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Pre-hispanic peoples conceived of the universe as three-tiered: the celestial level, the terrestrial and the underworld. The first was composed of thirteen levels and the underworld by nine. The terrestrial realm had a fundamental center, inhabited by the old fire god called Huehueteotl-Xiuhtecuhtli and from which spread out the four directions of the universe.
Directions of the Universe
- East, place where the sun rises, identified with the color red and the glyph "reed," governed by the god Xipe-Totec; it was the masculine part of the universe.
- West, associated with the color white and the glyph "house," ruled over by Quetzalcoatl; it was the region of women known as Cihuatlampa.
- North, associated with the color yellow or black and the glyph "flint knife," it was overseen by the black Tezcatlipoca; it was the region of cold and of the dead.
- South, which corresponded to the color blue and the glyph "rabbit," ruled over by Tlaloc (Huitzilopochtli in the Mexica version), the place of sacrifice known as Huitztlalpam; it was the region related to moisture.
Each direction with identified with a cosmic tree. In the center there was a tree with roots that sunk into the underworld and its trunk rose in a spiral, until its branches reached the celestial level, forming the:
Vertical image of the Universe:
In the first five levels were the moon, the stars and the comets, as well as Venus and the Sun. The sixth and seventh tiers were blue and green, respectively. The eighth was probably the place of storms. The next three: white, yellow and red, were the homes of the Gods or Teteocan. The twelfth and thirteenth celestial levels were Omeyocan, place of duality and home of Ometeotl, the creative principle of the universe. Extending the vertical line down below the earth, was Mictlan, divided into nine places: where two mountains crash together; a snake that guards the path; the place of the green lizard; eight deserts and eight hills; the cold biting wind; the Chiconahuapan river and in the deepest level where the home of Mictlantecuhtli, Lord of the Fleshless, is found.
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Last Modified: January 14, 1998.
Museo del Templo Mayor, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e História, México.
Seminario #8, Centro Histórico. Cuauhtémoc, México, D.F. 06060
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