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Quetzalcoatl, also known as the Feathered Serpent and many other names, was a prominent god from the ancient Mesoamerican cultures. This feathered serpent deity was worshiped by several different tribes with each version having its own nuanced meaning. When you look closely at these beliefs and practices, there are so many layers of symbolism that it’s easy to see why researchers have concluded that there must be some common source of inspiration for all of these cultures.
Regardless of which culture you study, Quetzalcoatl is always depicted as a snake or bird hybrid with some kind of feathers on top. He is often associated with particular colors such as blue or red and is connected to water, vegetation, and the sun. The significance behind these attributes will become clear once we dive into this article.
Just as the Ancient Aztecs used tattoos to instill fear into the enemies and bravery into the hearts and minds of the allies, the same can be said for modern people who aspire to create a Quetzalcoatl tattoo for themselves. They hope that the spirit of the Feathered Serpent dwells within them and protects them against any foe.
Quetzalcoatl Tattoo Meaning: The Feathered Serpent Symbolism
First and foremost, the symbol of the feathered serpent represents transformation. This is something that was extremely important to these people as they experienced regular climate change and drastic environmental shifts. The snake and bird imagery also represents the duality of life – the yin and yang, day and night, good and bad, etc.
This idea of opposites existing simultaneously is a common theme in pre-Columbian art. The snake imagery, in particular, is meaningful because snakes are connected to the earth, water, and fertility. Snakes are also associated with life – they cast off their skin and are reborn. What this means is that snakes are connected to the cycle of life and death and are therefore a symbol of transformation, just like the bird.
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Meaning of the Feathers
The feathers on Quetzalcoatl’s head represent the sky and celestial bodies. This makes sense, seeing as he is often asociated with the sun. The feathers on his head are not just any feathers, they ar the feathers of the Quetzal bird – a creature that is native to Central and South America.
The feathers of the Quetzal bird are bright blue, a color that is connected to water, death, and transformation. The feathers on the serpent’s body represent the earth, fertility, and water – which are all connected. Water is necesary for life and fertility is necessary for the continuation of life. Additionally, the earth is connected to fertility and water due to its ability to support life.
Meaning of the Serpent
As previously mentioned, the serpent imagery connects to fertility and water. A serpent slithering through the water can easily be seen as a representation of fertility. A snake sheding its skin is also reprezentative of fertility. You see, snakes shed their skin as babies and then grow again as adults. This shedding is a cyclical process that happens naturally and is symbolic of the cycle of life.
The serpent also represents wisdom and knowledge. This is because serpents are usually connected to the color blue (see below). Blue is a color that is linked to knowledge, wisdom, and spirituality.
Meaning of the Colors
Blue – Blue is connected to water and wisdom. Blue is also associated with death, which makes sense given that water is essential for life and death is an important part of the life cycle. The color blue is also related to the sky and celestial bodies.
As we previously discused, feathers are connected to these things, which explains why they are often depicted as blue. There are many reasons behind blue’s significance and they are all interconnected.
Red – Red is a color that is associated with blood, fire, and fertility. This is because it’s part of the red spectrum of light. Red is also connected to transformation and is a color that simbolizes change. This is likely due to the fact that red is a color seen at the beginning of a transformation. Quetzalcoatl tattoo could include Blue and Red colors as part of the chromatic nuances it displays.
Meaning of Water and Vegetation
Water and vegetation are two things that are associated with many cultures. It’s likely that the two were linked together due to the fact that they are crucial to human survival. Vegetation is also connected to life and death.
Plants grow and die, but they also provide sustenance for life. In the context of Quetzalcoatl, vegetation is also conected to fertility – plants are necessary for the continuation of life. The fact that vegetation is linked to fertility and water makes perfect sense when you consider that water is necessary for vegetation to grow. Water is also connected to wisdom and the celestial bodies.
Meaning of the Sun
The Sun is strongly associated with Quetzalcoatl. This is likely because the sun is a symbol of transformation, life, and wisdom. The sun is essentially a transformation from day to night and vice versa. In addition, the sun is necessary for life to flourish on earth.
The sun is a reminder that the cycle of life is continuous. Life is both good and bad and the sun represents the good. This is an important concept to grasp given that the Mesoamerican people were constantly experiencing change.
Quetzalcoatl Tattoo Inspirations
The ancient Mesoamerican people used symbolism in their art, architecture, and religious practices in order to better understand the world around them. When we look at how all of these cultures are connected through the symbolism of Quetzalcoatl, it’s clear that there was some sort of common source of inspiration.
While it’s impossible to know for sure what this source was, it’s clear that these people were interested in reflecting on life and death and the cyclical nature of existence. When you take a closer look at the symbolism behind Quetzalcoatl and the Feathered Serpent, it becomes evident that the Mesoamerican people had a deep appreciation for life and wanted to make sure that their younger generations were able to carry on their legacy.
Quetzalcoatl Tattoo Ideas
By now you’ve probably formed an idea in your mind about what a Quetzalcoatl Tattoo should look like. If not, we are here to give you a few more design ideas, considering that the Aztec God has such vast lore behind it, and it has so many ties with nature and the world around it.
Just as the name mentions, Quetzalcoatl was considered the Feathered Serpent, so it’s obligatory for a Quetzalcoatl tattoo to include an impressive feathered plumage either on top of the serpent’s head or on its wings. The body of the serpent can be as sinuous as you wish, or you can have it tattooed in a menacing posture, one that would inspire awe and fear into its prey.
Due to the many connections with nature, and diferent colors on its plumage, we consider that a Quetzalcoatl tattoo should have either a splash of color on it or be fully colored. Of course, blackwork or a more traditional tattoo also works, but a colored Quetzalcoatl tattoo would be more faithful to the lore.
As always, we encourage our readers to due their due diligence, and if they want a Quetzalcoalt tattoo, first and foremost they should study the lore behind the tattoo, and after that consult with a tattoo artist, as the opinion of a profesional can turn the final result into a tattoo you will adore for decades to come.
Quatzelcoatl Tattoo Design
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