American Demons

Tzitzimime

The tzitzimime (“Monsters descending from above”) were celestial demons in Aztec mythology that continuously threaten to destroy the world. They are said to be the stars that battle the sun each dusk and dawn.

 

One story from the Histoyre du Mechique describes the wraith of the tzitzimime. Mayahuel was the goddess of maguey who lived with her grandmother, a tzitzimime, in the sky. One time, Quetzalcoatl convinced her to descend to earth with him and join with him into a forked tree with Quetzalcoatl as one branch and Mayahuel as the other.

When Mayahuel’s grandmother awakens and finds her missing, she summons other tzitzimime to find her granddaughter. They descend to earth, and just as they arrive, the tree that Quetzalcoatl and Mayahuel had hidden as splits in two. Recognizing her grandmother as one of the branches, she tears it apart and passes the remains of Mayahuel to the other tzitzimime to devour, leaving the branch that Quetzalcoatl disguised himself as fully intact.

After they had left, Quetzalcoatl gathered up the Mayahuel’s bones and buried them, & from that grave, the first maguey plant grew. (Maguery was the source of an alcoholic beverage that was important in Aztec ceremonies as both a ritual drink and a sacrificial offering.)

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