Tlaloc

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Fragments of a brazier depicting Tlaloc from Stage IVB of the Templo Mayor in Mexico City.
For the fictional character from the Legends of Dune books, see Titan (Dune)#Tlaloc.

Tlaloc (Classical Nahuatl: Tlālōc [ˈtɬaːloːk]) [1] was an important deity in Aztec religion; a god of rain, fertility, and water. He was a beneficent god who gave life and sustenance, but he was also feared for his ability to send hail, thunder, and lightning, and for being the lord of the powerful element of water. Tlaloc is also associated with caves, springs, and mountains, in which he was believed to reside. He is known for having demanded child sacrifices.[2]

The cult of Tlaloc is one of the oldest and most universal in ancient Mexico. Although the name is Aztec, the idea of a storm god especially identified with mountaintop shrines and with life-giving rain is as old as Teotihuacan. Tlaloc means "he who is the embodiment of the earth."[citation needed] This suggests that the deity was identified with the earth and ground water before evolving into a mountaintop rain god. In fact, an underground Tlaloc shrine has been found at Teotihuacan.[3]

In Aztec cosmology, the four corners of the universe are marked by "the four Tlalocs" (Classical Nahuatl: Tlālōquê [tɬaːˈloːkeʔ]) which both hold up the sky and function as the frame for the passing of time. Tlaloc was the patron of the Calendar day Mazatl. In Aztec mythology, Tlaloc was the lord of the third sun which was destroyed by fire.

Additionally, Tlaloc is thought to be one of the patron deities of the trecena of 1 Quiahuitl (along with Chicomecoatl). Trecenas are the thirteen-day periods into which the 260-day calendar is divided. The first day of each trecena dictates the augury, or omen, and the patron deity or deities associated with the trecena.[4]

In the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, one of the two shrines on top of the Great Temple was dedicated to Tlaloc. The high priest who was in charge of the Tlaloc shrine was called "Quetzalcoatl Tlaloc Tlamacazqui." It was the northernmost side of this temple that was dedicated to Tlaloc, the god of rain and agricultural fertility. In this area, a bowl was kept in which sacrificial hearts were often placed because if it were to rain, the gods who delivered the rain would need to be fed, for these people believed everything in nature was alive.[5] Although Templo Mayor had its northern section dedicated to Tlaloc, the most important site of worship of the rain god was on the peak of Mount Tlaloc, a 4100-meter-high mountain on the eastern rim of the Valley of Mexico. Here the Aztec ruler came and conducted important ceremonies once a year, and throughout the year pilgrims offered precious stones and figures at the shrine. Many of the offerings found here also related to water and the sea.[6]

Representations[edit]

In Aztec iconography, Tlaloc is usually depicted with goggle eyes and fangs. He is most often coupled with lightning, maize, and water in visual representations and artwork. Tlaloc is thought to be one of the most common and appreciated of all deities at Teotihuacan and it is specifically here, in Teotihuacan, that representations of Tlaloc often show him having jaguar teeth and features. This differs from the Maya version of Tlaloc, however, as the Maya version shows no specific relation to jaguars. The inhabitants of Teotihuacan thought of thunder as the rumblings of the jaguar and associated thunder with Tlaloc as well. It is likely that this god was given these associations because he is also known as "the provider" among the Aztecs.[7] Offerings dedicated to Tlaloc in Tenochtitlan were known to include several jaguar skulls and even a complete jaguar skeleton. Jaguars were considered the ultimate sacrificial animal due to their value.[8]

Tlaoc's impersonators often wore the distinctive mask and heron-feather headdress, usually carrying a cornstalk or a symbolic lightning bolt wand; another symbol was a ritual water jar. Along with this, Taloc is manifested as boulders at shrine-sites, and in the Valley of Mexico the primary shrine of this deity was located atop Mount Tlaloc.[9]

In Coatlinchan, a colossal statue weighing 168 tons was found that was thought to represent Tlaloc. However, one scholar believes that the statue may not have been Tlaloc at all but his sister or some other female deity. This statue was relocated to the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City in 1964.[10]

Mythology[edit]

