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Title: The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, Volume 3
       The Native Races, Volume 3, Myths and Languages

Author: Hubert Howe Bancroft

Release Date: July 7, 2013 [EBook #43123]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by Melissa McDaniel and The Online Distributed
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Transcriber's Note:

Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation in the original document have been preserved.

Italics in the footnotes citations were inconsistently applied by the typesetter.

Footnote II-11: "Reads" should possibly be "Reade."

Footnote VI-43: "por bien de abirle los ojos, y darle luz, y abridle ... " should possibly be "por bien de abrirle los ojos, y darle luz, y abrirle ..."

Footnote IX-7 is missing a starting quote.

Footnote X-65: "rook" should possibly be "rock."

Footnote XI-5 is missing a starting quote.

Footnote XII-75: The ending page should possibly be 302.

Footnote II'-29: "queer" should possibly be "quer."

Footnote II'-60 is missing a starting quote.

Footnote III'-2: "îsles" should possibly be "îles."

Footnote III'-7: "Kaigáni" or "Kaigani" may be spelled incorrectly.

Footnote IV'-16: "Entferten" should possibly be "Entfernten."

Footnote V'-7: "Schlusstein" should possibly be "Schlussstein."

Page 569: "Irritilia" should possibly be "Irritila."

Page 634: The periods after "from us", and "masahchie" are possibly typos.

Page 703: "kiokame" is a possible typo for "hiokame."

Erman, Archiv is variously numbered with Roman and Arabic numbers.

Title Page








Entered according to Act of Congress in the Year 1882, by
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

All Rights Reserved.



Difference between Man and Brutes—Mind-Language and Soul-Language—Origin of Language: A Gift of the Creator, a Human Invention, or an Evolution—Nature and Value of Myth—Origin of Myth: The Divine Idea, a Fiction of Sorcery, the Creation of a Designing Priesthood—Origin of Worship, of Prayer, of Sacrifice—Fetichism and the Origin of Animal-Worship—Religion and Mythology 1
Quiché Creation-Myth—Aztec Origin-Myths—The Papagos—Montezuma and the Coyote—The Moquis—The Great Spider's Web of the Pimas—Navajo and Pueblo Creations—Origin of Clear Lake and Lake Tahoe—Chareya of the Cahrocs—Mount Shasta, the Wigwam of the Great Spirit—Idaho Springs and Water Falls—How Differences in Language Occurred—Yehl, the Creator of the Thlinkeets—The Raven and the Dog 42
Sun, Moon, and Stars—Eclipses—The Moon Personified in the Land of the Crescent—Fire—How the Coyote Stole Fire for the Cahrocs—How the Frog Lost His Tail—How the Coyote Stole Fire for the Navajos—Wind and Thunder—The Four Winds and the Cross—Water, the First of Elemental Things—Its Sacred and Cleansing Power—Earth and Sky—Earthquakes and Volcanoes—Mountains—How the Hawk and Crow Built the Coast Range—The Mountains of Yosemite 108 iv
Rôles Assigned to Animals—Auguries from their Movements—The Ill-omened Owl—Tutelary Animals—Metamorphosed Men—The Ogress-Squirrel of Vancouver Island—Monkeys and Beavers—Fallen Men—The Sacred Animals—Prominence of the Bird—An Emblem of the Wind—The Serpent, an Emblem of the Lightning—Not Specially connected with Evil—The Serpent of the Pueblos—The Water-Snake—Ophiolatry—Prominence of the Dog, or the Coyote—Generally though not always a Benevolent Power—How the Coyote let Salmon up the Klamath—Danse Macabre and Sad Death of the Coyote 127
Eskimo Witchcraft—The Tinneh and the Koniagas—Kugans of the Aleuts—The Thlinkeets, the Haidahs, and the Nootkas—Paradise Lost of the Okanagans—The Salish, the Clallams, the Chinooks, the Cayuses, the Walla Wallas, and the Nez Percés—Shoshone Ghouls—Northern California—The Sun at Monterey—Ouiot and Chinigchinich—Antagonistic Gods of Lower California—Comanches, Apaches, and Navajos—Montezuma of the Pueblos—Moquis and Mojaves—Primeval Race of Northern California 140
Gods and Religious Rites of Chihuahua, Sonora, Durango, and Sinaloa—The Mexican Religion, received with different degrees of credulity by different classes of the people—Opinions of different Writers as to its Nature—Monotheism of Nezahualcoyotl—Present condition of the Study of Mexican Mythology—Tezcatlipoca—Prayers to Him in the time of Pestilence, of War, for those in Authority—Prayer used by an Absolving Priest—Genuineness of the foregoing Prayers—Character and Works of Sahagun 178
Image of Tezcatlipoca—His Seats at the Street-corners—Various Legends about his Life on Earth—Quetzalcoatl—His Dexterity in the Mechanical Arts—His Religious Observances—The Wealth and Nimbleness of his Adherents—Expulsion from Tula of Quetzalcoatl by Tezcatlipoca and Huitzilopochtli—The Magic Draught—Huemac, v or Vemac, King of the Toltecs, and the Misfortunes brought upon him and his people by Tezcatlipoca in various disguises—Quetzalcoatl in Cholula—Differing Accounts of the Birth and Life of Quetzalcoatl—His Gentle Character—He drew up the Mexican Calender—Incidents of his Exile and of his Journey to Tlapalla, as related and commented upon by various writers—Brasseur's ideas about the Quetzalcoatl Myths—Quetzalcoatl considered a Sun-God by Tylor, and as a Dawn-Hero by Brinton—Helps—Domenech—The Codices—Long Discussion of the Quetzalcoatl Myths by J. G. Müller 237
Various accounts of the Birth, Origin, and Derivation of the name of the Mexican War God, Huitzilopochtli, of his Temple, Image, Ceremonial, Festivals, and his Deputy, or Page, Paynal—Clavigero—Boturini—Acosta—Solis—Sahagun—Herrera—Torquemada—J. G. Müller's Summary of the Huitzilopochtli Myths, their Origin, Relation, and Signification—Tylor—Codex Vaticanus—Tlaloc, God of Water, especially of Rain, and of Mountains—Clavigero, Gama, and Ixtlilxochitl—Prayer in time of Drought—Camargo, Motolinia, Mendieta, and the Vatican Codex on the Sacrifices to Tlaloc—The Decorations of his Victims and the places of their Execution—Gathering Rushes for the Service of the Water God—Highway Robberies by the Priests at this time—Decorations and Implements of the Priests—Punishments for Ceremonial Offences—The Whirlpool of Pantitlan—Images of the Mountains in honor of the Tlaloc Festival—Of the coming Rain and Mutilation of the Images of the Mountains—General Prominence in the cult of Tlaloc, of the Number Four, the Cross, and the Snake 288
The Mother or all-nourishing Goddess under various names and in various aspects—Her Feast in the Eleventh Aztec month Ochpaniztli—Festivals of the Eighth month, Hueytecuilhuitl, and of the Fourth, Hueytozoztli—The deification of women that died in child-birth—The Goddess of Water under various Names and in various aspects—Ceremonies of the Baptism or Lustration of children—The Goddess of Love, her various names and aspects—Rites of confession and absolution—The God of fire and his various names—His festivals in the tenth month Xocotlveti and in the eighteenth month Yzcali; also his quadriennial festival in the latter month—The great festival of every fifty-two years; lighting the new fire—The God of Hades, and Teoyaomique, collector of the vi souls of the fallen brave—Deification of dead rulers and heroes—Mixcoatl, God of hunting, and his feast in the fourteenth month, Quecholli—Various other Mexican deities—Festival in the second month, Tlacaxipehualiztli, with notice of the gladiatorial sacrifices—Complete Synopsis of the festivals of the Mexican Calendar, fixed and movable—Temples and Priests 349
Revenues of the Mexican Temples—Vast number of the Priests—Mexican Sacerdotal System—Priestesses—The Orders of Tlamaxcacayotl and Telpochtiliztli—Religious Devotees—Baptism—Circumcision—Communion—Fasts and Penance—Blood-drawing—Human Sacrifices—The Gods of the Tarascos—Priests and Temple Service of Michoacan—Worship in Jalisco—Oajaca—Votan and Quetzalcoatl—Travels of Votan—The Apostle Wixepecocha—Cave near Xustlahuaca—The Princess Pinopiaa—Worship of Costahuntox—Tree Worship 430
Maya Pantheon—Zamná—Cukulcan—The Gods of Yucatan—The Symbol of the Cross in America—Human Sacrifices in Yucatan—Priests of Yucatan—Guatemalan Pantheon—Tepeu and Hurakan—Avilix and Hacavitz—The Heroes of the Sacred Book—Quiché Gods—Worship of the Choles, Manches, Itzas, Lacandones, and others—Tradition of Comizahual—Fasts—Priests of Guatemala—Gods, Worship, and Priests of Nicaragua—Worship on the Mosquito Coast—Gods and Worship of the Isthmians—Phallic Worship in America 461
Aboriginal Ideas of Future—General Conceptions of Souls—Future State of the Aleuts, Chepewyans, Natives at Milbank Sound, and Okanagans—Happy Land of the Salish and Chinooks—Conceptions of Heaven and Hell of the Nez Percés, Flatheads, and Haidahs—The Realms of Quawteaht and Chayher—Beliefs of the Songhies, Clallams, and Pend d'Oreilles—The Future State of the Californian and Nevada Tribes, Comanches, Pueblos, Navajos, Apaches, Moquis, Maricopas, Yumas, and others—The Sun House of the Mexicans—Tlalocan and Mictlan—Condition of the Dead—Journey of the Dead—Future of the Tlascaltecs and other Nations 510 vii


