The Aztec civilization recognized a polytheistic mythology, which contained the many deities Lords or Gods (over 100) and supernatural creatures from their religious beliefs.
Aztec culture is generally grouped with the cultural complex known as the Nahuatl because of the common language they shared. According to legend, the various groups who were to become the Aztecs arrived from the north into the Anahuac valley around Lake Texcoco. The location of this valley and lake of destination is clear – it is the heart of modern Mexico City – but little can be known with certainty about the origin of the Aztec.
There are different accounts of their origin. In the myth the ancestors of the Mexica/Aztec came from a place in the north called Aztlan, the last of seven nahuatlacas (Nahuatl-speaking tribes, from tlaca, "man") to make the journey southward, hence their name "Azteca." Other accounts cite their origin in Chicomostoc, "the place of the seven caves," or at Tamoanchan (the legendary origin of all civilizations).
The Mexica/Aztec were said to be guided by their god Huitzilopochtli, meaning "Left-handed Hummingbird" or "Hummingbird from the South." When they arrived at an island in the lake, they saw an eagle which was perched on a nopal cactus full of its fruits (nochtli). (Due to a mistranslation of an account by Tesozomoc, it became popular to say the eagle was devouring a snake, but in the original Aztec accounts, the snake is not mentioned. One states that it was eating a bird, another indicates that it was only perched in the cactus, and a third just says it was eating something.) This vision fulfilled a prophecy telling them that they should found their new home on that spot. The Aztecs built their city of Tenochtitlan on that site, building a great artificial island, which today is in the center of Mexico City. This legendary vision is pictured on the Coat of Arms of Mexico.
According to legend, when the Mexicans arrived in the Anahuac valley around Lake Texcoco, they were considered by the other groups as the least civilized of all, but the Mexican/Aztec decided to learn, and they took all they could from other people, especially from the ancient Toltec (whom they seem to have partially confused with the more ancient civilization of Teotihuacan). To the Aztec, the Toltec were the originators of all culture; "Toltecayotl" was a synonym for culture. Aztec legends identify the Toltecs and the cult of Quetzalcoatl with the legendary city of Tollan, which they also identified with the more ancient Teotihuacan.
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