Aztec: Tlaloc

Tlaloc is the twin of Quetzalcoatl, the two being an inseparable pair in Teotihuacan iconography. A truly remarkable deity, always depicted with goggles - glasses - and whose attribute are strongly suggestive of cultural transmission akin to the the Q Gospel, a sort of origin civilizer.

The article that follows looks at the attribute of this truly extra-ordinary deity, and the celebrations associated with his being.

Tlaloc iconography was part of all Central American pantheon, from the Maya, to the Toltecs, to the Aztecs, and others. While Quetzalcoatl gets most prominent attention, in Teotihuacan that two are always side by side.

Prominent features of the cult of Tlaloc are:
the number four, the cross, the snake and his role as lord of the terrestrial paradise.
— Orly

The deity Tlaloc, or Tlalocateuchtli, whom we have several times found mentioned as seated beside Huitzilopochtli in the great temple, was the god of water and rain, and the fertilizer of the earth. He was held to reside where the clouds gather, upon the highest mountain-tops, especially upon those of Tlaloc, Tlascala, and Toluca, and his attributes were the thunderbolt, the flash, and the thunder. It was also believed that in the high hills there resided other gods, subaltern to Tlaloc—all passing under the same name, and revered not only as gods of water but also as gods of mountains. The prominent colors of the image of Tlaloc were azure and green, thereby symbolizing the various shades of water. The decorations of this image varied a good deal according to locality and the several fancies of different worshipers: the description of [Antonio de León y] Gama, founded on the inspection of original works of Mexican religious art, is the most authentic and complete. In the great temple of Mexico, in his own proper chapel, called epeoatl, adjoining that of Huitzilopochtli, this god of water stood upon his pedestal. In his left hand was a shield ornamented with feathers; in his right were certain thin, shining, wavy sheets of gold representing his thunderbolts, or sometimes a golden serpent representing either the thunderbolt or the moisture with which this deity was so intimately connected.

On his feet were a kind of half-boots, with little bells of gold hanging therefrom. Round his neck was a band or collar set with gold and gems of price; while from his wrists depended strings of costly stones, even such as are the ornaments of kings. His vesture was an azure smock reaching to the middle of the thigh, cross-hatched all over with ribbons of silver forming squares; and in the middle of each square was a circle also of silver, while in the angles thereof were flowers, pearl-colored, with yellow leaves hanging down. And even as the decoration of the vesture so was that of the shield; the ground blue, covered with crossed ribbons of silver and circles of silver: and the feathers of yellow and green and flesh-color and blue, each color forming a distinct band. The body was naked from mid-thigh down, and of a grey tint, as was also the face. This face had only one eye of a somewhat extraordinary character: there was an exterior circle of blue, the interior was white with a black line across it and a little semi-circle below the line. Either round the whole eye or round the mouth was a doubled band, or ribbon of blue; this, although unnoticed by Torquemada, is affirmed by Gama to have been never omitted from any figure of Tlaloc, to have been his most characteristic device, and that which distinguished him specially from the other gods. In his open mouth were to be seen only three grinders; his front teeth were painted red, as was also the pendant, with its button of gold, that hung from his ear. His head-adornment was an open crown, covered in its circumference with white and green feathers, and from behind it over the shoulder depended other plumes of red and white. Sometimes the insignium of the thunderbolt is omitted with this god, and Ixtlilxochitl represents him, in the picture of the month Etzalli, with a cane of maize in the one hand, and in the other a kind of instrument with which he was digging in the ground. In the ground thus dug were put maize leaves filled with a kind of food, like fritters, called etzalli; from this the month took its name.





Tlaloc - Hipster

A prayer to this god has been preserved by Sahagun, in which it will be noticed that the word Tlaloc is used sometimes in the singular and sometimes in the plural:—

