Quetzalcoatl & the Fifth Sun - Art of Aztlan: Aztec Mesoamerican Mythology in Color

Quetzalcoatl & The Fifth Sun

Quetzalcoatl AztlanThe Mesoamerican myth of the creation of the Fifth Sun, or the current age, tells the story of how the gods Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca created the land and sky and then created the first humans. According to the myth, the earth was covered in water after the flood that ended the fourth sun, and a giant earth monster named Tlaltecuhtli swam in the sea searching for flesh to eat. Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca turned themselves into serpents and tore Tlaltecuhtli in half, using the upper part of her body to create the land and the lower part to create the stars and heavens. To create people, Quetzalcoatl was sent to the underworld, Mictlan, to retrieve the bones of the people of the fourth sun. Mictlantecuhtli, the Lord of the Underworld, initially allowed Quetzalcoatl to gather the bones, but later changed his mind and set several tests to block Quetzalcoatl’s mission. Despite these challenges, Quetzalcoatl managed to gather the bones and return to the gods’ paradise of Tamoanchan.

There, the old goddess Cihuaoatl ground the bones into a powder and placed it in a jade bowl. Quetzalcoatl and the other gods shed their blood upon the ground bones, and the first people of the fifth sun were created. However, these first humans were weak and had nothing to eat, so the gods discovered corn as a sustenance for them.

This myth is part of the larger tradition of Mesoamerican mythology, which includes the belief in multiple cycles of creation and destruction, or “suns,” and the gods who played a role in these events. The mythology of the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica, including the Aztecs, Maya, and others, is rich and complex, and includes a variety of stories, deities, and beliefs about the creation and order of the world.