Mexican sculptor and architect Arturo Macias has created a series of life-sized, exquisitely carved wood statues depicting many of the principal goddesses as well as the most important women figures in the history of Mexico.
Chimalma is the mother of the Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl, “The Plumed Serpent”. Legend says that Chimalma conceived Quetzalcoatl upon swallowing a blue-green jade stone and declared his divinity prior to his birth. Arturo Macias has carved Chimalma out of fine, rich wood. Her left side is decorated with the transformations she has passed through of Mother, Healer and Shaman on her cosmic journey. Her right side is smooth and uncarved, with her thick hair cascading over her shoulders. Chimalma´s buttocks are elaborately engraved with the image of the Aztec Rain God, Tlaloc, who carries a serpent representative of thunder and lightning. He is her final transformation.
Cihuatateo symbolized for the Aztecs the concept of the Great Mother and the souls of the noble women who died in childbirth. Considered and honored as fallen warriors to the battle of childbirth, the Cihuatateo were depicted as going into battle and with eagle claws for hands..
The rendition of Cihuatateo by artist Arturo Macias is the embodiment of the divine spirit that transports and transforms the souls of these women.
This version of Cihuatateo holds a conch shell in her right hand and a fish in her left, although the original sculpture had her holding a scythe and ceremonial knife. The original scythe became damaged and the artist exchanged it for the image of a fish; the accompanying knife in her other hand was exchanged for a conch in the interests of maintaining the harmonic integrity of the sculpture. In her earlobes hang pendants of hibiscus flowers and a seashell masks her pubis.
Coatlicue is the Aztec earth goddess of life and death, mother of the great sun god Huichilapochtli, to whom she gave birth along with the moon and all the stars. Mythology states that Huichilapochitli was born fully armed and dressed for battle after a ball of feathers fell onto Coatlicue´s breast while she was sweeping a temple.
Coatlicue´s name means “the one with the skirt of serpents” and her figure is depicted wearing a belt serpents and a string of sacrificial hearts around her throat. She is also known as the “Goddess of Fire and Fertility”, the “Goddess of Life, Death and Rebirth”, and “Mother of the Southern Stars”.
She is also the mother of Aztec goddess Coyolxauhqui, another of the goddesses so excellently sculptured by Arturo Macias.
Daughter of Coatlicue and sister of Aztec sun god Huichilopochtli, Coyolxauhqui incited her siblings, all the stars of the heavens, to rise against their mother and slay her when she became pregnant through contact with hummingbird feathers that fell upon her breast while sweeping a temple. The pregnancy caused Coyolxauhqui and her siblings grave embarrassment.
Upon attacking their mother, Huitzilopochtli, emerged armed and ready for battle and killed many of his brothers and sisters, including Coyolxauhqui, who he dismembered and tossed her head into the heavens to become the moon. This act gave Coyolxauhqui a power that eclipsed the great power of her sun and war god brother: the capability of shining both day and night.
When the ruins of the Templo Mayor in the center of Mexico City were discovered and excavated, a large stone disk was brought to light depicting Coyolxauhqui lying on her side with her head and extremities detached from her body. Eagle feathers are in her hair and a full moon orbits around the figure.
Arturo Macias has rendered Coyolxauhqui as an ingenious and mystical puzzle. As shown on the original stone, she is clad in a rattlesnake skirt, a skull hangs at her back from her belt and her limbs and abdomen carry the marks of knife wounds. Most unusual and surprising about this figure, however, is that the sculpture can be dismantled. Her head, the Moon, and limbs can all can be removed to bare her spine, carved in the shape of rattlesnake vertabrae, with her ovaries protected deep within her.
Although Ixchel is often represented as being the Mayan moon goddess, she is, by some, more identified with the Mayan jaguar goddess of midwifery, medicine and childbirth. She possesses both benign and fierce aspects. In the Dresden Codex, Ixchel appears as an old woman with jaguar ears.
The tall, stately and elaborate figure crafted by Arq. Arturo Macias has rendered the goddess Ixchel with carvings covering much of her upper body. She cradles a highly decorated Yogul — the trophy awarded to the winners of the sacred ball game — in her arms in front of her.
Ixchel´s headdress is that of the serpent, a symbol of eternal life. High-top huaraches (leather sandals) protect her small feet, which are deformed by the use of the rigid and restricting shoes worn by Mayan women of certain rank.
Mictlancihuatl, devourer of man, is the Aztec goddess of the underworld, life and death, also known as the “Lady of Mictlan”. She the wife of the god of death, Mictlantecuhtli, ruler of Mictlan, the northern realm of the dead.
Mictlancihuatla symbolizes our sacred journey toward death upon which we all embark at the moment of our birth. She is both the creative and destructive force: Mother Nature. All that comes from her breast is imbued with life and all that returns to the earth is imbued again with life.
The figure of Mictlancihuatl as portrayed by Arq. Arturo Macias is solid, strong and voluptuous. In her right hand she bears an eagle and in her left, a shield of feathers in the shape of a butterfly, which to the Aztecs symbolized the spirits of the ancestors incarnate. On her forehead, her necklace and belt are found the carved figures of skulls.
“The destination of the earth is to engender unceasingly, to give form and life to everything that returns to her inert and sterile […] the earth is found at the end and at the beginning of all life” (Borgia, 77).
According to Mayan legend, Xtabay is the figure of an incredibly beautiful woman hidden within fragrant flower of the Xtabentim that grows wild along the paths of the jungle, who comes to life when a man passes by. Seated at the base of a large Ceiba tree (a tropical thorn tree of the kapok family), she sings enchanting songs and combs her long, thick tresses. She beckons with her beauty, ensnaring passing men with her bewitching song and unsurpassed beauty until they can resist no more, and destroys them in a frenzy of cruel passion.
The figure of Mayan goddess of the jungle Xtabay presented by artist Arturo Macias shows Xtabay holding a large quetzal bird, with elaborate plumage, in her left hand. Engravings of lush jungle leaves and flowers share her body with a boa, jungle insects and birds. Flowers are entwined in her hair cascading down her back.
To the Maya, the tall Ceiba tree with its umbrella-like canopy symbolized the connection between the world of the earthbound below and the world of spirits above.
View the sculptures of the Women of Mexico by Arturo Macias