Xolotl was a monstrous and deformed Aztec deity associated with sickness, misfortune, lightning, and dogs (which were useful but taboo animals to the Aztecs). He was the twin of the glorious feathered serpent, Quetzalcoatl, one of the most important and revered of Aztec deities. Unfortunately twins were also taboo to Mesoamericans and Xolotl’s place in the pantheon in no way matches his brother’s. Filthy and skeletal, with backwards feet, floppy ears, and a cowering, cringing demeanor, Xolotl was constantly getting into trouble. Scarred by his own lightening, beset by his own sicknesses, his task was to help drag the sun through the underworld at night.
In one critical story, Xolotl traveled to the depths of Mictlan, the Aztec underworld, to unearth the horrible rotting bones of an extinct race of beings. He tricked Mictlantecuhtli, goddess of Mictlan, into allowing him to drag a filthy carcass up to the world of light where his brother and the radiant gods of heaven sprinkled it with their blood. Thus was humankind born–from the blood of the sky gods and the bones of the dead.
What happened to luckless Xolotl? One legend tells that he suffered setbacks in the tempestuous political affairs of the gods (recall, he was the deity of misfortune). Fearing that he was about to be banished or killed, he transformed himself into an axolotl, the indigenous salamander of the Mexican basin. The axolotl lacks the ability to transform into a land animal which other salamanders have. Almost all of the population is perennibranchiate, trapped with gills and fins forever in the polluted shrinking waterways around Mexico city.