Mixtec religion worshipped the forces of nature including life, death and an afterlife (Spores 1994:342). The deities were represented with images associated with war, the sun, human sacrifice, fertility, rain, wind, air, etc. (Id.). The sun was the deity held in the highest esteem (Id.). Humans were obligated "to maintain the balance among men, nature, and the supernatural world through conscious acts of private and social ritual" (Id. at 344). Blood sacrifice from the ears and tongue, and bird feathers were sometimes offered. Dances were sometimes given. Human and animal sacrifices were sometimes made including heart sacrifices (Id.).
The development and use of a calendar for astrological and divination purposes is illustrated by the lore surrounding the calendar round of 52 years and the yearly cycles (Id.). New fire ceremonies indicated a renewal of the world. People originally emerged from a natural world that was already existing (Id. at 344). There is no sequential creation, destruction, and recreation cosmology like the Maya. Principal gods besides those recounted above, included ones associated with the planets, war, health, fertility, weather, etc. Each community had its own deity associated with it and there is no hierarchy particularly apparent in the supernatural universe, unlike the Aztec religion.
Religious activity centered around temples, hermitages, and shrines in urban areas and caves, rivers, rocky promontories, mountaintops, and abandoned settlements elsewhere (Id.). The temple might also have what the Spaniards described as an "oracle" and "idols" (Burgoa 1674, vol.1:276). The death deity is sometimes shown cutting the heart out of the loser of a ball court game.
According to Spores: "The sacred caves, springs, peaks, groves, and unusual natural features associated with the supernatural realm had a great attraction for the Mixtecs and served as a vital foci of social integration" (Spores 1994:343). The building and use of urban temples, hermitages, and shrines probably also had the same ideological function of unifying the society.
The relative lack of stratification in the supernatural world may reflect a less hierarchically stratified society (Id. at 345). Ethics and good conduct was not particularly associated with religion and the conduct of the supernatural deities did not provide "models" of conduct as in some other cultures (Id.). Military wars of conquest, and captive sacrifice were justified by the religion which was interwoven with the control of the society by elites and promoted social unification with the construction of large public temples and building projects.