Dog Folklore (Mesoamerican)
Dogs importantly take part in Mesoamerican folklore and mythology since ancient times. A common belief across the Mesoamerican region is that a dog carries the newly deceased across a body of water in the afterlife.
Maya burials from the Classic Period are frequently found with associated animal remains, often dogs. For example, in the ruins of the Classic Maya city of Kaminaljuyu in Guatemala, a dog was found interred with a sitting skeleton, along with grave goods offered to the deceased. The frequent finds of dog skeletons in Classic Maya burials confirms that the belief that dogs guided the souls of the departed on their journey into the underworld already existed at this time.
The dog is sometimes depicted carrying a torch in the surviving Maya codices, which may be a reference to the Maya tradition that the dog brought fire to mankind.
Dogs were associated with Xolotl, the god of lightening and death. Xoloitzcuintle is a canine breed endemic to Central America dating back to Pre-Colombian times. The name Xoloitzcuintle references Xolotl because, mythologically, one of this dog’s missions was to accompany the dead in their journey into eternity. In spite of this prominent place in the mythology, the meat of the Xoloitzcuintle was very much part of the diet of some ancient peoples of the region.
In Aztec folklore, the Ahuizotl is a dog-like water monster with a hand on the end of its coiled tail. It was said to dwell underwater near river banks and would drag the unwary to a watery death. The victim’s soul would be carried off to Tlalocan, one of the three Aztec paradises.
- Across much of Mexico,evil sorcerers are believed to be able to transform themselves into a black dog in order to prey upon the livestock of their neighbours. In the states of central Mexico (such as Oaxaca, Tlaxcala, and Veracruz) such a sorcerer is known as a nahual, in the Yucutan Peninsula it is known as Huay Chivo.
- Another supernatural dog in the folklore of Yucatan is the huay pek (witch-dog in Yucatec Maya), an enormous black phantom dog that attacks anybody that it meets and is said to be an incarnation of the Kakasbal, an evil spirit.
- A legend from Tlaxcala tells how some hunters saw an enormous black dog one night and decided to capture and keep it. It fled at their approach, so one hunter shot at it, wounding it in one leg. Following the blood trail they came to a richly furnished peasant hut, whose owner was tending a wound in his leg. They gave up the chase and headed for the nearest village, where the locals told them that the peasant had been a nahualwho could transform into a dog to steal riches.