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Zapotec Language    Zapotec Religion    Zapotec Symbols

Zapotec Language

Ancient 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 Zapotec beliefs.

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.

Oaxaca Easter ParadeIt is believed that Zapotec urns represented powers or gods just as the images of saints in a church do. Some 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
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Zapotec Gods & Goddesses

God of Rain
God of Sun/Warfare
God of Corn
God of Love, Dreams, Excesses


Zapotec Gods

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.

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