Quetzalcoatl's Descent to Mictlan
(Dance) *See story below.
Here's the video of the Aztec dance performance of part of the story of Quetzalcoatl's descent to Mictlan, the Land of the Dead, to retrieve the precious bones so that humans can live again. It's a night-time performance, which is a perfect fit for the setting. Mictlan was described as a place of perpetual darkness, coldness, and night. The lighting is mostly from the bonfire and a few lamps, so it's very moody looking and the shadows and light accentuate the motions and costumes of the danzantes. Unfortunately it is not of the best camera quality.
Quetzalcoatl is portrayed by the dancer in the birdlike, beaked mask who's carrying the serpent, while Mictlantecuhtli is played by the dancer with the lion's-mane-like headdress with a skull in the center of the fan of feathers. Mictlantecuhtli's servants are creatively portrayed by children in skeletal costumes to match Mictlantecuhtli's skeletal body. You're probably wondering ''Why kids? That's not scary!'' I think they're echoing the myths that portray Tlaloc's helpers, the Tlaloque, as miniature versions of the goggle-eyed Rain God. If Tlaloc's assistants are mini-Tlalocs, then why not have the Lord of the Dead's be miniature Mictlantecuhtlis? Either way, it's a nice casting choice in my opinion.
I also aspire to do a personalized dance very similar to this in a ritual to both Quetzalcoatl and Mictlantecuhtli; as I have been working with the two rather frequently as of late. A little basic background info on the two:
Quetzalcoatl was said to be related to, or one of, the gods of the wind of and the dawn. Considered the patron deity of merchants and of craft, art, sculpture. More importantly, the deity of learning and knowledge.
Mictlantecuhtli is a dark, mysterious figure within Aztec mythology. There is a lot of enigma and mistrust around him, he is said to be very cunning. As you have probably figured out, he is the patron deity of death and ruler of Mictlan, the underworld. Spiders, bats and owls are the creatures most tend to associate him with. He apparently dwells in a windowless house in Mictlan with his wife. As for appearance, most find him to be a skeleton with 'googly' eyeballs and covered in blood spatter, with a necklace and earrings of human body parts.
Quetzalcoatl's Descent: The story.
Within Aztec mythology, the Earth was created by the various deities, they put their creation in order and placed Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec death deity, and his wife in the underworld (Mictlan). However, the deities failed to remember that Mictlan is where the bones of the previous people (who were turned into fish during a spat between deities) reside under Mictlantecuhtli's strict guard.
The other gods ordered Quetzalcoatl to journey to the underworld, Mictlan, and retrieve the bones of people who were turned into fish. However the crafty and cunning Mictlantecuhtli, who promised the bones to Quetzalcoatl, but only if he could complete one task. He asked Quetzalcoatl to take a shell and blow it in four separate spots in Mictlan.
Quetzalcoatl took the shell, but Mictlantecuhtli gave him one without holes to blow in. Quetzalcoatl, angered by mischievous Tecuh's* trick, ordered worms to eat holes and bees to fly into the shell and create a loud blast.
*Tecuh is short for Mictlantecuhtli, it's more convenient for me to type.
Having completed the task, Quetzalcoatl took the bones and fled. But spiteful Tecuh tried one last time to stop him, despite his promise. He ordered his followers to dig a huge pit. When Quetzalcoatl ran up the path, a small bird flew into his face and tripped him into the pit. The bones scattered from his grasp, some breaking in the fall. For this reason, Nahua believed this is why people are of different sizes, some tall and others short.
Quetzalcoatl jumped from the pit and escaped Mictlan at last. When Quetzalcoatl returned to the other gods, an old goddess took the bones and ground them into a fine powder. The other gods gathered around, adding their own blood into the mixture to create the first humans.
The seething god of death, Tecuh, continued over the dark, uninviting underworld of Mictlan.