O our Lord, most clement, liberal giver and lord of verdure and coolness, lord of the terrestrial paradise, odorous and flowery, and lord of the incense of copal, woe are we that the gods of water, thy subjects, have hid themselves away in their retreat, who are wont to serve us with the things we need and who are themselves served with ulli and auchtli and copal. They have left concealed all the things that sustain our lives, and carried away with them their sister the goddess of the necessaries of life, and carried away also the goddess of pepper. O our Lord, take pity on us that live; our food goes to destruction, is lost, is dried up; for lack of water, it is as if turned to dust and mixed with spiders' webs. Woe for the miserable laborers and for the common people; they are wasted with hunger, they go about unrecognizable and disfigured every one. They are blue under the eyes as with death; their mouths are dry as sedge; all the bones of their bodies may be counted as in a skeleton. The children are disfigured and yellow as earth; not only those that begin to walk, but even those in the cradle. There is no one to whom this torment of hunger does not come; the very animals and birds suffer hard want, by the drought that is. It is pitiful to see the birds, some dragging themselves along with drooping wings, others falling down utterly and unable to walk, and others still with their mouths open through this hunger and thirst. The animals, O our Lord, it is a grievous sight to see them stumbling and falling, licking the earth for hunger, and panting with open mouth and hanging tongue. The people lose their senses and die for thirst; they perish, none is like to remain. It is woeful, O our Lord, to see all the face of the earth dry, so that it cannot produce the herbs nor the trees, nor anything to sustain us—the earth that used to be as a father and mother to us, giving us milk and all nourishment, herbs and fruits that therein grew. Now is all dry, all lost; it is evident that the Tlaloc gods have carried all away with them, and hid in their retreat, which is the terrestrial paradise. The things, O Lord, that thou wert graciously wont to give us, upon which we lived and were joyful, which are the life and joy of all the world, and precious as emeralds or sapphires—all these things are departed from us. O our Lord, god of nourishment and giver thereof, most humane and most compassionate, what thing hast thou determined to do with us? Hast thou, peradventure altogether forsaken us? Thy wrath and indignation shall it not be appeased? Hast thou determined on the perdition of all thy servants and vassals, and that thy city and kingdom shall be left desolate and uninhabited? Peradventure, this has been determined, and settled in heaven and hades. O our Lord, concede at least this, that the innocent children, who cannot so much as walk, who are still in the cradle, may have something to eat, so that they may live, and not die in this so great famine. What have they done that they should be tormented and should die of hunger? No iniquity have they committed, neither know they what thing it is to sin; they have neither offended the god of heaven nor the god of hell. We, if we have offended in many things, if our sins have reached heaven and hades, and the stink thereof gone out to the ends of the earth, just it is that we be destroyed and made an end of; we have nothing to say thereto, nor to excuse ourselves withal, nor to resist what is determined against us in heaven and in hades. Let it be done; destroy us all, and that swiftly, that we may not suffer from this long weariness which is worse than if we burned in fire. Certainly it is a horrible thing to suffer this hunger; it is like a snake lacking food, it gulps down its saliva, it hisses, it cries out for something to devour. It is a fearful thing to see the anguish of it demanding somewhat to eat; this hunger is intense as burning fire, flinging out sparks. Lord, let the thing happen that many years ago we have heard said by the old men and women that have passed away from us, let the heavens fall on us and the demons of the air come down, the Izitzimites, who are to come to destroy the earth with all that dwell on it; let darkness and obscurity cover the whole world, and the habitation of men be nowhere found therein. This thing was 328known to the ancients, and they divulged it, and from mouth to mouth it has come down to us, all this that has to happen when the world ends and the earth is weary of producing creatures. Our Lord, such present end would be now dear to us as riches or pleasures once were—miserable that we are! See good, O Lord, that there fall some pestilence to end us quickly. Such plague usually comes from the god of hades; and if it came there would peradventure be provided some allowance of food, so that the dead should not travel to hades without any provision for the way. O that this tribulation were of war, which is originated by the sun, and which breaks from sleep like a strong and valiant one—for then would the soldiers and the brave, the stout and warlike men, take pleasure therein. In it many die, and much blood is spilt, and the battle-field is filled with dead bodies and with the bones and skulls of the vanquished; strewn also is the face of the earth with the hairs of the head of warriors that rot; but this they fear not, for they know that their souls go to the house of the sun. And there they honor the sun with joyful voices, and suck the various flowers with great delight; there all the stout and valiant ones that died in war are glorified and extolled; there also the little and tender children that die in war are presented to the Sun, very clean and well adorned and shining like precious stones. Thy sister, the goddess of food, provides for those that go thither, supplying them with provision for the way; and this provision of necessary things is the strength and the soul and the staff of all the people of the world, and without it there is no life. But this hunger with which we are afflicted, O our most humane Lord, is so sore and intolerable that the miserable common people are not able to suffer nor support it; being still alive they die many deaths; and not the people alone suffer but also all the animals. O our most compassionate Lord, lord of green things and gums, of herbs odorous and virtuous, I beseech thee to look with eyes of pity on the people of this thy city and kingdom; for the whole world down to the very beasts is in peril of destruction, and disappearance, and irremediable end. Since this is so, I entreat thee to see good to send back to us the food-giving gods, gods of the rain and storm, of the herbs and of the trees; so that they perform again their office here with us on the earth. Scatter the riches and the prosperity of thy treasures, let the timbrels of joy be shaken that are the staves of the gods of water, let them take their sandals of india-rubber that they may walk with swiftness. Give succor, O Lord, to our lord, the god of the earth, at least with one shower of water, for when he has water he creates and sustains us. See good, O Lord, to invigorate the corn, and the other foods, much wished for and much needed, now sown and planted; for the ridges of the earth suffer sore need and anguish from lack of water. See good, O Lord, that the people receive this favor and mercy at thine hand, let them see and enjoy of the verdure and coolness that are as precious stones; see good that the fruit and the substance of the Tlalocs be given, which are the clouds that these gods carry with them and that sow the rain about us. See good, O Lord, that the animals and herbs be made glad, and that the fowls and birds of precious feather, such as the quechotl and the caguan, fly and sing and suck the herbs and flowers. And let not this come about with thunderings and lightnings, symbols of thy wrath; for if our lords the Tlalocs come with thunder and lightning the whole people, being lean and very weak with hunger, would be terrified. If indeed some are already marked out to go to the earthly paradise by the stroke of the thunderbolt, let this death be restricted to them, and let no injury befall any of the other people in mountain or cabin; neither let hurt come near the magueys or the other trees and plants of the earth; for these things are necessary to the life and sustenance of the people, poor, forsaken, and cast-away, who can with difficulty get food enough to live, going about through hunger with the bowels empty and sticking to the ribs. O our Lord, most compassionate, most generous, giver of all nourishment, be pleased to bless the earth and all the things that live on the face thereof. With deep sighing and with anguish of heart I cry upon all those that are gods of water, that are in the four quarters of the world, east and west, north and south, and upon those that dwell in the hollow of the earth, or in the air, or in the high mountains, or in the deep caves, I beseech them to come and console this poor people and to water the earth; for the eyes of all that inhabit the earth, animals as well as men, are turned toward you, and their hope is set upon your persons. O our Lord, be pleased to come.




