Quetzalcoatl: Man or Myth?

Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, was a major deity of ancient Mexico. This was the god of the morning and evening star for the Toltecs, and later, the god of gentle learning, philosophy, and culture to the Aztecs. Quetzalcoatl was especially revered in places where priests and nobility were educated. He was also identified with the planet Venus, and was a symbol of death and resurrection.

Legend says that Quetzalcoatl was tricked and humiliated by his rival, Tezcatlipoca, and either burned himself on a pyre and emerged as the planet Venus, or embarked on a raft made of snakes and disappeared into the Atlantic horizon. Another myth described Quetzalcoatl as a white priest-king, who would someday return from the east.

Quetzalcoatl may also have been a historic figure. He is described in legends as fair-skinned, with a long beard and ruddy complexion — very different from the native people. It is thought that he brought civilization, the calendar, and knowledge of astronomy, agriculture, healing, and social organization to an extensive region, and left on a boat promising to return someday.

Quetzalcoatl was known by Toltecs and Aztecs.

The Aztecs may have believed that the explorer Hernando Cortés and the Spanish came as the realization of the Quetzalcoatl prophecy to return, and were not prepared to defend themselves against the ensuing conquest. The Aztec culture, temples, and secrets of science and spirit were quickly destroyed by the invaders and replaced by a new dream from a different land.

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