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Cipactli – Symbolism and Importance in Aztec Mythology

Cipactli, meaning crocodile, was the first day in the Aztec calendar, associated with honor, advancement, recognition, and reward. In Aztec cosmology, Cipactli was a celestial beast with the teeth and skin of a crocodile. A deadly monster, Cipactli was revered and feared by the Aztecs. Cipactli can also mean ‘black lizard’, a term used to refer to how dangerous the creature was rather than its color. In Toltec culture, Cipactli is the name of a god that provided food for its devotees. 

The Aztec day sign cipactli
The Aztec day sign cipactli

The Creation of Cipactli

In Aztec mythology, Cipactli was created by four gods who signified the four cardinal directions. – Huitzilopochtli, representing the North, Xipe Totec, the East, Quetzalcoatl, the West, and Tezcatlipoca, the South.

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Cipactli tumbler hk luterman
Cipactli by HK Luterman. Source.

Cipactli was a monstrous creature in Aztec mythology, often depicted as a crocodile or a fish, with a voracious appetite. It is typically described as having extra mouths on its joints.

Myths Involving Cipactli 

There are various legends and myths involving gods from different cultures who wanted to overcome Cipactli to ensure the safety of the Mesoamericans.

According to the creation myth, the gods realized that all their other creations would be devoured by Cipactli, so they decided to kill the creature. Cipactli, however, put up a fight and Tezcatlipoca lost a foot, while attempting to lure Cipactli. In the end, the Feathered Serpent Quetzalcoatl was able to slay Cipactli.

The gods then created the universe from its body, using the head to form the thirteen heavens, the tail to create eh underworld, and the core of its body to create the earth. In this way, Cipactli was the source of the universe, from which all things were created.

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The Governing Deity of Cipactli

The Aztecs believed that the day Cipactli is governed by Tonacatecuhtli, the Aztec Lord of Nurturance, who was also the patron of Cipactli. Tonacatecuhtli was a primordial creature as well as the god of new beginnings and fertility. Due to this, it’s believed that Cipactli is a day of dynastic beginnings, ideal for starting new projects. 

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.