General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Nov 2017/5 Eagle
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Were all gods male and female?

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Mireya Garcia Meier: ¿Tenía cada dios azteca una representación masculina y femenina que se complementaba? Con Quetzalcóatl se dice que vino en el quinto sol en forma masculina, pero en su próxima llegada vendrá como niña (fem) (Answered by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: Ometeotl (The Two Deity and representative of the creator couple, Codex Vaticanus A, fol. 1v (detail)
Pic 1: Ometeotl (The Two Deity and representative of the creator couple, Codex Vaticanus A, fol. 1v (detail) (Click on image to enlarge)

Excellent question! Scholars point out that male deities outnumber female ones in the Aztec pantheon by roughly 2 to 1, and yet the concepts of duality and gender complementarity were, in the words of Professor Elizabeth M. Brumfiel ‘inscribed in Aztec religion’. The ‘Top Deity’ (Ometeotl - see pic 1) was most certainly a creator couple, with a clear male (Ometecuhtli) and female (Omecíhuatl) aspect, and yet all four of their children, the four great creator gods - Red and Black Tezcatlipocas, Quetzalcóatl and Huitzilopochtli - were all sons.

Pic 2: Tlaloc and Chalchiuhtlicue, Codex Borbonicus p. 35 (detail)
Pic 2: Tlaloc and Chalchiuhtlicue, Codex Borbonicus p. 35 (detail) (Click on image to enlarge)

However, as Brumfiel explains, Lesser Aztec gods were paired in male-female couples, among them: Tlaloc and Chalchiuhtlicue, the male and female water deities [pic 2]; Mictlantecuhtli and Mictlancihuatl, the god and goddess of the underworld; Xochipilli and Xochiquetzal, the god and goddess of feasts, fine craftsmanship, and pleasure; and Centeotl and Chicomecoatl, male and female personifications of maize. In addition, it was understood that the birth of all living things, especially human beings and agricultural crops, required male and female contributions... (The Aztec World, 2008, p. 88).

Pic 3: The two giant ‘fire serpents’, one on either side of the circumference of the Aztec Sunstone, are male (L) and female (R). National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Pic 3: The two giant ‘fire serpents’, one on either side of the circumference of the Aztec Sunstone, are male (L) and female (R). National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

In the ‘creation of humankind’ story central to Mexica mythology, there is, as Inga Clendinnen reminds us (Aztecs, 1991, p. 173) ‘little indication of male priority’, and it’s hard not to view Aztec gods and goddesses as anything other than ‘one big family’; talking of which we will leave it to perhaps the ‘granddaddy’ and greatest of all scholars on Aztec gods, Henry B. Nicholson, to hint at something of the complexity underlying Mexica religion, which goes beyond simple duality:-
The deities are described as being related to each other in various ways (parent-child, sibling, spouse), but no integrated “family of gods” structure appears to have ever been worked out, nor, seemingly, had any very neat hierarchical ordering of rank and power ever been formulated. A fundamental characteristic of Mesoamerican pantheonic systems in general was the conception of deity in dual, quadruple, and/or quintuple form. The duality principle was especially important in its application to the creative celestial deity(ies), but was also inherent in the consort system, which, though apparently not universal, was very common... (Handbook of Middle American Indians, 1971, vol. 10, p. 409).

Picture sources:-
• Pic 1: image scanned from our own copy of the ADEVA, Graz, 1979 facsimile edition of the Codex Vaticanus A
• Pic 2: image scanned from our own copy of the ADEVA, Graz, 1974 facsimile edition of the Codex Borbonicus
• Pic 3: photo of the Aztec Sunstone, from Wikipedia.

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