Mayahuel = powerful flow in Nahuatl

Mayahuel was an Aztec goddess of fertility and of the maguey, an agave cactus of great religious importance. From the maguey a holy, intoxicating drink was made, called pulque or octli. Today the plant gives the raw material for mezcal and tequila.

Because of her cactus association, Mayahuel belonged to a group of gods called the pulque gods. The head of this group was Ometochtli, Two-Rabbit. Another member was Patecatl, lord of the land of medicines and Mayahuel's husband.

The goddess is a patroness of pregnant women. She is depicted with numerous breasts, continuously leaking milk (which is actually pulque) to feed her many children. Mayahuel's children are the Centzontotochtli, or four hundred rabbits, responsible for the infinite kinds of drunkenness. Together with Xochipilli, Mayahuel resides in the eighth trecena (sort of month) of the Aztec calendar, and pulque worship was performed at this time.

Originally, Mayahuel was not a goddess. She lived in the underworld under the strict eye of her grandmother Tzizimitl, one of the tzitzimime or demons. The young girl was very beautiful, and she was a virgin. The typical pattern that we know from Greek mythology quickly ensued.

The god Ehacatl spotted the maiden, fell in love, and brought her to earth where they melted together in a powerful embrace. Strange things can happen through the love of god and mortal, and this time, the entwined couple turned into a tree.

Grandma Tzizimitl was furious when she found out that her charge had fled, and together with many other demons set out to look everywhere for Mayahuel. They had no problem discerning her in the two-trunked tree, and immediately destroyed the one that was the girl, devouring as much of her as they could.

Ehacatl was devastated. He gathered what was left of Mayahuel - a few bones - and buried it. From her grave sprang a plant, the maguey. But the girl was lost. Ehacatl became the god of wind, forever whispering in the trees about his lost love - or looking for another one who could replace her.

(Other stories say that the mere embrace of a god was too much for a mortal woman, and that Mayahuel died as soon as Ehacatl tried to make love to her.)

In another version of the story there is more intention. Quetzalcoatl, who is another aspect of Ehacatl, suggested the gods give mankind a gift, something that could please them. Together with Mayahuel he formed the ill-fated tree, which was destroyed. The plant growing from her grave was the first gift, the source of a potent drink that would give people enjoyment and wisdom. The second gift was physical love, which was brought to earth by their embrace.

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