Coyolxauhqui: She Who Is Adorned with Bells by Anne Key

Divine, Goddess, Mesoamerican Goddesses, Mexico, Priestess, sacred sites, The Jade Oracle, Vision, Women

One of the most fascinating deities of pre-Columbian Mexico is Coyolxauhqui. At first glance, a deity named “She Who is Adorned with Bells” might seem to be a dancer, until we read that warriors wrapped strings of bells around their calves before going to battle. Then we see Coyolxauhqui (Nahuatl: coyolli = small metal bells) as a warrior, suiting up for battle.

The image of Coyolxauhqui is beautifully rendered in the massive stone relief that was found at the Great Temple (Templo Mayor). Construction of this temple began in 1325 CE, and it was the main temple of worship for the Aztecs in their capital of Tenochtitlan (present-day Mexico City). The Templo Mayor was dedicated to two deities, Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli. Tlaloc (Lord of rain) was most likely a local deity before the Aztecs arrived. Huitzilopochtli (Left Hummingbird) was the warrior deity of the Mexica, accompanying them on their sojourn from northern Mexico to Tenochtitlan, which resides in the altiplano, or high plains, of central Mexico. The Templo Mayor may have been a symbolic representation of the Hill of Coatepec, recounting the story of Huitzilopochtli’s birth and Coyolxauqui’s demise.

The Templo Mayor was a large structure at 328’ x 262’ at its base. Rebuilt six times, its excavated ruins are on the northeast edge of the zócalo, or city center, of Mexico City. The Spanish used the stones from the temple to build what is now known as the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, a massive structure situated atop the Templo Mayor. But careful excavation, and some lucky breaks, have brought both the temple and many of its monolithic sculptures to light.

In February of 1978, while workman for an electrical company were digging, they discovered the giant disk of Coyolxauhqui. The stone disk is 10.7 feet in diameter, almost a foot thick, and weighs over 9 tons. Her discovery set off a wave of archaeological work on the Templo Mayor.

Coyolxauhqui is the second largest sculpture found in the temple. This exquisitely carved disk encircles her. She is dressed in full battle gear with balls of eagle feathers in her hair, attesting to her bravery and courage. A large ceremonial headdress sits atop her head, and her ears are adorned with pendulous earrings. A “warrior’s belt knotted from a double headed snake” winds around her waist (Kroger 189). Her belly is puckered, showing that she has given birth. She is a mother and a warrior.

Looking closely at her stone relief, we see a curious space between her limbs and torso, between her neck and head. Her arms and legs, attired with the pads and bindings of a warrior, are dismembered. A bit of bone sticks out from each thigh and upper arm. Her head is also separated from her body, almost unnoticeable. Even dismembered, she is resplendent with dynamic warrior energy, the circular stone emphasizing her strength, evoking the idea that she is hurtling forward.

When I stand in front of her, in the museum at the Templo Mayor, the first emotion I feel is strength and bravery. Her dismemberment does nothing to diminish her power, for she continues on in spite of all the odds. She is unstoppable.

When I meet her in visions, Coyolxauhqui barely has time for me. She is surrounded by training warriors, shouting directions and giving orders. She looks me straight in the eye and says “don’t you dare make me fit into whatever story you want to tell.” She requires me to tell her story, unapologetically.

She exudes the power and potency of warrior women, both mythic and contemporary: Boudica, Athena, Joan of Arc, Hyppolita, Atalanta, Wonder Woman, Xena, and Trinity.

Unfortunately, the myth of Coyolxauhqui is not in her own words. The story we have of her is one that reinforces a patriarchal worldview, showing favor on women who are kind, all-loving “mothers” and killing upstart rebels. This is a pattern we know well.

When I approach the story of Coyolxauhqui, I work to find the “back story,” to fill out the entire narrative sequence. We will start with the myth as it was written by the Spanish cleric Bernardino Sahagún in The Florentine Codex. This mytho-historic account begins, and ends, with Huitzilopochtli, for this story, written by the victors, can be read as a myth explaining how the Mexica inserted their deity into the local lore, and how he was victorious.

This mytho-historical saga takes place during the migration of peoples from Aztlán, the ancestral home of the peoples that came to live in the place that is now Mexico City. Aztlán was possibly located in northern Mexico or the Southwest of the United States, and the migratory groups consisted of many tribes, including the Mexica. Along the way, the migrating group encountered many villages cultures, and one of these was the peoples of Coatepec.

The myth of the birth of Huitzilopochtli, which contains the only story of Coyolxauhqui, says very little of her strength, courage, and power. Instead, it paints her as the instigator of her mother’s assassination. Huitzilopochtli was a traditional Mexica deity, and he is the embodiment of male strength and warrior energy. He was one of the most celebrated deities of what would become the Aztec civilization.

