Ladies, Beware An Axolotl Clambering Into Your Uterus

God, the title of this post exhausts me just by looking at it. There is so much "No". Okay, so @HistoryWeird on Twitter posted here on nineteenth-century Mexican medical superstitions that got recorded and published in 1895 by John G. Bourke, an American ethnologist. While their post has a lot more stuff that I will reblog at another time, I want to focus the axolotl.

It's this happy little chap:
which, if I'm not mistaken, is a type of salamander found in Mexico that doesn't undergo full maturation; it stays in childhood or teen years, so to speak, for its whole life. Lots of people raise them as pets nowadays because it is just the right combination of "exotic", "adorable" and "dire salamander hell-monster" to make it really interesting.


John G. Bourke was a former army man who had seen a lot of the native American tribes and had kept up his prolific journaling enough to write vast texts about tribal behavior. His most famous work–are you ready for this?–was called Scatalogic Rites of All Nations. A Dissertation upon the Employment of Excrementicious Remedial Agents in Religion, Therapeutics, Divination, Witch-Craft, Love-Philters, etc. in all part of the Globe. Which means I'm going to have to read it some day and get back to you.

While interviewing an old Mexican wise woman named Maria Antonia about their hygienic and medicinal practices, she told him that teenage girls feared the axolotl because it was known to "enter the person of the woman at certain times and will remain just as long as would a human foetus". Yikes.

"Once inside, the axolotl makes itself at home – while the unsuspecting female develops all the symptoms of pregnancy. Young girls going through puberty were particularly susceptible to this intrusion, so were warned to take care when swimming in ponds or rivers. The axolotl could apparently be forced out by drinking hot goat’s milk." ("The medical superstitions of the Rio Grande", 1895).

That is a Jerry Springer episode waiting to happen: "I Gave Birth To A Dire Salamander . . . And I'm Gonna Keep Ma Baby!"

John Bourke (correctly) saw this as a ridiculous belief at once, especially since much European research had already been done on the axolotl. According to an episode of QI, (the episode entitled "France"), Auguste Dumeril, a French zoologist, brought over 6 axolotls in 1863 to France, where he first discovered that they didn't mature like normal salamanders. This prompted a great deal of biological research on them and, apparently, every axolotl bred today for the purposes of being sold as a pet descends from those six.

So the moral of the story is, 1.) if you own an axolotl, it's crazy inbred. 2.) You're probably fine swimming with it, ladies. Not sure why you'd want to, but hey.

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One Response to Ladies, Beware An Axolotl Clambering Into Your Uterus

  1. Anonymous says:

    You know… I actually think these are cute in a naked mole rat kind of way, but I still wouldn’t swim with it 😉


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