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.

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