The Birth of Ehecatl: The Cultural Origins of the Avian Wind God OF Central Mexico

Author(s): Karl Taube

Year: 2015


One of the most striking deities of the Aztec pantheon is Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl, a duck-billed being embodying such ethereal concepts as rain-bringing wind and the breath of life. He is in jarring contrast to Quetzalcoatl, who although embodying the same concepts of wind, is a quetzal-plumed rattlesnake in Aztec thought. This study argues that in contrast to the plumed serpent, Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl constitutes a relatively recent introduction of an avian wind deity from eastern Mesoamerica into Central Mexico during the Postclassic period. Similar duck-billed human figures appear as early as the Early Formative in coastal Chiapas, and continue in Middle Formative Olmec and Late Formative Isthmian and Maya iconography, including the Tuxtla Statuette and the West Wall mural at San Bartolo. For the Late Classic Maya, there is explicit epigraphic and iconographic evidence of a duck-billed wind deity, and in striking contrast, such a being is completely unknown in the rich corpus of documented imagery from Teotihuacan, Cacaxtla, Xochicalco and other sites of Classic Central Mexico. I will note that the Initial Series Group at Chichen Itza provides a remarkably detailed corpus pertaining to this wind deity during the Early Postclassic, quite probably when this being was introduced into highland Mexico.

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Cite this Record

The Birth of Ehecatl: The Cultural Origins of the Avian Wind God OF Central Mexico. Karl Taube. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395706)


Aztec Maya Mesoamerica

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;