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Quetzalcoatl

Quetzalcoatl (kĕt´sälkôät´əl) [Nahuatl,=feathered serpent], ancient deity and legendary ruler of the Toltec in Mexico. The name is also that of a Toltec ruler, who is credited with the discovery of corn, the arts, science, and the calendar. It is unclear whether the ruler took his name from the god or as a great ruler was revered and later deified.

Quetzalcoatl, god of civilization, was identified with the planet Venus and with the wind; he represented the forces of good and light pitted against those of evil and darkness, which were championed by Tezcatlipoca. According to one epic legend, Quetzalcoatl, deceived by Tezcatlipoca, was driven from Tula, the Toltec capital, and wandered for many years until he reached his homeland, the east coast of Mexico—where he was consumed by divine fire, his ashes turning into birds and his heart becoming the morning star. Another version has him sailing off to a mythical land, leaving behind the promise of his return. Adopting the name, the Aztec linked it with the worship of the war god Huitzilopotchtli and applied it to some of their ranking priests. Montezuma viewed the Spanish invaders as the returning hosts of Quetzalcoatl. There is a great pyramid in honor of the deity at Cholula, and the sky-serpent motif in the mosaics at Mitla probably represents Quetzalcoatl. The famous Temple of Quetzalcoatl at Teotihuacán is now regarded by some authorities as having been consecrated to a different god.

It is likely that the figure who gave rise to the legendary Quetzalcoatl was an ancestor of his Maya counterpart, Kulkulcán. The Toltec of Tula moved southward, settled in SW Campeche, and in the 10th cent. under the leadership of Kulkulcán, a historical figure, occupied Chichén Itzá and founded the cities of Uxmal and Mayapán. Although probably assimilated into the Maya culture by this time, the invaders still employed Mexican architectural motifs (especially the feathered serpent) extensively. After the death of Kulkulcán he became the patron deity of Chichén Itzá, and most of the temples were dedicated to him. The symbol for both Quetzalcoatl and Kulkulcán, the serpent with quetzal feathers, has an obvious connection with serpent worship.

See L. Séjourné, Burning Water (tr. 1957).

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Quetzalcoatl

Quetzalcoatl

For thousands of years, Quetzalcoatl was one of the most important figures in the traditional mythologies of Mesoamerica. As deity, culture hero, or legendary ruler, Quetzalcoatl appeared in some of the region's most powerful and enduring stories. He represented life, motion, laughter, health, sexuality, and the arts and crafts of civilization, such as farming, cooking, and music.

The name Quetzalcoatl means "Feathered Serpent." It brings together the magnificent green-plumed quetzal bird, symbolizing the heavens and the wind, and the snake, symbolizing the earth and fertility. Quetzalcoatl's name can also be translated as "precious twin," and in some myths, he had a twin brother named Xolotl, who had a human body and the head of a dog or of an ocelot, a spotted wildcat.


Mesoamerica cultural region consisting of southern Mexico and northern regions of Central America

deity god or goddess

culture hero mythical figure who gives people the tools of civilization, such as language and fire

pantheon all the gods of a particular culture

Historical Background. Quetzalcoatl occupied a central place in the pantheon of the Aztec people of central Mexico, but he dates back to a time long before the Aztecs. Images of the Feathered Serpent appear on a temple building in Teotihuacán, a Mexican archaeological site from the a.d. 200S. These images are found with images of rain and water, suggesting close ties between Quetzalcoatl and the god of rain and vegetation.

To the Toltecs, who flourished in the region from the 800s to the 1100s, Quetzalcoatl was the deity of the morning and evening stars and the wind. When the Aztecs rose to power in the 1400s, they brought Quetzalcoatl into their pantheon and made him a culture hero, a bringer not just of life but also of civilization. These old myths merged with legends about a priest-king named Quetzalcoatl, possibly a real historical figure. Later as groups from central Mexico migrated into southern Mexico and the Yucatán peninsula, blending with the local Maya population, the Feathered Serpent took his place in the Mayan pantheon under the name Kukulcan.


The God. Quetzalcoatl was portrayed in two ways. As the Feathered Serpent, he was a snake with wings or covered with feathers. He could also appear in human form as a warrior wearing a tall, cone-shaped crown or cap made of ocelot skin and a pendant fashioned of jade or a conch shell. The pendant, known as the "wind jewel," symbolized one of Quetzalcoatl's other roles, that of Ehecatl, god of wind and movement. Buildings dedicated to this god were circular or cylindrical in shape to minimize their resistance to the wind.

