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.