This is a prayer to Tlaloc. But it was not with prayers alone that they deprecated his wrath and implored his assistance; here as elsewhere in the Mexican religion sacrifices played an important part. When the rain failed and the land was parched by drought, great processions were made in which a number of hairless dogs, common to the country, and good to eat, were carried on decorated litters to a place devoted to this use. There they were sacrificed to the god of water by cutting out their hearts. Afterwards the carcasses were eaten amid great festivities. All these things the Tlascaltec historian, Camargo, had seen with his own eyes thirty years before writing his book. The sacrifices of men, which were added to these in the days of greatness of the old religion, he describes as he was informed by priests who had officiated thereat. Two festivals in the year were celebrated to Tlaloc, the greater feast and the less. Each of these was terminated by human sacrifices. The side of the victim was opened with a sharp knife; the high priest tore out the heart, and turning toward the east offered it with lifted hands to the sun, crushing it at the same time with all his strength. He repeated this, turning in succession towards the remaining three cardinal points; the other tlamacaxques, or priests, not ceasing the while to darken with clouds of incense the faces of the idols. The heart was lastly burned and the body flung down the steps of the temple. A priest, who had afterwards been converted to Christianity, told Camargo that when he tore out the heart of a victim and flung it down, it used to palpitate with such force as to clear itself of the ground several times till it grew cold. Tlaloc was held in exceeding respect and the priests alone had the right to enter his temple. Whoever dared to blaspheme against him was supposed to die suddenly or to be stricken of thunder; the thunderbolt, instrument of his vengeance, flashed from the sky even at the moment it was clearest. The sacrifices offered to him in times of drought were never without answer and result; for, as Camargo craftily insinuates, the priests took good care never to undertake them till they saw indications of coming rain; besides, he adds—introducing, in defiance of nec deus intersit, a surely unneeded personage, if we suppose his last statement true—the devil, to confirm these people in their errors, was always sure to send rain.

Children were also sacrificed to Tlaloc. Says Motolinia, when four years came together in which there was no rain, and there remained as a consequence hardly any green thing in the fields, the people waited till the maize grew as high as the knee, and then made a general subscription with which four slave children, of five or six years of age, were purchased. These they sacrificed in a cruel manner by closing them up in a cave, which was never opened except on these occasions.

According to Mendieta, again, children were sometimes offered to this god by drowning. The children were put into a canoe which was carried to a certain part of the lake of Mexico where was a whirlpool, which is no longer visible. Here the boat was sunk with its living cargo. These gods had, according to the same author, altars in the neighborhood of pools especially near springs; which altars were furnished with some kind of roof, and at the principal fountains were four in number set over against each other in the shape of a cross—the cross of the rain god.

The Vatican Codex says that in April a boy was sacrificed to Tlaloc and his dead body put into the maize granaries or maize fields—it is not clearly apparent which—to preserve the food of the people from spoiling. It is to Sahagun, however, that we must turn for the most complete and authentic account of the festivals of Tlaloc with their attendant sacrifices.



