Cihuateteoh Picture

CIHUATETEOH - from the nahuatl "divine women", "goddesses"

Digital painting, shading & editing over this sketch

I developed this series of concept art for my personal project, AZTLÁN: War of the Gods, an original story set in a Mexica/Aztec cosmology inspired fantasy realm that is part of a larger story, the IN LAK'ECH Mythos, which I plan to introduce as a comic book story. These are characters named after and loosely inspired by Mexica/"Aztec" goddesses, they play some role in the story of In Lak’Ech and are more like original characters inspired and named after those deities than representations of the deities themselves (as it is, for example, in the actual Mexica iconography, or that of the neighbor peoples who share the same belief system, rituals and cosmology / "world view" as the Mexica). Some of these have little to no similarities with the deities’ source material (codex, architecture, ceramics, etc.) while others are a little more closer to the source, but as I already stated those are more like original characters than "a new interpretation of the actual narrative". Either way, I encourage all to check reliable sources of mexican cosmology, as well those of other pre-hispanic cultures from the American continent, be it Mesoamerica, North America or South America, there’s really a lot of interesting and necessary historical knowledge about them.

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As an introduction to the characters & their sources:

  • TLAZOLTEOTL (from the nahuatl "goddess of filth") is a Huastec (self-proclaimed as Teenek, a people native from the La Huasteca region and the Gulf of Mexico, that has settled their civilization before the Mexica, but has come to contact the later during the reign of Tlatoani Moctezuma, around half of the 15th Century. After their defeat by the Mexica armies, they paid tributes to the Mexica, despite still retained some degree of self-government) goddess later introduced into the Mexica cosmology; she was associated with steam bath, sexuality, sexual misdeeds, childbirth, she also presided over confession, and in this aspect was both the one who inspired sexual vice and lust, who was thought to cause sexually transmitted diseases, and the one to forgive, purify and heal it under confession. In her role as the one who forgives the confesser, she was regarded as Tlaelquani, "she who eats filth". In the tonalpohualli (from the nahuatl "count of days", a 260 days calendar used by the Mexica, composed of 20 trecenas, or 13-days periods, each associated with a deity), Tlazoteotl is the protector of the 14th day, Ocelotl (jaguar), and the 13th trecena, Ollin (movement). She is Lord of the Day for days with number 5 ("mahcuilli" in Nahuatl). She is the seventh Lord of the Night.

In the IN LAK'ECH Mythos, Tlazolteotl is a Cihuateotl (singular of Cihuateteoh, a race of hybrid human-like vampires) native to the wild areas surrounding the altepetl (city-state) Tamoanchan, ruled by Itzpapalotl before the foundation of the Aztec Confederation some 4000 years before the common era. Like the other Cihuateteoh (goddesses) and Teteoh (gods), she is able of transferring her consciousness to younger bodies offered to her as ixiptla (hosts), and in doing so has lived for centuries. This practice was adopted by the gods and goddesses (who are, in most cases, more like immortal vampires than "forces of nature") of both upper and lower Aztlán even before these societies contacted each other. When the Aztec Confederation was founded, following an alliance between lower Aztlán's Itzpapalotl, ruler of Tamoanchan; Teoyaqminqui, ruler of Coatepec; Upper Aztlán's Chalchiuhtotollin, ruler of Nahui-Quiahuitl and Huitzilopochtli, ruler of Yaoyotepetl, these four deities have established a major authority over the expanding domain of the Aztec Confederation. Tlazolteotl herself held a privileged position among the Cihuateteoh before, but she saw the loss of autonomy of traditional powers over Tamoanchan as the side-effects of the Aztec Confederation's foundation.
Meanwhile, Itzpapalotl would arrange Teoyaqminqui's replacement by her close ally Coyolxauhqui, leader of the Centzonhuitznahua (four hundred southerners, human-like inhabitants of altepetl Coatepec, in lower Aztlán), and diminish the autonomy of Teoyaqminqui and her race, the Cihuacoatl (snake women, hybrids resulting from the union of the reptilian Cuetzpalin and hunahu "humans") in altepetl Coatepec. Tlazolteotl, however, would still attain no position of major influence within the newly organized Aztec Confederation, and would rather lead her own group of cihuateteoh in a process of separation from the Confederation, starting by inciting conflict between the lower Aztlán's goddesses against the upper Aztlán's gods. Eventually, Tlazolteotl's tribe of cihuateteoh would ultimately leave Aztlán and reach Anahuac (a.k.a Tredius) during the Second Sun Era.

