Coatlicue: Aztec Earth Goddess of Life and Death

Coatlicue: Aztec Earth Goddess
Coatlicue: Aztec Earth Goddess. DEA Picture Library/De Agostini Picture Library/Getty

Religion and Culture of Coatlicue

Aztec, Mesoamerica

 

Symbols, Iconography, and Art of Coatlicue

Images of Coatlicue are rare; our primary source for what she looked like is a massive statue unearthed in 1790. Coatlicue has taloned feet and a skirt of rattlesnakes. She also wears a necklace with the skulls, hearts, and hands of sacrificial victims. Coral snakes are around her head and hands while two more snakes emerge from her neck.

It's not just her clothing which is fearsome. She also has claws on her hands an feet, has long, sharp teeth, and loose, sagging breasts.

Coatlicue is the Mother Earth, but a devouring mother who consumes everything — and who is thirsty for blood.

 

Coatlicue was Goddess of...

  • Abundance in agriculture and hunting
  • Aztec political administration
  • Life and Death

 

Equivalents in Other Cultures

Ixchel and Akhushtal, in Mayan mythology

 

Family Tree and Relationships of Coatlicue

 

Temples, Worship and Rituals of Coatlicue

A young woman was sacrificed to Coatlicue at the beginning of major hunts. In the spring, she was worshipped at a major festival so that she could ensure ample spring rains for the coming crops.

 

Mythology and Legends of Coatlicue

Coatlicue conceived and bore Huitzilopochtli without a male partner and while still a virgin: a ball of feathers (possibly hummingbird feathers) fell from the sky and impregnated her.

All her other sons (400, which for the Aztec meant "countless") accused her of promiscuity and made ready to kill her under the leadership of their sister Coyolxauhqui. Just as they were about to attack, however, Coatlicue's new son Huitzilopochtli leapt fully formed from her womb and slew her other children.

How she managed to already have other children even though she was still a virgin is a religious mystery.

All of those brothers were dismembered and scattered across the universe, becoming the stars. His sister, Coyolxauhqui, he beheaded and she became the moon.

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Cline, Austin. "Coatlicue: Aztec Earth Goddess of Life and Death." ThoughtCo, Sep. 18, 2015, thoughtco.com/coatlicue-aztec-earth-goddess-life-and-death-248578. Cline, Austin. (2015, September 18). Coatlicue: Aztec Earth Goddess of Life and Death. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/coatlicue-aztec-earth-goddess-life-and-death-248578 Cline, Austin. "Coatlicue: Aztec Earth Goddess of Life and Death." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/coatlicue-aztec-earth-goddess-life-and-death-248578 (accessed November 23, 2017).