Aztec War Poetry


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The following “Song-Poems” are taken from the Cantares Mexicanos, a late 16th-century collection transcribed by a Franciscan monk, Bernardino de Sahagún – of  Náhuatl-language (Aztec) poetry known as “flower and song” (” xóchitl in cuícatl “):  stylized, symbolic poem forms composed and performed by nobles – including kings.   These song-poems were believed to be carriers of sacred ritual energy. (Original Source: “War is Like a Flower“)


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To the God of War:  Huitzilopochtli

Huitzilopochtli, the Warrior,
He who acts on high
Follows his own path.
Oh marvellous dweller among clouds,
Oh dweller in the region of the frozen wings.
He causes the walls of fire to fall down
Where the feathers are gathered.
Thus he wages war
And subdues the Peoples.
Eager for war, the Flaming One descends,
He rages where the whirling dust arises.
Come to our aid !
There is War, there is burning.
Those Pipitlan are our enemies…

Explanation of Terms:

Huitzilopochtli: Aztec god of War, from the Náhuatl words for

“hummingbird of the left-side/south-side” – the hummingbird being

known for its aggression, daring, and persistence

Pipitlan: a people to the south of Tenochtitlan (capital of the

Aztec Empire, site of present-day Mexico City)


Heart, have no fright.
There on the battlefield
I cannot wait to die
by the blade of sharp obsidian.
Our hearts want nothing but a war death.
You who are in the struggle:
I am anxious for a death
from sharp obsidian.
Our hearts want nothing but a war death.


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Sacred crazy flowers,
flowers of bonfires,
our only ornament,
war flowers.


How do they fall? How do they fall?
These hearts, ripe fruit for harvest**.
Look at them,
These fall, the hearts — oh our arrows
These fall, the hearts — oh our arrows.

Explanation of Terms: **These hearts, ripe fruit for harvest  –  a reference to the

human hearts that must be offered to Tonatiuh – the Sun god –

to ensure he will make his daily journey across the sky;

Tlaloc, the Rain god, also required human hearts – and

Waging War was the surest method to get them…)


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Where are you going? Where are you going?
To war, to the sacred water.
There our mother, Flying Obsidian,
dyes men, on the battlefield.
The dust rises
on the pool of flame,
the heart of the god of sun is wounded.
Oh Mactlacueye, oh Macuil Malinalli!
War is like a flower.
You are going to hold it in your hands.

Explanation of Terms: Mactlacueye  –  volcano north of the present-day city of Puebla;

locally known as La Malinche

Macuil Malinalli  –  a friend of Aztec King Nezahualpilli (1465-1515)

One response

  1. Pingback: Cemican – “Mixteco” (Aztec Metal!) | Metal Gaia

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