Why Are We So Afraid of Death?

Itzpapalotl, Chichimec Dragon Goddess

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death; nor yet canst thou kill me.

From Rest and Sleep, which but thy picture be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow...
— John Donne
Itzpapalotl (original painting, acrylic paint and crayon on illustration board-Susanne Iles)

Itzpapalotl (original painting, acrylic paint and crayon on illustration board-Susanne Iles)

Mother Earth's Mortuary Phase

We are introduced to death in the guise of the dragon Itzpapalotl. She is the ancient Chichimec representation of Mother Earth in her mortuary phase symbolising the world's cyclical changes - the rhythms of the seasons and agriculture.

Also known as "Obsidian Knife Butterfly," a goddess of creation and transformation, Itzpapalotl is shown wearing butterfly wings to indicate her shamanic and transformational powers. Her appearance as a dragon with butterfly wings symbolises the human fear of death, yet provides hope for a gentle sleep, transformation and rebirth.

The emerging butterfly represents the human soul and its journey heavenward. Her hands and feet are depicted alternately as jaguar or eagle claws, as she grips the corners of the sky with her hands. Her fierce countenance expresses the darker aspects of nature found in drought, floods, storms, disease or death. Another face of Itzpapalotl is one of great beauty showing her gift of kindness through the release of suffering, the transformation of the soul, and the fostering of new growth in spring.

Natural law in all its beauty and destruction must prevail, but that doesn't mean that death is final. Itzpapalotl teaches us death can be overcome and our spirit transformed into something beautiful, a life everlasting. 

Itzpapalotl and butterfly: transformation of the soul

Itzpapalotl and butterfly: transformation of the soul

Why Are We So Afraid of Death?

As a person who loves life so much, I admit to understanding why people worry about the end of this particular lifetime. I'm a child at heart and just want to keep on playing. What I don't understand is why people are terrified of the death of other things like old habits, toxic relationships, addictions, and the past. Although we know they are harmful, do we hang onto them because they are familiar?  We need to gather up the courage to let things that limit us go, use our obsidian blades to cut away the ropes that hold us down, and open the doors to more fulfilling and meaningful lives. Let Death do her job, it is time for us to LIVE!

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.-Ghandi

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.-Ghandi

A note to my Wild Ones: Further explanation of the symbolism in the Itzpapalotl painting, inspired by the Codex Borgia.

This ancient lady was a pleasure to paint. Although she may look peaceful as she stands in her regenerative phase, don't be fooled by her calmness. Her wingtips are razor sharp and she wears the mortuary mask of death on part of her face. The jaguar spirit within claws at the sky to bring life-giving rains as well as floods. Her nose piercing is a small obsidian knife, used when the time is necessary, to relieve a dying man of his suffering; a soul flutters at her fingertips in the guise of a translucent white moth. Her deep beauty is marked with pain. Her headband is a braided strip of her own bloodied skin, cut from her forehead. She is everything beautiful and terrible about creation. Creatrix and Destroyer. SHE IS THE FIGHTING PASSION OF LIFE ITSELF.

Depiction of Itzpapalotl from the Codex Borgia. (Wikipedia image)

Depiction of Itzpapalotl from the Codex Borgia. (Wikipedia image)

My Dear Wild Ones, is there anything that you'd like to cut loose so you can live the life you want?  You can do it; it is time to free your wild heart.  Please leave a comment below, you know I love hearing from you!