The Jade Oracle: Bringing the Wisdom of Ancient Mexico to a New Generation

Divine, Goddess, Mesoamerican Goddesses, Mexico, Priestess, ritual

“These images would make an amazing oracle deck.” We heard this phrase over and over after our presentations on the Goddesses from ancient Mexico. But moments after the first time it was uttered, we, Veronica Iglesias and Anne Key, knew that this would be a beautiful way to connect people to the deities and customs of a culture that we have given our lives to studying and practicing, a culture that is often misunderstand and little known outside of academic circles and initiates.

The sacred images of ancient Mexican deities are very different than the sacred images of European culture, which we in American – and even Mexico – are far more accustomed to seeing. Instead of a smiling saint in flowing robes, these images have unfamiliar symbols – green feathers, skulls, snakes, nose ornaments – and unfamiliar names: Xochiquetzal, Huitzilopochtli, Tecuciztecatl for example. But these sacred images and names open the door to a profoundly magnificent culture that reveres the connection of the earth and Her inhabitants, that celebrates the small and grand cycles – that infuses ritual and attention to the sacred in daily life.

Both holding advanced degrees in Mesoamerican studies and practicing priestesses, we could translate the beliefs and culture to a new audience, writing a divinatory meaning for each card. But to create an oracle deck, this project needed a visionary artist to design images that were true to their heritage yet inviting to the modern eye, and at some moment we both realized the one artist that we wanted to work with: Ramona Teo. Renowned for her graphic design, murals, and fine art, she was a perfect match for this ambitious project.

Then the two became three, and the Jade Oracle birthed from an idea to reality. This is a story about the interwoven paths from the Northwestern US and Mexico City that converged in Albuquerque, bringing us together to make magic.

Like tarot cards, the Jade Oracle is a spiritual tool used for divination and introspection. The difference is they are not structured by traditional tarot suits. Each card brings a new form to a universal archetype, giving us a window to our soul, a new lens in which to see ourselves. We named this the Jade Oracle because exquisite green jade was one of the most sacred stones in ancient Mexico, as the color represented the teeming bounty of life. There will be 52 beautifully illustrated cards accompanied by a booklet that guides you through understanding the mythology and interpretations of the cards.

We feel that when we understand another culture, we understand ourselves in a deeper way and are one step closer to connecting with our global family and celebrating this magical land that we share. And for those of us with Mexican heritage, this is a path to understanding, and living, our lineage.

Join our Kickstarter campaign to help offset the production set-up costs and help us bring these cards to life!

About the creators of the Jade Oracle:

Ramona Teo was born and raised in New Mexico, “The Land of Enchantment” where the diverse culture and thriving arts community has inspired her to explore her creative calling. She earned her Bachelor of Art’s Degree at the University of New Mexico in the Cinematic Arts Department with a focus on Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican Art & History.

Her passions include painting, drawing, clothing design, jewelry making, graphic design, experimental filmmaking and belly dance. Always the creative entrepreneur, Ramona started Guerrilla Graphix (original art t-shirts, custom design and printing services) in 2008 and Divine Nature Arts (her personal brand of clothing, jewelry & sacred art) in 2015. A constant theme in Ramona’s artwork is sacred geometry and the mandala. In 2015 she became a certified Mandala Facilitator and guides workshops on healing with mandalas.  Ramona is currently a stay at home mother of two (Zena, 11/5/15 and Rafael 2/1/17) and is in the process of illustrating The Jade Oracle Deck.

Maria Veronica Iglesias was born in Mexico City, Mexico. She has a Bachelor´s degree in Library Sciences and a Master´s Degree in Mesoamerican Studies from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (La Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico). Initiated as a sahumadora (bearer of the Sacred Sahumerio) when she was 8 years old, she studied about medicinal plants, crystal therapy and healing with gems. She was initiated in the sacred knowledge of Mesoamerican shamanism and became a Portadora de la Palabra, bearer of the Sacred Word. A Priestess of Ix´Cheel, the Mayan Goddess of Medicine, Veronica researches gem stones and their therapeutic use, Pre-Hispanic medicine, rites of passage and Goddesses from Mesoamerica and is co-founder and guide for Sacred Tours of Mexico.

Priestess, instructor, writer and dancer – Anne Key, Ph.D. has traveled, researched, and written about Mesoamerican culture since 1990; her dissertation investigated the pre-Hispanic divine women known as the Cihuateteo, and she is co-founder and guide for Sacred Tours of Mexico. She was Priestess of the Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet, located in Nevada and has edited anthologies on women’s spirituality, priestesses, and Sekhmet as well as written two memoirs, Desert Priestess: a memoir and Burlesque, Yoga, Sex and Love. An adjunct faculty in Women’s Studies, English and Religious Studies, she is co-founder of the independent press Goddess Ink. Anne resides in Albuquerque with her husband, his two cats and her snake, Asherah.

Advertisements

Healing What I Did Not Realize Was Wounded: Part I

Goddess, Goddesses of the Americas, Mexico, Priestess, ritual

Sometimes I don’t even realize I am wounded. There have been many times in my life that I have known that I was wounded and sought healing from divine beings, and for those healings I am eternally grateful. But there have also been times when I was healed eventhough I didn’t even realize I was wounded, and the healing from such moments is truly exquisite grace. This happened on my last two visits to Mexico.

In the summer of 2016, Veronica Iglesias and I lead a tour to Mexico City. Part of this tour was visiting the lands and monuments to thirteen Nahua Goddesses. Veronica took us to a site that I had never visited before, Xochitecatl. From about 700 BCE to 900 CE, and even beyond into the Colonial Era (after 1697 CE), this beautiful ceremonial center was dedicated to women’s rituals, and the energy of the Goddesses Xochiquetzal and Chalchiuhtlicue infuses the land with beauty.

Though I have known of Xochiquetzal for many years, I did not consider myself a devotee. However, when I look over my life as a belly dancer, burlesque performer, priestess, feminist, academic, and general lover of flowers, colorful garments, jewelry, and all that brings beauty to the world, I can see Her touch in my life at every turn. That afternoon at Xochitecatl, She came to me and began a healing of what I had not even realized was wounded.

Lying on the grass in front of the Pyramid of the Flowers, Veronica lead a guided meditation. As often happens, I cannot remember a word of what she said. But I remember the moment I awoke in my mind’s eye, dressed for ceremony and part of a grand procession to the base of the steps of the pyramid. I looked down at my beautifully embroidered quechquemitl, and felt the rustle of feathers in my headdress. Heavy stone jewelry weighed on my neck and wrist. I looked up into the sun, watching it descend over the horizon of the snowcapped volcano, Matlalcueitl (La Malinche), Lady of the Blue Skirt.

As is the way with visions, I have memories of participating in ritual and ceremony, being undressed and washed and purified. But the most vivid moment was when Xochiquetzal appeared to me. I knelt before Her, naked. She very gently sang to me and laid me out on my back, my body held by each leaf of all of the plants underneath me. Then She wrapped me in white fibers, enfolding my entire being in a cocoon. I think I remember Her closing my eyes. What I remember most distinctly is falling into the embrace of deep rest.

When Veronica called us back, I was of course reluctant to return. But, as Michael Harner once told me, our job is to go and come back. So I returned to the present moment, still wrapped. And I stayed in that cocoon until a year later, when Xochiquetzal came to me again.

To visit Xochitecatl in person, join Sacred Tours of Mexico for a Women’s Retreat in the Heart of Mexico, Puebla and Cholula November 2017. For more about the sacred side of Mexico, join our Facebook group and sign up for our newsletter.

