The priestly deity Tlaltecuhtli: only they could worship him, according to the Mexica codices

12/04/2021

The worship of the dual deity Tlaltecuhtli (lord/lady of the earth) among the Mexica people was restricted to the priestly class. In spite of the great impact, it had on the Aztec cosmovision, as a giver and devourer of life, until now no temple is known to have been dedicated exclusively to this divinity.

According to the sources, there is no allusion to celebrations of this deity in the Aztec calendar, considered one of the most interesting and impressive of the Mexica pantheon. From what is known through the codices, the cult to this deity was in the hands of priests, who were in charge of making offerings to him.

Up to now, more than 40 representations of Tlaltecuhtli are known, being one of the most accentuated the zoomorphic one in which he appears with open mouth and fangs, raised legs, four claws and in all the joints he carries a kind of mask in the shape of a skull. Its main function was to devour corpses, that was its primary mission, to swallow the dead.

She devoured them and they passed to her womb to be given birth in the place that destiny had in store for them. The goddess herself had this dual function, to devour and give birth to the beings that came from the earth. Because of this dual mission, Tlaltecuhtli had a strong impact on the Mexica people, she was respected and feared, similar to the goddess Kali of India.

Tlaltecuhtli also appears as part of other Aztec gods, as in the case of the monumental figure of Coatlicue (mother of the Earth), which is observed in the lower part of this sculpture that is exhibited in the Mexica Room of the National Museum of Anthropology; as well as in the lower part of the Chac Mool found in 1947 in the streets of Guatemala.

In another representation with feminine character and that is the most abundant, the dual deity appears with her back turned because in essence she is stuck to the earth. While in the images of masculine character the same iconographic elements can be appreciated but with the posture towards the front.

According to recent research, it is known that the sculptures alluding to Tlaltecuhtli were placed on their backs or upside down, especially when it was worked in large blocks, or if it appeared in vessels it occupied the lower place, because by its essence it had to be at ground level.

The monolithic sculpture of Tlaltecuhtli, found in front of the Templo Mayor, on October 2, 2006, has a dimension of 4 by 3.50 meters and an approximate thickness of 40 centimeters, in addition to a weight of 12 tons. This size allows one to appreciate its magnificent carving, where the enormous mouth from which a torrent of blood emanates stands out, in addition to a skin covering or veil.

By Mexicanist, Source: INAH