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Cihuateotl

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Statue of a Cihuateteo

In Aztec mythology, the Cihuateteo (also Ciuteoteo, Ciuateoteo or Civateteo; singular Ciuateotl or Cihuateotl, lit. goddess) were the spirits of women who died in childbirth.


Origin

Childbirth was considered a form of battle, and its victims were honored as fallen warriors. Their physical remains were thought to strengthen soldiers in battle while their spirits became the much-feared Cihuateteo who accompanied the setting sun in the west. They are associated with the goddess Cihuacoatl and are sometimes considered envoys of Mictlan, the world of the dead. Cihuateteo are servants of the Aztec moon deities Tezcatlipoca and Tlazolteotl.


Description

As demonic figures, the cihuateteo very much resembled such other vampiric figures as the lamiai of ancient Greece or the langsuyar of Malaysia, having skeletal faces and with eagle claws for hands. In recent years the cihuateteos have been described as having white faces and chalk-covered arms and hands. They wear the costume of Tlazolteotl, the goddess of all sorcery, lust, and evil.


Behavior

The cihuateteo wandered the night and stole children, caused sicknesses, especially seizures and madness, and seducing men to sexual misbehavior. They held counsel with other cihuateteos at local crossroads. Food offerings were placed at crossroads in structures dedicated to the cihuateteos so that they would gorge themselves and not attack the children; also, if the vampiric beings remained at the crossroads until morning, they would be killed by the sunlight.

They are said to appear with the beginning day signs of the five western trecena, (1 Deer, 1 Rain, 1 Monkey, 1 House, and 1 Eagle) during which they were thought to descend to the earth and cause particularly dangerous mischief.