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Quetzalcoatl

god, deity, gods, toltecs, wind, winds, tula, wealth, aztecs and earth

QUETZALCOATL, ka-tal-kwatl, the Mexican (Fair God," is a nature deity trans formed into a great national t od and the founder of a priesthood. As he is a primitive deity the legendary lore connected with him assumes many forms. He is the god of the winds who, driving the clouds before him, causes the moisture to descend upon the earth. He thus becomes the deity of the beneficial influence of the air, of medicines and of the healing art. These functions and attributes made him the god of fertility. As originally all wealth came from the fertility of the soil Quetzalcoatl became the god of wealth and of all activities that produce wealth or increase it. Thus he became the patron of artisans, farmers, planters, gardeners and workers of the soil generally, of stone engravers, cutters. and builders and of gold and silversmiths and other workers in metals. Like the wind gods of other countries, he was the patron of music and the messenger of the higher gods. He was the supreme culture deity of the Toltecs and as such the revealer of all learning and the inventor and introducer of the useful arts, among them, the invention of writing and the making of books. He organized the religious ceremonies and rituals of the Toltecs and re vealed to them the knowledge of astronomy and astrology. To him barren women prayed that they might be blessed with children and the agriculturist beseeched him that he might look with favor upon his fields. He it was who swept the sky clean for the coming of the tlaloques or rain gods. He was the patron of hunters, messengers, runners and of sports, and a temple devoted to his worship was always found at the entrance to the Aztec and Maya gymnasiums or courts where the native ball games were held. He was called the °Cloud Pusher') because, in his capacity as the wind, he drove them before him; as the bestower of all wealth he was the god of gaming and for the same reason thieves prayed to him, and under various epithets, he was the deity of fishermen. He made the winds to blow and he calmed them, and for this reason he was invoked in periods of storm or of prolonged calm. He divided the year into seasons, in vented the calendar and named the mountains, lakes, capes, bays, rivers and other prominent features of nature. He was the special patron of feather work, painting and sculpture, and all buried treasure, demented people and trav elers were under his special protection. In some of the legends he is represented as the creator of the first man. All these attributes caused him to be looked upon as the special bestower of happiness. He was called Ehecatl, the personified air; Yolcuatl, the rattlesnake; Tohil, the rumbler, and Huemac, he of the big or strong hands (probably significant of his protection of the building and mechanical arts). He was addressed as lord of the four winds, lord of the eastern light, son of tin White Cloud, serpent and the Morning Star. The most beautiful of singing birds accompanied him, and when he walked he shook fire from his sandals (emblematic of the lightning), and it thus became the property of mankind.

Quetzalcoatl was the tribal god of the Toltecs. He and Huilzilopochtli, the Aztec war god, Tezcatlipoca, the Texcocan tribal deity, and Camaxtli, the Tlaxcalteca tribal divinity were popularly thought by the Aztecs to have been brothers, and there is good reason to be lieve that they were all tribal variants of the same mythological culture hero and god of the wind. The Tlaxcalans satisfied their own local pride by representing Quetzalcoatl to be the son of Camaxtli. The Otomi identified him with their god of hunting who seems to have been their supreme deity. Quetzalcoatl has been identified by later investigators with almost every nature deity, yet the earlier writers show that the natives regarded him as a wind god or the chief of the wind gods and the presiding deity of the air, and as such he was symbolized by the quetzal or royal bird, the cloud symbol; the snake, emblematic of the whirling wind;

. the flint, the material sign of the thunderbolt, and the cross, emblematic of the four regions of the earth from which came the four winds, and in a secondary sense, symbolical of his con nection with the deities of moisture and the gods of fertility. Quetzalcoatl was active be fore the creation of man in which he seems to have taken a prominent part. Sahagun says that to him was assigned the task of sacrificing the other primal gods at Teotihuacan, on the occasion of the creation of the sun. This places him very far back in the antiquity of legendary lore. By the Toltecs and the Aztecs alike he was regarded as one of the oldest of the gods. At Tula his worship was developed to a high degree of ritual and ceremony, and it would seem that the Toltec sovereign was his repre sentative upon earth and as such known as the Quetzalcoatl, a name used only in his religious capacity, and which must, therefore, be re garded simply as a title, since the king used his state name for all relationships outside the pontifical. This has caused a great deal of confusion, which began among the Toltecs and Aztecs themselves who represented the god as coming to the earth from the bright land of the sun and the mythical Tlapallan and teach ing the people all the arts and sciences. This myth was elaborated by the ruling class who, as his representative, claimed descent from him. Thus the kings of Tula are sometimes known by their pontifical and sometimes by their executive names, as the story related was supposed, by the narrator, to be ecclesiastical or secular.

According to the myth, Quetzalcoatl ap peared in the east from over the sea with a body of priestly attendants and made his way to the uplands of Mexico where tradition credits him with having preached the doctrines of peace in the Toltec capital of Tula, from which he was driven out by the wiles of Tez catlipoca, god of the night winds. From Tula he went to Cholula where he remained 20 years teaching the arts and sciences and preach ing peace. From Cholula he went to Coat zacoalcos (Puerto Mexico), from whence he sailed eastward back to Tlapallan on a raft or boat of serpents. He left behind him four of his most trusted followers who were com missioned by him to divide the land of Cholula among them and to rule it in his stead, they and their descendants, until his promised re turn. The return of Quetzalcoatl was firmly believed in by Toltecs, Aztecs, Zapotecas and Mixtecas alike, and on the appearance of the Spaniards off the coast of Mexico, the belief was general that they were the Fair God and his attendants come back to claim the sov ereignty of the land. This belief prevented the superstitious Moctezuma II from taking ener getic measures against the conqueror, Cortes, and aided the latter very materially in his con quest of the Aztec empire.

The worship of Quetzalcoatl, under various names having the same signification, was com mon in Yucatan, Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guate mala where magnificent temples were erected to him. There his cult shaped and ennobled the architecture of pre-Columbian days as no where else in America. Everywhere through out this land is the trail of the °plumed ser pent,) his most characteristic sign and a literal rendering into English of his name. See MEXT-MYTHOLOGY ; TOLTEC ; MAYA; UXMAL; CHICHEN ITZA ; TULA ; PALENQUE.