who makes things grow"
Thomas H. Frederiksen
The Rain God-God of Vegetation-Ruler of the South.
ancient Chichimec times may have been worshipped under the name of Tlalocateuctli,
meaning "Land-lier-Lord". Tlalocateuctli was considered by Alcaron
to be a metaphor for the owner of a sown field.
Known to the Olmec as "Epcoatl", meaning Seashell Serpent. There
is speculation that this deity originated with the Olmec. Known to the
Maya as Chac, to the Totonacs as Tajin, to the Mixtecs as Tzahui, to
the Zapotecs as Cocijo and throughout Mesoamerica.
A water god probably one of the oldest gods worshiped as a result of
the importance of rain for crop production. Called Choc by the Maya
and Cocijo by the Mixtecs, the principal worship god of the Olmec culture.
Tlaloc was not a creator God but one created by other Gods. His first
wife Xochiquetzal, Goddess of flowers and love (*16), was stolen from
him by Tezcatlipoca. His second wife was the Goddess Matlolcueitl, "The
Lady of the Green Skirts", an ancient name for the mountain known as
Malinche, located in Tlaxcala.
Although a beneficent god Tlaloc certainly had the power to unleash
floods, lightning and drought when angry. To please him children were
sacrificed to him as well as prisoners dressed in his image. It is said
that the more the babies and children cried the more Tlaloc was pleased.
During the sacrifice the tears of the screaming children were seen as
representations of falling rain, the more the children cried, the better
the rain season.
Tlaloc is easily identified by his characteristic mask giving the impression
of eyeglasses and a mustache. Blue is his dominant color and of his
mask. His body and face are often painted black, and water is often
depicted dripping from his hands. The name Tlaloc, derives from the
term "tlalli", meaning earth, with the suffix "oc", meaning something
that is on the surface. Townsend alludes to the fight of clouds welling
up in canyons and hovering around mountaintop in the rainy season to
explain this metaphor(*17).
Those who died from drowning, lightning or things thought to be associated
with water went to Tlacocan, the paradise of Tlaloc located in the South
and was known as the place of fertility.
16 Whether or not this wife stealing actually happened or the Mexica
were trying to prop up the image of Tezcatlipoca is a matter of debate.
Tlaloc is an old god and has been worshiped by other Mesoamerican cultures
long before the arrival of the Mexica, it would be interesting to review
other cultures legends and compare. The Mexica were famous for manipulating
and re-writing history to further their own ends.
17 Townsend, p. 114.
His home in Tenochtitlan was next to the same temple of the venerated
Huitzilopochtli, where a special chamber was built. His statue was made
of stone in the shape of a horrible monster. The image was dressed in
red with a green feather headdress. A string of green beads called chalchihuitl,
"jade", hung from his neck. His ears, arms, and ankles were adorned
with bracelets of precious stones. Apparently no other idols in the
Mexica city were adorned with as many precious jewels at Tlaloc. In
his right hand was a representation of a purple wooden thunderbolt,
in his left hand was a leather bag filled with copal. The idol was placed
upon a green cloth draped over a dais. His body was sculpted as a man
and the face like a monster.
Known as Epcoatl, (Seashell Serpent), to the Olmec, and his religious
themes were associated with children with that culture as well.
Also known as Tlalteuctli, (Earth Lord). May have been known as Oztoteotl,
(The God of Caves), who was principally worshipped in the Chalma area.
In the codex Vaticanus, Tlaloc is depicted as living inside of a mountain.
Known by the Olmec as "Epcoatl", or Seashell Serpent.
An interesting ceremony to Tlaloc by his priests was for the priests
to throw themselves into frigid lake waters at midnight and imitate
the sound and splashing of water birds to the point of exhaustion. This
was apparently done just to please Tlaloc. In another ritual a priest
would climb a mountain naked(*18) and painted black, carrying fir boughs
and a conch trumpet. He would chew tobacco and periodically blow the
horn. After piercing his ears and thighs with spines(*19) to let blood(*20),
he would retrace his steps stumbling.
The direction of the rains Tlaloc sent were also of importance. The
western rain was red colored from the sunset. This rain represented
the richness of autumn. The southern rain was a rich blend of rain and
summer fertility and considered a
, Tlaloc's color. The eastern rain was a golden rain which fell lightly
over the crops making the crops grow, a promise of life. The north rain
was a hail and thunder message from Tlaloc often bringing destruction.
Snow and hail were thought of as representations of the bones of the
18 There are several references to being naked before the gods. The
ruler elect of the Mexica is said to have spent a night naked before
the image of Tezcatlipoca. In addition a common practice was to wear
a cape with a large knot tied in it. When sitting the know would be
placed over the back of the neck exposing genitals, when standing the
knot would be placed at the shoulder. Clendinnen p. 319.
19 The blood would often be flicked towards the sun or allowed to drip
onto special paper or to paint their faces.
20 The Mexica referred to blood as "Our Most Precious Water".
The temple to Tlaloc, on Mt. Tlaloc, is approximately at the 4000 meter
level with views of the twin volcanoes Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl
and the entire valleys of Pueblo and Mexico. Mt. Tlaloc was located
approximately twenty-five miles due east of Tenochtitlan and directly
north of the twin volcanoes. In the Spring, at the height of the dry
season, the leaders of Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoco, Tlacopan, and Xochimilco
would make a pilgrimage to the shrine to call for rain from within the
While the Mexica leaders were conducting their ceremony, a large tree
called "Father", or Tota, was erected near the great shrine to
Tlaloc in Tenochtitlan and surrounded with small trees to symbolize
a forest. An impersonator of Chalchiuhtlicue, Goddess of the sea and
lakes, was selected to sit in the forest and symbolize the lake. As
the leaders were returning, the great tree was felled and rafted out
to the Pantitlan shrine, located in the center of the lake, where a
great fleet of canoes met the returning leaders. The impersonator was
then sacrificed, her blood poured into the water of the lake, jewelry
given to the water of the lake, and the tree symbolically planted to
indicate a renewal of life and growth. The tree was left to stand with
the remains of trees planted in past years ceremonies.
TLALOQUE or TEPICTOTON- "Attendants of Tlaloc"
Resided in the mountains, where rain and clouds are formed. Not deities
themselves but close enough. May be likened to devilish imps who served
the rain god Tlaloc. The Tlaloque were worshiped in special ceremonies
during the sixteenth month of the Aztec calendar, (Dec. 11-Dec. 30),
known as Atemoztli, meaning "The Descent of Water".
The Tlaloque were the bearers of the rattlestaff (chicahualilizti),
"That Which Makes Things Strong". A signification of a male erect penis(*22)
or a type of digging stick(*23).
The Tlaloque numbered four(?) and lived in the halls of the great palace
of Tlaloc, Tlalocan, the terrestrial paradise, and represented the four
directions. On Tlaloc's orders one of the Tlaloque would take a particular
jug and pour it over the world, thunder was thought to be the sound
of the jugs breaking. The Mexica considered the Tlaloque to be brothers
to the goddess of corn.
21 Townsend, pp. 133-140, details this importand center of worship to
the Mexica and provides photographs and results and findings from his
own archaeological mapping of the area in 1989.
22 Mexica referred to the male penis as "xipitl or xipittl",
"xipintli", may have referred to foreskin.
23 When beaten on the ground, this stick was thought to produce rain
and thunder. The gods of fertility, Xipe Totec and Cinteotl, were also
known to carry this rattlestaff. Correlation have been made between
the staff and the tree called Chicahuazteotl, "The God of Vigor"
ripeness?, which was worshiped by Quetzalcoatl.