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                   1509 A.D.: The Aztecs Begin To See Signs of Doom







            Hernando Cortes, Spanish Conquistador and principal human conqueror of the Aztec Empire



  Most of us know that the Spanish defeated the Aztecs, and did so with a pretty small Spanish expeditionary force of about 600 men led by Hernando Cortes.  Most of us know that this Aztec Empire had hundreds of thousands of soldiers under its control within its Empire’s boundaries.  So we know it’s an odd thing.  But the United States public school systems have been pretty thoroughly sanitized of references to those things which praise God and Jesus, and have been doing that for close to 40 years now, so most of us never got to hear about the signs that the Aztec Empire received in the 10 years preceding 1519, when Cortes landed.  If we had, we probably could have made a pretty good guess as to who it was that brought about their downfall. 




Bernadino de Sahagun, Franciscan Priest, and Chronicler of the Aztec Empires' Fall



  Still, a Franciscan Friar  named Bernadino de Sahagun (or Sahagan sometimes) spoke with Aztec elders in the early 1500's and was able to compile eye witness accounts of these strange signs in a document that became known as the Florentine Codex.  This Codex also contains other history of the Aztecs and the Spanish invasion besides these discussions of the signs of disaster.  So, the very strange events the Aztecs observed are preserved, and through this God may be glorified as One who gives warnings to sinners, if only we stubborn sinners will heed Him!  



  Pages of the Codex Florentine



  A quick internet search of ‘signs the Aztec Empire received’ or ‘the 8 signs the Aztec’s received’, Florentine Codex, (or similar) will assist you in looking into this more thoroughly, but here’s a quick overview.  First, a little memory refresher:


             It’s hard to find a better historical adventure story than the story of Hernando Cortes’ defeat of the Aztec Empire.  The Aztec capitol, Tenochtitlan, was a beautiful city built in the middle of a lake on a largely man-made island at the site of today’s Mexico City.  It probably held about 300,000 people at the time of the conquest, and that made it a larger city than London or Paris, for instance, at that time - far larger in fact.  And it was easily one of the most beautiful cities in the world, served by canals passing in a grid system throughout the city.  The cities rectangles were linked by bridges, designed to let the boat traffic pass beneath.  Bridges connecting the city to the mainland could be raised for protection.


            It had a market district far larger than any the Spanish had seen in Europe, and the accounts surviving of the Spanish’ impression of the Aztec Empire is that they were overawed by the achievements of this foreign and exotic people - but quite willing to destroy it all for its wealth and treasure, and to gain possession of the land it ruled.


            Hernando Cortes was about 35 years old when he arrived.  He had been in Cuba for a few years already and had achieved an important position, and managed to become an enemy to the Spanish governor of Cuba, who twice ordered him jailed.  But Hernando had married into the governor’s family, (a cousin of sorts) and so escaped the worst of his wrath.  None the less, he had to ignore a ‘recall order’ from the governor to proceed with his invasion of Mexico.  And when it succeeded, he had to appeal to the rulers of Spain to forgive him, to escape the governors’s punishment.


          When Hernando departed to conquer and claim the Aztec empire, fame was on his mind, and increased stature and status - and wealth, of course.  He commanded approximately 600 soldiers, more aptly termed Conquistadores, with which to face one of Earth’s mightiest empires.  Hernando had some serious gumption.


        But what part did God play?  Why would God allow a fairly cruel people like the Spanish conquistadors to be Christianity’s inroad to the Mexican Americans?  Why would God send a harsh and essentially pirate-like group like this to destroy the Aztecs and their empire? 


Only God knows these answers.  But let’s remember His words to Jesus, though they are prophetic words found in the Psalms, for after Jesus was crucified:  “Sit at my right hand until I have made your enemies a footstool for your feet.”  The Aztecs were worshipers of many false gods, and certainly not worshipers of Jesus.  The Aztecs had descended from Noah just as everyone else had, and had given up the real God for false gods.  They sacrificed men by the tens of thousands atop their pagan pyramids, to the Sun, and to other gods.  The Spanish, with whatever terrible faults they may have possessed, were a people who knew of Jesus and believed in Him.  And their Spanish rulers acknowledged Him also. 

 God was apparently against the Aztec culture, against what the Aztec Empire and its people had let themselves become.  That much the Christian believer can know by default – God, who determines the course of history, let a large world empire be destroyed by a puny but daring force of people who acknowledged His son Jesus as Lord.  And what many people may never have heard is that, according to chroniclers from Europe who were able to talk to the older Aztecs who had lived before the Spanish came, God let the Aztecs know that something momentous, probably bad from their viewpoint, was coming their way.


Here is a list of signs and omens the Aztecs saw as recorded by Spanish chronicler and Franciscan priest Bernadino de Sahagan, in about 1528 A.D.:


1)                            About 10 years before the arrival of Cortes, a column of fire began to appear to the East at night.  It was wide at the base and narrower at the top.  It was stationary.  It began at about midnight and burned until daybreak.  It did so each night.  It did so for a full year, then it stopped.  They did not understand it, but they knew it was a powerful sign. 


