How Were the Sun and the Moon Created In Aztec Mythology and Why Did Tecuciztecatl Become the Moon?

Even after people and food were created, darkness still shrouded the world, and the gods discussed how they could provide light to the earth.

One god, Tecuciztecatl, arrogantly volunteered to become the sun. The other gods elected Nanahuatzin, a humble god who was crippled with disease.

Finally, the gods decided they would have a contest to see who would become the sun.

First, both gods did penance and purified themselves through sacrifices. Tecuciztecatl offered rare gifts of magnificent quality and beauty.

Nanahuatzin could only give cheap, common items. Tecuciztecatl dressed himself in lovely robes. Nanahuatzin wore simple clothing made from paper. After four days of sacrifice, a giant pyre was prepared. Both gods had to rush into the flames and whoever was purest would emerge as the sun.

Tecuciztecatl ran toward the leaping bonfire, but the flames and heat terrified him and he suddenly stopped. Humiliated, he backed up and tried again. He failed again.

The gods grew impatient and told Nanahuatzin to take his turn. Without pause, Nanahuatzin raced and jumped into the searing heat. Shamed, Tecuciztecatl followed him. Both gods were immediately consumed in the blaze.

The other gods waited eagerly for the dawn to see who would emerge as the sun. Gradually, the sky grew light, and a disc of blinding light appeared on the horizon.

It was Nanahuatzin. He no longer suffered illness as he blazed in the sky. But then another disc appeared on the horizon just as bright as Nanahuatzin. It was Tecuciztecatl. The gods suddenly worried that now there would be too much light.

One of the gods strode forward and threw a rabbit in front of Tecuciztecatl, dimming his brilliance. Thus, Tecuciztecatl became the moon, a lesser light than the sun.

Today, if you look closely at a full moon, you might be able to see the rabbit’s face.