The myth recalls a time during the migration from Aztlán when the people settled briefly at Coatepec, the “hill of the snake.” The deities living at Coatepec were Coyolxauhqui, her mother Coatlicue (She of the Serpent Skirt) and her 400 brothers (the Centzon Huitznahua). The myth opens with Coatlicue sweeping the temple.[1] She finds a bundle of precious feathers, picks them up, and keeps them underneath her clothes. These feathers make her pregnant.

When her sons, the 400 brothers, and her daughter, Coyolxauhqui, discover her pregnancy, they are enraged, saying that the pregnancy “insults us, dishonors us” (Markham 382). They ask her who fathered the child, but she does not answer. Coyolxauhqui leads the brothers in a plan to kill their mother, Coatlicue.  While this seems a strong response, later we find out that the child in Coatlicue’s womb is Huitzilopochtli, the warrior deity of the migrant peoples, the Mexica.[2]

Meanwhile, Huitzilopochtli, from the womb of his mother, Coatlicue, tells her: “Do not be afraid, I know what I must do” (Markham 382).

In the myth, Coyolxauqui “incited them, she inflamed the anger of her brothers, so that they should kill their mother. And the four hundred gods made ready, they attired themselves as for war” (Markham 383), including tying bells (oyohualli) on the calves of their legs.

Let’s take a moment and unpack what has happened so far. We have a group of migratory Mexica bringing a new deity to an existing culture. This becomes the story of how Coyolxauhqui defended her land and culture from the Mexica, presenting her as the military leader, the defender. And, it paves the way for Huitzilopochtli to insert himself (literally!) into the myth of Coatepec, converting the primordial mother of the Coatepec culture into his birth mother and shaming their greatest warrior, Coyolxauhqui.

Returning to the myth, Coyolxauhqui is marshalling the troops for war. One of the 400 brothers, Cuahuitlicac, turns against the rest of his family and informs Huitzilopochtli (still in Coatlicue’s womb) of the plan of attack.  At the moment Coyolxauhqui and the 400 brothers approach their mother, Huitzilopochtli is born in full battle gear. He takes the Xiuhcoatl, the fire serpent, and strikes Coyolxauhqui, cutting off her head. Her body rolls down the hill of Coatepec, arms and legs separating as she falls.[3]

Huitzilopochtli drove the 400 brothers off Coatepec, slaughtering them. Some escaped to the south, but those killed by Huitzilopochtli were stripped of their “gear, their ornaments,” and Huitzilopochtli “took possession of them…introduced them into his destiny…made them his own insignia” (Markham 386).

This myth can be seen as a cautionary tale of women’s diminished power in the newly formed Aztec society. M. J. Rodríguez Shadow, in her book La Mujer Azteca, writes that there is ample evidence of matrilineal and matrifocal societies in Mesoamerica before the 14th century CE (1997, p. 68). However:

During the epoch of the Aztecs the religion glorified masculine values, erasing whatever vestige of that phase [matrifocal] existed, quickly and efficiently, replacing them with male gods and men, destroying allegorically the feminine figures (like Coyolxauhqui) that could have occupied positions of power or discrediting those [female figures] that they wanted to retain (like Malinalxóchitl).[4] (p. 69)

Moreover, in this myth Huitzilopochtli appropriates Coyolxauhqui’s warrior aspect. Art historian Janet Berlo puts this myth in context:

But one of the central myths of the Aztec empire is the struggle between the newly born male warrior god and the warrior goddess who preceded him. I believe this myth structurally embodies the ideological struggle between the Great Goddess of the Central Mexican past and the new Aztec order in which the significant ties of mythic kinship are redrawn to emphasize the male lines of Huitzilopochtli…. In this fraternal kinship network, the northern invaders and their ancestral god Huitzilopochtli are firmly linked with the Central Mexican past… (Berlo 1993)

The giant stone sculpture of Coyolxauhqui was found at the foot of the stairs of the Templo Mayor, on the side dedicated to Huitzilopochtli. It may have been hurtled down the stairs, just as she was thrown from Coatepec. While it may have been put there as a symbol of defeat, the sheer size of it is a reminder of the threat she presented.

On a personal note, living in these times, I feel like the dismembered Coyolxauhqui. I feel as if all I have worked for to make life better for myself, my students, my friends and neighbors in this great country is being dismembered. But, like Coyolxauhqui, I remain whole and strong. #metoo, #marchforourlives, #blacklivesmatter and so many more have grown from this fractured political environment. Coyolxauhqui is a testament to the power, strength, and resolve of those who have been defeated. In the Museum of the Templo Mayor where she resides, her spirit pervades the space, a permanent reminder of the warrior women and cultures that are in the earth and spirit of Central Mexico.


