Serpent Gods in Aztec Mythology Essay
Serpent Gods in Aztec Mythology
Aztecs had a pantheon of Serpent Gods to which they attributed the creation and workings of the natural world. One of their principle gods, Quetzalcoatl, translated as feathered serpent, had many manifestations, each holding an important role part of the Aztec myths of creation and the workings of the natural world. As Braden points out the main of the many roles designated to Quetzalcoatl is that he along with his brother Huitzilopochtli took the task of creation of humanity besides the creation of life, including gods, environments and all living substances (1930, p.120).
He accomplished this task by splashing his blood on the bones and ashes of previous human beings that had existed in a previous age. Out of this auto-sacrifice of blood sprang a male and then a female child, the forbearers of all modern people. Brundage goes on to say that thus Quetzalcoatl is not only a god to be worshiped out of reverence for his powers over nature but as a father figure as well. The Aztecs saw him as a god who was benevolent and the reason for their existence (1979, p.106).
Another manifestation of Quetzalcoatl is that of the wind. The Aztec name for a tornado or thunderstorm wind was ehecacoatl or roughly translated “wind snake” . The wind that blows before the storm is traditionally associated with complex deity. The wind is a powerful force of nature and it is easy to see how a society could attribute the characteristics of a snake to the wind. The wind swirls and moves with effortless grace, just as a snake glides along the ground. Brundage goes on to say that this “shows the ease with which the Aztec mind accepted the reptilian nature of the wind” (1979, p.106-107).
However the most common account presents Quetzalcoatl in human form and as a holy priest who comes down from his heavenly abode to give the Aztec people a new religion. Brundage points out that he tries to make the Aztecs rituals more of a personal spiritual event. Before his arrival the legend says that the Aztecs sacrificed hundreds of humans to the various gods. In the form of the high priest Quetzalcoatl’s goal is to make Aztec ritual more simplistic and auto-sacrificial.
He stresses auto-sacrifice and the sacrifice of snakes, butterflies, birds, etc. (1979, p.116). He is more concerned with the sanctity of human life. It is his opinion that if human blood is to be sacrificed it should be give directly by the person making the sacrifice. This legend ties in nicely with the creator myth. In his role as creator of the human race he sacrificed his own blood, now he is telling the people that by sacrificing their own blood it is a more precious offering that killing another person. He is seen as a divinity that is concerned for the lives of his people. Outline:
1) The main of the many roles designated to Quetzalcoatl, the principle serpent god in Aztec mythology. (Braden, 1930, p.120) A- Quetzalcoatl along with his brother Huitzilopochtli took the task of creation of humanity.
2) Another manifestation of Quetzalcoatl, which is the wind symbol connected to the characteristics of snake in nature. (Brundage, 1979, p.106- 107) A- How a society could attribute the characteristics of a snake to the wind.
3) Most common account that presents Quetzalcoatl in human form and as a holy priest. (Brundage, 1979, p.116) A- He tries to make the Aztecs rituals more of a personal spiritual event. B- He is more concerned with the sanctity of human life.
Braden, Charles S. Religious Aspects of the Conquest of Mexico. Duke University Press. Duhram, NC: 1930. Brundage, Burr Cartwright. The Fifth Sun. University of Texas Press. Austin TX: 1979.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 18 February 2017
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