August 13, 2010

Ancient Mexican Sea Deities

Visitors come from all over the world to explore the oceans of Mexico. From ancient and modern traders and business people; through invaders and pirates; to tourists and, of course, the local people. They have all witnessed the changeable moods of the sea. The calm serenity, that is there most of the time, to the occasional weight of tropical storms and hurricanes. They have sailed and fished and fed from its bounty. During all of this, particularly in the latter, these people have appealed to the divine entities, whom they believed ruled over these beautiful waters.

These days, the local fishing communities are most likely to be appealing to Mother Mary, or Our Lady Of Guadalupe. Those from other nations will bring their own gods or goddesses. For our ancestors, their prayers were heard by the ancient Mexican sea deities.


The Lady of the Waters, Chalchiuhtlicue, is an Atzec goddess.

Her name translates as 'jade skirt', but she was known by several names: Matalcueyeh, Xoxouhqui Ihuipil, Xoxouhqui Icue, Chalchiuh Tlatonac and Etzalqualiztli. Most of those relate to her skirt, which is variously described as blue, jade or green. The last moniker, Etzalqualiztli, means 'Lady Precious Green'.

Her icons and shrines have been found next to sources of water, streams, aquaducts, irrigation systems, lakes and cenotes, as well as the oceans themselves. She is shown wearing a skirt of blue or green, often with blue and white paper ornaments, and a shawl adorned with tassels. She also has tassels dangling down either side of her face. These are attached to an ornate head-dress, rendered from several broad braids. She is eternally youthful and very beautiful, as well as noble in status.

The Aztecs associated the sea with childbirth, so it is that Chalchiuhtlicue was evoked during labour. Newborn babies were sprinkled with water and greeted as the goddess. Four days later, they would be bathed again and blessed under the auspices of the goddess, Chalchiuhtlicue.

Chalchiuhtlicue is married to the rain god, Tlaloc. It was after he was slighted by the great father diety, Quetzalcoatl, that Chalchiuhtlicue flew into one of her rare rages. She caused such violent tempests that the whole world was flooded.

The region of Veracruz, alongside the Gulf of Mexico, was once known as Chalchiuhcueyecatl, ie 'the waters of the goddess, Chalchiuhtlicue'. Therefore, anyone worried today about the situation in the Gulf of Mexico might do well to appeal to this ancient lady, alongside their usual prayers.

Ix Chel

Grandmother, Ix Chel, is a Maya goddess.

She's been called 'Lady of the Seas'. Her temples and shrines tended to be around water or upon islands. She famously had her shrine on Isla Mujeres desecrated by the first Spanish visitors to Mexico. That story, along with Ix Chel's own, has been told in a previous blog.

She is the ancient deity for the Mexican Caribbean Sea.

Mama Cocha

Mama CochaSea Mother, Mama Cocha, is an Inca goddess. She was also known as Mama Qocha.

Mama Cocha had dominion over all of the oceans and waters. She is a kindly, motherly divine lady, who protects fishermen and sailors. They would petition her for a large catch and calm waters. Mama Cocha would set about preventing storms and making sure there were plenty of fish around the fishermen's lures and nets.

As the goddess of both the waters and the rain, she could control the weather. She was most often evoked around the Pacific shores.

Her husband is Viracocha, the creator of the universe, sun, moon and stars. He also created civilization, walking amongst his people disguised as a beggar, in order to teach them certain skills. Mama Cocha and Viracocha were the parents of other Inca deities.

Comic book readers may recognize her from the Marvel publication, 'Thor & Hercules: Encyclopaedia Mythologica'. Mama Cocha appeared in issue one. She also lends her name to a Peruvian home for abandoned children, Mama Cocha, in Los Organos.

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