In Aztec mythology, Tlazolteotl (or Tlaçolteotl,) is a goddess of purification, steam bath, midwives, filth, and a patroness of adulterers. In Nahuatl, the word tlazolli can refer to vice and diseases. Thus, Tlazolteotl was a goddess of filth (sin), vice, and sexual misdeeds. However, she was a purification goddess as well, who forgave the sins and disease of those caused by misdeeds, particularly sexual misdeeds. Her dual nature is seen in her epithets; Tlaelquani ('she who eats filth [sin]') and Tlazolmiquiztli ('the death caused by lust'), and Ixcuina or Ixcuinan ('she of two faces'). Under the designation of Ixcuinan she was thought to be plural in number and four sisters of different ages by the names; Tiacapan (the first born), Teicu (the younger sister), Tlaco (the middle sister) and Xocotzin (the youngest sister).
Tlazolteotl may have originally been a Huaxtec goddess from the Gulf Coast. In the Aztec religion there were two main deities thought to preside over confession; Tezcatlipoca, because he was thought to be invisible and omnipresent, seeing everything, and Tlazolteotl, the goddess of lechery and unlawful love. It is said when a man confessed before Tlazolteotl, everything was revealed. Confessions to Tlazolteotl would be done through a priest but, unlike the Christian practice, it happened only once during a man's lifetime.
According to Aztec belief, it was Tlazolteotl who inspired vicious desires, and who likewise forgave and cleaned away the defilement of sin. She was also thought to cause disease, especially sexually transmitted disease. It was said that Tlazolteotl and her companions would afflict people with disease if they indulged themselves in forbidden love. The uncleanliness was considered both on a physical and moral level; and could be cured by steam-bath, a rite of purification, or calling upon Tlazolteteo, the goddesses of love and desires.
- Soustelle, J., (1961) The Daily life of the Aztecs, London, WI
- An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya, by Mary Miller & Karl Taube Publisher: Thames & Hudson (April 1997)
- Bernardino de Sahagun, 1950–1982, Florentine Codex: History of the Things of New Spain, translated and Edited by Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles Dibble, Monographs of the school of American research, no 14. 13. parts Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press
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