For a people essentially agricultural, as were the Aztecs, the rainy season and other atmospheric phenomena that influenced their crops were of fundamental importance. Thus it is not surprising that the worship of the gods of water and of vegetation should occupy a great part of their religious life.

Tlaloc, "he who makes things grow," god of the rains and of lightning, is the most important deity in this group of gods. He is also very probably the most ancient of the gods worshiped by man in Mexico and Central America.

The Mayas called him Chac, the Totonacs called him Taj in, the Mixtecs worshiped him under the name of Cocijo. In all parts of Mexico and Central America, worship of him is so old that its beginnings are lost in the remoteness of antiquity.

He was the principal god of the Olmec culture and appears with the mask of the jaguar-serpent on the colossal axes and the clay and jade figurines of this very ancient and advanced culture.

In Teotihuacan representations of him outnumber those of Quet-zalcoatl, and his important cult very likely extended as far as the tribes that encircled the region of the high Mesoamerican cultures to the north and the south.

He is not a creator god, however; rather, he was created, like the other gods, by the children of the divine pair. The legend reads as follows:

In order to create the god and goddess of water, all four gods gathered together and made Tlalocatecuhtli and his wife Chalchiuhtlicue, god and goddess of water, and from them one sought water when it was needed. It is said that the abode of the god of water has four rooms, and that in the middle of a large patio there are four large jars of water. The water in one jar is very good, and from this jar come the rains when grain and seeds sprout and the weather is good. In another jar the water is bad, and when the rains come from this jar, cobwebs form on the grain and the grain mildews. The third jar contains water that sends freezing rains; the fourth jar sends the rains that prevent the grain from heading or cause it to wither. And this god of water, in order to send rain, created many priests with small bodies, and they live in the four rooms of the rain god's house and they hold small containers in one hand in which they draw the water from those jars, and in the other hand they hold sticks, and when the rain god commands them to go and take the rains to certain areas, they take their pots and their sticks and they pour forth the water that was ordered of them, and when it thunders, that is when they break their containers with the sticks, and when the lightning flashes, that is because of what they had in the pots or a part of the pot.

According to another legend, Chalchiuhtlicue was not Tlaloc's wife but his sister. Tlaloc's first wife was Xochiquetzal, the goddess of flowers and of "good love," but Tezcatlipoca stole her from him, as has already been related. Tlaloc then took the goddess Matlalcueitl for his wife, "the lady of the green skirts," an ancient name for the Tlaxcalan mountain now known as Malinche.

This legend shows clearly the relationship that the Indians perceived as existing between the mountain ranges and the rains. It caused them to give the name of Tlaloc to a mountain range, a name it still bears. According to the Aztecs, rain water was stored in great caves within the mountains, issuing later from springs. So it is that we commonly see in the hieroglyphic writings pictures of a hill with a cavern full of water within it.

Although Tlaloc in general was a beneficent god, he had the power to unleash floods and send droughts, hail, ice, and lightning. Consequently he was also a god to be feared when angry; and in order to placate him and seek his favor, children especially were sacrificed to him and also prisoners dressed like the god.

There are many representations of Tlaloc in sculptures, paintings, and on clay pots. It can be said that wherever there is a small isolated mound in the middle of a valley, there are certain to be found within it archaeological remains showing that the god of rain was worshiped there.

Tlaloc is one of the most easily identified of the gods because of his characteristic mask, which, viewed from the front, gives him the appearance of wearing eyeglasses and a moustache. In one piece of sculpture now in the Berlin Museum of Ethnography, it is apparent that in reality this mask is made up of two serpents intertwined to form a circle around the eyes, with the mouths of the serpents meeting above the mouth of the god.

