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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Quetzalcoatl #atozchallenge

Q - Quetzalcoatl is probably one of the most familiar names in Meso-American mythology. We might mangle the pronunciation some (read: most of the time), but we do recognize the name!

Quetzalcoatl, the feathered-serpent God, was a huge part of the Meso-American belief system, with many different tribes of people worshiping him over a long period of time.

Artwork depicting the important role of Quetzalcoatl has been found in Nahua, Toltec, Mayan, and Aztec civilizations. Oddly enough, Quetzalcoatl has even made his appearance in Mormon belief as well, with the third president of the LDS Church declaring that Quetzalcoatl was none other than Jesus himself.

Like Bacchus in Rome and Horus in Egypt, Jesus and Quetzalcoatl certainly have a lot in common. Quetzalcoatl is the god of truth, justice, knowledge and the wind. He is Lord of the Dawn, the patron of priests, inventor of books, and the creator of the people in the Age of the Fifth Sun. He was born of a virgin, and rose from the dead to become the Morning Star.

While very few Meso-American groups agreed on exactly where he came from, most agreed that his mother was the virgin Chimalman. Like so much else, how he came to be created within her varies greatly from one tribe to another. In one myth, for instance, she swallowed an emerald and he popped out. In another, Mixcoatl hit her in the stomach with an arrow, and Quetzalcoatl was born nine months later.

In another story, Quetzalcoatl's mother was Coatlicue, who birthed all the stars of the Milky Way. In another, he was one of the guardians of the four cardinal directions, birthed by Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl. Yet another says he was the son of Mixcoatl and Xochiquetzal.

These variations can be attributed in part to the cultural differences between each civilization. In the Teotihuacan civilization, Quetzalcoatl was a peaceful vegetation god. At that time, he wasn't associated with human sacrificed. When the Nahua migrated from the north several centuries later, however, they brought their own beliefs with them, including a belief in sacrifice. Quetzalcoatl the vegetation god quickly became Quetzalcoatl the god of the morning star who required sacrifice.

In a throwback to the Neolithic revolution (during which religious hierarchy began to more closely resemble the newly found social and political hierarchy that came with the advent of farming and villages), that same shift of belief is present in a lot of different cultures and mythologies. As groups of people merge, one set of beliefs is eventually replaced by the beliefs of the strongest, or the disparate beliefs are blended together until a new system emerges in which aspects of each cultures' belief can be found.

Either way, Quetzalcoatl underwent a lot of changes as each new civilization arose, but still somehow managed to stick around in one form or another for a very long time. Today, traces of him can be found in many modern religions as well. Including, as I mentioned above, Mormonism

Another interesting note before I shut up.... The second coming of Quetzalcoatl was closely associated with the year 1519. So much so, in fact, that when Cortes landed, the Aztec people may have viewed him as Quetzalcoatl himself. According to the Florentine Codex, this particular belief led to the fall of the Aztec Empire to Cortes and the Conquistadors when Montezuma offered Cortes his throne. Whether or not that's true is open for interpretation, but it's an incredibly fascinating theory, especially given the similarities between Quetzalcoatl and Jesus.

I could go on and on about Quetzalcoatl, but I'll shush now. :)


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  1. Fascinating research! I know who to come to for mythological references. Amazing! - Shelina

  2. I learn something new everyday in the A to Z. Interesting Post.

  3. Very interesting, I've certainly seen lots of art work with him, but never knew the stories. Fascinating that The Mormons aligned with it. Then again, they are "out there".
    Sandy at Traveling Suitcase


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