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Exploring the Quetzalcoatl Myth

By Edited Jul 9, 2016 4 6

The Plumed Serpent Stories


Mesoamerican civilizations not only used astronomy as a sacred science, their deities also were associated with mythological, metaphysical, sacred prophecy. Quetzalcoatl (the feathered serpent) has been traced back to the Toltec, Mayan and Aztec cultures. Legend has it that he was a god who ruled the city of Tollan - he was a Toltec ruler by the names Topiltzin Ce Acatl Quetzalcoatl. Historians debate these stories, yet the famed god is creating an interest of a real return come December 21st, 2012. That date is the end of the Mayan calendar, often thought to be interpreted as the end of the world. A further research into this Quetzalcoatl myth reveals that the calender really may signify the end of an evolutionary cycle that is going to happen in conjunction with the winter solstice 2012.

According to acclaimed herpetologist, D. Bruce Means, the Toltecs imposed their religion on the Mayans and kept on expanding into the northern Yucatan. Original Chichen Itza ruins did not have any snake art. Later, the buildings iconography is dominated by the plumed serpent the Mayans called "Kukulcan." This was after the Toltecs had introduced Quetzalcoatl to them. Means says the plumed snake art is an obvious rattlesnake, but with feathers instead of diamonds on the body. He hadn't seen any rattlesnakes in the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan and was wondering what inspired the mythology. Years later he returned to the area for a Yucatan snake hunt. His exciting journey unfolds in the inspection of 5 Crotalus tzabcan rattlesnakes. There is little known about these snakes, yet he concedes that the Kukulcan iconography at Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Mayapan may have been influenced by the blood red diamond pattern on the C. tzabcan species he investigated. That is the only non-fiction connection to the serpent myth that I have found.

Then of course, there is the beautiful Quetzal, a sacred bird still alive although endangered, found in the Central American cloud forest. The bird is a bit larger than a magpie, and weighs just under a half pound. The male quetzal has 4 iridescent tail feathers measuring 38 inches long. A crown of short soft green feathers puffed up or slicked down are on his head. His and her (the female quetzal) head, chest, upper wings, and back are covered with shimmering green feathers. The male belly is bright red, and under the 4 trailing feathers the body is white. I find it remarkable to picture the male quetzal flying up from a tree branch and then diving into the forest. One might see it as a feathered serpent (remember the long tail feathers).

The treasured quetzal feathers were valued as highly as gold in those Mesoamerican cultures. It was considered a crime punishable by death if one was caught killing a quetzal. Many traders learned how to capture the bird, pluck the feathers, and let it go. No harm was done in this because the bird grows a set of new feathers yearly. The feather traders spread the legend of the snake bird, the brilliant green feathered serpent who lived in the clouds and dove into the forest. Beautiful items were created from the feathers and only the ruling class were allowed to wear the quetzal feathers.



The word "quetzal" translates a bird and the word "coatl"as serpent. It is as if the snake invader stands for so many opposites in the myths. Heaven and earth,and light and dark being the most prominent. One archaeologist suggests the deity was a symbol of fertility and internal politics of the Teotihuacan empire that contrasted with the War Serpent deity, thus symbolizing their military expansion. Other beliefs are of the rain god, thunder and lightning god, maize god, creator and destructor of the cosmos mythology, and some cultures believed he had a twin. Xolotl, his twin, was considered the god of Venus (the evening star) and Quetzalcoatl the god of the morning star. A definite association comes up with Venus which brings me to the current mythology about the return of this god.

Most all gods that have graced the human race are said to return someday. It was no different with Quetzalcoatl. Maybe it is such a present prophecy because of all the problems that can be interpreted as the end of the world coming. Just think, we have; species extinction, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, population over-growth, global warming, and resource over-consumption brought to our attention daily. Of course there is going to be huge interest in the return of gods. Since the Mayan calendar collapses this year the mythical provence of the Mayan god offers a greater worldview than the typical dismissal of psychic, metaphysical or just strange phenomena and archetypes to broaden and change perceptions.

The Venus association is this. "Every 243 years, Venus passes between the Earth and the Sun twice in eight years - a pair of 'Venus transits,' visible to the naked eye." One has occurred on June 8, 2004 and the next is supposed to happen June 6, 2012. The Mayan stargazers were into the cycles of Venus and one scholar proposes that the Venus transits directly relate to the prophecies of Quetzalcoatl's return. If this is a greater unfolding of consciousness as suggested by the calendar, then perhaps a galactic concordance isn't so far-out. Remember the Harmonic Convergence? It happened during this time 17 years ago, and the parallel has to do with consciousness. The happening is about the return of conscious energies (Christ and Quetzalcoatl), and may be a giant leap for mankind.

One doesn't have to look at this as all doom and gloom or apocalyptic in a miserable deathly gallows way. Transmute the fear to perceive it as the  end of an evolutionary cycle and a quantum shift into a greater dimension where new paradigms of peace create the calendar. The mythical beast may even work out to the 666 math in the Mayan calendar, yet it doesn't have to connect with un-sacred order. The light energy (Quetzalcoatl is known as the god of light) that transcends on earth during June 6th-8th may shed some balance to the present left brain dominance on earth, maybe some enlightenment from the East.


Mar 14, 2012 4:31pm
Thank you for a very interesting article about Quetzalcoatl. Your article is a 'brain feeder' to the left brain as well as the right brain :)
Mar 15, 2012 11:28pm
H'mmm, does that make me a well balanced writer? Thanks for commenting!
Mar 23, 2012 4:39am
I just had to read an article with Quetzalcoatl in the title! I like new words, especially if I cannot even fathom a guess as to their meaning. Very interesting and informative article on a subject matter I knew so little about beforehand.
Mar 26, 2012 10:57am
So glad you enjoyed it!
Apr 27, 2012 6:47pm
Very interesting article, from start to finish! I wish I could pronounce Quetzalcoatl... all of the ancient Mesoamerican languages seem so alien. What do you think will happen at the end of 2012? Do you think it has anything to do with the election?
Apr 28, 2012 10:41am
My thoughts about what will happen are more focused on now, in 2012. I feel it is a gateway of sorts to possible DNA change and a higher consciousness, ascension, evolution, a remembering of why we are here. The election is actually allowing us to look in the mirror a bit more, and continually ask, what really matters?

Thanks for your comment, and I have had a hard time pronouncing the name, too!
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  1. Daniel Pinchbeck 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. New York: Penguin Group, 2006.
  2. D. Bruce Means Stalking the Plumed Serpent and other adventures in herpetology. Sarasota: Pineapple Press, 2008.
  3. Dorothy Hinshaw Patent Quetzal. New York: Morrow Junior Books, 1996.
  4. "Quetzalcoatl." Crystalinks. 3/03/2012 <Web >

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