AwarIMG_6430d winning writer Anne Key is the co-founder of Sacred Tours of Mexico. She has been traveling and researching in Mexico since the late 1980’s. With a Ph.D. in Women’s Spirituality, Anne brings both her expertise and love to each tour. Her dissertation and articles on Mesoamerican Goddesses are frequently cited sources for their feminist focus. She is the author of two memoirs (Desert Priestess: a memoir and Burlesque, Yoga, Sex and Love: A Memoir of Life under the Albuquerque Sun), co-editor of Stepping into Ourselves: An Anthology of Writings on Priestesses and The Heart of the Sun: An Anthology in Exaltation of Sekhmet. She is a co-founder of Goddess Ink.

Xochitecatl and the Pyramid of the Flowers: Ceremonial Center for Women’s Mysteries

Goddess, Mesoamerican Goddesses, Mexico, sacred sites

The Pyramid of the Flowers at Xochitecatl has a deep resonance with women’s mysteries.  It is believed that this site was used as a ceremonial center.  Perched atop an extinct volcano, the vista from Pyramid of the Flowers offers 360 degree panoramic views of the entire Puebla-Tlaxcala Valley and three volcanoes: Popocatepetl, Iztaccihuatl, and La Malinche.

The Pyramid of the Flowers faces La Malinche; in fact, the pyramid seems to be a mirror

Malinche

La Malinche

image. The platform of the pyramid base is approximately 144 meters east to west and 110 meters north to south, similar to that of Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Moon. Because of the large volume of the pyramid, tons of rocks and boulders would have been brought up from the lower slopes. Most of the volume dates to the Formative era (700 BCE), but some of the construction was performed during the Late Classic (650-900 CE), showing the many centuries of use. 

On September 29th, from the summit of the Pyramid of the Flowers, the sun rises directly over La Malinche. This date corresponds to the festival celebrating the Archangel Michael in the town of San Miguel del Milagro, just a few miles to the east of Xochitecatl (read about the celebration here.) For those of us looking for the roots of women’s ceremony and mystery, this seems to point to the idea that this date held significance prior to the coming of Catholicism to the region. And, because of its connection to Pyramid of the Flowers and La Malinche, this day may have been significant to the rituals held there which most definitely centered around women’s mysteries.

The site itself has only one small structure (Pyramid of the Serpent) that might have served as a residence, leading us to believe that the complex was

In the Mesoamerican Cosmovision, Cihuatlampa, (cihua = women; lamp= place) was the

IMG_6337

Step of the pyramid, made from a metate.

designation for west, one of the four cardinal directions. Cihuatlampa was also the celestial home of the Cihuateteo, women who died in childbirth. The Pyramid of the Flowers faces Cihuatlampa, further showing its connection to women’s ritual.mostly used for ceremonial reasons, unlike most other sites (Serra Puche 2012:42-46).

The stairway of the pyramid is literally built of women’s tools. There are a number of metate’s, stones for grinding corn, used as stairs. There were offerings of female figurines found embedded in the staircases. Nearly 500 spindle whorls were found, further linking this place to women’s culture (Puche 268).

IMG_6370

Sunken pool in front of the steps of the Pyramid of the Flowers.

In front of the stairway are two ritual basins, one above ground and one sunk into the ground. Four sculptures were found in the sunken basin: a toad, a mythological serpent with a human face in its open jaws, and two human faces. Toads are a religious symbol for Mesoamericans, possibly relating to the hallucinogenic properties of their secretions. The serpent with the human face could be a reference to Cihuacoatl, the snake-woman. It has been theorized that the two basins were part of child birthing rituals. The image of La Malinche is reflected in the sunken ritual basin.

La Malinche is locally called Matlalceitl, Lady of the Blue Skirt. This name may be connected with Chalchiuhtlicue, the Goddess rivers, closely associated with childbirth and purification (the name “La Malinche” was not given to the volcano until the 1600’s CE). Streams flow from the volcano, and springs with drinkable water surround the base, adding to the idea that the volcano is closely associated with Chalchiuhtlicue.

There were thirty-two burials found near the bottom of the staircase of the Pyramid of the Flowers, mostly females and infants The burials span the entire use of the ceremonial complex, from Formative Era (pre-800 BCE) to the Late Classic (900 CE). Burials were individual and collective, primary and secondary (Puche 269). These burials show the connection of this sacred place to the mysteries of life and death.

Although Xochitecatl’s dedication to a specific deity is still the subject of debate, its geographic location shows that it was a cosmic center of primary importance. This is evidenced by the orientation of the site toward dawn on a particular date, its special relation to La Malinche, and the fact that Pyramid of Flowers is a copy of that mountain itself. Together, these observations reveal a site where ceremonies were performed in which women played the main roles…where other ritual activities, such as baths and offerings, took place. All of these factors point to ceremonies dedicated to the Earth Mother, as personified by the female volcano. (Puche 279)

Xochitecatl holds the sacred energy of thousands of years of ritual dedicated to women’s mysteries. Visit and experience it for yourself!

References:

Mari Carmen Serra Puche, “The Concept of Feminine Places in Mesoamerica: The Case of Xochitécatl, Tlaxcala, Mexico.” In Gender in Pre-Hispanic America, Cecilia F. Klein, editor. Washington DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 2001.

To visit Xochitecatl in person, join Sacred Tours of Mexico for a Women’s Retreat in the Heart of Mexico, Puebla and Cholula November 2017. For more about the sacred side of Mexico, join our Facebook group and sign up for our newsletter.

IMG_6430

Anne in front of the Pyramid of the Flowers

Award winning writer Anne Key is the co-founder of Sacred Tours of Mexico. She has been traveling and researching in Mexico since the late 1980’s. With a Ph.D. in Women’s Spirituality, Anne brings both her expertise and love to each tour. Her dissertation and articles on Mesoamerican Goddesses are often cited. She is the author of two memoirs (Desert Priestess: a memoir and Burlesque, Yoga, Sex and Love: A Memoir of Life under the Albuquerque Sun) and is a co-founder of Goddess Ink.

 

 

 

Introducing the Goddess Ixchel and Cozumel, Mexico By Maria Veronica Iglesias

Divine, Goddess, Mesoamerican Goddesses, Mexico, Priestess, sacred sites, spring equinox

Editors Note:  Veronica Iglesias will be leading a Sacred Tour of Mexico for Spring Equinox 2017.  

 

Ix´Cheel or Ixcheel, the feminine energy in the Mayan Cosmos.

Cozumel was a place of worship for the Divinity Ix’Cheel or Ixchel.  She is related to the moon, fertility, rains, medicine, divination and childbirth.  Grand Mother Ix’Chel is a beautiful goddess who can teach us to honor our cycles, our darkness, our shadow and our great light!

Ix’Cheel represents the feminine principle of the cosmos and together with her partner Itzamna, are the creative energy of life on Earth. She is the guide of the wise women, of those who heal, of those who read the destiny of the newborns; Of those who weave and narrate cosmic stories in their fabrics.  Ix’Cheel is the Mayan grandmother, guardian of the female mysteries, guardian of the pregnant women, the newborn children, the moon, the medicine, the medicinal plants, the water that cleans and purifies. Ix’Cheel is the feminine divine energy that creates life and also destroys it, specially when she represents the energy of the water. She was asked for rainwater in times of drought and she was also asked to stop the force of water that destroyed houses and crops.

