The Aztec Wind God’s name was Ehécatl (which simply means Wind in Náhuatl). He was an important ‘aspect’ (or guise) of the great creator god Quetzalcóatl (Feathered Serpent or Quetzal-plumed Snake). His ‘full name’, then, is often given as Quetzalcóatl-Ehécatl. According to Aztec myth, it was thanks to the Wind God that human life began at all… (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)
For the Aztecs our world has already been created and destroyed four times in the past, each time getting better, and we’re now in the Fifth Sun or world era. The four previous worlds were created alternately by two rival gods, the brothers Tezcatlipoca (Smoking Mirror) and Quetzalcóatl. You can see the Aztec symbols or glyphs for these worlds in the middle of the famous Aztec Sunstone. The myths give different versions of the order the four previous worlds came in, but a popular sequence goes like this:-
- First Sun
- Name: 4-Jaguar. Ruled by Tezcatlipoca, inhabited by giants, devoured by jaguars and destroyed by the collapse of the sky onto the earth.
- Second Sun
- Name: 4-Wind. Ruled by Quetzalcóatl, inhabitants destroyed by hurricanes and turned into monkeys.
- Third Sun
- Name: 4-Rain. Ruled by Tlaloc (rain god), inhabitants destroyed by a rain of fire (volcanic eruptions) and turned into birds.
- Fourth Sun
- Name: 4-Water. Ruled by Chalchiuhtlicue (goddess of water), inhabitants destroyed by floods and turned into fish.
- Fifth Sun
- Name: 4-Movement. Our world was created jointly by Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcóatl and ruled by Tonatiuh. Inhabitants predicted to be destroyed by massive earthquakes…
In all the pictures so far, you will have noticed the Wind God’s feature of a bird’s beak, which is sometimes set with the fangs of a serpent. This is the mask that identifies Quetzalcóatl as the god of wind. Here are some of the other things you can see Quetzalcóatl wearing:-
- Black painted body and face – he was the god of priests and the one who first performed ‘self-sacrifice’, by pricking parts of the body with cactus spines or animal bone needles to draw blood: can you see the bone sticking out of his headdress? From it flows a green snaky band ending in a turquoise disk – the symbol of ‘precious liquid’ or human blood.
- Being a priest, he holds an incense burner with a handle shaped like a serpent in one hand, and an incense bag in the other.
- On his head is a CONE-SHAPED hat made of ocelot skin (like a jaguar’s).
- His scarf, bracelets and ankle bands are also made of ocelot skin. The scarf is decorated with small shells that tinkle and rattle.
- His breastplate is a large sea shell, cut across the middle.
- His earplug is a turquoise disk; from it hangs a red tassle and a piece of ‘TWISTED shell’.
- His headdress holds black crow and red macaw feathers.
COMPLICATED, isn’t it?! But these things are important…
First, the CONE shape. All temples dedicated to the Wind God were made perfectly round, and with a cone-shaped roof. If you visit Mexico City today, take a ride on the city’s underground system (Metro – modelled on the snazzy Paris one) and stop off at the station called Pino Suarez. Bang in the middle of the station is the base of a round stone altar dedicated to Ehécatl. The altar was unearthed during construction of the station in 1967 where it remains to this day surrounded by the passageway between Lines 1 and 2.
Now, the TWISTED thing. This is just amazing… What shape is a super-fast wind, a tornado? In the USA they’re called ‘twisters’! Compare the stone sculpture of Ehécatl, Aztec wind god with its finely spiralled, rope-like ‘helix’ shape – with the two photos of twisters taken from Wikipedia. To show fierce wind as a concrete shape, the Aztecs went for this spiral effect – makes sense! Now, this is where you need to really use your imagination: the wind god blew the rain clouds in at the end of the dry season, forming strong whirlwinds that often announced the arrival of the rainy season (this is why Quetzalcóatl was also the god of agriculture for the Aztecs). To represent this in sculpture, the Aztecs designed the figure of a pregnant monkey dancing on a coiled serpent (Picture 8); with its bird beak mask and twisting, spiralling body, this figure is very clearly Quetzalcóatl-Ehécatl. Where was it found? In the ‘circular pyramid’ at Pino Suarez Metro station!
Try and picture this figure revolving at high speed: what an artistic way to represent a twister!
When the Fifth Sun was created, it had no inhabitants. So the gods had a meeting and called on Quetzalcóatl-Ehécatl (let’s call him Q) to travel down to the underworld of Mictlan, to ask the Lord of the Underworld, Mictlantecuhtli, for the bones of the dead people from the fourth world. Not so simple: the double-dealing Mictlantecuhtli played a trick on Q. He gave Q a challenge that seemed easy – to travel around Mictlan four times while blowing a conch shell trumpet. Here came the trick: Mictlantecuhtli switched a proper playing conch for a plain one with no finger holes. Luckily Q realised he was being tricked and called on worms to eat through the shell to make holes and he called on bees to fly into the shell to make it roar with their buzzing.
Mictlantecuhtli had no other choice but to give up the bones; even then, he plotted another trap for Q, who fell into a giant pit that the Lord of the Underworld had had made to block his escape. All the bones ended up broken and scattered. Eventually, though, Q managed to get away after carefully gathering up all the bones. Q was to take part in yet more challenges and adventures – finding a source of food for the first humans and creating the first maguey century plant cactus, that gives the fermented drink pulque.