10 Things You Didn’t Know About Quetzalcoatl

Among the ranks of Mesoamerican deities, Quetzalcoatl has undoubtedly undergone the most transformations. The god was originally revered as a benevolent creator god, and his mythology spread throughout Mexico and other cultures throughout Central America. In some versions of his story, he is promised that he will be transformed into a feathered serpent when he crosses the Great Waters. But once in the new world, and despite things going well for him at first, Tezcatlipoca turned against him. It caused many disasters to occur until Quetzalcoatl eventually understood his fate and agreed to sacrifice himself so that humanity would have maize and other crops.

Read on to learn 10 things about Quetzalcoatl that not everyone knows.

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Image by Rodrigo de la torre from Pixabay

1. Quetzalcoatl is a deity in Mesoamerican mythology and is mentioned in the Popol Vuh – one of the primary sources for Mesoamerican culture, which priests wrote from Tula. Quetzalcoatl is also mentioned in a long narrative found in the Florentine Codex, which is less canonical but was recorded by Spanish Conquistadors.  

In the Popol Vuh, Quetzalcoatl Aztec God is described as a deity who created himself and his twin brother, Xolotl, and then led humanity towards prosperity. Specifically, the first human couple was created from maize ground into a dough that Quetzalcoatl mixed with his own blood. 

2. The god was worshipped by nobles and priests across the region, especially during the Toltec era (during which he was portrayed as a bearded man) – when he was seen as a benevolent god and creator of humankind. Quetzalcoatl later took on more warlike characteristics after the fall of Tula, and became the patron god of the Aztecs during their conquest and rule over Central America.

The nobles and priests of the Aztecs, such as Hernan Cortez and the Spanish clergy who recorded the “Codex Chimalpopoca”, were not aware of this shift in Quetzalcoatl’s mythology – which contributed to them portraying him as a bloodthirsty god that demanded human sacrifice. 

3. His name means “feathered serpent” in Nahuatl, but he’s also associated with “plumed serpent”, “long-nosed snake spirit”, etcetera. These associations are all reflected in the various origin stories of the god.

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He also has numerological associations with zero (for instance, a number corresponding to zero on the calendar that he is associated with), gold, and the planet Venus.

4. Quetzalcoatl knows how to speak nearly every language on Earth because he created them; this has led some scholars to believe that multiple deities with similar names throughout history are not the same deity. This is also an idea that has been explored in science fiction – like the Doctor Who episode “The Pirate Planet”. Quetzalcoatl’s name was also used by a character from the anime series Titan A.E.

Although there may exist multiple deities with similar names throughout history who are not the same deity, there is no evidence that this was the case with Quetzalcoatl.

5. He is a creator god because he helped people gain civilization; however, he was also a god who punished those who were thought to have committed certain crimes. Like all Mesoamerican deities, he is at the same time both creative and destructive.

Quetzalcoatl is the god who created sacrifice, and sacrifices were made to him, but he is also the god of death because it is believed that he will return someday, bringing with him a new era of existence.

6. It is possible that Quetzalcoatl might have been responsible for the Olmecs. This is thanks to a mural found at the La Venta site, which has been dated to 1100 B.C. The mural depicts a feathered serpent, and scholars believe that this could possibly be an image of the god Quetzalcoatl. 

There is also the possibility that he was responsible for the Maya because their “Long Count” calendar begins on August 11th of 3114 B.C., which is believed by many to be the year in which Quetzalcoatl was born.

7.  He may have been the inspiration for the Aztec creation myth of Xiuhtecuhtli, representing such as a creator god who sacrificed himself for the benefit of mankind. A similar concept is found in some Native American cultures, such as the Ojibwa and the Lakota people, both of which believe that the creator god (not necessarily the same as Quetzalcoatl) sacrificed himself to create all things.

8. He was one of four gods who made up the Four-Corners-Shrine which was located in Tula. He is also associated with the city of Teotihuacan and the Pyramid of the Sun. On top of one of the pyramids in Mexico City (the Templo Mayor), there is a carving which has been called “Quetzalcoatl” yet scholars do not believe it is an accurate depiction of him.

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9. The Aztec depiction of Quetzalcoatl shows a bearded man wearing a feathered serpent on his head. This suggests that this is not the same deity as the god who visited the Toltecs. However, it is possible that the Aztec people adopted the god after he had been abandoned by their predecessors.

10. The Aztecs began to identify Quetzalcoatl with Jesus Christ due to the Spanish “Conquest” of the Americas. This occurred because friars taught them that Jesus Christ was a historical figure and because Quetzalcoatl’s return was associated with Christianity by virtue of his name and association with Christianity in general (i.e. Saint Thomas, etc.).

The deity Quetzalcoatl has undergone many transformations to fit the needs of different cultures – from a benevolent creator god who taught people “civilized” ways to how he is portrayed as the bloodthirsty Aztec god of war. In the end, it seems that Quetzalcoatl isn’t really a single god, but rather many different beings with similar attributes.

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