Warrior, rain-god, and spirit of the maize, Quetzalcoatl-the most familiar of the Mesoamerican gods- is better known for his attributes than for his complex history. Known to the Zapotecs, Olmecs, Toltecs, Mayans, Aztecs, and others, and at times the shared hero of warring peoples, Quetzalcoatl transcends both cultural and chronological barriers. His very name links the earth (coatl, or serpent) with the sky (quetzalli, or precious green feathers).
In this comprehensive study, Enrique Florescano traces the spread of the worship of the Plumed Serpent, and the multiplicity of interpretations that surround the god, by comparing the Palenque inscriptions (ca. A.D. 690), the Vienna Codex (pre-Hispanic conquest), the Historia de los Mexicanos (1531), the Popul Vuh (ca. 1554), and numerous other texts. He also consults and reproduces archeological evidence from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, demonstrating how the myth of Quetzalcoatl extends throughout Mesoamerica.
Chapter topics include the diverse manifestations of Quetzalcoatl, the god as civilizing hero, interpretations of his role in creation stories and other myths, and a comparative study of Quetzalcoatl as one of the offspring of the Mother Goddess similar to divinities such as Dumuzi, Tammuz, Osiris, Adonis, and Persephone, from other classical cultures.