Itzpapalotl

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For the Aztec ruler, see Acamapichtli.
Depiction of Itzpapalotl from the Codex Borgia.

In Aztec mythology, Ītzpāpālōtl /iːt͡spaːˈpaːlot͡ɬ/ ("Obsidian Butterfly") was a fearsome skeletal warrior goddess who ruled over the paradise world of Tamoanchan, the paradise of victims of infant mortality and the place identified as where humans were created.[1] She is the mother of Mixcoatl and is particularly associated with the moth Rothschildia orizaba from the family Saturniidae. Some of her associations include birds and fire.[2] Her nagual was a deer.

Iconography[edit]

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.[3] (In the Manuscript of 1558, Itzpapalotl is described as having "blossomed into the white flint, and they took the white and wrapped it in a bundle.") 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. Although the identity remains inconclusive, the Zapotec deity named Goddess 2J by Alfonso Caso and Ignacio Bernal may be a Classic Zapotec form of Itzpapalotl. In many instances Goddess 2J, whose image is found on ceramic urns, is identified with bats. "In folklore, bats are sometimes called "black butterflies"".[4]

Ritual[edit]

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 eclipses.[3]

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.

Mythology[edit]

According to the Manuscript of 1558, section VII, Itzpapalotl was one of two divine 2-headed doe-deers (the other one being Chimalman) who temporarily transformed themselves into women in order to seduce men. Itzpapalotl approached the two "cloud serpents named Xiuhnel /ˈʃiwnel/ and Mimich /ˈmimit͡ʃ/", who transformed themselves into men (so as to disguise themselves when all the others of the Centzonmimixcoa had been slain in the ambush?). To Xiuhnel, Itzpapalotl said ""Drink, Xiuhnel." Xiuhnel drank the blood and then immediately lay down with her. Suddenly she ... devoured him, tore open his breast. ... Then Mimich ... ran and ... descended into a thorny barrel cactus, fell into it, and the woman fell down after him."[5]

Popular culture[edit]

In Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, the ninth book is named Obsidian Butterfly and involves a vampire named Itzpapalotl, who was once an Aztec priestess and believes herself actually to be the goddess of that name. She also runs a nightclub named Obsidian Butterfly.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Itzpapalotl, the Obsidian or Clawed Butterfly
  2. ^ Itzpapalotl: Itzpapalotl, Goddess of Fire and Birds in Aztec Religion, Mythology
  3. ^ a b Miller & Taube, p. 100
  4. ^ Elizabeth Benson : "The Maya and the Bat", p. 113. In :- LATIN AMERICAN INDIAN LITERATURES JOURNAL, vol 4 (1988). Citing :- Elsie Clews Parsons : Mitla. U of Chicago Pr, 1936. p. 318
  5. ^ Miguel León-Portilla & Earl Shorris : In the Language of Kings. Norton & Co., NY, 2001. p. 61

References[edit]

Miller, Mary; Karl Taube (1993). The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: An Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05068-6. OCLC 27667317. 
Read, Kay Almere; Jason J González (2002). Handbook of Mesoamerican Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs of Mexico and Central America. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514909-2. OCLC 77857686. 
Sahagún, Bernardino de (1997) [ca.1558–61]. Primeros Memoriales. Civilization of the American Indians series vol. 200, part 2. Thelma D. Sullivan (English trans. and paleography of Nahuatl text), with H.B. Nicholson, Arthur J.O. Anderson, Charles E. Dibble, Eloise Quiñones Keber, and Wayne Ruwet (completion, revisions, and ed.). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-2909-9. OCLC 35848992. 

External links[edit]