The wisdom tradition and religious thought of the ancient Aztecs is shrouded in mystery. Whilst we cannot completely ‘know’ how these people encountered life, we can intuitively enter an understanding of how they thought, using symbolic language to decipher what remains perceivable through the shifting sands of time.
One such remaining treasure is the myth of Chicovaneg and the Creation of the Sun. The story describes a time when an original sun had been extinguished by the forces of darkness, when no blossoms or fruits could be found upon the Earth and when the birds had forgotten how to sing… Human beings drifted in this total darkness, unable to find their way home, they lost all sense of time and meaning. Eventually, a gathering of chieftains was possible and after consulting the sage, Bayelsnael they learnt that the creation of a new sun was indeed possible but by no means easy.
“There is a way to create a new Sun as big and beautiful as the Sun we once enjoyed. But the way is difficult and full of danger… For he must fasten each star-piece onto his shield, and he must then climb higher and higher, gathering fragments from the stars, until he reaches the very apex arc of the sky. There, when all the star-pieces are fastened at last on his shield, the shield itself will turn into a great flaming sun.” (Traven, 1971 p.10)
Stars can be understood as a symbol of spiritual power that struggles against the forces of darkness, they also mark out the far reaching path that mankind can perceive as pertaining to its destiny… In antiquity stars were connected to the idea of virtues which inevitably require attention and effort to attain, to live by (Cirlot, 1971).
The hero Chicovaneg volunteers himself, realising that by doing so he will lose all he has ever known. He will leave the Earth never to return and, immortal in the heaven, be fated to observe all that he loves grow old and and die. This he chooses and his task begins with the creation of certain ‘magical weapons’ to prepare him for the perilous journey. One day, whilst searching for the ‘Feathered Serpent’ at the side of a lake, Chicovaneg sees an injured Quetzal bird fallen into the water and swims out to rescue it. However, the forces of darkness (aware of his quest to create the new sun) send a huge storm to drown them. Agile Chicovaneg places the Quetzal bird upon his head, whose precise-vision steers them both clear of every treacherous wave and safely to the shore.
Connection with animals often represents the conquest of some internal problem or the incorporation of certain spiritual powers into one’s consciousness. The precise-vision of the Quetzal bird that steers the hero through stormy waters could be understood as the awakening of an inner vision which clarifies the direction, meaning and purpose of one’s life.
With the Quetzal bird now helping him, Chicovaneg can find and free the Feathered Serpent. Using Odyssean-like skill he outwits the monster-sorcerer Masqueshab and dissolves the bewitching chains binding the magnificent creature by singing magical songs of the flowers.
In general, serpents represent forces and energies in life and the feathered plumage suggests a spiritual and solar quality – thus the Feathered Serpent refers to positive forces and energies that oblige us forwards and upwards. To free the Feathered Serpent is to free Life which moves in this ascending direction, to live and express positive spiritual energies, to enter into time, to know the direction of Life.
Now united with Chicovaneg, the Feathered Serpent accompanies him to the closest star. This first star appears tantalisingly within reach, but as Chicovaneg goes to grasp it his nerve fails, it seems further away and he fears falling into the abyss! Despite encouraging words from the Feathered Serpent, the hero is seized by doubt and procrastination. Months pass as Chicovaneg ties and reties his shield-straps and boots, over and over again. When he attempts it once more, the Feathered Serpent notices his nerve wavering again, but this time gives him an almighty whack(!) and with that Chicovaneg attains the first star on his way to the apex arc of the sky (Traven, 1971).
As the journey continues, Chicovaneg and the Feathered Serpent work together and through this dance the hero ascends to each new star, attaching the star-piece to his shield that grows ever brighter in the sky, bringing hope to people on Earth as flowers begin to grow and birds begin to sing. At one glorious moment the people of Earth see that a new sun had truly had been created. Despite continuous efforts by the forces of darkness to extinguish the sun, Chicovaneg remains on guard, raising his flaming shield and protecting those on Earth. When he rejoices in triumph he often paints a great arc of beautiful colours in the sky (Traven, 1971)…
There is a sweetness to this myth which speaks of a state of consciousness that is profound and at one with Nature. A state of consciousness that can hear the songs of the flowers and quietly has the courage to sing them and to free Life. To be guided and to leap forwards and upwards.
Image Credits: By Neil Henderson | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0The entity posting this article assumes the responsibility that images used in this article have the requisite permissions