Mayahuel (Nahuatl pronunciation: [maˈjawel]) is the female deity associated with the maguey plant among cultures of central Mexico in the Postclassic era of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican chronology, and in particular of the Aztec cultures. As the personification of the maguey plant, Mayahuel is also part of a complex of interrelated maternal and fertility goddesses in Aztec religion and is also connected with notions of fecundity and nourishment.
Origins from the maguey plant
Maguey is a flowering plant of the genus Agave, native to parts of southwestern modern United States and Mexico. The depictions of Mayahuel in the Codex Borgia and the Codex Borbonicus show the deity perched upon a maguey planet. The deity's positioning in both illustrations, as well as the same blue pigment used to depict her body and the body of the maguey plant on Page 8 of the Codex Borbonicus, give the sense that she and the plant are one. Furthermore, the Codex Borbonicus displays Mayahuel as holding what looks like rope, presumably spun from the maguey plant fibers. Rope was only one of the many products extracted from the maguey plant. Products extracted from the maguey plant were used extensively across highlands and southeastern Mesoamerica, with the thorns used in ritual bloodletting ceremonies and fibers extracted from the leaves worked into ropes, netting, bags, and cloth. Yet, perhaps the maguey product most well-known and celebrated by the Aztecs is the alcoholic beverage octli, or later named pulque, produced from the fermented sap of the maguey plant and used prominently in many public ceremonies and on other ritual occasions. By extension, Mayahuel is also often shown in contexts associated with pulque. Although some secondary sources describe her as a "pulque goddess," she remains most strongly associated with the plant as the source, rather than pulque as the end product.
Gallery of depictions in primary sources
Mayahuel as depicted in the Codex Borgia.
Mayahuel as depicted in the Codex Ríos.
Mayahuel as depicted in the Codex Borbonicus (on the upper left side of Page 8).
Mayahuel as depicted in the Codex Magliabechiano (on page 58 recto).
Carving of Mayahuel displayed at the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan, now displayed at the Templo Mayor Museum in Mexico City.
- Miller & Taube (1993, p.111); see also n. 87 to folio 265r of Primeros memoriales (Sahagún 1997, p.110).
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- Miller & Taube (1993, p.108)
- Townsend, Richard F. (2009). The Aztecs: Ancient Peoples and Places (3rd ed.). London: Thames & Hudson. pp. 120, 178. ISBN 9780500287910.
- In Nahuatl languages: octli. Pulque is derived from a fermentation of the sweet liquid sap extracted from the plant (in Spanish: aguamiel, "honey-water"). See Miller & Taube (1993, p.108) and Townsend (2009, p.178).
- Miller & Taube (1993, pp.108,138)
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- Miller, Mary; 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.
- Sahagún, Bernardino de (1997) [ca.1558–61]. Primeros Memoriales. Civilization of the American Indian series, vol. 200, part 2. Thelma D. Sullivan (English trans. and paleography of Nahuatl text), with H.B. Nicholson, Arthur J.O. Anderson, Charles E. Dibble, Eloise Quiñones Keber, and Wayne Ruwet (completion, revisions, and ed.). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-2909-9. OCLC 35848992.