Mexico City◇3. Feathered Serpent

The idea of QuetzalCóatl and its return is a great part of the beliefs of people of Mexico. Let’s discover who was QuetzalCóatl, why was he important and how you can spot it while in Mexico.

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You might remember that the Valley of Mexico is surrounded by mountains with two prominent volcanos: Iztaccíhuatl (White Woman) and Popocatépetl (Smoking Mountain), with Popocatépetl is being the most active volcano in Mexico. The valley is also prone to strong earthquakes due to its location on the edges of three colliding tectonic plates. No wonder that the valley’s tribes had complex religious beliefs, worshipping large pantheon of gods. Their Earth Goddess, symbol of the creation and distraction, was represented as a Serpent (Cóatl). With all that ground trembling, you might believe that you are living on an enormous snake.

Earth Goddess, the Serpent or Cóatl

Aztecs were the last ones to migrate into the Valley of Mexico about 750 years ago. While wandering around the valley looking for a place to settle, they discovered that all tribes still practice the ancient codices of Toltecs, the books of laws that survived after the collapse of the Toltec civilization roughly 500 years ago. Strangely, in today multi-ethnic mosaic of 62 Aboriginal peoples of the nation of Mexico, not one is of Toltec. If they were people with a major culture, they should be able to survive. It is because the Toltec have never been about people or culture. The Toltec were always about a wisdom, a way of life, a religion of sort.

“Tolteca” was a word for a wise man. There were Olmec Toltec and Maya Toltec. There were Toltec in every culture, who studied energy around themselves and taught harmony and balance. Conquest and cultural unity were not part of Toltec way of life, as it did not set restrictions on languages, religious manifestations, architecture, art, food or clothing. The Toltec allowed all peoples to be different, while only aligning their moral values and principles.

Toltec Taught Harmony and Balance

Well, more than a thousand years ago Toltec already practiced the white magic of healing and studied such non-materialistic concepts as freedom and suppression, fear and envy. They taught peace, promoted no conflicts or weapon development. No new weapons were developed besides the bow and the arrow, the spear and the shield, the mallet and the sling that existed since prehistory. It is believed that the Toltec discovered medicine, designed the calendar system, and even created the Nahuatl language.

The Toltec highest teacher was virtuous and spiritual Quetzal (Feathered) Cóatl (Serpent). His upper body symbolizes the sky, and the spirit, represented by the Quetzal, a bird that flies high. His low body symbolizes the earth, and the matter, represented by Cóatl, a serpent. He was the representation of his teaching – the unity and balance between spirit and matter. Feathered Serpent had his university set in town of Cholula, the heart of the Tolmec empire. People from all over Mexico including the Mayan, the Oaxacans, the Purépechas, the Tlaxcaltecas and the Chichimeca came to study there.

Universe as the Unity of Matter (Serpent) and Spirit (Hummingbird)

One day, Feathered Serpent abandoned his people. The legend tells us that due to increased seismic activity in the region, people became scared and some demanded human sacrifices to appease the gods. The bloody ritual of human sacrifices was prohibited by Feathered Serpent. So, he left promising to return and restore harmony and balance of the land in the year One Cane. With his departure, Toltec knowledge centers were destroyed. Some codices survived, but without guidance in deciphering the teaching, the knowledge became somewhat lost and degraded. With time, ruling families took more control, the lands were divided, which brought conflicts and wars.

QuetzalCóatl or Feathered Serpent Imagined by Aztec

The year One Cane repeats every 52 years. Since Feathered Serpent departure, people of Mexica were waiting for him to return. For them, QuetzalCóatl represents the hopes for a brighter future, when finally everything that is wrong with the society today would be set right.

Quest #1: Now, you have the knowledge to spot QuetzalCóatl on archeological sites and in the local art throughout the Mexico. Can you take a picture with this important symbol? It will bring you luck in your future. Here is my picture. Let's see yours.

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