Comparative Mythology: Aztec
Journey of Quetzalcoatl, from Florentine Codex (tr. A. Anderson & C. Dibble, revised)


This Quetzalcoatl they considered a god. They all adored him as a god. He was prayed to in olden times there at Tula.

And there was his temple, which was very tall and high, lofty and towering. It had very many steps, extending in a multitude, and not wide; but each one, in truth, was very narrow. On each step, you could not extend the sole of your foot.

There, it is said, he lay; he lay covered; and he lay with only his face covered. And, it is said, he was monstrous. His face was like a huge, battered stone, a great fallen rock; it was not made like that of men. And his beard was very long, exceedingly long. He was heavily bearded.

And the Toltecs, his vassals, were highly skilled. Nothing they did was difficult for them. They cut green stone, and they cast gold, and they made other works of the craftsman and the feather worker. They were very skilled. These started and proceeded from Quetzalcoatl —all craft works and wisdom.

And there stood his green stone house, and his golden house, and his coral house, and his shell house, and his house of beams, his turquoise house, and his house of precious feathers.

And for his vassals the Toltecs, nothing they dealt with was too distant. They could arrive wherever they went very quickly. And because they were fleet, they were named tlanquacemilhuime.

And there was a hill named Tzatzitepetl, just as it is named today. It is said that there the crier stationed himself; he stood there to announce whatever he was ordered to. He was heard clearly in distant places; what he said was heard everywhere, the laws that were made. Swiftly all would come forth to learn what Quetzalcoatl had commanded the people.

And also they were very rich. Food and all sustenance were of no concern to them. It is said that all the squashes were very large, and some were quite round. And the ears of maize were as large as hand grinding stones, and long. They could hardly be embraced in one's arms. And the amaranth plants—verily, they climbed up them; they could be climbed. And also colored cotton prospered—bright red, yellow, rose colored, violet, green, azure, verdigris color, whitish, brown, shadowy, rose red, and coyote colored. All different colored cottons were this way; so they grew; they did not dye them.

And all varieties of birds of precious feather dwelt there—the blue cotinga, the quetzal, the troupial, the red spoonbill, and all the different birds, which spoke very well, which sang very sweetly. And all the green stones and gold were not costly. And also chocolate —xochicacauatl—was made. In very many places there was chocolate.

And these Toltecs enjoyed great wealth; they were rich; never were they poor. They lacked nothing in their homes. Never was there want. And the small ears of maize were of no use to them; they only burned them to heat the sweat baths.

And this Quetzalcoatl also did penances. He bled the calf of his leg to stain thorns with blood. And he bathed at midnight. And he bathed there where his bathing place was, at a placed name Xippacoyan. The fire priests imitated him, and the other priests, too. And the priests took their conduct from the life of Quetzalcoatl. By it they ordained the law of Tula. Thus were customs established here in Mexico.


And at this time, Quetzalcoatl and all the Toltecs got lazy. Then three demons approached and came, as evil sorcerers: Uitzilopochtli, Titlacauan, and Tlacauepan. All three practised sorcery to bring ruin to Tula. Titlacauan began casting the spell. It is told that he turned himself into a little old man. He counterfeited and took the form of one who was much bent and whose hair was very white, very silvery. Then he went to the home of Quetzalcoatl.

When he had gone there, he  said to the retainers: "I wish to see the chief, Quetzalcoatl."

Then the others replied to him: "Go away, old man. The chief is sick. You will annoy him."

Then the old man said: "No, I will see him; I must come to him."

They said to him: "So be it. Wait a little. We will tell him."

And then they informed Quetzalcoatl. They said to him: "My prince, an old man has come to speak with you. He seems like a net, like a trap for you. We wanted to turn him away, but he does not want to go. He says only: 'I will see the chief for myself.' "

Then Quetzalcoatl said: "Let him come; let him enter. For I have waited for him for some little time."

