Aztec Icon #8 – Itzpapalotl, The Obsidian Butterfly

It’s been about two months since I’ve been able to celebrate completion of an icon, but here at last is the next in the series for the coloring book  YE GODS! Hooray!  Besides the many days of maniacal drawing, I suffered through some sickness and enjoyed two days in the hospital with a collapsed lung.  Now totally fixed.  So much for daily diary matters.

I think you’ll agree that this icon of the goddess Itzpapalotl, the Obsidian Butterfly, is startling and disturbing, if not frightening, but you should also know that these demonic images are absolutely authentic. Check out google images for Codex Borgia. This lady of mystery and death is a good example of how Aztec deities are a mix-up of what we nowadays rather simplistically call good and evil.  The Aztec aesthetic embraces both the beautiful and hideous, just as their philosophy affirms both life and death.

(You can still see or download the previous seven icons by clicking on them in the list on the page for the coloring book .)


(The Obsidian Butterfly)

To download this icon as a pdf file with a page of caption and model images from the Aztec Codices, right click here and select “Save Target (or Link) As.”  You can also download it in freely sizable vector drawings from the coloring book page.

Itzpapalotl, The Obsidian Butterfly

Itzpapalotl, The Obsidian Butterfly

ITZPAPALOTL {eets-pa-pa-lotł} is the ancestral goddess of the stars (Milky Way), lady of mystery and death, but also of beauty and fertility. Patron of the day Cozcacuauhtli (Vulture), she is a fearsome warrior who rules over the paradise of Tamoanchan for victims of infant mortality.  She may be the mother of Mixcoatl, the Cloud Serpent, and is patron of the Cihuateteo, harmful spirits of women who died in childbirth.  She is also one of the Tzitzimime, star demons that devour people during solar eclipses.  She is usually depicted as a skeletal figure with butterfly, eagle, or bat wings but can also be a beautiful, seductive woman.  Sometimes she’s known as the Clawed Butterfly.

Violence and Fear in America

I’m really upset—I’ve had it with all this violence.  Here comes my rant.

Actually I’ve been bothered and tormented about violence for 14 years—ever since the catastrophe of 9/11.  That was a social blow we could well have quickly recovered from, had not the terrified powers that were (and still are) used it (and still use it) to terrorize the population (ever since).  In truth, that apocalyptic event was a decisive and lasting victory for the reputed “terrorists,” whoever they may have been (or be).

Those Powers That Be (PTB) have been terrorizing our people by constantly reminding us of the threat of random violence at any time or place.  Any exposure to violence gives it a toehold in our consciousness, an inroad into our awareness, and that is in no way a good thing.  Violence is as contagious as any black plague, maybe more, and way more lethal.

It almost goes without saying that the normal animal and human emotional response to violence is fear.  How one manifests that emotion makes all the difference:  resistance, defense, retreat, or terror (surrender).  These are all fear-based reactions.

Fear has now become the basis of our whole culture or if you will, civilization.  It’s really big business embracing our whole way of life.  Actually it’s several mega-industries:  the insurance industry, the security and policing industries, the medical and pharmaceutical industries, the military industry, the political industry, the media and advertising industries, and the entertainment and sports industries.  Those are just the big kahunas in the economic ocean of fear.  I won’t even try to list all the other fish in this frightful sea.

To return to those constant reminders of the threat of random violence, just think for a moment on how in the past 14 years news reporting has been ramping up intensity and volume of stories about horrific slaughters and atrocities, now with mass shootings almost a weekly spectacle.

Sensational coverage of this supposedly important news has been commandeering the airwaves with continuous mind-numbing video loops and litanies of ominous, hypnotic memes.  And now with the San Bernardino abomination, it has suddenly turned into a reality show with live feeds to the gory details of police action, investigation, supposition, and philosophical commentary.  The insistent message is simple:  This could happen to you.  Be afraid—be very afraid.

Heeding that warning, people now seem to be hiding themselves away in their safe-haven homes.  Sadly, rather than use this private time for interpersonal or personal relations or activities, most turn to the TV and Internet for immersive, violence-based entertainment.  This is a vicious circle, a self-reinforcing mechanism for terrorizing folks.  Plain and simple, we’re being brain-washed, no, make that force-fed, with images and thoughts of violence at every turn, news programs, action dramas, sitcoms, and even in commercials.

Of course, this begs the question:  Why do folks willingly, even compulsively, watch violence?   Frankly, I believe that watching violence is the same as watching pornography—just as vicarious and shameful.  They both pander to the negative, atavistic side of the human being and awaken similar bestial emotions.  And both are super-addictive.

So where does a fearful population go from here?  Seems to me, there are three ways to go.  My preference is to close my eyes and ears to the insidious message, living my life without fear of threats and surviving or not.  Of course, you could always retreat like Gollum deeper into the bowels of the earth with your precious screen still spewing its poison, but then there is nowhere to go but even deeper down.

The third option might be to negotiate with the PTB, trading off our rights and humanity for security.  Maybe that’s what the PTB have had in mind all along.  Just saying.

Such horrible bargains have been struck many times in the course of history.  Remember the Romans’ pacification of their population with bread and circus (which was simply glorified violence)?  Nowadays it’s junk food and TV (even more vilely violent).  Don’t forget the relative social security of medieval feudalism or the prosperity of empires, of course at the cost of personal liberty.  Some monarchs or dictators have occasionally provided reasonable peace and security at the cost of social freedom, and theocratic states still sell protection for total control of their people’s thoughts and behavior.

Personally I’m not going to settle for any of those raw deals.  Again, my choice is to live without fear.  Whether or not I fear it, my future lies solely in the hands of Providence.  We get what we’ll get, and pre-emptive fear of dire possibilities is a miserable waste of time.  Most won’t even happen, and if one does, well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

My personal mantra is Frank Herbert’s transcendent dictum in “Dune:” “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

To break this cycle of fear-inducing violence, we’ve got to deny it any place in our spirit, banish it from our thoughts and fantasies, and quell our instinctual fears.  We must shut out society’s pervasive drone of violence and create a new personal music, a true entertainment for our fearless minds.  For my own part, I’ve recently taken up nonchalant whistling.

Again it almost goes without saying that my strong (and realistically rational) opinions about today’s atmosphere of fear aren’t going to change squat.   My only (perfectly realistic) fear is that the terrorized people of the world might surrender their lives and liberty to the PTB for a pittance of dubious security.  Believe me, folks, surrender won’t banish fear—or violence.

Meanwhile I’ll just whistle a happy tune, letting that fear pass over and through me, and only I will remain, a free human being.