• Tue. Mar 21st, 2023

Coatlicue: Fearsome Fertility Goddess of the Aztecs


Dec 6, 2022

Coatlicue was probably the most necessary gods within the Aztec pantheon. Not solely was she the goddess of fertility, however she additionally gave start to Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of warfare and the solar. Her excessive rating within the pantheon doesn’t imply she obtained the respect she deserved, nonetheless. Many Aztec gods got here to violent ends, and Coatlicue was no completely different, slaughtered by her personal kids.

Coatlicue and the Bloody Beginning of Huitzilopochtli

The first delusion that Coatlicue appeared in was the start of her son,  Huitzilopochtli. Originally of the story, Coatlicue is a humble priestess (or earth goddess, relying on the model) who had been tasked with sustaining the shrine atop the legendary mountain  Coatepec, often known as Snake Mountain.

Sooner or later, as she was doing her each day chore of sweeping the ground, a ball of feathers fell from the heavens and landed in entrance of her. Pondering little of it, she picked the ball up and positioned it in her apron pocket. For causes misplaced to time, inserting the ball in her apron magically impregnated her. Being a magical start, she quickly began to indicate. The issue was Coatlicue’s different kids weren’t precisely enamored with the concept of getting one other sibling.

Coatlicue already had a daughter,  Coyolxauhqui, in addition to 4 hundred sons, the Centzonhuitznahua. Coyolxauhqui was a robust goddess in her personal proper, as she represented the moon, and her brothers represented the myriad stars within the sky.

A colorized model of an enormous monolith of Coyolxauhqui, daughter and assassin of goddess Coatlicue. (Gwendal Uguen /  CC BY NC SA 2.0 )

For some purpose, Coyolxauhqui felt that her mom had one way or the other dishonored herself. Why, we have no idea. Maybe she didn’t imagine it was an  immaculate conception . A part of Aztec perception was that lifeless warriors had been reincarnated as  hummingbirds. In some types of the parable, the ball of feathers is known as a ball of hummingbird feathers. This means that some random deceased soldier had impregnated Coatlicue.

If that is correct, then it might clarify Coyolxauhqui’s rage. How might her mom, a goddess, enable herself to be impregnated by some random lifeless soldier? It will additionally clarify why Huitzilopochtli was the  Aztec god of war ; he was the son of a soldier.

Illustration of Huitzilopochtli, from the Codex Telleriano-Remensis (Public Domain)

Illustration of Huitzilopochtli, from the Codex Telleriano-Remensis ( Public Domain )

For no matter purpose, upon listening to of the being pregnant, Coyolxauhqui flew right into a rage and satisfied her brothers to affix her in storming Snake Mountain and attacking their mom. Fortunately for Coatlicue, considered one of her kids was nonetheless loyal. One of many Centzonhuitznahua reached out and warned Coatlicue and her unborn son of the assault.

From this level onwards, there are two current variations of the parable. In a single, Coyolxauhqui and her brothers’ assault was profitable at first. They stormed the mountain, attacked their mom, and completed her off by decapitating her. This backfired, nonetheless, when Huitzilopochtli sprang from his lifeless mom’s neck, in full warfare regalia. He massacred nearly all of his brothers and beheaded his sister, doing so with such drive that her head flew into the sky, turning into the moon.

The second model of the story has a happier, albeit equally bloody ending. This time as Coyolxauhqui approached her mom, able to assault, Huitzilopochtli pounced from the womb first. Armed along with his signature weapon,  xiuhcoatl (hearth serpent), he butchered his sister and brothers. He chopped his sister into many items and rolled them down the mountainside.

Illustration of the Battle of Coatepec from Bernardino de Sahagún, General History of the Things of New Spain, also known as the Florentine Codex, circa 1577 (Public Domain)

Illustration of the Battle of Coatepec from Bernardino de Sahagún, Normal Historical past of the Issues of New Spain, often known as the Florentine Codex, circa 1577 ( Public Domain )

As Huitzilopochtli was the god of not simply warfare however the solar, and Coyolxauhqui was the  moon goddess  it has been steered that the parable symbolizes the each day victory of the solar over the moon and stars.

Coatlicue’s Monstrous Look

Earlier than anybody begins to really feel too sorry for Coatlicue, it have to be acknowledged that Coatlicue was usually depicted as a monster who had a penchant for devouring people. She’s mostly portrayed as carrying a skirt of writhing snakes and a necklace adorned with alternating severed arms and human hearts.

