Mother Goddesses and Their Impact on Ancient History



In an attempt to explore the pertinence mother goddesses bore to early civilizations, this essay will detail two significant goddesses in history. From what has been gathered from research, mother goddesses were important to early civilizations because they symbolized life, itself.

In Pueblo society corn was regarded as female; one necessity for survival. To relate the spiritual world to the natural—the givers of life (food) were also represented in these societies as bearers of life (women). When taking it in this perspective, it only makes sense that spirits of mother goddesses were symbolized through naturally occurring items such as corn, squash, or beans.

Coatlicue was a symbol of giving and taking of life in the Aztec culture. Coatlicue was considered part human and part animal; which rendered her one of the most powerful deities in Aztec history. The war god Huitzilopchtli was the son of Coatlicue and his birth was such a treacherous, yet empowering event. Upon becoming pregnant with Huitzilopchtil, Coatlicue's other children developed a strong loathing for her. It was her own daughter who cut off Coatlicue's head, and that action set in motion the birth of Huitzilopchtil, who emerged from his mother's midsection fully grown and armed. This loyal son avenged his mother's death, and enacted a mercilessly gruesome death upon her attackers; including his sister.

The very birth given by Coatlicue not only showed the regeneration of her life and legacy, but it also revealed how through (almost) vicarious means, she was able to cut life short. Coatlicue's name translates to 'serpent skirt,' and depictions of her likeness show her donning a skirt of woven snakes. Snakes are regarded as a symbol of fertility, and her sculpture also includes breasts--which--can be humanly regarded as a source of nourishment. The necklace Coatlicue wears is of hands and hearts and at the center is a skull; these have been noted to replicate her consuming those she destroys, much like the remains of [human] dead return to and become the Earth.

The combination of Coatlicue being monster and human mirrors the belief held by Aztecs that life and death were two beautiful (yet grotesque) things that intertwined each other. The mother Goddess Coatlicue gave birth to the moon (her daughter) and the stars, yet these same children did not believe her when a ball of feathers descended upon her bosom and she became pregnant with Huitzilopchtil.

In summary, when comparing the two cultures and the necessities of the female deities, it becomes apparent that they represented fertilization, life, and death all the same. The importance that each deity bore to each society stood on the principle of the life cycle. Mother Earth is symbolized through the different deities; just as the Virgin Mary represented the likeness of the beginning of creation for the early European settlers.


"Native American dance." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 17 Oct. 2010

"Coatlicue." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 18 Oct. 2010

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