Zapotec ritual activities provide clues to their pre-Hispanic
religious beliefs. Mortuary rituals were
particularly important in pre-Hispanic Oaxaca. The ceramic
urns (pictured at left) that were used as funerary offerings
during these rituals provide insights into pre-Hispanic
A common class of urn represented Cocijo, the Rain God
(cocijo means lightning in Zapotec). Others are said
to have represented the God with Helmet of a Wide-Billed
Bird, God with a Serpent Mask, and so forth.
is believed that Zapotec urns represented powers or
gods just as the images of saints in a church do.
urns represented leaders or priests who had taken
on special powers. By wearing a mask, the person represented
on the urn was taking on extra human forces.
Easter Parade in Oaxaca
Zapotec Gods & Goddesses
God of Rain
God of Sun/Warfare
God of Corn
God of Love, Dreams, Excesses
The Zapotecs may have venerated and respected
certain spirits and forces, communicating with them by
means of an image of a man accompanied by the appropriate
symbols. Particular symbols may have represented certain
powers, deities, or gods and may have been invoked during
specific events or ceremonies, which may explain why
some images and sets of symbols appear frequently.