Decolonize Astrology: Venus as Quetzalcoatl
The Legend of Ce Acatl Topiltzin
Quetzalcoatl: Man, God, Spiritual Leader, Legend?
For the Maya, he was all of the above. Quetzalcoatl is translated as “feathered serpent”: half quetzal, half snake, the ruler of the skies and the true solar sun. The Maya believed that the world had been made and re-made four times before our own time here on Earth. Each one of those levels of reality was ruled by a different sun: the sun of the wood, the sun of the water, the sun of the monkeys, and the sun of the mud. But in each one of these iterations, there was always one true solar sun to rule them all: Quetzalcoatl.
In our skies, Quetzalcoatl was represented by the planet Venus. The Maya paid special attention the rise and fall of Venus in our skies, as an indicator of the story of Quetzalcoatl. Venus was observed to have both a morning star and evening star modality. At certain times of the year we can see Venus rising just before dawn, the soft light obliterated by our own Sun rising soon after. At other times, Venus can be observed rising just after sunset, visible in the night time sky for a few hours before setting again.
These two modalities, dawn and dusk, were though to represent the polarity of energy as we observe it here on Earth: up and down, light and dark, heaven and hell, push and pull: each ancient culture has observed this duality in their own way. For the Maya, all creation arises from the juxtaposition of these two energies. Quetzalcoatl inhabited both of these forms.
Tired of humans being subservient to the gods, Quetzalcoatl took human form on Earth. As the spiritual leader Ce Acatl Topiltzin, Quetzalcoatl reformed the ancient culture of the Toltecs, the predecessors to the Maya. He founded and migrated his people to the city of Tollan, now known as Tepoztlán. There, he led the Toltecs away from human sacrifice, which he found abhorrent and contradictory towards his own respect for human life. He also established a class of priests and spiritual followers who practiced celibacy, sobriety, and respect for all life.
His brother, the god Tezcatlipoca, who had become accustomed to human sacrifices, was not happy with these changes and devised a plan for Quetzalcoatl’s downfall. He visited Tollan as a Medicine Man and offered Quetzalcoatl a drink to cure an illness that had recently befallen him. Unknown to Quetzalcoatl, this drink was actually a pure and potent form of alcohol, which he had vowed never to imbibe. An intoxicated Quetzalcoatl danced with rage and power all hours of the night, and in his madness, committed incest with his sister, Quetzalpétatl.
When he awoke the next day, burdened by the shame of his actions, he vowed to take penance for his mistake. He disrobed, and released his title as the spiritual head of Tollan. Naked, he walked to the Atlantic coast of Mexico and jumped into the Sea, vowing to return when he had attuned for his sins.
Now, in the night sky after the sun has set, we can witness Quetzalcoatl as the evening star, making his penance with the cosmic sea. The nine days between the morning and evening star expressions of Venus are considered ill omens in the Maya calendar, and the time in which Quetzalcoatl become intoxicated at the hands of his brother. When Venus rises in the morning before dawn, Quetzalcoatl rises again as the leader of Tollan.
And so Venus, the star of love and energetic reciprocity in the Western sky, becomes the sun of spiritual transformation and atonement in the Maya cosmology. If you have Venus prominent in your astrology chart, consider the Mayan interpretation of this fateful star. Through connection with others, we can experience both the rise and fall of our own evolutionary spirit. Certain people can bring about growth and transformation, while others can reveal to us the places we have yet to explore.