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"Quetzalli" was the Nahuatl word for "tail feather of the bird Pharomachrus mocinno, and "coatl" was the word for snake -- so Quetzalcóatl was the feathered serpent. A major American deity, he appeared as early as the Teotihuacán civilization (3rd to 8th centuries), apparently as a vegetation god. To the later Toltec culture (9th-12th centuries), as the priest-king of Tula, he sacrificed snakes, birds, and butterflies (not humans) but, expelled by Tezcatlipoca, the god of the night sky, he embarked on a raft of snakes and disappeared beyond the eastern horizon -- or he immolated himself and emerged as the planet Venus. As such, to the Aztecs (14th-16th centuries) he became the symbol of death and resurrection. He was the patron of priests and merchants, the protector of goldsmiths and other craftsmen, and the inventor of calendars and books. He was the god of winds and rain. The original creator gods were Tonacateuctli and Tonacacihuatl, and their sons were Quetzalcóatl, Tezcatlipoca, Huizilopochtli and Xipe Totec. The battles between Quetzalcóatl and Tezcatlipoca led to the destruction of 4 ages, but then they co-operated to create the 5th (current) age. They transformed themselves into snakes and tore the female reptilian monster Tlaltcuhtli (Cipactli) into 2 parts, the earth and the the sky; her hair and skin became vegetation, her eyes and nose became springs and caves, and her mouth became valleys and mountains. Cipactli was appeased by offering human sacrifices. Quetzalcóatl descended into the underworld (Mictlán) to collect the bones of the dead. Mictlanteuctli and Mictlancihuatl, the gods of the underworld, insisted that he sounded a conch shell without holes, so he had worms drill holes in it and put bees inside it. Then he stole the bones; Mictlanteuctli trapped him in a pit, thus mixing up the bones of the males and females. Quetzalcóatl escaped from the pit and gave the bones to the snake goddess Cihuacóatl, who mixed them with corn and Quetzalcóatl's blood to create the current race of men.
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