Where a man's soul went after death was not determined by his conduct in this life, according to the Aztecs, but rather by the manner of his death and his occupation in life.

The eastern and the western paradises of the sun have already been discussed. To the first, called Tonatiuhichan, "the house of the sun," went the souls of warriors who fell in combat or who died victims on the sacrificial stone. In gardens filled with flowers they are the daily companions of the sun, they fight sham battles, and when the sun rises in the East, they greet him with great shouts of joy and beat their shields loudly. When they return to earth after four years, they are transformed into hummingbirds and other birds with exotic plumage and feed upon the nectar of flowers. They are the privileged ones whom the sun has chosen for his retinue and live a life of pure delight.

The ancient ones said that the Sun calls them unto him so that they can live there in the sky with him, so that they can gladden his heart and sing in his presence and give him pleasure; they share a life of continued delight with him, they enjoy constant pleasures and taste and sip the nectar of all sweet-tasting and sweet-smelling flowers; never do they feel sad or experience any pain or sorrow, because they live in the mansion of the Sun, where there is an abundance of delights; and those who die in combat are honored in this manner here in this world, and this way of meeting death is much desired by many, and many envy those who so died and for that reason desire this death, since those who so die are held in great esteem. [Sahagun, Historia general de las Cosas de Nueva Espana, II, 140. Bernardino Sahagun, also known as Bernardino Ribeira (1499-1590), was a Franciscan friar born in Sahagun, Spain. He came to Mexico in 1529, only eight years after the conquest of Mexico City. He studied the Indian languages and collected the myths, legends, and traditions of the Indians from his Indian pupils and elders of the tribe. He became one of the New World's first anthropologists, linguists, and educators. His monumental work was not published until 1829, in Mexico. It is still one of the best sources of information on the Aztecs.]

Even the enemy warriors who died in combat or who were taken prisoners and sacrificed on the techcatl, the sacrificial stone, were honored in this paradise. For them there was a special god called Teoyaomi-qui, whose name means "the god of the enemy dead."

They were the ones who had been sacrificed to the sun, the men-stars, who, when they died, gave their lives to nourish the powerful warrior who does battle in the sky. For that reason they were the equal of the Aztecs who died in combat.

It is related that a generous young man from Huexotzinco, called Mix-coatl, died in combat with the Mexicans and that they killed him in battle, and so goes a song in his praise: "Oh, blessed Mixcoatl, well dost thou deserve to be praised in song and well dost thou deserve thy fame to be remembered in the world and well dost thou deserve that those who dance the areitos bring thee in their mouth, around the large drums and the small drums, so that you may appear and gladden the hearts of the noble and generous ones, thy relatives. Oh generous youth, worthy of all praise, who offered thy heart to the sun, clean as a string of sapphires, again thou wilt blossom forth and flower in the world and thou wilt come when the areito is sung and danced and among the large drums and the small drums of Huexotzinco wilt thou appear to the nobles and valiant men, and thy friends shall see thee.

Women who died in childbirth dwelled in the western paradise, called Cincalco, "the house of corn," where they occupied a prominent place. When they returned to earth, they did so at night, when they became frightful phantoms of ill omen, especially for women and young children. They were the cihuateteo, "the goddess-women," who are pictured as fearsome creatures with a skull for a head and hands and feet tipped with claws. However, before she became a goddess, a woman who died in childbirth had great magical power, since she had been the strong one who defeated the enemy. Young warriors tried to get possession of her right arm, because it would make them invincible in battle. That is why, when a woman who died in childbirth was buried, the funeral cortege was surrounded by the men of her clan, armed to the hilt. They had spent the entire night watching at the side of the dead woman to prevent ambitious young men from mutilating the corpse.

Those who died by drowning, by lightning, from leprosy or any other illness considered related to the water gods, went to Tlalocan, the paradise of Tlaloc. Located in the South, it was the place of fertility, where all kinds of fruit trees grew, where corn, beans, chia [A salvia used for seasoning food] and all other foodstuffs abounded.

From several magnificent paintings recently discovered in a temple at Teotihuacan, we can deduce that since the Teotihuacan epoch, that is, since approximately the sixth century after Christ, there had existed the idea of a place of delight, the Tlalocan, to which the dead repaired. These paintings illustrate what Sahagun relates in his history. A dry bough was placed on the tomb at the burial of the one who had been chosen by the rain god and who had died from any of the aforementioned diseases, or by an accident in the water, or by lightning. When the fortunate one reached the Elysian fields, that is, Tlalocan, the dry bough became green again, indicating that in this place of abundance he acquired a new life. After intoning a long song, no doubt of thanks to the god who makes all things grow, he joined his companions to enjoy a life of eternal happiness spent lolling beneath the trees heavy with fruit on the banks of the rivers of paradise; or he submerged in the waters of the lagoons far beyond death and passed the time singing with his companions, joining in their games, and sharing their pleasures. The life of those who had been summoned by Tlaloc was conceived of by the Aztecs, and before them the Teotihuacans, as one of abundance, serenity, and blessedness.

