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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Legends of the Plumed Serpent - Neil Baldwin

During his vacations, Neil Baldwin had spent a lot of time in Europe. For a change of pace, he decided to visit Mexico, where he was unexpectedly enchanted by the Legends of the Plumed Serpent, Quetzalcoatl.

The first portion of the book follows Baldwin's travels through temples, sacred places, and ruins of the Mexican people, as he peeks into the past. The later portions include the history of Mexico, its leaders, and its people. Accompanied by full color illustrations, including photographs of ruins, copies of parchments, and paintings Baldwin reveals the fantastic history of the redeemer god that once dominated the religion of the area. Quoted texts are in an orange typeface, which makes it easy to identify; however, the color may make it difficult for some readers to read the text. He taught personal insight, wisdom, and self-sacrifice. His teachings of sacrifice were practiced not only by his priests, but by the community at large. Ritual deaths were a part of special ceremonies throughout the year.

Before he left his people, he told them he would return to bring back the once glorious kingdom. Every 52 years, the people would be on watch for his inevitable return. Unfortunately, Cortes, an invader from Spain, took advantage of Montezuma's faith in the coming of Quetzalcoatl. Not soon after Christian missionaries began the arduous work of wiping out enough of the former religion as possible. By destroying monuments, building over sacred spots, and rewriting the legends of the people, the once glorious god had become nearly a memory. The situation became even worse as more invaders from Europe interfered with their daily lives.

Quetzalcoatl still lives on in his people, though. He is found in paintings, where he is shown creating the universe, watching over his people, and revealing revelation. He is found in poetry and writing where he is often used as an allusion to determination and longevity. While we may never know the full story behind this amazing and inspirational god, this book is a good starting point.

Recommended Reads:
The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman by Nancy Marie Brown

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