Then they brought him in to Quetzalcoatl. Then the old man came and said to him: "My grandson, my chief, how is your health? Here is a potion I have brought for you. Drink it."

And then Quetzalcoatl said: "Come here, O old one. You are weak; you have tired yourself out. I have been waiting for you for some time."

And then the old man replied to him: "My grandson, how is your health?

Then Quetzalcoatl said to him: "In truth, I am sick in all my parts. Nowhere am I well—my hands, my feet. In truth, my body is tired, as if it were undone."

And then the old one said to him: "Here is the potion, good, soothing, and intoxicating. If you drink it, it will relieve and heal your body. And you will weep; your heart will become troubled. You will think about your own death. And you will also think about where you will go."

Then Quetzalcoatl said: "Where am I to go, old one?"

Then the old man said to him: "Well, you will go there to Tollan-Tlapallan. A man stands guard there, someone already aged. You will consult with each other. And when you return here, you will have been made a child again."

Quetzalcoatl was very moved by this. And the old man once more said: "Be happy. Drink the potion."

Then Quetzalcoatl said: "Old man, I will not drink."

Then the old man said to him: "Drink of it; you will feel a need for it. Just put some of it in front of you as a small portion in case you happen to desire for it. Taste just a little of it."

And Quetzalcoatl then tasted a little, and afterwards drank heartily. Then Quetzalcoatl said "What is this? It is very good. The sickness is now gone. Where did the pain go? No longer am I sick."

Then the old man said: "Drink again; the potion is good. Thus will your body gain strength."

And as soon as he had once more drunk of it—all—then he became drunk. Then he wept and was greatly moved. In this way Quetzalcoatl  was aroused; his heart was quickened. No longer could he forget what had happened, but went on thinking about it, realizing that indeed the devil had tricked him. And the potion which the old man had offered him, it is told, was white wine. And it is said that this wine was made of the sap of the maguey called teometl.


And look,  Titlacauan did another thing, casting his spell. He took the form and played the part of a stranger. He walked around with his penis hanging uncovered, and sold green chilis. He went to sit in the market place, before the palace entrance. And the daughter of Uemac was very beautiful. Many Toltecs desired her and sought her to marry her. But Uemac listened to no one, he gave her to no one. And this daughter of Uemac looked out into the market place and saw the stranger with his penis hanging uncovered. And when she had seen him, she went into the house. Then she sickened; she became tense and inflamed because of her desire for the stranger's penis.

And Uemac then learned that his daughter was sick. He said to the women who guarded her: "What happened? What did she do? How my daughter become inflamed?"

Then the women who guarded her said to him: "It is he, the stranger who sells green chilis. He has inflamed and aroused her. That is how it began, that is how sickness seized her."

And Uemac, the chief, then commanded and said: "O Toltecs, let the green chili-vending stranger be sought out; let him appear before me.”

Then was he sought everywhere. And when no one came forth, then the herald cried out from Tzatzitepetl. He said: "O Toltecs, if you happen to see the green-chili-vending stranger, bring him here. The chief is looking for him."

Then they looked and went everywhere; they went scattered through Tula as they looked. And when they had tired themselves and seen him nowhere, then they came back to tell the chief that  he was nowhere to be found. And afterwards the stranger appeared of his own will in the same place where he had formerly come to sit the first time he was seen. And when he had been seen, then they hurried to tell the chief. They said: "The stranger has appeared."

Then Uemac said: "Let him come at once."

Then the Toltecs quickly went to seize the stranger. They brought him before the chief. And when they had brought him, then the chief said to him: "Where is your home?"

Then the other replied: "I am a stranger. I sell little chilis."

Then the chief said to him: "Where have you been, stranger? Put your loincloth on; cover yourself."

Then the stranger replied to him: "No, this is our way of doing things."

And the chief then said to him: "But you have afflicted my daughter. You are the one who must heal her."

Then the stranger said to him: "My dear stranger, my dear lord, this may not be. Kill me instead, kill me, let me die. What are you saying to me? I am not the only one who sells green chilis."

