The Olmecs | Teotihuacan | Western Mexico
The Maya | Aztecs | Cosmology | The Maya Cosmos
THE MEXICA CONCEPT OF THE UNIVERSE

The Mexica concept of the universe differs profoundly from that of the western based, Judaic Christian view of the universe. Time was both linear and cyclical, and the universe was regulated by a complex calendar which included a 365 day solar year count and a 260 day divinatory count or calendar. These cycles coincided every 52 years, which constituted a complete cycle of time similar to our century. This cycle was marked by a New Fire Ceremony.

According to Mexica perceptions, the universe represented a structured, sacred space that was divided horizontally into quardrants by four sacred directions, and aligned vertically with complex worlds above and below the earth. The upper world, Ilhuicatl consisted of thirteen layers which rose above the earth, each of which had specific designations, such as the place of stars, the sun, the planets and at the upper most level, the home of the creator, Ometeotl, God of Duality. The lower or underworld, Mictlan was divided into 9 levels and where most human beings went after death. It sometimes is referred to as the afterworld.

The earth itself was visualized as a flat disc, surrounded by water. This terrestrial level of the cosmos was known as Cemanahuac, land surrounded by water. Supernatural forces from both above and below, could enter, and exit the earth through a number of places including mountains, caves, fire, animals, animal or reptilian secretions, plants or trees.

Moreover, through the construction of architectural forms, such as temple pyramids representing cosmic mountains, or through ceremony and ritual performance, the forces of the upper world and the lower world would enter the earth and impact human beings.