Native Languages in Advance of Social Customs—Characteristic Individuality of American Tongues—Frequent Occurrence of Long Words—Reduplications, Frequentatives, and Duals—Intertribal Languages—Gesture-Language—Slavé and Chinook Jargons—Pacific States Languages—The Tinneh, Aztec, and Maya Tongues—The Larger Families Inland—Language as a Test of Origin—Similarities in Unrelated Languages—Plan of this Investigation 551
Distinction between Eskimo and American—Eskimo Pronunciation and Declension—Dialects of the Koniagas and Aleuts—Language of the Thlinkeets—Hypothetical Affinities—The Tinneh Family and its Dialects—Eastern, Western, Central, and Southern Divisions—Chepewyan Declension—Oratorical Display in the Speech of the Kutchins—Dialects of the Atnahs and Ugalenzes Compared—Specimen of the Koltshane Tongue—Tacully Gutturals—Hoopah Vocabulary—Apache Dialects—Lipan Lord's Prayer—Navajo Words—Comparative Vocabulary of the Tinneh Family 574
The Haidah, its Construction and Conjugation—The Nass Language and its Dialects—Bellacoola and Chimsyan Comparisons—The Nootka Languages of Vancouver Island—Nanaimo Ten Commandments and Lord's Prayer—Aztec Analogies—Fraser and Thompson River Languages—The Neetlakapamuck Grammar and Lord's Prayer—Sound Languages—The Salish Family—Flathead Grammar and Lord's Prayer—The Kootenai—The Sahaptin Family—Nez Percé Grammar—Yakima Lord's Prayer—Sahaptin State and Slave Languages—The Chinook Family—Grammar of the Chinook Language—Aztec Affinities—The Chinook Jargon 604
Multiplicity of Tongues—Yakon, Klamath, and Palaik Comparisons—Pitt River and Wintoon Vocabularies—Weeyot, Wishosk, Weitspek, viii and Ehnek Comparisons—Languages of Humboldt Bay—Potter Valley, Russian and Eel River Languages—Pomo Languages—Gallinomero Grammar—Trans-Pacific Comparisons—Chocuyem Lord's Prayer—Languages of the Sacramento, San Joaquin, Napa, and Sonoma Valleys—The Olhone and other Languages of San Francisco Bay—Runsien and Eslene of Monterey—Santa Clara Lord's Prayer—Mutsun Grammar—Languages of the Missions Santa Cruz, San Antonio de Padua, Soledad, and San Miguel—Tatché Grammar—The Dialects of Santa Cruz and other Islands 635
Aztec-Sonora Connections with the Shoshone Family—The Utah, Comanche, Moqui, Kizh, Netela, Kechi, Cahuillo, and Chemehuevi—Eastern and Western Shoshone, or Wihinasht—The Bannack and Digger, or Shoshokee—The Utah and its Dialects—The Goshute, Washoe, Paiulee, Piute, Sampitche, and Mono—Popular Belief as to the Aztec Element in the North—Grimm's Law—Shoshone, Comanche, and Moqui Comparative Table—Netela Stanza—Kizh Grammar—The Lord's Prayer in two Dialects of the Kizh—Chemehuevi and Cahuillo Grammar—Comparative Vocabulary 660
Traces of the Aztec not found among the Pueblos of New Mexico and Arizona—The Five Languages of the Pueblos, the Queres, the Tegua, the Picoris, Jemez, and Zuñi—Pueblo Comparative Vocabulary—The Yuma and its Dialects, the Maricopa, Cuchan, Mojave, Diegueño, Yampais, and Yavipais—The Cochimí and Pericú, with their Dialects of Lower California—Guaicuri Grammar—Pater Noster in Three Cochimí Dialects—The Languages of Lower California wholly Isolated 680
Pima Alto and Bajo—Pápago—Pima Grammar—Formation of Plurals—Personal Pronoun—Conjugation—Classification of Verbs—Adverbs—Prepositions, Conjunctions, and Interjections—Syntax of the Pima—Prayers in different dialects—The Ópata and Eudeve—Eudeve Grammar—Conjugation of Active and Passive Verbs—Lord's Prayer—Ópata Grammar—Declension—Possessive Pronoun—Conjugation—Ceri Language with its Dialects, Guaymi and Tepoca—Ceri Vocabulary 694 ix
The Cahita and its Dialects—Cahita Grammar—Dialectic Differences of the Mayo, Yaqui, and Tehueco—Comparative Vocabulary—Cahita Lord's Prayer—The Tarahumara and its Dialects—The Tarahumara Grammar—Tarahumara Lord's Prayer in two Dialects—The Concho, the Toboso, the Julime, the Piro, the Suma, the Chinarra, the Tubar, the Irritila—Tejano—Tejano Grammar—Specimen of the Tejano—The Tepehuana—Tepehuana Grammar and Lord's Prayer—Acaxée and its Dialects, the Topia, Sabaibo and Xixime—The Zacatec, Cazcane, Mazapile, Huitcole, Guachichile, Colotlan, Tlaxomultec, Tecuexe, and Tepecano—The Cora and its Dialects, the Muutzicat, Teacuaeitzca, and Ateacari—Cora Grammar 706
Nahua or Aztec, Chichimec, and Toltec languages identical—Anáhuac the aboriginal seat of the Aztec Tongue—The Aztec the oldest language in Anáhuac—Beauty and Richness of the Aztec—Testimony of the Missionaries and early writers in its favor—Specimen from Paredes' Manual—Grammar of the Aztec Language—Aztec Lord's Prayer—The Otomí a Monosyllabic Language of Anáhuac—Relationship claimed with the Chinese and Cherokee—Otomí Grammar—Otomí Lord's Prayer in Different Dialects 723
The Pame and its Dialects—The Meco of Guanajuato and the Sierra Gordo—The Tarasco of Michoacan and its Grammar—The Matlaltzinca and its Grammar—The Ocuiltec—The Miztec and its Dialects—Miztec Grammar—The Amusgo, Chocho, Mazatec, Cuicatec, Chatino, Tlapanec, Chinantec, and Popoluca—The Zapotec and its Grammar—The Mije—Mije Grammar and Lord's Prayer—The Huave of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec—Huave Numerals 742
The Maya-Quiché, the Languages of the Civilized Nations of Central America—Enumeration of the Members of this Family—Hypothetical Analogies with Languages of the Old World—Lord's Prayers in the Chañabal, Chiapanec, Chol, Tzendal, Zoque, and Zotzil—Pokonchi Grammar—The Mame or Zaklopahkap—Quiché Grammar—Cakchiquel Lord's Prayer—Maya Grammar—Totonac Grammar—Totonac Dialects—Huastec Grammar 759 x
The Carib an Imported Language—The Mosquito Language—The Poya, Towka, Seco, Valiente, Rama, Cookra, Woolwa, and other Languages in Honduras—The Chontal—Mosquito Grammar—Love Song in the Mosquito Language—Comparative Vocabulary of Honduras Tongues—The Coribici, Chorotega, Chontal, and Orotiña in Nicaragua—Grammar of the Orotiña or Nagrandan—Comparison between the Orotiña and Chorotega—The Chiriquí, Guatuso, Tiribi, and others in Costa Rica—Talamanca Vocabulary—Diversity of Speech on the Isthmus of Darien—Enumeration of Languages—Comparative Vocabulary 782




Difference between Man and Brutes—Mind Language and Soul-Language—Origin of Language: A Gift of the Creator, a Human Invention, or an Evolution—Nature and Value of Myth—Origin of Myth: The Divine Idea, A Fiction of Sorcery, The Creation of a Designing Priesthood—Origin of Worship, of Prayer, of Sacrifice—Fetichism and the Origin of Animal-Worship—Religion and Mythology.

Hitherto we have beheld Man only in his material organism; as a wild though intellectual animal. We have watched the intercourse of uncultured mind with its environment. We have seen how, to clothe himself, the savage robs the beast; how, like animals, primitive man constructs his habitation, provides food, rears a family, exercises authority, holds property, wages war, indulges in amusements, gratifies social instincts; and that in all this, the savage is but one remove from the brute. Ascending the scale, we have examined the first stages of human progress and analyzed an incipient civilization. We will now pass the frontier which separates mankind from animal-kind, and enter the domain of the immaterial and supernatural; phenomena which philosophy purely positive cannot explain. 2

The primary indication of an absolute superiority in man over other animals is the faculty of speech; not those mute or vocal symbols, expressive of passion and emotion, displayed alike in brutes and men; but the power to separate ideas, to generate in the mind and embody in words, sequences of thought. True, upon the threshold of this inquiry, as in whatever relates to primitive man, we find the brute creation hotly pursuing, and disputing for a share in this progressional power. In common with man, animals possess all the organs of sensation. They see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. They have even the organs of speech; but they have not speech. The source of this wonderful faculty lies further back, obscured by the mists which ever settle round the immaterial. Whether brutes have souls, according to the Aristotelean theory of soul, or whether brute-soul is immortal, or of quality and destiny unlike and inferior to that of man-soul, we see in them unmistakable evidence of mental faculties. The higher order of animals possess the lower order of intellectual perceptions. Thus pride is manifested by the caparisoned horse, shame by the beaten dog, will by the stubborn mule. Brutes have memory; they manifest love and hate, joy and sorrow, gratitude and revenge. They are courageous or cowardly, subtle or simple, not merely up to the measure of what we commonly term instinct, but with evident exercise of judgment; and, to a certain point, we might even claim for them foresight, as in laying in a store of food for winter. But with all this there seems to be a lack of true or connected thought, and of the faculty of abstraction, whereby conceptions are analyzed and impressions defined.


They have also a language, such as it is; indeed, all the varieties of language common to man. What gesture-language can be more expressive than that employed by the horse with its ears and by the dog with its tail, wherein are manifestations of every shade of joy, sorrow, courage, fear, shame, and anger? In their brutish physiognomy, also, one may read the language of the 3 emotions, which, if not so delicately pictured as in the face of man, is none the less distinctive. Nor are they without their vocal language. Every fowl and every quadruped possesses the power of communicating intelligence by means of the voice. They have their noise of gladness, their signal cry of danger, their notes of anger and of woe. Thus we see in brutes not only intelligence but the power of communicating intelligence. But intelligence is not thought, neither is expression speech. The language of brutes, like themselves, is soulless.