In Aztec mythic cosmography, Tlaloc ruled the fourth layer of the upper world, or heavens, which is called Tlalocan ("place of Tlaloc") in several Aztec codices, such as the Vaticanus A and Florentine codices. Described as a place of unending springtime and a paradise of green plants, Tlalocan was the destination in the afterlife for those who died violently from phenomena associated with water, such as by lightning, drowning, and water-borne diseases.[11] These violent deaths also included leprosy, venereal disease, sores, dropsy, scabies, gout, and child sacrifices.[12]

The Nahua believed that Huitzilopochtli could provide them with fair weather for their crops and they placed an image of Tlaloc, who was the rain-god, near him so that if necessary, the war god could compel the rain maker to exert his powers [13]

Etymology[edit]

Tlaloc, as shown in the late 16th century Codex Ríos.

Tlaloc was also associated with the watery world of the dead and with the earth. His name is thought to be derived from the Nahuatl word tlālli "earth", and its meaning has been interpreted as "path beneath the earth," "long cave," or "he who is made of earth."[14] J. Richard Andrews interprets it as "one that lies on the land," identifying Tlaloc as a cloud resting on the mountaintops.[15] Other names of Tlaloc were Tlamacazqui ("Giver")[16] and Xoxouhqui ("Green One");[17] and (among the contemporary Nahua of Veracruz), Chaneco.[18]

Rites and rituals[edit]

The Tlalocan-bound dead were not cremated as was standard custom, but instead were buried in the earth with seeds planted in their faces and blue paint covering their foreheads. Their bodies were dressed in paper and accompanied by a digging stick for planting put in their hands.

Tlaloc, Collection E. Eug. Goupil, 17th century

The second shrine on top of the main pyramid at Tenochtitlan was dedicated to Tlaloc. Both his shrine, and Huitzilopochtli′s next to it, faced west. Sacrifices and rites took place in these temples. The Aztecs believed Tlaloc resided in mountain caves, thus his shrine in Tenochtitlan’s pyramid was called "mountain abode." Many rich offerings were regularly placed before it, especially those linked to water such as jade, shells, and sand. Mount Tlaloc, the jewel in the crown of Tlaloc’s places of worship, was situated directly east of the pyramid. It was 44 miles away and a long road connected the two places of worship. On it was a shrine containing stone images of the mountain itself and other neighboring peaks. The shrine was called Tlalocan, in reference to the paradise. Also to be found inside its walls were four pitchers containing water. Each pitcher would bring a different fate if used on crops: the first would bring forth a good harvest, the second would rot it, the third would dry the harvest out, and the final one would freeze it. Sacrifices that took place here were thought to favor early rains.

The "Atlcahualo" was celebrated from the 12th of February until the 3rd of March. Dedicated to the Tlaloque, this veintena involved the sacrifice of many children on sacred mountaintops. The children were beautifully adorned, dressed in the style of Tlaloc and the Tlaloque. On litters strewn with flowers and feathers; surrounded by dancers, they were transported to a shrine and their hearts would be pulled out by priests. If, on the way to the shrine, these children cried, their tears were viewed as signs of imminent and abundant rains. Every Atlcahualo festival, seven children were sacrificed in and around Lake Texcoco in the Aztec capital. They were either slaves or the second-born children of nobles.

The festival of Tozoztontli (24 March – 12 April) similarly involved child sacrifice. During this festival, offerings were made in caves. The flayed skins of sacrificial victims that had been worn by priests for the last twenty days were taken off and placed in these dark, magical caverns.

The winter "veintena" of Atemoztli (9 December- 28 December) was also dedicated to the Tlaloque. This period preceded an important rainy season and so statues were made out of amaranth dough. Their teeth were pumpkin seeds and their eyes, beans. Once these statues were offered copal and fine scents, prayed to, and adorned, food was presented before them.

Afterwards, their doughy chests were opened, their "hearts" taken out and, finally, their bodies cut up and eaten. The ornaments with which they had been adorned were taken and burned in peoples’ patios. On the final day of the "veintena," people celebrated and held banquets.[19]

Related gods[edit]

Archaeological evidence indicates Tlaloc was worshiped in Mesoamerica before the Aztecs even settled there in 13th century AD. He was a prominent god in Teotihuacan at least 800 years before the Aztecs.[20] This has led to Meso-American goggle-eyed rain gods being referred to generically as "Tlaloc," although in some cases it is unknown what they were called in these cultures, and in other cases we know that he was called by a different name, e.g., the Mayan version was known as Chaac and the Zapotec deity as Cocijo.

