Nahua Duality and “Ometeotl”

David Bowles
8 min readOct 9, 2023

It’s become popular to deny that the Dual God Ometeotl was ever a thing. Many folks argue that scholar Miguel León-Portilla invented the deity to support what he wanted to believe about Aztec religion.

And I agree that Dr. León-Portilla was absolutely wrong to affirm that there was a seldom-mentioned, secretly worshipped supreme Aztec creator deity. The evidence is overwhelming that in the Triple Alliance, three gods led the pantheon: Huitzilopochtli, Tezcatlipoca, and Tlaloc. And creation had been carried out under the supervision of Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca. The other divine forces revered in Tenochtitlan did not include Ometeotl, as far as we can tell from the evidence that survived the Spanish Invasion.

However, I think I can show that the name Ometeotl—as a label for one of many divine dualities—did actually exist.

So you can grasp my argument, I need to teach you a BUNCH of stuff, so strap in. This will be a doozy.

As a preamble, you should know that duality plays a huge role in many indigenous Mesoamerican religions. Both K’iche’ Maya and Nahua texts feature creator dyads, for example.

The Maya dyads often share one basic name, prefixed with hun (“one”) and wukub (“seven”) as individuals to signal that they are two-in-one. For example, Hun Kame and Wukub Kame (death gods) or Hun Hunahpu and Wukub Hunahpu (corn gods … with Hun being generative and Wukub being a sort of sterile helper).

From the Codex Chimalpopoca, we know that Toltec King Ce Acatl (considered the incarnation of Quetzalcoatl) along with his sister Quetzalpetlatl worshipped a series of divine dyads, including the following:

  • Citlalinicue (Star Skirt) and Citlallatonac (Star Place Abundance)
  • Tecollaquenqui (Covered in Charcoal) and Eztlaquenqui (Covered in Blood)
  • Tlalichcatl (Earth Cotton) and Tlallamanac (Earth Foundation)

Plus another pair that we’ll come to later.

Elsewhere, I’ve written of other male/female aspect pairs, like Xochiquetzal—Xochipilli or Mictecacihuatl—Mictlanteuctli.

But individual gods THEMSELVES were often seen as dual (male/female). Here are some quotes:

“in tonān, in totah, in tōnatiuh” — Our mother, our father, the Sun.

“in tonān, in totah in Mictlāntēuctli” — Our mother, our father, the Sovereign of the Dead Land.

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David Bowles

A Mexican American author & translator from South Texas. Teaches literature & Nahuatl at UTRGV. VP of the Texas Institute of Letters.