GODDESS OF WATER
A water deity is a deity in mythology associated with water or various bodies of water. Water deities are common in mythology and were usually more important among civilizations in which the sea or ocean, or a great river was more important. Another important focus of worship of water deities were springs or holy wells.
Chalchiuhtlicue (also Chalciuhtlicue, or Chalcihuitlicue) (“She of the Jade Skirt”) was an Aztec goddess of love, beauty, youth, lakes, rivers, seas, streams, horizontal waters, storms, and baptism. Reputedly universally revered at the time of the Spanish conquest, she was an important deity figure in the Postclassic Aztec realm of central Mexico. Chalchiuhtlicue was also patroness of childbirth. She was also called Matlalcueitl by the Tlaxcalans, enemies of the Aztecs.
Chalchiuitlicue’s name means “She Who Wears a Jade Skirt”. She was also known as Matlalcueye—”She Who Wears a Green Skirt”. This goddess was the wife (in some myths, sister) of the rain god, Tlaloc. Like other water deities, she was often associated with serpents. She was the mother of Tecciztecatl, an Aztec moon god. He was called “he who comes from the land of the sea-slug shell” because of the similarity between the moon and the slug. Tecciztecatl was portrayed as an old man who carries a large white seashell on his back.
For the Aztecs, Chalchiuhtlicue was the water goddess who was a personification of youthful beauty and ardor. She was represented as a river from which grew a prickly pear cactus laden with fruit, symbolizing the human heart.
Chalchiutlicue’s association with both water and fertility is derived from the Aztecs’ common association of the womb with waters. This dual role gave her both life-giving and a life-ending role in Aztec mythology. In the Aztec creation myth of the Five Suns, Chalchiuhtlicue presided over the fourth sun, or creation, in her aspect as goddess of streams and standing water. This world—in the mythology, the world preceding the current (fifth) one—was destroyed by a great flood and its people transformed into fish.
In her aquatic aspect, Chalchiutlicue was known as Acuecucyoticihuati, goddess of oceans, as well as the patron of women in labor. She was also said to be the wife of Xiuhtecuhtli, also called Huehueteotl “old god”, the senior deity of the Aztec pantheon. He was the personification of light in the darkness, warmth in coldness, and life in death. A god of light and fire, he is often depicted with a red or yellow face, with a censer on his head.
The mythology of Chalchiuitlicue reports that she helped Tlaloc rule the paradise kingdom of Tlalocan. Chalchiutlicue brought fertility to crops and is said to have been the protector of children. According to legend she devoured the sun and moon.
Five out of the twenty big celebrations in the native calendar were dedicated to Tlaloc and his wife Chalchiutlicue (the one having skirt of green stones), which symbolized waving water, floods and rivers. During these celebrations the priests dived into the lake and imitated the movements and the croaking of frogs, seeking to bring rain.
Chalchiutlicue presides over the day 5 Serpent and the trecena of 1 Reed. She was connected with serpents, maize, and shells. She was responsible with bringing about good harvest to the crops. She was worshiped in marriage. Women who worshiped her would dedicate their nuptials to her. Chalchiutlicue was also held to be the guardian of the children and new born. The fathers would choose the best midwife to bring their child to the world. It was very important for them because the father was concerned about the well being of the mother and the baby, (many times the mother and the baby died in the process of giving birth)
A midwife would speak to children who were being delivered as if they were adults, able to reason and understand, and then implore the gods that his birth insure a prime place among them. After cutting the umbilical cord, the midwife would wash the new baby with customary greeting to the goddess of the sea Chalchiutlicue. Four days after the birth, the child was given a second bath and a name. According to the customs and tradition, the family and relatives prepared everything for the big celebration with food and drinks. The family of the baby would send for the midwife to lead the rite. After of the rising of the sun the midwife would place a bowl of water in the middle of the patio and hold the naked child with both hands. If the baby was a boy, he had a small shield, a bow and four little arrows; if the baby was a girl, she had a huipilli, distaff and a spindle. As reported by Sahagún’s informants, the midwife would say in florid language: “My son, the gods Ometecutli and Omecioatl who realm in the ninth and tenth heavens, have begotten you in this light and brought you into this world full of calamity and pain take then this water, which will protect your life, in the name of the goddess Chalchiutlicue.”
Then with her right hand she would sprinkle water at the head of the child and say, “Behold this element without whose assistance no mortal being can survive.” She also would sprinkle water on the breast of the baby saying, “Receive this celestial water that washes impurity from your heart.” Then she would go again to the head and say, “Son receive this divine water, which must be drank that all may live that it may wash you and wash away all your misfortunes, part of the life since the beginning of the world: this water in truth has a unique power to oppose misfortune.” At the end, she would wash the entire body of the little baby, “In which part of you is unhappiness hidden? Or in which part are you hiding? Leave this child, today, he is born again in the healthful waters in which he has been bathed, as mandated by the will of the god of the sea Chalchiutlicue.”