Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl: A Tragic Romance of Aztec Legend

Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl: A Tragic Romance of Aztec Legend

(Read the article on one page)

Mexican natural structures are the topic of many legends and mythical stories connected with pre-Columbian tribes like the Aztecs and Mayas. Two of the many volcanoes in Mexico became the symbols of one of the most beautiful yet tragic love stories of this land.

Volcanoes were very important for the Aztecs. In their pantheon of gods, the deity connected with them was Xiuhtecuti, also named Cuezaltzin (''flame'') or Ixcozauhqui. This was the god of day, heat, and fire, the lord of volcanoes, and the personification of life after death. It was also the lord of the light in the darkness, flood during famine, and warmth in the cold.

The deity was considered to be both the mother and father of the gods, who dwelled in the turquoise enclosure in the center of the earth. Thus, in the ancient history of Mexico volcanoes were sacred centers, signs from gods, and characters of legends.

According to Aztec mythology, two volcanoes which are located near Mexico City were once living humans – a man and woman who were deeply in love. They later transformed into the volcanoes, which are now seen as symbols of their love. 

Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl.

Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Mountains which Stimulated Imagination

The volcanoes are located in the states of Puebla and Mexico in Central Mexico. Part of Popocatepetl is also in Morelos. They are visible from both Puebla and Mexico City. Popocatepetl is 5,426 m (17,802 ft.) tall, and it is the second highest peak in Mexico after Citlaltepetl, which rises 5,636 meters (18,491 ft.) above sea level. Iztaccihuatl is the third highest in Mexico, 5,230 m (17,160 ft.) tall. Iztaccíhuatl means ''The White woman'' and it has four individual snow-capped peaks which depict the head, chest, knees and feet of a sleeping female when seen from the east or west.

Popocatepetl means ''Smoking Mountain'', and the volcano is still active, while the last eruption of Iztaccihuatl is dated to the Holocene period. There are no resources describing the eruption of this volcano, and geological tests confirm that it has been inactive for a very long time.

Iztaccihuatl — as seen from the Sacromonte Mountain in Amecameca, Mexico State.

Iztaccihuatl — as seen from the Sacromonte Mountain in Amecameca, Mexico State. ( Public Domain )

The first archaeological record on these sites comes from 1889, when the researchers discovered evidence of the Aztecs who climbed the volcanoes. It is possible that they were practicing religious ceremonies. The life of the ancient tribes was very often connected with nature, so the magnificent shape of the volcanoes was obviously very attractive for worshiping their gods, but also to connect with the energy of the planet.

View of the volcanoes from the top of the volcano Malintzin.

View of the volcanoes from the top of the volcano Malintzin. (CC BY-SA 4.0 )

The Story of Popo and Itza

Popocateletl and Iztaccihuatl are known also by their short names: Popo and Izta. Their story is covered by the mists of the time, but speaks of the brave warrior Popocatepetl and a beautiful princess, Iztaccihuatl. Her father was a mighty ruler, who decided that if Popocateletl wanted to marry his daughter, he must engage in battle against the strongest enemy of the tribe and return home victorious. The young warrior loved the beautiful princess very much and he decided to accept the challenge. There are many different variations of the description of the battle, but the most popular one says that Popocateletl returned with the head of the enemy as proof of winning the battle.

While Popocatepetl was away in battle, Iztaccihuatl waited for his return. She was waiting for him for so long, that her heart became full of pain while missing him. Before Popocatepetl had reached the enemy, one of his love rivals told the princess a tragic lie. He said that Popocatepetl died during the battle. When the woman heard the news, her world collapsed. She couldn't imagine her life without her beloved, and she fell into the deepest sorrow. She didn't question the news, but believed the information - trusting that nobody could be so cruel as to lie to her about such things. As a result, she died of a broken heart.

View of the Popocatepetl volcano from Amecameca, Mexico State.

View of the Popocatepetl volcano from Amecameca, Mexico State. ( Public Domain )

When Popocatepetl returned to the settlement, he wanted to see his future wife, but he was informed that she died. He couldn't believe the awful news and suffered for several days and nights before he made the decision to build a great tomb under the sun. He carried his love in his arms and took her to the top of a great mountain.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Myths & Legends

Trailer for Ouija Movie. (BagoGames/CC BY 2.0) Insert: Ouija board on your skull: noe valley, san francisco (2015).
Ouija boards, also known as talking boards or spirit boards, are a relatively modern tool/game that strikes fear and wonder in the hearts of many people. Almost everyone has heard stories of someone connecting with malevolent beings or suffering unfortunate events following the use of a Ouija board. But what’s the real story behind these terrifying tales?

Human Origins

A Wa'a Kaulua (double canoe) of Hawaiian Nobility of the 18th Century. Polynesia was inhabited by skilled seafarers.
Oceania was the last region to be settled by humans and the last part of Oceania to be settled by humans was Polynesia. Polynesians are famous for their voyages to remote islands in distant parts of the Pacific. Using outrigger canoes, they founded a society across islands stretching in a triangle from the Hawaiian Islands to Easter Island to New Zealand

Ancient Technology

All images courtesy of Dr Rita Louise
The vajra is the most important ritual implement of Vajrayana Buddhism. In Sanskrit, the word vajra is defined as something hard or mighty, as in a diamond. It symbolizes an impenetrable, immovable and indestructible state of knowledge and enlightenment.

Ancient Places

Antarctica.
On a chilly winter day in 1929, Halil Edhem, the Director of Turkey's National Museum, was hunched over his solitary task of classifying documents. He pulled towards him a map drawn on Roe deer skin. As Halil opened the chart to its full dimensions (two feet by three feet wide or 60 X 90 cm) he was surprised by how much of the New World was depicted on a map which dated from 1513.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article