The characteristic mask of Tlaloc, as well as almost all his garments, is painted blue, the color of water against the sky, thereby representing the clouds. Tlaloc's face and body are generally painted black, since he primarily represented the storm clouds; on the other hand, white clouds are symbolized by the heron-feather headdress, aztatzontli, which he wears on the crown of his head. In the picture reproduced here, he is shown holding a flowering staff in one hand and sitting on a jade seat; raindrops falling from the sky form the background. On the nape of the neck he wears the pleated paper fan referred to earlier; on his head there is a conspicuous jewel, tipped with two quetzal feathers, called the quetzalmia-huayo, "the precious blade," signifying maize, which is so dependent on the god of rain.

His companion is the goddess of the sea and lakes, Chalchiuhtli-cue, "the lady of the jade skirts." Her attire consists mainly of ornaments of paper made from the amate [Also amatl and amatle, a tree (Ficus cotinifolia), the bark of which was used to make paper in ancient times] painted blue and white and tinted with melted rubber. The blue and white band with two large tassels, one hanging down on each side of the face, is an ever recurring feature in portrayals of this goddess. Her head is found on a green stone mask now in the National Museum of Mexico, but on the reverse side is her complete figure. Thanks to this piece, we know her calendar name was "Eight Malinalli," or "Eight Grass." Because this goddess was the special patroness of the sea, hucyatl, the Mexicans called the Gulf of Mexico, primarily the Veracruz region, Chalchiuhcueyecatl, "the water of the goddess Chalchiuhtlicue, or Chalchiuhcueye." Sahagun tells us that all those who had dealings with or whose livelihood depended upon the water, such as fishermen, makers of objects of tule, etc., prayed to her constantly.

On the other hand, those who traded in salt had a special goddess called Huixtocihuatl, none other than the goddess of water, as can be seen from the details of her attire, although in her case the color blue has been substituted for white. From existing data we do not know enough about the relationship of the goddess Huixtocihuatl to Chalchiuhtlicue and Tlaloc to say definitely that she is either the sister or the daughter of both of these gods. A similar situation exists in regard to Nappatecuhtli, "the lord of straw," god of those who made straw mats and other objects woven from rushes in the lagoons.

Chicomecoatl, "Seven Serpent," is without doubt the most important of all the gods of vegetation. Consequently, the old chroniclers called her "the goddess of sustenance." She was also called "seven ears of corn," Chicomolotzin. In this connection, a piece of sculpture in the form of a rattlesnake, discovered a few years ago in the foundation work of the National Palace in Mexico City, is of great importance. It has a peculiar decoration of seven ears of corn on its body, which would certainly lead us to believe that it is a representation of Chicomecoatl. Her cult was very ancient and probably came from the archaic era. As a goddess of fertility of the earth, she was also very naturally regarded as the goddess of human fertility, although in this form she was known by another name.

It is curious to observe that in the esoteric language of sorcerers and fortunetellers those calendar names that have the numeral "7" signify seeds. For example, "7 Serpent" is the esoteric name of corn, "7 Eagle" is the name of the squash seed, and so on. As a result, fortunetellers considered the number 7 as an omen of good luck, and anyone born on a day having this number would be lucky in life.

The goddess appears in the codices with her body and face painted red, and she wears a kind of paper mitre decorated with rosettes of the same material. In sculpture she also occasionally wears this adornment and in each hand holds a double ear of corn.

Even though Chicomecoatl was the general goddess of sustenance, the Aztecs converted each plant important to them into a god. Of course, for them, corn was the most important of all and was represented by a whole series of gods. Centeotl—literally centli, "corn," and tcotl, "god," therefore, "god of corn"—was this plant deified.

But if Centeotl was the corn god, generally speaking, the seed itself was thought of as a woman who represented in the various stages of her life the development of the ear of corn. Thus Xilonen was the tender ear of corn, or green corn, while Ilamatecuhtli, "the lady of the old skirt," was the dry ear, covered now by the yellow, wrinkled shucks.

Xilonen is one of the many deities borrowed by the Aztecs from other peoples. On earth, her part was taken by a young slave girl who was carried on the shoulders of a priest. The girl's head was cut off during one of the monthly festivals, signifying thus that the ear of corn had been severed from the stalk.

