Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quetzalcoatl, the Hero of Tula.

But it was not Quetzalcoatl the god, the mysterious creator of the visible world, on whom the thoughts of the Aztec race delighted to dwell, but on Quetzalcoatl, high priest in the glorious city of Tollan (Tula), the teacher of the arts, the wise lawgiver, the virtuous prince, the master builder and the merciful judge.
Here, again, though the scene is transferred from heaven to earth and from the cycles of other worlds to a date not extremely remote, the story continues to be of his contest with Tezcatlipoca, and of the wiles of this enemy, now diminished to a potent magician and jealous rival, to dispossess and drive him from famous Tollan.
No one versed in the metaphors of mythology can be deceived by the thin veil of local color which surrounds the myth in this its terrestrial and historic form. Apart from its being but a repetition or continuation of the genuine ancient account of the conflict of day and night, light and darkness, which I have already given, the name Tollan is enough to point out the place and the powers with which the story deals. For this Tollan, where Quetzalcoatl reigned, is not by any means, as some have supposed, the little town of Tula, still alive, a dozen leagues or so northwest from the city of Mexico; nor was it, as the legend usually stated, in some undefined locality from six hundred to a thousand leagues northwest of that city; nor yet in Asia, as some antiquaries have maintained; nor, indeed, anywhere upon this weary world; but it was, as the name denotes, and as the native historian Tezozomoc long since translated it, where the bright sun lives, and where the god of light forever rules so long as that orb is in the sky. Tollan is but a syncopated form of Tonatlan, the Place of the Sun.
It is worth while to examine the whereabouts and character of this marvelous city of Tollan somewhat closely, for it is a place that we hear of in the oldest myths and legends of many and different races. Not only the Aztecs, but the Mayas of Yucatan and the Kiches and Cakchiquels of Guatemala bewailed, in woful songs, the loss to them of that beautiful land, and counted its destruction as a common starting point in their annals. Well might they regret it, for not again would they find its like. In that land the crop of maize never failed, and the ears grew as long as a man's arm; the cotton burst its pods, not white only, but naturally of all beautiful colors, scarlet, green, blue, orange, what you would; the gourds could not be clasped in the arms; birds of beauteous plumage filled the air with melodious song. There was never any want nor poverty. All the riches of the world were there, houses built of silver and precious jade, of rosy mother of pearl and of azure turquoises. The servants of the great king Quetzalcoatl were skilled in all manner of arts; when he sent them forth they flew to any part of the world with infinite speed; and his edicts were proclaimed from the summit of the mountain Tzatzitepec, the Hill of Shouting, by criers of such mighty voice that they could be heard a hundred leagues away. His servants and disciples were called "Sons of the Sun" and "Sons of the Clouds."
Where, then, was this marvelous land and wondrous city? Where could it be but where the Light-God is on his throne, where the life-giving sun is ever present, where are the mansions of the day, and where all nature rejoices in the splendor of its rays?
But this is more than in one spot. It may be in the uppermost heavens, where light is born and the fleecy clouds swim easily; or in the west, where the sun descends to his couch in sanguine glory; or in the east, beyond the purple rim of the sea, whence he rises refreshed as a giant to run his course; or in the underworld, where he passes the night.
Therefore, in ancient Cakchiquel legend it is said: "Where the sun rises, there is one Tulan; another is in the underworld; yet another where the sun sets; and there is still another, and there dwells the God. Thus, O my children, there are four Tulans, as the ancient men have told us."
The most venerable traditions of the Maya race claimed for them a migration from "Tollan in Zuyva." "Thence came we forth together," says the Kiche myth, "there was the common parent of our race, thence came we, from among the Yaqui men, whose god is Yolcuat Quetzalcoat." This Tollan is certainly none other than the abode of Quetzalcoatl, named in an Aztec manuscript as Zivena vitzcatl, a word of uncertain derivation, but applied to the highest heaven.
Where Quetzalcoatl finally retired, and whence he was expected back, was still a Tollan--Tollan Tlapallan--and Montezuma, when he heard of the arrival of the Spaniards, exclaimed, "It is Quetzalcoatl, returned from Tula."
The cities which selected him as their tutelary deity were named for that which he was supposed to have ruled over. Thus we have Tollan and Tollantzinco ("behind Tollan") in the Valley of Mexico, and the pyramid Cholula was called "Tollan-Cholollan," as well as many other Tollans and Tulas among the Nahuatl colonies.
The natives of the city of Tula were called, from its name, the Tolteca, which simply means "those who dwell in Tollan." And who, let us ask, were these Toltecs?
They have hovered about the dawn of American history long enough. To them have been attributed not only the primitive culture of Central America and Mexico, but of lands far to the north, and even the earthworks of the Ohio Valley. It is time they were assigned their proper place, and that is among the purely fabulous creations of the imagination, among the giants and fairies, the gnomes and sylphs, and other such fancied beings which in all ages and nations the popular mind has loved to create.
