Flayed Lord Xipe Totec: An Ancient God Without Skin Dug Up In 2020

Xipe Totec Impersonator, 600-900 AD (Late Classic). (Walters Art Museum/Wikimedia Commons)

The first temple to the most metal of all the Aztec Gods, Xipe Totec A.K.A. Xipetotec and/or Our Lord The Flayed One, was discovered in 2019 during an excavation of Popoloca Indian ruins in the central state of Puebla. So who exactly is this god of life, death, rebirth, and agriculture? How did he get his incredibly awesome title? And why does he look so cool?

A Brief History Of The Flayed One

It might surprise you to learn that Xipe Totec is actually a central deity in Mesoamerican culture, especially for the Aztecs, and despite his tendency to wear the flayed skin of human sacrifices, he was considered the god of spring, renewal, and fertility. It's unclear exactly where this deity first appeared, but speculation has pointed back to the ancient Olmec God VI. Others argue that he first appeared in the Yope civilization, the people who inhabited the state of Guerrero from 650 to 1100 A.D. However, the first appearance of any art representing The Flayed One dates back to somewhere between the ninth and 12th century in the eastern shores of Lake Texcoco in the Valley of Mexico.

Regardless of who first created him, The Flayed One became a major Aztec deity who was also worshiped by Maya, the Tlaxcaltecans, Zapotecs, Mixtecs, Tarascan, and Huastecs civilizations. Early mythology indicates Xipe Totec was the child of Ometeotl, a deity who was both male and female. The Aztecs took it a step further and said he was the brother of several of their most important gods, Tezcatlipoca, Huitzilopochtli and Quetzalcoatl.

He was said to be "born of a ruddy color all over," earning him the nickname Red Tezcatlipoca, and he's usually portrayed wearing a suit of yellowed skin with patches of his own skin visible in places shown in red. Some of these depictions include intricate stitching over the chest of the skin suit, suggesting the spot where the sacrificial victim's heart was cut out before the flaying. Xipe Totec's hands emerged from the wrists of the skin suit, causing the skin's hands to dangle at the wrist. We must assume it was as gross as it was dope.

Much like his Aztec brothers, Xipe Totec was associated with death and diseases. However, he was thought to cure illnesses as well, especially visual afflictions like inflammation or even pink eye. The Aztecs also worshiped Totec as the god of new vegetation and a patron of metalworkers. Many believed the human skin Totec wore represented the "new skin" of spring vegetation covering the Earth.