Get Right with Tlaloc

On a recent trip to look at some Anasazi / Ancestral Puebloan ruins in northeast Arizona, I took Craig Childs’ book House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest as my guide book.

Driving and backpacking from southwest Colorado down into Sonora, Mexico, over a period of years, Childs interviews archaeologists, walks trails, and examines ruins to try to begin to construct a narrative history of what might have happened in the Southwest between the 11th and 15th centuries CE.

A god’s presence lurks throughout the book but is not revealed until the latter parts. That god is Tlaloc (his Aztec name, but he is cross-cultural), the god of rain,  whose cult he calls “the oldest recognizable religious complex in the Americas.” (But might not some hunters’ gods be older?)

In essence Tlaloc is a rain god and has long been the focus of mountaintop and cave offerings and sacrifices …. Both the symbolic and the practical aspects of Tlaloc religion are very similar to those of the Pueblo katsina religion still practiced in the Southwest (459).

This “pan-American rain god” is still acknowledged in the United States. Climbing a mountain in one of the isolated “sky island” ranges of southeastern Arizona, Childs notes, “Caves throughout the Sky Islands are stashed with wooden katsinas and painted offerings. Hanks of human hair are hung in natural subterranean passages, and precious stones are positioned around springs” (364-5).

His is a religion “centered on the mechanics of water,” the spiritual expression of the hydrological cycle.

Here where we track thunderstorm cells on the NOAA radar via the Web, wishing them to veer north or south and pass over our house, where we monitor the creek levels day by day, water is serious business. (In my newspaper days, I referred to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District as “the secret government.”  Who needs the Freemasons, Communists, or Opus Dei?  None of them control the water.)

Tlaloc needs a local shrine, and I know just the place, about thirty minutes’ hike from the back door. It will do for a start.