Toltec, Toltecatl,  which in later days came to mean a skilled craftsman or artificer, signifies, as I have said, an inhabitant of Tollan--of the City of the Sun--in other words, a Child of Light. Without a metaphor, it meant at first one of the far darting, bright shining rays of the sun. Not only does the tenor of the whole myth show this, but specifically and clearly the powers attributed to the ancient Toltecs. As the immediate subjects of the God of Light they were called "Those who fly the whole day without resting," and it was said of them that they had the power of reaching instantly even a very distant place. When the Light-God himself departs, they too disappear, and their city is left uninhabited and desolate.
In some, and these I consider the original versions of the myth, they do not constitute a nation at all, but are merely the disciples or servants of Quetzalcoatl.They have all the traits of beings of supernatural powers. They were astrologers and necromancers, marvelous poets and philosophers, painters as were not to be found elsewhere in the world, and such builders that for a thousand leagues the remains of their cities, temples and fortresses strewed the land. "When it has happened to me," says Father Duran, "to ask an Indian who cut this pass through the mountains, or who opened that spring of water, or who built that old ruin, the answer was, 'The Toltecs, the disciples of Papa.'"
They were tall in stature, beyond the common race of men, and it was nothing uncommon for them to live hundreds of years. Such was their energy that they allowed no lazy person to live among them, and like their master they were skilled in every art of life and virtuous beyond the power of mortals. In complexion they are described as light in hue, as was their leader, and as are usually the personifications of light, and not the less so among the dark races of men.
When Quetzalcoatl left Tollan most of the Toltecs had already perished by the stratagems of Tezcatlipoca, and those that survived were said to have disappeared on his departure. The city was left desolate, and what became of its remaining inhabitants no one knew. But this very uncertainty offered a favorable opportunity for various nations, some speaking Nahuatl and some other tongues, to claim descent from this mysterious, ancient and wondrous race.
The question seems, indeed, a difficult one. When the Light-God disappears from the sky, shorn of his beams and bereft of his glory, where are the bright rays, the darting gleams of light which erewhile bathed the earth in refulgence? Gone, gone, we know not whither.
The original home of the Toltecs was said to have been in Tlapallan--the very same Red Land to which Quetzalcoatl was fabled to have returned; only the former was distinguished as Old Tlapallan--Hue Tlapallan--as being that from which he and they had emerged. Other myths called it the Place of Sand, Xalac, an evident reference to the sandy sea strand, the same spot where it was said that Quetzalcoatl was last seen, beyond which the sun rises and below which he sinks. Thither he returned when driven from Tollan, and reigned over his vassals many years in peace.
We cannot mistake this Tlapallan, new or old. Whether it is bathed in the purple and gold of the rising sun or in the crimson and carnation of his setting, it always was, as Sahagun tells us, with all needed distinctness, "the city of the Sun," the home of light and color, whence their leader, Quetzalcoatl had come, and whither he was summoned to return.
The origin of the earthly Quetzalcoatl is variously given; one cycle of legends narrates his birth in Tollan in some extraordinary manner; a second cycle claims that he was not born in any country known to the Aztecs, but came to them as a stranger.
Of the former cycle probably one of the oldest versions is that he was a son or descendant of Tezcatlipoca himself, under his name Camaxtli. This was the account given to the chancellor Ramirez, and it is said by Torquemada to have been the canonical doctrine taught in the holy city of Cholollan, the centre of the worship of Quetzalcoatl. It is a transparent metaphor, and could be paralleled by a hundred similar expressions in the myths of other nations. The Night brings forth the Day, the darkness leads on to the light, and though thus standing in the relation of father and son, the struggle between them is forever continued.
Another myth represents him as the immediate son of the All-Father Tonaca tecutli, under his title Citlallatonac, the Morning, by an earth-born maiden in Tollan. In that city dwelt three sisters, one of whom, an unspotted virgin, was named Chimalman. One day, as they were together, the god appeared to them. Chimalman's two sisters were struck to death by fright at his awful presence, but upon her he breathed the breath of life, and straightway she conceived. The son she bore cost her life, but it was the divine Quetzalcoatl, surnamed Topiltcin, Our Son, and, from the year of his birth, Ce Acatl, One Reed. As soon as he was born he was possessed of speech and reason and wisdom. As for his mother, having perished on earth, she was transferred to the heavens, where she was given the honored name Chalchihuitzli, the Precious Stone of Sacrifice.
This, also, is evidently an ancient and simple figure of speech to express that the breath of Morning announces the dawn which brings forth the sun and disappears in the act.
The virgin mother Chimalman, in another legend, is said to have been brought with child by swallowing a jade or precious green stone (chalchihuitl); while another averred that she was not a virgin, but the wife of Camaxtli (Tezcatlipoca);  or again, that she was the second wife of that venerable old man who was the father of the seven sons from whom all tribes speaking the Nahuatl language, and several who did not speak it (Otomies, Tarascos), were descended. This latter will repay analysis.
All through Mexico and Central America this legend of the Seven Sons, Seven Tribes, the Seven Caves whence they issued, or the Seven Cities where they dwelt, constantly crops out. To that land the Aztecs referred as their former dwelling place. It was located at some indefinite distance to the north or northwest--in the same direction as Tollan. The name of that land was significant. It was called the White or Bright Land, Aztlan. In its midst was situated the mountain or hill Colhuacan the Divine, Teoculhuacan In the base of this hill were the Seven Caverns, Chicomoztoc, whence the seven tribes with their respective gods had issued, those gods including Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli and the Tezcatlipocas. There continued to live their mother, awaiting their return.