Statue of Coatlicue from Cozcatlán, Puebla, Mexico, wearing typical snake skirt. Displayed in the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City (Anagoria / CC BY 3.0)

Statue of Coatlicue from Cozcatlán, Puebla, Mexico, carrying typical snake skirt. Displayed within the Nationwide Museum of Anthropology, Mexico Metropolis (Anagoria /  CC BY 3.0 )

She can also be usually proven as having a face and arms made up of snakes. Her arms and ft have massive claws, which she used to tear up her victims’ our bodies earlier than she feasted on them. Coatlicue was intently linked in Aztec delusion to the demon race referred to as the  tzitzimime. The Aztecs believed that Coatlicue and these demons would ravage mankind if the solar ever didn’t rise.

Depiction of a Tzitzimitl from the 16th century Codex Magliabechiano. (Public Domain)

Depiction of a Tzitzimitl from the sixteenth century Codex Magliabechiano. ( Public Domain )

Coatlicue Predicts the Fall of the Aztec Empire

Not like many religions, the Aztec perception system was dynamic. Which means the  Aztecs believed their gods had been nonetheless exhausting at work, fairly than believing all their myths had been historical tales of bygone eras. As such, new myths saved rising, proper up till the Spanish arrived and put an finish to the Aztecs and their myths.

Throughout Moctezuma’s reign (1440-1469 AD), sixty magicians had been despatched to go to Coatlicue at her residence in Aztlan. They’d been despatched to ship items within the hope of receiving divine data as a reward. These magicians claimed that upon their arrival, they had been met by Coatlicue’s tutor, who agreed to allow them to see the goddess. To succeed in her they needed to climb a steep, sandy hill. The magicians quickly started to battle; they had been overburdened by the items that they had introduced and have become slowed down within the sand. In the long run, they needed to ask the tutor to take the items to Coatlicue for them.

The coronation of Moctezuma, from the Tovar Codex, circa 1585 ( Public Domain )

The tutor as soon as once more agreed and, taking the items, ran up the hill as if the burden was nothing. After they ultimately reached the highest of the mountain, the magicians discovered Coatlicue sitting on the summit, weeping for her misplaced son, Huitzilopochtli. Upon seeing the magicians she admonished them for his or her weak point, telling them that they had turn into spoiled and fats on an excessive amount of luxurious.  Briefly, she instructed them that they had gone tender.

She mentioned the results of this was that, one after the other, all of the cities Huitzilopochtli had conquered for the Aztecs would fall. Finally, the  Aztec empire  would lay in damage. Then she would rejoice, for her favored son would lastly return to her facet.

A mural of Coatlicue in San Diego, California USA (Nathan Gibbs / CC BY NC SA 2.0)

A mural of Coatlicue in San Diego, California USA (Nathan Gibbs /  CC BY NC SA 2.0 )


Whereas the Greek, Roman, and  Norse gods  could possibly be scary should you acquired on their dangerous facet, the Aztec pantheon makes them appear to be pet canine. The Aztec gods had been largely a race of terrifying monsters who beloved nothing greater than consuming their worshippers.

Even their goddess of fertility, Coatlicue, is terrifying. The monstrous nature of the Aztec gods simply makes their mythology extra fascinating. Tragically, relating to the Aztecs we nonetheless have a number of gaps in our understanding; a lot of their historical past was misplaced following the Spanish conquest of 1521.

Hopefully, sooner or later these gaps can be crammed, in order that the Aztec gods can turn into as well-known as their Greek, Roman, and Norse counterparts. Typically ignored, Aztec mythology deserves its time within the highlight.

Prime picture: Left: Standing practically 9 ft tall, this Coatlicue statue is without doubt one of the Aztec Empire’s largest surviving sculptures. As was typical of Aztec sculptures, all sides of the statue had been adorned.    Proper: A contemporary reimagining of Coatlicue. Supply: Left: Luidger /  CC BY SA 3.0 ; Middle:  Public Domain ), Proper:  Public Domain

By Robbie Mitchell


Cartwright, M. November 28, 2013.  Coatlicue. World Historical past Encyclopedia. Obtainable at:  https://www.worldhistory.org/Coatlicue/

Kilroy-Ewbank. L. August 9, 2015.  Coatlicue. Smarthistory.com. Obtainable at:  https://smarthistory.org/coatlicue/

Miller, M.E & Taube Ok. 2013.   An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Historic Mexico and the Maya . Thames & Hudson

Meehan, E. November 7, 2022.  Coatlicue. Mythopedia.com. Obtainable at:  https://mythopedia.com/topics/coatlicue

Learn, Ok. 2002.   Mesoamerican Mythology . Oxford College Press.

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