The Cihuateteo are Aztec female warrior spirits, souls of women who died in childbirth, considered the equivalent of dying valiantly in battle. The Aztec afterlife was fairly dismal for most dead souls, but the Cihuateteo were given the glorious role of escorting the sun on its downward passage through the sky. When not busy with celestial chores, the Cihuateteo haunt crossroads, where they are accused of stealing children, seducing and harming gullible men, and causing seizures and madness.
The bodies of women who died in childbirth were considered very valuable. Soldiers and warriors fought over their remains, considered talismans ensuring courage and victory in battle.
Aztec stone sculptures portray them as kneeling women with skeletal faces and taloned hands.
Shrines for the Cihuateteo are placed at crossroads.
Cihuateteo – Divine Women – Pronounced: See-wha-tet-ay-o –
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.
Cihuateteo (Cihuapipiltin) In Aztec mythology, the spirits of women who died in childbirth. They would leave their paradise of the West, called Tamoanchan, coming back to bring disease to children. On the days that the Cihuateteo were believed to descend, parents would not allow their children outdoors. To placate the evil spirits, temples were built at crossroads, and offerings of bread, sometimes in the form of butterflies, were made. The Cihuateteo were portrayed with blanched white faces, and their hands, arms, and legs were whitened with powder. To die in childbirth, however, was considered honorable and good by the Aztecs.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow – Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante