Codex Borgia 27 cropped

Five depictions of Tlaloc or Tlaloque from the Codex Yohalli Ehēcatl (Codex Borgia, 27)

Tlāloc (perhaps meaning "He Who Rests on the Land" or "He Who Makes Things Sprout") is an important Aztec rain god. The main temple or "Templo Mayor" in Tenochtitlan was dually dedicated to Huitzilopochtli and to Tlaloc, with Tlaloc's shrine right next to and north of Huitzilopochtli's shrine. Tlaloc governs rain, hail, storms, lightning, and water hazards, and he also presides over fertility and the sustenance for the corporeal existence of all life. He is also said to bring about diseases, droughts, and floods, particularly when he is not shown due reverence.

Tlaloc is the leader of the Tlaloque (plural of "Tlaloc"), who inhabit the world's mountains and clouds as tutelary deities. Tlaloc's sacred mountain, Mount Tlaloc, is located on the eastern side of the Valley of Mexico, just north of the Iztaccihuatl popocatepetl (volcano), and the mountain has been home to a number of shrines to Tlaloc.

Tlaloc governs a paradise called Tlalocan ("Place of Tlaloc"), located in the 4th of 13 Heavens. Tlaloc is the last of the 9 Lords of the Night and as such rules over the 9th of the 9 Earthly layers (i.e. the deepest underworld). He is also the 8th of the 13 Lords of the Day, which correspond to the Heavenly layers. In the sacred 260-day Tonalpohualli calendar, Tlaloc is in addition associated with the seventh daysign, Mazatl (Deer), and also with the seventh thirteen-day period (a.k.a. "trecena" or "thirtnight"), called 1 Quiyahuitl (1 Rain) as it starts on the day 1 Quiyahuitl (1 Rain).

According to some sources, Tlaloc was originally married to the love goddess Xochiquetzal, until Tezcatlipoca kidnapped her, enraging Tlaloc so much that he ended a drought by raining fire upon the world and its people, effectively ending his tenure as the Sun.[1] He then married Chalchiuhtlicue ("Whose Skirt is Jade"). With Chalchiuhtlicue, he is the father of the moon god Tecciztecatl. In Pipil (Salvadoran) mythology, he is also the grandfather of Cipitio. His older sister is Huixtocihuatl, a fertility goddess who presides over salt and saltwater. [1]

Tlaloc is the Aztec analogue or equivalent of the Mayan god Chaac, the Mixtec god Dzahui (literally: "Rain"), and the Zapotec god Cocijo.



Tlaloc is one of the oldest and most venerated deities of the Mexica. He is of pre-Aztec origin and known from the time of the Toltecs. [2]

Images identified as Tlaloc on vases from Tlapacoya date as early as the 1st century CE. Representations of a rain god wearing a peculiar mask, with large round eyes and long fangs, date at least to the Teotihuacán culture of the highlands (3rd to 8th century CE). [3]

In early images, Tlaloc was usually depicted with large eyes and fangs of a jaguar. He may have even been considered part jaguar, an attribute that possibly stems from the older Olmec religion, where a jaguar god was the main deity.[4] In later images from the Aztec era (14th to 16th century CE), Tlaloc is depicted as a man wearing a net of clouds, a crown of heron feathers, and foam sandals, carrying rattles to make thunder. [5]

Tlaloc was a main agricultural deity among the peoples of central Mexico for many centuries. His worship was most likely spread as a result of conquest by neighboring tribes. When the warlike northern tribes invaded central Mexico, they brought with them their original astral cult of Huitzilopochtli, a deity of the sun, and Tezcatlipoca, a god of starry nights. These were syncretized with local Central Mexica agricultural cults, eventually putting Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli at the top of the "new" pantheon. [6]

Tlaloc was originally worshiped by the Teotihuacan and Toltec civilizations in Mesoamerica, although with less violence than among the Aztecs.[7]