She is the guardian of sacred jade, of life, of the heart of her priestesses who honored her in her two sanctuaries, in Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. There is no doubt that Ixchel and Cozumel have many secrets to unveil.  Recently women from various parts of the world have restarted the pilgrimages to consult the energy of the oracle related to health, fertility, initiation into the medicine, pregnancy and finally, with the weaving of life.

ixchel

Photo of Ixchel banner by Lydia Ruyle in Goddesses of the Americas, available at Goddess Ink or Amazon.

Cozumel

Cozumel was a sacred site of great magnitude, not only because it was the sanctuary of Ixchel but also because its architecture turned it into an earthly reflection of the cosmos, a great Tollan (a paradisiacal  mythical site and center of pilgrimages) in the middle of the sea.  Cozumel was a strategic site in Mesoamerica, its importance is not in monumental buildings but in its place of the cosmos, it was considered another Tollan and was also an oracular sanctuary, where thousands of people of all The Mayan area came periodically, especially women.

Cozumel is the third island with the largest territory in Mexico, located southeast of the Yucatan peninsula. It is known mainly for being a tourist site to which cruise ships arrive daily across the Caribbean, as well as all the tourists who come to enjoy the crystalline beaches of the Mexican Caribbean.  Historically, it has been inhabited since preclassic times (1500 BC to 300 D.C), until the arrival of the Spaniards in 1518.

In addition it has been found that in several settlements in the coast in front of Cozumel are buildings with lunar orientations. These are small temples, with direct views of the sea, including Playa del Carmen, Xcaret, Paalmul, Xel-ha, Tancah, and Tulum, as well as Coba. (Sprajc, Ivan, “Sitios arqueológicos en la isla de Cozumel: el papel de la astronomía en la planeación arquitectónica y urbana”, in: UNESCO, El papel de la arqueastronomia en el mundo maya: el caso de la isla de Cozumel, Mexico: UNESCO, 1916. p. 72).

Most of these buildings and those existing in Cozumel were built in the Postclassic period (900-1518). Many of the new settlers are thought to have been Mayan-Chontal or Putun, who arrived after the fall of Chichen Itza (1200 BC).

Mayan Cosmology

As in all Maya territory, the observation of celestial bodies was also very important in Cozumel, “the orientation of it’s location, it’s island character, the evidence of pilgrimages, the lunar alignments of its constructions, the worship of the goddess Ixchel, confirm that Cozumel is unquestionably a center of knowledge production to address the intellectual legacy in Mesoamerica. “(Saenz, Nuria, “El paisaje cultural deleste como patrimonio y desarrollo”, in: UNESCO, El papel de la arqueastronomia en el mundo maya: el caso de la isla de Cozumel, Mexico: UNESCO, 1916. p.13).

The pre-Hispanic architecture of the island shows great alignments with the solstices and phases of the moon, particularly the full moon, whose cosmic force was also linked to the rains and procreative and propitiating energy.  With all these constructions aligned with the earth and moon movements, the spaces in Cozumel are also related to the ritual calendar and to the consecration of the spaces, common practice in the Mayan culture and whose origins go back to the Olmec culture.

Taking into account all the astronomical and architectural marks in the buildings of Cozumel and its relation with the Moon and the Sun, the mystical-cosmogonic importance of the relevance of the Night Sun is remembered, that can be considered like the Sun that during the night travels to the underworld, but also like the moon that shines in the sky at night.  It also highlights the relevance of the four cardinal points and their relationship to the creation and sustainability of the world and the creation of time.

Additionally, for the Maya, the divinity of the Moon was also associated with water, caves and cenotes. The Maya believed that during their absence in the sky, the Moon would retreat and reside in a watery cave or cenote. There are still two expressions in the Yucatec Maya that denote the Moon’s invisibility period: benel u tu che’n, “Moonrise to your cave” or binan u tu che’n “Moon. (Iwaniszewski, Stanislaw, “El tiempo y la Luna en la cultura maya: el caso de Cozumel”, in: UNESCO, El papel de la arqueastronomia en el mundo maya: el caso de la isla de Cozumel, Mexico: UNESCO, 1916. p. 49).

Sacred Tour to Mexico

The Goddess Ixchel, Mayan Grandmother is guardian of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres in Mexico.  We hope you join us on the Goddess Ink Sacred Tour for a wonderful adventure that we will have during Spring Equinox in 2017, visiting the two Sanctuaries of Ixchel, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel, where you can experience the magic and wonders of the place.

Maria Veronica Iglesias

vero

Maria Veronica Iglesias

Maria Veronica Iglesias Ramos was born in Mexico City, Mexico. She has a Bachelor´s degree in Library Sciences and a Master´s Degree in Mesoamerican Studies from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (La Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico). She grew up in a family that always honors the Earth, the plants and all the living beings.

She was initiated as a sahumadora (bearer of the Sacred Sahumerio) when she was 8 years old. She studied about medicinal plants, crystal therapy and healing with gems. She also was initiated in the sacred knowledge of Mesoamerican shamanism and she became a Portadora de la Palabra, bearer of the Sacred Word. She is also a Priestess of Ix´Cheel, the Mayan Goddess of Medicine. She is currently researching gem stones and their therapeutic use, Pre-Hispanic medicine,  Feminine Shamanism in Mesoamerica, Feminine rites of passage and Goddesses from Mesoamerica.  She can be found at https://www.facebook.com/Papalotl,  and at http://papalotl.net/.

For more information and to follow Goddess Ink Blog visit www.goddess-ink.com  or visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/goddessinkbooks/.  Also, please sign up for the Goddess Ink Newsletter for a monthly dose of inspiration.

 

Photo credits: Veronica Iglesias  and Shutterstock photos.

 

 

 

Dia de los Muertos :Origins and Altars By Maria Veronica Iglesias Ramos

Dia de los Muertos, Divine, Empowerment, Goddess, Mesoamerican Goddesses, Mexico, ritual

dia-de-los-muertos

Origen prehispanico de la festividad

The Dia de los Muertos celebration has it origins in the Prehispanic Mexico. In that area the people used several calendars, the solar calendar with 365 days, the ritual calendar with 260 day called Tonalpohualli, they also used another types of calendars.

The Mesoamerican cosmogony is based in the philosophy of the opposites and complementary, this means that we have energies that complement each other.  In this cosmology, Dead is a counterpart of Life and vice versa, we need both in order to have harmony in the Cosmos.

Here are some examples:

MOTHER/MADRE
9
Down/Abajo
Cold/Frío
Female/Hembra
Humedity,Moistness/Humedad
Underworld/Inframundo
Dead/Muerte
Night/Noche
Ocelot/Ocelote
Oscurity/Oscuridad
FATHER/PADRE
13
Up/Arriba
Hot/Calor
Male/Macho
Drought/Sequía
Sky/Cielo
Life/Vida
Day/Día
Eagle/Águila
Light/Luz

Historically, during the harvest season, the people celebrated and shared food and the harvest of the year, with their ancestors.  They believed that their ancestors were also helping to plant and take care of the plants, so when they were collecting the fruits of the harvest it was normal to share with all those that helped with the planting and tending of the fields.  To celebrate, they created altars, with flowers, especially Cempoalxochitl, a beautiful yellow flower (marigold), they feasted on tamales, mole and turkey.

As part of celebrating the ancestors, the people recognized that when someone died, they could go to different places:

– The Tlalocan, was a kind of paradise where the people who died for causes related with water went. Their bodies were buried.

