General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 21 Sep 2017/10 Eagle
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Toad

Aztec toad figure

Aztec toad with an image of Chalchiuhtlicue underneath; stone. National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

Because toads emerged from their burrows in the earth at the onset of the rainy season in Mesoamerica, they were not only associated with the earth, but also became the prime symbol of water. The Aztecs therefore pictured Tlaltecuhtli, lord of the earth and patron of water, crouching like a toad, with his legs outstretched as he supports the universe on his shoulders. On the base of this sculpture - the toad’s tummy - is a relief of the chief water goddess, Chalchiuhtlicue, which recreates the quincunx, the five parts of the cosmos, with the animal at its centre. The naturalistic carving of the toad clearly shows the slight bulges on the head in which it stores a highly toxic substance to protect it from its enemies. Native shamans knew of this substance’s properties and used it to prepare a ritual dream-making drug.

Adapted from Aztecs (Royal Academy of Arts exhibition catalogue, London, 2002), p.415. Sorry, we haven’t got a photo if its belly!