An Offering to Tlaloc in the Burned-Over Forest


Last week M. and I climbed over the ridge to “Camera Trap Spring” (our personal name for it) to leave an offering to Tlaloc.

Thing have changed a little bit since a year ago. The ground is black with ash. Stones have cracked from the heat of a forest fire.

That ground-up bark on the ground is mulch dropped from a helicopter in mid-April. Mixed with grass seed, it is supposed to help the grass grow to hold the slope against erosion. For more about that re-seeding and our visit, see the other blog.

The tiny spring is in the upper right quadrant of the photo. The little jar holds a liquid offering, while the turkey feathers are offered in lieu of a real turkey, which if I had been an old-time Nahuatl-speaker, might have been offered in lieu of a human child.

Obviously, things change.

In my personal practice, I care less about questions of authenticity, ethnicity, book-knowledge, or “the lore” than I do about the land. I think that I live at the fringe of the area in which Tlaloc (or Someone like him) was anciently honored; therefore, for the past two years, I have been trying myself to do so.

This little seasonal spring is like a miniature version of the whole hydrological cycle. Rain and snow fall on the rocky ridge above it — the entire collection area is probably smaller than a football field. Then the spring flows, in direct proportion to the winter snows, until the water is all gone.Through evaporation, through the urine of bears and elk — however it goes — the water flows back into the cycle.

Talking about Tlaloc

Feather offering for Tlaloc
Bundle of turkey, Steller’s jay, and flicker feathers placed in a dry spring basin.

On Friday morning, April 29, back from a early morning fire call (shed + trash + grasses at the edge of the prairie), I climbed the ridge behind the house and made an offering to Tlaloc, the god of rain.

(I think I need to make a lot more of them, given that it has not rained for a month.)

Later that day the Sand Gulch Fire exploded, forcing us to evacuate our house and spend the night in our pop-up camping trailer parked next to the fire station. But the next day it snowed four inches, helping to bring the fire under control.

The desert ecologist and nature writer Craig Childs got me thinking about Tlaloc a while ago with some evocative passages in his book House of Rain, which I reviewed on the other blog here (also referenced in this post).

At high, prominent springs or caves in Guatemala or the Yucatán,  one is likely to find the head of a decapitated rooster (replacing the turkey, which was commonly used in the past) along with pools of melted wax from votive candles (365).

This post kicks off my discussion about being an American Eclectic Witch reviving the cult of Tlaloc on a household basis—no stepped pyramids here, just real mountains.


Both Aztec depictions of Tlaloc and Mayan depictions of the equivalent deity, Chaac (if you follow a sort of interpretatio azteca), leave me cold aesthetically, for all that they are richly symbolic. But one thing at a time—perhaps I can find one done in the style of pop-Mexican calendar art.

The worship of the gods can change over time—consider this “feast of St. Tlaloc.” We could do that!

More to come.