Comics is the enemy the superhero Aztek trained his whole life to defeat. It was ultimately revealed to be the vast weapon known as Mageddon in the pages of JLA, both written by Grant Morrison.

See Also


  • Comte, Fernand - The Wordsworth Dictionary of Mythology, Wordsworth Editions[1]
Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.