Feeding The Aztec People

Now that human beings had been created for the fifth new world, they would need to eat in order to survive. So Quetzalcoatl and the other gods went exploring to find some way to feed this new race of people.

One day Quetzalcoatl spotted an ant carrying a big kernel of maize. Right away, he knew that this unusual food would be ideal to feed humans. Quetzalcoatl wanted to know where the ant got the corn. At first he simply asked the ant, but the ant refused to answer.

However, after repeated questioning, the ant agreed to take the god to the place where the corn grew, Mount Tonacatepetl (ton-ah-cah-TAPE-etel), or the “mountain of sustenance.” Quetzalcoatl then turned himself into an ant. That way he could follow the other ant into very small places to where the maize might be hidden.

The ant led the god into the recesses of Mount Tonacatepetl, where maize was growing in abundance. Quetzalcoatl also discovered beans, peppers, and all sorts of other foods which could be eaten by humankind.

Still in the form of an ant, Quetzalcoatl grabbed a kernel of corn and took it back to the humans to plant. He then informed the other gods of his wondrous discovery, and gleefully told them that he had also seen many other foods on Mount Tonacatepetl that could sustain people.

However, there was one big problem: How could all this food growing in abundance deep inside a big mountain be brought to the people? After all, only a creature as small as an ant would be able to reach the tempting supply of food.

Nonetheless, Quetzalcoatl embarked on a plan. He looped a giant rope around all of Mount Tonacatepetl and tried to pull the mountain to where the people lived. Since the mountain was so big, it would not budge, despite the god’s great powers.

So he asked the other gods for suggestions. A wise old pair of gods named Oxomoco (oh-shoh-MOH-ko) and Cipactonal (si-pak-TOH-nal) gave the problem a great deal of thought.

They decided that the answer was to break open the mountain, allowing men and women to have easy access to the food inside. So with all their combined power, the gods split open the rock that made up Mount Tonacatepetl and the huge bounty of food now appeared within reach of the people.

But there was one more problem. Opening the rock had angered the god of rain, Tlaloc. With great speed, Tlaloc and his children grabbed all the corn and other food from the inside of the mountain and took it with them before any people could get to it.

To this day, Tlaloc, the rain god, gives back the food to people only in amounts he sees fit to allow. Some years, when there is the right amount of rain, he is generous.

Other times, when there is too much rain, he teases the people with an overabundance of food, which rots before their eyes. When there is too little rain, Tlaloc acts selfishly by causing a shortage of the people’s staple food.

Although people now had food to keep them alive, the gods felt there was something missing. The human beings worked and survived, but nothing seemed to bring great happiness to their lives. What could be done?

Quetzalcoatl felt they needed something stronger in their diets. He decided to contact beautiful young Mayahuel, the goddess of the maguey.

Mayahuel lived in the sky with her evil grandmother, who was a tzitzimitl, a female demon who takes the shape of stars and represents evil in the world. Every morning, Mayahuel’s grandmother and her sister tzitzimime threaten to destroy the world by doing battle against the sun.

Mayahuel and her grandmother were sleeping when Quetzalcoatl arrived in their sky-house. He woke Mayahuel and convinced her to come with him to Earth. Upon reaching Earth together, they took the form of a large, two-limbed tree, each becoming a branch.

As soon as the grandmother awoke, she discovered that her precious Mayahuel was missing. In a fit of anger, the grandmother asked the rest of the tzitzimime to lead her to Earth to find her granddaughter.

The evil star demons zoomed to Earth and immediately found the tree where Mayahuel and Quetzalcoatl were hiding. Just as the demons arrived, the tree broke in half and the branches fell flat on the hard ground.

Outraged at her granddaughter for running away, Mayahuel’s grandmother viciously attacked the branch, breaking it into pieces. Then she allowed the other tzitzimime to further demolish the branch before eating parts of Mayahuel. When finished, the tzitzimime returned to their home in the sky.

Quetzalcoatl, who was never touched by the tzitzimime, converted himself into his usual god-like form. Quetzalcoatl made a simple grave for Mayahuel by burying her bare bones in a spot on the Earth. From her burial site, the first maguey plant grew. And from that maguey plant, the first pulque was made.

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