– The Omeyocan, the place where for the warriors who died in war as well as women who died during childbirth (cihuateteo). It was the place of Tonatiuh the Sun and Huitzilopochtli the deity of the war. Their bodies were buried.

– The Mictlan, the place of Mictlantecuhtli and Mictlancihuatl the lord and the lady of the Mictlan lived. The people who died for natural causes went there, the soul took 4 years to arrive. The dogs or  Xoloixcuintles were the guides, that is why was very important that every person during their life had at least one dog who will help in the transition.

– The Chichihuacauhco, this was a place where the babies who died before eating corn went. They believed that in that place was a tree with uncountable breasts where the babies were having milk.

dia-de-los-muertos-2

Altars:  Following the arrival of the Spaniards several elements changed, the celebration was changed to the day of All the Saints. Currently the altars dedicated to the dead have some these elements:

  • A picture of the loved one
  • Water is important because the souls are thirsty after their journey to this world
  • Salt
  • Bread, pan de muerto.
  • The food that the loved ones used to eat
  • Liquors
  • cigars
  • Candles
  • Flowers, cempoalxochitl or cempasúchil
  • Sugar skulls with the name of the people who is still alive, because we never know when we are going to be gone
  • Sweet Pumpkin
  • Fruits of the season
  • Mole with turkey
  • Sometimes the music that the deceased loved is played

The Day of the Dead of Dia de los Muertos is very alive.  I feel it is very important because it offers us the opportunity to feel the presence of our loved ones who have passed.  Creating an altar for our deceased loved ones is a good reminder that we will not be here on this plane forever.  We will transcend at some point, so to do what we love to do , to love our loved ones and follow our path toward happiness and love.

I want to close with a prehispanic poem:

Does no one know where we are going?
Do we go to God’s home or
do we live only here on earth?
Ah ohuaya.

Let your hearts know,
oh princes, oh eagles and jaguars
that we will not be friends forever,
only for a moment here, then we go
to Life Giver’s home,
Ohuaya ohuaya.

vero

Maria Veronica Iglesias Ramos

Maria Veronica Iglesias Ramos was born in Mexico City, Mexico. She has a Bachelor´s degree in Library Sciences and a Master´s Degree in Mesoamerican Studies from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (La Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico). She grew up in a family that always honors the Earth, the plants and all the living beings.

She was initiated as a sahumadora (bearer of the Sacred Sahumerio) when she was 8 years old. She studied about medicinal plants, crystal therapy and healing with gems. She also was initiated in the sacred knowledge of Mesoamerican shamanism and she became a Portadora de la Palabra, bearer of the Sacred Word. She is also a Priestess of Ix´Cheel, the Mayan Goddess of Medicine. She is currently researching gem stones and their therapeutic use, Pre-Hispanic medicine,  Feminine Shamanism in Mesoamerica, Feminine rites of passage and Goddesses from Mesoamerica.  She can be found at https://www.facebook.com/Papalotl,  and at http://papalotl.net/.

For more information and to follow Goddess Ink Blog visit www.goddess-ink.com  or visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/goddessinkbooks/.  Also, please sign up for the Goddess Ink Newsletter for a monthly dose of inspiration.

Photo credits: Veronica Iglesias

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dia de muertos:  Origins and Altars

By Veronica Iglesias Ramos

 

Origen prehispanico de la festividad

The Dia de Muetos Celebration has it origins in the Prehispanic Mexico. In that area the people used several calendars, the solar calendar with 365 days, the ritual calendar with 260 day called Tonalpohualli, they also used another types of calendars.

 

The Mesoamerican cosmogony is based in the philosophy of the opposites and complementary, this means that we have energies that complement each other.  In this cosmology, Dead is a counterpart of Life and viceverse, we need both in order to have harmony in the Cosmos.

Here are some examples:

 

 

MOTHER/MADRE
9
Down/Abajo
Cold/Frío
Female/Hembra
Humedity,Moistness/Humedad
Underworld/Inframundo
Dead/Muerte
Night/Noche
Ocelot/Ocelote
Oscurity/Oscuridad
FATHER/PADRE
13
Up/Arriba
Hot/Calor
Male/Macho
Drought/Sequía
Sky/Cielo
Life/Vida
Day/Día
Eagle/Águila
Light/Luz

 

 

 

 

Historically, during the harvest season, the people celebrated and shared food and the harvest of the year, with their ancestors.  They believed that their ancestors were also helping to plant and take care of the plants, so when they were collecting the fruits of the harvest it was normal to share with all those that helped with the planting and tending of the fields.  To celebrate, they created altars, with flowers, especially Cempoalxochitl, a beautiful yellow flower (marigold), they feasted on tamales, mole and turkey.

 

As part of celebrating the ancestors, the people recognized that when someone died, they could go to different places:

– The Tlalocan, was a kind of paradise where the people who died for causes related with water went. Their bodies were buried.

– The Omeyocan, the place where for the warriors who died in war as well as women who died during childbirth (cihuateteo). It was the place of Tonatiuh the Sun and Huitzilopochtli the deity of the war. Their bodies were buried.

– The Mictlan, the place of Mictlantecuhtli and Mictlancihuatl the lord and the lady of the Mictlan lived. The people who died for natural causes went there, the soul took 4 years to arrive. The dogs or  Xoloixcuintles were the guides, that is why was very important that every person during their life had at least one dog who will help in the transition.

– The Chichihuacauhco, this was a place where the babies who died before eating corn went. They believed that in that place was a tree with uncountable breasts where the babies were having milk.

 

After the arrival of the Spaniards several elements changed, the celebration was changed to the day of All the Saints. Currently the altars dedicated to the dead have some these elements:

  • A picture of the loved one
  • Water is important because the souls are thirsty after their journey to this world
  • Salt
  • Bread, pan de muerto.
  • The food that the loved ones used to eat
  • Liquors
  • cigars
  • Candles
  • Flowers, cempoalxochitl or cempasúchil
  • Sugar skulls with the name of the people who is still alive, because we never know when we are going to be gone
  • Sweet Pumpkin
  • Fruits of the season
  • Mole with turkey
  • Sometimes the music that the deceased loved is played

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz — finding voices by Anne Key

Empowerment, Mexico, Priestess, ritual

As I prepare everything for the Sacred Tour of Mexico I am leading next week, I am researching Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. She is a name I know well, but as I dig, new pieces appear.

I had not remembered that she was born out of wedlock, listed as a “child of the church.” What an auspicious beginning for a woman who dedicated her life to the church and helped expand its view of women.

A dedicated and highly self-disciplined student,

Cruz, a youth, cut off a lock of her hair each time she failed to remember one of her Latin grammar lessons because, “It didn’t seem right to me that a head so naked of knowledge should be dressed up with hair, for knowledge is a more desirable adornment. (more here)

Her scholarly pursuits, though, brought her under constant attack. She considered her own intellect a mixed blessing:

“I thought I was fleeing myself, but — woe is me! — I brought myself with me, and brought my greatest enemy in my inclination to study, which I know not whether to take as a Heaven-sent favor or as a punishment.” (more here)

And, in forward-looking reference to Lady Gaga, she reminds her detractors that she was born this way:

“Who has forbidden women to engage in private and individual studies? Have they not a rational soul as men do?…I have this inclination to study and if it is evil I am not the one who formed me thus – I was born with it and with it I shall die.” (more here)

In the 1690, as her patronage waned, Sor Juana was not allowed to publish her work and she was forced to give away her library of books. She died in 1695 after caring for nuns that were stricken with the plague.

