Itzpapalotl : The Obsidian Butterfly; The Clawed Butterfly

Itzpapalotl is a fierce, powerful mother goddess of birth and death. She is a ferocious skeleton warrior who presides over the realm of Tamoanchan, the place where humans were created from blood, and bones stolen from Mictlan, realm of the dead. Itzpapalotl presides over the paradise realm inhabited by women who died in childbirth and stillborn infants. She is a shamanic goddess and a powerful sorceress.

• Itzpapalotl is among the Cihuateteo, mortal women who died in childbirth and transformed into fierce crossroads spirits.

• She is also classified as a Tzitzimime, a star Demon.

Although Itzpapalotl was incorporated into the Aztec pantheon, she was inherited from neighboring Chichimeca and Zapotecs. The Zapotec path of Itzpapalotl is particularly closely associated with bats. (The term clawed butterfly may refer to bats, not moths or butterflies.) She may be the mother of Mixcoatl.


Chichimec; Aztec; Zapotec


Itzpapalotl has butterfly or moth wings tipped with obsidian blades. Her hands have jaguar claws; her feet have eagle’s talons. She may take many forms including a bat, butterfly, moth, gorgeous woman, or skeleton with obsidian or flint-tipped butterfly wings. She has been witnessed dressing up as a lady of the old Aztec court with thickly caked white face powder. She may dress up in any form she desires. She also has an invisibility cloak so she may not be visible at all.


Itzpapalotl is usually portrayed as a butterfly or moth. Dr. Carlos Beutelspacher, author of Butterflies of Ancient Mexico, identifies her with the species Rothschildia orizaba, a Saturnid silk moth.


Obsidian blade; (obsidian is volcanic glass).

Sacred bird:

Royal or King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa); eagle

Sacred animal:

Bat, butterfly, moth, deer

See Also:


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.


Itzpapalotl is an Aztec female Demon and patroness of witches. The name Itzpapalotl means “obsidian knife butterfly.” She can wear a magic cloak that turns her into a butterfly. Sometimes she appears in a more Demonic form, as a female with large butterfly wings edged with obsidian knives, a skull head covered in thick white makeup, a knife for a tongue, fingers with jaguar claws, and toes with eagle claws.

Itzpapalotl once resided in heaven but fell along with the TZITZIMIME. As a Demon, she took over the ruling of witches and presides over 13 unlucky signs of the calendar. On those days, she takes a horde of dead witches, who have shape shifted into butterflies and flies, through towns and forests, shrieking and screaming. In order to appease her and her horde, people sacrifice deer.


The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 2009 by Visionary Living, Inc.

You may be also interested in :

Fifth Sun : A New History of the Aztecs - Camilla Townsend
Aztec, Mixtex  Zapotec Armies - John Pohl & Angus McBride
A War Of Witches : A Journey Into The Underworld Of The Contemporary Aztecs - Timothy Knab
The Aztecs Rise and Fall of an Empire - Serge Gruzinski
Mayan Aztec Mythology - Michael A. Schuman
Daily Life of the Aztecs People of the Sun and Earth - David Carrasco, Scott Sessions
Empire of the Aztecs - Barbara A. Somervill