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Quetzal

feathers, mexico, name, god, quetzalcoatl, bird and races

QUETZAL, lat-sal', a very beautiful bird of the trogon (q.v.) family (Pharomarcus ma: cinno), intimately connected with the mythol ogy and history of the Maya, Quiche and Nahuatl races of Mexico, Yucatan and Guate mala. The name of the bird in Aztec is de rived from its bright green color. Its tail feathers, which are from two to three feet long, were used as decorations for priests of the Toltec god Quetzalcoatl and for people of noble birth. So much was it used in this con nection and so stringent were the restrictions placed upon its use by persons other than those entitled to wear it, that the word came to have the sense of royal and sacred in the Aztec lan guage. The Yucatecan king of Mayapam wore for a crown a plain golden circle sun. mounted with a plume of quetzal feathers. Only the king and the high nobles could wear these feathers which were used to mark very exalted rank in Mayapam, and such store was placed by the quetzal that the of death was provided for any one killing one or wearing or having quetzal feathers in his pos session. The plumage of the quetzal was com monly used as a distinctive badge of the Toltec god of the air, Quetzalcoatl (q.v.), the in congruous parts of whose compound name (quetzal-coatl, or feathered serpent) can only be properly explained when the fact is kept in mind that °quetzal" came to be used as the badge of royalty or high rank in both men and deities. The shield and the mace or baton of authority of Huixtocihuatl, were orna mented with quetzal feathers, and the long tail feathers of this bird were sculptured on stone in Yucatan, southern Mexico and Guatemala as the symbolical representation of the Maya and Quiche culture gods. Quetzalcoatl, the 'Fair God,' is presented in the form of a coiled serpent ornamented with feathers resembling those of the quetzal. Several stone effigies of him in this form are preserved in the National Museum of Mexico and others have been dis covered in the ruins of ancient cities all the way from Central Mexico to Guatemala. Quetzal feathers were used as decorations for the armor of Mexican nobles in preconquest days and in the making of the wonderful feather pictures of the Aztecs and other cultured races of Mexico, and also in the manu facture of wall tapestries whose beauty brought unstinted praise from the Spanish conquerors.

The palaces and temples of the Toltecs and the magnificent new palace of Montezuma H were decorated with these brilliant feather hangings. But all work of whatever class into which the feathers of the quetzal entered was reserved for the use of the king, the nobles, the statues of the gods and the temples. It has been said that the trail of the serpent (the most graphic symbol of the god of the air) is over all Mexico, but wherever the serpent is sym bolically present the quetzal is its inseparable companion. In recognition of the important part played by the ckuetzal in the religion, his tory and political hfe of the cultured races of Mexico and Central America, it has been made the central figure in the modern coat of arms of Guatemala.

The word quetzal seems to have been used in compounds as a contraction for Quetzal coati; and the name of one of the Chichimeca rulers given as Quetzal, which is probably a contraction of his ecclesiastical title as head of the state religion. All accounts of the quetzal represent it as a very shy and retiring bird inhabiting thick forests where it is rarely seen. It is not probable, therefore, that the numerous towns and localities bearing its name should have been named from its presence there. It is more likely that in each of the places so named there was a shrine of the air god, Quetzalcoatl. The presence of names begin ning with quetzal far down into Guatemala is an evidence of Nahua culture in these regions and would seem to indicate the subjection of them by the Aztecs or other Nahua races since almost always the compound name beginning with quetzal is Nahuatl. Thus Quetzalpan is of the quetzal"; Quetzalteuhtli "the Lord Quetzal" ; Quetzalatl, the "Quetzal River" or water; Quetzalpopoca, the "place of the smoky quetzal)); Quetzaltcpec, the "hill of the Quetzal p; Quetzalxochitzin, composed of quetzal, xochitl (flower), tzin (princess), the °Quetzal—Flour—Princess"; the full name of Xochitl, the traditional discoverer of pulque, the national drink of Mexico. It would seem that among the collection of birds in the royal aviary or place of Montezuma II in Mexico City, the quetzal was successfully raised. See TitocoN; QUETZALCOATL.