                   {We can remember that God did lead ancient Israel as a pillar of cloud by day, and a column of fire at night for about 40 years. Deeds of God author}


2)                            A great temple called the Temple of Hitzilopochtli suddenly and unexplainedly caught fire.  But when they rushed to fight the fire, it was reported that water thrown upon the blaze acted like an accelerant, causing it to burn faster. 


                   {If you read the deeds God worked through Elijah and Elisha you come across an instance where God's heaven-sent fire licked up both the sacrifice and the water that had been poured onto it beforehand - this was done to shame the Baal worshipper priests, who could not get a fire to start, even on a pile of dry wood, when they appealed to their false God Baal. Deeds of God author}


3)                            The Temple of Xiuhtecuhtli, built of straw, was struck by lightening from a lightly clouded and drizzling sky, and it burned down.  No thunder was heard.  The people felt that this was a blow delivered by the Sun, and that the Sun must be unhappy.


4)                        Blazing objects moving in groups of 3 swept through the sky, traveling from West to East, and throwing off a large trail of sparks in a visually impressive way.


5)                            The winds began to furiously lash the lake next to the city, causing its water to froth and bubble, and by their report, to boil.  The waves striking against lake side houses caused the houses to collapse. 


                  {We can assume that these people knew what an ordinary wind and an ordinary storm were, since they lived in a nation sometimes struck by hurricanes! Deeds of God author}


6)                            The ghostlike voice of a woman began to be heard in their city streets at times during the night.  She would say “My children, we must flee from this city!”,or sometimes “My children, where shall I take you?”


7)                            Perhaps strangest of all, a bird was caught by fisherman, and brought to the rulers because it was so very strange that none like it had ever been seen.  It was ash grey in color and described as looking like a heron.  But on top of the crown of it’s head was a strange whorl shaped feature, the center of which was like a mirror. In this mirror could be seen the stars of the night sky at times, and at other times, a distant scene:  A plain, where a strangely dressed army of men riding beasts which looked like deer attacked another army of more normal looking soldiers.  (The Aztecs did not know the horse, and were very impressed and frightened by them when the Spanish appeared, later, mounted on horse back).  The Aztec sources said that this bird simply vanished in front of the Emperor and his court one day.


8)                            About a year before the Spanish arrived, there were instances where monstrously deformed strangers wandered the streets of Tenochtitlan on a number of occasions.  They had two heads, or two bodies apparently fused into one body.  They were taken into custody, and brought to the Emperor, but they too would then vanish.


            These were the 8 signs that the Empires survivors told the conquering Spanish that they had received in the years prior to the arrival of the Spanish. 


            Additionally, two signs from areas nearby:  an outlying subordinate province named Tlazcala saw signs of their own.  It began to be that a brightly glowing cloud would rise to the east, and sit stationary each night for about three hours, until daybreak, night after night.  It lasted for some months.


           Secondly, in Tlaxcala, a twisting column of dust was repeatedly seen to the east, shortly before the Spanish arrived.


           End of Codex Florentine signs.   

           The Aztecs had a 51 year cycle that they lived by.  Long ago, their legendary Quetzelcoatl had come, taught their people much, then he had left.  He left on the last year of a 51 year cycle, and he promised that he would one day return to them on the 51st year of a future cycle.  It was in fact the 51st year of a cycle again on the year that the Spanish landed in their ships.  Residents of the Eastern coast of the Empire brought the Emperor word that ‘islands with clouds above them’ (large Spanish ships with sails) were landed on the coast.  It was thought that this might possibly be the return of the gods.


              It’s a matter of record that the Aztecs were quite confused about whether to deal with the Spanish as an invading army, or to receive them with praise and gifts as befitted the arrival of gods.  The center of the empire and the Emperor (Monteczuma) himself chose to treat them as gods, and an Empire that could have easily defeated such a small force (even with it’s cannons and guns) went down in ruins because of this. 


             In truth, Cortes had allied himself with many of the nations that the Aztecs had subjugated, as he made his way from the coast towards Tenochtitlan, and he actually arrived at the city with a quite large conglomerated force because of this.  And he had an amazing local woman – a sort of Sacajawea precursor in some historical aspects – at his side as well; she was the mysterious Malinche (her original name) or Mariana.  She was politically astute and very perceptive, spoke Nahuatl which was the Axtec tongue, and gave Hernando crucially important advice about the politics and history of the area.  Through her, allies were gained.  Hernando eventually sired a child by her.



A Bust of La Malinche, Cortes' native translator, advisor, and lover for a time.  It is written that she is seen as traitor by some in Mexico, but as one who helped usher in Christianity by others there.  Once the daughter of the chief of a subjugated Aztec vassal tribe, through which she had become an educated woman, she had ended up a slave girl prior to the Spanish arriving.  As slave, she was given as a gift to the Spanish.  She was soon Cortes main interpreter. 



  The Aztecs saw amazing events.  But had God not sent these amazing signs to confuse, frighten, and put a sense of dread into their Aztec society, it is highly doubtful so small a force as Cortes’s Spaniards could have done what it did to the Aztecs.  Like the Canaanites of the Bible, who felt dread at the approach of the Israelites that Joshua led into the promised land, and as with the vast Midianite army faced by Gideon in the pages of the Bible, the fear of God was in the Aztecs before the Spanish arrived.  These signs are without argument amazing yet little remembered deeds of our mighty God. 





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