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Tlaltecuhtli: Tlaltecuhtli, Earth Goddess in Aztec Religion, Mythology


Tlaltecuhtli: Earth Goddess in Aztec Religion, Mythology

Tlaltecuhtli: Earth Goddess in Aztec Religion, Mythology

Image Source: Nova Development

Name and Etymology:

Tlaltecuhtli, "Earth Lord"

Religion and Culture of Tlaltecuhtli:

Aztec, Mesoamerica

Symbols, Iconography, and Art of Tlaltecuhtli:

The name Tlaltecuhtli is masculine, but texts typically refer to Tlaltecuhtli as a goddess and images of Tlaltecuhtli show a female figure in a squatting position. Tlaltecuhtli could also be depicted as a monstrous figure with mouths all over her body. Images of Tlaltecuhtli are most often located at the base of Aztec sculptures or architecture, allowing her contact with the Earth.

Tlaltecuhtli was Goddess of:

Difficult Births

Equivalents in Other Cultures:

Tiamat in Babylonian and Sumerian religion and mythology

Story and Origin of Tlaltecuhtli:

Tlaltecuhtli was thought to swallow the sun every night and regurgitate it back out in the morning. She was also thought to swallow the hearts of victims sacrificed to her, so it was common to carve images of her on the bottom of stone boxes in which the hearts and blood of sacrificial victims where placed after being ripped from their bodies.

Family Tree and Relationships of Tlaltecuhtli:

unknown — please email me if you have any information to add about this.

Temples, Worship and Rituals of Tlaltecuhtli:

Midwifes commonly called on the assistance of Tlaltecuhtli whenever a difficult birth threatened to kill the mother.

Mythology and Legends of Tlaltecuhtli:

The creation of this world could not have occurred without Tlaltecuhtli. The rivals Quetzcoatl and Tezcatlipoca were planning on creating a new world, but they were horrified when they first set eyes on Tlaltecuhtli: she not only had massive fangs in her jaws, but also on her elbows, knees, and other joints. The two decided that their new world could not possibly survive with a terrible creature such as Tlaltecuhtli in it, so they decided to kill her first.

They transformed themselves into serpents and tore her apart: one piece became the earth and the other became the sky or heavens. Quetzcoatl and Tezcatlipoca acted without authorization from the other gods, though, and they weren't happy with their decision. In order to placate Tlaltecuhtli, who didn't really die, they decided that her body would give rise to the plants which are necessary for human survival. Her eyes, for example, became the sources for springs and rivers while her hair became the trees.

Mesoamerican tribes believed that movement and sounds from the earth were the complaints of Tlaltecuhtli, still not happy about being torn apart, so they sacrificed humans in order to calm her down a bit and ensure that she continues to provide the basic necessities for human life. Tlaltecuhtli made a lot of noise, so the Aztec made a lot of sacrifices to her. It helped that images of her were carved at the bottom of the stone boxes used to hold the hearts of victims of other sacrifices because this allowed Tlaltecuhtli to have a piece of every sacrifice performed.

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