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Ehecatl

Ehecatl: The Aztec Wind God was Hard to Pin Down

Ehecatl was the wind god of the Aztec pantheon. As a weather deity, he was also indirectly connected to agriculture and the fertility of the land. Additionally, Ehecatl is commonly regarded to be an aspect of Quetzalcoatl, one of the most important Aztec gods. Temples dedicated to this god have a unique architectural form, which reflects the god’s status as a wind deity. One of these temples was unearthed under a supermarket in Mexico City in 2016.

An Important Aspect of Quetzalcoatl

The name ‘Ehecatl’ may be translated simply to mean ‘wind’. He was regarded to be an important aspect of Quetzalcoatl, and the two gods are often combined as Quetzalcoatl-Ehecatl. This god was also associated with all the cardinal directions, considering the fact that wind blows in all directions. Two other important characteristics of wind were noticed by the Aztecs. Firstly, it lacks physical form, and secondly, it changes direction constantly. Therefore, the Aztecs believed that Ehecatl was god who could not be pinned down easily.

Quetzalcoatl, using the attributes of Ehecatl the wind god, thus representing the winds that bring the rain. Also known as the feathered serpent. (Public Domain)

Quetzalcoatl, using the attributes of Ehecatl the wind god, thus representing the winds that bring the rain. Also known as the feathered serpent. ( Public Domain )

As a weather god, Ehecatl had an important, though perhaps indirect, role to play in agriculture as well. The rains, for instance, were brought by the god Tlaloc. It was, however, Ehecatl who blew these clouds to the fields, thus signaling the end of the dry season. Therefore, sacrifices, including the ceremonial shedding of blood, as well as human sacrifices, were made to this god to ensure that the harvest would be good.

Ehecatl in Aztec Myth

But Ehecatl had a much bigger role to play than merely blowing rain clouds. In fact, the Aztecs believed that it was this god who set both the sun and the moon in motion by blowing them along their celestial course each day. This belief is seen in the Aztec creation myth, when Ehecatl was assigned this task following the creation of the fifth world.

A modern representation of Ehecatl. (DougDougmann/Deviant Art)

A modern representation of Ehecatl. (DougDougmann/ Deviant Art )

Another myth in which Ehecatl plays an important role is the one involving the creation of the maguey plant (also known as the ‘century plant’ in English), the sap of which is used to make pulque, an alcoholic beverage traditionally drunk in central Mexico. This myth begins with a goddess by the name of Itzpapalotl, who had a nasty habit of stealing daylight and holding it hostage. She would only release it if a ransom in the form of human sacrifices was paid.

Love at First Sight

Having had enough of this, Ehecatl journeyed to Tamoanchan, the Aztec version of paradise, and the home of Itzpapalotl, to have a word with the goddess. Before being able to do so, however, he came across a mortal woman by the name of Mayahuel, who, as it turns out, was the granddaughter of Itzpapalotl. The two are said to have instantly fell in love and descended to the earth. On the spot where the two lovers landed, a beautiful tree blossomed.

Mayahuel, Goddess of Agave. (Public Domain)

Mayahuel, Goddess of Agave. ( Public Domain )

Unfortunately, Ehecatl and Mayahuel were not able to enjoy their happiness for long. When Itzpapalotl returned home, she realized that here granddaughter had disappeared, and summoned the Tzitzimime, who were star deities. They were ordered to seek and destroy Mayahuel. Realizing the danger they were in, Ehecatl turned his lover and himself as branches on the tree that sprang up where they landed. This disguise, however, did not fool the Tzitzimime, who struck the tree with lightning bolts, thus killing Mayahuel. Grief-stricken, Ehecatl gathered up Mayahuel’s remains and buried them. The Aztecs believe that it was from the remains of Mayahuel that the first Maguey plant grew.

Honoring the Aztec Wind God

Finally, it is worth noting that the temples dedicated to Ehecatl had a unique form. Like other Aztec temples, these were pyramids, though instead of quadrilaterals, its platforms are circular, resulting in a conical shape. It has been suggested that this form may have been intended to represent Ehecatl as a tornado or whirlwind, which is a fearsome aspect of wind. One such temple was discovered in 2016 in Mexico City, when archaeologists carried out an excavation underneath a supermarket that had just been demolished.

Top Image: Ehecatl. Source: Cecali/ Deviant Art

By Wu Mingren

References

Associated Press. 2016. Revealed: Pre-Columbian circular temple to the god of wind is found beneath a supermarket in Mexico City. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3987892/Circular-temple-god-wind-uncovered-Mexico-City.html

GodsLaidBare.com. 2010. Ehecatl. Available at: http://www.godslaidbare.com/pantheons/aztec/ehecatl.php

Maestri, N. 2017. Aztec Creation Myth: The Legend of the Fifth Sun. Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/aztec-creation-myth-169337

McDermott, A. 2016. 650-Year-Old Temple to Aztec Wind God Unearthed Under Supermarket in Mexico.
Available at: https://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/650-year-old-temple-aztec-wind-god-unearthed-under-supermarket-mexico-021094

The White Goddess. 2018. Ehecatl - God of wind. Available at: http://www.thewhitegoddess.co.uk/divinity_of_the_day/aztec/ehecatl.asp

www.mexicolore.co.uk. 2018. Study the... WIND GOD. Available at: http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/gods/study-the-wind-god

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