Chalchiuhtlicue or "she of the jade skirt," was the deity connected with the worship of ground water. Her shrines were therefore by springs, streams, irrigation ditches, or aqueducts, the most important of these shrines being at Pantitlan, in the center of Lake Tetzcoco. Sometimes described as Tlaloc's sister, Chalchiuhtlicue was impersonated by ritual performers wearing the green skirt that identifies the deity. Like that of Tlaloc, this cult was linked to the earth, fertility and nature's regeneration.[21]

Tlaloc was first married to the goddess of flowers, Xochiquetzal, which literally translates to "Flower Quetzal." Xochiquetzal personifies pleasure, flowers, and young female sexual power. In doing so, she is thought to oversee pregnancies and childbirths and act as a guardian figure for new mothers. Unlike many other female Aztec deities, Xochiquetzal maintains her youthful looks and is often depicted in opulent attire and gold adornments.[22]

Tlaloc was the father of Tecciztecatl. He had an older sister named Huixtocihuatl.

Mount Tlaloc[edit]

There is a sanctuary found atop Mount Tlaloc, dedicated to the god, Tlaloc; it is thought that the location of this sanctuary in relation to other temples surrounding it may have been a way for the Aztecs to mark the time of year and keep track of important ceremonial dates.[23] Research has shown in fact that different orientations linked to Mount Tlaloc revealed a grouping of dates at the end of April and beginning of May associated with certain astronomical and meteorological events. Arcaheological, ethnohistoric, and ethnographic data indicate that these phenomena coincide with the sowing of maize in dry lands associated with agricultural sites.[24]

Geographical Setting[edit]

Mount Tlaloc is the highest peak of the part of the Sierra Nevada called Sierra del Rio Frio that separates the valleys of Mexico and Puebla. It rises over two diffierent ecological zones: alpine meadows and subalpine forests. The rainy season starts in May and lasts until October. The highest annual temperature occurs in April, the onset of the rainy season, and the lowest in December–January. Some 500 years ago weather conditions were slightly more severe, but the best time to climb the mountain was practically the same as today: October through December, and February until the beginning of May. The date of the feast of Huey Tozotli celebrated atop Mount Tlaloc coincided with a period of the highest annual temperature, shortly before dangerous thunderstorms might block access to the summit.[25]

Archaeological Evidence[edit]

