Like all the Mexican peoples, the Aztecs worshiped a multitude of gods, each of whom demanded offerings and sacrifices. Above all, the Aztecs considered themselves the chosen people of HUITZILOPOCHTLI, the sun and war god, in whose name they were destined to conquer all rival nations. Huitzilopochtli shared the main temple at Tenochtitlan with Tlaloc, the rain god, important to the farmers in a land where drought was a constant threat. Another important god was QUETZALCOATL, the feathered serpent, patron of arts and crafts and the god of self- sacrifice. Religion was ever present. Each place and each trade had its patron deity: each day, and each division of the day, was watched over by its own god. Priests were expected to live in chastity, to mortify their flesh, and to understand astronomy, astrology, the complex rituals and ceremonies, and the art of picture writing. Games also formed part of the religious ritual. A popular ball game was lachtli, in which a small rubber ball had to be struck by the hips or thighs and knocked across a special court. In another ritual game, men attired as birds and attached to ropes were slung in a wide circle around a pole.
The official state religion of the soldiers and noblemen was concerned primarily with the great and powerful gods: the creators, the solar deities, the patrons of the warrior orders. By contrast, the common people seem to have preferred the lesser, more accessible gods: the patrons of the craft guilds, the protectors of local shrines, and the deities who looked after the things of everyday life. For everyone, however, rich or poor, each month of the Aztec calendar had its festival, with music, dancing, processions, and sacrifices. All this came to an end with the Spanish conquest and the introduction of the Christian religion, although at the peasant level certain traditions from the Aztec heritage still survive in modern Mexico.
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