Teo is from teotl, god, deity. The description in the text of the relations of land and water in this mythical land, is also from Duran's work.
The lord of this land and the father of the seven sons is variously and indistinctly named. One legend calls him the White Serpent of the Clouds, or the White Cloud Twin, Iztac Mixcoatl. Whoever he was we can hardly mistake the mountain in which or upon which he dwelt. Colhuacan means the bent or curved mountain. It is none other than the Hill of Heaven, curving down on all sides to the horizon; upon it in all times have dwelt the gods, and from it they have come to aid the men they favor. Absolutely the same name was applied by the Choctaws to the mythical hill from which they say their ancestors first emerged into the light of day. They call itNane Waiyah, the Bent or Curved Hill Such identity of metaphorical expression leaves little room for discussion.
If it did, the other myths which surround the mystic mountain would seem to clear up doubt. Colhuacan, we are informed, continued to be the residence of the great Mother of the Gods. On it she dwelt, awaiting their return from earth. No one can entirely climb the mountain, for from its middle distance to the summit it is of fine and slippery sand; but it has this magical virtue, that whoever ascends it, however old he is, grows young again, in proportion as he mounts, and is thus restored to pristine vigor. The happy dwellers around it have, however, no need of its youth restoring power; for in that land no one grows old, nor knows the outrage of years.
When Quetzalcoatl, therefore, was alleged to be the son of the Lord of the Seven Caves, it was nothing more than a variation of the legend that gave him out as the son of the Lord of the High Heavens. They both mean the same thing. Chimalman, who appears in both myths as his mother, binds the two together, and stamps them as identical, while Mixcoatl is only another name for Tezcatlipoca.
Such an interpretation, if correct, would lead to the dismissal from history of the whole story of the Seven Cities or Caves, and the pretended migration from them. In fact, the repeated endeavors of the chroniclers to assign a location to these fabulous residences, have led to no result other than most admired disorder and confusion. It is as vain to seek their whereabouts, as it is that of the garden of Eden or the Isle of Avalon. They have not, and never had a place on this sublunary sphere, but belong in that ethereal world which the fancy creates and the imagination paints.
A more prosaic account than any of the above, is given by the historian, Alva Ixtlilxochitl, so prosaic that it is possible that it has some grains of actual fact in it.He tells us that a King of Tollan, Tecpancaltzin, fell in love with the daughter of one of his subjects, a maiden by name Xochitl, the Rose. Her father was the first to collect honey from the maguey plant, and on pretence of buying this delicacy the king often sent for Xochitl. He accomplished her seduction, and hid her in a rose garden on a mountain, where she gave birth to an infant son, to the great anger of the father. Casting the horoscope of the infant, the court astrologer found all the signs that he should be the last King of Tollan, and should witness the destruction of the Toltec monarchy. He was named Meconetzin, the Son of the Maguey, and in due time became king, and the prediction was accomplished.
In several points, however, this seemingly historic narrative has a suspicious resemblance to a genuine myth preserved to us in a certain Aztec manuscript known as the Codex Telleriano-Remensis. This document tells how Quetzalcoatl, Tezcatlipoca and their brethren were at first gods, and dwelt as stars in the heavens. They passed their time in Paradise, in a Rose Garden, Xochitlycacan ("where the roses are lifted up"); but on a time they began plucking the roses from the great Rose tree in the centre of the garden, and Tonaca-tecutli, in his anger at their action, hurled them to the earth, where they lived as mortals.
The significance of this myth, as applied to the daily descent of sun and stars from the zenith to the horizon, is too obvious to need special comment; and the coincidences of the rose garden on the mountain (in the one instance the Hill of Heaven, in the other a supposed terrestrial elevation) from which Quetzalcoatl issues, and the anger of the parent, seem to indicate that the supposed historical relation of Ixtlilxochitl is but a myth dressed in historic garb.
The second cycle of legends disclaimed any miraculous parentage for the hero of Tollan. Las Casas narrates his arrival from the East, from some part of Yucatan, he thinks, with a few followers, a tradition which is also repeated with definitiveness by the native historian, Alva Ixtlilxochitl, but leaving the locality uncertain. The historian, Veytia, on the other hand, describes him as arriving from the North, a full grown man, tall of stature, white of skin, and full-bearded, barefooted and bareheaded, clothed in a long white robe strewn with red crosses, and carrying a staff in his hand.
Whatever the origin of Quetzalcoatl, whether the child of a miraculous conception, or whether as an adult stranger he came from some far-off land, all accounts agree as to the greatness and purity of his character, and the magnificence of Tollan under his reign. His temple was divided into four apartments, one toward the East, yellow with gold; one toward the West, blue with turquoise and jade; one toward the South, white with pearls and shells, and one toward the North, red with bloodstones; thus symbolizing the four cardinal points and four quarters of the world over which the light holds sway.
