Coatlicue, also known as Teteoinan, “The Mother of Gods”, is the Aztec goddess who gave birth to the moon, stars, and Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and war.
The word “Coatlicue” is Nahuatl for “the one with the skirt of serpents”. She is referred to variously by the epithets “Mother Goddess of the Earth who gives birth to all celestial things”, “Goddess of Fire and Fertility”, “Goddess of Life, Death and Rebirth”, and “Mother of the Southern Stars”.
She is represented as a woman wearing a skirt of writhing snakes and a necklace made of human hearts, hands, and skulls. Her feet and hands are adorned with claws and her breasts are depicted as hanging flaccid from nursing. Her face is formed by two facing serpents (after her head was cut off and the blood spurt forth from her neck in the form of two gigantic serpents), referring to the myth that she was sacrificed during the beginning of the present creation.
Most Aztec artistic representations of this goddess emphasize her deadly side, because Earth, as well as loving mother, is the insatiable monster that consumes everything that liveth. She represents the devouring mother, in whom both the womb and the grave exist.
Many don’t know, but the Virgin of Guadalupe is Coatlicue. She was named Guadalupe and made a European saint… but the Indigenous still knew her as the Goddess that she was. She survived through the grapevine.
Lady of Guadalupe, She is also much more than the mother of Jesus, much older. Before the Spaniards came, people of mexico already had a complex society steeped in its own spiritual and religious beliefs. Tonantzin, was divine mother, their Goddess. She spoke to Juan Diego in Nahuatl (one of the native languages of mexico) and identified herself as the mother of god. The Spanish clergy assumed “oh, she must mean OUR god!” forgetting that the deities of the Aztecs also had mothers. She was not fair skinned but dark as the indigenous people she called her children. The names she gave to Juan Diego and to his uncle include: tequantlaxopueh (she who banishes those who ate us), tlecuauhtlacupeh (she who comes flying from the light like an eagle) and coaltlaxopeh. There are no corresponding sounds in the Spanish language, and so may have been replaced by convenient romance language sounds to form the word Guadalupe. Interestingly enough, the site of La Basilica is the site of a destroyed temple to Our Lady Coatlicue, the goddess of the earth. Was she just asking for her home to be rebuilt? In 1531, she appeared at Tepeyac to a young Juan Diego identifying herself as Inninantzin in huelneli (mother of the true god), and asking him to carry her message to the bishop that she wanted her sacred house built on that spot. Of course the European bishop ignored Juan Diego’s story. When Juan Diego suggested that maybe she should send someone more important, she insisted that it must be he, the smallest of all her children, who should deliver the message of the queen of heaven. Again Juan Diego approached the Bishop, who then asked for proof. But, distracted by the needs of his dying uncle, Juan Diego didn’t go to Tepeyac. She appeared to him on his way to fetch a priest and told him to open his heart and not be afraid, that his uncle was well. “Am I not your mother? Will I not protect you?” She instructed him to pick flowers growing on the normally barren spot and take them as proof. When he got an audience with the Bishop, he let his cloak full of flowers fall. The image of Our Lady was printed on the cloth, not painted by a human hand. It still hangs in the cathedral built for her.