The first detailed account of Mount Tlaloc by Jim Rickards in 1929 was followed by visits or descriptions by other scholars. In 1953 Wicke and Horcasitas carried out preliminary archaeological investigations at the site; their conclusions were repeated by Parsons in 1971. Archaeo-astronomical research began in 1984, some of which remains unpublished. In 1989 excavation was undertaken at the site by Solis and Townsend.[26]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Andrews, J. Richard (2003). Introduction to Classical Nahuatl (revised ed.). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-3452-6. OCLC 50090230. 
  2. ^ Noticia del Dia (in Spanish)
  3. ^ Townsend, Richard F. (1992). The Aztecs Thames & Hudson: London. p. 122.
  4. ^ Miller, Mary; and Karl Taube (1993). The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: An Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05068-6. OCLC 27667317. 
  5. ^ Read, Kay A. (May 1995). "Sun and Earth Rulers: What the Eyes Cannot See in Mesoamerica". History of Religions 34 (4): 351–384. JSTOR 1062953. 
  6. ^ Miller, Mary; and Karl Taube (1993). The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: An Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05068-6. OCLC 27667317. 
  7. ^ Miller, Mary; and Karl Taube (1993). The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: An Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05068-6. OCLC 27667317. 
  8. ^ Granziera, Patrizia (Winter 2001). "Concept of the Garden in Pre-Hispanic Mexico". Garden History (The Garden History Society) 29 (2): 185–213. JSTOR 1587370. 
  9. ^ Townsend, Richard F. (1992). The Aztecs Thames & Hudson: London. p. 122.
  10. ^ Brown, Dale M. (1999). Aztecs: Reign of Blood and Splendor. Time-Life Books. ISBN 978-0809498543. 
  11. ^ Miller, Mary; and Karl Taube (1993). The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: An Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05068-6. OCLC 27667317. 
  12. ^ Granziera, Patrizia (Winter 2001). "Concept of the Garden in Pre-Hispanic Mexico". Garden History (The Garden History Society) 29 (2): 185–213. JSTOR 1587370. 
  13. ^ Spence, Lewis (1994). The Myths of Mexico and Peru. New York, NY: Dover Publishing. p. 74. ISBN 978-0486283326. 
  14. ^ Lòpez Austin (1997) p. 214
  15. ^ Andrews, J. Richard (2003). Introduction to Classical Nahuatl (revised ed.). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-3452-6. OCLC 50090230, p. 596. 
  16. ^ Lòpez Austin (1997) p. 209, citing Sahagún, lib. 1, cap. 4
  17. ^ Lòpez Austin (1997) p. 209, citing the Florentine Codex lib. 6, cap. 8
  18. ^ Lòpez Austin (1997) p. 214, citing Guido Münch Galindo : Etnología del Istmo Veracruzano. México : UNAM, 1983. p. 160
  19. ^ "God of the Month: Tlaloc". Aztecs at Mexicolor. Mexicolore. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  20. ^ "God of the Month: Tlaloc". Aztecs at Mexicolor. Mexicolore. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  21. ^ Townsend, Richard F. (1992). The Aztecs Thames & Hudson: London. p. 122.
  22. ^ Miller, Mary; and Karl Taube (1993). The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: An Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05068-6. OCLC 27667317. 
  23. ^ Iwaniszewski,Stanislaw. (1994). p. 158.
  24. ^ Iwaniszewski,Stanislaw. (1994. p. 159.
  25. ^ Iwaniszewski,Stanislaw. (1994). p. 159-160.
  26. ^ Iwaniszewski,Stanislaw. (1994). p. 160.

References[edit]

Andrews, J. Richard (2003). Introduction to Classical Nahuatl (revised ed.). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-3452-6. OCLC 50090230. 
Brown, Dale M. (1999). Aztecs: Reign of Blood and Splendor. Time-Life Books. ISBN 978-0809498543. 
"DURANTE LAS SEQUÍAS LOS NIÑOS PREHISPÁNICOS ERAN SACRIFICADOS EN HONOR A TLÁLOC, DIOS DE LA LLUVIA". Noticias del Dia. Sala de Prensa. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
"God of the Month: Tlaloc". Aztecs at Mexicolor. Mexicolore. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
Granziera, Patrizia (Winter 2001). "Concept of the Garden in Pre-Hispanic Mexico". Garden History (The Garden History Society) 29 (2): 185–213. JSTOR 1587370. 
Iwaniszewski, Stanislaw; Iwaniszewski, Stanislaw (June 1994). "Archaeology and Archaeoastronomy of Mount Tlaloc, Mexico: A Reconsideration". Latin American Antiquity (Washington, DC: Society for American Archaeology) 5 (2): 158–176. doi:10.2307/971561. ISSN 1045-6635. JSTOR 971561. OCLC 54395676. 
López Austin, Alfredo (1997). Tamoanchan, Tlalocan: Places of Mist. Mesoamerican Worlds series. translated by Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano and Thelma Ortiz de Montellano. Niwot: University Press of Colorado. ISBN 0-87081-445-1. OCLC 36178551. 
Miller, Mary; and Karl Taube (1993). The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: An Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05068-6. OCLC 27667317. 
Read, Kay A. (May 1995). "Sun and Earth Rulers: What the Eyes Cannot See in Mesoamerica". History of Religions 34 (4): 351–384. JSTOR 1062953. 
Spence, Lewis (1994). The Myths of Mexico and Peru. New York, NY: Dover Publishing. p. 74. ISBN 978-0486283326. 
Townsend, Richard F. (2000). The Aztecs (2nd edition, revised ed.). London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-28132-7. OCLC 43337963. 

External links[edit]