Close up of an obsidian stone

Gems of the Aztecs

Gems of the Aztecs

If you want to know how the other half lived, the best way to find out is through their jewelry. As with most ancient cultures it’s the rich and powerful who had the best access to the finest craftsmanship. That means you can tell a lot about the best educated people of the time by examining the materials and construction of their “bling”.



The Aztecs made their jewelry from metal such as gold and copper. Then they added other materials for effect. They were skilled craftspeople and took whatever they could lay their hands on including organic materials like shell, clay and wood for their ornaments. However, the finest pieces were usually made using Jade or Obsidian. These would definitely have been off limits to the masses given their relative scarcity.

Obsidian is a volcanic glass. During a volcanic eruption some areas of lava cool much more quickly than others. When lava cools like this there’s no chance of forming complex crystals and the resulting material tends to be hard but brittle as a result. When you fracture obsidian it results in extremely hard sharp edges. That made it the perfect material for weaponry and tool making. Obsidian can be broken in very predictable ways and its availability may explain why Mesoamerican tribes had relatively poor metallurgical skills compared to other races.

The use of obsidian is often cited in theories regarding artwork in Mesoamerica. It has been found in ear spools, jeweled beads, vases, buildings, and sculpture. One interesting use for the gem is in the detail found on ritual blades from the Aztec period, these are called itz in the Nahuatl Language of the time. Interestingly obsidian is called itztli in the same language and the two are intimately connected in the understanding of Aztec tribes.

Mahogany Obsidian Wrapped in Copper

Mahogany Obsidian Wrapped in Copper

Healing Properties

There are many healing properties associated with Obsidian. This includes the ability to shield a person from negativity. It prevents psychic attacks and cleans up the energy in your environment. If you want to work with it – it’s best to clean it in water.

I’ve found that obsidian is a wonderful companion for meditation it helps you draw out your stress and mental tension. That helps your mind return to rest without confusion. If you want to explore your true-self you can slowly cleanse yourself of negative thoughts focusing on the gem. It might be best for first-timers to ground it with rose quartz as the process can be a little overwhelming for the unprepared.

You can also wear the gem to ward off arthritis and joint pain. It really does help with cramps and I’ve found that it warms the fingers gently.

I’d like to share a personal experience with Obsidian. It was a mixture of types with a gentle infusion of snowflake, mahogany and black. I wrapped it when my mother was alive and well. I found that each time I wore it, that the energy was too heavy on me and it could even cause headaches.

A few months later my mother was lying sick in a hospice. I sat by her bedside and watched as she fell into a coma and the monitors began to go crazy. I suddenly knew that I was going to lose my mother. Her heart had stopped and I was losing one of the most important people in my life. I’d prepared some gemstones as healing aids but without even looking I grabbed the obsidian and pulled it to me. The respite it brought was immediate. All the worry, all the negative energy in me drained away. My initial hysteria was replaced with a deep calm. In fact the nurses began to worry about me – they thought I’d gone into shock. I hadn’t and they were relieved to see how much the stone had helped.



Jade’s a very different substance. It’s highly sought after and very much prized to this very day. There are two types of Jade; Nephrite and Jadeite. Jadeite is as hard as quartz whereas Nephrite is softer and easier to work with. In Aztec times both forms were considered to be the same, it took until the 19th century for a French mineralogist to determine that there were two distinct chemical forms of Jade.

In Mesoamerican cultures Jade would have been highly prized and extremely expensive. It was often used for tracing the outlines of hieroglyphics or shaped into the forms of gods. It would have been a serious addition to religious rituals. Jade sculptures abound from this period – people, gods, shamanic transformations, plants, animals and even the abstract can be found among the remains of the Aztec civilization.

Jade Wrapped in .925 Sterling Silver

Jade Wrapped in .925 Sterling Silver

Healing Properties

As a healing gem Jade is known to symbolize purity and serenity. Like Obsidian, Jade can be used for protection. It can also help you develop loving and nurturing feelings. It brings harmony while ensuring the wearer is safe from harm. It attracts good luck, friendships and money.

I find that it enables me to be more self-sufficient and that it soothes my mind by helping me let go of negative thoughts. It’s a wonderful dream stone and I’ve always had the most insightful dreams when wearing Jade.

A great use of Jade is to encourage emotional release so that you can revel in personal bliss. It seems to have wonderful properties for the filtration and elimination organs and can really help with kidney problems. If you’re expecting then it is truly awesome for childbirth. Many others swear by Jade’s value in balancing their bodily fluids.

The Aztecs were definitely onto something when they began incorporating these two healing gems into their jewelry. It explains why they were able to achieve so much when their rulers were constantly being cleansed of negative energy.


Johnna Crider.


jcknife2Johnna is an artist who creates jewelry with wire and gems and minerals. Will you be her canvas? Let her decorate you in gems and minerals and turn you into a work of art. As an artist she is constantly learning new techniques, as well as about minerals, and about life.

Visit Johnna’s website here.

Aztec Ball Game

“Five Dances with Death”: Prologue

Late Summer 1516

I had challenged Talon to the ballgame because my daughter Dew had been his slave as long as she knew how to walk.

At that time, I wasn’t yet the military leader of Tlaxcala, our small nation still unconquered by the Mexica, but I was already entrusted with an army of eight thousand warriors. Talon, himself a commander of a large Mexica garrison at our border, seemed delighted to test his strength against such an enemy as I.

We believed the ballgames foretold the outcome of wars, and our war with the Mexica was about to resume after the harvest celebrations. They had invited us to their festival under the pretext of praying together for a good crop. But we knew they really wanted us to witness the sacrifice of our warriors captured in the last war season. We knew they wanted us to understand the futility of our resistance and to lose our will to fight. The enemy’s lavish display of power didn’t disturb us, however. We only came to get my daughter back.

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Five Concepts of Aztec Thought

This post comes from the Aztec Creation Story series, and explores the key concepts that help understand the way Aztecs thought about themselves.

1. The cyclical nature of time

In our modern-day culture, and in the environment that surrounds us, time is linear. We number our days, months, and years precisely, and we believe events have clear causes and effects. Even seismic phenomena such as Global Warning, according to many, happen because of our own actions or behavior—“cause and effect”. We believe we’re at the center of Creation.

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Aztec Creation Story

You don’t have to believe recent attempts to portray Aztecs as being depressed, repressed, routine-driven folk with only a semblance of free will.

If you did your own homework, you’d know that they were vigorous people who achieved great military and economic distinction, as well as artistic, religious and philosophical preeminence.

You may call it primitive philosophical thought if you wish, but the point remains that it wasn’t primitive at the time. For example, they were not simple enough minds to just accept the world the way our priests interpreted it to them.

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Who Were the Aztecs?

Let’s define who the Aztecs were.

What is today referred to as the Aztecs were the seven tribes of Central America, united by the common Nahuatl language and the nomadic origins in the deserts of North Mexico.

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The name derives from “Quetzal”, and “Coatl”.

Quetzal is a beautiful bird with magnificent tail feathers of mostly greens and tinges of blue and different colors. Because the bird was so rare and lived in the remote rainforest around what is now Guatemala, the word “quetzal” also point to something precious. For example, a child could be affectionately called a quetzal plume.

As for “Coatl”, this was a reference to a serpent. Other times it would also mean a twin.

For reference: “quetzalli” are the long, glorious tail feathers of the quetzal bird.

Several different references of the name Quetzalcoatl were common, most notably that of the “Feathered Serpent”. The quetzal birds may indeed look like serpents when they take flight into the air, their sleek long tails swerving through the air like snakes.

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