Tlaloc - the Elder

In the first days of the first month of the year, which month is called in some parts of Mexico, Quavitleloa, but generally Atlcaoalo, and begins on the second of our February, a great feast was made in honor of the Tlalocs, gods of rain and water. For this occasion many children at the breast were purchased from their mothers; those being chosen that had two whirls (remolinos) in their hair, and that had been born under a good sign; it being said that such were the most agreeable sacrifice to the storm gods, and most likely to induce them to send rain in due season. Some of these infants were butchered for this divine holiday on certain mountains, and some were drowned in the lake of Mexico. With the beginning of the festival, in every house, from the hut to the palace, certain poles were set up and to these were attached strips of the paper of the country, daubed over with india-rubber gum, said strips being called amateteuitl; this was considered an honor to the water-gods. And the first place where children were killed was Quauhtepetl, a high mountain in the neighborhood of Tlatelulco; all infants, boys or girls, sacrificed there were called by the name of the place, Quauhtepetl, and were decorated with strips of paper dyed red. The second place where children were killed was Yoaltecatl, a high mountain near Guadalupe. The victims were decorated with pieces of black paper, with red lines on it, and were named after the place, Yoaltecatl. The third death-halt was made at Tepetzingo, a well-known hillock that rose up from the waters of the lake opposite Tlatelulco; there they killed a little girl, decking her with blue paper, and calling her Quetzalxoch, for so was this hillock called by another name. Poiauhtla, on the boundary of Tlascala, was the fourth hill of sacrifice. Here they killed children, named as usual after the locality, and decorated with paper on which were lines of india-rubber oil. The fifth place of sacrifice was the no longer visible whirlpool or sink of the lake of Mexico, Pantitlan. Those drowned here were called Epcoatl, and their adornment epuepaniuhqui. The sixth hill of death was Cocotl, near Chalcoatenco; the infant victims were named after it and decorated with strips of paper of which half the number were red and half a tawny color. The mount Yiauhqueme, near Atlacuioaia, was the seventh station; the victims being named after the place and adorned with paper of a tawny color.

All these miserable babes before being carried to their death were bedecked with precious stones and rich feathers and with raiment and sandals wrought curiously; they put upon them paper wings (as if they were angels); they stained their faces with oil of india-rubber, and on the middle of each tiny cheek they painted a round spot of white. Not able yet to walk, the victims were carried in litters shining with jewels and awave with plumes; flutes and trumpets bellowed and shrilled round the little bedizened heads, all so unfortunate in their two whirls of hair, as they passed along; and everywhere as the litters were borne by, all the people wept. When the procession reached the temple near Tepetzinco, on the east, called Tozocan, the priests rested there all night, watching and singing songs, so that the little ones could not sleep. In the morning the march was again resumed; if the children wept copiously those around them were very glad, saying it was a sign that much rain would fall; while if they met any dropsical person on the road it was taken for a bad omen and something that would hinder the rain. If any of the temple ministers, or of the others called quaquavitli, or of the old men, broke off from the procession or turned back to their houses before they came to the place where the sacrifice was done, they were held for infamous and unworthy of any public office; thenceforward they were called mocauhque, that is to say, 'deserters.'



...  In the sixth Aztec month, the month Etzalqualixtli, there was held a festival in honor of the gods of water and rain. Before the commencement of this festival the idol priests fasted four days, and before beginning to fast they made a procession to a certain piece of water, near Citlaltepec, to gather tules; for at that place these rushes grew very tall and thick and what part of them was under water was very white. There they pulled them up, rolled them in bundles wrapped about with their blankets, and so carried them back on their shoulders. Both on going out for these rushes and on coming back with them, it was the custom to rob anyone that was met on the road; and as every one knew of this custom the roads were generally pretty clear of stragglers about this time. No one, not even a king's officer returning to his master with tribute, could hope to escape on such an occasion, nor to obtain from any court or magistrate any indemnification for loss or injury so sustained in goods or person; and if he made any resistance to his clerical spoilers they beat and kicked and dragged him over the ground. When they reached the temple with their rushes they spread them out on the ground and plaited them, white with green, into as it were painted mats, sewing them firm with threads of maguey-root; of these mats they made stools, and chairs with backs. The first day of the fast arrived, all the idol ministers and priests retired to their apartments in the temple buildings. There retired all those called tlamacaztequioagues, that is to say, 'priests that have done feats in war, that have captured three or four prisoners;' these although they did not reside continually in the temple, resorted thither at set times to fulfil their offices. There retired also those called tlamacazcayiaque, that is, 'priests that have taken one prisoner in war;' these also, although not regular inmates of the cues, resorted thither, when called by their duties. There retired also those that are called tlamacazquecuicanime, 'priest singers,' who resided permanently in the temple building because they had as yet captured no one in war. Last of all those also retired that were called tlamacaztezcahoan, which means 'inferior ministers,' and those boys, like little sacristans, who were called tlamacatoton, 'little ministers.'