According to some accounts, Quetzalcoatl was the son of the sun and of the earth goddess Coatlicue. He and three brother gods created the sun, the heavens, and the earth. In the Aztec creation myth, Quetzalcoatl's cosmic conflicts with the god Tezcatlipoca brought about the creation and destruction of a series of four suns and earths, leading to the fifth sun and today's earth.

At first there were no people under the fifth sun. The inhabitants of the earlier worlds had died, and their bones littered Mictlan, the underworld. Quetzalcoatl and his twin, Xolotl, journeyed to Mictlan to find the bones, arousing the fury of the Death Lord. As he fled from the underworld, Quetzalcoatl dropped the bones, and they broke into pieces. He gathered up the pieces and took them to the earth goddess Cihuacoatl (Snake Woman), who ground them into flour. Quetzalcoatl moistened the flour with his own blood, which gave it life. Then he and Xolotl shaped the mixture into human forms and taught the new creatures how to reproduce themselves.


cosmic large or universal in scale; having to do with the universe

underworld land of the dead

patron special guardian, protector, or supporter

The Hero. Besides creating humans, Quetzalcoatl also protected and helped them. Some myths say that he introduced the cultivation of maize, or corn, the staple food of Mexico. He did this by disguising himself as a black ant and stealing the precious grain from the red ants. He also taught people astronomy, calendar making, and various crafts and was the patron of merchants. Carlos Fuentes, one of modern Mexico's leading writers, compares Quetzalcoatl with the mythic figures Prometheus*, Odysseus*, and Moses. All three had to leave their cultures but obtained gifts or wisdom that renewed those cultures. Stories about a Toltec king named Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, famed as an enlightened and good ruler, may have contributed to the image of Quetzalcoatl as a culture hero.

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

pyre pile of wood on which a dead body is burned in a funeral ceremony

Quetzalcoatl's departure from his people was the work of his old enemy, Tezcatlipoca, who wanted people to make bloodier sacrifices than the flowers, jade, and butterflies they offered to Quetzalcoatl. Tezcatlipoca tricked Quetzalcoatl by getting him drunk and then holding up a mirror that showed Tezcatlipoca's cruel face. Believing that he was looking at his own imperfect image, Quetzalcoatl decided to leave the world and threw himself onto a funeral pyre. As his body burned, birds flew forth from the flames, and his heart went up into the heavens to become Venus, the morning and evening star. Another version of the myth says that Quetzalcoatl sailed east into the sea on a raft of serpents. Many Aztecs believed that he would come back to his people one day after a period of 52 years. In the early 1500s, the Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés took advantage of this belief by encouraging the people of Mexico to view him as the return of the hero-god Quetzalcoatl.

See also Aztec Mythology; Coatlicue; Huitzilopochtli; Mayan Mythology; Tezcatlipoca.

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Quetzalcóatl

Quetzalcóatl God of Central and South American mythology, a principal deity of the Toltecs, Maya, and Aztecs. Quetzalcóatl (the Aztec name for the god) took the form of a feathered serpent. Essentially a creator, who made the human race by fertilizing bones with his own blood, he was associated with agriculture and the arts. A legend, telling of his exile from his homeland, is probably based on a ruler who took his name. In 1519, Hernan Cortés landed in Mexico on the god's birthday, and since Quetzalcóatl was expected to return in man's form, the Aztecs associated Cortés with the god.

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Quetzalcóatl

Quetzalcóatl the plumed serpent god of the Toltec and Aztec civilizations. Traditionally the god of the morning and evening star, he later became known as the patron of priests, inventor of books and of the calendar, and as the symbol of death and resurrection. His worship involved human sacrifice. Legend said that he would return in another age, and when Montezuma, last king of the Aztecs, received news of the landing of Cortés and his men in 1519, he thought that Quetzalcóatl had returned.

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Quetzalcoatl

QUETZALCOATL

QUETZALCOATL was one of the most powerful and multifaceted gods in Mesoamerican religions. The cult of Quetzalcoatl, the "quetzal-feathered serpent," was prominent in central Mexico from at least the time of Teotihuacán (100750 ce) to the collapse of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán in 1521. He was called Kukulcan in the postclassic Maya culture that developed from 1000 to 1521, and he played a prominent role in the organizing of the capitals of Chichén Itzá and Mayapan. In the more than seventy painted, written, and archaeological sources that carry the elements of the Quetzalcoatl tradition, he appears both as a major celestial creator god and as intimately identified with the paradigmatic priest-king Topiltzin Ce Acatl Quetzalcoatl, whose great kingdom of Tula, or Tollan, flourished between 900 and 1100, and who is remembered as a primary source of culture, political order, and religious authority in Mesoamerica. The archaeological and ethnographic records show that Quetzalcoatl was the symbol of effective organization and sacred authority in a series of capital cities that dominated the history of Mesoamerican religions for almost fifteen hundred years.

