Aztec Snake Symbol

Understanding the Aztec snake symbol

Snakes are a really weird species while they are hated in a few countries and religions as the symbol of death and evil in other countries they are revered as a sign of god and heaven. So it was not very surprising that the ancient Aztecs would consider the snake as a powerful creature. In fact they revered one such feathered snake as their god, “Quetzalcoatl.”

Aztec Snake - The Feathered Serpent

This reverence for the feathered Aztec god was based on really extensive legends about the god of life. Although the legends are not very clear, it’s evident that he had a tremendous influence on Aztec culture and the way of life. It is definite that there was a ruler called as Quetzalcoatl or the plumed serpent who was a great and much revered leader in the year AD 947.

He was also progressive enough to abolish human sacrifice and allow only the future sacrifice of snakes, flowers and small birds! This was more than enough to irritate the local priests. This is where the stories get vague with local priests then inviting a vengeful god called as Texcatlipoca to help them get rid of Quetzalcoatl. He was lured in breaking his priestly vow of chastity and thus went into a self imposed exile as penance.

The Aztec revered him as the symbol of death and resurrection and he was later considered as the patron of priests. The name Quetzalcoatl can be roughly translated to "plumed serpents," "green-feathered-serpent," or "serpent of precious feathers." The main translation of the word is “quetzal," which is a beautiful, green Guatemalan bird, and "coatl," meaning serpent. Hence due to the significance attached to the name later on Aztecs priests and the Aztec society came to regard the snake as assign of the god.

The idea of a feathered serpent has a whole range of symbolic meaning for the Aztec society and later on it became an integral part of the Aztec drawing and Aztec books. The Aztec snake symbol became sacred and is still present on Mexican coat of arms. Snake worship was prominent among the Toltec and Aztec periods of prehistoric Mexican civilization. Another Aztec myth also advocates a half-divine, half-human being who came down to earth to learn and educate humankind ; the Aztecs referred to him as the "feathered serpent," or the reincarnation of the feathered sun who kept the Aztecs alive.