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Xochiquetzal, with flower (Codex Fejérváry-Mayer, page 29)

Xochiquetzal: Aztec Goddess of Beauty, Pleasure and Love… But Don’t Mess With Her!

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According to the Aztecs, Xochiquetzal was the goddess of beauty, pleasure, and love. She is commonly associated with such beautiful things as flowers, plants, song and dance, which is quite distinct from the majority of Aztec gods, as they are normally associated with warfare and sacrifice. Be that as it may, Xochiquetzal was believed to have been a powerful goddess who was not to be trifled with. One of the rituals revolving around her revolve around human sacrifice and the flaying of the victim’s skin.

Precious Feather Flower

The name ‘Xochiquetzal’ may be translated to mean ‘Precious Feather Flower’, and this goddess was known as Ichpochtli, which means ‘maiden’. The Aztecs believed that Xochiquetzal’s domain was love, beauty, and pleasure, and that she was the patroness of lovers and prostitutes, as well as artisans, including artists, silversmiths, and weavers. Xochiquetzal’s association with flowers is evident in her iconography, in which the goddess is commonly presented as holding a bouquet of flowers. Alternatively, she is shown with weaving tools in her hand, which attests to her authority over the household arts.

A depiction of Xochiquetzal from the Codex Rios. (Public domain)

A depiction of Xochiquetzal from the Codex Rios. (Public domain)

Kidnapped by the God of Night

In the belief system of the Aztecs, Xochiquetzal was the daughter of Tlazolteotl, a goddess connected with both the opposing concepts of filth and purification. She had a twin brother, Xochipilli, who, like her, was associated with beauty and the arts. Some sources state that Xochiquetzal’s father was Piltzintecuhtli, the god of the rising sun, whilst others claim that he was her first husband. In any case, it is known that she was married to Tlaloc, the god of rain and water. At some point of time, however, Xochiquetzal was kidnapped by Tezcatlipoca, the god of night, and was forced to marry him.

Xochiquetzal (center) and her twin brother Xochipilli described in the Codex Borgia. (Public Domain)

Xochiquetzal (center) and her twin brother Xochipilli described in the Codex Borgia. (Public Domain)

The myth continues with Tezcatlipoca bringing the goddess to his realm and daring any of the gods to rescue her. Tlaloc accepted this challenge and went to Tezcatlipoca’s domain to demand the return of his wife. The water god was successful in his quest, as Tezcatlipoca agreed to return Xochiquetzal to him, and to not bother the goddess again, on the conditions that Xochiquetzal was forbidden to journey to earth directly, and that she was to stay in Tamoanchan, the paradise of the Aztec gods.

Tamoanchan described in the Codex Borgia. (Public domain)

Tamoanchan described in the Codex Borgia. (Public domain)

Aztec Paradise

Tamoanchan is quite unlike the concept of paradise found in Western culture. In this Aztec paradise, there was a tree that represented the entire world. This tree was called Xochitlicacan, or the Flowering Tree, and is believed to bear thousands of multi-coloured flowers, each bloom of which was a love amulet. Apart from that, however, this paradise was a desolate and empty landscape, with cold winds that cut the flesh like obsidian knives.

Returning to Xochiquetzal and her two husbands, Tezcatlipoca’s conditions were met, and the god, in return, honoured his promise.

A presumed depiction of Xochiquetzal from the Codex Rios only has plumes. (Public Domain)

A presumed depiction of Xochiquetzal from the Codex Rios only has plumes. (Public Domain)

A Bloody Ritual to Honor the Goddess

Although Xochiquetzal was a goddess of the finer things in life, she was a powerful deity in her own right. In one myth, Xochiquetzal demonstrates her power by turning one of her priests into a scorpion.

Additionally, Xochiquetzal was one of the Aztec deities honoured during Toxcatl, an annual festival celebrated during the Aztec month of the same name (roughly corresponding to the month of May). Prior to the festival, a virgin was chosen to impersonate the goddess, and to wed a chosen warrior who represented Tezcatlipoca. This union, however, lasted only for a year.

During the Toxcatl festival, the maiden who impersonated Xochiquetzal was sacrificed, and her skin flayed. A priest of the goddess would then wear the woman’s skin and sat at a loom. Whilst the priest pretended to weave, devotees of the goddess would dance around him, and confessed their sins to an idol of the goddess. After this, they would draw blood from their tongues as an offering and atoned for their sins in a ritual bath.

Top image: Xochiquetzal, with flower (Codex Fejérváry-Mayer, page 29) Source: Public Domain

By: Wu Mingren


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Wu Mingren (‘Dhwty’) has a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Archaeology. Although his primary interest is in the ancient civilizations of the Near East, he is also interested in other geographical regions, as well as other time periods.... Read More

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