Through the midst of Tollan flowed a great river, and upon or over this river was the house of Quetzalcoatl. Every night at midnight he descended into this river to bathe, and the place of his bath was called, In the Painted Vase, or, In the Precious Waters. For the Orb of Light dips nightly into the waters of the World Stream, and the painted clouds of the sun-setting surround the spot of his ablutions.
I have said that the history of Quetzalcoatl in Tollan is but a continuation of the conflict of the two primal brother gods. It is still the implacable Tezcatlipoca who pursues and finally conquers him. But there is this significant difference, that whereas in the elemental warfare portrayed in the older myth mutual violence and alternate destruction prevail, in all these later myths Quetzalcoatl makes no effort at defence, scarcely remonstrates, but accepts his defeat as a decree of Fate which it is vain to resist. He sees his people fall about him, and the beautiful city sink into destruction, but he knows it is the hand of Destiny, and prepares himself to meet the inevitable with what stoicism and dignity he may.
The one is the quenching of the light by the darkness of the tempest and the night, represented as a struggle; in the other it is the gradual and calm but certain and unavoidable extinction of the sun as it noiselessly sinks to the western horizon.
The story of the subtlety of Tezcatlipoca is variously told. In what may well be its oldest and simplest version it is said that in his form as Camaxtli he caught a deer with two heads, which, so long as he kept it, secured him luck in war; but falling in with one of five goddesses he had created, he begat a son, and through this act he lost his good fortune. The son was Quetzalcoatl, surnamed Ce Acatl, and he became Lord of Tollan, and a famous warrior. For many years he ruled the city, and at last began to build a very great temple. While engaged in its construction Tezcatlipoca came to him one day and told him that toward Honduras, in a place called Tlapallan, a house was ready for him, and he must quit Tollan and go there to live and die. Quetzalcoatl replied that the heavens and stars had already warned him that after four years he must go hence, and that he would obey. The time past, he took with him all the inhabitants of Tula, and some he left in Cholula, from whom its inhabitants are descended, and some he placed in the province of Cuzcatan, and others in Cempoal, and at last he reached Tlapallan, and on the very day he arrived there, he fell sick and died. As for Tula, it remained without an inhabitant for nine years.
A more minute account is given by the author of the Annals of Cuauhtitlan, a work written at an early date, in the Aztec tongue. He assures his readers that his narrative of these particular events is minutely and accurately recorded from the oldest and most authentic traditions. It is this:--
When those opposed to Quetzalcoatl did not succeed in their designs, they summoned to their aid a demon or sorcerer, by name Tezcatlipoca, and his assistants. He said: "We will give him a drink to dull his reason, and will show him his own face in a mirror, and surely he will be lost." Then Tezcatlipoca brewed an intoxicating beverage, the pulque, from the maguey, and taking a mirror he wrapped it in a rabbit skin, and went to the house of Quetzalcoatl.
"Go tell your master," he said to the servants, "that I have come to show him his own flesh."
"What is this?" said Quetzalcoatl, when the message was delivered. "What does he call my own flesh? Go and ask him."
But Tezcatlipoca refused. "I have not come to see you, but your master," he said to the servants. Then he was admitted, and Quetzalcoatl said:--
"Welcome, youth, you have troubled yourself much. Whence come you? What is this, my flesh, that you would show me?"
"My Lord and Priest," replied the youth, "I come from the mountain-side of Nonoalco. Look, now, at your flesh; know yourself; see yourself as you are seen of others;" and with that he handed him the mirror.
As soon as Quetzalcoatl saw his face in the mirror he exclaimed:--
"How is it possible my subjects can look on me without affright? Well might they flee from me. How can a man remain among them filled as I am with foul sores, his face wrinkled and his aspect loathsome? I shall be seen no more; I shall no longer frighten my people."
Then Tezcatlipoca went away to take counsel, and returning, said:--
"My lord and master, use the skill of your servant. I have come to console you. Go forth to your people. I will conceal your defects by art."
"Do what you please," replied Quetzalcoatl. "I will see what my fate is to be."
Tezcatlipoca painted his cheeks green and dyed his lips red. The forehead he colored yellow, and taking feathers of the quechol bird, he arranged them as a beard. Quetzalcoatl surveyed himself in the mirror, and rejoiced at his appearance, and forthwith sallied forth to see his people.
Tezcatlipoca withdrew to concoct another scheme of disgrace. With his attendants he took of the strong pulque which he had brewed, and came again to the palace of the Lord of Tollan. They were refused admittance and asked their country. They replied that they were from the Mountain of the Holy Priest, from the Hill of Tollan. When Quetzalcoatl heard this, he ordered them to be admitted, and asked their business. They offered him thepulque, but he refused, saying that he was sick, and, moreover, that it would weaken his judgment and might cause his death. They urged him to dip but the tip of his finger in it to taste it; he complied, but even so little of the magic liquor overthrew his self control, and taking the bowl he quaffed a full draught and was drunk. Then these perverse men ridiculed him, and cried out:--
"You feel finely now, my son; sing us a song; sing, worthy priest."
Thereupon Quetzalcoatl began to sing, as follows:--
"My pretty house, my coral house,
  I call it Zacuan by name;
And must I leave it, do you say?
  Oh my, oh me, and ah for shame."
