Tag Archive: aztec mythology


Goddess Tonatzin

“Tonatzin’s themes are religious devotion and blessings. Her symbols are soil and light.  An ancient mother figure who nurtures people and all that dwells in the land, Tonatzin is the life and light of the world. Today She joins our festival as the originator of this holiday, Tonatzin.

Juan Diego, a Native American convert, was surprised when this Goddess appeared to him in 1531 in an ancient site of pagan worship and requested that the temple be rebuilt [Basilica of Guadalupe]. Juan Diego believed this apparition was Mary, and therefore he did as She commanded. To this day, people come here at this time of the year for the Goddess’s blessing.

While most of us cannot travel to Mexico just to implore Tonatzin, there is nothing that says we can’t honor and invoke Her at hour own home. Light a candle or lamp and place before it a potted plant or bowl of soil. This configuration represents Tonatzin’s presence in your home throughout that day. From here She can illuminate the shadows and generate the light of hope and joy for all whose who live here.

Carry a seed and some soil wrapped in a green cloth with you today. Name the seed after any earth quality you want to develop in your life, such as strong foundations or emotional stability. When you get home, put the seed and soil in a planter or your garden. Tonatzin’s magic is there to manifest growth for the seed and your spirit!”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

“Tonantsin Renance” mural by Colette Crutcher and the Instituto Pro Musica de California

“In Aztec mythology and among present-day Nahuas, Tonantzin ‘Our Revered Mother’ is a general title bestowed upon female deities. Informants of Sahagún, for example, called a frightening Goddess of war and childbirth, Cihuacoatl, by this title. The title is particularly believed to refer to Mother Earth.

Goddesses such as ‘Mother Earth’, the ‘Goddess of Sustenance’, ‘Honored Grandmother’, ‘Snake’, ‘Bringer of Maize’ and ‘Mother of Corn’ can all be called Tonantzin. Other indigenous names include Chicomexochitl (‘Seven Flowers’) and Chalchiuhcihuatl (‘Woman of Precious Stone’). A Tonantzin was honored during the movable feast of Xochilhuitl.

Mexico City‘s 17th-century Basilica of Guadalupe –built in honor of the Virgin and perhaps Mexico’s most important religious building—was constructed at the base of the hill of Tepeyac, believed to be a site used for pre-Columbian worship of Tonantzin. Coatlaxopeuh meaning ‘the one who crushes the serpent’ and that it may be referring to the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl.” [1]

There is an interesting story told of this encounter between Juan Diego and Tonantzin.  “The story is told in the Nican Mopohua, a poem written in Nahuatl (the Aztec language)…most probably written in 1556 by the Nahuatl native speaker Antonio Valeriano.

“Tonantzin Guadalupe” by Estrella Apolonia

In the poem the Lady not only appears as an ordinary dark-skinned indigenous woman and speaks to Juan Diego in his Nahuatl mother tongue but She treats him with affection and respect, as an equal. (She speaks to him standing up; if She had been a noble, She would have received him sitting down.) She addresses him in familiar language, using many diminutives, like a mother. The indigenous Nahuatl people had seen their world destroyed, their great capital city in ruins, their culture and religion smashed. An estimated population of 25 million when the Spaniards arrived declined by the end of the century to 1 million from conquest, disease and suicide. The psychological trauma must have been devastating. But the Lady tells Juan Diego She is the Mother both of the Christian god (Dios) and the supreme Nahuatl god and She repeats some of that god’s highest titles (Life-Giver, Creator of Humanity, Lord of the Near and Together, Lord of Heaven and Earth). When Juan Diego says he is of too humble status to speak to the bishop, She insists he is Her chosen messenger and he ends up carrying the good news to the bishop (‘evangelising’ him). The Lady represents the female aspect of the divinity (the Nahuatl supreme divinity Ometeotl being both male and female – the Divine Pair), the nurturing Earth Mother. She tells Juan Diego: ‘I am your kind mother and the mother of all the nations that live on this Earth who would love me.’ She accords the poor equal, or even greater, dignity than the rich and equally assumes both Christian and Nahuatl names of the great ‘Life-Giver’.” [2]

Post- and Pre-Hispanic Mothers-in-Lore

 

 

Sources:

Livingstone, Dinah. Sofn.org.uk, “Tonantzin Guadalupe – ‘Our Mother’“.