Berlo, J. (1993).  Icons and Ideologies at Teotihuacan: The Great Goddess Reconsidered. In J. C. Berlo (Ed.), Art, ideology, and the city of Teotihuacan (pp. 129-168). Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Markman, R. H., Markman, P. T. (1992). The Flayed God: The Mesoamerican Mythological Tradition.  San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

Rodriguez Shadow, M. J. (1997). La mujer Azteca [The Aztec Woman].  Mexico City, Mexico: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México.

[1]Sweeping has a deeply ritual context for the ancient Mexicans. An entire festival, Ochpaniztli, was dedicated to sweeping the streets, private homes, and temples, preparing for harvest. Tlazohteotl, another Goddess, is shown with a broom, showing her connect to this festival.

[2]This brings up a number of different ideas. Did Coatlicue “change sides,” going against her people? Was she raped? Or did Coyolxauqui and her brothers know that if this god was allowed to birth through their mother, that it would be the end of Coatepec as they knew it?

[3]The statue of Coatlicue that once stood in the Templo Mayor replaces her arms with the Xiuhcoatl. Could it be possible that the Xiuhcoatl was a symbol of the culture at Coatepec, and that this was coopted by the migrating Mexica?

[4] En tiempos de los Aztecas la religion enaltecía los valores masculinos, borrando cualquiere vestigio de aquella fase y consolidando con eficacia y rapidez la sobresaliente posición de los dioses masculinos y los varones, destrozando alegóricamente las figuras femeninas (como Coyolxauhqui) que podia ocupar el poder o desacreditar a las que desearan compartirlo (como Malinalxóchitl).

Click here for more information on the Jade Oracle.  Visit our Goddess Ink Media for videos about The Jade Oracle. For more information on Goddess Ink, visit our website and circle with us on Facebook and Instagram. Check out our newly designed store and please sign up for the Goddess Ink Newsletter for a monthly dose of inspiration.  If you would like a weekday dose of daily inspiration sign up for our Daily Inspiration newsletter.

  3.5x5.75x56pcs         Special Introductory price for the Jade Oracle deck:
$45 until May 5th 2018 (Cinco de Mayo)
Find out more and purchase here.

Visit our Goddess Ink Media for videos about The Jade Oracle. For more information on Goddess Ink, visit our website and circle with us on Facebook and Instagram. Check out our newly designed store and please sign up for the Goddess Ink Newsletter for a monthly dose of inspiration.  If you would like a weekday dose of daily inspiration sign up for our Daily Inspiration newsletter.


Anne KeyPriestess, instructor, writer and dancer – Anne Key, Ph.D. has traveled, researched, and written about Mesoamerican culture since 1990; her dissertation investigated the pre-Hispanic divine women known as the Cihuateteo, and she is co-founder and guide for Sacred Tours of Mexico. She was Priestess of the Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet, located in Nevada and has edited anthologies on women’s spirituality, priestesses, and Sekhmet as well as written two memoirs, Desert Priestess: a memoir and Burlesque, Yoga, Sex and Love. An adjunct faculty in Women’s Studies, English and Religious Studies, she is co-founder of the independent press Goddess Ink. Anne resides in Albuquerque with her husband, his two cats and her snake, Asherah.

Come see Coyolxauhqui and other wonders with Anne and Veronica Iglesias with Sacred Tours of Mexico!


Jade Oracle Five Card Reading by Veronica Iglesias

Culture, Divination, Goddess, Mesoamerican Goddesses, Mexico, The Jade Oracle


The divination with the Jade Oracle is based in the Ancient Mexican way to relate with the Cosmos. Each time that a spiritual leader was leading a ceremony he/she created a sacred space that honored the four directions with an altar and different elements related with each direction. Also she/he positioned him/herself facing the east.

The five card reading of the Jade Oracle is based on this ancient tradition and on the cosmic conception of what is to be human.

To do a five card reading:  1) shuffle the cards, and 2) pick five cards that will be placed in this order:

Card #1, located in the center, represents you as you are in this moment.

Card #2, located above #1, represents the east. In ancient codices, the east was above, relating to the orientation of human beings relative to the universe. This direction shows you what is in your immediate future, what you will encounter on your path.

Card #3, located below #1, represents the west. This is the past, what is behind you. It can refer to the end of a path or cycle or something in your life that is coming to a close. It may also refer to ancestral wisdom and deities that are helping you.

