Tlazoltéotl, a difficult birth

My esposo so rarely asks anything of me, he supports my work in every sense , so when he made a request for me to paint a portrait of the “Eater of Filth”, the Aztec goddess Tlazoltéotl, I could hardly say no. I introduced David to this fierce goddess when in Mexico City , reading aloud the words of the great Mexicophile , Alma Reed’s and her description of Tlazoltéotl :

” Primarily an earth goddess, Tlazoltéotl, “Eater of Filth”, alone among the female deities had a moral significance, since in eating refuse, she was believed to consume the sins of mankind, leaving them pure.” ( The Ancient Past of Mexico, 1966).

 I knew this would resonate with my beloved, for aside from Roman priests and the sacrament of confession, few professions aside from his own(psychoanalysis) are able to break through the wall of darkness and allow the  pure light of renewal into one’s soul.

He asked for a portrait of this patroness of sinners, of purification and of curing, of misdeeds and of childbirth and of renewal.

And unofficially, of psychic renewal.

 This is it.

For my darling, Tlazoltéotl, a difficult birth.


Tlazoltéotl, a difficult birth.


oil on panel

18 by 24 inches

My depiction of this great goddess was in a great part inspired by the well known depiction such as the one that follows. We in fact have a silly clay whistle of her, purchased at the base of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, sitting on our dining room sideboard.


  In this image she is giving birth to one of the maize gods; again, a symbol of rebirth.

According to the Miller/Traube Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico, she is often depicted with a broom to represent her ability to cleanse; I thought a dainty dust rag more fitting for my goddess. I’m not going to psychoanalyze my own painting, why the amputated semi- aborted men? I do not know.  I do know I chose butterflies, an almost universal symbol of the soul, some to be set free and to flourish and some to be crushed to their death, at her whim.

This seemed fitting for this goddess who we all most confront at some time ; the Aztecs, according to Reed, would make offerings and auto sacrifice to her upon their death bed. But as my own psychoanalyst interpreted recently, this great goddess of redemption, this “Eater of Sin”, needs our sins to survive as much as we need her for redemption.

Be well,


Author: babylonbaroque

I am a painter and printmaker working towards creating a body of work that reflects my own developing aesthetic. New work ,first link. The second link is an on-line portfolio.

2 thoughts on “Tlazoltéotl, a difficult birth”

  1. wow! i had never heard of her before, but what an amazing (i absurdly need to call her a saint) goddess! i had never heard of this refuse-eater, though recently i heard for the first time of the sin-eater of some traditions. somehow, ‘refuse’ seems more important, as it encompasses more, especially when thinking about the environment and things we don’t consider sin but maybe clutter which still harms… the aborted men, together with the title of a difficult birth, make me think how many more attempts at “humanity” we seem to need to make before becoming fully human (in the sense of the term as the opposite of ‘inhuman’)–i mean (awkward wording, i need more coffee, clearly) we define humanity in one way but seem so far to not have lived up to it…thinking, for example, of your next post, the print with, as you put it, ‘much indiscriminate crimson’. (i take out the “too”, i am not making a judgment of the print, rather a judgment of what inspired it).
    here’s hoping she can still manage her task, that we’re not overwhelming her! and on that note, i have recently read about the seemingly miraculous ability of certain types of mushrooms to “eat” our most dangerous waste, even petrochemicals!
    she is, also, gorgeous in this painting, and the perfect blue. gloriously inspiring, with a firmness and strength i feel is lacking in the mother mary.
    wow! what a lot of opinions! sorry 😀

    1. Thank you my friend, and thank you especially for really looking. We who make need the eyes of others as mush as we need our own vision for the work to be complete. You are right , she is a saint, and yes she has the inner core the blessed Virgen seems to lack at times; but I suspect that has more to do with who is painting the Mother of God than a testament to her. She is my patroness, the BVM; always will be.
      When I said “too” it wasn’t meant to indicate that ANY spilt blood was ok, I just wanted you to know my pacifist stance-which I think you do already.
      Love the mushroom incarnation of the Eater of Filth, the goddess reigns again!
      Your opinions are a treasure to me, so feel at liberty.

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