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Atl: The Aztec Day of Purification and Conflict

Atl, meaning water, is a sacred day for purification and the 9th day in the Aztec tonalpohualli, the divinatory calendar. Governed by the Fire God Xiuhtecuhtli, it was regarded as a day for confrontation, conflict and clearing up unresolved issues.  

What is Atl?

The Mesoamerican civilization used a sacred calendar known as tonalpohualli, which had 260 days. The total number of days was divided into 20 trecenas (13-day periods). The starting day of each trecena was represented by a symbol and governed by one or more deities.

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Atl, also called Muluc in Maya, is the first day sign of the 9th trecena in the Aztec calendar. Atl is a Nahuatl word meaning ‘water’, which is also the symbol associated with the day.

The Mesoamericans believed that Atl was a day for them to purify themselves by facing conflict. It was considered a good day for battle, but a bad day to be idle or rest. It’s associated with the internal and external holy war as well as with battle.  

Governing Deity of Atl

The day Atl is ruled by the Mesoamerican god of fire, Xiuhtecuhtli, who also provides it with its tonalli, meaning life energy. In Aztec mythology, Xiuhtecuhtli, also known by many other names including Huehueteotl and  Ixcozauhqui, was the personification of warmth in the cold, life after death, food during famine, and light in the darkness. He is the god of fire, heat, and day.

Xiuhtecuhtli was one of the oldest and most highly revered gods and the patron god of the great Aztec emperors. According to the myths, he lived inside an enclosure made of turquoise stones and fortified himself with turquoise bird water. He was typically depicted dressed in turquoise mosaic with a turquoise butterfly on his chest and a turquoise crown.

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Aside from governing the day Atl, Xiuhtecuhtli was also the patron of day Coatl of the fifth trecena.

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.