Card #4 is located to the left of the center. This represents the north, the direction of the ancestors, providing valuable information for personal insight and growth. This card indicates aspects of your personality that are currently challenging for you; the north shows your reflection in the obsidian mirror, the dark side of yourself that is difficult to see.

Card #5, located to the right of center, is the south. This direction is your connection to your destiny and your mission as well as to the things you enjoy in life. This card will give you information on your career and areas in your life that you would like to explore.

The Jade Oracle brings you answers that offer insight and understanding to help make decisions with agreater knowledge of the underlying currents in your life, always with the intent for deeper personal insight and self-knowledge that will help you on your life path.

I hope you enjoy your personal reading and the information will support  and illuminate your path.

Infinite Blessings.

María Veronica Iglesias

Maria Veronica Iglesias was born in Mexico City, Mexico. She has a Bachelor´s degree in Library Sciences and a Master´s Degree in Mesoamerican Studies from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (La Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico). Initiated as a sahumadora (bearer of the Sacred Sahumerio) when she was 8 years old, she studied about medicinal plants, crystal therapy and healing with gems. She was initiated in the sacred knowledge of Mesoamerican shamanism and became a Portadora de la Palabra, bearer of the Sacred Word. A Priestess of Ix´Cheel, the Mayan Goddess of Medicine, Veronica researches gem stones and their therapeutic use, Pre-Hispanic medicine, rites of passage and Goddesses from Mesoamerica and is co-founder and guide for Sacred Tours of Mexico. She is the Co-Creator of The Jade Oracle.


Click here for more information on the Jade Oracle.  Visit our Goddess Ink Media for videos about The Jade Oracle. For more information on Goddess Ink, visit our website and circle with us on Facebook and Instagram. Check out our newly designed store and please sign up for the Goddess Ink Newsletter for a monthly dose of inspiration.  If you would like a weekday dose of daily inspiration sign up for our Daily Inspiration newsletter.

  3.5x5.75x56pcs         Special Introductory price for the Jade Oracle deck:
$45 until May 5th 2018 (Cinco de Mayo)
Find out more and purchase here.

Visit our Goddess Ink Media for videos about The Jade Oracle. For more information on Goddess Ink, visit our website and circle with us on Facebook and Instagram. Check out our newly designed store and please sign up for the Goddess Ink Newsletter for a monthly dose of inspiration.  If you would like a weekday dose of daily inspiration sign up for our Daily Inspiration newsletter.

Balancing Motherhood & My Creative Calling by Ramona Snow Teo

Goddess, Goddesses of the Americas, Mesoamerican Goddesses, Mexico, The Jade Oracle

 toci tonantzi‌

Balancing Motherhood & My Creative Calling by Ramona Snow Teo : Illustrating The Jade Oracle Deck & Raising Two Babies

I’ve always had a strong driving force in me, calling me to create. As a child I loved to draw, color, make clothes for my barbies, and build houses for my pet snails. In grade school, I always went above and beyond expectations to create unique and intricate art projects. My entrepreneurial spirit developed at an early age when I started making holiday greeting cards and bookmarks and selling them to my friends and family. I’ve always known I was an artist.

 Unlike other young girls, I didn’t play with baby dolls or envision myself one day growing up to be a mother. In fact I never really pictured myself having children of my own. I wasn’t against it, but it just wasn’t something I had given a lot of thought to. But life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and here I am now – 30 years old with two gorgeous little people to call my own. Zena is almost 2 and a half now and Rafael just turned one. I am blessed each day as I experience their young lives unfold. And it is a gift to witness myself stepping into this new role called “mother”.

 Although I never thought I’d be a mother, now that this is my life it generally feels quite natural. My own early childhood memories are finding their way back to the surface and there is a familiarity to the day to day interactions with my children. Changing diapers gives me a strange sense of déjà vu as I flash back to being a baby myself. Nursing, feeding, and bathing my little ones all feels like it is ingrained in my DNA, despite my lack of preparation for this stage of my life.  And that thing they call “motherly love” – that unconditional, deep, warm and nurturing sea of love… it is a real thing. It explodes into existence at the moment that little baby pops out into the world. I love them so much.

 I am beginning to get into the groove with this motherhood thing now. And it’s become glaringly obvious that my impulse as an artist has not subsided. There is still a burning in me that yearns to create, to make with my hands, to express with line and color, to bring my internal visions to life for others to see. I wonder if it is too soon, if I am being selfish, if I should simply focus on the children and put my other projects on the backburner until they are older. Or is it actually detrimental to all of us if I stifle my passions? I want my kids to learn how to live fully and follow their dreams. So I need to embody that and be their role model. It is a delicate balance. Of course I don’t wish to neglect my children. I want to give them the greatest care and attention they need. I also want to pursue my creative calling. I believe it doesn’t have to be either/or. I believe with patience and care I can do both!

