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Basic Information

Teotl is a fundamental concept in Aztec mythology, religion, and philosophy. The Aztecs made no distinction between "sacred" and "profane", or "supernatural" and "mundane". Instead, the entirety of the cosmos is an expression by a "force" they named "teotl". This force was fundamentally amoral and non-conscious, but by its nature it constantly recreated itself in numerous forms, including gods, humans, animals, rocks - everything that exists.

However, some things were "stronger" expressions of teotl than others. Turquoise, the feathers of the quetzal bird, poetry, "well-centered" people were stronger expressions than filth or "disordered" people (such as wastrels or drunkards). But that does not mean that the latter were not expressions of teotl, just less powerful ones (and indeed, filth was used in some "sacred rites" dedicated to the goddess of filth). Additional, beings or things were more strongly "rooted" in teotl if they had greater capacity for change - of themselves, or the world. "Change" does not mean "destruction" in this context - artistic creations were seen as powerful changes and thus a good artist was seen as being strongly rooted in teotl. Finally, because everything that existed was just an expressions of teotl, the gods themselves were not seen as fundamentally different from anything else that existed - just more powerfully rooted in teotl.

One implication of this is that the Aztecs had no notions of cosmological "Good" or "Evil". "Good" and "evil" acts or beings were not inherently good or evil by their very nature, but because they brought disorder to humans and human society. Their infamous human sacrifices must be seen in this context - they were seen as necessary because they empowered the Sun and other deities vital to human civilization.

See Also:


1. Aztec Philosophy @ The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Game and Story Use

  • While it wasn't the original inspiration, the parallels to Star Wars are obvious - so read up on Aztec Philosophy if you want to bring some actual philosophical discussions to your Star Wars campaign!
  • One implication is that beings that become more powerful become more firmly rooted in teotl - such as player characters in many fantasy games. Thus, you could argue that they become more "like the gods" as they rise in power/level!
    • This could justify "Detect Teotl" spells or powers in your game… which detect the level or challenge rating of the entity in question!
  • Compare to the concept of mana.
  • If you were designing an Aztec-themed magic system, you might have three mystical stats or resources: Teotl, tonalli, and teyolia.
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