The World Has Been Destroyed On Four Separate Occasions, According To Aztec Mythology

If you were alive in 2012, there's a good chance you heard the theory that the apocalypse would happen that year, as the Mayan calandar predicted (via Scientific American). It's now a decade later, so it's safe to say we missed the end of the world at least for the time being. But in Aztec mythology, the world had already ended four times and was renewed each time. What happened to cause four world-ending events — and when is the world actually predicted to end? 

To explain this, let's go back to the very beginning. The Aztecs believed in the Legend of the Fifth Sun, which tells of four times the world was built up and then destroyed, according to Thought Co. There were the two creators named Tonacacihuatl and Tonacateuctli, who combined to form one god. This deity is often called Ometeotl, and is both male and female. The deities had four children called Tezcatlipocas, all boys, who they named after the four points on a compass: north, south, east, and west. It was these four who created the Earth and all the other gods, as History Collection notes. 

The First Sun

The first of these sons to rule the Earth was called the north, Black Tezcatlipoca, or Tezcatlipoca, per History Collection. He was the god of nighttime, the Earth, judgment, deceit, and sorcery. As Thought Co. writes, this god started the First Sun or Four Tiger time period. People who lived in this era, which operated in 52-year cycles, were all giants. Their only food staple was acorns. This world lasted almost seven centuries before the reign of west-ruling White Tezcatlipoca, or Quetzalcoatl, began.

These two brothers would go on to have a rivalry that spanned time and space, reports The Outline. Quetzalcoatl was jealous when Tezcatlipoca turned himself into the sun, and to get back at him, he smacked his brother from the sky. The world was then plunged into darkness as there was no sun, according to History Collection. Furious, Tezcatlipoca commanded the jaguars of the world to eat every giant, ending the world for the first time.

It was Quetzalcoatl's turn to be the sun now, and a few other gods created human beings to roam the Earth. For about 676 years it seemed like the humans were faring well, but then they stopped respecting the gods, which Quetzalcoatl didn't mind because he loved the humans anyway. But, his jealous brother, Tezcatlipoca, wouldn't stand for it and so he turned all the humans into monkeys for their insolence. Furious, Quetzalcoatl sent a roaring hurricane to end the world for the second time.

Tlaloc rules Earth

With the two bickering brothers once again annihilating the world, the other gods decided it was best if someone else ruled Earth for a while, as Thought Co. reports. This time they chose Tlaloc, the rain god, to be Earth's third sun. Tlaloc's Earth hosted humans again, who ate seeds that grew in watery conditions.

But after 364 years, it was time for the third ending. Tezcatlipoca had an affair with Tlaloc's wife, starting a fight between the two brothers (via History Collection). Tlaloc was despondent over losing his wife. His grief took the form of a drought, which was so intense that the humans began to desperately pray for a storm to rejuvenate the planet. Tlaloc just wanted to wallow in misery, and his people's prayers annoyed him. So he conjured up a hellish firestorm that killed all the people, leaving behind only birds who could fly high enough to escape the flames.

A flooded planet

The fourth world lasted another 676 years (via Thought Co.). This time the god Chalchiuthlicue — Tlaloc's new wife and incidentally also his sister — took over. Humans once again inhabited the Earth, subsisting on a diet of corn. Chalchiuthlicue was a caring goddess who loved the Earth's residents, but once again, Tezcatlipoca wasn't satisfied with someone else ruling Earth, according to History Collection. He mocked Chalchiuthlicue, saying she didn't actually love the humans and just wanted to be worshipped. 

Dismayed, she cried blood for over five decades, and her tears flooded the planet. For the fourth time, human life was eliminated from the world, leaving behind only fish.

Quetzalcoatl couldn't believe the world had ended for a fourth time, and yet again, it was under the influence of the god's sibling, Tezcatlipoca. Taking matters into his own hands, he traveled to the underworld to find and recover the remains of dead humans. He gathered up their bones, and, using his own blood, resurrected them.

Creation of the sun and moon

In order to decide who would rule the next world, the gods regrouped at Teotihuacan (per Thought Co.). A fire god started a blazing bonfire, and whichever god sacrificed themself would be crowned the newest sun of Earth. The more prominent gods hesitated, and so finally Nanahuatzin and Tecuciztecatl both sacrificed themselves to the flames. The other gods realized that the Earth couldn't have two suns, it would get too hot. So they let Nanahuatzin become the sun, and they threw a rabbit at Tecuciztecatl to turn him into the moon. That way, they could rule the Earth in tandem without overheating the inhabitants of Earth.

The world entered a new age — the fifth sun (via History Collection). A god named Huitzilopochtli got the chance to rule. But, the stars in the sky, called Tzitzimitl, were jealous of their brother, and waged war with him every single night. The stars rule the sky at night, but by each morning, Huitzilopochtli regains his place as the Earth's sun.

How and when will Earth end?

After four previous world-ending events, the Aztec people knew they needed to keep this fifth world intact (via History Collection). They began sacrificing humans for their various needs: If there was a drought, they would sacrifice a human or if there was a war, they would offer up a person to draw strength from all the gods. According to The Outline, religious leaders would gather hundreds of citizens and cut their hearts out in a ritualistic fashion. The Aztecs believed that if they missed even one day of human sacrifice, the world might end for the fifth time. So, how will the world end for the fifth time, according to Aztec mythology? 

History Collection reports that the gods did not reveal when the Earth would end for the fifth time. Per Scientific American, lots of people thought the world would end in 2012, because that was when the Mayan calendar ended. But instead, the calendar just reset to zero.

However, the Aztec beliefs do tell us how, if not when, the world will end. Thought Co. reports that the Earth as we know it will be taken out with a huge earthquake while flying beasts will pick off the human beings.