The abundant images in Mexico of both Aztec goddesses and the Christian Madonnas who replaced them were frequently linked to nature and the environment: the earth, water, trees and other sources of creativity and vitality.
These images of the divine feminine have played a major role in Mexican religions and are the subject of a new book by Saint Michael's College religious studies professor Joseph Kroger and his co-author titled Aztec Goddesses and Christian Madonnas: Images of the Divine Feminine in Mexico.
The authors indicate one of the most striking features of Mexican religious life is the prevalence of images of the Virgin Mother of God. "The face of the divine feminine can be found everywhere in Mexico."
Professor Kroger, who taught for three years in Mexico, has, with his co-author Patrizia Granziera of the Universidad de Morelos in Cuernavaca, Mexico, uncovered the stories of 22 Aztec Goddesses and 28 Christian Madonnas of Mexico. The figures are placed within a worldwide religious context and in the context of the devotional life of the faithful in Mexico where they function as "powerful mediators of divine grace and terror."
The book, available for pre-order on Amazon.com, focuses in part on the divine feminine in pre-Hispanic Mexican religion: "Goddess images were central to the devotional life of the Aztecs, especially peasants and those living in villages outside the central city of Tenochtitlan (present day Mexico City). In these rural communities fertility and fecundity, more than war rituals and sacrificial tribute, were the main focus of cultic activity."
Image of the divine feminine (from the book's introduction):
"First and foremost, the Aztec goddesses and Christian madonnas of Mexico represent the Great Mother, or maternal face of divinity. They are expressions of a tradition that may be as old as humanity itself. The earliest image of the divine feminine made by human hands is of the Goddess as Great Mother. Humanity has imagined her as the immensity of cosmic space, the moon, earth and nature itself. The divine feminine is seen as life energy constantly moving - an irresistible power that destroys old forms and brings new ones into being. Her essential quality is all-inclusiveness. She contains all opposites within herself, including male and female, creation and destruction, life and death.
Professor Kroger has a special research interest in Christian theology and the encounter of Christianity with other religions and cultures. He was a Visiting Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Literature at the University of the Americas in Puebla Mexico for three years, and has published articles on liberation theology and the indigenous religious traditions of Guatemala and Mexico. Professor Granziera's research focuses on the iconography of gardens and landscapes in Europe and Mexico and on the relationship of the Virgin Mary and Pre-Hispanic goddesses to nature and the environment.
"This book insightfully places the myths and images of goddesses and madonnas in their cultural contexts. We are in the authors' debt for assembling these scattered pieces so we might imagine a complex tapestry. The clash of symbols and cultures between the Europeans and the conquered peoples was both violent and subjugating. Yet the hybridization of these wildly different cultural images points a way to a present retrieval of the feminine sacred in our fractured world." - Terrence W. Tilley, Fordham University, USA
Professor Kroger's areas of research interest include Christianity's encounter and dialogue with other cultures and religions; Christianity in Latin America, specifically Liberation Theology in Central America and Catholic Christianity in Mexico; Mesoamerican culture and religion; Philosophical foundations of Hinduism and Buddhism, Michael Polanyi's Thought on Science and Religion.