Aztec Women Warriors – Storytelling for Everyone

Culture, History, and Myth

Aztec Woman Warriors, The Cihuateteo

Women were thought of as warriors when women were giving birth. Writers in the 16th century tell us that the Aztecs thought the act of birth was like a battle. The newborn child was described as a ‘captive’ and the mother as a warrior. This stresses how important fighting and capturing enemies was in Aztec society.

In the Aztec empire as in the rest of world at the time, giving birth was dangerous to both the mother and newborn child. All too often, one, the other or both did not live. There was great joy and celebrations when there was a healthy newborn baby and mother. When a mother died giving birth, she was said to be a warrior who died in battle.

When a man died in battle or as a sacrificial victim, he was considered a hero. Aztecs thought he was rewarded by becoming a kind of god, that travelled with the sun on its journey across the sky from dawn to midday. After four years the dead warrior returned to earth to have an ideal life as a butterfly or hummingbird.

Women who died in childbirth, were also rewarded as dead warriors. They too accompanied the sun on its journey but this time from its position at midday down to where it set in the western sky. The Aztecs believed that after four years these dead women warriors also returned to earth, but they became frightening beings that haunted crossroads and tried to snatch babies and children.

There are stone sculptures that show what Aztecs thought these supernatural beings looked like. They are always shown with skull-like heads and clawed hands. They are called Cihuateteo.

Aztec Women Warriors in History and Myth

We know about ancient Aztec history from archaeology, very rare books written before the Spanish arrived and histories written from memory after the Spanish conquest. Experts can use this information to find out a great deal about early Aztec life and events, but lots of information has been lost forever.

From what we do know, it does not seem that early Aztec women were warriors. But the histories do talk about women leaders.

One of the most important names in early Aztec history, is Huitzilopochtli. He is described both as a great leader and as a god connected to the sun and war. The Great Temple (Templo Mayor) was dedicated to him and the rain god.

When the Aztecs were still on their long journeys in search of a permanent home, Aztec histories tell us that Huitzilopochtli’s sister, Malinalxochitl, and a group of people loyal to her, split from the main Aztec group and eventually founded their own city. We don’t really know who this woman was or how or when this split took place. The story may be a simple version of a much more complicated event. But the story shows that Aztecs believed that women, at least in earlier times, could be powerful leaders.

There is an Aztec myth about a warrior goddess named Coyolxauhqui. She is described as being another sister of Huitzilopochtli. The story goes that Coyolxauhqui was furious with her mother, an earth goddess named Coatlicue, when she became pregnant with Huizilopochtli.

Coyolxauhqui joined with her 400 brothers, the Centzon Huitznahua, to attack Coatlicue with the aim of killing her. Before this could happen, Huizilopochtli, was warned of the attack. The story relates that he sprang fully grown from his mother’s womb, armed with a club called a Fire Serpent (Xiuhcoatl).

In the battle that followed, he defeated the Centzon Huitznahua and killed Coyolxauhqui, throwing her body down the hill where they fought. This story may symbolize some historical event in the ancient past. It also symbolizes certain Aztec beliefs.

Some researchers think that Coyolxauhqui represents the moon while the Centzon Huitznahua are the stars, defeated by the sun each morning. Others think Coyolxauqhui may be the milky way.



Author adminPosted on October 7, 2022Categories Family, Folktales, Ghost Story, History, Legends, MythTags Aztec, goddess energy, Hispanic Heritage Month, Indigenous people, Latinx Heritage Month, matriarchy, Mexico, Women Warriors

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