  • ITZPAPALOTL (from the nahuatl "Obsidian Butterfly" or "Clawed Butterfly") is a fearsome skeletal goddess from Chichimeca cultures adopted into the Mexica/Aztec cosmology. Regarded as the ruler of Tamoanchan (possibly from the Huastec "paradise of misty sky"), where the first humans were created, and where victims of infant mortality went. Itzpapalotl was a warrior goddess also associated with sacrifice. She was regarded as the leader of the Tziztimimeh ("star demons", plural of tzitzimitl), female entities associated to stars, especially those that appear during a Solar Eclipse. In some accounts, she also appeared as a beautiful and seductive woman, and in one occasion she has slain Xiuhnel and Mimich, two centzonmimixcoa (Four Hundred alike Mixcoatl, or four hundred northerners, a group of deities associated to the southern constellations). In some depicitions of the goddess, she has been identified with the Moth Rothschildia orizaba of the family Saturniidae, and some argue the representation of butterfly wings with Tecpatl (obsidian knives or blades) on their tips could be an interpretation of bat wings. In the tonalpohualli, Itzpapalotl rules over day Cozcacuauhtli (knife) and over trecena 1-Calli (house). Her nagual is a deer.

In the IN LAK'ECH Mythos, Itzpapalotl is one of the elder immortals of lower Aztlán's wildlands, the ruler of the Cihuateteoh, the Tzitzimimeh (like the cihuateteoh, they're vampires, but their main distinction is their butterfly wings and their brighter skin. Other than that, they can also transform into a monstrous form during eclipses) and the founder of altepetl Tamoanchan, some 6100 years ago, after a military conquest of local semi-nomadic tribes, composed either by Cuetzpalin, Cihuacoatl, hunahu ("humans"), Centzonhuitznahua, or Cihuateteoh. One of the first immortals to adopt the ixiptla technique, she also secured her position by the use of other magic like that of the powaq (named after the Hopi word for "parasite" or "transition") vampirism and nagualism (from the nahuatl "nagual", refers to practicers of therianthropy, nagual is often translated as brujo - wizard or bruja - witch, but a more likely translation would be shape-shifter). Itzpapalotl would be regarded as the gatherer of the cihuateteoh tribes, and feared as a warrior goddess & ruler in Tamoanchan, one of the most powerful states in lower Aztlán's wild areas, before the foundation of the Aztec Confederation since the arrival of immortals Huitzilopochtli & Chalchiuhtotollin. The neighbor state of Coatepec, inhabited by cihuacoatl and centzonhuitznahua, had its own religious authority, an elder cihuacoatl called Teoyaqminqui, that would resist the influence of Tamoanchan over its own city, and become the head of state in Coatepec during the first years of the Confederation. Itzpapalotl, however, became a close ally to the young warrior Coyolxauhqui, a Centzonhuitznahua, whom she has offered immortality, and led her to lead the other Centzonhuitznahua and take the city of Coatepec for their own. The immortals from Upper Aztlán didn't involve in this conflict, and Coyolxauhqui eventually took Teoyaqminqui's place as the goddess of Coatepec.
With practically half of the resources of the Confederation in her hands, Itzpapalotl has installed an expansion of Tamoanchan over the wild areas of lower Aztlán, coming to conflict or forging agreements among tribal leaders of local Ahuitzotl (from the nahuatl "spiky water creatures", foreigner beings that have installed on the deadly swamps of Aztlán's underworld shortly after the disappearance of the god Chalchiuhtotollin, some hundred years after the Confederation's foundation), the Micteca (skeletal inhabitants of Mictlán, an ancient, pre-Aztec fortified altepetl set atop Cipactli, they are ruled by a couple of immortals, Mictlantecuhtli & Mictecacihuatl) and the Centzontotochtin (from the nahuatl "four hundred rabbits", deities associated with pulque and drunkeness, they're ruled by another couple of immortals, Patecatl and Mayahuel). During the Second Sun Era, following conflicts involving the Centzonhuitznahua of Coatepec and the Cuetzpalin of Yaoyotepetl (upper Aztlán), that would ultimately split Aztlán in two factions, concerning its sending of warriors and resources into the foreigner Frashokeretian Alliance during the Topakhon Wars, Itzpapalotl sided with the Centzonhuitznahua, and after their extermination, all the cihuateteoh tribes split through lower Aztlán's wilderness, some following to Anahuac (like Tlazolteotl and Itzpapalotl herself). This "rebellion" of Itzpapalotl, initially motivated by her solidarity to Coatepec, that was against sending Aztec warriors to the Frashokeretian Alliance (something that Huitzilopochtli and some of his supporters saw as the defense, support or sponsorship of the Centzonmimixcoa) has shifted the very nature of the Aztec army, for several of the Cihuateteoh and Tzitzimimeh were naguals and could shift into Cuetzpalin or human women, so Huitzilopochtli decided to arbitrarily ban the entrance of female warriors into the Aztec ranks, after over 2000 years of cooperation. Itzpapalotl would rise against the Aztec Confederation in the Third Sun Era (when it was reorganized as the Xiuhcoatl Empire) and would lead her own tribe of tzitzimimeh in Southwestern Anahuac, infiltrating among local humans. Other tribes hoped for her return, and prophesized that the Cihuateteoh & Tzitzimimeh would rejoin in a new nation, that of Cihuatlampa ("place of the women").

