The birth myth of Huitzilopochtli, the patron of the city of Tenochtitlan


The Mexica honored Huitzilopochtli very much; they knew his origin, his beginning was in this way. A direct translation from the Nahuatl by Dr. Miguel León-Portilla). Taken from Justino Fernández, " An Introduction to Coyolxauhqui", Studies in Nahuatl Culture (Mexico: UNAM, 1963), Vol. IV, pp 37-53. (Florentine Codex, Lib. III. Ch. I).

In Coatepec, in the direction of Tula,
she had been living,
there inhabited a woman
of name Coatlicue.
She was the mother of the 400 Surianos
and of a sister of these, named Coyolxauhqui.
of their sister, named Coyolxauhqui.

And this Coatlicue did penance there,
she swept, she was in charge of sweeping,
and so she did penance,
in Coatepec, the Mountain of the Serpent,
and once,
when Coatlicue was sweeping,
on it came down a plumage,
like a ball of fine feathers.

At once Coatlicue picked it up,
placed it in her bosom.
When she finished sweeping,
she looked for the feather, which she had placed in her bosom.
But she saw nothing there.
At that moment Coatlicue became pregnant.

When the 400 Surians saw that their mother was with child, they were very angry,
they were very angry, they said:
- "Who has done this to her?
Who made her pregnant?
It disgraces us, it dishonors us".

And their sister Coyolxauhqui said to them:

-"Brothers, she has dishonored us.
we must kill our mother,
the perverse one who is already with the child.
Who did to her what she carries in her womb?
When Coatlicue heard this
she was very frightened,
she was very saddened.

But her son Huitzilopochtli, who was in her womb, confronted her and said to her:

- "Do not be afraid,
I know what I have to do".
When Coatlicue heard
the words of her son,
she was greatly consoled,
her heart calmed down,
she felt calm.

And in the meantime, the 400 Surians
gathered together to make an agreement,
and determined to one
to put their mother to death,
because she had infamed them.

They were very angry,
they were very angry,
as if their heart was going to come out.
Coyolxauhqui incited them a lot,
she stirred up the wrath of her brothers,
so that they would kill their mother.

And the 400 Surians
they prepared themselves,
they dressed for war.

And these 400 Surians
were like captains,
they twisted and tangled their hair,
like warriors, they arranged their hair.
But one named Cuahuitlíac
was false in his words.

What the 400 Surians said,
he was going to tell them at once,
he was going to communicate it to Huitzilopochtli.
And Huitzilopochtli answered him:
-"Be careful, be vigilant,
my uncle, I know well what I have to do".

And when they finally agreed,
the 400 Surians were determined
to kill, to put an end to their mother,
then they set out on the move,
Coyolxauhqui led them.

They were well-armed, well attired,
garrisoned for war,
they distributed among themselves their paper dresses.
their anecúyotl, their bracelets, '
their painted paper flaps,
they tied little bells on their calves
bells called oyohualli.

Their arrows had barbed tips.
Then they were on the move,
they went in order, in line;
in an orderly squadron,
Coyolxauhqui led them.

But Cuahuitlícac went up the mountain at once,
to speak from there to Huitzilopochtli,
he said to him:
- "They are coming."
Huitzilopochtli answered him:
- "Look well where they are coming."

Then Cuahuitlícac said:
-They are already coming through Tzompantitlan.
And once again Huitzilopochtli said to him:
- "Which way are they coming already?"
Cuahuitlícac answered him:
- "They are already coming through Coaxalpan."

And again Huitzilopochtli asked Cuahutlícac:
- "Look well where they are coming."
Cuahuitlícac answered him immediately:
-They are already coming up the mountain slope.
And once more Huitzilopochtli said to him:
-"Look well where they are coming.

Then Cuahuitlícac said to him:
-They are already at the summit, they are coming,
Coyolxahuqui is guiding them."

At that moment Huitzilopochtli was born,
he put on his attire,
his shield of eagle feathers,
his darts, his blue spear-thrower,
the so-called turquoise spear-thrower.

He painted his face
with diagonal stripes,
with the color called "child's paint".
On his head, he placed fine feathers,
he put on his earmuffs.

And one of his feet, the left one, was wiry,
he wore a sandal covered with feathers,
and his two legs and his two arms
he wore blue paint on both legs and arms.

And the one called Tochancalqui
set fire to the serpent made of teas called Xiuhcoatl,
which obeyed Huitzilopochtli.
Then with it, he wounded Coyolxauqui,
cut off her head,
which came to be abandoned,
on the slope of Coatépetl,
mountain of the serpent.

The body of Coyolxauhqui
rolled down,
fell to pieces,
her hands, her legs, her body fell from various parts,
her legs, her body.

Then Huitzilopochtli stood up,
chased the 400 Surians,
he harassed them, he made them disperse
from the summit of Coatépetl, the mountain of the snake.

And when he had followed them
to the foot of the mountain,
he chased them, harassed them like rabbits,
around the mountain.

Four times he made them go round and round.
In vain did they try to do anything against him,
in vain did they revolt against him
to the sound of bells
and beat their shields.

They could do nothing,
nothing could they achieve,
with nothing, they could defend themselves.
Huitzilopochtli harassed them, drove them away,
destroyed them, annihilated them, crushed them.

And then he left them,
he continued to pursue them.

But they begged him a lot, they said:
- "Enough!"
But Huitzilopochtli was not content with this,
he raged against them with force.
He pursued them.

Only a few were able to escape his presence,
They were able to free themselves from his hands.
They headed south
they are called 400 Surians,
the few who escaped
from the hands of Huitzilopochtli.

And when Huitzilopochtli had put them to death,
when he had given vent to his anger,
he took from them their trappings, their ornaments, their anecúyotl,
he put them on them, he appropriated them..,
incorporated them into his destiny,
made them his own insignia.

And this Huitzilopochtli, it was said,
was a wonder,
because with only a fine feather,
which fell into the womb of his mother Coatlicue,
he was conceived.

No one ever appeared as his father.
He was venerated by the Mexica,
they made sacrifices to him,
honored, and served him.

And Huitziiopochtli rewarded
those who did so.
And his cult was taken from there,
from Coatepec, the mountain of the serpent,
as it was practiced since ancient times.

Translated by Mexicanist, Source: INAH