Nahuales in Morelos: a myth that has been kept alive since pre-Hispanic times – El Sol de México

On the rubble of the old town of a hacienda, in the heart of Cuautla, a plant grows toloache. With his fingertips, Darío caresses one of the seed reliquaries, which are set with thorns. This plant, he says, serves to become a nahual.

“Nahuales are physical-biological transformations, because you transform from your physical body and for that power plants are used, like toloache. These seeds are mixed with wild boar butter and left to rest for a whole year so that you can then take the body of the animal you want,” says Darío.

Darío Ortega Carrasco, 72 years old, is called “El Duende” because he always goes out into the streets dressed in black, green or red clothes with a pointed hat on his head. He lives between Cuautla and Tepoztlán, offering his services to the people of the nearby communities. He reads the tarot, cleanses auras and heals those who come to visit him. He says that he does not have the ability to become a nahual, but that he has seen them.

“I was in Huautla de Jiménez and there were many nahuals in the shape of turkeys. Here, in Morelos, they take the form of pigs or dogs. They are humans, whose physical body is, pretend, in the hut where they are, but they tie themselves to a mat, put a wooden stake and tie themselves there, and a crisis comes to them, a seizure and they project themselves astrally. If a person kills a nahual, his body appears dead in the house where he is,” says the man, as if describing a scene that he witnessed at some point.

Nahuales are physical-biological transformations, because you transform from your physical body and for that power plants are used, such as toloache

Darío Ortega Carrasco, local healer

The nahual of Cocoyoc

In August 2022, Cocoyoc, a town in Yautepec founded by the Tlahuicas, offered visitors a scene typical of magical realism: one morning, the facades and doors of Buenos Aires Street appeared painted with lime crosses. They say that lime crosses keep away nahuals, and the townspeople claimed to hear one at night. The rumor spread so widely that, a few days later, the community was visited by Carlos Trejo.

“At that time he asked them to be calm, very patient and to water the street with holy water,” remembers Luis Salgado, a resident of the place.

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For Ortega, The existence of nahuals in Morelos is a reality. The nahuals, he explains, have existed since prehispanic timesand the northeastern region of the state is strongly influenced by the Aztec customs.

“There is in Tetelcingo. They are people who already bring ancient knowledge, because there are many plants that are used. Not everyone can become a nahual. They have to be chames, people who have control over their physical body,” he says.

The nahualli

In the tapestry of Mesoamerican mythology, the figure of the nahualli, or nahual, as it is commonly known, it is one of the most resistant and mysterious. Its origin is located in the ancient beliefs of the Nahua people, whose roots reach deep into the cultures. Mexican, Toltec and Mayan.

“They are people who have a lot of control over their body, because they have to be able to leave their body and return to it,” says Darío.

Historically, The Nahuales were considered wise men, healers or chames whoThrough rituals, they could acquire attributes of certain animals, considered their totems or related spirits. They embodied ancient wisdom and the link with the divine, and they were mediators between the forces of nature and society.

The records of that time attest to the existence of these practices, as shown in one of the most significant documents for understanding the pre-Hispanic world and its practices, the Florentin Codexor, compiled by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, which describes in detail several aspects of Aztec life and religion. In it, it is explained that the nahualli was a feared and respected being, who had the ability to harm and heal, a figure associated with the night and with hidden forces that had the ability to instill fear or heal.


In Tepoztlánthe myth of nahual remains I live in folk stories and spiritual practices, but shamans have long been extinct. According to Jesús Sedano, cultural promoter of the Tepozteca region, these figures became extinct in the communities, largely due to the gentrification process that the town has suffered in the last three decades. On the other hand, this phenomenon opened the doors to other types of figures who settled in the downtown area, in holistic centers that combine the concept of spiritual healing with typical gastronomy.

“There haven’t been shamans in Tepoztlán for a long time,” says Sedano.

Every weekend, Darío sets up shop in a small establishment to serve his clients. He charges 250 per consultation, an amount that varies according to the services requested.

“Many arrive because of sentimental or love problems,” says El Duende.

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Half a century ago, Darío promoted the opening of the Taj Mahal crafts store, where he also served his customers, but he decided to follow his own path a long time ago. Today, every weekend, he receives his clients in a small establishment located on Artesanos Street, and during the week in Cuautla, on Vicente Guerrero Street, one block from the zócalo.

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