Tuesday, December 09, 2003

*Ø* Blogmanac December 9 | Virgin Mary or Aztec goddess?

Feast Day of St Juan Diego, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the goddess Tonantzin
From Mexico comes a quaint story involving a goddess and the Roman Catholic Church’s holiest lady, Mary, mother of Jesus. On December 9, 1531, a 57-year-old Mexican Indian farmer by the name of Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, an Aztec who had converted to Christianity, was minding his own business as he walked to early morning Mass, passing by the hill known as Tepeyac, between his village and Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City). 

Juan Diego was born in 1474 in the calpulli or ward of Tlayacac in Cuauhtitlan, which was established in 1168 by Nahua tribesmen and conquered by the Aztec lord Axayacatl in 1467, and was located 20 kilometres (14 miles) north of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City).

Tepeyac had for centuries been of significance to the people of what is now called Mexico – the Aztecs and their descendants – because it was the site of a shrine to the goddess Tonantzin. Tonantzin (pictured), associated with the snake goddess Coatlique (perhaps cognate with the Judaeo-Christian Eve), was worshipped in the Winter Solstice celebrations at around this time of year.

Tonantzin wore a white robe covered in feathers and seashells, which adorned her as the goddess promenaded among the worshippers and was ceremonially killed in a scene reminiscent of the apparent death of the sun of winter. The goddess was also known by the name of Ilamatecuhtli (‘a noble old woman’) and Cozcamiauh (‘a necklace of maize flowers’).

As Juan Diego walked to Mass (some sources say he was walking to the shrine of the goddess), he heard celestial music and the sound of beating wings. Presently, a maiden appeared to him, dressed in the attire of an Aztec princess, a lovely apparition who, speaking to him in his native Nahuatl language, introduced herself to the startled peasant as Maria, the Mother of God ...

This is just a snippet of today's stories. Read all about today in folklore, historical oddities, inspiration and alternatives at the Wilson's Almanac Book of Days, every day. Click today's date when you're there.


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