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Quetzalcoatl (kĕtˌsälkôätˈəl) [Nahuatl,=feathered serpent], ancient deity and legendary ruler of the Toltec in Mexico. The name is also that of a Toltec ruler, who is credited with the discovery of corn, the arts, science, and the calendar. It is unclear whether the ruler took his name from the god or as a great ruler was revered and later deified.

Quetzalcoatl, god of civilization, was identified with the planet Venus and with the wind; he represented the forces of good and light pitted against those of evil and darkness, which were championed by Tezcatlipoca. According to one epic legend, Quetzalcoatl, deceived by Tezcatlipoca, was driven from Tula, the Toltec capital, and wandered for many years until he reached his homeland, the east coast of Mexico—where he was consumed by divine fire, his ashes turning into birds and his heart becoming the morning star. Another version has him sailing off to a mythical land, leaving behind the promise of his return. Adopting the name, the Aztec linked it with the worship of the war god Huitzilopotchtli and applied it to some of their ranking priests. Montezuma viewed the Spanish invaders as the returning hosts of Quetzalcoatl. There is a great pyramid in honor of the deity at Cholula, and the sky-serpent motif in the mosaics at Mitla probably represents Quetzalcoatl. The famous Temple of Quetzalcoatl at Teotihuacán is now regarded by some authorities as having been consecrated to a different god.

The figure who gave rise to the legendary Quetzalcoatl may have been an ancestor of his Maya counterpart, Kulkulcán. The Toltec of Tula moved southward, settled in SW Campeche, and in the 10th cent. under the leadership of Kulkulcán, a historical figure, occupied Chichén Itzá. Although probably assimilated into the Maya culture by this time, the invaders still employed Mexican architectural motifs (especially the feathered serpent) extensively. After the death of Kulkulcán he became the patron deity of Chichén Itzá, and most of the temples were dedicated to him. The symbol for both Quetzalcoatl and Kulkulcán, the serpent with quetzal feathers, has an obvious connection with serpent worship.


See L. Séjourné, Burning Water (tr. 1957).

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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Quetzalcoatl, asteroid 1,915 (the 1,915th asteroid to be discovered, on March 9, 1953), is approximately .4 kilometer in diameter and has an orbital period of 4 years. Quetzalcoatl was named after a god who was simultaneously a creator and a millennialist figure in Aztec mythology and for whom Cortez was mistaken. J. Lee Lehman views this asteroid as a blend of Mars and Sun characteristics, a “Hero-God: more active than the Sun, more creative than Mars.”


Kowal, Charles T. Asteroids: Their Nature and Utilization. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Ellis Horwood Limited, 1988.
Lehman, J. Lee. The Ultimate Asteroid Book. West Chester, PA: Whitford Press, 1988.
Schwartz, Jacob. Asteroid Name Encyclopedia. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1995.
The Astrology Book, Second Edition © 2003 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


god of the Toltecs. [Toltec Religion: NCE, 2258]
See: God
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
In the course of that history we learn about the Creator Twins (Feathered Serpent and Dark Heart of Sky) and how they built the world on a leviathan's back; of the shape-shifting nahualli; and the aluxes, elfish beings known to help out the occasional wanderer.
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