And then the chief said: "No, you will heal her. Have no fear."

And then they arranged his hair and they bathed him. Then they anointed him, they gave him a loincloth and tied it on him. And when they had dressed him, then the chief said to him: "Look at my daughter there where she is guarded." And when he went there, then he lay with her, and then the woman was well. Later the stranger became the chief’s son-in-law.


And after this, the Toltecs joked about Uemac; they mocked him and spoke about him maliciously. They said: "And so the chief has taken a stranger as son-in-law!" Then the chief summoned the Toltecs and said to them: "I have heard that jokes are made about me, that I am being laughed at, for I have made the stranger my son-in-law. This is what you must do — trick him, abandon him while fighting at Cacatepec and Coatepec."

And then the Toltecs announced war; they all set out. Then they went, and planned to leave the son-in-law to his fate. And when they had gone off to war, they placed the stranger and all the dwarfs and cripples off on their own. When they had done this, the Toltecs departed, to capture men — to take men from their enemy, the Coatepeca. And the stranger said to all the dwarfs and cripples: "Have no fear. Here we shall destroy them; here, by our hands, they will meet their doom.”

And after this, the enemy attacked the Toltecs. They thought to themselves that the enemy would kill the stranger whom they had abandoned and tricked, leaving him to die. So they hurried to inform the chief, Uemac. They said to him:Look, we have gone, abandoning the stranger who was your dear son-in-law." And Uemac rejoiced, for he thought that his death was fact. For he was ashamed of the stranger whom he had made his son-in-law.

And this stranger, when they had abandoned in battle, when their enemies, the Coatepeca and the Cacatepeca had already attacked, then commanded the dwarfs and the hunchbacks, and said to them: "Pay attention! Have no fear! Don't be cowards! Don't lose heart! For already I know that you will take them all captive, that somehow we will kill all of them!"

And when their enemies came upon them and rushed at them, then they attacked and trampled them. They killed them; they brought ruin on them; they destroyed them. They killed multitudes without number of their enemies. And when the chief heard of it, he was greatly confused and saddened. Then he summoned the Toltecs and said to them: "Let us go to meet our beloved son-in-law."

And the Toltecs then surged and burst forth. Then they accompanied the chief; they went dispersed about him; they went circling him to meet the stranger. The Toltecs took their panoply with them — the quetzal-feather head device and the turquoise mosaic shield. When they reached him, then they gave and presented him the quetzal-feather head device and the turquoise mosaic shield — all the array they had with them.

With this they proceeded dancing; they came dancing the captives' dance; they came bearing the array on their backs. They came singing in his honor; the song came forth resounding and reechoing. They came blowing flutes in his honor; the shell trumpets roared and rang out. The shell trumpets approached, growing in sound. And when they reached the palace, then they pasted feathers on the stranger's head, they anointed him with yellow paint. And his face was spread with a red unguent. And all his friends were thus adorned.

And then Uemac said to his son-in-law: "Look, now are the hearts of the Toltecs satisfied that you are my son-in-law. You have well. Welcome to this land. Rest your feet."


This demon did a second work of sorcery: When he had been pasted with yellow feathers, when he had defeated his enemies, he then brought it about that they should dance and sing, that they should chant a song. Then the herald made his cry from the summit of Tzatzitepetl; he cried out to and informed everyone all over the world. And everywhere they heard the cry of the herald. And very swiftly all came to Tula.

And when this was done, then the sorcerer went to Texcalpan. And everyone, all the vassals, went with him. And when all the young men and women had gathered together, they could not be counted; they were very numerous. Then the demon began to sing. He sounded the drum; he beat his ground drum. Then everyone danced; they went leaping; all grasped hands, or took hold of each other from behind. They sang with great contentment; the sound of the song resounded, and rose and fell. And the song which was chanted was just one he had made up. And when he chanted the song, they answered right away. From his lips they took the song. And the singing and dancing began at dusk. And when it ceased, it was midnight. And as everyone danced, as the movement was vibrant and very intense, very many then fell on the crags in the canyon. All died there, and then were turned into rocks. And as for the others at the craggy canyon, the demon then broke the bridge. And the bridge was of stone. Then everyone fell where they crossed the water. All turned into rocks. The Toltecs did not then understand how this happened. It was as if they were drunk. And many times was there singing and dancing there at Texcalpan. And as many times as there was song and dance, just as many times was there slaughter. All were dashed on the crags. They fell; the Toltecs in fact destroyed themselves.