As the fumes of the liquor still further disordered his reason, he called his attendants and bade them hasten to his sister Quetzalpetlatl, who dwelt on the Mountain Nonoalco, and bring her, that she too might taste the divine liquor. The attendants hurried off and said to his sister:--
"Noble lady, we have come for you. The high priest Quetzalcoatl awaits you. It is his wish that you come and live with him."
She instantly obeyed and went with them. On her arrival Quetzalcoatl seated her beside him and gave her to drink of the magical pulque. Immediately she felt its influence, and Quetzalcoatl began to sing, in drunken fashion--
"Sister mine, beloved mine,
Come with me, drink with me,
  'Tis no sin, sin, sin."
Soon they were so drunken that all reason was forgotten; they said no prayers, they went not to the bath, and they sank asleep on the floor.
Sad, indeed, was Quetzalcoatl the next morning.
"I have sinned," he said; "the stain on my name can never be erased. I am not fit to rule this people. Let them build for me a habitation deep under ground; let them bury my bright treasures in the earth; let them throw the gleaming gold and shining stones into the holy fountain where I take my daily bath."
All this was done, and Quetzalcoatl spent four days in his underground tomb. When he came forth he wept and told his followers that the time had come for him to depart for Tlapallan, the Red Land, Tlillan, the Dark Land, and Tlatlallan, the Fire Land, all names of one locality.
He journeyed eastward until he came to a place where the sky, and land, and water meet together. There his attendants built a funeral pile, and he threw himself into the flames. As his body burned his heart rose to heaven, and after four days became the planet Venus.
That there is a profound moral significance in this fiction all will see; but I am of opinion that it is accidental and adventitious. The means that Tezcatlipoca employs to remove Quetzalcoatl refer to the two events that mark the decline of day. The sun is reflected by a long lane of beams in the surface waters of lake or sea; it loses the strength of its rays and fails in vigor; while the evening mists, the dampness of approaching dewfall, and the gathering clouds obscure its power and foretell the extinction which will soon engulf the bright luminary. As Quetzalcoatl cast his shining gold and precious stones into the water where he took his nightly bath, or buried them in underground hiding places, so the sun conceals his glories under the waters, or in the distant hills, into which he seems to sink. As he disappears at certain seasons, the Star of Evening shines brightly forth amid the lingering and fading rays, rising, as it were, from the dying fires of the sunset.
To this it may be objected that the legend makes Quetzalcoatl journey toward the East, and not toward the sunset. The explanation of this apparent contradiction is easy. The Aztec sages had at some time propounded to themselves the question of how the sun, which seems to set in the West, can rise the next morning in the East? Mungo Parke tells us that when he asked the desert Arabs this conundrum, they replied that the inquiry was frivolous and childish, as being wholly beyond the capacities of the human mind. The Aztecs did not think so, and had framed a definite theory which overcame the difficulty. It was that, in fact, the sun only advances to the zenith, and then returns to the East, from whence it started. What we seem to see as the sun between the zenith and the western horizon is, in reality, not the orb itself, but only its brightness, one of its accidents, not its substance, to use the terms of metaphysics. Hence to the Aztec astronomer and sage, the house of the sun is always toward the East.
We need not have recourse even to this explanation. The sun, indeed, disappears in the West; but his journey must necessarily be to the East, for it is from that point that he always comes forth each morning. The Light-God must necessarily daily return to the place whence he started.
The symbols of the mirror and the mystic drink are perfectly familiar in Aryan sun-myths. The best known of the stories referring to the former is the transparent tale of Narcissus forced by Nemesis to fall in love with his own image reflected in the waters, and to pine away through unsatisfied longing; or, as Pausanias tells the story, having lost his twin sister (the morning twilight), he wasted his life in noting the likeness of his own features to those of his beloved who had passed away. "The sun, as he looks down upon his own face reflected in a lake or sea, sinks or dies at last, still gazing on it."
Some later writers say that the drink which Quetzalcoatl quaffed was to confer immortality. This is not stated in the earliest versions of the myth. The beverage is health-giving and intoxicating, and excites the desire to seek Tlapallan, but not more. It does not, as the Soma of the Vedas, endow with unending life.
Nevertheless, there is another myth which countenances this view and explains it. It was told in the province of Meztitlan, a mountainous country to the northwest of the province of Vera Cruz. Its inhabitants spoke the Nahuatl tongue, but were never subject to the Montezumas. Their chief god was Tezcatlipoca, and it was said of him that on one occasion he slew Ometochtli (Two Rabbits), the god of wine, at the latter's own request, he believing that he thus would be rendered immortal, and that all others who drank of the beverage he presided over would die. His death, they added, was indeed like the stupor of a drunkard, who, after his lethargy has passed, rises healthy and well. In this sense of renewing life after death, he presided over the native calendar, the count of years beginning with Tochtli, the Rabbit. Thus we see that this is a myth of the returning seasons, and of nature waking to life again after the cold months ushered in by the chill rains of the late autumn. The principle of fertility is alone perennial, while each individual must perish and die. The God of Wine in Mexico, as in Greece, is one with the mysterious force of reproduction.