The next indication of man's superiority over brutes, is the faculty of worship. The wild beast, to escape the storm, flies howling to its den; the savage, awe-stricken, turns and prays. The lowest man perceives a hand behind the lightning, hears a voice abroad upon the storm, for which the highest brute has neither eye nor ear. This essential of humanity we see primordially displayed in mythic phenomena; in the first struggle of spiritual manhood to find expression. Language is symbol significant of thought, mythology is symbol significant of soul. The one is the first distinctive sound that separates the ideal from the material, the other the first respiration of the soul which distinguishes the immortal from the animal. Language is thought incarnate; mythology, soul incarnate. The one is the instrument of thought, as the other is the essence of thought. Neither is thought; both are closely akin to thought; separated from either, in some form, perfect intellectual manhood cannot develop. I do not mean to say with some, that thought without speech cannot exist; unless by speech is meant any form of expression symbolical, emotional, or vocal, or unless by thought is meant something more than mere self-consciousness without sequence and without abstraction. There can be no doubt that speech is the living breath of thought, and that the exercise of speech reacts upon the mental and emotional faculties. In brutes is found neither speech nor myth; in the deaf and dumb, thought and belief are shadowy and undefined; in infants, 4 thought is but as a fleeting cloud passing over the brain. Yet for all this, deaf mutes and children who have no adequate form of expression cannot be placed in the category of brutes. The invention of the finger-alphabet opened a way to the understanding of the deaf and dumb; but long before this is learned, in every instance, these unfortunates invent a gesture-language of their own, in which they think as well as speak. And could we but see the strangely contorted imagery which takes possession of a gesture-thinker's brain, we should better appreciate the value of words. So, into the mouth of children words are put, round which thoughts coalesce; but evidences of ideas are discovered some time before they can be fully expressed by signs or sounds. Kant held the opinion that the mind of a deaf mute is incapable of development, but the wonderful success of our modern institutions has dissipated forever that idea.

The soul of man is a half-conscious inspiration from which perception and expression are inseparable. Nature speaks to it in that subtle sympathy by which the immaterial within holds converse with the immaterial without, in the soft whisperings of the breeze, in the fearful bellowings of the tempest. Between the soul and body there is the closest sympathy, an interaction in every relation. Therefore these voices of nature speaking to nature's offspring, are answered back in various ways according to the various organisms addressed. The animal, the intellectual, the spiritual, whatsoever the entity consists of, responds, and responding expands and unfolds. Once give an animal the power to speak and mental development ensues; for speech cannot continue without ideas, and ideas cannot spring up without intellectual evolution. A dim, half-conscious, brutish thought there may be; but the faculty of abstraction, sequences of thought, without words either spoken or unspoken, cannot exist.


It is not at all probable that a system of gesture-language was ever employed by any primitive people, prior or in preference to vocal language. To communicate by 5 signs requires no little skill and implies a degree of artifice and forethought far beyond that required in vocal or emotional language. Long before a child arrives at the point of intelligence necessary for conveying thought by signs, it is well advanced in a vocal language of its own.

In mythology, language assumes personality and independence. Often the significance of the word becomes the essential idea. Zeus, from meaning simply sky, becomes god of the sky; Eos, originally the dawn, is made the goddess of the opening day. Not the idea but the expression of the idea becomes the deity. And so, by these creations of fancy, the imagination expands; in the embodiment of the idea, the mind enlarges with its own creation. Then yet bolder metaphors are thrown off like soap-bubbles, which no sooner take form in words than they are also deified. Thus soul and thought and speech act and react on one another, all the evolutions of conception seeking vent in sound or speculation; and thus language, the expression of mind, and mythology, the expression of soul, become the exponents of divine humanity.

But what then is Language, what is Myth, and whence are they? Broadly, the term language may be applied to whatever social beings employ to communicate passion or sentiment, or to influence one another; whatever is made a vehicle of intelligence, ideographic or phonetic, is language. In this category may be placed, as we have seen, gestures, both instinctive and artificial; emotional expression, displayed in form or feature; vocal sounds, such as the cries of birds, the howling of beasts. Indeed, language is everywhere, in everything. While listening to the rippling brook, the roaring sea, the murmuring forest, as well as to the still small voice within, we are but reading from the vocabulary of nature.

Thus construed, the principle assumes a variety of shapes, and may be followed through successive stages of development. In fact, neither form nor feature can be set in motion, or even left in a state of repose, 6 without conveying intelligence to the observer. The countenance of man, whether it will or not, perpetually speaks, and speaks in most exquisite shades of significance, and with expression far more delicate than that employed by tongue or pen. The face is the reflex of the soul; a transparency which glows with light, divine or devilish, thrown upon it from within. It is a portrait of individual intelligence, a photograph of the inner being, a measure of innate intelligence. And in all pertaining to the actions and passions of mankind, what can be more expressive than the language of the emotions? There are the soft, silent wooings of love, the frantic fury of hate, the dancing delirium of joy, the hungry cravings of desire, the settled melancholy of dead hopes. But more definitely, language is articulate human speech or symbolic expression of ideas.

How man first learned to speak, and whence the power of speech was originally derived, are questions concerning which tradition is uncommunicative. Even mythology, which attempts the solution of supernatural mysteries, the explanation of all phenomena not otherwise accounted for, has little to say as to the genesis of this most potential of all human powers.

Many theories have been advanced concerning the origin of language. Some of them are exploded; others in various stages of modification remain, no two philologists thinking exactly alike. The main hypotheses are three; the subordinate ones are legion. Obviously, speech must be either a direct, completed gift of the Creator, with one or more independent beginnings; or a human invention; or an evolution from a natural germ.

Schleicher conceives primordial language to be a simple organism of vocal gestures; Gould Brown believes language to be partly natural and partly artificial; Adam Smith and Dugald Stewart give to man the creation and development of speech by his own artificial invention. According to Herodotus, the Phrygians and the Egyptians disputed over the question of the antiquity of their languages. Psammetichus thereupon confided two babes to 7 the care of goats, apart from every human sound. At the end of two years they were heard to pronounce the word bekos, the Phrygian for bread. The Phrygians therefore claimed for their language the seniority.


In ancient times it was thought that there was some one primeval tongue, a central language from which all the languages of the earth radiated. The Sythic, Ethiopic, Chinese, Greek, Latin, and other languages advanced claims for this seniority. Plato believed language to be an invention of the gods, and by them given to man. Orthodox religionists did not hesitate to affirm that Hebrew, the language of Paradise, was not only given in a perfected state to man, but was miraculously preserved in a state of purity for the chosen Israel. After the dispersion from Babel, such nations as relapsed into barbarism became barbaric in speech. And in the roots of every dialect of both the old world and the new, the Fathers were able to discern Hebrew analogies sufficient to confirm them in their dogma. Indeed other belief was heresy.

There were others who held that, when gesture-language and the language of the emotions were found insufficient for the growing necessities of man, by common consent, it was agreed that certain objects should be represented by certain sounds, and that so, when a word had been invented for every object, language was made.

Another doctrine, called by Mr. Wedgwood, its enthusiastic advocate, 'onomatopœia,' and by Professor Max Müller the 'bow-wow' theory, explains the origin of language in the effort of man to imitate the cries of nature. Thus, for dog the primitive languageless man would say bow-wow; to the rivulet, the wind, the birds and beasts, names were applied which as far as possible were but reproductions of the sounds made by these elements or animals.

Thus philology up to a comparatively late period was a speculation rather than a science. Philosophers sought to know whence language came rather than what language is. But when the great discovery concerning the 8 Arian and Semitic families was made, comparative philologists went to work after the manner of practical investigators in other branches of study, by collecting, classifying and comparing vocabularies, and therefrom striking out a path backward to original trunks. Catalogues of languages were published, one in 1800 by Hervas, a Spanish Jesuit, containing three hundred dialects, followed by Adelung and Vater's Mithridates, from 1806-17. But not until Sanscrit was made a subject of European study did it become apparent that affinities of tongues are subject to the laws that govern affinities of blood. Then it was that a similarity was discovered, not only between the Sanscrit and the Greek and Latin tongues, but between these languages and the Teutonic, Celtic, Iranic, and Indic, all of which became united in the great Arian family. At the same time, the ancient language of the Jews, the Arabic, and the Aramaic—which constitute the Semitic family—were found to be totally different from the Arian in their radical structure. From these investigations, philologists were no less convinced that the Indo-European languages were all of the same stock, than that the Semitic idioms did not belong to it. The doctrine of the Fathers therefore would not stand; for it was found that all languages were not derivations from the Hebrew, nor from any other known central tongue.

Then too, the subordination of tongues to the laws of evolution became apparent. It was discovered that language was in a state of constant change; that, with all its variations, human speech could be grouped into families, and degrees of relationship ascertained; and that, by the comparison of vocabularies, a classification at once morphological and genealogical could be made. Varieties of tongues, as numberless as the phases of humanity, could be traced back towards their beginnings and resolved into earlier forms. It was discovered that in the first order of linguistic development, words are monosyllabic. In this rudimentary stage, to which the Chinese, Tibetan, and perhaps the Japanese belong, roots, or sounds expressive 9 only of the material or substantial parts of things, are used. In the second stage, called the polysynthetic, aggregative, or agglutinate, a modifying termination, significant of the relations of ideas or things to each other, is affixed or glued to the root. To the agglutinate languages belong the American and Turanian families. In the third, called the inflectional stage, which comprises only the Arian and Semitic families, the two elements are more perfectly developed, and it is only in this stage that language can attain the highest degree of richness and refinement.


While these stages or conditions are recognized by all, it is claimed on one side that although settled languages retain their grammatical character, every agglutinate language must once have been monosyllabic, or radical, and every inflectional language once agglutinate; and on the other side it is averred that the assertion is incapable of proof, for no historical evidence exists of any one type ever having passed from one of these stages to another. Now if speech is a perfected gift of the Creator, how happens it that we find language in every stage of development or relapse, from the cluckings of Thlinkeets to the classic lines of Homer and of Shakspeare? In his physiological structure, so far as is known, Man is neither more nor less perfect now than in the days of Adam. How then if language is an organism, is it, unlike other organisms, subject to extreme and sudden change? In animated nature there are two principles; one fixed and finished as an organism, subject to perpetual birth and decay, but incapable of advancing or retrograding; the other, elemental life, the germ or centre of a future development. The one grows, the other unfolds. We have no evidence that instincts and organic functions were more or less perfect in the beginning than now. If therefore language is an instinct or an organism, a perfect gift of the Creator, how can it exist otherwise than in a concrete and perfect state like other instincts and organisms?

The absurdity that human speech is the invention of 10 primitive man—that upon some grassy knoll a company of half-clad barbarians met, and without words invented words, without significant sounds produced sounds significant of every object, therein by mutual consent originating a language—may be set aside. Of all conjectures concerning the origin of language, the hypothesis that words are an artificial invention is the least tenable. And what is most surprising to us, at the present day, is that such men as Locke and Adam Smith and Dugald Stewart could for a moment have entertained the idea. Obviously, without language there could be no culture, and without culture, words never could have been invented. Words are the symbols of objects and ideas. Certain words may be arbitrarily selected, and, by the tacit agreement or general concurrence of society, may be made to signify certain things. And in this sense words may originate conventionally. But though words may have been conventionally selected, they were never selected by conventions. We then have the discoveries of modern philologists, not only to positively deny the infallibility of the common-origin theory, but to bring forward a number of other claimants for the greatest antiquity, as well entitled to a hearing as the Hebrew.