Her passionate pleas for the education of women have inspired us all. In 1988, Octavio Paz introduced her to a new generation with his book Sor Juana: Or the Traps of Faith.

And here are a few words from one of her most famous poems, Hombres Necios:

Males perverse, schooled to condemn
Women by your witless laws,
Though forsooth you are prime cause
Of that which you blame in them: (more here)

Coyolxauhqui, Embracing that you could be broken, that your heart is in pieces by M. Veronica Iglesias

Goddesses of the Americas, Mesoamerican Goddesses, Mexico, Priestess, ritual, sacred sites

CoyolxauhquiToday I want to talk about archetypes, forces that we re-create during our lives. When we know them, we can begin to understand ourselves and to take the next logical steps to continue on our paths.

Here is an excellent definitions of the archetypes:

The term “archetype” has its origins in ancient Greek. The root words are archein, which means “original or old,” and typos, which means “pattern, model or type.” The combined meaning is: “original pattern,” that which all other similar persons, objects, or concepts are derived, copied, modeled, or emulated. The psychologist Carl Gustav Jung used the concept of archetype in his theory of the human psyche. He believed that universal, mythic characters —archetypes— reside within the collective unconscious of people the world over. Archetypes represent fundamental human motifs of our experience as we evolve; consequentially, they evoke deep emotions.

Although there are many different archetypes, Jung defined twelve primary types that symbolize basic human motivations. Each type has its own set of values, meanings and personality traits. Most, if not all, people have several archetypes at play in their personality construct; however, one archetype tends to dominate the personality in general. It can be helpful to know which archetypes are at play in oneself and others, especially loved ones, friends and co-workers, in order to gain personal insight into behaviors and motivations. (http://www.soulcraft.co/essays/the_12_common_archetypes.html)

Archetypes exist in every culture, and I want to share about one that is from the Aztec culture: Coyolxauhqui. The name Coyolxauhqui means “painted with bells” since she is commonly depicted with bells on her cheeks. The Aztec mythology tells the following story about her:

“As the pious and virtuous primordial mother Coatlicue (“the one with the snake skirt”) swept the temple at the Coatepec, she found a bundle of precious feathers, which she put away under her skirt. Without her knowing, these feathers made her become pregnant. This mysterious pregnancy embarrassed her children, the Centzon Huitznahua (“the four hundred – or uncountable Southern”), and her daughter Coyolxauhqui, who decided to kill her mother. When they arrived at the Coatepec, Coatlicue had already given birth to Huitzilopochtli in full war armor, who decapitated Coyolxauhqui, throwing her body down the hill, smashing it into pieces. Only a few of the Centzon Huitznahua could escape to the South, where since then the can be seen as stars in the sky.” (From Karl Taube Aztekische und Maya-Mythen, Stuttgart 1994 (http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/art_destinations/mexico/tour/templo_mayor/12).

The patriarchal system started around 3,000 of years ago, since then feminine energy was pushed aside, bringing great imbalance to the planet and the entire universe. Pilar Manzanares believes that the myth of Coyolxauqui represents the female rebellion against patriarchy, explaining the defeat of the feminine. (http://www.miriamlopezhernandez.com/uploads/1/1/7/6/11767522/pres._libro_pilar_alberti_mujer_divina_mujer_terrena_jul_2012.pdf) Discussing the patriarchal order, Jean Shinoda Bolen observed “there is not room for vulnerability, tenderness and innocence. There is not room for empathy or compassion for enemies, competitors or rivals” (Gods in Every Man).

Coyolxauhqui appears into your life when you feel broken into pieces, and the patriarchal system has pushed you to your limit. She comes when you feel that the care of the mother has disappeared leaving you an orphan, experiencing great loneliness, isolation, sadness, disappointment and fears. You feel unable to continue for fear of being attacked by society. Coyolxauqui invites you to stand up for yourself, be in your feet, reclaim your birth right of existence on this Earth and be acknowledged, honored and respected as a woman. Her energy is about becoming your own mother and taking care of and nurturing yourself. She helps you to re-create who you are or who you want to be after a personal crisis.

Thoughts, Affirmations and Meditations to work and embrace her energy.

“To become the mothers of ourselves is to sustain ourselves, to take care, guide and pamper ourselves, to believe in ourselves and give birth to ourselves as courageous women, and open to life and nurture our inner feminine wisdom.” Germana Martin http://lapalabrachamanica.blogspot.com/

Affirmation

“Today I’ll take care of myself; today I begin to be born”.

 

Meditation

Light a candle and some incense of sage or cedar to ready yourself for ritual. Sit down in a comfortable position and start breathing deeply. Visualize yourself surrounded by a blue light of protection. Call in your personal guides and Coyolxauhqui.

On a piece of paper write your full name. Remember a difficult situation that made you feel broken, hurt, and in pain. When you remember the details start cutting the paper in pieces. Let the emotions come freely. If you need to cry, to scream, or feel angry, let it come. When you are done, put the pieces of the paper back together so that you can see your full name. Use some tape to put all of the pieces together.

Now visualize a beautiful nurturing energy coming to you, and bring that energy into your hands. Cover the paper with your hands, surrounding your name with this sweet energy. Bring the healing that you need.

Take a deep breath and honor this moment.  Now take that piece of paper and put it in your altar. This symbolizes that you can be broken in pieces and that you also have the power to bring you back again.

Close the meditation and say “thank you” or “Namaste”.

If you want to experience a more vivid and close connection with the healing energy of Coyolxauqui, I invite you to a sacred journey in Mexico where we will visit different sacred places for ceremonies and meditation. See more information: http://www.goddess-ink.com/events.html

Blessings, love and light.

Maria Veronica Iglesias

About M. Verónica Iglesias:  Maria Veronica Iglesias was born in Mexico City, Mexico. She has a Bachelor´s degree in Library Sciences and a Master´s Degree in Mesoamerican Studies from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (La Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico). She grew up in a family that always honors the Earth, the plants and all the living beings.

She was initiated as a sahumandora (bearer of the Sacred Sahumerio) when she was 8 years old. She studied about medicinal plants, crystal therapy and healing with gems. She also was initiated in the sacred knowledge of Mesoamerican shamanism and she became a Portadora de la Palabra, bearer of the Sacred Word. She is also a Priestess of Ix´Cheel, the Mayan Goddess of Medicine. She is currently researching gem stones and their therapeutic use, Pre-Hispanic medicine, Feminine Shamanism in Mesoamerica, Feminine rites of passage and Goddesses from Mesoamerica.

Web site:  www.papalotl.net

 

On FBhttps://www.facebook.com/Papalotl-Honoring-your-transformation-1544095532529769/

Goddess Ink:  For More information and to follow Goddess Ink Blog visit www.goddess-ink.com  or visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/goddessinkbooks/

The Cihuateteo by Anne Key

Goddess, Mesoamerican Goddesses, Mexico, Priestess, ritual

The cosmology of the Mesoamericans presents a lush, complex landscape of deities and ideas. Study of this cosmology, through a particularly feminist lens, reveals powerful female deities. Among the most intriguing are the Cihuateteo[1].

The Cihuateteo (literally “women goddesses”)[2] appear in the pantheon of Mesoamerican cosmology as mortal women who died in childbirth and were then deified[3]. In regular cycles, the Cihuateteo traversed the heavens, the underworld, and the earthly plane. Daily they dwelt with the stars in the western sky in the heavenly region called Cihuatlampa (“place of women”) and accompanied the sun from noon to sunset, then through the night as it lit the underworld[4]. Every 52 days[5] in the ritual calendar[6], the Cihuateteo descended to earth to reign for a day associated with the west. It is the very regularity of the Cihuateteo’s presence that places them habitually in the lives of the Mesoamericans.