No writer has preserved such numerous traditions about the tricks of Tezcatlipoca in Tollan, as Father Sahagun. They are, no doubt, almost verbally reported as he was told them, and as he wrote his history first in the Aztec tongue, they preserve all the quaintness of the original tales. Some of them appear to be idle amplifications of story tellers, while others are transparent myths. I shall translate a few of them quite literally, beginning with that of the mystic beverage.
The time came for the luck of Quetzalcoatl and the Toltecs to end; for there appeared against them three sorcerers, named Vitzilopochtli, Titlacauan and Tlacauepan, who practiced many villanies in the city of Tullan. Titlacauan began them, assuming the disguise of an old man of small stature and white hairs. With this figure he approached the palace of Quetzalcoatl and said to the servants:--
"I wish to see the King and speak to him."
"Away with you, old man;" said the servants. "You cannot see him. He is sick. You would only annoy him."
"I must see him," answered the old man.
The servants said, "Wait," and going in, they told Quetzalcoatl that an old man wished to see him, adding, "Sire, we put him out in vain; he refuses to leave, and says that he absolutely must see you." Quetzalcoatl answered:--
"Let him in. I have been waiting his coming for a long time."
They admitted the old man and he entered the apartment of Quetzalcoatl, and said to him:--
"My lord and son, how are you? I have with me a medicine for you to drink."
"You are welcome, old man," replied Quetzalcoatl. "I have been looking for your arrival for many days."
"Tell me how you are," asked the old man. "How is your body and your health?"
"I am very ill," answered Quetzalcoatl. "My whole body pains me, and I cannot move my hands or feet."
Then the old man said:--
"Sire, look at this medicine which I bring you. It is good and healthful, and intoxicates him who drinks it. If you will drink it, it will intoxicate you, it will heal you, it will soothe your heart, it will prepare you for the labors and fatigues of death, or of your departure."
"Whither, oh ancient man," asked Quetzalcoatl, "Whither must I go?"
The old man answered:--
"You must without fail go to Tullan Tlapallan, where there is another old man awaiting you; you and he will talk together, and at your return you will be transformed into a youth, and you will regain the vigor of your boyhood."
When Quetzalcoatl heard these words, his heart was shaken with strong emotion, and the old man added:--
"My lord, drink this medicine."
"Oh ancient man," answered the king, "I do not want to drink it."
"Drink it, my lord," insisted the old man, "for if you do not drink it now, later you will long for it; at least, lift it to your mouth and taste a single drop."
Quetzalcoatl took the drop and tasted it, and then quaffed the liquor, exclaiming:--
"What is this? It seems something very healthful and well-flavored. I am no longer sick. It has cured me. I am well."
"Drink again," said the old man. "It is a good medicine, and you will be healthier than ever."
Again did Quetzalcoatl drink, and soon he was intoxicated. He began to weep; his heart was stirred, and his mind turned toward the suggestion of his departure, nor did the deceit of the old sorcerer permit him to abandon the thought of it. The medicine which Quetzalcoatl drank was the white wine of the country, made of those magueys call teometl.
This was but the beginning of the guiles and juggleries of Tezcatlipoca. Transforming himself into the likeness of one of those Indians of the Maya race, called Toveyome, he appeared, completely nude, in the market place of Tollan, having green peppers to sell. Now Huemac, who was associated with Quetzalcoatl in the sovereignty of Tollan (although other myths apply this name directly to Quetzalcoatl, and this seems the correct version),had an only daughter of surpassing beauty, whom many of the Toltecs had vainly sought in marriage. This damsel looked forth on the market where Tezcatlipoca stood in his nakedness, and her virginal eyes fell upon the sign of his manhood. Straightway an unconquerable longing seized her, a love so violent that she fell ill and seemed like to die. Her women told her father the reason, and he sent forth and had the false Toveyo brought before him. Huemac addressed him:--
"Whence come you?"
"My lord," replied the Toveyo, "I am a stranger, and I have come to sell green peppers."
"Why," asked the king "do you not wear a maxtli (breech-cloth), and cover your nakedness with a garment?"
"My lord," answered the stranger, "I follow the custom of my country."
Then the king added:--
"You have inspired in my daughter a longing; she is sick with desire; you must cure her."
"Nay, my lord," said the stranger, "this may not be. Rather slay me here; I wish to die; for I am not worthy to hear such words, poor as I am, and seeking only to gain my bread by selling green peppers."
But the king insisted, and said:--
"Have no fear; you alone can restore my daughter; you must do so."
Thereupon the attendants cut the sham Toveyo's hair; they led him to the bath, and colored his body black; they placed a maxtli and a robe upon him, and the king said:--
"Go in unto my daughter."
Tezcatlipoca went in unto her, and she was healed from that hour.
Thus did the naked stranger become the son-in-law of the great king of Tula. But the Toltecs were deeply angered that the maiden had given his black body the preference over their bright forms, and they plotted to have him slain. He was placed in the front of battle, and then they left him alone to fight the enemy. But he destroyed the opposing hosts and returned to Tula with a victory all the more brilliant for their desertion of him.
