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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

THE MYTH OF QUETZALCOATL

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Of the many gods [of the pre-Spanish era in the Americas], Quetzalcoatl stands out alone as the most warmly human, divinely inspired, and mysteriously unknown.
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Quetzalcoatl, says Spinden, was "the greatest figure
in the ancient history of the New World."  Writes Sejourne,
"His image, the plumed serpent, had for pre-Columbian peoples the same evocative force as has the Crucifix for Christianity."
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Certainly the myth of the god who helped to create
the Fifth Sun and gave it movement, who as a white, bearded, culture-hero appeared among his people, taught them the arts of civilization and founded their religion, and then disappeared, was the basic religious theme common to all Mesoamerica.
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Quetzalcoatl's Nahuatl name derives from two words:
quetzal - a rare, brilliantly green bird found only in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala; and coatl - serpent; literally "the plumed serpent."  But coatl, says Nicholson, is a combination of the generic Maya term co, for serpent, and the Nahuatl word atl, for water.  Caso states that quetzal feathers were a symbol of something precious and coatl also means "twin brother," so that Quetzalcoatl may also be translated as the "Precious Twin," another of his names which may also allude to the fact that the morning and evening stars are the same planet, Venus.
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  Among the Nahuas he was known as Quetzalcoatl,
 the Plumed Serpent, Lord of the Land of the Dead, Ehecatl, the God of Wind, and the personification of the planet Venus, the Lord of Dawn.  He is the god of life and fertility.  He is the creator of man, for whom he created agriculture, and to whom he gave the calendar.  He gave mankind maize corn, having stolen kernels of corn by changing into an ant, and stealing them from the ants that had hidden them.  He is worshipped by many Mexican and Central American cultures, including the Aztecs and the Maya.  He is the patron of priests and twins, being a twin god himself.
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There are two principal myths about Quetzalcoatl in the
Codice Chimalpopoca.  According to the one recorded by Sahagun, he was the ruler of the Toltec capital of Tollan.  Deposed because he was opposed to human sacrifice which was upheld by the followers of Tezcatlipoca, he fled to the east coast and sailed away on a raft of snakes after prophesying his return in the year of his birth, Ce Acatl.  This is the most common myth about him and the reason that Cortes was hailed as the returning Quetzalcoatl when he arrived in the year of the god's prophesied return.  This is the myth so dramatically illustrated by the famous mural paintings of Diego Rivera.  It is still believed by thousands of Indians in Mesoamerica; and his prophesied return from across the great salt water in the direction of the rising sun, under the Hopi name of Pahana (from Pasu - Salt Water), is still anticipated by the Hopis of Arizona.  This may illustrate the old belief that Latin America will fulfill her true destiny only when the plumed serpent learns to fly.
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Who the original Quetzalcoatl was is not known. 
Volumes of conjectures have been written in attempts to identify him as an actual person: an errant Norseman, the Irish St. Brendan, a Buddhist priest from the Near East or from China as postulated by Mertz, St. Thomas or St. Paul.  The early Spanish historians Torquemada and Clavigero describe him as a man white-skinned, of ruddy complexion, with a long beard, clothed in black linen robes.  He is reported to have appeared on the west coast of Mexico, at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, on the east coast at the mouth of the Panuco, also in South America.
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Attempts have been made to link him with concepts in ancient Greece and Egypt.  He may have been indigenous, an early religious concept originating on the east coast of Mexico as suggested by Caso; elaborately carved "apotheosis" statues of him dating from about A.D. 1000 have been found among the Huastecs on the northern Gulf coast.
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How many Quatzalcoatls there were!  Their very number refutes all attempts to identify him as a legendary or semi-historical personage.  One can only conclude that Quatzalcoatl was an archetypal figure which first emerged into consciousness at Teotihuacan, where he was given full form and meaning, and whose teachings virtually constituted the religion of the vast Teotihuacan empire and were spread throughout all Mesoamerica.
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Edited from MEXICO MYSTIQUE - The Coming
Sixth World of Consciousness
by Frank Waters
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