With his consort Chalchiuhtlicue, the goddess of oceans and fresh water, Tlaloc rules over the realm called Tlalocan ("place of Tlaloc"), located in the fourth of the thirteen heavenly layers. This otherworldly place is a paradise for those who drown or whose deaths are otherwise water-related, lighting-related, or attributable to certain diseases that fall under the jurisdiction of Tlaloc, such as leprosy. [8] Tlalocan is imagined as a beautiful place of bounty and fertility, with unending springtime and a lush variety of plants.[10]

Tlaloc was recognized as the keeper of rains, growth, sickness, frost, and associated hazards and dangers. By some accounts, alongside his brethren Tlaloque, Tlaloc kept a clay jar full of fresh water which, when broken or emptied, caused the rains, and was said to have had three other similar jars: the second would inflict sickness and blight, the third frost, and the fourth drought (Read and Gonzalez 257).

Worship and RitualsEdit

File:Tlaloc sm.jpg

Tlaloc was revered throughout Mexico. The Great Temple or Hueyi Teocalli of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, housed one of his greatest shrines. The temple had two sanctuaries built of equal proportions at the pyramid: one, painted in the sun colors of red and white, dedicated to Huitzilopochtli; the other, painted in the colors of water (blue and white), dedicated to Tlaloc. His priests, each titled Quetzalcoatl Tlaloc Tlamacazqui (Feathered Serpent, Priest of Tlaloc), were equal in rank and titles to that of the sun deity's.[9] [10]

The Aztec calender depicted Tlaloc as the eighth ruler of days and ninth ruler of nights. Five months out of the 18 month ritual year were devoted to honoring him and his fellow gods the Tlaloques, who like Tlaloc himself were thought to live on or within the mountaintops. During Atlcaualo (the first month), Tozoztontli (the third month), and the feast of Hueytozoztli ("Great Watch"), children were sacrificed to him as ritual practice. Children with special day names and orphaned children were particularly sought.[11] The victims' tears were collected in homage to the rain god in a ceremonial bowl before the ritual, for a boon of rain and fertility (see photo).[12]

The sacrifice of children to Tlaloc and other rain gods was common among the Aztec during the dry season; a similar feast was held at the beginning of the rainy season, when Tlaloc was honored with offerings of amaranth cakes and the people shared in a specially-prepared stew made from the bodies of slaves who had been sacrificed to Tlaloc (Read and Gonzalez 257).

Hymn to TlalocEdit

The following is a translation (albeit not necessarily a wholly accurate one) of a traditional Aztec ceremonial hymn to Tlaloc, initially preserved by Father Bernardino de Sahagun and reproduced in Rig Veda Americanus, Sacred Songs of the Ancient Mexicans, 1890.

In Mexico the god appears; thy banner is unfolded in all directions, and no one weeps.
I, the god, have returned again, I have turned again to the place of abundance of blood-sacrifices; there when the day grows old, I am beheld as a god.
Thy work is that of a noble magician; truly thou hast made thyself to be of our flesh; thou hast made thyself, and who dare affront thee?
Truly he who affronts me does not find himself well with me; my fathers took by the head the tigers and the serpents.
In Tlalocan, in the verdant house, they play at ball, they cast the reeds.
Go forth, go forth to where the clouds are spread abundantly, where the thick mist makes the cloudy house of Tlaloc.
There with strong voice I rise up and cry aloud.
Go ye forth to seek me, seek for the words which I have said, as I rise, a terrible one, and cry aloud.
After four years they shall go forth, not to be known, not to be numbered, they shall descend to the beautiful house, to unite together and know the doctrine.
Go forth, go forth to where the clouds are spread abundantly, where the thick mist makes the cloudy house of Tlaloc.

See AlsoEdit


  • Brinton, Daniel. Rig Veda Americanus: Sacred Songs of the Ancient Mexicans, with a gloss in Nahuatl. Philadelphia, 1890.
  • Read, Kay Almere, and Jason Gonzalez. Mesoamerican Mythology. Oxford University Press, 2000.

External LinksEdit

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