Next, all the rush mats that had been made which were called aztapilpetlatl, 'jaspered mats of rushes, or mats of white and green' were spread round about the hearths (hogares) of the temple, and the priests proceeded to invest themselves for their offices. They put on a kind of jacket that they had, called xicolli, of painted cloth; on the left arm they put a kind of scarf, macataxtli; in the left hand they took a bag of copal, and in the right a censer, temaitl, which is a kind of sauce-pan or frying-pan of baked clay. Then they entered into the court-yard of the temple, took up their station in the middle of it, put live coals into their censers, added copal, and offered incense toward the four quarters of the world, east, north, west, and south. This done they emptied the coals from their incense-pans into the great brasiers that were always burning at night in the court, brasiers somewhat less in height than the height of a man, and so thick that two men could with difficulty clasp them.



This over, the priests returned to the temple buildings, calmecac, and put off their ornaments. Then they offered before the hearth little balls of dough, called veutelolotli; each priest offering four, arranging them on the aforementioned rush mats, and putting them down with great care, so that they should not roll nor move; and if the balls of any one stirred, it was the duty of his fellows to call attention to the matter and have him punished therefor. Some offered instead of dough four little pies or four pods of green pepper. A careful scrutiny was also observed to see if any one had any dirt on his blanket, or any bit of thread or hair or feather, and that no one should trip or fall; for in such a case he had to be punished; and as a consequence every man took good heed to all his steps and ways during these four days. At the end of each day's offerings, certain old men, called quaquacuiltin came, their faces dyed black, and their heads shaved, save only the crown of the head, where the hair was allowed to grow long, the reverse of the custom of the Christian priests. These old men daily collected the offerings that had been made, dividing them among themselves. It was further the custom with all the priests and in all the temples, while fasting these four days, to be wakened at midnight by the blast of horns and shells and other instruments; when all rose up and, utterly naked, went to where were certain thorns of maguey, cut for the purpose the day before, and with little lancets of stone they hacked their ears, staining the prepared thorns of maguey and besmearing their faces with the blood that flowed; each man staining maguey-thorns with his blood in number proportioned to his devotion, some five, others more, others less. This done all the priests went to bathe themselves, how cold soever it might be, attended by the music of marine shells and shrill whistles of baked clay. Every one had a little bag strapped to his shoulders, ornamented with tassels or strips of painted paper; in these bags was carried a sort of herb ground fine and made up with a kind of black dye into little longish pellets.  The general body of the priests marched along, each one carrying a leaf of maguey in which the thorns were stuck, as in a pincushion, which he had to use. Before these went a priest with his censer full of live coals and a bag of copal; and in advance of all these walked one carrying a board on his shoulder of about a span broad and two yards long, hollowed apparently in some way, and filled with little rollers of wood that rattled and sounded as the bearer went along shaking them. All the priests took part in this procession, only four remaining behind to take care of the temple-building, or calmecac, which was their monastery. These four during the absence of the others remained seated in the calmecac and occupied themselves in devotion to the gods, in singing and in rattling with a hollow board of the sort mentioned above. At the piece of water where the priests were to bathe there were four houses, called axaucalli, 'fog houses,' set each toward one of the four quarters of the compass; in the ablutions of the first night one of these houses was occupied, on the second night another, and so on through all the four nights and four houses of the fog. Here also were four tall poles standing up out of the water. And the unfortunate bathers, naked from the outset as we remember, reached this place trembling and their teeth chattering with cold. One of their number mumbled a few words, which being translated mean: this is the place of snakes, the place of mosquitos, the place of ducks, and the place of rushes. This said, all flung themselves into the water and began to splash with their hands and feet, making a great noise and imitating the cries of various aquatic birds. When the bathing was over, the naked priests took their way back accompanied by the music of pipes and shells. Half dead with cold and weariness they reached the temple, where drawing their mantles over them they flung themselves down in a confused heap on the rush mats, so often mentioned, and slept as best they could. We are told that some talked in their sleep, and some walked about in it, and some snored, and some sighed in a painful manner. There they lay in a tangled weary heap not rising till noon of the next day.



