Cihuacoatl

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{god, call, give}
{woman, child, man}

In Aztec mythology, Cihuacoatl ("snake woman"; also Cihuacóatl, Chihucoatl, Ciucoatl) was one of a number of motherhood and fertility goddesses. (See also Ilamatecuhtli, Teteoinnan, Tlazolteotl, and Toci.)

Cihuacoatl was especially associated with midwives, and with the sweatbaths where midwives practiced. She is paired with Quilaztli and was considered a protectress of Chalmeca and patroness of Culhuacan. She helped Quetzalcoatl create the current race of humanity by grinding up bones from the previous ages, and mixing it with his blood. She is also the mother of Mixcoatl, whom she abandoned at a crossroads. Tradition says that she often returns there to weep for her lost son, only to find a sacrificial knife.

Although she was sometimes depicted as a young woman, similar to Xochiquetzal, she is more often shown as a fierce skull-faced old woman carrying the spears and shield of a warrior. Childbirth was sometimes compared to warfare and the women who died in childbirth were honored as fallen warriors. Their spirits, the Cihuateteo, were depicted with skeletal faces like Cihuacoatl. Like her, the Cihuateteo are thought to haunt crossroads at night to steal children.

References

  • Sahagún, Bernardino de, 1950-1982, Florentine Codex: History of the Things of New Spain, translated and edited by Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles Dibble, Monographs of the school of American research, no 14. 13. parts Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press
  • The History of the Indies of New Spain by Diego Durán, translated, annoted and with introduction by Doris Heyden
  • The Book of the Gods and Rites, by Diego Duran, translated and edited by Fernando Horcasitas and Doris Heyden, Chapter XIII

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