At the time of the Spanish Conquest, the religion of the Aztecs was polytheistic, based on the worship of a multitude of personal gods, most of them with well-defined attributes. Nevertheless, magic and the idea of certain impersonal and occult forces played an important role among the people. There was, in addition, among the uneducated classes, a tendency to exaggerate polytheism by conceiving of as gods, also, what, to the priests, were only manifestations or attributes of one god. Today, in a like manner, images of a saint arc sometimes considered not only diitcrcnt but antagonistic, in spite of the fact that the Roman Catholic priest explains tbat the images arc only two different aspects of the same saint.
But if there was a magic and impersonal background in the religion of the Aztec people, as well as an exaggerated polytheism, there is also evidence of the efforts of the Aztec priests to reduce the multiple divinities to different aspects of the same god, for when they adopted the gods of conquered peoples or received gods from peoples of more advanced culture, the priests always tried to incorporate them, as did the Romans, into their own national pantheon, by considering them as diverse manifestations of the gods they had inherited from the great civilizations which preceded them and from which they had derived their culture.
Thus it was, for example, that the god of wine was doubtless for the Mexican priests a single god, called Ometochtli because of his calendar name, which means "Two Rabbit." Nevertheless, in the manuscript known as the Codex Magliabecchiano we find a great many gods of pulque, with the characteristics of the region whence they came and names derived from those same areas. Thus we have the famous Tepoztecatlor "he of the copper ax", who was the god of Tepoztlan, Morelosas well as Toltecatl, the god of Tula, and Yautecatl, the god of Yautepec.
Therefore, when Nezahualcoyotl built a temple in Texcoco upon a pyramid of nine terraces representing the nine heavens, he did not place in the sanctuary that crowned this pyramid any image representing the god, since "the one through whom all live" could not be portrayed and must be conceived as pure idea. Naturally this single god of Nezahualcoyotl did not have much following, nor did he affect the religious life of the people. The gods of philosophers have never been popular, for they arise from the need of a logical explanation of the universe, while the common people require less abstract gods who will satisfy their sentimental need for love and protection.