The myths and legends around agave and mezcal have been shared by storytellers for centuries. We have collected a number of these stories on our mezcal journey and will be sharing our favorite mezcal legends in the next couple of diary entries.
In many cases, there are multiple versions of a myth, such as the one about the origins of the agave plant, the maguey.
The legend of Mayahuel, the Goddess of Maguey
The heart of mezcal is agave. The story of agave is the story of love.
There was a beautiful young goddess Mayahuel, who was hidden in the skies by her overprotective guardian grandmother Tzitzmitl. Tzitzmitl, though a protectresses of the feminine, was also a star demon often feared by others.
The story begins, when Ehecatl (or Quetzalcoatl), the god of wind, first sees Mayahuel. Ehecatl is instantly lovestruck by Mayahuel’s beauty. Knowing, that the only way for them to be together, would be to get Mayahuel away from her grandmother, he seduces the young goddess and persuades her to run away and descend from the heavens to earth, where they could be together.
When Tzitzmitl finds out, she hunts the lovers down. Down on earth, the two lovers embrace until they become a beautiful plant, trying to hide from Tzitzmitl.
Tzitzmitl, still enraged by Mayahuel’s disobey, still recognized the lovers, splits the plant into two and tares Mayahuel into little pieces.
Ehecatl, unharmed, gathers the pieces of Mayahuel he can find and buries them across the lands. Heartbroken with grief, Ehacalti sheds the tears in the form of rain and Mayahuel’s remains grow into the maguey plants. This is how the agave plant was born.
In Aztec culture, Mayahuel became the goddess of the maguey plant and that of fertility. She is also known as “the goddess of the 400 breasts,” which could be a reference to the many sprouts of maguey and the milky juice produced by the plant that is transformed into pulque and mezcal. The goddess is often depicted with many breasts or breastfeeding her many children, the Centzon Totochtin or “the 400 rabbits,” who were the gods associated with the many effects of drinking intoxication.
The legend of the 400 rabbits will be told in our next entry!