BEHOLD THE FABLE in which it is told how a little rabbit lay across the face of the moon.
Of this, it is told that the gods were only at play with the moon. They struck his face with the rabbit; they wounded
his face with it--they maimed it. The gods thus dimmed his face. Thereafter the moon came to arise and come forth.
It is told that when yet all was in darkness, when yet no sun had shone and no dawn had broken--it is said--the
gods gathered themselves together and took counsel among themselves there at Teotihuacan. They spoke; they said among
"Come hither, O gods! Who will carry the burden? Who will take it upon himself to be the sun,
to bring the dawn?"
And upon this, one of them who was there spoke: Tecuciztecatl presented himself. He said: "O
gods, I shall be the one."
And again the gods spoke: "And who else?"
Thereupon they looked around at one corner.
They pondered the matter. They said to one another:
"How may this be? How may we decide?"
None dared; no one else came forward. Everyone was afraid; they all drew back.
And not present was one man, Nanahuatzin; he stood there listening among the others to that which was discussed.
Then the gods called to this one. They said to him: "Thou shall be the one, O Nanahuatzin."
He then eagerly accepted the decision; he took it gladly. He said: "It is well, O gods; you have been
good to me."
Then they began now to do penance. They fasted four days--both Tecuciztecatl and Nanahuatzin.
And then, also, at this time, the fire was laid. Now it burned, there in the hearth. They named the hearth Teotexcalli.
And this Tecuciztecatl: that with which he did penance was all costly. His fir branches were quetzal
feathers, and his grass balls were of gold; his maguey spines were of green stone; the reddened, blooded spines were of coral.
And his incense was very good incense. And as for Nanahuatzin, his fir branches were made only of green water rushes--green
reeds bound in threes, all making, together, nine bundles. And his grass balls were only dried pine needles. And his
maguey spines were these same maguey spines. And the blood with which they were covered was his own blood. And
for his incense, he used only the scabs from his sores, which he lifted up. For these two, for each one singly, a hill
was made. There they remained, performing penances for four nights. They are now called pyramids--the pyramid
of the sun and the pyramid of the moon.
And when they ended their four nights of penitence, then they went to throw down and cast away, each one,
their fir branches, and indeed, all with which they had been performing penances. This was done at the time of the lifting
of the penance; when, well into the night, they were to do their labor; they were to become gods.
And when midnight had come, thereupon the gods gave them their adornment; they arrayed them and readied
them. To Tecuciztecatl they gave his round, forked heron feather headdress and his sleeveless jacket. But as for
Nanahuatzin, they bound on his headdress of mere paper and tied on his hair, called his paper hair. And they gave him
his paper stole and his paper breech clout.
And when this was done, when midnight had come, all the gods proceeded to encircle the hearth, which was
called Teotexcalli, where the four days had burned the fire. On both sides the gods arranged themselves in
line, and in the middle they set up, standing, these two, named Tecuciztecatl and Nanahuatzin. They stood facing and
looking toward the hearth.
And thereupon the gods spoke: They said to Tecuciztecatl: "Take courage, O Tecuciztecatl; fall
--cast thyself-- into the fire!"
Upon this, he went forward to cast himself into the flames. And when the heat came to reach him, it
was insufferable, intolerable, and unbearable; for the hearth had blazed up exceedingly, a great heap of coals burned, and
the flames flared up high. Thus he came terrified, stopped in fear, turned about, and went back. Then once more
he set out, in order to try to do it. He exerted himself to the full, that he might cast and give himself to the flames.
And he could in no way dare to do it. When again the heat reached him, he could only turn and leap back. He could
not bear it. Four times indeed--four times in all--he was thus to act and try; then he could cast himself no more.
For then he might try only four times.
And when he had ended trying four times, thereupon they cried out to Nanahuatzin. The gods said to
him: "Onward, thou, O Nanahuatzin! Take heart!"
And Nanahuatzin, daring all at once, determined--resolved--hardened his heart, and shut firmly his eyes.
He had no fear; he did not stop short; he did not falter in fright; he did not turn back. All at once he quickly threw
and cast himself into the fire; once and for all he went. Thereupon he burned; his body cracked and sizzled.
And when Tecuciztecatl saw that already he burned, then, afterwards, he cast himself upon the fire.
Thereupon he also burned.
And thus they say: it is told that then flew up an eagle, which followed them. It threw itself suddenly
into the flames; it cast itself into them, while still it blazed up. Therefore its feathers are scorched looking and
blackened. And afterwards followed an Ocelot, when now the fire no longer burned high, and he came to fall in.
Thus he was only blackened--smutted--in various places, and singed by the fire. For it was not now burning hot.