In central Mexico, Goddesses were worshipped at cihuateocalli (“goddess houses”) of different sizes and locations. The Cihuateteo were honored in neighborhood cihuateocallibuilt at the crossroads. During the days of the Goddesses’ descent, their images in the shrines were festooned with paper (amatetéuitl) pegged to the statues with bits of rubber or copal[7]. They were given offerings of tamales[8] and toasted corn, as well as bread shaped as butterflies and lightning rays.

On the days the Cihuateteo descended, children were cautioned to stay inside and men were warned to be careful, as contact with these Goddesses could cause palsy. These admonitions have historically been used to paint the Cihuateteo as maleficent beings. I offer another interpretation, seeing the days they descended as times when possession was imminent and viewing palsy as a symptom of possession. Only those who were skilled in dealing with divine possession should be outside on the days the Cihuateteodescended.

The negative framing of these Goddesses has led to their continued demonization. Modern writings compare them to vampires and other maleficent specters. However, according to the veneration practices of the Mesoamericans, the Cihuateteo are powerful, benevolent and munificent ancestors.

One of the most beautiful tributes to the Cihuateteo was the prayer that the midwife recited at the death of a young mother.[9] In this prayer the midwife cried at the death of her patient, urging the parents to be glad that their child had died in childbirth because she would become a Goddess and accompany the sun as a brave one, a mocihuaquetzque[10]:

My little one, my daughter, my noble woman, you have wearied yourself, you have fought bravely. By your labors you have achieved a noble death, you have come to the place of the Divine. …Go, beloved child, little by little towards them (theCihuateteo) and become one of them; go daughter and they will receive you and you will be one of them forever, rejoicing with your happy voices in praise of our Mother and Father, the Sun, and you will always accompany them wherever they go in their rejoicing. (Sahagún 381-382)

At the end of the prayer, the midwife exhorted the new Cihuateotl not to forget her and all those left on earth, to remember and aid them as they led their hard lives on the earthly plane. This prayer portrayed the Cihuateteo as benevolent beings, honored and revered.

Throughout this prayer, the Cihuateteo were referred to in militaristic terms. They were called “brave” and extolled for “fighting bravely”, and their daily journey with the sun from noon to dusk mirrored the slain warrior’s journey with the sun from dawn to noon. The Cihuateteo were literally the embodiment of bravery. In fact, warriors would attempt to sever the middle finger of the dead woman’s left hand to use as a talisman to assure their own bravery and success in battle. The midwives and family members who carried her to her grave had to stop warriors from dismembering the body of the Cihuateteo.

The question of why the Cihuateteo were described in militaristic terms and venerated in the same way as warriors who died in battle has been much debated. Melgarejo Vivanco wrote that the Cihuateteo were given the same honor as dead warriors because it helped promote motherhood “with the incentive of deification” (167). A militaristic society, he noted, must be supplied with soldiers. This is a commonly repeated theory.

statue of goddess (Cihuateteo) with skeletolized face and clawed fingers

Cihuateotl. Provenance: Mexico City. Note the skeletolized face and clawed fingers (clawed toes not visible). Belt around waist has similar ollin style knot.
Photo © Anne Key.

However, honoring women by comparing them to warriors assumes that warriors had died in battle before women died in childbirth[11]. I suggest that the scenario of the Cihuateteoexisted before the culture knew war[12], and that the increasingly militaristic Mesoamerican society may have co-opted a longstanding custom of honoring women who died in childbirth to valorize its practices.

It can then be posited that warriors were given the same status as women who died in childbirth; that as an incentive for warriors to go into battle, they were to be honored as women had been honored for centuries, perhaps millennia. Women dying in childbirth were the exemplars of courage, given the highest honor available to mortals — to journey with the sun. Warriors would share this honor, giving them the same status as the Cihuateteo.

The iconography associated with the Cihuateteo differs in the various regions. TheCihuateteo statues from the state of Veracruz were modeled after the deceased bodies of individual women who died in childbirth. Multivalent symbols appear on these statues: fantastic headdresses represent the sky dragon and the earth monster; bicephalic pit-vipers wrapped around their waists represent internal female organs and attributes of deities associated with death. The vipers are tied in a knot similar to the glyph ollin, which means “movement”.

The most striking aspect of these statues is their humanness. These were real women — the artisans’ contemporaries, possibly their relatives, friends, part of their community. They were rendered as fleshy, corporeal, mortal, real. Every post-mortem detail was captured. I believe it is this humanness that makes these statues a true testament to the deceased women — they were truly revered ancestors.

In contrast, the Central Mexican Cihuateteo do not have individual characteristics; there is little variance among them. These statues are kneeling and have descarnated faces and clawed feet, contrasted with their long, luxurious hair. On the top of some of their heads, a day glyph of one of the days of the Cihuateteo’s descent is designed into the hair. Their belts or snakes are tied in the similar ollin glyph style knot. Their breasts are bared, visible above their knotted belts and skirts.

The Cihuateteo were the beloved and brave women who died in the act of childbirth. The midwife’s prayer assured the mother that her death had not been in vain, that she would be remembered for her act of bravery. The prayer poignantly expressed the bravery of the Cihuateteo, showing their honored place with the sun. There was no doubt that the Cihuateteo were powerful deities. Traversing the celestial, earthly, and underworld spheres and honored in neighborhood shrines, they were an integral part of the spiritual landscape of the Mesoamericans.

_______

Join us on a Sacred Tour of Mexico! 6/26-7/3/2016 Tour sacred sites in and around Mexico City with Veronica Iglesias and Anne Key, both priestesses and scholars of Mesoamerican culture.Learn about thirteen of the Nahua Goddesses, participate in rituals, a temazcal (a Mexican sweat lodge), enjoy guided tours through world-class museums and shopping at an art bazaar. Plus lots of wonderful surprises! Some of the sites we will visit: Teotihuacan, Basilica de Guadalupe, Tepotzlan, Museo de Antropologia, Templo Mayor, Casa de Frida Kahlo, and many more! more info at  http://www.goddess-ink.com/events.html