The first thing to be done on waking was to array themselves in their canonicals, take their censers, and to follow an old priest called Quaquacuilti to all the chapels and altars of the idols, incensing them. After this they were at liberty to eat; they squatted down in groups, and to each one was given such food as had been sent to him from his own house; and if any one took any of the portion of another, or even exchanged his for that of another, he was punished for it. Punishment also attended the dropping of any morsel while eating, if the fault were not atoned for by a fine. After this meal, they all went to cut down branches of a certain kind called acxoiatl, or, where these were not to be found, green canes instead, and to bring them to the temple in sheaves. There they sat down, every man with his sheaf, and waited for an arranged signal. The signal given, every one sprang up to some appointed part of the temple to decorate it with his boughs; and if any one went to a place not his, or wandered from his companions, or lagged behind them, they punished him—a punishment only to be remitted by paying to his accuser, within the four days of which we are now speaking, either a hen or a blanket or a breech-clout, or, if very poor, a ball of dough in a cup.

These four days over, the festival was come, and every man began it by eating etzalli, a kind of maize porridge, in his own house. For those that wished it there was general dancing and rejoicing. Many decked themselves out like merry-andrews and went about in parties carrying pots, going from house to house, demanding etzalli. They sang and danced before the door, and said, "If you do not give me some porridge, I will knock a hole in your house;" whereupon the etzalli was given. These revels began at midnight and ceased at dawn. Then indeed did the priests array themselves in all their glory: underneath was a jacket, over that a thin transparent mantle called aiauhquemitl, decorated with parrot-feathers set cross-wise. Between the shoulders they fastened a great round paper flower, like a shield. To the nape of the neck they attached other flowers of crumpled paper of a semi-circular shape; these hung down on both sides of the head like ears. The forehead was painted blue and over the paint was dusted powder of marcasite. In the right hand was carried a bag made of tiger-skin, and embroidered with little white shells which clattered as one walked. The bag seems to have been three-cornered; from one angle hung down the tiger's tail, from another his two fore feet, from another his two hind feet. It contained incense made from a certain herb called yiauhtli. There went one priest bearing a hollow board filled with wooden rattles, as before described. In advance of this personage there marched a number of others, carrying in their arms images of the gods made of that gum that is black and leaps, called ulli (india-rubber), these images were called ulteteu, that is to say 'gods of ulli.' Other ministers there were carrying in their arms lumps of copal, shaped like sugar loaves; each pyramid having a rich feather, called quetzal, stuck in the peak of it like a plume. In this manner went the procession with the usual horns and shells, and the purpose of it was to lead to punishment those that had transgressed in any of the points we have already discussed. The culprits were marched along, some held by the hair at the nape of the neck, others by the breech-clout; the boy offenders were held by the hand, or, if very small, were carried. All these were brought to a place called Totecco, where water was. Here certain ceremonies were performed, paper was burned in sacrifice, as were also the pyramids of copal and images of ulli, incense being thrown into the fire and other incense scattered over the rush mats with which the place was adorned. While this was going on those in charge of the culprits had not been idle, but were flinging them into the water. Great was the noise, it is said, made by the splash of one tossed in, and the water leaped high with the shock. As any one came to the surface or tried to scramble out he was pushed in or pushed down again—well was it then for him who could swim, and by long far diving keep out of the reach of his tormentors. For the others they were so roughly handled that they were often left for dead on the water's edge, where their relatives would come and hang them up by the feet to let the water they had swallowed run out of them; a method of cure surely as bad as the malady.



Tlaloc in Black

The shrill music struck up again and the procession returned by the way it had come; the friends of the punished ones carrying them. The monastery or calmecac reached, there began another four days' fast, called netlacacaoaliztli; but in this the sharp religious etiquette of the first four days' fast was not observed, or at least one was not liable to be informed upon or punished for a breach of such etiquette. The conclusion of this fast was celebrated by feasting. Again the priests decorated themselves in festal array. All the head was painted blue, the face was covered with honey (miel) mixed with a black dye. Over the shoulders were carried the incense-bags embroidered with little white shells—bags made of tiger-skins, as before described, for the chief priests, and of paper painted to imitate tiger-skin in the case of the inferior priests. Some of these satchels were fashioned to resemble the bird called atzitzicuilotl, others to resemble ducks. The priests marched in procession to the temple, and before all marched the priest of Tlaloc. He had on his head a crown of basketwork, fitting close to the temples below and spreading out above, with many plumes issuing from the middle of it. His face was anointed with melted india-rubber gum, black as ink, and concealed by an ugly mask with a great nose, and a wig attached which fell as low as the waist. All went along mumbling to themselves as if they prayed, till they came to the cu of Tlaloc. There they stopped and spread tule mats on the ground, and dusted them over with powdered tule-leaves mixed with yiauhtli incense. Upon this the acting priest placed four round chalchiuites, like little balls; then he took a small hook painted blue, and touched each ball with it; and as he touched each he made a movement as if drawing back his hand, and turned himself completely round. He scattered more incense on the mats, then he took the board with the rattles inside and sounded with it—perhaps a kind of religious stage thunder in imitation of the thunder of his god. Upon this every one retired to his house or to his monastery and put off his ornaments; and the unfortunates who had been ducked were carried at last to their own dwellings for the rest and recovery that they so sorely needed. That night the festivities burst out with a new glory, the musical instruments of the cu itself were sounded, the great drums and the shrill shells. Well watched that night were the prisoners who were doomed to death on the morrow. When it came they were adorned with the trappings of the Tlaloc gods—for it was said they were the images of these gods—and those that were killed first were said to be the foundation of the others, which seemed to be symbolized by those who had to die last being made to seat themselves on those who had been first killed.

