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Xipe Totec

Aztec God of Fertility, and Agriculture Renewal Xipe Totec


Image of Xipe totec from the Codex Borgia

Image of Xipe totec from the Codex Borgia


Xipe Totec (Shee-PAY-toh-teck) was the Aztec god of fertility, abundance, and agricultural renewal, as well as the patron of goldsmiths. His name means "our Lord with the Flayed Skin" and derived from the myth by which the god flayed his own skin to feed humans. This symbolized the renewed vegetation that covers the earth each spring, as well as the maize loss of its external skin when is ready for germination.

It is thought that Xipe Totec was introduced into the Aztec pantheon during the kingdom of the emperor Axayácatl. Apparently this deity came from the north of Mexico and it was the patron deity of the city of Cempoala, the capital of the Totonacs during the Postclassic period.

Xipe Totec Ceremonies

Xipe Totec worship involved sacrificial ceremonies where the victims were flayed and then the priests wore their skin. In some ceremonies, the selected victim was provided with a fake sword and had to fight against a warrior who did have a real weapon.

The most important series of ceremonies dedicated to Xipe Totec were called Tlacaxipeualiztli, which means "flayer of man". These ceremonies took place in February and in these occasions war captives were sacrificed and their body parts taken to the various calpulli. Their skin, instead, was painted and then worn by the priests carrying out other fertility rituals.

Xipe Totec Images

The image of Xipe Totec is easily recognizable in statues, figurines and other portraits for wearing a headdress and for having the body covered by the skin of a sacrificial victim. He also often holds a cup in one hand a shield in the other.


This glossary entry is a part of the About.com guide to Aztec Gods, and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Adams, Richard E.W., 1991, Prehistoric Mesoamerica. Third Edition. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman

Van Tuerenhout Dirk R., 2005, The Aztecs. New Perspectives, ABC-CLIO Inc. Santa Barbara, CA; Denver, CO and Oxford, England.

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