In the cosmogonic episodes of the early sources known as Historia de los Mexicanos por sus pinturas, the Anales de Cuauhtitlán, and the Leyenda de los soles, Quetzalcoatl, one of the four sons of the androgynous creator god Ometeotl, plays a number of creative roles: He generates the universe (together with his brother, Tezcatlipoca), rules over various cosmogonic eras, assists in the discovery of maize and pulque, creates fire, participates in the great sacrifice of the gods that leads to the creation of the fifth cosmic age, or Fifth Sun, and becomes transformed into the morning-and-evening star, Venus.

In a number of instances, this creative activity reflects the symbolic design of the Mesoamerican universe as a world divided into five major parts (four cardinal sections around a central space). For instance, in the elaborate cosmology of the Historia de los Mexicanos por sus pinturas, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, Lord of the Smoking Mirror, revive the broken universe and set the stage for the fifth age by dispersing the water of chaos and restoring dry land by carving four roads to the center of the earth, from which they raise the sky to create a living space for human beings. Coincidentally, in a number of primary sources that depict the capital city of Tollan, the ceremonial centers are shown divided into five sections with four temples and mountains surrounding the central mountain or temple where the priest-king Quetzalcoatl ruled.

In another series of sources Quetzalcoatl is depicted as the inventor of agriculture, the arts, and the calendar and the restorer of human life through a cosmic dive into the underworld, Mictlan, where he outwits the lord of the dead, Mictlantecuhtli, to recover the bones of the ancestors. In this story, Mictlantecuhtli prepares a death trap for Quetzalcoatl. Quetzalcoatl falls to his death, but then he revives himself to escape Mictlan, meanwhile revitalizing the bones of the dead.

Quetzalcoatl also took the form of Ehécatl, the wind god. As depicted in Fray Bernardino de Sahagún's Historia general de las cosas de la Nueva España (compiled 15691582; also known as the Florentine Codex), Ehécatl announces the coming of the fertilizing rains and, in one episode, blows the sun into its cosmic orbit, thereby starting the fifth age. Furthermore, a number of sources reveal Quetzalcoatl's close association with the cycles and hierophany of Venus (Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli), one of the major astronomical bodies influencing ritual, architecture, and the calendar in Mesoamerica. The cycles of Venus were a central part of Quetzalcoatl's cult in the city of Chollolan (1001521 ce), and the Leyenda de los soles depicts the self-sacrifice of Ce Acatl Quetzalcoatl following the fall of the kingdom of Tollan, which ends with his heart rising into the sky to become the Morning Star.

Historically, the god Quetzalcoatl was the patron deity of the Toltec empire centered in Tula-Xicocotitlán, also called Tollan. Some scholars, such as H. B. Nicholson, have identified in the primary sources a sacred history of Tollan that relates the seven stages of the priest-king Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl's exemplary human career, including his miraculous birth after his mother swallowed a precious green stone, his teenage revenge of his father's murder, his training for the priesthood, his years as a warrior, his ascension to the throne, the fall of his capital, his flight from Tollan, and his promise to return one day in the future to restore the kingdom. The Tollan of the primary sources is a kingdom secure in agricultural resources, rich in artwork, ritual innovation, and technological excellence, and the birthplace of astronomy and of cardinally oriented ceremonial structures. This world of stability and creativity collapsed through the magical attacks of the magician, Tezcatlipoca, whose cult in some sources was said to depend on human sacrifice. The long-range significance of Quetzalcoatl's Tollan in Mesoamerican history is attested to by the identification of five other capitalsTeotihuacán, Xochicalco, Chichén Itzá, Chollolan, and Tenochtitlánas places replicating Tollan and the cult of Quetzalcoatl.

In Aztec Mexico, Quetzalcoatl was the patron god of the schools of higher learning, the calmecac s, and the model for the office of the high priesthood at the Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlán, in front of which his round temple was apparently located.

