Primary Sources

In the Florentine Codex, the famed text by Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún, Quetzalcoatl is noted as: “The wind, the guide and road-sweeper of the rain gods, of the masters of the water, of those who brought rain. And when the wind rose, when the dust rumbled, and it crackled and there was a great din, and it became dark and the wind blew in many directions, and it thundered; then it was said: ‘[Quetzalcoatl] is wrathful” (3). His name directly translates from Nahuatl to English as the “Feathered Serpent” or the “Plumed Serpent;" thus, iconographic depictions of the god often include both bird feathers and snake motifs. Quetzalcoatl is described by Sahagún as being adorned with wind and mesquite symbols; a turquoise mosaic ear-pendant; ocelot anklets with rattles; and, he wore a cotton bone-ribbed jacket (3). In regards to weaponry, he carried a shield that was covered in a wind-shell design and a curved spear (de Sahagún 3). Sahagún also writes that the god carried a quetzal-pheasant on his back and was adorned in a gold necklace composed of small shells. Lastly, Quetzalcoatl’s face is thickly smeared with soot (de Sahagún 3).

Major divergences exist between the depiction of Quetzalcoatl in the Florentine Codex and the Codex Telleriano-Remensis. For instance, Quetzalcoatl is depicted as Ehecatl in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, as indicated by the red bird-beak mask (165). According to the Codex Magliabechiano, this mask helped Quetzalcoatl blow wind across the world (Codex Telleriano-Remensis 165). Quetzalcoatl occasionally appears in Aztec literature under the guise of Ehecatl; thus, his full name is often given as Quetzalcoatl-Ehecatl.

Furthermore, the god wears a more intricately decorated headdress that is composed of a zigzag headband with red knots and a turquoise jewel; a white bow with rounded ends; a jaguar-skin cap; and, a jewel symbol (165). Coming out the headdress is bone instrument that was used to draw sacrificial blood (Codex Telleriano-Remensis 165). Another feature unique to Quetzalcoatl is the spiral shell necklace, known as the “wind jewel” (or the ehecailacocozcatl) that is additionally detailed in Sahagún’s description. Similar to the depiction of the god in the Florentine Codex, the black stripe that runs down his face in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis signifies that he is a patron god of fertility (165). Finally, the depiction found in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, Quetzalcoatl also wears curved shell ear plugs, anklets, and foam sandals.

Moreover, Quetzalcoatl can be depicted in his animal form both in sculpture relief and in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis. He appears as a rattlesnakes with quetzal feathers on his back in sculptures. Likewise, in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, the animal form of Quetzalcoatl is that of a multi-colored serpent with quetzal feathers (181). Feathers are seen coming out of its tail as the god quickly devours a man, an act that serves as a testament to his reputed wrathful behavior.