The Quetzal, A Sacred Bird
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Story by @luganoviaggia
Mayan legends tell that Kukulkan, the creator god, and Tepeu, the god of skies, were the ones who created the world. When they set out to create the birds, the divine breath that the gods directed towards a guayacán, caused the blue-green leaves of this beautiful tree to fall off, and as they fell to the ground, they assumed the form of the quetzal with its long and majestic plumage.
The quetzal was considered a sacred bird by the Mayans and Aztecs, according to its worldview, this enigmatic bird is a manifestation charged with great symbolism, it is related to the sky and the sun, for its iridescent plumage, and to life for its green color. The bird was also associated with Kukulkán in the Maya and Quetzalcóatl in the Aztecs, the so-called feathered serpent, a very important deity for the Mesoamerican peoples.
In Mayan culture, quetzal feathers were highly valued, only the great rulers could wear them in their clothes and large headdresses as a symbol of prestige, wealth, life and connection with the gods. Researchers have concluded that the ancient Mayans did not kill birds to get their feathers but obtained them when the bird changed its plumage. The quetzales were so precious and sacred that if anyone dared kill them, they were condemned to the death penalty.
Quetzals have always been associated with the idea of freedom, due to its helical flight, which should have attracted a lot of attention from these cultures; as well as the practical impossibility of keeping them in captivity, since they refuse to eat until they die and do not reproduce easily. It is said that the quetzales, in pre-Hispanic times, emitted a beautiful song, but they kept silence since the Spaniards conquered Mesoamérica, the oral tradition affirms that they will only sing again when this land becomes truly free again.
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