When Cortés arrived and began his assault on Tenochtitlán, a number of sources state unequivocally that Moctezuma Xocoytzin (Moctezuma II) identified him as Quetzalcoatl returning to reestablish his kingdom in Mexico.

Bibliography

Carrasco, Davíd. Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire: Myths and Prophecies in the Aztec Tradition. Chicago, 1982. This study places the evidence of Quetzalcoatl's multivalence within the context of urban structure and history in central Mesoamerica. It utilizes the history-of-religions approach to interpret the paradigmatic sacred authority of Quetzalcoatl and Tollan as the sources for empire and destruction in the Aztec capital.

López Austin, Alfredo. Hombre Dios: Religion y política en el mundo nahuatl. Mexico City, 1973. The best Spanish-language interpretation of the historical development in pre-Hispanic times of the mythic structure of Quetzalcoatl and its impact on paradigmatic leadership and political ideology in pre-Aztec and Aztec Mexico.

New Sources

Anaya, Rudolf A. Lords of the Dawn: The Legend of Quetzacoatl. Albuquerque, 1987.

Elzey, Wayne. "A Hill on a Land Surrounded by Water: An Aztec Story of Origin and Destiny." History of Religions 31 (1991): 105149.

Ritchlin, Sheri. "The Myth of Quetzacoatl." Parabola 26, no. 4 (2001): 6569.

DavÍd Carrasco (1987)

Revised Bibliography

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Quetzalcoatl

Quetzalcoatl

Quetzalcoatl, the name of one of the most important Mesoamerican deities, also borne as a title by a semilegendary Toltec ruler. Although at the time of the Conquest the two Quetzalcoatls were to some degree merged, it is convenient to distinguish them by designating the former as Ehecatl Quetzalcoatl and the latter as Topiltzín Quetzalcoatl of Tollán. "Quetzalcoatl," in Nahuatl, literally means "quetzal-feather (quetzalli) snake (coatl)," and the icon that symbolized the god consisted of a rattlesnake with scales covered by the long green feathers of the quetzal bird. The usual interpretation of this fusion of avian and reptilian features is a contrastive dualism signifying the union of sky and earth, embodying a creative concept. Quetzalcoatl does play a major demiurgic role in the central Mexican cosmogonies and, when additionally designated as Ehecatl (wind), expressed the fundamental fertility theme with particular emphasis on the fructifying aspect of the wind (in the sense of breath).

The feathered-serpent icon is quite ancient in Mesoamerica. It is strikingly manifested in Early Classic Teotihuacán in the sculptured friezes of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, datable to the beginning of our era, and in related painted images. It evolves through the subsequent Xochicalco, Cacaxtla, and Toltec iconographic traditions, particularly flowering in that of the Aztecs, where it frequently was depicted in relief and three-dimensional stone sculpture. When conceived as Ehecatl Quetzalcoatl, the deity wears a projecting mask covering the lower face through which he was believed to blow the wind. Quetzalcoatl was the special patron deity of the great mercantile and religious pilgrimage center of Cholollan (modern Cholula, Puebla). Deities analogous to Quetzalcoatl were present in the Mixteca of western Oaxaca (9 Wind), highland Guatemala (Gucumatz), and northern Yucatán (Kukulcan).

Topiltzín (Our Esteemed Lord) Quetzalcoatl of Tollán was featured prominently in the native histories of central Mexico. Ruling at Tollán (modern Tula, Hidalgo) during a golden age of Toltec power and dominance, he seems to have espoused the cult of the ancient fertility/wind/creator deity, Quetzalcoatl, whose name he bore as a title. He introduced various sacerdotal rituals, especially sanguinary auto-sacrifice, and was considered the archetype of the post-Toltec priesthood. Due to circumstances that are somewhat obscure but may have involved opposition to his religious doctrines, he was forced to abandon Tollán. He traveled east, to the Gulf Coast, where he either disappeared or died, his soul ascending to heaven, transformed into the planet Venus.

Topiltzín Quetzalcoatl was also considered to have established the basis for legitimate political power in western Mesoamerica—and, to some extent, in eastern Mesoamerica (highland Guatemala, northern Yucatán) as well. Nearly all of the ruling dynasts of the leading city-states of Late Postclassic central Mexico claimed political legitimacy through their connections with the royal house of Tollán. Motecuhzoma II, ninth member of the ruling dynasty of Mexico Tenochtitlán—master, with its allies, Tetzcoco and Tlacopán, of the most extensive polity in North America—claimed direct dynastic descent from Topiltzín Quetzalcoatl. The evidence for a widespread belief in Topiltzín Quetzalcoatl's eventual return to reclaim his royal dignity, which significantly influenced Motecuhzoma in his initial dealings with Hernán Cortés, is very strong.