Behold still another act of sorcery the demon did. He came to sit in the middle of the market place. He called himself Tlacauepan or Cuexcochtzin. There he made a figure like a child dance. (They say it was Uitzilopochtli.) In his hand he held him as he made him dance. And when the Toltecs saw this, they crowded toward him; they stumbled toward him in order to see it. Very many men there were trampled and died in the crowd as the others crushed them to death. And when it happened large numbers died many times in this way, as they looked while he made the figure dance, this same demon said with a loud voice, "O Toltecs, what kind of sorcery is this? Is it not an omen of evil that one is made to dance? As for this one, let him die; let him be stoned!"

Then they stoned him. He fell under the stones. And when this was done, his body later stank; it smelled quite frightful; in truth, it wounded the head. And wherever the wind carried the stench, the common folk died. And when already very many men had died of its fumes, then this same demon said to the Toltecs: "Let this dead one be cast away; let him be thrown out. For already his odor destroys men. Let him be dragged away."

And the Toltecs then put a rope around the body and tried to drag it away. Bt when they tried to heave it, they could not move it. It was very heavy — this, to which at first they had paid little attention, which they had thought was of little import. Then a message went out, and the herald said: "Let all men come here! Bring here your heavy ropes so you may the dead one away."

And when the Toltecs assembled, they fastened the dead one with ropes. Then the Toltecs murmured; they said to themselves: "O Toltecs, along with it! Let it be pulled!"

But they could not then raise it; they could not move it. And when one of the ropes broke, everyone died. As many as were stretched along the rope tumbled; they fell all mingled together, and then died. And when they could not drag it at all, when they could not approach it, then the demon said to the Toltecs: "O Toltecs, he needs his song." Then he chanted the song for the Toltecs. He intoned: "Drag away our log, Tlacauepan the demon."

And as they chanted, they made the dead one move; they came forward with it; they proceeded shouting. When a rope again snapped, then the log fell on all of them, so that it ran over them. And many were indeed crushed and thus died.  And when all the rest who had gone to cast away the dead one, Tlacauepan, turned back, it was as if they coud not remember all that had been done to them. No longer did they consider it an evil omen; they acted as if drunk.

. . .


And still many more acts of sorcery were done to the Toltecs in order to destroy Tula. And when these things happened, Quetzalcoatl was now troubled and saddened, and then decided that he should go — that he should abandon his city of Tula. So he got ready. It is said that he had everything burned — his house of gold, his house of coral; and still other works of art, the marvelous and costly things, all of these he buried, he hid in treacherous places: either within the mountains or in the canyons. And, moreover, he changed the cacao trees into mesquites. And all the birds of precious feather — the quetzal, the blue cotinga, the red spoonbill — all these he sent away. Taking the road before him, they went toward Anauac.

And when this was done, he set forth and followed the road. Then he arrived at a place called Quauhtitlan. A very thick, tall tree grew there. He stood by it. Then he called for his mirror. Then he looked at himself; he saw himself in the glass and said: "Now I am an old man." Then he named the place Ueuequauhtitlan. And then he cast and hurled stones at the tree. And as he stoned it, the stones remained firmly encrusted and affixed to the great tree. They have been that way since then. This is how they look; beginning at the foot, they rise there to its top. And as Quetzalcoatl followed the road, they went blowing flutes for him.