But those not selected by either the sun or Tlaloc merely went to Mictlan, which lies in the North. There the souls of the dead underwent a series of magical trials as they passed through several hells.

There were nine of these in which the soul must suffer before it reached, after a period of four years, its final rest.

In the first place, in order to reach Mictlan, the dead must cross a deep river, the Chignahuapan, which was the first of the trials to which the gods of the underworld subjected them. Thus a tawny-haired dog was buried with the dead, so that it could help its master cross the river. In the second realm, the soul had to pass between two mountains that were joined together; in the third, it must climb over a mountain of obsidian; in the fourth, the soul was subjected to an icy wind, so bitter that it cut like obsidian knives; in the fifth realm, the soul must pass through a place where flags waved; in the sixth, it was pierced by arrows; in the seventh hell were wild beasts that ate human hearts; in the eighth, the soul must pass over narrow paths between stones; and in the ninth and final hell, the Chignahumictlan, the souls found repose or disappeared forever.

A variety of amulets or charms were buried with the dead in order to help him endure the magical trials in the other world. He was given a jug of water for the journey, and his body was wrapped in a winding sheet in a squatting position, tightly secured with blankets and papers. Other papers helped him to pass through the clashing mountains, or the place guarded by the great snake, or where the green lizard called Xochitonal lay in wait, or over the nine bleak plains, Chicunaixtlahuaca, and over the nine hills. The garments that the deceased had worn in this life were burned, so that he would feel no cold when he passed through the place where the wind blew so cold it cut like a knife; a jade bead was placed in his mouth to serve as his heart, which he would doubtless leave as a pawn in the seventh hell, where the wild beasts devoured the hearts of men. And, finally, certain valuable objects were placed with the dead to be presented to Mictlantecuhtli or Mictecacihuatl when he should reach the end of his journey. Then the corpse and its effects were burned. The ashes and the jade bead were kept in an urn buried in one of the rooms of the house. Offerings were made to them eighty days after the burial, and thereafter once every year until the four years required for the journey to the beyond were over. After that, no further offerings were made.

Many were the gods and goddesses who lived in the various regions of the Aztec underworld. The most important were Mictlantecuhtli and Mictecacihuatl, "the lord and mistress of the underworld." Apparently they dwelled in the ninth realm, or the deepest of the subterranean chambers, known as the Chignahumictlan. But there were other gods of the dead who always appear in pairs, a god and a goddess who seem to have had dominion over the other parts of the underworld not quite so deep as that over which the first ruled.

Several of the names of these deities have come down to us; for example, Ixpuzteque, "he of the broken foot," and his wife, Nesoxochi, "the one who strews flowers." Another god is Nextepeua, "he who rains ashes," and his wife is Micapetlacalli, "the box of death." A third is called Tzontemoc, "he who fell head first," and his wife, Chalmecaci-huatl, "the sacrificer." And, finally we know that another of the gods of death was called Acolnahuacatl, "the one from the twisted region," but we do not know the name of his wife. These pairs of infernal gods remind us of those mentioned in the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Quiche Mayas, when the heroes Hunahpu and Xbalanque—descendants, on the maternal side, of one of the gods of the underworld—set out on the road to the infernal regions. When they arrived at the crossroads, they left the roads marked white, red, and green, which went to other regions, and took the road marked black, which led to Xibalba. There they found the fourteen gods of the underworld, who were also divided into pairs.

There is also evidence of the existence of thirteen heavens, but we are not told that the souls of men went there.

In the highest heaven, which was the double heaven, lived Omete-cuhtli and Omecihuatl, the creator gods. The souls of children who died before they reached the age of reason dwelled there. There, too, were men's souls engendered, nourished by a tree that gave forth milk. They are waiting until the present human race is destroyed in the final cataclysm ; then they will be reincarnated in a new human race.

Beneath this double heaven, which we should call the twelfth and thirteenth heavens, was the eleventh heaven, which was red. Beneath it was the tenth, which was yellow, and beneath it was the ninth, which was white. It is said that in the eighth heaven the obsidian knives were rattled. The seventh heaven, which was blue, was the abode of Huit-zilopochtli. Hence his temple on the great pyramid of Mexico was called Ilhuicatl Xoxouqui, or "blue heaven." The sixth was green; and in the fifth were errant stars, comets, and fire. In the fourth lived Huixtocihuatl, "the goddess of salt," who has already been mentioned. The third was the heaven through which the sun traveled; in the second were the stars, and there also lived Citlalatonac, the Milky Way, and Citlalicue, gods of the night sky, as well as the goddess who had the name "skirt of stars." And, finally, in the first heaven, that is, the one nearest the earth, the moon followed her course and the clouds formed.

The thirteen celestial gods who lived in the thirteen heavens and the nine lords of the underworld occupied a position of great importance in the calendar and gave their benevolent or evil character to the days with which they were associated.