Diversity in the origin of speech does not of necessity imply diversity in the origin of race. Thus with a unity of race, circumstances may be conceived in which independent tongues may have arisen in different localities; whereas with a diversity of race, but one language hypothetically may have been given to all. A common origin is probable, a diversity of origin is possible; neither can be proved or disproved. The radical differences in the structure of the three great types, the monosyllabic, the agglutinate, and the inflectional; and the inherent heterogeneities of the several families of the same type, as of the Chinese and Siamese, of the American and Turanian, or even of the Arian and Semitic, would seem to present insurmountable obstacles to the theory of a common origin; while on the other hand the wonderful mutations of types and trunks, the known transformations 11 of language, and the identifications by some philologists, of the same stock in each of the three progressional stages, render the theory of a unity of origin in language equally probable. Therefore the question of unity or diversity of tongues, as we speak of unity or diversity of race, can be of but little moment to us. Language shows the connection between nations widely separated, leads us back beyond tradition into the obscure past, follows the sinuosities of migrations, indicates epochs in human development, points towards the origin of peoples, serves as a guide in following the radiation of races from common centres. Yet a similarity in the sound, or even in the construction of two words, does not necessarily imply relationship. Two totally distinct languages may have borrowed the same word from a third language; which fact would never establish relationship between the borrowers. When like forms are found in different languages, in order to establish a relationship, historical evidence must be applied as a test, and the words followed up to their roots.

Stripped of technicalities, the question before us is reduced to a few simple propositions. All men speak; there never yet was found a nation without articulate language. Aside from individual and abnormal exceptions, no primitive tribe has ever been discovered, where part of the people spoke, and part were speechless. Language is as much a part of man, as any physical constituent; yet unlike physical organs, as the eye, the ear, the hand, language is not born with the individual. It is not in the blood. The Caucasian infant stolen by Apaches, cannot converse with its own mother when restored to her a few years after.

Therefore speech is not an independent, perfected gift of the Creator, but an incidental acquirement. Furthermore language is an attribute of society. It belongs to the people and not to the individual. The child before mentioned, if dropped by the Apaches among the bears and by them nurtured and reared, is doomed to mutism 12 or bear-language. Man was made a social being; speech was made as a means of communicating intelligence between social beings; one individual alone never could originate, or even preserve a language.

But how then happens it, if man did not make it, and God did not give it him, that human speech is universal? With the organism of man the Creator implants the organs of speech. With the elemental and progressional life of man the Creator implants the germ of speech. In common with the element of progress and civilization, innate from the beginning, speech has developed by slow degrees through thousands of cycles and by various stages, marching steadily forward with the forward march of the intellect. Comparative philology, in common with all other sciences, accords to man a remote antiquity. Bunsen estimates that at least twenty thousand years are required for a language to pass from one rudimentary stage to another.

The mind receives impressions and the soul intuitions, and to throw them off in some form is an absolute necessity. Painful impressions tend to produce bodily contortions and dolorous sounds; pleasant impressions to illumine the features and to make musical the voice. And not only is this compressed emotion destined to find expression, but to impress itself upon others. Emotion is essentially sympathetic. Why certain objects are represented by certain sounds we can never know. Some think that between every word and the object or idea which it represents, there was in the first instance an intimate relationship. By degrees certain natural articulations became associated with certain ideas; then new names were suggested by some fancied analogy to objects already named. Everything else being equal, similar conditions and causations produce similar impressions and are expressed by similar sounds. Hence a certain uniformity between all human tongues; and a tendency in man to imitate the sounds in nature, the cries of animals, the melodies of winds and waters, accounts for the origin of many words. 13

From giving expression in some outward form to our inward emotion there is no escape. Let us now apply to the expression of feeling and emotion the same law of evolution which governs all social and intellectual phenomena, and from a language of exclamations, we have first the monosyllabic noun and verb, then auxilliaries—adverbs, adjectives, prepositions and pronouns—and finally inflections of parts of speech by which the finer shades of meaning may be expressed.

The spontaneous outbursts of feeling, or the metaphorical expressions of emotion, arising instinctively and acting almost simultaneously with the conception or impression made upon the mind, develop with time into settled forms of speech. Man speaks as birds fly or fishes swim. The Creator supplies the organs and implants the instinct. Speech, though intuitive, is more than intuition; for, as we have seen, speech is a social rather than an individual attribute. Darwin perceives in language not only a spontaneous generation, but a natural selection of grammatical forms; the best words, the clearest and shortest expressions, continually displacing the weaker. So words are made to fit occasions, and dropped as soon as better ones can be found.

Languages are not inherited, yet language is an inheritance. Language is not artificially invented, yet languages are but conventional agreements. Languages are not a concrete perfected gift of the Creator, yet the germ of language is ineradicably implanted in man, and was there implanted by none but man's Creator. This then is Language: it is an acquisition, but an acquisition from necessity; it is a gift, but, when given, an undeveloped germ; it is an artifice, in so far as it is developed by the application of individual agencies.


Here, for a while, we will leave Language and turn to Mythology, the mythos 'fable' and logos 'speech' of the Grecians.

Under analysis mythology is open to broad yet significant 14 interpretations. As made up of legendary accounts of places and personages, it is history; as relating to the genesis of the gods, the nature and adventures of divinities, it is religion; placed in the category of science, it is the science of fable; of philosophy, the philosophy of intuitive beliefs. A mass of fragmentary truth and fiction not open to rationalistic criticism; a system of tradition, genealogical and political, confounding the subjective with the objective; a partition wall of allegories, built of dead facts cemented with wild fancies—it looms ever between the immeasurable and the measurable past.

Thick black clouds, portentous of evil, hang threateningly over the savage during his entire life. Genii murmur in the flowing river, in the rustling branches are felt the breathings of the gods, goblins dance in vapory twilight, and demons howl in the darkness.

In the myths of wild, untutored man, is displayed that inherent desire to account for the origin of things, which, even at the present time, commands the profoundest attention of philosophy; and, as we look back upon the absurd conceptions of our savage ancestry with feelings akin to pity and disgust, so may the speculations of our own times appear to those who shall come after us. Those weird tales which to us are puerility or poetry, according as we please to regard them, were to their believers history, science, and religion. Yet this effort, which continues from the beginning to the end, is not valueless; in it is embodied the soul of human progress. Without mythology, the only door at once to the ideal and inner life of primitive peoples and to their heroic and historic past would be forever closed to us. Nothing so reflects their heart-secrets, exposes to our view their springs of action, shadows forth the sources of their hopes and fears, exhibits the models after which they moulded their lives.

Within crude poetic imagery are enrolled their religious beliefs, are laid the foundations of their systems of worship, are portrayed their thoughts concerning 15 causations and the destinies of mankind. Under symbolic veils is shrouded their ancient national spirit, all that can be known of their early history and popular ideas. Thus are explained the fundamental laws of nature; thus we are told how earth sprang from chaos, how men and beasts and plants were made, how heaven was peopled, and earth, and what were the relative powers and successive dynasties of the gods. Heroes are made gods; gods are materialized and brought down to men.


Of the value of mythology it is unnecessary here to speak. Never was there a time in the history of philosophy when the character, customs, and beliefs of aboriginal man, and everything appertaining to him, were held in such high esteem by scholars as at present. As the ultimate of human knowledge is approached, the inquirer is thrown back upon the past; and more and more the fact becomes apparent, that what is, is but a reproduction of what has been; that in the earlier stages of human development may be found the counterpart of every phase of modern social life. Higher and more heterogeneous as are our present systems of politics and philosophy, every principle, when tracked to its beginning, proves to have been evolved, not originated.

As there never yet was found a people without a language, so every nation has its mythology, some popular and attractive form for preserving historical tradition and presenting ethical maxims; and as by the range of their vocabularies we may follow men through all the stages of their progress in government, domestic affairs and mechanical arts, so, by beliefs expressed, we may determine at any given epoch in the history of a race their ideal and intellectual condition. Without the substance there can be no shadow, without the object there can be no name for it; therefore when we find a language without a word to denote property or chastity, we may be sure that the wealth and women of the tribe are held in common; and when in a system of mythology certain important metaphysical or æsthetic ideas and attributes are wanting, it is evident that the intellect of 16 its composers has not yet reached beyond a certain low point of conception.

Moreover, as in things evil may be found a spirit of good, so in fable we find an element of truth. It is now a recognized principle of philosophy, that no religious belief, however crude, nor any historical tradition, however absurd, can be held by the majority of a people for any considerable time as true, without having in the beginning some foundation in fact. More especially is the truth of this principle apparent when we consider that in all the multitudinous beliefs of all ages, held by peoples savage and civilized, there exist a concurrence of ideas and a coincidence of opinion. Human conceptions of supernatural affairs spring from like intuitions. As human nature is essentially the same throughout the world and throughout time, so the religious instincts which form a part of that universal humanity generate and develop in like manner under like conditions. The desire to penetrate hidden surroundings and the method of attempting it are to a certain extent common to all. All wonder at the mysterious; all attempt the solution of mysteries; all primarily possess equal facilities for arriving at correct conclusions. The genesis of belief is uniform, and the results under like conditions analogous.

We may conclude that the purposes for which these fictitious narratives were so carefully preserved and handed down to posterity were two-fold—to keep alive certain facts and to inculcate certain doctrines.


Something there must have been in every legend, in every tradition, in every belief, which has ever been entertained by the majority of a people, to recommend it to the minds of men in the first instance. Error absolute cannot exist; false doctrine without an amalgam of verity speedily crumbles, and the more monstrous the falsity the more rapid its decomposition. Myths were the oracles of our savage ancestors; their creed, the rule of their life, prized by them as men now prize their faith; and, by whatever savage philosophy these strange 17 conceits were eliminated, their effect upon the popular mind was vital. Anaxagoras, Socrates, Protagoras, and Epicurus well knew and boldly proclaimed that the gods of the Grecians were disreputable characters, not the kind of deities to make or govern worlds; yet so deep rooted in the hearts of the people were the maxims of the past, that for these expressions one heretic was cast into prison, another expelled from Athens, and another forced to drink the hemlock. And the less a fable presents the appearance of probability, the more grotesque and extravagant it is, the less the likelihood of its having originated in pure invention; for no extravagantly absurd invention without a particle of truth could by any possibility have been palmed off upon a people, and by them accepted, revered, recited, preserved as veritable incident or solution of mystery, and handed down to those most dear to them, to be in like manner held as sacred.

