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Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire

Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire: Myths and Prophecies in the Aztec Tradition, Revised Edition

Davíd Carrasco
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 287
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  • Book Info
    Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire
    Book Description:

    "Like J. Eric Thompson, Carrasco has applied an informed imagination to identify some of the ways that ideas could lie behind material form." - American Anthropologist "A must for both professional and serious non-professional students in Mesoamerica. Those who are interested in complex society and urbanism in general, as well as students of comparative religion, will find it stimulating. Most importantly, for anyone interested in the history of ideas, the book illuminates the tremendously powerful impact and role of a complex deity/mythico-historical figure in shaping one of the world's great pristine civilizations." - Queen's Quarterly

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-132-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface to the Revised Edition
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Preface to the First Edition
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    Davíd Carrasco
  7. Introduction: Mosaics and Centers
    (pp. 1-10)

    The story of ancient Mexico is the story of places and symbols of places. The little footprints crossing and looping the ancient maps suggest that archaic Mexicans visited such places as Teotihuacán, ʺAbode of the Gods,ʺ Tollan, ʺPlace of Reeds,ʺ Xochicalco, ʺPlace of the House of Flowers,ʺ Colhuacán, ʺPlace of the Ancestors,ʺ and Teocolhuacán, ʺPlace of the Divine Ancestors.ʺ In a sense, ancient Mexican history is the story of people and their symbols moving from place to place.

    This volume is concerned with a network of places in pre-Hispanic Mexico that conform dramatically to that social order known as the...

  8. One The Sources: From Storybook to Encyclopedia
    (pp. 11-62)

    The historian of religions working with primary sources representing Mesoamerican religions is faced with a distinctly complex relationship between the texts and their contexts. Not only is he faced with the problem of understanding the usual idiosyncratic influences of indigenous cultural and historical realities upon the origin, contents, and purposes of these sources, but also with the problem of understanding the influences of a foreign, conquering culture upon the bulk of the primary evidence. The documents that record events under the dynasties of the Aztecs, their neighbors, and precursors reflect not only the world views, beliefs, and artistic styles of...

  9. Two Quetzalcoatl and the Foundation of Tollan
    (pp. 63-103)

    A selection of Aztec lore contains the following lament:

    In Tollan stood the house of beams, where still the serpent columns stand deserted.

    Gone away is Nacxitl Topiltzin.

    Departing, he is wept for by our princes. He goes away; goes to where he rests, in Tlapallan.

    Now he leaves them in Cholollan, traveling through the land of Poyauhtecatl, going to Acallan….

    Ah, but no! Your palace, your temple—these you leave behind you here in Tollan Nonohualco …

    Your palace, your temple—these you leave behind you here in Tollan Nonohualco. The painted stones, the beams, you left them here...

  10. Three Other Tollans
    (pp. 104-147)

    The story of ancient Mexico is the story of places and visions of places. Mexican storybooks, chronicles, histories, and encyclopedias are filled with place signs and place references of cities and towns which were founded, visited on pilgrimages and trading expeditions, celebrated, and conquered. The most prominent place in Aztec memory is Tollan of Quetzalcoatl and Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl. In chapter 2 this place is portrayed as a dazzling, expanding, integrated landscape. Tollan, which originally meant ʺplace of reeds,ʺ grew to signify ʺgreat city,ʺ with the prestige of the sacred capital of ancestors where nature, agriculture, human creativity, and cosmic order...

  11. Four The Return of Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire
    (pp. 148-204)

    The geography of Mexico spreads out in a pyramidal form as if there existed a secret but evident relationship between the latter and what I have called an invisible history…. If Mexico is a truncated pyramid the valley of Anahuac is the platform of that pyramid. And in the center of that valley stands Mexico City, the ancient Mexico—Tenochtitlán, seat of Aztec power.¹

    And it is said when he died he disappeared for four days. Then he dwelled in Mictlan, they say. And for four days also he made himself arrows. And so in eight days he appeared, the...

  12. Five When Strangers Come to Town: The Return of Quetzalcoatl and Millennial Discourse
    (pp. 205-240)

    Contact is never so much a shock that some prophecy or other has not already accumulated around a piece of strangeness that years before drifted in on a storm tide or fell from the clouds.¹

    I think it was jorge Luis Borges who said somewhere that there are only two stories really worth writing about—either ʺa stranger comes to townʺ or ʺsomeone leaves home.ʺ These comings and goings, especially the ones worth writing about, can sometimes alter the shape or destiny of a family, society, or even a world. Occasionally, the travels of strangers or family members can have...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 241-264)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 265-274)
  15. Index
    (pp. 275-280)