Therefore he was only spotted, dotted with black spots, as if splashed with black.
From this event, it is said, they took-- from here was taken--the custom whereby was called and named one
who was valiant, a warrior. He was given the name Quauhtlocelotl. The word Quauhtli came first, it is told, because,
as was said, the eagle first entered the fire. And the Ocelot followed thereafter. Thus it is said in one word--Quauhtlocelotl;
because the latter fell into the fire after the eagle.
And after this, when both had cast themselves into the flames, when they had already burned, then the gods
sat waiting to see whether Nanahuatzin would come to rise--he who first fell into the fire--in order that he might shine as
the sun; in order that dawn might break.
When the gods had sat and been waiting for a long time, thereupon began the reddening of the dawn; in all
directions, all around, the dawn and light extended. And so, they say, thereupon the gods fell upon their knees in order
to await where he who had become the sun would come to rise. In all directions they looked; everywhere they peered and
kept turning about. As to no place were they agreed in their opinions and thoughts. Uncertain were those whom
they asked. Some thought that it would be from the north that the sun would come to rise, and placed themselves to look
there; some did so to the west; some placed themselves to look south. They expected that he might rise in all directions,
because the light was everywhere.
And some placed themselves so that they could watch there to the east. They said: "For there, in that place,
the sun already will come to arise." True indeed were the words of those who looked there and pointed with their fingers
in that direction. Thus they say, that those who looked there to the east were Quetzalcoatl; the name of the second
was Ecatl; and Totec, or Anahuatl Itecu; and the red Tezcatlipoca. Also there were those who were called the Mimix-Coa,
who were without number; and four women--Tiacapan, Teicu, Tlacoyehua, and Xocoyotl.
And when the sun came to rise, when he burst forth, he appeared to be red; he kept swaying from side to
side. It was impossible to look into his face; he blinded one with his light. Intensely did he shine. He
issued rays of light from himself; his rays reached in all directions; his brilliant rays penetrated everywhere.
And afterwards Tecuciztecatl come to rise, following behind him from the same place--the east,--near where
the sun had come bursting forth. In the same manner that they had fallen into the fire, just so they came forth.
They came following each other.
And so they tell it; so they relate the story and repeat the legend. Exactly equal had they become
in their appearance, as they shone. When the gods saw them, thus exactly the same in their aspect, then once more there
was deliberation. They said: "How may this be, O gods? Will they perchance both together follow the same path?
Will they both shine together?"
And the gods all issued a judgment. They said: "Thus will this be; thus will this be done."
Then one of the gods came out running. With a rabbit he came to wound in the face this Tecuciztecatl;
with it he darkened his face; he killed its brilliance. Thus doth it appear today.
And when this was done, when both appeared over the earth together, they could, on the other hand, not move
nor follow their paths. They could only remain still and motionless. So once again the gods spoke: "How
shall we live? The sun cannot move. Shall we perchance live among common folk? Let this be, that through
us the sun may be revived. Let all of us die."
Then it became the office of Ecatl to slay the gods. But they say thus: that Xolotl wished not
to die. He said to the gods: "Let me not die, O gods." Wherefore he wept much; his eyes and his eyelids swelled.
And when he who dealth death was to overtake him, he fled from his presence; he ran; he quickly entered
a field of green maize, and took the form of, and quickly turned into, two young maize stalks growing from a single root,
which the workers in the field have named Xolotl. But there, in the field of green maize, he was seen. Then once
again he fled from him; once more he quickly changed himself into a maguey plant consisting of two parts called Me-Xolotl.
Once more he was seen, and once more he quickly entered into the water and went to take the shape of an amphibious animal
called Axolotl. There they could go to sieze him, that they might slay him.
And they said that though all the gods died, even then the sun could not move and follow his path.
Thus it became the charge of Ecalt, the wind, who arose and exerted himself fiercely and violently as he blew. At once
he could move him, who thereupon went on his way. And when he had already followed his course, only the moon remained
there. At the time when the sun came to enter the place where he set, then once more the moon moved. So, there,
they passed each other and went each one his own way. Thus the sun cometh forth once, and spendeth the whole day in
his work; and the moon undertaketh the night's task; he worketh all night; he doth his labor at night.
From this it appeareth, it is said, that the moon, Tecuciztecatl, would have been the sun if he had been
first to cast himself into the fire; because he had presented himself first and all his offerings had been costly in the penances.
Here endeth this legend and fable, which was told in times past, and was in the keeping of the old people.
(Sahagun's Florentine Codex, Book 7)
Man-like Gods and Deified Men in Mexican Cosmolore by Anna-Britta Hellbom