Notes

  1. All translations from the Spanish or Nahuatl are mine.
  2. Cihuateteo (pl); Cihuateotl (sing).
  3. See Pomeroy for speculation that Spartan women who died in childbirth were also honored in the same way as warriors slain in battle.
  4. The underworld portion of this cycle is not explicitly stated in Sahagún’s writings but can be found elsewhere. See Key for evidence and sources.
  5. The 260-day ritual year was divided into 20 time periods called trecenas (from the Spanish trece meaning 13) made up of 13 days each. There were four sets of trecenas, each associated with one of the four directions. So in the whole 260-day cycle, five individual trecenas were associated with a single direction. The Cihuateteo descended on the first day of each trecena associated with the west: the 3rd, ce mazatl (one deer); the 7th, ce quiahuitl (one rain); the 11th, ce ozomatl (one monkey); the 15th, ce calli (one house); and the 19th, ce quauhtli (one eagle).
  6. It has been suggested that this 260-day ritual cycle follows the human gestation period from the first sign of life to birth (covering 9 lunations) and is intricately associated with female cycles. See Tate for further information.
  7. Copal is a fragrant tree resin burned in ritual. It is still used today.
  8. Tamales are still considered sacred food, made and served on feast days. Tamales represent the human body: the masa (corn dough) is the skin, the meat is the muscle, and the red sauce is the blood.
  9. Many prayers and rites of the Aztecs were recorded by B. Sahagún, one of the first clerics to arrive in Mexico from Spain. He recorded the Prayer of the Midwife in a romanized version of the indigenous oral language Nahuatl. Though his writings are certainly infused with a Catholic overlay, they are one of the few extant sources for pre-conquest rituals, prayers, and beliefs. For a beautiful rendition of many of the sacred sayings and prayers, see Sullivan and Knab.
  10. This term is sometimes translated as “brave ones”, “valiant women” or “female warriors” and other times as “those that arose as women”. See Miller and Taube and Klein.
  11. Rohrlich and Nash find “no evidence of gender and class distinctions, or of warfare, before the latter part of Toltec hegemony” (p. 93), possibly as late as 900 CE. However, more current scholarship by Marcus finds signs of warfare in the Oaxaca area by 700-500 BCE. According to Marcus, from 1400 to 1150 BCE the society was egalitarian, with families “integrated through participation in village ritual” (p. 2). However, signs of hereditary inequality began appearing in 1150 BCE, and by 700-500 BCE, warfare was evident.
  12. de Piña Chán speculates that the Cihuateteo date from the Formative era but that they do not appear in statuary until the Classic era on the Gulf Coast (p. 152).

Works Cited

  • Key, Anne. Death and the Divine: The Cihuateteo, Goddesses in the Mesoamerican Cosmovision. Diss. California Institute of Integral Studies, 2005.
  • Klein, Cecilia. “The devil and the skirt: An iconographic inquiry into the pre-Hispanic nature of the Tzitzimime”. Ejournal: Revista estudios de cultural Náhuatl. 31 (2000): April 20, 2003, http://www.ejournal.unam.mx/cultura_nahuatl/ecnahuatl31/ECN31002.pdf.
  • Marcus, J. Women’s Ritual in Formative Oaxaca: Figurine-making, Divination, Death, and the Ancestors. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 1988
  • Melgarejo Vivanco, J. L. Los Totonaca y su cultura [The Totonacs and their culture]. Xalapa, Mexico: Universidad Veracruzana. 1985.
  • Miller, Mary and Karl Taube. The Illustrated Dictionary of The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya. New York: Thames and Hudson. 1993.
  • de Piña Chán, Beatriz.B. “ Elementos psicopompos en la arqueología mexicana [Psychopomp elements in Mexican archaeology]”. Ed. H. K. Kocyba, Y Gonález Torres, & R. Piña Chán Historia comparativa de las religiones Mexico City, Mexico: INAH. 1988. 145-168.
  • Pomeroy, Sarah B. Spartan Women. New York: Oxford University Press. 2002.
  • Rohrlich, R., & Nash, J. “The patriarchal puzzle: State formation in Mesopotamia and Mesoamerica”. (No publication information available.) 1981. 90-95.
  • Sahagún, Bernardino. Historia general de las cosas de nueva españa. Transl. A.M. Garibay K. Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa. 1999.
  • Sullivan, Thelma D. and Timothy J. Knab. A Scattering of Jades: Stories, Poems, and Prayers of the Aztecs. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. 2003.
  • Tate, Carolyn. “Writing on the Face of the Moon”. Manifesting Power: Gender and the Interpretation of Power. Ed. Tracy Sweely. New York: Routledge. 1999. 81-102

Graphics Credits

  • Cihuateteo, photos © 2008 Anne Key. All rights reserved.

This post appeared originally in Matrifocus www.matrifocus.com

Tlaltecuhtli: The Jaws of Life and Death by Anne Key

Goddess, Mesoamerican Goddesses, Mexico, Priestess, ritual, sacred sites

In 2006, another giant monolith was found at the Templo Mayor in Mexico City. Like the Coatlicue monolith found decades earlier, this new discovery also towers at over seven feet tall. She is Tlaltecuhtli, the Earth Goddess.

Images of Tlaltecuhtli are often found carved on the bottom of Aztec sculptures — where the sculpture comes in contact with the earth. The most famous of these images is the one on the bottom of the giant Coatlicue from the Templo Mayor in Mexico City. Representations of Tlaltecuhtli are found at the murals of Teotihuacan, a ceremonial center near modern-day Mexico City.

Her name literally means “earth-lord” (Tlal =land; cuhtli = lord).[1] While the suffix of her name connotes male gender, she appears in myth as female and her pictorial representation is decidedly female, usually in the birth-giving posture. Midwives prayed to Tlaltecuhtli in the cases of difficult birth. Also she was invoked as the Sun in prayers to another Aztec deity, Tezcatlipoca (Miller 168). Tlaltecuhtli is the Earth Goddess, part of the Central Mexican pantheon, and her image stretches into the Mayan territories.

Image and Meaning
One of Tlaltecuhtli’s most distinctive features is her gaping maw, showing flint knives[2] for teeth and a protruding tongue. Her hands and feet are often clawed, bringing to mind both predatory birds and carrion-eaters. Here she is pictured with skull masks at her elbows and feet as well as in her hands. Her birth-giving posture connects her to frog imagery.


Tlaltecuhtli, Templo Mayor, Mexico City

The open mouth of the Tlaltecuhtli can be seen as a tomb — or as a womb. On the first page from the Tonalámatl de los Pochtecas the Earth Goddess appears, jaws wide, teeth exposed. Out of her mouth grows the tree of life. The tree of life growing from these jaws of death completes this picture of the earth as womb and tomb, and of the mouth and eating as analogous to birth and death.

Images of the Earth Goddess appear in Maya iconography as well. In the Mayan ceremonial complex of Izapa, Stele 25 shows the Earth Goddess as a crocodile, arranged vertically, pointing headfirst towards the ground with her tail becoming a tree.[3] These are two beautiful symbols of the creative force of the earth as represented by the Earth Goddess, connecting her with trees, the firmament, and the act of creation either out of her own mouth or with her own body. The Izapan style Earth Goddess represents the earth and death and the “dynamics between death and birth that govern the universe”, according to De la Garza (2002, p. 98), who identifies the symbolism of the Earth Goddess or, as she terms it, the “Terrestrial Dragon” as linking life and death:

Considering its relationship with the earth, the dragon symbolized the earthly surface, as well as the generating power hidden inside. Thus it is linked with the death god who dwells there, the jaguar, who is a symbol of the dead Sun, the netherworld, and the night sky.(122)

The Earth Goddess resembles a crocodile here but has also been identified in both English and Spanish interpretations as a variety of beings: snake, alligator (caimán), crocodile or lizard (lagarto or lagartija), dragon, and mythical monster/creature. Whatever species, mythical or real, that the Earth Goddess represents, she unites both telluric and aquatic aspects.

The image of the caimán corresponds to the day-sign Cipactli. Ce Cipactli (one-caimán), is the first day of the 260-day ritual calendar. As the ritual calendar can represent the cycle of human life, Cipactli represents the beginning of life. Tlaltecuhtli is the maw of life and death, the mouth that is womb and tomb. And as we will see in the following myth, she is the incarnation of the earth.

Myth
The Earth Goddess is associated with the very creation of the earth. She stands as a symbol of telluric creation and as a symbol of the creative capacity of the earth. In myths and the codices, the Earth Goddess in her form as Cipactli literally becomes the earth; she is a primordial sea creature whose dismembered body forms the earth.