See alsoCortés, Hernán; Quetzal; Toltecs.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Pedro Armillas, "La serpiente emplumada: Quetzalcoatl y Tlaloc," in Cuadernos Americanos 31, no. 1 (1947): 161-178.

Alfredo López-Austin, Hombre-Dios: Religión y política en el mundo Náhuatl (1973).

Gordon R. Willey, "Mesoamerican Civilization and the Idea of Transcendence," in Antiquity 50, nos. 199-200 (1976): 205-215.

H. B. Nicholson, "The Deity 9 Wind 'Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl' in the Mixteca Pictorials," in Journal of Latin American Lore 4, no. 1 (1978): 61-92, and "Ehecatl Quetzalcoatl vs. Topiltzín Quetzalcoatl of Tollán: A Problem in Mesoamerican Religion and History," in Actes du XLIIe Congrès international des américanistes, Paris, 2-9 septembre 1976, vol. 6 (1979), pp. 35-47.

Eloise Quiñones Keber, "The Aztec Image of Topiltzín Quetzalcoatl," in Smoke and Mist: Mesoamerican Studies in Memory of Thelma D. Sullivan, edited by J. Kathryn Josserand and Karen Dakin (1988), pp. 329-343.

Additional Bibliography

Carrasco, David. Quetzacoatl and the Irony of Empire: Myths and Prophecies in the Aztec Tradition. Rev. ed. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2000.

Florescano, Enrique. The Myth of Quetzalcoatl. Trans. Lysa Hochroth. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Nicholson, H. B. Topiltzin Quetzacoatl: The Once and Future Lord of the Toltecs. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2001.

Read, Kay Almere and Jason J. Gonzáles. Handbook of Mesoamerican Mythology. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2000.

Sugiyama, Saburo. Human Sacrifice, Militarism, and Rulership: Materialization of State Ideology at the Feathered Serpent Pyramid, Teotihuacan. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

                                   H. B. Nicholson

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Quetzalcoatl

Quetzalcoatl

Nationality/Culture

Aztec, Toltec, and Mayan

Pronunciation

keht-sahl-koh-AHT-l

Alternate Names

Kukulcan (Mayan)

Appears In

Mesoamerican oral myths, the Florentine Codex

Lineage

Son of Coatlicue

Character Overview

For thousands of years, Quetzalcoatl was one of the most important figures in the traditional mythologies of Mesoamerica, an area roughly corresponding to modern Central America. As a god, culture hero, or legendary ruler, Quetzalcoatl appeared in some of the region's most powerful and enduring stories. He represented life, health, and the arts and crafts of civilization, such as farming, cooking, and music.

The name Quetzalcoatl means “Feathered Serpent.” It brings together the magnificent green-plumed quetzal bird, symbolizing the heavens and the wind, and the snake, symbolizing the earth and fertility. QuetzalcoatPs name can also be translated as “precious twin.” In some myths, he had a twin brother named Xolotl (pronounced shoh-LOHT-1), who had a human body and the head of a dog or an ocelot, a spotted wildcat.

Major Myths

According to some accounts, Quetzalcoatl was the son of the earth goddess Coatlicue (pronounced koh-aht-LEE-kway). He and three brother gods created the sun , the heavens, and the earth. In the Aztec creation myth, QuetzalcoatPs conflicts with the god Tezcatlipoca (pronounced tehs-cah-tlee-POH-cah) brought about the creation and destruction of a series of four suns and earths, leading to the fifth sun and today's earth.

At first there were no people under the fifth sun. The inhabitants of the earlier worlds had died, and their bones littered Mictlan (pronounced MEEKT-lahn), the underworld or land of the dead. Quetzalcoatl and his twin, Xolotl, journeyed to Mictlan to find the bones, arousing the fury of the Death Lord. As he fled from the underworld, Quetzalcoatl dropped the bones, and they broke into pieces. He gathered up the pieces and took them to the earth goddess Cihuacoatl (pronounced shee-wah-koh-AHT-1), who ground them into flour. Quetzalcoatl moistened the flour with his own blood, which gave it life. Then he and Xolotl shaped the mixture into human forms and taught the new creatures how to reproduce themselves.

