Kukulkán or Kukulcán (Yucatec Maya: Kꞌukꞌulkaan 'feather and serpent') is a deity of Maya mythology. It has similarities with the Feathered Serpent, a divinity whose cult is one of the most relevant in Mesoamerica.
It is related to wind and water. Kukulkán is a Yucatec Maya name that can be translated as Feathered Serpent. The Chontales of Tabasco call him Mukú-leh-chan, and he is known as Gucumatz in Quiché mythology (in Quiché: Qꞌukꞌumatz 'feathered serpent').
For some researchers this god is the same Quetzalcoatl (in Nahuatl: Ketsalkoatl 'feathered serpent') of the Aztecs and comes from the Toltec culture; for others it comes from the Olmec culture.
In any case, its origin is much earlier than the Mayas of the Yucatan Peninsula and the Itzaes, founders of Chichen Itza in the 6th century, where a pyramid was erected to mark its descent in the agronomic and political cycle of the peninsular Mayas.
The presence of the feathered serpent as a deific symbol is omnipresent throughout Mesoamerica. In the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá it can be observed as a serpent formed as an effect of light and shadow that descends by the alfarda of the main staircase of the building constructed for its adoration, during the equinoctial day of March and September.
It was a deity quickly assimilated by the aristocracy, even though it was incorporated into the Maya pantheon in a late period.
"They said and believed that on the last day Cuculcan came down from heaven and received the services, vigils and offerings. They called this feast Chickabán".
Relación de las cosas de Yucatán, Diego de Landa (1566).
He appears as one of the creator divinities under the name of Gucumatz in the Popol Vuh, book considered as the bible of the kꞌicheꞌ Mayas, he also appears as deity of the winds with the name of Ehekatl in the stela 19 of Ceibal.
He reached special transcendence in the Yucatan peninsula, where he was venerated by the Mayas itzáes in Chichén Itzá, by the Mayas cocomes in Mayapán and by the Mayas tutl xiúes in Maní, in all these cities temples were built in his honor.
According to the testimonies described by Diego de Landa, the Maya said that Kukulkan existed as a person who arrived from the west, before, after, or at the same time as the Itzaes arrived at Chichen Itza. On his departure, he stopped in Champotón, where a temple was also erected in his honor, next to the sea, to later continue on his way to the highlands of Mexico.
As for his differences with respect to Quetzalcoatl, it seems that many of them were due to the climatic differences between the two regions. For the Aztecs, Quetzalcoatl was not only the Lord of the Sun, but the country's own Sun-God. Kukulcan also has the attributes of a Thunder-God.
In the tropical climate of Yucatán and Guatemala, the Sun at noon seems to draw the clouds around it in serpentine forms; from these emanate thunder, light and rain, so Kukulkán would seem to have appealed to the Maya more as a god of the sky than as a god of the atmosphere itself, even though many times Yucatán stelae depict Kukulkán with air coming out of his mouth, like many Mexican representations of Quetzalcóatl.
Kukulkan, of whom archaeologists speak, is the deity who appears most frequently in the manuscripts of the Dresden Codex and others. He has a long, truncated nose, like that of a tapir, and in him are found each and every one of the signs of a god of the elements.
He walks on water, wields burning torches, and sits on the cruciform tree of the four winds that so often appears in American myths. He is evidently a farming god and hero, since he is seen planting corn, carrying tools and continuing a journey, a fact that establishes his solar connection.
According to Maya chronicles, Kukulkan, like Quetzalcoatl, is the conqueror who arrived in Yucatan by sea from the west, towards the end of the 11th century, and became the leader and founder of his civilization. From the fusion of the two myths, Kukulkan appears as the lord of wind and rain because he rules and governs the ship that took him to Yucatan and the people he founded.
Temple of Kukulkan.