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Feathered Serpents Appear In World Mythology

By James Donahue

When Doris and I were enjoying our adventures in Sedona, Arizona, we met a Hopi man who made his living sculpturing magnificent art from alabaster of all colors. One day when visiting us, he left behind three pieces of his work. I don’t believe the art was left behind by accident.

Doris liked the sculptures so much she placed them on the raised heath of our fireplace. I don’t think she realized it when arranging the art works, but when finished, she had placed the largest piece, an image of a feathered serpent in the center of the display. We later realized that it was a replica of the Aztec and Toltec god figure Quetzalcoatl, or the Mayan feathered serpent Kukulkan.

We felt honored to have been presented with such a marvelous gift with which to decorate our modest home. During our stay in Arizona, we were befriended by not only the Hopi but also the Navajo and Apache tribes.

The significance of the feathered serpent has always remained a mystery to me, even though it appears to play a role in tribal mythology not only in Southwest America but throughout South America, Egypt, Asia, and all over the world.

The Egyptians often portrayed their gods as serpents with wings and feathers. In Egyptian mythology the feathered serpent is depicted as a guardian of kings and queens. The Egyptian cobra god Wadjet is often found on the front of the crowns of Egyptian pharaohs.

Thousands of miles to the west, the plumed serpent also is found in the rock carvings and surviving art of tribes that once occupied both North and South America. Not only the Maya, Aztec and Toltec people, but the Olmec, Quiche, Inca, Mixtec and Zapotec appeared to worship or at least display the winged serpent figures in their art.

As we learned while living among the Hopi, the feathered serpent is a symbol found in the art of the native people of the Americas. This included Chile, Peru, Mexico, The Anasazi, Zuni, Kolowisi, Pueblos, Algonquin and Tiwa of the Southwest United States.

In the Far East, the dragon is a major part of the mythology in China and Cambodia. It appears in the art as a fierce, fire-breathing creature, often showing feathers. The dragon plays an integral part in Eastern creation mythology.

Most mythological symbols like the pyramid, cross or the sun are linked to things observed in the natural world, but the feathered serpent violates this rule. Thus there is a mystery as to how and why it appears in so many cultures separated by great seas and thousands of miles of distance.

Some anthropologists suggest that the image has been passed by natural diffusion among cultures. But perhaps there is another explanation to be considered.

In the Aztec culture, Quetzalcoatl was considered the creator of the Sun, Moon and the Earth. He and his twin Xolotl, created humans from the bones of inhabitants of an earlier world. The myth claims that Quetzalcoatl introduced the cultivtion of maize, taught the people astronomy, how to keep a calendar and determine the times to plant and harvest, and various other crafts.

The story is told that Quetzalcoatl was tricked by his enemy, Tezcatlipoca to believe he was imperfect and consequently threw himself into a funeral pyre. The Aztecs believed he would one day return to his people. This is why they submitted to the Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortes, believing Cortes was their returned god figure when he marched ashore from the sea in the 1500s.

That the people would accept a white-skinned man as their returning god-hero suggests that Quetzalcoatl may have been a human with pale complexion and possibly light hair who brought a form of culture to the people of South America before perishing in some now obscure way. As it was with the ancient stories of god-figures like Jesus, Matria, Mahammad and Buddha, there was always a promise of a return to Earth following a period of spiritual teaching that impacted the social structure of the area in which they lived.

The peculiar issue that connects all of these cultures has been the artistic rock carvings, paintings and other markings depicting the feathered serpent. What was the link to this figure that shook the many tribal groups throughout the ancient world?

There is another strange myth that prevails throughout the ancient world. This is the story that an earlier civilization of an advanced reptilian culture once prevailed on this planet before homo-sapiens arrived. Could this be a vague reference to the feathered serpent? Could there have been an alien race of intelligent beings that walked this planet in the ancient past, planting human DNA in chosen forms of primates until perfecting the humanoid? Were we then taught social, agricultural and survival skills that set us apart from the other animals of the world?

Is this why our ancients placed such high regard for the feathered serpent?