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Chalchiuhtlicue

In Aztec mythology, Chalchiuhtlicue (also Chalciuhtlicue, or Chalcihuitlicue) ("She of the Jade Skirt") was the goddess of lakes, rivers, seas, streams, horizontal waters, storms, and baptism. She is also a patroness of birth and plays a part in Aztec baptisms. She was also called Matlalcueitl by the Tlaxcala, a subject people of the Aztecs.

Mythology

For the Aztecs, Chalchiutlicue was the water goddess who was a personification of youthful beauty and ardor. She was represented as a river from which grew a prickly pear tree laden with fruit, symbolizing the human heart.

Chalchiutlicue’s association with both water and the birth of fertility is due to the Aztec’s common association of the womb with waters. This dual role gave her both life-giving and a life-ending role in Aztec mythology Chalchiutlicue brought about the destruction of the fourth sun by releasing 52 years of rains to flood the earth. She also protected humanity by changing the people into fish so that the waters would not drown them, and by creating a bridge linking earth to heaven for those in her favor. Chalchiuitlicue means “She Who Wears a Jade Skirt.” She was also called Matlalcueye which means “She Who Wears a Green Skirt.” This goddess was the wife (in some myths, sister) of the rain god, Tlaloc. In Aztec cosmology, she was the fourth of the previous suns; in her reign, maize (corn) was first used. Like other water deities, she was often associated with serpents.

She was the mother of Tecciztecatl who was an Aztec moon god who represented the male form on the planet, even its rising from the ocean. He was called "he who comes from the land of the sea-slug shell" because of the similarity between the moon and the slug. Tecciztecatl portrayed as an old man who carries a large white seashell on his back.

In her aquatic aspect, Chalchiutlicue was known as Acuecucyoticihuati, goddess of oceans, as well as the patron of women in labor. She was also said to be the wife of Xiuhtecuhtli, also called Huehueteotl "old god," the senior deity of the Aztec pantheon. He was the personification of light in the darkness, warmth in coldness, and life in death. A god of light and fire, he is often depicted with a red or yellow face, with a censer on his head.

The mythology of Chalchiuitlicue says that she helped Tlaloc rule the paradise kingdom of Tlalocan. She is also said to be protector of children. Chalchiutlicue also brought fertility to crops. Legend tells that she devour the sun and moon.

Archeological Record

Chalchiutlicue is depicted in several central Mexican manuscripts, including the Pre-Columbian Codex Borgia (plates 11 and 650), the 16th century Codex Borbonicus (page 5), Codex Ríos (page 17), and the Florentine Codex, (plate 11). When sculpted, she is often carved from green stone as befits her name.

In the ceremonial center at Tenochtitlan several sculptural representations show the veneration that the natives had for frogs (Cueyatl or Cuiyatl.) Some of them can be seen at the museum of the great temple and others in the exterior at the original placement.

A team of archaeologists led by Saburo Sugiyama, a professor at Aichi Prefectural University in Japan and Ruben Cabrera of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, found a tomb which contained important evidence that may help archaeologists define and examine a particularly active period in Teotihuacan's history and perhaps one of the culture's "defining moments." This tomb dedicated to Chalchiutlicue was discovered a year ago. It contained a single human male sacrificial victim as well as a wolf, jaguar, puma, serpent, bird, skeletons, and more than 400 other artifacts which include a large greenstone and obsidian figurines, ceremonial knives, and spear points. Also inside the tomb they found frescos in red and green of former religions, some referring to agricultural and natural rain cycles. Other ornamentals and sculptures were found as well, characterized by a solid structure made of basalt and sculpted in a geometric form. The Pyramid of the Moon is located on the far north end of Avenue of the Dead which is the main avenue (over long) that connects all the main complexes at Teotihuacan. It measures 140 feet (43 m) in height and 426 by 511 feet (130 by 116 meters) at the base. A Chalchiutlicue statue was found underneath this Plaza of the Moon and has since been moved to El Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Mexico City. Others excavations inside the pyramid of the moon have led to the discovery of numerous tombs which contained ornaments of jaguars and birds.

Visual Depiction

To her people Chalchihuitlicue was seen as a flowing river, producing a prickly pear tree encumbered with a tremendous amount of fruit. The fruit was a symbol for the human hearts that were sacrificed to the goddess. Chalchihuitlicue’s distinctive hairdressing denotes her status. Her headdress consisted of several broad bands that in all probability were made of cotton and trimmed with amaranth seeds. Large round tassels fell from the goddess’s headdress. The goddess was viewed as beautiful lady whose clothing is that of a noble woman, which consisted of an extravagant shawl adorned with tassels and a green skirt. Often at times a stream of water, which usually included a baby from both genders, flowed from out of the goddess’ skirt. In addition, Chalchihuitlicue could also be seen carrying a cross. For the Aztecs the cross was a symbol of fertility. The cross also stood for the four winds that brought the rain to water the crops.

