Rain God Vessel
Mexico, Colima, El Chanal, Mixtec style
Middle Post Classic period (1200–1400)
9 3/4 x 8 1/4 x 11 1/4 in. (24.7 x 21 x 28.5 cm)
Currently On View
This spouted vessel in the form of a crouching figure represents an important aspect of Mesoamerican religious practice—deity impersonation—by which the gods were brought directly into the world of experience. The disguise portrayed in this piece is a double one, however: warrior and rain god. In the ancient shamanic traditions of western Mexico, this crouching figure is a shaman warrior, positioned as if ready to leap. He holds a club in his right hand and has a shield attached to his left wrist; his entire head is engulfed in an animal-head helmet resembling a coyote. These are all appurtenances of the warrior, yet the small size of the weapon and shield suggest a fight more symbolic than real. The mask covering the face is the other element in the double disguise, and relates directly to deity impersonation. The ringed eyes, long fangs, and mustache markings are traits of the rain god, worshiped widely throughout Mesoamerica from about Olmec times onward.