The myths of Central America contain several dragon-like characters, of whom the best known is Quetzalcoatl. This major deity of several civilizations was half of a titanic divine war in creation myth.
Quetzalcoatl’s cult has been identified first among the Toltecs of central Mexico. It was later adopted by the Aztec civilization, who regarded the Toltecs as their forebearers in much the same way Medieval Europeans did toward Rome. Worship of this deity was not only limited to the Aztecs, however. Artifacts of the Feathered Serpent are found all over Central America, wherever the Maya and their kin held sway.
According to the Aztec creation myth, the world was created by Ometecutli (Lord of Duality) and Omechihuatl (Lady of Duality). This pair had four sons, all major deities. They were Tezcatlipoca, Huitzilopochtli, Tonatiuh and Quetzalcoatl. Tezcatlipoca was the lord of evil, darkness, and sorcery. Ironically, he transformed himself into the first sun and lit the world, but the other gods could not accept this because of his evil. Quetzalcoatl cast Tezcatlipoca into the sea, plunging the world back into darkness. Enraged, Tezcatlipoca assumed the form of a giant jaguar and destroyed all human life.
Quetzalcoatl then became the second sun and shone in the heavens. As lord of agriculture, industry, and the arts, his reign was benevolent. But Tezcatlipoca was only biding his time. He clawed Quetzalcoatl down from the sky, causing hurricanes and floods as the sun went dark. Almost all the humans were killed, but the few who survived became monkeys in the trees.
In response, the rest of the gods banished both Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca from the heavens. They chose Tlaloc, god of rain and thunder, to be the third sun. But Quetzalcoatl was angry, and he caused a rain of fire that dried up all the rivers and again destroyed all but a few humans. Those who survived became birds in the sky.
After this, Quetzalcoatl created the goddess Chalchiutlicue to become the fourth sun. Now it was Tezcatlipoca who was overcome by jealousy. He sent a massive flood to drown the sun and earth. Once again, all but a few humans perished. They survived as fishes in the sea.
Once again, the world languished in darkness. All the gods gathered at Teotihuacan and vowed to sacrifice until there was light again. Two gods gave up their very lives. The moon appeared, lighting the darkness. It wasn’t the same, and some of the gods threw a rabbit at the moon, trying to strike it down. The rabbit’s image was imprinted on the moon, but the power of the sacrifice withstood their assault. At last there was light again.
After this, Quetzalcoatl atoned by traveling to underworld and gathering the bones of all the humans who had died in his war with Tezcatlipoca. He sprinkled them with his own blood, and they came back to life! Thus, all Aztecs considered themselves to be Quetzalcoatl’s children.
Alas, Tezcatlipoca still nursed his grudge. He snuck into the village where Quetzalcoatl ruled, and spiked Quetzalcoatl’s drink with mushrooms. While intoxicated, Quetzalcoatl committed incest with his sister. He was so shamed that he no longer considered himself fit to rule. Quetzalcoatl sailed into the east on a raft, but the raft caught fire and he burned to death. His ashes turned into birds and carried his heart back up to the heavens, where it shone brightly as the morning star.
Despite his violent deeds, the Feathered Serpent left his people with a legacy of accomplishment in the arts and agriculture. Worthy of a dragon, indeed.