Wikipedia, “Tonantzin“.

 

 

Suggested Links:

Barnett, Ronald A. Mexconnect.com, “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Tonantzin or the Virgin Mary?

Maestas, Julia. Beinglatino.us, “Guadalupe or Tonantzin: Culture, Identity and Feminine Empowerment“.

Mexicolore.co.uk, “The Virgin of Guadalupe and Tonantzin“.

Wikipedia, “Huei tlamahuiçoltica“.

Goddess Tonacacihuatl

“Mictecacihuatl” by *RadiusZero

“Tonacacihuatl’s themes are ghosts, death and hope. Her symbols are flowers and all symbols of death.  In Mexico this Goddess’s name means ‘Our Lady of Flesh’. Tonacacihuatl is a creatrix who gives life to all things and to whom the spirits of children return at death.

Part of a weeklong festival for the dead, Angelitos Day is specifically focused on departed children. If there is a child who had passed over and who was special to you somehow, make cakes or foods that feature symbols of death and leave them in a special spot. This invites Tonacacihuatl to release that child’s spirit for the day and welcomes the souls of the departed to the festival.

Put out the child’s picture in a place of honor with a candle nearby to help light their way. Cook and eat the young one’s favorite foods, leave a lamp lit near your threshold, and strew flowers (especially marigolds or dandelions) on the walkway to guide the child’s spirit back home.

According to tradition, eating hen or chicken today ensures a visitation by ghosts, because then the bird can’t crow loudly and frighten away the spirits! In all due caution, however, you might want to keep a little salt, violet petals, sage, or ginseng handy to banish any unwanted ghostly guests.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

“Tonacacihuatl” by Tlisza Jaurique

Tonacacihuatl (pronounced toe-na-ka-SEE-wah-tl) is primaeval female principle, or Goddess of creation in Aztec mythology.  By some accounts, She was the mother of CamaxtliHuitzilopochtliQuetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca.  She combined with Her husband, Tonacatecuhtli, created life on earth and, in some accounts, is identified with Omecihuatl. This Goddess lived in the highest of the thirteen Aztec heavens.

She and Her husband have the task of transferring the souls of infants from Heaven to the womb of the mother.

 

* The first picture is actually of another Aztec Goddess, Mictecacihuatl, but I really wanted to use it as I believe She is an appropriate Goddess for this time of year.  “In Aztec mythology, Mictecacihuatl (pronounced ‘Meek-teka-see-wahdl’ or ‘Meek-teka-kee-wadl’) is Queen of Mictlan, the underworld, ruling over the afterlife with Mictlantecuhtli, another deity who is designated as Her husband.

Her role is to keep watch over the bones of the dead. She presided over the ancient festivals of the dead, which evolved from Aztec traditions into the modern Day of the Dead after synthesis with Spanish cultural traditions. She is said now to preside over the contemporary festival as well. Mictecacihuatl is known as the Lady of the Dead, since it is believed that She was born, then sacrificed as an infant. Mictecacihuatl was represented with a defleshed body and with jaw agape to swallow the stars during the day.” [1]

 

Sources:

Mythologydictionary.com, “Tonacacihuatl“.

Wikipedia, “Mictecacihuatl

 

Suggested Links:

Holmer, Rick. The Aztec Book of Destiny.

Quipoloa, J. Amoxtli.org, “The Aztec Universe“.

Ruiz de Alarcón, Hernando. Treatise on the Heathen Superstitions that Today Live Among the Indians Native to This New Spain.

Wikipedia, “Santa Muerte“.

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