From the 16th century manuscript Histoyre du Mechique comes the myth of the creation of the earth (Markman 213). In this myth, the two gods Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca carried Tlaltecuhtli from heaven to earth. When they arrived on earth, they found it covered with water and realized they needed to create land. The two gods changed themselves into two snakes and seized Tlaltecuhtli by the hands and feet and pulled her with such force that she was severed. Her body from her shoulders down became the earth, and from the shoulders up it became the heavens.

The other deities were extremely upset by the actions of these two gods. In order to recompense Tlaltecuhtli, all the gods arrived on earth to console her and deemed her the source of all sustenance:

And in order to do this, they made from her hair trees and flowers and grasses, from her skin the very fine grass and small flowers, from her eyes wells and fountains and small caverns, from her mouth rivers and great caverns, from her nose mountain valleys, and from her shoulders mountains. And this goddess sometimes wept at night, desiring to eat men’s hearts, and would not be quiet until they were offered to her, nor would she bear fruit unless she was watered with the blood of men. (Markman 213)

This myth has a blatantly misogynistic overlay, possibly from the original manuscript by a Spanish chronicler (which has since been lost) or by the French translator, or by the orator himself. Certainly this view is limited: The earth as an unwilling participant in creation and the reciprocal relationship of human to earth as based in sadness and anger.

However, the underlying storyline shows Tlaltecuhtli as the earth; the earth is literally the Goddess incarnate. Her body is the contours of the land, and all nourishment and sustenance come from her. Commenting on this myth, Carrasco likens the theme of dismemberment to the act of creation: “This combination of dismemberment and creation is an emphatic characteristic of Mesoamerican mythology. The creation of the world is constantly joined in the destruction of the world in mythic narratives” (440). Viewed through a different lens, one where the dismemberment happens willingly, the earth is the gift of the Goddess, and the reciprocal sacrifice that humans offer is their gift to her.

Báez-Jorge sees the Earth Goddess as the center of a quadripartite group of deities: Cóatlicue as the origin of the celestial deities; Chicomecóatl as the provider of sustenance; Cihuacóatl as motherhood and death;and Chalchiuhtlicue as controlling terrestrial waters. In the center is the Earth Mother, the “sacred essence that incorporates the totality of the numinous characteristics that are dialectically linked (human fertility and vegetation; life and death; phases of the moon, etc.) and in turn that which is realized by an internal connection that unifies these distinct responsibilities” (132-133).

The Jaws of Life and Death
Tlaltecuhtli is the earth incarnate, the in-carn-ation of the earth; the earth made flesh. The Earth Goddess embodies the duality of creation and death. The Goddess has her mouth open to give and receive in reciprocal relationship with those who dwell in her.

A song from the Nahua peoples of San Miguel in Sierra del Puebla beautifully portrays this relationship of earth and human. The earth, the most holy earth, is the source of life for the people of San Miguel. As they themselves say here:

We live HERE on this earth (stamping on the mud floor)
We are all fruits of the earth
The earth sustains us
We grow here, on the earth and lower
And when we die, we wither on the earth
We are ALL FRUITS of the earth (stamping on the mud floor).
We eat of the earth
Then the earth eats us. (Broda 107)

_________

Join us on a Sacred Tour of Mexico! 6/26-7/3/2016 Tour sacred sites in and around Mexico City with Veronica Iglesias and Anne Key, both priestesses and scholars of Mesoamerican culture.Learn about thirteen of the Nahua Goddesses, participate in rituals, a temazcal (a Mexican sweat lodge), enjoy guided tours through world-class museums and shopping at an art bazaar. Plus lots of wonderful surprises! Some of the sites we will visit: Teotihuacan, Basilica de Guadalupe, Tepotzlan, Museo de Antropologia, Templo Mayor, Casa de Frida Kahlo, and many more! more info at  http://www.goddess-ink.com/events.html

Notes

  1. All translations from the Spanish are mine.
  2. As the primary means of striking fire, flint was symbolic of the debt humans owed to the deities for sustenance and life. Flint knives were associated with sacrifice and were often personified, adorned with eyes and mouths.
  3. For a fuller treatment of this stele, see de la Garza 2002.

Bibliography

  • Báez-Jorge, F. (1988). Los oficios de las diosas [The offices of the goddesses]. Xalapa, Mexico: Universidad Veracruzana.
  • Broda, J. (1987). “Templo Mayor as Ritual Space”. In J. Broda, D. Carrasco, and E. Matos Moctezuma The Great Temple of Tenochtitlan: Center and Periphery in the Aztec World. Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 61-123.
  • Carrasco, D. (1995) “Cosmic Jaws: We eat the Gods and the Gods Eat Us.” In Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Vol. 63. No. 3, pp. 429-463.
  • Coe, M. D. (1997). Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs. New York: Thames and Hudson.
  • Garza, M. de la. (1998). El universo sagrado de la serpiente entre los Mayas [The sacred universe of the serpent according to the Mayas]. Mexico City, Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  • Markman, R. and P. Markman (1992). The Flayed God: The Mesoamerican Mythological Tradition. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.
  • Miller, M. and K. Taube. (1993). An Illustrated Dictionary of The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.
  • Pasztory, E. (1998). Pre-Columbian Art. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
  • Sahagún, B. (1999). Historia general de las cosas de nueva España [General history of things of New Spain] (A. M. Garibay K., Trans.). Mexico City, Mexico: Editorial Porrúa. (Original work published 1829; written in the 16th century)
  • Tate, Carolyn. “Writing on the Face of the Moon”. Manifesting Power: Gender and the Interpretation of Power. Ed. Tracy Sweely. New York: Routledge, 1999. 81-102. Challenging Secularization.Aldershot, UK and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Graphics Credits

Mexico City–Land that calls my heart by Anne Key

Divine, Goddess, Mexico, Priestess, ritual, sacred sites, Uncategorized

In 1988 I went to visit my sister and fell under the enchantment Mexico City. One of the largest cities in the world (and the largest in the Americas), Mexico City has everything I love: world-class museums, fine restaurants, hearty street-food, extensive subway, gracious and expansive parks, exquisite architecture, and staggering art. I have traveled through Mexico City annually since that first trip, sometimes for research and other times to nourish my soul.

The opportunity to bring others to this city is a joy. Over the years, I have seen Mexico City change. The air pollution (once a major health concern) has cleared measurably. The creation of more pedestrian walkways in the Historic District have led to an explosion of sidewalk cafes. The excavations at Templo Mayor in the Zocalo (center of the city) have yielded more colossal Goddess statues (the latest an 11 x13 foot Tlatecuhtli).  

Mexico City sits in a valley ringed by mountains, known as the Valle de México. The area has been continuously inhabited from 8,000 BCE. The Aztecs made this area their capital in 1325 CE, with over 200,000 inhabitants at the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors two hundred years later. The city retains the majesty of every culture that has rooted in this earth and felt it quake. 

Join me and Veronica Iglesias on a seven day tour in and around Mexico City this summer. Sunday evening June 26th – Saturday evening July 2nd. Information and registration at http://www.goddess-ink.com/events.html.

Cost: EARLY BIRD: $1199 Register before 4/15/2016 and save!
After 4/15: $1399

Includes 7 nights lodging (double occupancy), all in-country transportation, entrance fees, and guided tours. Optional day tours $99 each: Sunday June 26th to Puebla; and Sunday July 3rd to Mexican market and dinner. Does not include meals, airfare, or transportation from airport. If you want single occupancy, please email Anne (anne@goddess-ink.com).