Then he requited their treachery with another, and pursued his intended destruction of their race. He sent a herald to the top of the Hill of Shouting, and through him announced a magnificent festival to celebrate his victory and his marriage. The Toltecs swarmed in crowds, men, women and children, to share in the joyous scene. Tezcatlipoca received them with simulated friendship. Taking his drum, he began to beat upon it, accompanying the music with a song. As his listeners heard the magic music, they became intoxicated with the strains, and yielding themselves to its seductive influence, they lost all thought for the future or care for the present. The locality to which the crafty Tezcatlipoca had invited them was called, The Rock upon the Water. It was the summit of a lofty rock at the base of which flowed the river called, By the Rock of Light. When the day had departed and midnight approached, the magician, still singing and dancing, led the intoxicated crowd to the brink of the river, over which was a stone bridge. This he had secretly destroyed, and as they came to the spot where it should have been and sought to cross, the innumerable crowd pressing one upon the other, they all fell into the water far below, where they sank out of sight and were changed into stones.
Is it pushing symbolism too far to attempt an interpretation of this fable, recounted with all the simplicity of the antique world, with greater directness, indeed, than I have thought wise to follow?
I am strongly inclined to regard it as a true myth, which, in materialistic language, sets forth the close of the day and the extinction of the light. May we not construe the maiden as the Evening Twilight, the child of the Day at the close of its life? The black lover with whom she is fatally enamored, is he not the Darkness, in which the twilight fades away? The countless crowds of Toltecs that come to the wedding festivities, and are drowned before midnight in the waters of the strangely named river, are they not the infinitely numerous light-rays which are quenched in the world-stream, when the sun has sunk, and the gloaming is lost in the night?
May we not go farther, and in this Rock of Light which stands hard by the river, recognize the Heavenly Hill which rises beside the World Stream? The bright light of one day cannot extend to the next. The bridge is broken by the intervening night, and the rays are lost in the dark waters.
But whether this interpretation is too venturesome or not, we cannot deny the deep human interest in the story, and its poetic capacities. The overmastering passion of love was evidently as present to the Indian mind as to that of the mediaeval Italian. In New as well as in Old Spain it could break the barriers of rank and overcome the hesitations of maidenly modesty. Love clouding the soul, as night obscures the day, is a figure of speech, used, I remember, by the most pathetic of Ireland's modern bards:--
"Love, the tyrant, evinces,
  Alas! an omnipotent might;
He treads on the necks of princes,
  He darkens the mind, like night."
I shall not detail the many other wiles with which Tezcatlipoca led the Toltecs to their destruction. A mere reference to them must suffice. He summoned thousands to come to labor in the rose-garden of Quetzalcoatl, and when they had gathered together, he fell upon them and slew them with a hoe. Disguised with Huitzilopochtli, he irritated the people until they stoned the brother gods to death, and from the corrupting bodies spread a pestilential odor, to which crowds of the Toltecs fell victims. He turned the thought of thousands into madness, so that they voluntarily offered themselves to be sacrificed. By his spells all articles of food soured, and many perished of famine.
At length Quetzalcoatl, wearied with misfortune, gave orders to burn the beautiful houses of Tollan, to bury his treasures, and to begin the journey to Tlapallan. He transformed the cacao trees into plants of no value, and ordered the birds of rich plumage to leave the land before him.
The first station he arrived at was Quauhtitlan, where there was a lofty and spreading tree. Here he asked of his servants a mirror, and looking in it said: "I am already old." Gathering some stones, he cast them at the tree. They entered the wood and remained there.
As he journeyed, he was preceded by boys playing the flute. Thus he reached a certain spot, where he sat upon a stone by the wayside, and wept for the loss of Tollan. The marks of his hands remained upon the stone, and the tears he dropped pierced it through. To the day of the Conquest these impressions on the solid rock were pointed out.
At the fountain of Cozcapan, sorcerers met him, minded to prevent his departure:--
"Where are you going?" they asked. "Why have you left your capital? In whose care is it? Who will perform the sacred rites?"
But Quetzalcoatl answered:--
"You can in no manner hinder my departure. I have no choice but to go."
The sorcerers asked again: "Whither are you going?"
"I am going," replied Quetzalcoatl, "to Tlapallan. I have been sent for. The Sun calls me."
"Go, then, with good luck," said they. "But leave with us the art of smelting silver, of working stone and wood, of painting, of weaving feathers and other such arts."
Thus they robbed him, and taking the rich jewels he carried with him he cast them into the fountain, whence it received its name Cozcapan, Jewels in the Water.
Again, as he journeyed, a sorcerer met him, who asked him his destination:--
"I go," said Quetzalcoatl, "to Tlallapan."
"And luck go with you," replied the sorcerer, "but first take a drink of this wine."
"No," replied Quetzalcoatl, "not so much as a sip."
"You must taste a little of it," said the sorcerer, "even if it is by force. To no living person would I give to drink freely of it. I intoxicate them all. Come and drink of it."
Quetzalcoatl took the wine and drank of it through a reed, and as he drank he grew drunken and fell in the road, where he slept and snored.
Thus he passed from place to place, with various adventures. His servants were all dwarfs or hunchbacks, and in crossing the Sierra Nevada they mostly froze to death. By drawing a line across the Sierra he split it in two and thus made a passage. He plucked up a mighty tree and hurling it through another, thus formed a cross. At another spot he caused underground houses to be built, which were called Mictlancalco, At the House of Darkness.