  • COYOLXAUHQUI (from the nahuatl "face painted with bells") is the Mexica goddess of the moon, daughter to Coatlicue (from the nahuatl "skirt of snakes") the Earth Goddess. She led her brothers, the Centzonhuitznahua ("Four Hundred Southerners", group of deities associated with the southern constellations) to slay their mother after she mysteriously became pregnant. In Coatepec ("Snake Mountain"), Coatlicue would be slain by her daughter, leading her sons, however her newborn son, Huitzilopochtli, was born as an adult and with a warrior outfit & his weapon, the Xiuhcoatl ("fire snake", sometimes associated with lightning). Huitzilopochtli killed his brothers and his sister to preserve his mother. It's said the Centzonhuitznahua became stars and Coyolxauhqui the moon. The most famous depiction of Coyolxauhqui is the massive Coyolxauhqui Stone found in the City of Mexico in 1978. It's been originall located at the bottom of the stairs of the Huey Teocalli (Templo Mayor), Tenochtitlán's pyramid and the center of its religious & administrative complex, and it's possible that sacrifices were done in her name, or that the remnants of sacrificial victims were thrown at the stone.

In the IN LAK'ECH Mythos, Coyolxauhqui was a young Centzonhuitznahua warrior from Coatepec by the time the Aztec Confederation has been founded, following the agreement between Itzpapalotl, Teoyaqminqui, Huitzilopochtli and Chalchiuhtotollin. Coatepec lived under the religious order of the Cihuacoatl, led by the elder Teoyaqminqui, and it was neighbor to the kingdom of Tamoanchan, ruled by Itzpapalotl. An adventurous huntress, Coyolxauhqui left for the wilderness when she met a caravan of tzitzimimeh warriors, who introduced her to their sovereign, Itzpapalotl. Itzpapalotl and Coyolxauhqui grew as close allies, to the point that Itzpapalotl taught her several magic techniques, and ultimately made her a immortal. Aware of the situation in Coatepec and told by counselors such as Tlazolteotl that the Aztec Confederation shouldn't be the means for the upper Aztec altepetl to control the lower Aztec altepetl, Itzpapalotl saw in Coyolxauhqui an alternative for the traditional religious rule of Teoyaqminqui in Coatepec, and trained the warrior who would become the ruler of the numerous elite of Centzonhuitznahua soldiers. Coyolxauhqui took the city and Teoyaqminqui's position, sparing her order of the Snake, and assuring her as the true goddess of Coatepec, as acknowledged by the gods from upper Aztlán and the entire Aztec Confederation.
After centuries of expansion, the Aztec Confederation would instigate competitions between its altepetl, and Coatepec produced fine warriors generation after generation, up to the point that the summit of Aztec gods had agreed to send warriors and resources to distant lands, to fight for the Frashokereti Alliance against the Ors Ohorela in the Topakhon Wars (with a war propaganda instigating the need to defend Aztlán from the shadowy centzonmimixcoa led by the insane Mixcoatl and prevent Aztlán's destruction or the destruction of the Sun itself by the shadows). While the Aztec warriors had several victories on the battlefield and Huitzilopochtli was looking to make a reputation among foreigner authorities, Coyolxauhqui and others like Itzpapalotl realized Aztlán couldn't keep up with the production of that many soldiers & resources or the waste of that many generations, and that Huitzilopochtli's propaganda and decisions regarded more his personal status or benefits among a foreigner community unrelated to the Aztec Confederation than the Confederation itself, that was likely being used by other galactic empires as a front line or "cannon-fodder" for the Ors Ohorela. This critique hasn't been accepted by Huitzilopochtli, as the tension between lower and upper Aztlán rose in the most unfortunate of moments. Semi-nomad, partially autonomous communities from Aztlán were being captured and trained by the Aztec Confederates and put into their armies, that would launch them over the galaxy, so Coyolxauhqui & her Centzonhuitznahua decided to act, by sabotaging Huitzilopochtli's "pan-Aztec troops" and the selection of more military personnel for the upper aztec elite squads:
The Pipiltin, led by Popocatepetl (a famous Cuetzpalin warrior from Yaoyotepetl, an altepetl from upper Aztlán ruled by Huitzilopochtli);
The Cuauhtli, led by Tonatiuh (the Sun God, a Cuetzpalin made the immortal ruler of altepetl Tonatiuhichan, the uppermost city-state of Aztlán, an ally of Huitzilopochtli);
The Otontin, led by Hunahpu (A human from the autonomous community of Chicomoztoc, middle Aztlán, that has been annexed by the Aztec Confederation in less than a century ago. Hunahpu is a young hunter turned general, who's the son of a previous sportsman and military leader, Vucub-Hunahpu, who fell in the first Aztec Campaign on Xibalba, an ally of the Ors Ohorela);
The Ocelotl, led by Xbalanque (Hunahpu's twin brother, a hunter turned into general. His squad is also composed of humans)
The Cuachic led by Huitzilopochtli himself.