Therefore we may be sure that there never was a myth without a meaning; that mythology is not a bundle of ridiculous fancies invented for vulgar amusement; that there is not one of these stories, no matter how silly or absurd, which was not founded in fact, which did not once hold a significance. "And though I have well weighed and considered all this," concluded Lord Bacon, nearly three hundred years ago, "and thoroughly seen into the levity which the mind indulges for allegories and illusions, yet I cannot but retain a high value for the ancient mythology." Indeed, to ancient myths has been attributed the preservation of shattered fragments of lost sciences, even as some have alleged that we are indebted to the writings of Democritus and Aristotle for modern geographical discoveries.

That these ductile narratives have suffered in their transmission to us, that through the magnifying and refracting influences of time, and the ignorance and fanaticism of those to whom they were first recited, we receive them mutilated and distorted, there can be no doubt. Not one in a thousand of those aboriginal 18 beliefs which were held by the people of the Pacific Coast at the time of its first occupation by foreigners, has been preserved. And for the originality and purity of such as we have, in many instances, no one can vouch. Certain writers who saw in the native fable probable evidence of the presence of an apostle, or a miraculous interposition in the affairs of benighted heathendom, could but render the narrative in accordance with their prepossessions. The desire of some to prove a certain origin for the Indians, and the contempt of others for native character, also led to imperfect or colored narrations. But happily, enough has been preserved in authentic picture-writings, and by narrators whose integrity and intelligence are above suspicion, to give us a fair insight into the native psychological structure and belief; and if the knowledge we have is but infinitesimal in comparison with what has been lost, we may thereby learn to prize more highly such as we have.

Again we come to the ever-recurring question—Whence is it? Whence arise belief, worship, superstition? Whence the striking likeness in all supernatural conceptions between nations and ages the most diverse? Why is it that so many peoples, during the successive stages of their progress, have their creation myth, their origin myth, their flood myth, their animal, and plant, and planet myths? This coincidence of evolution can scarcely be the result of accident. Mythologies, then, being like languages common to mankind, uniform in substance yet varying in detail, what follows with regard to the essential system of their supernatural conceptions? Is it a perfected gift of the Creator, the invention of a designing priesthood, or a spontaneous generation and natural development? So broad a question, involving as it does the weightiest matters connected with man, may scarcely expect exactly the same answer from any two persons. Origin of life, origin of mind, origin of belief, are as much problems to the profoundest philosopher of to-day, as they were to the first wondering, bewildered savage who wandered through primeval forests. 19


Life is defined by Herbert Spencer as "the coördination of actions, or their continuous adjustment;" by Lewes as "a series of definite and successive changes, both of structure and composition, which take place within an individual without destroying its identity;" by Schelling as "the tendency to individuation;" by Richeraud as "a collection of phenomena which succeed each other during a limited time in an organized body;" and by De Blainville as "the two-fold internal movement of composition and decomposition, at once general and continuous." According to Hume, Mind is but a bundle of ideas and impressions which are the sum of all knowledge, and consequently, "the only things known to exist." In the positive philosophy of Auguste Comte, intellectual development is divided into three phases; namely, the Supernatural, in which the mind seeks for supernatural causes; the Metaphysical, wherein abstract forces are set up in place of supernatural agencies; and the Positive, which inquires into the laws which engender phenomena. Martineau, commenting upon intuition and the mind's place in nature, charges the current doctrine of evolution with excluding the element of life from developing organisms. Until the origin of mind, and the relation of mind to its environment is determined, the origin of the supernatural must remain unaccounted for. Yet we may follow the principle of worship back to very near its source, if we are unable entirely to account for it.

We have seen how the inability of brutes to form in the mind long sequences of thought, prevents speech; so, in primitive societies, when successions of unrecorded events are forgotten before any conception of general laws can be formed therefrom, polytheism in its grossest form is sure to prevail. Not until the earlier stages of progress are passed, and, from a multitude of correlative and oft-repeated experiences, general deductions made, can there be any higher religious conceptions than that of an independent cause for every consequence.

By some it is alleged that the religious sentiment is a divine idea perfected by the Creator and implanted in 20 man as part of his nature, before his divergence from a primitive centre. Singularly enough, the Fathers of the Church referred the origin of fable as well as the origin of fact to the Hebrew Scriptures. Supported by the soundest sophistry, they saw in every myth, Grecian or barbarian, a biblical character. Thus the Greek Hercules was none other than the Hebrew Sampson; Arion was Jonah, and Deucalion Noah. Other mythological characters were supposed by them to have been incarnated fiends, who disappeared after working for a time their evil upon men.

There have been those who held myths to be the fictions of sorcery, as there are now those who believe that forms of worship were invented by a designing priesthood, or that mythology is but a collection of tales, physical, ethical and historical, invented by the sages and ancient wise men of the nation, for the purpose of overawing the wicked and encouraging the good. Some declare that religion is a factitious or accidental social phenomenon; others that it is an aggregation of organized human experiences; others that it is a bundle of sentiments which were originally projected by the imagination, and ultimately adopted as entities; others that it is a feeling or emotion, the genesis of which is due to surrounding circumstances.

Many believe all mythological personages to have been once real human heroes, the foundations of whose histories were laid in truth, while the structure was reared by fancy. The Egyptians informed Herodotus that their deities—the last of whom was Orus son of Osiris, the Apollo of the Grecians—were originally their kings. Others affirm that myths are but symbolic ideas deified; that they are but the embodiment of a maxim in the form of an allegory, and that under these allegorical forms were taught history, religion, law and morality.

Intermingled with all these hypotheses are elements of truth, and yet none of them appear to be satisfying explanations. All imply that religion, in some form, is an essential constituent of humanity, and that whatever 21 its origin and functions, it has exercised from the earliest ages and does yet exercise the most powerful influence upon man; working like leaven in the lump, keeping the world in a ferment, stirring up men to action, banding and disrupting nations, uniting and dividing communities, and forming the nucleus of numberless societies and institutions.


In every society, small and great, there are undoubtedly certain intellects of quicker than ordinary perception, which seize upon occasions, and by a skillful use of means obtain a mastery over inferior minds. It is thus that political and social, as well as ecclesiastical power arises. Not that the leader creates a want—he is but the mouth-piece or agent of pent-up human instincts. One of these instincts is dependence. That we are created subordinate, not absolute nor unrestrained, is a fact from which none can escape. Thraldom, constant and insurmountable, we feel we have inherited. Most naturally, therefore, the masses of mankind seek from among their fellows some embodiment of power, and ranging themselves under the banner of leaders, follow blindly whithersoever they are led. Perceiving the power thus placed in their hands, these born leaders of men are not slow to invent means for retaining and increasing it. To the inquiry of the child or unsophisticated savage, who, startled by a peal of distant thunder, cries, "What is that?" the explanation is given; "That is the storm-god speaking." "I am afraid, protect me!" implores the supplicant. "I will, only obey," is the reply. The answer is sufficient, curiosity is satisfied, and terror allayed; the barbarian teacher gains a devotee. In this manner, the superstructure of creeds, witchcrafts, priestcrafts, may have arisen; some gods may thus have been made, forms of worship invented, and intercourse opened with beings supernal and infernal. Then devotion advances and becomes an art; professors by practice become experts. Meanwhile, craft is economized; the wary Shamán rain-doctor—like the worthy clergyman of civilized orthodoxy, 22 who refused to pray for rain "while the wind was in that quarter"—watches well the gathering ripeness of the cloud before he attempts to burst it with an arrow. And in the end, a more than ordinary skill in the exercise of this power, deifies or demonizes the possessor.

But whence arises the necessity for craft and whence the craft? The faculty of invention implies skill. Skill successfully to play upon the instincts of humanity can only be acquired through the medium of like instincts, and although the skill be empirical, the play must be natural. Craft alone will not suffice to satisfy the desire; the hook must be baited with some small element of truth before the most credulous will seize it. If religious beliefs are the fruits of invention, how shall we account for the strange coincidences of thought and worship which prevail throughout all myths and cults? Why is it that all men of every age, in conditions diverse, and in countries widely sundered, are found searching out the same essential facts? All worship; nearly all have their creation-myth, their flood-myth, their theory of origin, of distribution from primitive centres, and of a future state. In this regard as in many another, civilization is but an evolution of savagism; for almost every principle of modern philosophy there may be found in primitive times its parallel.

The nature and order of supernatural conceptions are essentially as follows: The first and rudest form of belief is Fetichism, which invests every phenomenon with an independent personality. In the sunshine, fire, and water, in the wind and rock and stream, in every animal, bird, and plant, there is a separate deity; for every effect there is a cause. Even Kepler, whose intellect could track the planets in their orbits, must needs assume a guiding spirit for every world. It is impossible for the mind to conceive of self-creative or self-existent forces.

In time the personalities of the fetich-worshiper become 23 to some extent generalized. Homogeneous appearances are grouped into classes, and each class referred to a separate deity, and hence Polytheism. Pantheism then comes in and makes all created substance one with the creator; nature and the universe are God. From the impersonating of the forces of nature to the creation of imaginary deities there is but a step. Every virtue and vice, every good and evil becomes a personality, under the direct governance of which lie certain passions and events; and thus in place of one god for many individuals, each individual may have a multitude of his own personal gods. The theogony of Hesiod was but a system of materialized love and hate; while, on the other hand, the gods of Homer, although personating human passions, were likewise endowed with moral perceptions. In them the blind forces of nature are lighted up into a human-divine intelligence.

In Monotheism the distinct personalities, which to the savage underlie every appearance, become wholly generalized, and the origin of all phenomena is referred to one First Cause. The subtle and philosophic Greeks well knew that God to be God must be omnipotent, and omnipotency is indivisible. That the Aztecs could believe and practice the absurdities they did is less an object of wonder, than that the intellectual philosophers of Athens could have tolerated the gods of Homer. Indeed, the religion of the more cultivated Greeks appears to us monstrous, in proportion as they were superior to other men in poetry, art, and philosophy.