The slaughter over, the hearts of the victims were put into a pot that was painted blue and stained with ulli in four places. Together with this pot offerings were taken of paper and feathers and precious stones and chalchiuites, and a party set out with the whole for that part of the lake where the whirlpool is, called Pantitlan. All who assisted at this offering and sacrifice were provided with a supply of the herb called iztauhiatl, which is something like the incense used in Spain, and they puffed it with their mouths over each other's faces and over the faces of their children. This they did to hinder maggots getting into the eyes, and also to protect against a certain disease of the eyes called exocuillo-o-alixtli; some also put this herb into their ears, and others for a certain superstition they had held a handful of it clutched in the hand. The party entered a great canoe belonging to the king, furnished with green oars, or paddles, spotted with ulli, and rowed swiftly to the place Pantitlan, where the whirlpool was. This whirlpool was surrounded by logs driven into the bottom of the lake like piles—probably to keep canoes from being drawn into the sink. These logs being reached, the priests, standing in the bows of the royal vessel, began to play on their horns and shells. Conspicuous among them stood their chief holding the pot containing the hearts; he flung them far into the whirling hollow of water, and it is said that when the hearts plunged in, the waters were strangely moved and stirred into waves and foam. The precious stones were also thrown in, and the papers of the offering were fastened to the stakes with a number of the chalchiuites and other stones. A priest took a censer and put four papers called telhuitl into it, and burned them, offering them toward the whirlpool; then he threw them, censer and all, still burning into the sink. That done, the canoe was put about and rowed to the landing of Tetamacolco, and every one bathed there.

All this took place between midnight and morning, and when the light began to break the whole body of the priests went to bathe in the usual place. They washed the blue paint off their heads, save only on the forehead; and if there were any offences of any priest to be punished he was here ducked and half drowned as described above. Lastly all returned to their monasteries, and the green rush mats spread there were thrown out behind each house.

We have given the description of two great festivals of the Tlalocs—two being all that are mentioned by many authorities—there still remain, however, two other notable occasions on which they were propitiated and honored.



In the thirteenth month, which was called Tepeilhuitl, and which began, according to Clavigero, on the 24th of October, it was the custom to cut certain sticks into the shape of snakes. Certain images as of children were also cut out of wood, and these dolls, called hecatotonti, together with the wooden snakes, were used as a foundation or centre round which to build up little effigies of the mountains; wherein the Tlalocs were honored as gods of the mountains, and wherein memorial was had of those that had been drowned, or killed by thunderbolts, or whose bodies had been buried without cremation—the ls perhaps representing the bodies of these, and the snakes the thunderbolts. Having then these wooden dolls and snakes as a basis, they were covered with dough mixed from the seeds of the wild amaranth; over each doll certain papers were put; round one snake and one doll, set back to back, there appears next to have been bound a wisp of hay, (which wisp was kept from year to year and washed on the vigil of every feast), till the proper shape of a mountain was arrived at; over the whole was then daubed a layer of dough, of the kind already mentioned. We have now our image of the mountain with two heads looking opposite ways, sticking out from its summit. Round this summit there seem to have been stuck rolls of dough representing the clouds usually formed about the crests of high mountains. The face of the human image that looked out over these dough clouds was daubed with melted ulli; and to both cheeks of it were stuck little tortillas, or cakes of the everywhere-present dough of wild amaranth seeds. On the head of this same image was put a crown with feathers issuing from it.  These images were made at night, and in the morning they were carried to their 'oratories,' and laid down on beds of rushes or reeds; then food was offered to them, small pies or tarts, a porridge of maize-flour and sugar, and the stewed flesh of fowls or of dogs. Incense was burned before them, being thrown into a censer shaped like a hand, as it were a great spoon full of burning coals. Those who could afford it sang and drank pulque in honor of their dead ones and of these gods.