Coyolxauhqui's organized assault on other Aztec troops earned positive results that prevented the sending of more resources to the Frashokeretian alliance and in some occasions sabotaged the Confederation's efforts, what was met with mixed reactions from the Aztec populace. These campaigns brought Coyolxauhqui and her army to other lands, such as Metztli (the moon, known by some people of Anahuac as Svartalfheimr, home to Aluxob - dwarves and Quinametzin - giants, some of them ancient enemies to Huitzilopochtli and equals to Cipactli, the immortal beast who sustains all of Aztlán), where she learned from locals that Huitzilopochtli seemed to be something far more than an immortal, he was himself the incarnate Elemental God of Wind. Meanwhile, Huitzilopochtli's schemes to debilitate resistance have made use of a revival of the influence of the Snake cult witnessed by Coatepec's past, as Coatlicue has rose to influence, rivalring Coyolxauhqui's position as the legitimate Aztec ruler of Coatepec. Ironically or not, Huitzilopochtli had, 2000 years ago, been indirectly responsible for the evaluation of Coyolxauhqui's rule over that of a Cihuacoatl, and now, the rule of an elder cihuacoatl, Coatlicue, would be valued as legitimate over Coyolxauhqui's, that has been contrary to the Aztec Confederation's interests (or rather Huitzilopochtli's).
For the time of nine months, no word from Huitzilopochtli has been heard, as if he vanquished from the battlefield, and while Coyoxauhqui's troops advanced against the aztec elite troops in other Aztec city-states, Coatlicue's influence within Coatepec continued to grow on a popular base, and Coyolxauhqui didn't threaten her rising influence for that time, as she was more concerned with Huitzilopochtli's silence. Indeed, a civil war just didn't break Aztlán at the time because other deities such as Tlaloc, Chalchiuhtlicue and Tonatiuh preserved the order in the realm. But exactly nine months after Huitzilopochtli "disappeared in some foreigner battlefield" (despite blatant news declared he was alive and well leading the Cuachic in even far away solar systems), Coyolxauhqui realized her mistake, and confirmed Huitzilopochtli isn't merely an immortal, but a force of nature, present not only in the foundation of the Aztec Confederation's political corpus, but also in the very separation of the firmament from the skies, and that Coatlicue, who was not too slowly replacing Coyolxauhqui's position in the Confederation, was nurturing the next host of Huitzilopochtli. In order to settle things, Coyolxauhqui and the Centzonhuitznahua surrounded Coatlicue at Coatepec's pyramid, and on a fateful day decided to execute her - but didn't do it in time, as Huitzilopochtli was born, in his new body, fully armed and ready to kill, as he killed the Centzonhuitznahua & Coyolxauhqui. That wasn't the first and wouldn't be the last immortal slain by the war god. The next day, the Cihuacoatl known as Coatlicue would be the ruler of Coatepec, or rather the representative of Huitzilopochtli in the city-state of Coatepec. All those who used to support Coyolxauhqui & the Centzonhuitznahua who weren't present in the bloodbath would be persecuted, eventually escaping to Tamoanchan, where a worried Itzpapalotl solidarized with the victims and her dead friend, just to have her own city stormed by the other aztec troops, forcing the survivors to escape into Aztlán's wilderness, or Anahuac.

Itzpapalotl and Tlazolteotl have been exiled for the next centuries, and Coyolxauhqui was killed.
The cihuateteoh have scattered and infiltrated human societies, their hopes of reuniting under a state of their own have been lost to most;
all while the fear which the people had for the day when an eclipse came and they came out from their shells to devour men has been long forgotten;
replaced by the ignorance and silence inflicted upon their race.
In the time between the Fifth Sunset and the Sixth Dawn, on Tlalocan, some hoped they would see the rise of Cihuatlampa. It didn't happen.
But as the distances between Tlalocan and Anahuac are shortened, some would care more for the prophecy that the moon goddess herself would rise from her grave -
That has for so many years been a testament that the war god is here to stay. But is he?
Will the Sun shine forever, or darkness shall consume it, not before the Morning Star rebels against the most shining, the life-giver and life-taker, the humble one and the tyrant?


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