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Myths and legends


Quetzalcoatl as depicted in the Codex BorbonicusQuetzalcoatl as depicted in the Codex Borbonicus Quetzalcoatl was the legendary ruler of Mesoamerica. Mesoamerica is the name historians give to the region of central and southern Mexico and northern parts of Central America where several great ancient civilizations grew up, beginning thousands of years ago. In the religion of the Aztec Empire, Quetzalcoatl was the god of order and civilization. The name Quetzalcoatl, which means “feathered serpent” in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, combines the magnificent, green-plumed quetzal bird, symbolizing the heavens and the wind, with the coatl (the word for “snake” or “serpent” in Nahuatl), which represents the earth and fertility.

Quetzalcoatl in a pageantQuetzalcoatl in a pageant

Quetzalcoatl the godQuetzalcoatl the god

Quetzalcoatl the god

Quetzalcoatl was the chief god to the Aztecs, who ruled central Mexico from about AD 1250. But he dates back many centuries before the time of the Aztec Empire. To the inhabitants of Teotihuacán, a great city that flourished around AD 200, he was probably the god of rain. For the Toltecs, who dominated Mexico from the 800s to the 1100s, Quetzalcoatl was the god of the morning and evening star (which we now know as the planet Venus) and the wind.

Buildings dedicated to Quetzalcoatl, who was also god of the wind, were circular or cylindrical in shape. This minimized their resistance to the wind as it flowed past them.

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