Xochiquetzal: The Aztec Goddess of Love and Fertility
Xochiquetzal is the Aztec Goddess of love, and fertility. Xochiquetzal was a unique fertility Goddess in that she was also the patron Goddess of prostitutes and her followers believed that her power was not just for procreation but also sexual pleasure. Unlike other fertility Goddesess she also had the power to forgive wrongdoings that weren’t of a sexual nature. Wife of the water god, Tlaloc, and consort to the creator deity, Tezcatlipoca, Xochiquetzal lived in the Aztec paradise of Tamoanchan. She was widely worshipped and many great rituals were made in her honour; from incredible acts of sacrifice to sombre confessions. She is usually depicted with a feathered headdress and flowers, usually a marigold surrounding her, as well as butterflies and hummingbirds following her. While beautiful she was also feared as she once seduced a priest and then turned him into a scorpion as a mark of her power.
Xochiquetzal was a creator of humans as well as intermediary between them and the gods. Frequently referred to as a facet of the female divine goddess, Tonacacíhuatl, from whose womb the first four Aztec Gods were born, Xochiquetzal witnessed the creation of gods and humans. Although she was a mother herself, this Goddess never grew old and always appeared in the full bloom of youth.
Once married to Piltzintecuhtli (also called Xochipilli) and then Tlaloc, Xochiquetzal became Tezcatlipoca’s lover. She is also the mother of Cintéotl, corn God.
Xochiquetzal’s home was also that of many other Gods in the Aztec pantheon. Although this was also where the first humans, Cipactonal and Oxomoco, were created, Tamoanchan was off limits to humankind, whose descendants were fated to spend their days on earth. Tezcatlipoca, crafty and defiant creator of the earth, could travel between worlds at his will. Xochiquetzal herself was born there, made from two hairs on her husband, Piltzintecuhtli’s, head. However, she spent time on earth listening to and forgiving the crimes of humans.
Although Tamoanchan has been described in codices as the “country of cold, delicate and frozen gusts” it was also the home of a tree called “Xochitlicacan”, The Flowering Tree whose every bloom was an amulet of love…
Aztec religion was not so wholly separated as we think from the Catholicism practiced by the conquistadors. For instance, spiritual cleanliness was achieved by both religions through self sacrifice, abstention and confession.
Aztec goddesses of fertility such as Tlazoltéotl and Xochiquetzal played important roles in this purification process. Every year, around harvest, men and women flocked to Xochiquetzal’s temple, where they confessed sins ranging from sexual crimes to robbery. Sinners would enter the temple with as many pieces of straw as the crimes they had to confess. After piercing a hole in their tongue, they would pass each straw through the opening and then throw them onto the floor behind them.
The priests gathered all the bloody straws and cast them onto a fire destined to destroy these discarded ‘sins’. So although nobody but the goddess would ever know what type of crimes a person had committed, people nearby could count how many there were by the amount of straws that landed on the floor! Once absolved, those who had confessed returned to their communities and purified themselves by bathing in rivers and springs.