In this feast four women and a man were killed in honor of the Tlalocs and of the mountains. The four women were named respectively, Tepoxch, Matlalquac, Xochetecatl, and Mayavel—this last was decorated to appear as the image of the magueyes. The man was called Milnaoatl; he stood for an image of 'the snakes.' These victims, adorned with crowns of paper stained with ulli, were borne to their doom in litters. Being carried to the summit of the cu, they were thrown one by one on the sacrificial stone, their hearts taken out with the flint and offered to Tlaloc, and their bodies allowed to slide slowly down the temple-steps to the earth—a too rapid descent being hindered by the priests. The corpses were carried to a place where the heads were cut off and preserved, spitted on poles thrust through the temples of each skull. The bodies were lastly carried to the wards from which they had set out alive, and there cut in pieces and eaten. At the same time the images of the mountains, which we have attempted to describe, were broken up, the dough with which they were covered was set out to dry in the sun, and was eaten, every day a piece. The papers with which the said images had been adorned were then spread over the wisps of hay, above mentioned, and the whole was fastened up in the rafters of the oratory that every one had in his house; there to remain till required for the next year's feast of the same kind; on which occasion, and as a preliminary to the other ceremonies which we have already described in the first part of this feast, the people took down the paper and the wisp from their private oratories, and carried them to the public oratory called the acaucalli, left the paper there, and returned with the wisp to make of it anew the image of a mountain.



The fourth and last festival of Tlaloc which we have to describe, fell in our December and in the sixteenth Aztec month, called the month Atemuztli. About this time it began to thunder round the mountain-tops, and the first rains to fall there; the common people said, "Now come the Tlalocs," and for love of the water they made vows to make images of the mountains—not, however, as it would appear, such images as have been described as appertaining to the preceding festival. The priests were very devout at this season and very earnest in prayer, expecting the rain. They took each man his incense-pan or censer, made like a great spoon with a long round hollow handle filled with rattles and terminating in a snake's head, and offered incense to all the idols. Five days before the beginning of the feast the common people bought paper and ulli and flint knives and a kind of coarse cloth called nequen, and devoutly prepared themselves with fasting and penance to make their images of the mountains and to cover them with paper. In this holy season, although every one bathed, he washed no higher than the neck, the head was left unwashed; the men, moreover, abstained from their wives. The night preceding the great feast-day was spent wholly, flint knife in hand, cutting out paper into various shapes. These papers called tetevitl, were stained with ulli; and every householder got a long pole, covered it with pieces of this paper, and set it up in his court-yard, where it remained all the day of the festival. Those that had vowed to make images of the mountains invited priests to their houses to do it for them. The priests came, bearing their drums and rattles and instruments of music of tortoise-shell. They made the images—apparently like human figures—out of the dough of wild amaranth seed, and covered them with paper. In some houses there were made five of such images, in others ten, in others fifteen; they were figures that stood for such mountains as the clouds gather round, such as the volcano of the Sierra Nevada or that of the Sierra of Tlascala. These images being constructed, they were set in order in the oratory of the house, and before each one was set food—very small pies, on small platters, proportionate to the little image, small boxes holding a little sweet porridge of maize, little calabashes of cacao, and other small green calabashes containing pulque. In one night they presented the figures with food in this manner four times. All the night too they sang before them, and played upon flutes; the regular flutists not being employed on this occasion, but certain small boys who were paid for their trouble with something to eat. When the morning came, the ministers of the idols asked the master of the house for his tzotzopaztli, a kind of broad wooden knife used in weaving, and thrust it into the breasts of the images of the mountains, as if they were living men, and cut their throats and drew out the hearts, which they put in a green cup and gave to the owner of the house. This done, they took all the paper with which these images had been adorned, together with certain green mats that had been used for the same purpose, and the utensils in which the offering of food had been put, and burned all in the court-yard of the house. The ashes and the mutilated images seem then to have been carried to a public oratory called Aiauhcalco, on the shore of the lake. Then all who assisted at these ceremonies joined themselves to eat and drink in honor of the mutilated images, which were called tepieme. Women were allowed to join in this banquet provided hey brought fifteen or twenty heads of maize with them; they received every one his or her share of food and pulque. The pulque was kept in black jars and lifted out to be drunk with black cups. This banquet over, the paper streamers were taken down from the poles set up in the court-yards of the houses and carried to certain places in the water that were marked out by piles driven in—we may remember that our whirlpool of Pantitlan, in the lake of Mexico, was one place so marked—and to the tops of the mountains, and left there as it would appear.


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Source:  H.H.B. [1]

Culture:  Mexica (Aztec)

Language Group:  Nahuatl


Maya: The Serpent

Mound Builders: Winterville Mounds