Huitzilopochtli, holding a turquoise serpent or rattlesnake in one hand and a shield with the five directions of space and three arrows, wears a hummingbird mask or helmet with feathered quetzal crown which is identified with the two Moctezumas (or Montezumas).
In Aztec religion, Xiuhcoatl was a mythological serpent regarded as the spirit form of Xiuhtecuhtli, the Aztec fire deity, and was also an atlatl wielded by Huitzilopochtli. Huitzilopochtli, whose name means “Blue hummingbird on the left,” was the Aztec god of the sun and war. The turquoise or fire serpent (xiuhcoatl) was his mystical weapon. Xiuhcoatl is a Classical Nahuatl word that literally translates as “turquoise serpent”; it also carries the symbolic and descriptive meaning, “fire serpent”.
Xiuhcoatl was a common subject of Aztec art, including illustrations in Aztec codices and its use as a back ornament on representations of both Xiuhtecuhtli and Huitzilopochtli.Xiuhcoatl is interpreted as the embodiment of the dry season and was the weapon of the sun. The royal diadem (or xiuhuitzolli, “pointed turquoise thing”) of the Aztec emperors apparently represented the tail of the Xiuhcoatl, the fire serpent.
As Fray Bernardino de Sahagún observed: the Mexicans “are held to be barbarians and of very little worth; in truth, however, in matters of culture and refinement, they are a step ahead of other nations." We explore the history and legacy of the Nahua and Maya civilizations, both of which challenge our preconceptions.