Mayahuel, The Aztec Goddess of Maguey

Mayahuel, as illustrated in the Codex Borgia
Mayahuel, as illustrated in the Codex Borgia. Vectorized by Eddo

Mayahuel was the Aztec goddess of maguey, as well as one of the protectors of fertility. This deity played an important role in ancient Central Mexico, the area associated with the origin of pulque.

Mayahuel Myth

According to the Aztec myth, the god Quezalcoatl decided to provide humans with a special drink to celebrate and feast and gave them pulque. He sent Mayahuel, goddess of maguey, to the earth and then coupled with her.

To avoid the rage of her grandmother and her other ferocious relatives the goddesses Tzitzimime, Quetzalcoatl and Mayahuel transformed themselves into a tree, but they were found out and Mayahuel was killed. Quetzalcoatl collected the bones of the goddess and buried them, and in that place grew the first plant of maguey. For this reason, it was thought that the sweet sap, the aguamiel, collected from the plant was the blood of the goddess.

A different version of the myth tells that Mayahuel was a mortal woman who discovered how to collect aguamiel, and her husband Pantecalt discovered how to make pulque.

Mayahuel Imagery

Mayahuel was also defined as “the woman of the 400 breasts”, probably referring to the many sprouts and leaves of maguey and the milky juice produced by the plant and transformed into pulque. The goddess has many breasts to feed her many children, the Centzon Totochtin or “the 400 rabbits”, who were the gods associated with the effects of excessive drinking.

In codices, Mayahuel is depicted as a young woman, with many breasts, emerging from a maguey plant, holding cups with foaming pulque.

Sources

This glossary entry is a part of the About.com guide to Aztec Gods, and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Miller, Mary, and Karl Taube, 1993, The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: An Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion.

London: Thames & Hudson.

Taube, Karl, 1996, Las Origines del Pulque, Arqueologia Mexicana, Vol.7, N. 20, p.71.

 

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Maestri, Nicoletta. "Mayahuel, The Aztec Goddess of Maguey." ThoughtCo, Aug. 9, 2016, thoughtco.com/mayahuel-the-aztec-goddess-of-maguey-171570. Maestri, Nicoletta. (2016, August 9). Mayahuel, The Aztec Goddess of Maguey. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/mayahuel-the-aztec-goddess-of-maguey-171570 Maestri, Nicoletta. "Mayahuel, The Aztec Goddess of Maguey." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/mayahuel-the-aztec-goddess-of-maguey-171570 (accessed October 23, 2017).