Cult and Rites

Five out of the twenty big celebrations in the native calendar were dedicated to Tlaloc and his wife Chalchiutlicue (the one having skirt of green stones), which symbolized waving water, floods and rivers. During these celebrations the priests dived into the lake and imitated the movements and the croaking of frogs, with the intention of bringing rain.

Chalchiutlicue presides over the day 5 Serpent and the trecena of 1 Reed. She was connected with serpents, maize, and shells. She was responsible with bringing about good harvest to the crops. She was worshiped in marriage. Women who worshiped her would dedicate their nuptials to her. Chachiutlicue was also the goddess of young children.

It was believed that Chalchiutlicue was the guardian of the children and new born. The fathers would choose the best midwife to bring their child to the world. It was very important for them because the father was concern about the well being of the mother and the baby, (many times the mother and the baby died in the process of giving birth) Midwives would speak to children who were being delivered as if they were adults, able to reason and understand. Then the midwife would implore to the gods that his birth insure a prime place among the gods. After cutting the umbilical cord the midwife would wash the new baby with customary greeting to the goddess of the sea Chalchiutlicue. After four days of the birth the child was giving a second bath and it was time for them to be given a name. According with the customs and tradition, the family and relatives prepared everything for the big celebration with food and drinks. The family of the baby would send for the midwife to lead the rite. After of the rising of the sun the midwife would place a bowl of water in the middle of the patio and she would hold the naked child with both hands. (If the baby was a boy, he had a small shield, a bow four little arrows. If the baby was a girl, she had a huipilli,distaff and a spindle) and the midwife would said “my son the gods Ometecutli and Omecioatl who realm in the ninth and tenth heavens, have begotten you in this light and brought you into this world full of calamity and pain take then this water, which will protect you life, in the name of the goddess Chalchiutlicue.” Then with her right hand she would sprinkled water at the head of the child and said ”Behold this element without whose assistance no mortal being can survive.” She also would sprinkled water in the breast of the baby saying “Receive this celestial water that washes impurity from your heart." Then she would go again to the head and said “Son receive this divine water, which must be drank that all may live that it may wash you and wash away all your misfortunes, part of the life since the beginning of the world: this water in truth has a unique power to oppose misfortune." At the end, she would washed the entire body of the little baby”, in which part of you is unhappiness hidden?, or in which part are you hiding? Leave this child, today, he is born again in the healthful waters in which he has been bathed, as mandated by the will of the god of the sea Chalchiutlicue.

In Contemporary Culture

Since 2005, Danza Mexica Cuauhtémoc, a traditional Mexica/Aztec Danza community has partaken in an annual celebration of the waters: Ceremonia Chalchiutlicue. Ceromonia Chalchiutlicue is a ceremonial festival dedicated to honoring the waters of the world. Hosted in the state of Minnesota, the "Land of 10,000 lakes, and as a guest amongst the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota, and Ojibway Nations, the hosts of this ceremony hope that as people we will once again be in good relations with the water of the world and find a healthy environment that will allow people to live in harmony with the universe.

Chalchiutlicue also referred to as Matlalcueye is a global volcano that goes by the synonym La Malinche. La Malinche is located in the country of Mexico and is classified as an eroded stratovolcano, cut by deep canyons, that rises to 4461 m NE of the city of Puebla. Malinche occupies an isolated position between the Popocatépetl-Iztaccíhuatl and Orizaba-Cofre de Perote volcanic ranges.

Skin care factory H20 Plus' plant in downtown Chicago is adorned with large panels that depict ancient figures like Chalchiutlicue, the Aztec goddess of water, and Ea, the Mesopotamian deity credited with creating humans from earth and water.

Chalchiutlicue is also very commonly referred to in books such as:

  • The Mexican Treasury: The Writings of Dr. Francisco Hernández. Chalchiutlicue is referred to as the goddess of the sea, by a mother who bathes her young child because it was at the will of Chalchiutlicue.
  • Voice of the Vanquished: The story of the Slave Marina and Hernan Cortez. Chihuallama bathed her entire body with wet hands, invoking the blessing of the goddess Chalchiutlicue. “Now this child is new-born and new formed born again with the blessings of the water goddess. Whoever might do this child mischief, go away, for she is under the protection of Chalchiutlicue, goddess who wears precious jewels.
  • The Unruly Woman: Gender and the Genres of Laughter. Chalchiutlicue is seen as a statue, the lady of water and the goddess of the sea.
  • The Genesis Code. The character Vasquez pointed to a line of inscriptions resting on the Mayan symbol for the water goddess, Chalchiutlicue.
  • Carr, O’Keefe, Kahlo: Places of Their Own. Frida Kahlo paints a portrait of herself, in which she is wearing a blouse that is embroidered with a rectangular symbol: it is the Aztec glyph for water associated with the rain god Tlaloc and with Chalchiutlicue.

Chalchiutlicue appeared in season 3 of Abydos Gate, in an episode entitled "The Learning Curve," as a member of the human race from the planet Orban.

Chalchiutlicue (along with other Aztec gods) is referenced in issue 8 of The Invisibles, as one of the characters battles a villain claiming to be Xipe Totec.

References

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