Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ahuizotl

Most of you readers out there have probably heard of Unicorns and Krakens before. But have you ever heard of the Ahuizotl? Because one of my purposes of this blog is to inform about some of the lesser known beasts out there, I thought this would be a good pick for Mythical Creatures Week!

Cast of Ahuizotl Stone Plaque, Aztec
ca. 1500
Peabody Museum
Ahuizotl is a creature out of Aztec mythology. It is described in the Florentine Codex, a 16th century encyclopedia commissioned by a missionary and completed by indigenous artists. It describes the Ahuizotl as a small, smooth, dog-like creature, with a monkey's hands and a tail that includes an additional hand at the end. They live in underwater caverns and snatch all those who come near their lair. The most disturbing and frightful aspect of this mythical creature is that it loves to consume human nails, eyes, and teeth, and it's victims would be fished out of the water untouched... except with those things completely removed.

The Ahuizotl is linked to an Aztec emperor of the same name, who probably took his moniker from the creature. He ruled when the civilization was prosperous, and before the coming of the Spaniards. Montezuma, the emperor at the time of first contact, was Ahuizotl's nephew and successor. His tomb made news when it was discovered by archaeologists in 2007.

Like most mythical beasts, the Ahuizotl probably has some basis in fact. Due to the descriptions provided from the Florentine Codex and other primary source documents, the smooth, shiny, small-eared, long-tailed, handed creature may have been an otter. Otters possess most of those traits (minus the hand tail and stealing human nails and teeth of course) and could most certainly be the basis for the Ahuizotl myth.

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