Tonacatecuhtli and Tonacihuatl: the Teteo of Fertility

Often mistranslated as creator gods, Tonacatecuhtli and Tonacihuatl (also known as Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl) are the Teteo of our sustenance. Here you can see in images from the Vaticanus A and Vaticanus B that they provide our sustenance through fertility (the symbol of fertility in both cases is two people engaged in sexual intercourse).

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The prefix Tona- found in both words is very important in understanding our Native world-view. Tona- literally means to be warm, for the sun to shine. Tonalli is a word that uses the Tona- prefix and it translates to warmth of the sun, summertime, day, and a person’s inherited traits from their day-sign and that are passed down from grandparents to grandchildren. The concept of warmth is very important in our world-view and it ties very closely with the idea that from warmth derives our sustenance. This connection can be seen in the word Tonacayotl which translates to produce, human sustenance, one’s daily nourishment and is often specifically referring to maize. In mythology (specifically, the history of the Mexicans as told by their paintings), Tonacatecuhtli and Tonacihuatl give birth to four sons: Camaxtli (later called Mixcoatl by the Mexica), Tezcatlipoca, Quetzalcoatl, and Omitecuhtli (later called Huitzilopochtli by the Mexica). It’s very important to note that in our mythologies, time and space predate Tonacatecuhtli and Tonacihuatl which means they are subject to the processes of time and space just as all other Teteo are and they are not superior to time and space nor are they responsible for creating time and space. Closely related to Tonacatecuhtli and Tonacihuatl is Xiuhtecuhtli who is the Teotl in charge of the day, heat, and fire. Because his role is so closely related to theirs, he is often times considered to be synonymous with Tonacatecuhtli and Tonacihuatl and he is sometimes referred to as mother and father of the Teteo.

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In conclusion, rather than creator gods, Tonacatecuhtli and Tonacihuatl represent the very important union of fertility and warmth thus providing us with our sustenance. We need to move away from secondary sources that lazily repeat the claim that we were polytheistic or monotheistic and focus on the primary sources within the context of Native languages as opposed to relying on english or spanish translations that impose the western world-view onto our ancestors.

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