The name means “feathered serpent” in the Nahuatl language, integrating the idea of the serpent as a deity – or at least a being with supernatural powers – and a bird.
The stories of Quetzalcoatl link him to deity stories in other cultures:
- The archeologist Karly Taube links the feathered serpent to fertility and internal structure and organization, although it’s interesting to note the the inhabitants of Teotihuacan also recognized a feathered serpent as the god of war. Coincidence? Were these two different incarnations of the same being?
- It was also recognized as one of three agricultural deities, being the god of vegetational renewal, which ties in nicely with the widely recognized symbol of the serpent representing rebirth and the cycle of life.
- Quetzalcoatl was also linked with the planet Venus, which was important as a sign of the beginning of the rainy season and was also connected to warfare.
- To the Aztecs, he was a creator deity, contributing substantially to the creation of mankind.
- He is said to be one of the four sons of Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl and was considered the god of the morning star (Venus, when it appears in the East), while his twin brother was the god of the evening star (Venus when it appears in the West). The relationship between twin gods and the same planet in two different positions could easily represent different manifestations of the same deity.
Tradition has it that the Aztecs mistook Hernan Cortes for Quetzalcoatl, who, when he left his people, promised to return one day. And this is where the story takes a unique turn.
Cortes, a bearded, white European, was mistaken for Quetzalcoatl. It’s possible that the sails on his ship were thought to be feathers, but it’s much more likely that Quetzalcoatl, in one of his incarnations, appeared to his followers as a white man with a beard.
This unlikely possibility is actually confirmed by a book of scripture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – The Book of Mormon – which contains an account of the visit of Jesus Christ – after his death and resurrection – to the Americas where he preached to the indigenous people.
As a resurrected being, Jesus, even being of Jewish/Mediterranean descent, would have appeared radiant and white to ancient Americans, while maintaining his personal appearance – including his beard – which was ubiquitous among the Jews at that time.
The timeline fits closely as well. Jesus is said to have died in 33 AD, which is not completely consistent with the 100 BC period suggested for the first appearance of Quetzalcoatl, but is very close – especially for archeology.
Did Jesus Christ appear to the ancient Americans after his resurrection? The Book of Mormon relates that he did and the legend of Quetzalcoatl supports that idea.
But is there more? The legends of serpents with supernatural powers appear around the world, in many cases predating the time of Quetzalcoatl by thousands of years. The manifestation of demons in serpent form is prevalent – even the feathered serpent of Mesoamerica was worshipped as the god of war.
Another perspective on demons appearing as serpents with both good and evil attributes, is that by doing so they are effectively creating confusion, discord, and even violence, generating the negative human emotions and energy that sustain them.