Reviewing the Aztec creation myth reminded me how unique the cosmology of Central America was compared to Western myths we’re more familiar with. Europe and Asia were connected by land, though the passage wasn’t easy. Legends and stories could be transmitted even to regions as distant as China. So there was a certain synchronicity in the folklore of Europe and Asia.
The Americas, by contrast, were isolated by sea and existed in their own world. They had a separate synchronicity of thought and expression that passed from people to people. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that their idea of what a god should be was strikingly different from what people of Western traditions assume.
People in Central and South America did not love and admire their gods. They desperately feared the divine. Their creation myths were full of disasters, and their rituals were equally grim. To please such terrifying gods, Mayas, Aztecs and Incas sacrificed generously and often. They gave the best that they had: gold, jade, and blood. We’ve all heard lurid tales of human sacrifices, the hearts cut from living bodies or virgins drowned in bottomless wells, but it wasn’t only prisoners who were sacrificed. Every priest and politician took part in bloodletting rituals where they cut themselves to buy favor for their people.
As one friend commented on my previous post, these religions were raw and visceral, not at all the sweetly sanitized mythology we study in school!
Although Quetzalcoatl may not seem all that dragon-like — a feathered serpent who didn’t fly, had no fiery breath — the rituals of his religion still hold that element of virgin sacrifice. Perhaps, even with sea on both sides, the folklore of Central America shared a connection to the west, after all.