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How were Xochipilli and Xochiquetzal linked?

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Daria Pantiru: I’m not quite yet familiar with the concept of gods acting as consorts to each other, but what exactly are the similarities and differences between Xochipilli and Xochiquetzal, and how were they linked (why is Xochiquetzal paired with him and not another god since there are stories of her having been involved with others)? (Answered by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: Figurines of Xochipilli (L) and Xochiquetzal (R). Note that one of Xochiquetzal’s telltale bundles of plumes is missing from her headdress in the British Museum figurine (R)
Pic 1: Figurines of Xochipilli (L) and Xochiquetzal (R). Note that one of Xochiquetzal’s telltale bundles of plumes is missing from her headdress in the British Museum figurine (R) (Click on image to enlarge)

Good question, and understandable too. The trouble is, there are so many different myths, sources and interpretations relating to connections between Aztec/Mexica deities that often serious scholars can’t agree, and this is a case in point...
First, the obvious associations between the two.
• Both bear the name Xochi(tl) or ‘Flower’ in Nahuatl - visible in the iconography for each
• Both are deities generally associated with pleasure of all kinds, particularly love, the arts, and of summer
• Both had closely associated daysigns (Monkey for Xochipilli, Flower for Xochiquetzal)
• Both are ‘supreme’ deities, connected with fertility and agriculture.

Pic 2: Xochipilli (L) and Xochiquetzal (R) - illustrations by Miguel Covarrubias
Pic 2: Xochipilli (L) and Xochiquetzal (R) - illustrations by Miguel Covarrubias (Click on image to enlarge)

In terms of their domains, whilst both were worshipped alongside each other by certain groups within Aztec society - in particular, by the flower-growers and chinampa farmers of Xochimilco (the famous though mis-named ‘floating gardens’), they were patrons of different aspects of daily life: Xochipilli (‘Prince of Flowers’) was god of music, dance, feasting, ‘noble arts’, games and sports; Xochiquetzal (‘Quetzal-Flower’) goddess of beauty, flowers and physical love, but also patron of domestic workers, prostitutes, artists, weavers, pregnancy and childbirth.
And then when it comes to placing them within the grand ‘family’ of gods, well, good luck!
• Xochiquetzal is generally regarded as a ‘mother goddess’, similar in some respects to Toci and Teteo Innan and often identified with Tlazolteotl. Some sources claim that, in her guise as the female aspect, Tonacacíhuatl, of the creator couple Ometéotl, she was in fact mother to the four great creator gods (Black and Red Tezcatlipocas, Quetzalcoatl and Huitzilopochtli).
• Other myths suggest she was the first ‘wife’ of the great rain god Tlaloc, until she was seduced and kidnapped by Tezcatlipoca and ended up sinning and bringing about the downfall of Quetzalcoatl and the fall of the great Toltec city Tollan.

Pic 3: Clay representation of Xochiquetzal (L), stone statue of Xochipilli (R), National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Pic 3: Clay representation of Xochiquetzal (L), stone statue of Xochipilli (R), National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

But then how could she be, in the words of the great scholar Salvador Mateos Higuera, both ‘wife of the offspring of her children and moreover wife of her own son’ (our translation)?
• Xochipilli could then be seen in one respect as the ‘consort’ of Xochiquetzal, being a representation of the male aspect of the creator couple, ie Tonacatecuhtli, and hence ‘father’ of the four creator gods named above.
• Where did Xochipilli and Xochiquetzal come from? Mateos Higuera is emphatic here: ‘[Both these gods] lack any origin, because both, being supernatural beings, extraordinary as they were, lack any beginning to their existence’ (our translation).
• Xochipilli, to coin Manuel Aguilar-Moreno’s phrase ‘overlaps with the god of gambling, Macuilxochitl, as well as with Cinteotl, the maize god, because of his generative powers’.

• Perhaps it’s best to see the couple as another example of the duality so vividly present in Mexica and pre-Hispanic mythology generally - as classic representations of what Pohl and Lyons call ‘a consort system that logically paired Tlaloc the storm god with Chalchiuhtlicue the water goddess, or Xochipilli (Flower Prince) with Xochiquetzal (Flower Quetzal), the god and goddess of royal feasts, marriages, and the arts’. Even though familial connections may be unclear, ‘gender based equivalencies were still operative’.

Sources consulted:-
Los Dioses Supremos by Salvador Mateos Higuera, Enciclopedia Gráfica del México Antiguo, Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público, Mexico, 1992
The Aztec Pantheon and the Art of Empire by John M. Pohl and Claire L. Lyons, Getty Publications, 2010
Handbook to Life in the Aztec World by Manuel Aguilar-Moreno, Facts on File, New York, 2006
Mockeries and Metamorphoses of an Aztec God by Guilhem Olivier, University Press of Colorado, 2003
The Aztecs: People of the Sun by Alfonso Caso, University of Oklahoma Press, 1958.

Picture sources:-
• Pic 1 (L): photo from ‘Lombards Museum’ (Wikipedia: Xochipilli); (R): photo © Trustees of the British Museum. Museum no.: Am,St.384.t, AN502996001
• Pic 2: illustrations by Miguel Covarrubias, scanned from The Aztecs: People of the Sun (see above)
• Pic 3: photos by ian Mursell/Mexicolore (L), by Ana Laura Linda/Mexicolore (R).

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