Coyolxauhqui may be a goddess you are not familiar with. Most Pagans I know are drawn to lots of European deities as well as those from Greek and Egyptian mythology. However, the legends from Central America are often overlooked. I have been fortunate enough to tour a number of Aztec and Mayan ruins on my trips to Mexico and fell in love with the art and stories of these amazing ancient cultures. In this post I’d like to introduce you to Coyolxauhqui ((koh-yol-SHAUH-key) who is the moon goddess of the Aztecs.
There are two versions of her story. According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, the first version depicts Coyolxauhqui as the mother of Huitzilopochtli, the sun god. A conflict arises when Coyolxauhqui insists on staying at the sacred mountain of Coatepec (Snake Mountain) instead of following her son’s plan of resettling at Tenochtitlan which, historically, became the capital of the Aztec empire. Huitzilopochtli got his way by decapitating her and eating her heart. Then he led the Aztec people to their new home.
This version is NOT my favorite the two. Some scholars see it as a legend of warning to the enemies of the Aztecs who often suffered the same fate if they were captured. The Coyolxauhqui Stone, which was discovered in 1978 at the Templo Mayor (main temple) in Tenochtitlan, is one of the most well-known art images we have this this goddess. She is depicted on the stone as decapitated and torn from limb to limb. Some Chicana feminist writers have tried to redeem this image as a symbol of the struggle of women against both colonialism and male patriarchy.
The second version of the story is the one that I find to be the more powerful of the two. You will find many variations of this tale online but this is the way I like to tell it: One day
Coatlicue, the earth goddess, was sweeping the floor of the temple on Coatepec (Snake Mountain), when a tuft of feathers fell from the sky. She tucked them into her belt and later discovered that they had disappeared. She also discovered that she was mysteriously pregnant.
Her daughter Coyolxauhqui felt dishonored by the pregnancy so she hatched a plot along with her 400 brothers, to kill their mother. However, this was not to be. The child Coatlicue was carrying was none other than Huitzilopochtli, the sun god. When Coatlicue was about to meet her demise Huitzilopochtli was born as a full grown man. He was armed and ready for battle and decapitated Coyolxauhqui. Her body tumbled down to the base of the temple and was broken into pieces.
Coatlicue regretted such violence. So Huitzilopochtli threw Coyolxauhqui’s head into the sky to form the Moon so that his mother would be comforted in seeing her daughter in the sky every night. Huitzilopochtli also attacked his 400 brothers. Those who survived became the Southern stars in the sky.
In this version of the legend we see several powerful themes emerge. The first is the triumph of the sun over the moon and stars which is a common theme in Aztec and Mayan mythology. It’s seen as a daily struggle where the sun god is reborn every day. Stories similar to this appear in many ancient cultures. I see it as the story of the Wheel of the Year where both day and night have their place and purpose in the great cosmic dance. Darkness and light, feminine and masculine, goddess and god, each one is a gift and a blessing to all of us. When they are out of balance, we all suffer.
The second theme that emerges for me is a story of transformation and rebirth. Coyolxauhqui was literally torn apart. She was broken and defeated. However, her rebirth came as she ascended into the sky and became the moon goddess. The cycles she travels from new moon to full moon and back again, speak to us of fertility, rebirth and regeneration. When I see a picture of the Coyolxauhqui Stone, it reminds me that there is always hope. We may feel like we’ve been broken and torn apart by oppressive powers and people, but this incarnation of the Divine Feminine reminds us that we can rise from death to new life. We can be recreated and make the journey from brokenness to whole. Blessed be!
Copyright ©2018 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com