Mesoamerican Culture, History, and Religion


The next story in the Mexican founding saga tells of the tyranny of Huitzilopochtli’s sister, Malinalxochitl (“Grass Flower”).  This myth follows after “First Steps From Aztlan” and “Leaving Coatepec,” and sets the stage for the birth of Copil and the further difficulties the fledgling Mexica face.


As told by Cehualli

It had been some time since the Mexica had left their ancestral homeland of Aztlan, and they were wandering in the wilds of Michoacan, following Huitzilopochtli’s dream.  But the Portentous One wasn’t the only divinity accompanying them — His sister, Malinalxochitl, had come with them.  She was beautiful both in form and manner, graceful and elegant.  She was also a powerful sorceress, as she was a Huitznahua woman, one of the stars come to walk among men.  She could drive men mad, shake a river from its course, or strike her enemies dead with a glance.  For a time she ruled them on their wanderings, her flesh and blood guidance complementing unseen Huitzilopochtli’s directions in dreams and her magic a formidable force added to His strength.

Eventually, however, Malinalxochitl grew arrogant and tyrannical, forgetting her duty to guard her brother’s tribe.  She began to torment the Mexica in Huitzilopochtli’s physical absence.  She even forced them to worship her as a goddess on pain of death.

“How wonderful this is!” she thought to herself as she eyed the frightened people as they hurried away from yet another city that had grown unfriendly to them.  “They obey my every whim, and my brother stays silent.  Perhaps He’s abandoned them, or a rival god struck Him down while He roamed ahead.  After what He did to Coyolxauhqui, it would be a fitting end for Him.”

The priests and the people, however, secretly prayed to their silent protector.  “Huitzilopochtli!  Your sister has become corrupt, and instead of being a torch, a light for your people, she’s become a deadly tyrant!  Please save us!”

One night, Huitzilopochtli came to the eldest priest in his dreams.  “How dare my sister do this!  And using sorcery against My people – !” He raged.  “Very well then, we will get rid of her.  When she sleeps tonight, slip away and leave her behind.  If she wishes to behave like a treacherous scorpion, let her be alone like one.” The priest nearly wept with joy as the answer to his prayers.  “However, you must promise Me something — you must not follow her heart and copy her charms and spells.  That’s a coward’s way of fighting, and I won’t stand for my people to be seen that way.  No, instead you will win with courage and skill at arms!  That’s My way.”

The priest agreed, and when he awoke he told the god’s words to the rest of the tribe.  When it had grown dark, they packed up and slipped away into the night, leaving Malinalxochitl behind.

When she awoke, Malinalxochitl wailed in betrayed anger.  “Huiztilopochtli, you dog!  I’m not through with You or Your wretched people!  My sister and I will be avenged.”  Vowing to make them pay, the scorned Huitznahua woman went to make the nearby city of Malinalco her own and to bide her time to strike.

Fountain Grass Flower, Photo by Giligone (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License)
Fountain Grass Flower, Photo by Giligone (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License)

6 responses

  1. Xuchilpaba

    I know she isn’t the most popular goddess, but i have this curiosity about her. However, i also think doing a ritual to her might end up… well something might happen.

    BTW do you know anything about the correlation between scorpions and sex? I mean as a male sexual symbol. I know i read PDF i believe from FAMSI about it, but it may have been a theory… The story that really comes to my mind is Yappon and his punishment by Tezcatlipoca.

    February 11, 2009 at 12:03 PM

  2. cehualli

    Hehe you can imagine she’s someone *I’ll* never try offering copal to… Huitzilopochtli seems pretty laid-back about me saying “hi” to other Teteo from time to time, but I imagine that would be too much. Let alone any response I might get from Malinalxochitl… Don’t need to step in that bear trap to know it’d hurt.

    Re: scorpions and sex — Nope, nothing comes to mind at the moment. I could speculate a link from scorpions to the earth, as a creepy-crawly thing like the centipedes shown with Tlazolteotl all the time, and from there a link to the “earthy thing” itself, sex, but I’d be talking out of my ass as I’ve read nothing to substantiate those leaps. If you come across anything I’d like to know.

    February 25, 2009 at 5:49 AM

  3. Xuchilpaba

    I can understand that. Xochiquetzal (even tho i like her) seems to evoke Tlaloc’s anger so I avoid her for the most part. Huitzilpochtli does too, but believe you me it is not on the same scale as Xochiquetzal does.(which is obvious when you look at Tlaloc being cheated on by her.)

    Yes! I found the PDF. It uses both Nahua and Maya sources. From page 7-10 they talk about scorpions in relation to male genitalia and sexuality. I have to re-read it later, but i thought i lost this. i am so relived. Its got some good info.

    February 25, 2009 at 7:35 PM

  4. cehualli

    The thing with Xochiquetzal makes sense — I still don’t know exactly what it is with Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli. I wonder if it’s a jealousy thing, it *is* Tlaloc after all. It’s just amusing because I’ve never had Huitzil get irate for me going the other way. Then again, it’s a rarity I dial Tlaloc. Or maybe Huitzil’s just not as hypersensitive about those things.

    Awesome, thanks for the link! I’ll have to take a look when I get a chance. It gets added to the library…

    February 25, 2009 at 8:16 PM

  5. Xuchilpaba

    It bugs me because i keep seeing references to their relationship positively in Aztec history. But then me and others keep having these experiences and it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But i love Huitzilopochtli. He always feels like the polar opposite of Tezcatlipoca’s personality. And to be honest, i wear a whole lot of blue.

    Yeah i think you’ll like it.

    February 25, 2009 at 10:10 PM

  6. Xuchilpaba

    I don’t think she was really “worshiped” , more of avoided.

    May 17, 2010 at 10:08 PM

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