Though many of the details have been lost over the years, ancient Mayan and Mesoamerican people have left a legacy of fascinating mythologies and amazing technological achievements in South America.
Between the structures, religious practices and folk magic that has survived till now, people are left fascinated by a people they can never know everything about.
The Kukulkan Temple is a surviving structure from a time before European settlers imposed their religious beliefs onto the Mayan and Mesoamerican people.
Built between the 8th and 12th centuries, the structure stands to this day in Chichen Itza, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico.
Each year thousands of people gravitate to this site and marvel at the Kukulkan Temple.
The temple is a shrine to a god of the same name.
Sometimes portrayed as a man and other times as a feathered serpent, Quetzalcoatl is a cornerstone in the Mayan belief structures.
Because the shrine is such a popular tourist destination with an ultimately mysterious back-story, people become very enamored with it.
Some choose to immortalize the subject of their fascination in a Quetzalcoatl tattoo.
Let’s explore the back-story of this interesting choice of ink.
Who is Quetzalcoatl?
Quetzalcoatl is a feathered snake deity.
Though this sounds strange, the Mayans weren’t the only ones who believed in a “plumed snake” as he was sometimes referred to.
Kukulkan finds his equal in Quetzalcoatl, a snake god to the Aztecs.
Quetzalcoatl is the god of wind, and he wore a conch shell around his neck to symbolize this.
He was also the god of air and learning.
He was a flying serpent born of a virgin.
The stories of his parentage are debated.
Some say Quetzalcoatl’s mother is visited by a god in a dream.
Other people say she swallowed an emerald, which later became Quetzalcoatl.
Still more stories theorize she was shot through the stomach with an enchanted arrow, or that he belonged to a family of thousands of children in the Milky Way galaxy.
As for our friend Kukulkan, he has many stories told about him but only one clear origin story.
The Mayans tell the tale of a boy who was born a snake.
As if this wasn’t strange enough, as he grew older he grew feathers and became the plumed serpent we hear referenced in Mayan myths.
His sister tried to care for him in the safety of a cave, but he became too big and eventually had to fly away.
Legend has it that an earthquake is simply Kukulkan letting his sister know that he is alive and well.
Kind of makes them a little less scary- doesn’t it?
Quetzalcoatl Tattoo Meaning
Quetzalcoatl is one of 3 gods credited with creating the world.
The main action he is given credit for is bringing knowledge to humans and teaching them how to cultivate those skills.
He also taught the Mayans about plant medicine and healing.
Quetzalcoatl has wings, which would only be natural since he has feathers.
There is a myth that says he used his wings to fly up to the sun.
He managed to make it to the sun, but was too full of pride.
When he opened his mouth to speak to the sun, he burned his tongue and had to return to earth.
Similarly to Quetzalcoatl, Kukulkan is a weather god.
He is said to travel ahead of the Mayan rain god, using his tail to reroute the winds and clean the earth’s surface.
Though in most legends Kukulkan is relatively helpful in one way or another, he is also sometimes referred to as an evil snake and a familiar to the sun god.
Like many ancient gods, Quetzalcoatl tattoo meaning is basically good, but it’s really hard to get a read on this guy!
To get a Quetzalcoatl tattoo would be homage to bettering yourself as a person, cultivating new skills, and flying high while keeping your ego in check.
If there’s any evidence that Kukulkan taught the Mayan people how to achieve greatness, that evidence is the Kukulkan Temple.
The temple is a pyramid-like structure with 4 sides and 91 steps per side, and one step on the ground in front of the temple.
All together there are 365 steps, one for each day of the year.
As the seasons turn, the shadows cast by the sun as it hits the steps makes for an illusion that a snake is slithering down the length of the temple.
It is truly a masterful achievement to take in with the naked eye.
Some folks who want a Kukulkan tattoo will get a tattoo of the temple itself, paying homage to this architectural mastery.
Eventually it was discovered that the temple is built over a large cenote- or underground water cave.
This was likely on purpose as the Mayans saw great spiritual significance in cenotes, but it does threaten the temple’s existence.
It is possible that the roof may cave in someday, so if this is a site you’d like to visit, go while you can!
Quetzalcoatl In Pop Culture
On the show Ancient Aliens, the xenologists theorize that Quetzalcoatl may have been an alien who visited earth to bestow technological gifts upon the humans there.
Because legend has it that Quetzalcoatl may return again, there were some theories in 2012 that the end of the Mayan calendar was foretelling such an event.
As far as we know, Quetzalcoatl hasn’t returned to earth.
But if he has, he’s undoubtedly flattered by all the tattoos in his honor!
Quetzalcoatl Tattoo Ideas
Quetzalcoatl is an interesting figure to have a tattoo of because it won’t be a common image, but it is well known among those who are fascinated with ancient mythologies, so it can be something of a calling card.
Having trouble picturing this plumed serpent?
Take a look at our gallery for some info and inspiration!
Black & Grey Quetzalcoatl Tattoos
Colorful Quetzalcoatl Tattoos
Quetzalcoatl Tattoo Sleeves
Small Quetzalcoatl Tattoos
Ouroboros Quetzalcoatl Tattoos
Quetzalcoatl Tattoo Placement
Forearm Quetzalcoatl Tattoos
Quetzalcoatl Tattoos on the Arm
Quetzalcoatl Tattoos on Leg