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Volume 88/89 (2018/2019)

Maize Goddesses and Aztec Gender Dynamics

  • Gabriel Silva Collins
  • Antonia E. Foias
November 15, 2020


This article provides new evidence for understanding Aztec religion and worldviews as multivalent rather than misogynistic by analyzing an Aztec statue of a female deity (Worcester Art Museum, accession no. 1957.143). It modifies examination strategies employed by H. B. Nicholson amongst comparable statues, and in doing so argues for the statue’s identification as a specific member of a fertility deity complex—most likely Xilonen, the Goddess of Young Maize. The statue’s feminine nature does not diminish its relative importance in the Aztec pantheon, but instead its appearance and the depicted deity’s accompanying historical rituals suggest its valued position in Aztec life. As documented by Alan R. Sandstrom and Molly H. Bassett, modern Nahua rituals and beliefs concerning maize and fertility goddesses add to the conclusions drawn from the studied statue and suggest that historical Aztec religion had a complementary gender dynamic.