Xolotl, Canine God of Twins and Sickness in Aztec Religion

Xolotl: Aztec God
Xolotl: Aztec God. DEA Picture Library/De Agostini Picture Library/Getty

In Aztec mythology, the god Xolotl is associated with dogs, twins, lightning, fire, and guiding souls into the underworld when people die. Xolotl is frequently paired with Quetzalcoatl in various myths, whether as his twin or as his canine companion.

 

Name and Etymology

  • Xolotl
  • Xolotl Huetzi
  • "The Animal"
  • "The Dog"

 

Religion and Culture of Xolotl

Aztec, Mesoamerica

 

Symbols, Iconography, and Art of Xolotl

Aztec art usually portrays the Aztec god Xolotl with ragged ears and other deformities like reversed feet.

When depicted as a dwarf jester, his eyes are missing because he is supposed to have cried his eyes out when the other gods died as part of a sacrifice of themselves to create humanity. Sometimes, he also appears as a skeleton, or even as a man with the head of a dog. The official name of the Mexican Hairless Dog, a breed that dates back to before Columbus, is Xoloitzcuintle.

Twins were themselves considered a type of deformity, treating as both tricksters and heroes, and a connection between twins and dogs can be found in Mesoamerican art at least as far back as the beginning of the Common Era.

 

Xolotl was the Aztec God of...

  • Twins
  • Sickness
  • Deformities
  • Bad Luck
  • Lightning
  • Fire
  • Guiding Souls
  • Venus
  • Ball Games

 

Story and Origin of Xolotl

Dogs were considered filthy and immoral in Mesoameican cultures and Xolotl, the canine god, embodies all the worst characteristics ascribed to dogs. Xolotl was responsible for accompanying the dead to Mictlan, their final journey after death.

Xolotl also guarded the sun as it made its way through the underworld every night.

 

Family Tree and Relationships of Xolotl

  • Canine companion of Quetzalcoatl
  • Brother of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, Lord of Venus as the Morning Star
  • Twin brother of Quetzalcoatl
  • Son of Coatlicue

 

Mythology and Legends of Xolotl

In one creation myth, Xolotl brought a bone to the gods who sprinkled it with some of their blood.

The bone then transformed into the first human boy and girl, giving rise to the human race.

In another myth, the Aztec primordial god Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl executed Xolotl. The latter was acting as executioner, killing all of the rest of the gods as they sacrificed themselves as part of the creation of humanity. In some stories he killed himself last as he was supposed to do, but in others he refused by changing himself into other forms: first the maize-plant xolotl, then the agave mexolotl, and finally the larval salamander axolotl. Eventually, Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl caught up to him and executed him.

In yet another creation myth, Xolotl was responsible for repopulating the planet after humanity had died out (sometimes alone, sometimes by helping Quetzalcoatl). He taveled as a dog into the underworld and removed a bone from one of the earlier humans. He dropped and broke it when pursued by the Aztec god of the underworld, but he kept what he could and added some of his own blood to repair it. After four days, a human boy was born; after seven, a human girl was born.