General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 23 Apr 2021/7 Snake
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Aztec Cihuateotl sculpture

Aztec Cihuateotl stone figure, c. 1500 CE, height 112 cms., National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City (this piece came to London as part of the major ‘Aztecs’ exhibition at the Royal Academy, 2002-3).

Like warriors who gave their lives to take prisoners, women who died in childbirth were accorded the highest honour: they accompanied the sun on its daily journey. The women, called ‘cihuateteo’ (singular ‘cihuateotl’) turned into deities and, after shedding their skin, became living ghosts. At their death, the frightening cihuateteo, known as ‘tzitzimime’ (spooks), captured the souls of their unborn children and were allowed to join the sun from its zenith to its setting in the west.
This figure wears a garland of skulls and a necklace including several hands, symbolising human sacrifice and the power the cihuateteo wield in the world of the dead...

Adapted from ‘Aztecs’ (Royal Academy of Arts exhibition catalogue, London, 2002), p.435.

Photo by Ana Laura Landa/Mexicolore

The Terrible Tzitzimime...