Once more he came to rest at another place. Upon a stone Quetzalcoatl rested himself. He supported himself on it with his hands. Then he looked toward Tula, and wept; he sobbed and wept. Now he shed two hail stones as tears over his face; they rolled over his face. The tear drops that fell pierced holes in the stone.


And as he supported himself by his hands on the rock, he left deep imprints, as if he had planted the palms of his hands on mud. Likewise his buttocks remained well marked on the rock where he was. They are visible even now. Because of the hollows, this place was named Temacpalco.

And then he reached a place name Tepanoayan, where there was water. A river burst forth which was very wide and long. Quetzalcoatl laid stones and made there a bridge. Then he crossed over on it, and so it is named Tepanoayan.

And once more he reached another point, a place named Coaapan. And when he was there, devils sought to turn him back. They tried to send him back and stop him.

They said to him: "Where are you going? Where are you bound? Why are you leaving the city? Where are you going? Who will perform the penances?"

Then Quetzalcoatl said to the demons: "Indeed, in no way can anyone force me; for I must go on."

Then the demons said to Quetzalcoatl: "Where are you going?"

Then Quetzalcoatl said to them: "I go there to Tlapallan, for I go to learn my fate."

And then they said to him: "What will you do?"

Then Quetzalcoatl replied: "I am called there. The sun has called me."

Then they said to him: "Good. Go, leaving all the works of craftsmanship. "

Then he left all the arts — the casting of gold, the cutting of precious stones, the carving of wood, sculpturing in stone, the knowledge of the scribes, the art of feather working. All these they wrested from him by force; they made him abandon all; they seized all from him. And when this was done, Quetzalcoatl cast his jewels into a spring of water, and then they were swallowed up. Therefore he named that place Cozcaapan which now is called Coaapan.

And then he moved on and reached another point, a place named Cochtocan. And there a demon came forth to meet him. He said to him: "Where are you going?"

Then Quetzalcoatl said: "It is there to Tlapallan that I go, to learn my fate."
Then the demon said to him: "Good. Drink this wine which I have brought."
Quetzalcoatl said: "No, I may will drink, even though I might just taste a little."

Then once more the devil said to him: "Well, it may not be that you will not drink or taste of it. For I allow no one to depart to whom I give no wine and not make drunk. So do as I tell you; be happy and drink it." Quetzalcoatl then drank the wine with a drinking tube. And when he had drunk, he quickly fell asleep in the road. He lay thundering as he slept, resounding a great distance as he snored. And when he awoke, he looked to one side and the other. He looked at himself, and arranged his hair. Then he named the place Cochtocan.


Then once again he set forth and climbed between Popocatepetl and Iztactepetl. He led all the dwarfs and hunchbacks, his servants. It snowed upon them, and there they froze; they died of the cold. And Quetzalcoatl was greatly moved and wept to himself. And he sang much to himself as he wept and sighed. Then he looked at a distance to another white mountain named Poyauhtecatl. Again he set forth, making the rounds of all places, passing everywhere through the villages. And so, they say, he set down many of his signs, by which he is known.

In another place it is said that he took his pleasure on a mountain. He came sliding down it, to its foot; he came bouncing down it. And elsewhere he planted in the ground maguey fibers. At another place he built a ball court, all of stone. And in the middle of it, where the line was, the earth lay open, reaching deep; for it was thus pierced. And elsewhere he shot a bombax ceiba tree like an arrow, shooting it into the middle of another bombax ceiba so that one rested piercing the other. And elsewhere he built a house all underground at a place named Mictlan.

And elsewhere he set up a huge rock. It is said that one might move it with his little finger, so easily it swayed; from side to side it would teeter. And it is said that when many men pushed it, it would not move, even though many would try hard. If they sought to move it, they could not budge it.

And there were many more things which he did in all the villages. And it is said that he named all the mountains. And in all places he gave all the names here.

And when he had done these things, he reached the sea coast. Then he made a raft of serpents. When he had built the raft, got on board, as if it were his boat. Then he set off across the sea. No one knows how he came to arrive at Tlapallan.