Do not be fooled by Itzpapalotl’s somewhat disturbing appearance: the skeletal features are a typical sign of the divinities that she is a part of, the “tzitzimime,” a group of divinities that govern the heavenly world. They are often depicted adorned with a snake in a phallic position, although they are considered to be females. According to some prophecies, they were destined to rule the world once darkness enveloped the Earth, but with the arrival of the conquistadores, the prophecies were interrupted and their domain was suspended. In the Aztec religion – which is perhaps best known for Quetzalcoatl the feathered snake, Huitzilopochtli the god of war, and Tlaloc the god of rain – the tzitzimime are divinities who live in darkness and have the appearance of skeletons.

Itzpapalotl governs the world of Tamoachan, characterized by peace and bliss, where Gods have created humankind. Tamoachan welcomes victims of infant mortality. In fact, there is a tree that grows with fruits shaped like nipples, which children can feed on while waiting for reincarnation. The tzitzimime were venerated as protectors of midwives, and generally of women’s work. In particular, Itzpapalotl offered her attention to the spirit of women who died during childbirth. Itzpapalotl was depicted with jaguar paws and butterfly wings, and for this reason she was called “butterfly with claws” or “obsidian butterfly.” Her name indicates purification and renewal, at the cost of sacrificing that which is precious.

The message that this ancient Aztec goddess brings to us is comprised of feminine mystery, of the capacity to contain and reconcile opposites and to give life, always, when life itself comes from the universe with its explosive force, and even when apparently it is not there and remains dormant in the ivory of death.

Itzpapalotl is not afraid of the impact that her appearance may have on others, because she knows that truth is a force that always wins. She knows that her true and positive nature is strong and that it will be recognized by others as they get to know her.

It is death that protects life, the essentiality – represented by the skeleton – that gives nourishment, the femininity that welcomes the masculine, and the masculine that generates femininity. In times like these, her voice teaches us to unite content with its form, to seek the substance of communication, the true message contained in every expression. Today we live immersed in a communication that is intrusive, to say the least: slogans, rhetoric, the language of media, social media, and politicians. It is full of stimuli, and it confuses us. It even seems to steal our time and attention.

With the lightness of a butterfly and the energy of a jaguar, Itzpapalotl teaches us to recognize the real content of the messages that reach us. She lets us know how to direct our listening, how to observe that which surrounds us in order to discover what it means. Things are not always as they seem, and that which appears to us as a certain color does not necessarily exclude other colors.

Itzpapalotl shows us how to seek out positivity even when we do not think we will find it, and a richness of nuances where we would not expect it. Her voice is to be sought out with care, as it is more subdued than that of other divinities whom we have encountered so far, but it is just as clear and precious in the message that it brings to us: we need to seek, embrace and understand the deeper meaning of things.

In this way, we can transform ourselves and be ready for new phases of our lives, to renew ourselves and the world. We encounter her at the end of the year, after so much time has passed, so we may distinguish truth from appearances and be ready to enter into a new time.

Stambecco Pesco