The legend of crossing the river to reach the Mictlan and the Butterfly Xoloitzcuintli

The Xoloitzcuintli is a hairless dog from Mesoamerica. Archaeological evidence has been found in the tombs of the Colima, Mayan, Toltec, Zapotec, and Aztec people dating the breed to over 3500 years ago. Long regarded as guardians and protectors, the indigenous people believed that the Xolo would safeguard the home from evil spirits as well as intruders. In ancient times the Xolos were often sacrificed and then buried with their owners to act as guide to the soul on its journey to the underworld. These dogs were considered a great delicacy, and were consumed for sacrifical ceremonies,including marriages and funerals.The Xolo’s job was to guide the soul of his or her master through nine levels to reach the Mictlan or heaven, then help him cross the Chiconahuapan, a river that was the last level before getting to Mictlan.The Xolo had to swam across the river with the soul of the person on their back. A red dog was preferred because black ones were too “dirty,” and lighter colored dogs were too “pure,” nonetheless the dog would get dirty with the contact from the water meanwhile, crossing the river with the soul of his or her master on the back.

Once they arrive heaven, they met Mictlantecuhtli, lord of the underworld. Mictlantecuhtli always asked the Xolo if they wanted to stay in heaven or return to earth. Mictlan was only reached after four years of wandering, accompanied by a dog that had been cremated with the deceased. The first level of Mictlan was called Apanoayan (where one crosses the river), this place was also known as Itzcuintlan (the Place of Dogs) because of the many dogs that roamed the near shore. A dog that recognised its former owner would carry him across the river on its back. In some accounts, the dogs on the shore act differently according to their colour, yellow dogs would carry the soul of the deceased across the river, while white dogs refuse because they have just washed themselves and black dogs refuse because either they have just swum the river or because they are dirty.In order to return to earth, however, they had to cross the river one more time. 

In order to reincarnate on Earth they had to cross the river one more time.Instead of soil the dogs like the first time,this time they got cleansed. They would return with white marks on their legs, chests, tail, and sometimes face because that’s where the water splashed them the most. Back on earth, everybody knew that a Xoloitzcuintle with these birth marks had returned to earth from the underworld.  Everytime you see a butterfly Xoloitzcuintle,you now  know the story behind these marks and its symbolism.


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