Xochipilli, "the prince of flowers," the patron of dances, games, and love, and symbol of summer, was intimately connected with Centeotl. He is sometimes thought to be related to the Red Tezcatlipoca, although the latter was more of a solar deity. His symbol, the tonallo, is formed by four points signifying the heat of the sun. Xochipilli is pictured adorned with flowers and butterflies, and he carries a staff, the уоlotopiHi, on which a human heart is impaled. A deity so similar to him that perhaps it is only his calendar name was "Five Flower," Macuilxochitl, also the patron of games, dances, and sports. His wife Xochiquetzal, "the flower of the rich plume," was the personification of beauty and love. She was the goddess of flowers and the patroness of domestic work, but she was also the patroness of courtesans, the auianime or maqui, who lived with the bachelor warriors, because she had been kidnapped by the young Tezcatlipoca, the warrior from the North. She is characterized primarily by two large, erect panaches made from the feathers of the quetzal bird and by her richly embroidered garments.

Xochipilli and Xochiquetzal were worshiped principally by the Indians of the chinam-) pas, or floating gardens. They were the Xochi-milcans, who then, as now grew on their floating gardens flowers used by the temples and palaces of Tenochtitlan.

The maguey (agave) plant was of great importance in the life of the Aztecs, not only for the pulque (octli) which they extracted from it, but also for the many industrial products from the leaves and spines of the plant. It was deified under the name of Mayahuel. She was a goddess, who, like Venus of Ephesus, had four hundred breasts to nurse her four hundred children, the Centzon Totochtin, the four hundred or unnumbered gods of drunkenness. They were worshiped by various peoples of the Highlands and derived their names from the tribes whose patrons they were.

The most important of these was Ometochtli, "Two Rabbit," general god of pulque, but there are other gods. Tepoztecatl, worshiped in Tepoztlan, Morelos, is very important because of the series of myths centered about him. They have come down to us by word of mouth and are still told today in Tepoztlan, where the old myths are intermingled with Christian ideas and institutions and even with contemporary facts and happenings. Some legends say that this god, like Huitzilopochtli and Quetzalcoatl, was born of a virgin who conceived in a miraculous way. The story of a miraculous conception is repeated not only in the Mayan myths, but also in accounts of a great number of the religions of the world, in which a miraculous conception almost constitutes a rule to explain the birth of a hero or god.

The husband of Mayahuel is Patecatl, who originally represented certain plants added to the pulque to aid fermentation. Later, however, he was transformed into one of the gods of medicine, for it was he who was used to "cure" the pulque and change it into a drink with magic and intoxicating power.

Finally, the god Xipe Totec, "our lord the flayed one," is the god of spring and of jewelers. His cult was probably brought into the Valley of Mexico very early, since he is found in Teotihuacan culture, in which the so-called "god with a mask" is only a representation of Xipe. He was likewise called Yopi, and many of the ornaments worn by this god are designated by this name. For example, his conical headdress is called yopitzontli, which would lead us to believe that he may have originated somewhere in the border region between the present-day states of Oaxaca and Guerrero, where there is a group of people called Tlapanecs or Yopis.

His cult is one of those most repugnant to our sensibilities, for it consisted in flaying a slave and covering a priest of the earth with the skin of the victim. This rite signified that when spring arrives, the earth must cover itself with a new coat of vegetation and exchange its dead skin for a new one.

In appearance, Xipe greatly resembles Tezcatlipoca, except, as has been said, he is a red Tezcatlipoca instead of a black one. All his clothes and adornments are red, and his face is painted with red and yellow horizontal stripes. His nahual, or disguise, is the tlauhquechol, or spoon bird.

Various other gods closely associated with water and vegetation were represented in the Aztec pantheon, but many were only variations of those mentioned and their worship was less widespread and of less importance.