At length he arrived at the sea coast where he constructed a raft of serpents, and seating himself on it as in a canoe, he moved out to sea. No one knows how or in what manner he reached Tlapallan.
The legend which appears to have been prevalent in Cholula was somewhat different. According to that, Quetzalcoatl was for many years Lord of Tollan, ruling over a happy people. At length, Tezcatlipoca let himself down from heaven by a cord made of spider's web, and, coming to Tollan, challenged its ruler to play a game of ball. The challenge was accepted, and the people of the city gathered in thousands to witness the sport. Suddenly Tezcatlipoca changed himself into a tiger, which so frightened the populace that they fled in such confusion and panic that they rushed over the precipice and into the river, where nearly all were killed by the fall or drowned in the waters.
Quetzalcoatl then forsook Tollan, and journeyed from city to city till he reached Cholula, where he lived twenty years. He was at that time of light complexion, noble stature, his eyes large, his hair abundant, his beard ample and cut rounding. In life he was most chaste and honest. They worshiped his memory, especially for three things: first, because he taught them the art of working in metals, which previous to his coming was unknown in that land; secondly, because he forbade the sacrifice either of human beings or the lower animals, teaching that bread, and roses, and flowers, incense and perfumes, were all that the gods demanded; and lastly, because he forbade, and did his best to put a stop to, wars, fighting, robbery, and all deeds of violence. For these reasons he was held in high esteem and affectionate veneration, not only by those of Cholula, but by the neighboring tribes as well, for many leagues around. Distant nations maintained temples in his honor in that city, and made pilgrimages to it, on which journeys they passed in safety through their enemy's countries.
The twenty years past, Quetzalcoatl resumed his journey, taking with him four of the principal youths of the city. When he had reached a point in the province of Guazacoalco, which is situated to the southeast of Cholula, he called the four youths to him, and told them they should return to their city; that he had to go further; but that they should go back and say that at some future day white and bearded men like himself would come from the east, who would possess the land.
Thus he disappeared, no one knew whither. But another legend said that he died there, by the seashore, and they burned his body. Of this event some particulars are given by Ixtlilxochitl, as follows:
Quetzalcoatl, surnamed Topiltzin, was lord of Tula. At a certain time he warned his subjects that he was obliged to go "to the place whence comes the Sun," but that after a term he would return to them, in that year of their calendar of the name Ce Acatl, One Reed, which returns every fifty-two years. He went forth with many followers, some of whom he left in each city he visited. At length he reached the town of Ma Tlapallan. Here he announced that he should soon die, and directed his followers to burn his body and all his treasures with him. They obeyed his orders, and for four days burned his corpse, after which they gathered its ashes and placed them in a sack made of the skin of a tiger.
The introduction of the game of ball and the tiger into the story is not so childish as it seems. The game of ball was as important an amusement among the natives of Mexico and Central America as were the jousts and tournaments in Europe in the Middle Ages. Towns, nations and kings were often pitted against each other. In the great temple of Mexico two courts were assigned to this game, over which a special deity was supposed to preside. In or near the market place of each town there were walls erected for the sport. In the centre of these walls was an orifice a little larger than the ball. The players were divided into two parties, and the ball having been thrown, each party tried to drive it through or over the wall. The hand was not used, but only the hip or shoulders.
From the earth the game was transferred to the heavens. As a ball, hit by a player, strikes the wall and then bounds back again, describing a curve, so the stars in the northern sky circle around the pole star and return to the place they left. Hence their movement was called The Ball-play of the Stars.
A recent writer asserts that the popular belief of the Aztecs extended the figure to a greater game than this. The Sun and Moon were huge balls with which the gods played an unceasing game, now one, now the other, having the better of it. If this is so, then the game between Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl is again a transparent figure of speech for the contest between night and day.
The Mexican tiger, the ocelotl, was a well recognized figure of speech, in the Aztec tongue, for the nocturnal heavens, dotted with stars, as is the tiger skin with spots. The tiger, therefore, which destroyed the subjects of Quetzalcoatl--the swift-footed, happy inhabitants of Tula--was none other than the night extinguishing the rays of the orb of light. In the picture writings Tezcatlipoca appears dressed in a tiger's skin, the spots on which represent the stars, and thus symbolize him in his character as the god of the sky at night.
The apotheosis of Quetzalcoatl from the embers of his funeral pyre to the planet Venus has led several distinguished students of Mexican mythology to identify his whole history with the astronomical relations of this bright star. Such an interpretation is, however, not only contrary to results obtained by the general science of mythology, but it is specifically in contradiction to the uniform statements of the old writers. All these agree that it was not till after he had finished his career, after he had run his course and disappeared from the sight and knowledge of men, that he was translated and became the evening or morning star. This clearly signifies that he was represented by the planet in only one, and that a subordinate, phase of his activity. We can readily see that the relation of Venus to the sun, and the evening and morning twilights, suggested the pleasing tale that as the light dies in the west, it is, in a certain way, preserved by the star which hangs so bright above the horizon.