The cult of the serpent in Mesoamerica is very old. Paintings of serpents with characteristics of birds in the preclassic Olmec art (1150-500 B.C.) were found. In these archaeological remains, the serpent represents the Earth and the vegetation, although it was in the murals of Teotihuacan - around the year 150 B.C. - in which the serpent acquired its typical precious feathers of Quetzal.
The more elaborated iconographical representations go back to the old temple of Quetzalcoatl, constructed around the year 200 B.C., that exhibits a rattlesnake with green and long feathers like those of the quetzal.
It is possible to indicate that Teotihuacan was a city constructed in honor to Tlaloc, the God of the earthly water, the water in the lakes, in the caverns and the rivers, but Quetzalcoatl -symbol of the fertility of the Earth and subordinate to Tlaloc- was also praised in that place.
Quetzalcoatl is often associated with Ehecatl, the God of the wind, that symbolizes the forces of the nature. For that reason the feathered serpent is related to the energy of the rain, the celestial water and its associated winds.
By influence of the cult of Teotihuacan, the feathered serpent was adopted like God of the Mayans, they called it Kukulkán, as it was mentioned previously. In Xochicalco (700-900 B.C.) the political class thought that it governed in name of Quetzalcoatl; as of this moment, the representations of this God humanized, acquiring anthropomorphic characteristics.
The Toltecs began to associate the God to their ruler, for that reason the man acquired divine qualities. The most famous political-divinized ruler was Topiltzin Ce Acatl Quetzalcoatl.
The legend of the Ce Acatl says that it had a long beard and that it used a white mask, so that in the iconographical representations we can recognize Quezalcoatl like a white and bearded man. Since then, the image of a “white God” became part of the Mexican popular culture.
The Toltecs had a system of dualistic cult. They opposed the figure of Quetzalcoatl to the one of Tezcatlipoca, which supposedly had sent him, in remote times, to exile. The feathered serpent had been exiled in a raft of serpents, but promised to return… When the Aztecs adopted the Toltec culture, they transformed Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl in twins, opposite and equal Gods. The legend says that both created the world.