Besides creating humans, Quetzalcoatl also protected and helped them. Some myths say that he introduced the cultivation of maize, or corn , the staple food of Mexico. He did this by disguising himself as a black ant and stealing the precious grain from the red ants. He also taught people astronomy, calendar making, and various crafts, and was the favored god of merchants.

Quetzalcoatl's departure from his people was the work of his old enemy, Tezcatlipoca, who wanted people to make bloodier sacrifices than the flowers, jade, and butterflies they offered to Quetzalcoatl. Tezcatlipoca tricked Quetzalcoatl by getting him drunk and then holding up a mirror that showed Tezcatlipoca's cruel face. Believing that he was looking at his own imperfect image, Quetzalcoatl decided to leave the world and threw himself onto a funeral pyre, a large pile of burning wood used in some cultures to cremate a dead body. As his body burned, birds flew forth from the flames, and his heart went up into the heavens to become the morning and evening star known in modern times as the planet Venus. Another version of the myth states that Quetzalcoatl sailed east into the sea on a raft of serpents. Many Aztecs believed that he would come back to his people at the end of a fifty-two-year cycle. In the early 1500s, the Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortes took advantage of this belief by encouraging the people of Mexico to view him as the return of the hero-god Quetzalcoatl. According to some reports, this may have allowed Cortes to more easily subdue and conquer the local people.

Quetzalcoatl in Context

Quetzalcoatl occupied a central place in the pantheon (collection of recognized gods) of the Aztec people of central Mexico, but he dates back to a time long before the Aztecs. Images of the Feathered Serpent appear on a temple building in Teotihuacan, a Mexican archaeological site from the third century CE. These images are found together with images of rain and water, suggesting close ties between Quetzalcoatl and the god of rain and vegetation.

To the Toltecs, who flourished in the region from the 800s to the 1100s, Quetzalcoad was the deity of the morning and evening stars and the wind. When the Aztecs rose to power in the 1400s, they brought Quetzalcoatl into their pantheon and made him a culture hero, a bringer not just of life but also of civilization. These old myths merged with legends about a priest-king named Quetzalcoatl, possibly a real historical figure. Stories about a Toltec king named Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, famed as an enlightened and good ruler, may have contributed to the image of Quetzalcoatl as a culture hero. Later, as groups from central Mexico migrated into southern Mexico and the Yucatan peninsula and blended with the local Maya population, the Feathered Serpent took his place in the Mayan pantheon under the name Kukulcan (pronounced koo-kool-KAHN).

Key Themes and Symbols

One of the most important themes in the myth of Quetzalcoatl is the idea of a god as a friend and helper to humans. Aside from giving humans life, Quetzalcoatl taught humans all the basic skills they needed to function as a civilization, such as growing crops and learning the cycles of nature and the stars. He even stole corn from the ants so that humans could grow and eat it. Another theme common to Central American mythology is the idea of blood as life. Quetzalcoatl creates humans by mixing bone flour with his own blood, thereby giving them life. This theme is also seen in the idea of human sacrifice, which, according to myth, Quetzalcoatl does not condone.

Quetzalcoatl in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

Quetzalcoatl was portrayed in two ways. As the Feathered Serpent, he was a snake with wings or covered with feathers. He could also appear in human form as a warrior wearing a tall, cone-shaped crown or cap made of ocelot skin and a pendant fashioned of jade or a conch shell. The pendant, known as the “wind jewel,” symbolized one of QuetzalcoatPs other roles, that of Ehecatl, god of wind and movement. Buildings dedicated to this god were circular or cylindrical in shape to minimize their resistance to the wind.

In modern culture, Quetzalcoatl has appeared as a character in some form on television shows, such as Star Trek and The X-Files. The god has also appeared—with varying degrees of faithfulness to the myth—in several video games, including Final Fantasy VIII and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. The god also lent his name to a type of flying dinosaur called a pterosaur, which was officially named Quetzalcoatlus.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

Carlos Fuentes, one of modern Mexico's leading writers, compares Quetzalcoatl with the mythic figures Prometheus, Odysseus , and Moses. All three had to leave their cultures, but obtained gifts or wisdom that renewed those cultures. Using your library, the Internet, or other available resources, research these important figures. What similarities do you see between them and Quetzalcoatl? What are the main differences?

SEE ALSO Aztec Mythology; Coatlicue; Huitzilopochtli; Mayan Mythology; Tezcatlipoca

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