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Itzpapalotl

Depiction of Itzpapalotl from the Codex Borgia., Itzpapalotl
Depiction of Itzpapalotl from the Codex Borgia.

In Aztec mythology, Itzpapalotl (“Clawed Butterfly” or “Obsidian Butterfly”) was a fearsome skeletal warrior goddess, who ruled over the paradise world of Tamoanchan, the paradise of victims of infant mortality and place identified where humans were created. She is the mother of Mixcoatl some of her associations include birds and fire. Her nahualli was a deer.

Itzpapalotl’s name can either mean “Obsidian butterfly” or “clawed butterfly”, the latter meaning seems most likely. It’s quite possible that clawed butterfly refers to the bat and in some instances Itzpapalotl is depicted with bat wings. However, she can also appear with clear butterfly or eagle attributes. Her wings are Obsidian or tecpatl (flint) knife tipped. She could appear in the form of a beautiful, seductive woman or terrible goddess with a skeletal head and butterfly wings supplied with stone blades.

Mythology

Itzpapalotl is the patron of the day Cozcuauhtli and Trecena 1 House in the Aztec calendar. The Trecena 1 House is one of the five western trecena dates dedicated to the cihuateteo, or women who had died in childbirth. Not only was Itzpapalotl considered one of the cihuateteo herself, but she was also one of the tzitzimime, star demons that threatened to devour people during solar eclispses.

As the legend goes, Itzpapalotl fell from heaven along with Tzitzimime and several other shapes such as scorpions and toads. Itzpapalotl wore an invisible cloak so that no one could see her. At some times, she was said to have dressed up like a lady of the Mexican Court, caking her face with white powder and lining her cheeks with strips of rubber. Her fingers tapered into the claws of a jaguar, and her toes into eagle’s claws.

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