Ramona and babies

Zena, Ramona and Rafael

 Last spring, when Zena was one and a half and Rafael was just three months old, I was invited to be a part of one of the most exciting creative projects of my life. Anne Key & Veronica Iglesias asked me to be the illustrator of The Jade Oracle Deck: Deities & Symbols of Ancient Mexico. They needed 52 original drawings based on Aztec mythology, culture and history. I knew this project was meant to be for me. I had spent my university years studying Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican Art & Art History and had a deep fascination and love for the culture already. And I had always wanted to make a tarot or oracle deck. Coincidentally, I was already working on a painting of the Aztec goddess Tonantzin “The Great Mother”.

 The invitation was too good to be true and I just couldn’t turn it down. Part of me was worried though. How would I do it? How would I find the time when I have these babies on me 24/7? Could I really pull this off? But the creative spark had ignited and was rapidly catching fire. The excitement bubbled inside of me as I thought about the project and I was bursting with great ideas for how to make it work. I felt that if I declined the opportunity or asked to postpone it until my life would be a better fit…. I’d miss the chance. The wave of inspiration would pass, the spark would die out, it would be hard to pick back up again months or years later. For me, that creative wave comes once and I have to grab it and ride it out. So I went for it!

 Thankfully, we completed the project. It took about 7 challenging months to fully manifest the deck and it came out beautifully. It nearly took everything out of me, but I don’t regret it for a minute. Each day I nursed, changed diapers, cooked, cleaned and snuggled with my babies all day, and I worked almost every night while they slept from about 10pm to 1am. I hardly slept, but that’s sort of how it is in the first years of parenting anyway. Bit by bit, I chipped away at this creation and gradually it came into being. Looking back, I am blown away that The Jade Oracle deck actually manifested and my kiddos are still healthy and happy.

 In summary, I feel there are three pieces of advice I have for others who are following their passions while balancing family life.

 First, family comes first. The basic needs, love and affection of your loved ones are truly the most important. But there are many hours in the day, days in the week and weeks in the year. There is time for more if you are feeling called to do more.

 My second piece of advice is to grab the wave of inspiration when it comes! When opportunity knocks, don’t be afraid to answer the call. There is always a way to make it work. Follow that spark of inspiration and see where it leads you.

 My third suggestion is to maintain momentum. Even if you can only spare 15 minutes per day to work on your dream project, do it! Keep the ball rolling. You’d be surprised over time how much you can accomplish by piecing it together in small increments. So keep moving forward, and you will get there! And it will be so rewarding.

 Working on The Jade Oracle has been one of the most deeply fulfilling experiences of my life. I thrive off of creative collaboration and I’m so glad that I allowed myself to follow that calling. Whatever your calling is, I hope you will follow yours too!


For a Free Download of the artwork for Toci Tonantzin of The Jade Oracle, click here.

 Ramona Snow Teo was born and raised in New Mexico, “The Land of Enchantment” where the diverse culture and thriving arts community has inspired her to explore her creative calling. She earned her Bachelor of Art’s Degree at the University of New Mexico in the Cinematic Arts Department with a focus on Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican Art & History. Her passions include painting, drawing, clothing design, jewelry making, graphic design, experimental filmmaking and belly dance. Always the creative entrepreneur, Ramona started Guerrilla Graphix (original art t-shirts, custom design and printing services) with her father in 2008 and Divine Nature Arts (her personal brand of clothing, jewelry & sacred art) in 2015. A constant theme in Ramona’s artwork is sacred geometry and the mandala. In 2015 she became a certified Mandala Facilitator and guides workshops on healing with mandalas. In 2017 she completed the illustrations for The Jade Oracle Deck: Deities & Symbols of Ancient Mexico. Ramona is currently a stay at home mother of two (Zena, 11/5/15 and Rafael 2/1/17) and vends her art at festivals and the local farmers markets on the weekends.

3.5x5.75x56pcs      Special Introductory price for the Jade Oracle deck:
$45 until May 5th 2018 (Cinco de Mayo)
! Find out more and purchase here.

Visit our Goddess Ink Media for videos about The Jade Oracle. For more information on Goddess Ink, visit our website and circle with us on Facebook and Instagram. Check out our newly designed store and please sign up for the Goddess Ink Newsletter for a monthly dose of inspiration.  If you would like a weekday dose of daily inspiration sign up for our Daily Inspiration newsletter.