Comparative mythologists explain the origin of worship by two apparently oppugnant theories. The first is that whatever is seen in nature strange and wonderful, is deemed by primitive man an object worthy of worship. The other is, that upon certain noted individuals are fastened metaphorical names, symbolic of some quality alike in them and in the natural object after which they are called; that this name, which at the first was but the surname of an individual, after its possessor is dead and forgotten, lives, reverts to the 24 plant or animal whence it came, becomes impersonal, and is worshiped by a conservative posterity. In other words, one theory fastens upon natural phenomena, human attributes, and worships nature under covering of those attributes, while the other worships in the natural object only the memory of a dead and forgotten man. I have no doubt that in both of these hypotheses are elements of truth.

In the earlier acts of worship the tendency is to assimilate the object worshiped and the character of the worshiper, and also to assign habitations to deities, behind man's immediate environment. Every people has its heaven and hell; the former most generally located beyond the blue sky, and the latter in the dark interior caves of the earth. Man in nature reproduces himself; invests appearances with attributes analogous to his own. This likeness of the supernatural to the natural, of gods to man, is the first advance from fetichism, but as the intellect advances anthropomorphism declines. As one by one the nearest mysteries are solved by science, the emptiness of superstition becomes apparent, and the wonderless wonder is referred by the waking mind to general laws of causation; but still clinging to its first conceptions it places them on objects more remote. Man fixes his eyes upon the planets, discovers their movements, and fancies their controlling spirit also controls his destiny; and when released by reason from star-worship, as formerly from fetichism, again an advance is made, always nearing the doctrine of universal law.

In one tersely comprehensive sentence Clarke gives the old view of what were called natural religions: "They considered them, in their source, the work of fraud; in their essence, corrupt superstitions; in their doctrines, wholly false; in their moral tendency, absolutely injurious; and in their result, degenerating more and more into greater evil."


And this view seems to him alike uncharitable and unreasonable: "To assume that they are wholly evil is 25 disrespectful to human nature. It supposes man to be the easy and universal dupe of fraud. But these religions do not rest on such a sandy foundation, but on the feeling of dependence, the sense of accountability, the recognition of spiritual realities very near to this world of matter, and the need of looking up and worshiping some unseen power higher and better than ourselves. We shall find them always feeling after God, often finding him. We shall see that in their origin they are not the work of priestcraft, but of human nature; in their essence not superstitions, but religions; in their doctrines true more frequently than false; in their moral tendency good rather than evil. And instead of degenerating toward something worse, they come to prepare the way for something better."

The nearest case to deliberate invention of deities was, perhaps, the promulgation as objects of worship in primitive times of such abstractions as Hope (Spes), Fear (Pallor), Concord (Concordia), Courage (Virtus), etc. How far these gods were gods, however, in even the ordinary heathen sense of the word, is doubtful. In any case, they were but the extension of an old and existent principle—the personification of divine aspects or qualities; they added no more to what went before than a new Saint or Virgin of Loretto does to the Catholic Church.

"It was a favorite opinion with the Christian apologists, Eusebius and others," says Gladstone, "that the pagan deities represented deified men. Others consider them to signify the powers of external nature personified. For others they are, in many cases, impersonations of human passions and propensities, reflected back from the mind of man. A fourth mode of interpretation would treat them as copies, distorted and depraved, of a primitive system of religion given by God to man. The Apostle St. Paul speaks of them as devils; by which he may perhaps intend to convey that, under the names and in connection with the worship of those deities, the worst influences of the Evil One were at work. This 26 would rather be a subjective than an objective description; and would rather convey an account of the practical working of a corrupted religion, than an explanation of its origin or its early course. As between the other four, it seems probable that they all, in various degrees and manners, entered into the composition of the later paganism, and also of the Homeric or Olympian system. That system, however, was profoundly adverse to mere Nature-worship; while the care of departments or provinces of external nature were assigned to its leading personages. Such worship of natural objects or elemental powers, as prevailed in connection with it, was in general local or secondary. And the deification of heroes in the age of Homer was rare and merely titular. We do not find that any cult or system of devotion was attached to it."

So humanly divine, so impotently great are the gods of Homer; so thoroughly invested with the passions of men, clothed in distinctive shades of human character; such mingled virtue and vice, love and hate, courage and cowardice; animal passions uniting with noble sentiments; base and vulgar thoughts with lofty and sublime ideas; and all so wrought up by his inimitable fancy into divine and supernatural beings, as to work most powerfully upon the nature of the people.

These concrete conceptions of his deities have ever been a source of consolation to the savage; for, by thus bringing down the gods to a nearer level with himself, they could be more materially propitiated, and their protection purchased with gifts and sacrifices. Thus the Greeks could obtain advice through oracles, the Hindoo could pass at once into eternal joys by throwing himself under the car of Juggernaut, while the latter-day offender seeks in the assistance of the departed to buy forgiveness with charities, and to compound crime by building churches.


The difficulty is, that in attempting to establish any theory concerning the origin of things, the soundest logic is little else than wild speculation. Mankind progress 27 unconsciously. We know not what problems we ourselves are working out for those who come after us; we know not by what process we arrive at many of our conclusions; much of that which is clear to ourselves is never understood by our neighbor, and never will be even known by our posterity. Events the most material are soon forgotten, or else are made spiritual and preserved as myths. Blot out the process by which science arrived at results, and in every achievement of science, in the steam engine, the electric telegraph, we should soon have a heaven-descended agency, a god for every machine. Where mythology ceases and history begins, is in the annals of every nation a matter of dispute. What at first appears to be wholly fabulous may contain some truth, whereas much of what is held to be true is mere fable, and herein excessive skepticism is as unwise as excessive credulity.

Historical facts, if unrecorded, are soon lost. Thus when Juan de Oñate penetrated New Mexico in 1596, Fray Marco de Niza, and the expedition of Coronado in 1540, appear to have been entirely forgotten by the Cibolans. Fathers Crespi and Junípero Serra, in their overland explorations of 1769, preparatory to the establishment of a line of Missions along the Californian seaboard, could find no traces, in the minds of the natives, of Cabrillo's voyage in 1542, or of the landing of Sir Francis Drake in 1579; although, so impressed were the savages in the latter instance, that, according to the worthy chaplain of the expedition, they desired "with submission and fear to worship us as gods." Nor can we think civilized memories—which ascribe the plays of Shakespeare to Bacon, and parcel out the Iliad of Homer among numberless unrecorded verse-makers—more tenacious. Frederick Augustus Wolf denies that a Homer ever existed; or, if he did, that he ever wrote his poem, as writing was at that time not generally known; but he claims that snatches of history, descending orally from one generation to another, in the end coalesced into the matchless Iliad and Odyssey. The event which so 28 strongly impressed the father, becomes vague in the mind of the son, and in the third generation is either lost or becomes legendary. Incidents of recent occurrence, contemporary perhaps with the narration, are sometimes so misinterpreted by ignorance or distorted by prejudice, as to place the fact strangely at variance with the recital. Yet no incident nor action falls purposeless to the ground. Unrecorded it may be, unwitnessed, unheard by beings material; a thought-wave even, lost in space invisible, acting, for aught we know, only upon the author; yet so acting, it casts an influence, stamps on fleeting time its record, thereby fulfilling its destiny. Thus linger vapory conceits long after the action which created them has sunk into oblivion; undefined shadows of substance departed; none the less impressive because mingled with immortal imagery.

Turn now from outward events to inner life; from events grown shadowy with time, to life ever dim and mysterious alike to savage and sage. Everywhere man beholds much that is incomprehensible; within, around, the past, the future. Invisible forces are at work, invisible agencies play upon his destiny. And in the creations of fancy, which of necessity grow out of the influence of nature upon the imagination, it is not strange that mysteries darken, facts and fancies blend; the past and the future uniting in a supernatural present.

We are never content with positive knowledge. From the earliest workings of the mind, creations of fancy play as important a part in ethical economy as positive perceptions. Nor does culture in any wise lessen these fanciful creations of the intellect. In the political arena of civilized nations, wars and revolutions for the enforcement of opinion concerning matters beyond the reach of positive knowledge, have equaled if they have not exceeded wars for empire or ascendancy. In the social and individual affairs of life we are governed more by the ideal than by the real. On reaching the limits of positive knowledge, reason pauses, but fancy 29 overleaps the boundary, and wanders forward in an endless waste of speculation.


The tendency of intellectual progress, according to the philosophy of Herbert Spencer, is from the concrete to the abstract, from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, from the knowable to the unknowable. Primordially nothing was known; as superstitions and priestcraft grew rank, everything became known; there was not a problem in the natural or in the supernatural world unsolvable by religion. Now, when some elements of absolute knowledge are beginning to appear, we discover, not only that little is positively known, but that much of what has been hitherto deemed past controverting, is, under the present régime of thought, absolutely unknowable. Formerly ultimate religious knowledge was attained by the very novices of religion, and ultimate scientific knowledge was explained through their fanatical conceptions. Not only were all the mysteries of the material universe easily solved by the Fathers, but heaven was measured and the phenomena of hell minutely described. Now we are just beginning to comprehend that ultimate facts will probably ever remain unknowable facts, for when the present ultimate is attained, an eternity of undiscovered truth will still lay stretched out before the searcher. Until the finite becomes infinite, and time lapses into eternity, the realm of thought will remain unfilled. At present, and until the scope of the intellect is materially enlarged, such theories as the origin of the universe—held by atheists to be self-existent, by pantheists to have been self-created, and by theists to have been originated by an external agency—must remain, as they are now admitted to be, questions beyond even the comprehension of the intellect. Likewise scientific ultimates—such as the qualities of time and space, the divisibility of matter, the co-ordination of motion and rest, the correlation of forces, the mysteries of gravitation, light and heat—are found to be not only not solvable, but not conceivable. And, as with the external, so with the inward 30 life; we cannot conceive the nature, nor explain the origin and duration, of consciousness. The endless speculations of biology and psychology only leave impressions at once of the strength and weakness of the mind of man; strong in empirical knowledge, impotent in every attempt rationally to penetrate the unfathomable. Nowhere in mythology do we find the world self-created or self-existent. Some external agency is ever brought in to perform the work, and in the end the structure of the universe is resolved into its original elements.

