The Great Goddess

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The Goddess of Teotihuacan

The great city of Teotihuacan prominently displayed three major deities in its art: the rain god, the Feathered Serpent, and this enigmatic goddess who appears in ceramic sculpture and painted mural. Her exact charges remain a mystery, but she appears in settings related to life. She could be a prototype to many of the female deities in Mesoamerica.

Teotihuacan Site Museum


Colonial chronicler Diego Durán wrote how the Aztecs celebrated their great annual "Sweeping" festival with an impersonator of Tlahzolteotl, accompanied by her Huaxtec priests. There has been a long association between Tlahzolteotl and the Gulf Coast, which even the Aztecs acknowledged in their dedications to her. These small terracotta sculptures are also from the Gulf Coast, namely the Río Blanco and Papaloapan river banks of Veracruz. They feature the goddess with open arms, interpreted as the Mother's affectionate embrace.

Xalapa Museum of Anthropology

Stone Tlahzolteotl

Thelma Sullivan made a very interesting case, using the example of Tlahzolteotl, of the unity of the goddesses in Mesoamerican thought. The Goddess was one, but with a plurality of different expressions. The most important element of this sandstone sculpture is the cone atop the headdress. This conical piece is a cotton spindle, by which all a person's life was bundled into a womb like a tuft of cotton. Following birth, the rest of their life was unwound like the yarn from the spindle.

Regional Museum of San Luis Potosí

Teteoh Innan

'The Mother of the Gods' went by many names in the Aztec world, most of them stressing her role as ancestor to gods and humans alike. According to friar Bernardino de Sahagún she was also 'Our Grandmother,' 'Sweatbath Grandmother,' and 'Heart of the Earth.' This majestic, monolithic sculpture stands nearly four feet tall. It comes from Tlalmanalco, southeast of Mexico City. Her headband is a braid of cotton, recalling its relation with childbirth in images of Tlahzolteotl as well. The large glyph upon her skirt depicts the calendar sign for Three Monkey.

National Museum of Anthropology and History


As Tlazolteotl is deeply linked to the Gulf Coast, these sandstone sculptures are distinctly Huaxtec manifestations of the goddess. In the Teenek language of the Huaxtecs, she is Teem. She is often portrayed with a bare chest and with her hands at the hips, to represent fertility. Teem and related goddesses were worshiped in what the Huaxtecs called the huiz ata or 'House of Flowers.'

National Museum of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History