The Feathered Serpent Quetzalcoatl

Before consolidating as a strong empire, Aztecs learned important aspects from their neighbors, like worshiping god Quetzalcoatl. They had a primitive religion and their rituals included human sacrifices to Huitzilopochtli, bloodthirsty god associate

In order to gain access to water and benefits, Aztecs were given permission to settle in a small islet infested with snakes. Eventually, they founded the capital, Tenochtitlan. Since then, Aztecs conveniently adopted a receptive attitude towards their neighbors. They learned their habits, beliefs, and purposes, which allowed them to become an empire in the long run, dominating them through war.

The cultural wealth they acquired included a sophisticated religion in which the central figure was Quetzalcoatl, which means feathered snake. For Mesoamericans the "quetzal" was a symbol of the divine realm and the snake was a representation of earthly things. It is deducted, thus, that figures of Quetzalcoatl constituted a kind of connection between earth and heaven.

By the time Aztecs were introduced to the cult, Quetzalcoatl was a very complex deity. Its cult had gone through many modifications and additions. The origin of rituals is uncertain and remote. However, it has been established that Teotihuacans had him as a secondary god 200 years B.C. His image evolved to become the main god and, by 700 A.D., kings of Xochicalco ruled in his name. Heroic narrations of one of them, Topiltzin, added some epic seasoning to the myth.

Quetzalcoatl is associated to the East, white color, the morning star (Venus), and to winds that provoke rain. People believed that he was the creator of the Fifth Sun or fifth civilization; and that he had taught man agriculture, science, and arts. Quetzalcoatl even forbid human sacrifices. Above all, he was an example of purity, honesty, and nobility to the extent that he was so ashamed of having got drunk by means of a scam, that he decided to exiled himself.

Perhaps what led Aztecs to pay detailed attention to this important god, was that he said he would return at the end of the Fifth Sun to recover the land that people had conquered after so much effort. At the arrival of white Spanish men led by Cortez, their presence was misinterpreted as the return of Quetzalcoatl. This contributed to a rather perplexed and unintelligible attitude of Aztec people towards the new comers.