Primordial man finds himself surrounded by natural phenomena, the operations of which his intelligence is capable of grasping but partially. Certain appetites sharpen, at once, certain instincts. Hunger makes him acquainted with the fruits of the earth; cold with the skins of beasts. Accident supplies him with rude implements, and imparts to him a knowledge of his power over animals. But as instinct merges into intellect, strange powers in nature are felt; invisible agents wielding invisible weapons; realities which exist unheard and move unseen; outward manifestations of hidden strength. Humanity, divine, but wild and wondering, half-fed, half-clad, ranges woods primeval, hears the roar of battling elements, sees the ancient forest-tree shivered into fragments by heaven's artillery, feels the solid earth rise up in rumbling waves beneath his feet. He receives, as it were, a blow from within the darkness, and flinging himself upon the ground he begs protection; from what he knows not, of whom he knows not. "Bury me not, O tumultuous heavens," he cries, "under the clouds of your displeasure!" "Strike me not down in wrath, O fierce flaming fire!" "Earth, be firm!" Here, then, is the origin of prayer. And to render more effectual his entreaties, a gift is offered. Seizing upon whatever he prizes most, his food, his raiment, he rushes forth and hurls his propitiatory offering heavenward, earthward, whithersoever his frenzied fancy dictates. Or, if this is not enough, the still more dearly valued gift of human blood or human life is offered. His own flesh he freely 31 lacerates; to save his own life he gives that of his enemy, his slave, or even his child. Hence arises sacrifice.


And here also conjurings commence. The necessity is felt of opening up some intercourse with these mysterious powers; relations commercial and social; calamities and casualties, personal and public, must be traced to causes, and the tormenting demon bought off. But it is clearly evident that these elemental forces are not all of them inimical to the happiness of mankind. Sunshine, air and water, the benign influences in nature, are as powerful to create, as the adverse elements are to destroy. And as these forces appear conflicting, part productive of life and enjoyment, and part of destruction, decay, and death, a separation is made. Hence principles of good and evil are discovered; and to all these unaccountable forces in nature, names and properties are given, and causations invented. For every act there is an actor—for every deed a doer; for every power and passion there is made a god.

Thus we see that worship in some form is a human necessity, or, at least, a constant accompaniment of humanity. Until perfect wisdom and limitless power are the attributes of humanity, adoration will continue; for men will never cease to reverence what they do not understand, nor will they cease to fear such elements of strength as are beyond their control. The form of this conciliatory homage appears to arise from common human instincts; for, throughout the world and in all ages, a similarity in primitive religious forms has existed. It is a giving of something; the barter of a valuable something for a something more valuable. As in his civil polity all crimes may be compounded or avenged, so in his worship, the savage gives his pride, his property, or his blood.

At first, this spirit power is seen in everything; in the storm and in the soft evening air; in clouds and cataracts, in mountains, rocks, and rivers; in trees, in reptiles, beasts, and fishes. But when progressive man 32 obtains a more perfect mastery over the brute creation, brute worship ceases; as he becomes familiar with the causes of some of the forces in nature, and is better able to protect himself from them, the fear of natural objects is lessened. Leaving the level of the brute creation he mounts upward, and selecting from his own species some living or dead hero, he endows a king or comrade with superhuman attributes, and worships his dead fellow as a divine being. Still he tunes his thoughts to subtler creations, and carves with skillful fingers material images of supernatural forms. Then comes idolatry. The great principles of causation being determined and embodied in perceptible forms, adorations ensue. Cravings, however, increase. As the intellect expands, one idol after another is thrown down. Mind assumes the mastery over matter. From gods of wood and stone, made by men's fingers, and from suns and planets, carved by the fingers of omnipotence, the creature now turns to the Creator. A form of ideal worship supplants the material form; gods known and tangible are thrown aside for the unknown God. And well were it for the intellect could it stop here. But, as the actions of countless material gods were clear to the primitive priest, and by him satisfactorily explained to the savage masses; so, in this more advanced state men are not wanting who receive from their ideal god revelations of his actions and motives. To its new, unknown, ideal god, the partially awakened human mind attaches the positive attributes of the old, material deities, or invents new ones, and starts anew to tread the endless mythologic circle; until in yet a higher state it discovers that both god and attributes are wholly beyond its grasp, and that with all its progress, it has advanced but slightly beyond the first savage conception;—a power altogether mysterious, inexplicable to science, controlling phenomena of mind and matter.

Barbarians are the most religious of mortals. While the busy, overworked brain of the scholar or man of business is occupied with more practical affairs, the listless 33 mind of the savage, thrown as he is upon the very bosom of nature, is filled with innumerable conjectures and interrogatories. His curiosity, like that of a child, is proverbial, and as superstition is ever the resource of ignorance, queer fancies and fantasms concerning life and death, and gods and devils float continually through his unenlightened imagination.

Ill-protected from the elements, his comfort and his uncertain food-supply depending upon them, primitive man regards nature with eager interest. Like the beasts, his forest companions, he places himself as far as possible in harmony with his environment. He migrates with the seasons; feasts when food is plenty, fasts in famine-time; basks and gambols in the sunshine, cowers beneath the fury of the storm, crawls from the cold into his den, and there quasi-torpidly remains until nature releases him. Is it therefore strange that savage intellect peoples the elements with supernatural powers; that God is everywhere, in everything; in the most trifling accident and incident, as well as in the sun, the sea, the grove; that when evil comes God is angry, when fortune smiles God is favorable; and that he speaks to his wild, untutored people in signs and dreams, in the tempest and in the sunshine. Nor does he withhold the still, small voice, which breathes upon minds most darkened, and into breasts the most savage, a spirit of progress, which, if a people be left to the free fulfillment of their destiny, is sure, sooner or later, to ripen into full development.


We will now glance at the origin of fetichism, which indeed may be called the origin of ideal religion, from the other standpoint; that which arises from the respect men feel for the memory of their departed ancestors.

The first conception of a dualty in man's nature has been attributed to various causes; it may be the result of a combination of causes. There is the shadow upon the ground, separate, yet inseparable; the reflection of the form upon the water; the echo of the voice, the adventures of fancy portrayed by dreams. Self 34 is divisible from and inseparably connected with this other self. Herefrom arise innumerable superstitions; it was portentous of misfortune for one's clothes to be stepped on; no food must be left uneaten; nail clippings and locks of hair must not fall into the hands of an enemy. Catlin, in sketching his portraits, often narrowly escaped with his life, the Indians believing that in their likenesses he carried away their other self. And when death comes, and this other self departs, whither has it gone? The lifeless body remains, but where is the life? The mind cannot conceive of the total extinguishment of an entity, and so the imagination rears a local habitation for every departed spirit. Every phenomenon and every event is analyzed under this hypothesis. For every event there is not only a cause, but a personal cause, an independent agent behind every consequence. Every animal, every fish and bird, every rock and stream and plant, the ripening fruit, the falling rain, the uncertain wind, the sun and stars, are all personified. There is no disease without its god or devil, no fish entangled in the net, no beast or bird that falls before the hunter, without its special sender.

Savages are more afraid of a dead man than a live one. They are overwhelmed with terror at the thought of this unseen power over them. The spirit of the departed is omnipotent and omnipresent. At any cost or hazard it must be propitiated. So food is placed in the grave; wives and slaves, and horses and dogs, are slain, and in spirit sent to serve the ghost of the departed; phantom messengers are sent to the region of shadows from time to time; the messengers sometimes even volunteering to go. So boats and weapons and all the property of the deceased are burned or deposited with him. In the hand of the dead child is placed a toy; in that of the departed warrior, the symbolic pipe of peace, which is to open a tranquil entrance into his new abode; clothes, and ornaments, and paint, are conveniently placed, and thus a proper personal appearance guaranteed. Not that the things themselves are to be used, 35 but the souls of things. The body of the chief rots, as does the material substance of the articles buried with it; but the soul of every article follows the soul of its owner, to serve its own peculiar end in the land of phantoms.


The Chinese, grown cunning with the great antiquity of their burial customs, which require money and food to be deposited for the benefit of the deceased, spiritualize the money, by making an imitation coin of pasteboard, while the food, untouched by the dead, is finally eaten by themselves.

But whence arises the strange propensity of all primitive nations to worship animals, and plants, and stones, things animate and inanimate, natural and supernatural? Why is it that all nations or tribes select from nature some object which they hold to be sacred, and which they venerate as deity? It is the opinion of Herbert Spencer that "the rudimentary form of all religion is the propitiation of dead ancestors, who are supposed to be still existing, and to be capable of working good or evil to their descendants." It is the universal custom with savage tribes, as the character of their members becomes developed, to drop the real name of individuals and to fix upon them the attribute of some external object, by whose name only they are afterwards known. Thus a swift runner is called the 'antelope,' the slow of foot, the 'tortoise,' a merciless warrior, the 'wolf,' a dark-eyed maid may be likened to the 'raven,' a majestic matron to the 'cypress.' And so the rivulet, the rock, the dawn, the sun, and even elements invisible, are seized upon as metaphors and fastened upon individuals, according to a real or fancied resemblance between the qualities of nature and the character of the men. Inferiority and baseness, alike with nobleness and wise conduct, perpetuate a name. Even in civilized societies, a nickname often takes the place of the real name. Schoolboys are quick to distinguish peculiarities in their fellows, and fasten upon them significant names. A dull scholar is called 'cabbage-head,' the girl with red ringlets, 36 'carrots.' In the family there is the greedy 'pig,' the darling 'duck,' the little 'lamb.' In new countries, and abnormal communities, where strangers from all parts are promiscuously thrown together, not unfrequently men live on terms of intimacy for years without ever knowing each other's real name. Among miners, such appellations as 'Muley Bill,' 'Sandy,' 'Shorty,' 'Sassafras Jack,' often serve all the purposes of a name. In more refined circles, there is the hypocritical 'crocodile,' the sly 'fox,' the gruff 'bear.' We say of the horse, 'he is as fleet as the wind,' of a rapid accountant, 'he is as quick as lightning.' These names, which are used by us but for the moment, or to fit occasions, are among rude nations permanent—in many instances the only name a person ever receives.

Sometimes the nickname of the individual becomes first a family name and then a tribal name; as when the chief, 'Coyote,' becomes renowned, his children love to call themselves 'Coyotes.' The chieftainship descending to the son and grandson of Coyote, the name becomes famous, the Coyote family the dominant family of the tribe; members of the tribe, in their intercourse with other tribes, call themselves 'coyotes,' to distinguish themselves from other tribes; the head, or tail, or claws, or skin, of the coyote ornaments the dress or adorns the body; the name becomes tribal, and the animal the symbol or totem of the tribe. After a few generations have passed, the great chieftain, Coyote, and his immediate progeny are forgotten; meanwhile the beast becomes a favorite with the people; he begins to be regarded as privileged; is not hunted down like other beasts; the virtues and exploits of the whole Coyote clan become identified with the brute; the affections of the people are centered in the animal, and finally, all else being lost and forgotten, the descendants of the chieftain, Coyote, are the offspring of the veritable beast, coyote.


