From the Aztec: The legend of How Music Came to the World

2020 History Kirby Vickery May 2020

By Kirby Vickery on the May 2020 Edition

There were two powerful gods within the Aztec pantheon whom sometimes fought and sometimes didn’t. As it happened, they met on a very windy, high plain one day. This would stand to reason, as one of them was Tezcatlipoca, the sky god, and the other was Quetzalcoatl, the god of the wind.

Tezcatlipoca spoke first to Quetzalcoatl by snidely asking. “What took you so long?”

Quetzalcoatl answered over his shoulder. “I’ve been busy with this hurricane season whipping up the waves.”

They argued for a while over the importance of wave whipping in their meeting. Finally, Tezcatlipoca yelled out to his companion. “You just stop huffing for a moment and listen. What do you hear?”

“Nothing. So?”

“Yeah. See?” Responded Quetzalcoatl. “Exactly my point. With-out all the noises you make with the wind and the waves and all the other noises all small creatures make, and that of the occasional volcano tossing up new earth and rock, there is nothing. I mean exactly nothing! No one sings. No one plays a note. We need to wake up the world, Wind. And I don’t mean hurricanes. We need music!”

“Music?” said Quetzalcoatl. I don’t even know what that word is.”

“I know,” the sky god said. “But, I’ll tell you who does: the Sun. He surrounds himself with singers and music-makers who play and sing for him all day long and that so-and-so won’t share their music with us which is evident because you don’t even know what it is.”


“He won’t share?” said Quetzalcoatl. “That’s not fair!”

“I know,” said Tezcatlipoca. “And that’s why I want you to go to the House of the Sun and bring the best singers and the best musicians. Remember,” he said, as the wind god unfolded his wings. “We need to wake up the world. We need music!”

Aztec Musicians [well sorta]

With one mighty flap, Quetzalcoatl hurled himself into the air. He flew over land and sea searching the endless coastline for a single beach. He knew there was only one way he could travel to the House of the Sun.

After he finally found it, he landed and called out the names of the sky god’s three servants: Cane and Conch, Water Woman and Water Monster. When they all stood before him, he ordered them to build a bridge.

They grabbed hold of each other and began to grow tall and thin and to twine together like twine makes a rope. They turned into a strong rope bridge that disappeared into the sky.

Quetzalcoatl climbed the bridge, following it higher and higher, as the earth grew smaller and smaller below.

Finally, he came to the realm of House of the Sun, and he could see the palace towers shimmering in the distance. He al-so discovered that getting to them was not as easy as arriving in the Sun’s realm. He had to grope around to find his way through a maze of streets with high walls. He kept getting lost and going around in circles.

Nearly ready to give up, he heard a beautiful sound that he had never heard before. It was cool and bright. It was sweet and light. It was music.

Quetzalcoatl followed the sound until it led him out of the building maze. Then he saw the musicians in the great court-yard of the Sun.

The flute players were dressed in golden yellow. The wandering minstrels wore blue. The lullaby singers were dressed in white, and the singers of love songs wore red.

Suddenly the Sun saw Quetzalcoatl.

“Stop playing!” he cried. “Stop it, I say. “Stop your singing right now! It’s that foul tempered wind! Don’t even speak to him or he will take you back to that silent planet of his!”

Quetzalcoatl lifted his wings and called to the musicians to come with him!
None of them said a word.

Again the wind god cried out, “Singers! Musicians! The Lord of the Sky commands you!” And again, the musicians remained silent.

Quetzalcoatl did not like to be ignored. He exploded with anger, like a hundred hurricanes going off at once. Lightning cracked and thunder boomed and clouds swirled around the House of the Sun, turning the daylight into darkness. The wind god then roared as if there was no end to his voice. Everything fell down. The Sun flickered like a tiny flame. The musicians all ran to the wind and huddled in his arms, trembling with fear.

Instantly the wind’s anger passed. His thunder faded and the clouds vanished. Quetzalcoatl took the musicians in his arms and left the House of the Sun, moving through the maze as if it were not even there because he was filled with great happiness as he followed the sky bridge back to earth.

The earth could also feel that something new was coming -something it needed and had been secretly wishing for. As the wind god came nearer, the earth let out a slow sigh of relief as its fruit plants began to ripen and its flowers began to bloom with new, deeper colors. The whole planet seemed to be waking up from a long sleep.

Tonatiuh the Sun God

Finally, Quetzalcoatl touched down on the earth with the musicians and singers. They looked around curiously at the silent, waiting planet. Then they began to play and they started to wander as they played through forests and valleys and deserts and oceans they traveled, filling the air with music.

Soon people learned to sing and play, and so did the trees and birds, the whales and wolves, the running streams, the crickets and frogs, and every other creature.

From dawn to dusk, the melodies spread until music covered the earth.

The wind god was pleased. So was the sky god. The musicians were happy with their new home.

And ever since that day, the earth has been filled with music.

[This story is a shortened child’s story taken from several re-searched Codex and filled in with some visual interpretations by several archeologists on a project a few years ago. When we talk about the Aztecs, we so often just slip by their classical home life and style and I feel that it’s a shame to do that.]

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