Concerning image-worship and the material representation of ideal beings, Mr. Tylor believes that "when 37 man has got some way in developing the religious element in him, he begins to catch at the device of setting up a puppet, or a stone, as the symbol and representative of the notions of a higher being which are floating in his mind."

Primitive languages cannot express abstract qualities. For every kind of animal or bird or plant there may be a name, but for animals, plants, and birds in general, they have no name or conception. Therefore, the abstract quality becomes the concrete idea of a god, and the descendants of a man whose symbolic name was 'dog,' from being the children of the man become the children of the dog.

Hence also arise monsters, beings compounded of beast, bird, and fish, sphinxes, mermaids, human-headed brutes, winged animals; as when the descendant of the 'hawk' carries off a wife from the 'salmon' tribe, a totem representing a fish with a hawk's head for a time keeps alive the occurrence and finally becomes the deity.

Thus realities become metaphors and metaphors realities; the fact dwindles into shadowy nothingness and the fancy springs into actual being. The historical incident becomes first indistinct and then is forgotten; the metaphorical name of the dead ancestor is first respected in the animal or plant, then worshiped in the animal or plant, and finally the nickname and the ancestor both are forgotten and the idea becomes the entity, and the veritable object of worship. From forgetfulness of primogenitor and metaphor, conceiving the animal to be the very ancestor, words are put into the animal's mouth, the sayings of the ancestor become the sayings of the brute; hence mythological legends of talking beasts, and birds, and wise fishes. To one animal is attributed a miraculous cure, to another, assistance in time of trouble; one animal is a deceiver, another a betrayer; and thus through their myths and metaphors we may look back into the soul of savagism and into their soul of nature.

That this is the origin of some phases of fetichism there can be no doubt; that it is the origin of all religions, 38 or even the only method by which animal and plant worship originates, I do not believe. While there are undoubtedly general principles underlying all religious conceptions, it does not necessarily follow, that in every instance the methods of arriving at those fundamental principles must be identical. As with us a child weeps over a dead mother's picture, regarding it with fond devotion, so the dutiful barbarian son, in order the better to propitiate the favor of his dead ancestor, sometimes carves his image in wood or stone, which sentiment with time lapses into idolatry. Any object which strikes the rude fancy as analogous to the character of an individual may become an object of worship.

The interpretation of myth can never be absolute and positive; yet we may in almost every instance discover the general purport. Thus a superior god, we may be almost sure, refers to some potent hero, some primitive ruler, whom tradition has made superhuman in origin and in power; demigods, subordinate or inferior beings in power, must be regarded as legendary, referring to certain influential persons, identified with some element or incident in which the deified personage played a conspicuous part.

Although in mythology religion is the dominant element, yet mythology is not wholly made up of religion, nor are all primitive religions mythical. "There are few mistakes" says Professor Max Müller "so widely spread and so firmly established as that which makes us confound the religion and the mythology of the ancient nations of the world. How mythology arises, necessarily and naturally, I tried to explain in my former lectures, and we saw that, as an affection or disorder of language, mythology may infect every part of the intellectual life of man. True it is that no ideas are more liable to mythological disease than religious ideas, because they transcend those regions of our experience within which language has its natural origin, and must therefore, according to their very nature, be satisfied with metaphorical expressions. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither 39 hath it entered into the heart of man. Yet even the religions of the ancient nations are by no means inevitably and altogether mythological. On the contrary, as a diseased frame pre-supposes a healthy frame, so a mythological religion pre-supposes, I believe, a healthy religion."


The universal secrets of supernatural beings are wrapped up in probable or possible fable; the elements of physical nature are impersonated in allegories, and arrayed in forms perceptible to the imagination; deities are sometimes introduced into the machinery of the supernatural in order to gratify that love for the marvelous which every attempt to explain the mysterious forces of nature creates in the ignorant mind. Yet it cannot truly be said that any form of religion, much less any religion was wholly invented. Fanatics sometimes originate doctrines, and the Church sets forth its dogmas, but there must be a foundation of truth or the edifice cannot stand. Inventions there undoubtedly have been and are, but inventions, sooner or later fall to the ground, while the essential principles underlying religion and mythology, though momentarily overcome or swept away, are sure to remain.

Every one of the fundamental ideas of religion is of indigenous origin, generating spontaneously in the human heart. It is a characteristic of mythology that the present inhabitants of the world descended from some nobler race. From the nobler impulses of fancy the savage derives his origin. His higher instincts teach him that his dim distant past, and his impenetrable future, are alike of a lighter, more ethereal nature; that his earthly nature is base, that that which binds him to earth is the lowest, vilest part of himself.

The tendency of positive knowledge is to overthrow superstition. Hence as science develops, many tenets of established religions, palpably erroneous, are dropped, and the more knowledge becomes real, the more real knowledge is denied. Superstition is not the effect of an active imagination, but shows rather a lack of imagination, 40 for we see that the lower the stage of intelligence, and the feebler the imagination, the greater the superstition. A keen, vivid imagination, although capable of broader and more complicated conceptions, is able to explain the cruder marvels, and consequently to dispel the coarser phases of superstition, while the dull intellect accepts everything which is put upon it as true. Ultimate religious conceptions are symbolic rather than actual. Ultimate ideas of the universe are even beyond the grasp of the profoundest intellect. We can form but an approximate idea of the sphere on which we live. To form conceptions of the relative and actual distances and magnitudes of heavenly bodies, of systems of worlds, and eternities of space, the human mind is totally inadequate. If, therefore, the mind is unable to grasp material visible objects, how much less are we able to measure the invisible and eternal.

When therefore the savage attempts to solve the problem of natural phenomena, he first reduces broad conceptions to symbolic ideas. He moulds his deity according to the measure of his mind; and in forming a skeleton upon which to elaborate his religious instincts, proximate theories are accepted, and almost any explanation appears to him plausible. The potential creations of his fancy are brought within the compass of his comprehension; symbolic gods are moulded from mud, or carved from wood or stone; and thus by segregating an infinitesimal part of the vast idea of deity, the worshiper meets the material requirements of his religious conceptions. And although the lower forms of worship are abandoned as the intellect unfolds, the same principle is continued. We set up in the mind symbols of the ultimate idea which is too great for our grasp, and imagining ourselves in possession of the actual idea, we fall into numberless errors concerning what we believe or think. The atheistic hypothesis of self-existence, the pantheistic hypothesis of self-creation, and the theistic hypothesis of creation by an external agency are equally unthinkable, and therefore as postulates equally untenable. Yet underlying 41 all, however gross or superstitious the dogma, is one fundamental truth, namely, that there is a problem to be solved, an existent mysterious universe to be accounted for.

Deep down in every human breast is implanted a religiosity as a fundamental attribute of man's nature; a consciousness that behind visible appearances is an invisible power; underlying all conception is an instinct or intuition from which there is no escape, that beyond material actualities potential agencies are at work; and throughout all belief, from the stupidest fetichism to the most exalted monotheism, as part of these instinctive convictions, it is held that the beings, or being, who rule man's destiny may be propitiated.

The first cry of nature is hushed. From time immemorial nations and peoples have come and gone, whence and whither no one knows; entering existence unannounced they disappear and leave no trace, save perhaps their impress on the language or the mythology of the world. Thus from historic fact blended with the religious sentiments springs the Mythic Idea.


In the following chapters, I have attempted, as far as practicable, to classify the Myths of the Pacific States under appropriate heads. In making such a classification there is no difficulty, except where in one myth occur two or more divisions of the subject, in which case it becomes necessary, either to break the narrative, or make exceptions in the general rule of classifying. I have invariably adopted the latter alternative. The divisions which I make of Mythology are as follows: I. Origin and End of Things; II. Physical Myths; III. Animal Myths; IV. Gods, Supernatural Beings, and Worship; V. The Future State. 42


Quiché Creation-MythAztec Origin-MythsThe PapagosMontezuma and the CoyoteThe MoquisThe Great Spider's Web of the PimasNavajo and Pueblo CreationsOrigin of Clear Lake and Lake TahoeChareya of the CahrocsMount Shasta, the Wigwam of the Great SpiritIdaho Springs and Water FallsHow Differences in Language OccurredYehl, the Creator of the ThlinkeetsThe Raven and the Dog.


Of all American peoples the Quichés, of Guatemala, have left us the richest mythological legacy. Their description of the creation as given in the Popol Vuh, which may be called the national book of the Quichés,[II-1] 43 is, in its rude strange eloquence and poetic originality, one of the rarest relics of aboriginal thought. Although obliged in reproducing it to condense somewhat, I have 44 endeavored to give not only the substance, but also, as far as possible, the peculiar style and phraseology of the original. It is with this primeval picture, whose simple silent sublimity is that of the inscrutable past, that we begin:—

And the heaven was formed, and all the signs thereof set in their angle and alignment, and its boundaries fixed towards the four winds by the Creator and Former, and Mother and Father of life and existence—he by whom all move and breathe, the Father and Cherisher of the peace of nations and of the civilization of his people—he whose wisdom has projected the excellence of all that is on the earth, or in the lakes, or in the sea.

Behold the first word and the first discourse. There was as yet no man, nor any animal, nor bird, nor fish, nor crawfish, nor any pit, nor ravine, nor green herb, nor any tree; nothing was but the firmament. The face of the earth had not yet appeared—only the peaceful sea and all the space of heaven. There was nothing yet joined together, nothing that clung to anything else; nothing that balanced itself, that made the least rustling, that made a sound in the heaven. There was nothing that stood up; nothing but the quiet water, but the sea, calm and alone in its boundaries: nothing existed; nothing but immobility and silence, in the darkness, in the night.[II-2]



Alone also the Creator, the Former, the Dominator, the Feathered Serpent—those that engender, those that give being, they are upon the water, like a growing light. They are enveloped in green and blue; and therefore their name is Gucumatz.[II-3] Lo, now how the heavens exist, how exists also the Heart of Heaven; such is the name of God; it is thus that he is called. And they spake; they consulted together and meditated; they mingled their words and their opinion. And the creation was verily after this wise: Earth, they said, and on the instant it was formed; like a cloud or a fog was its beginning. Then the mountains rose over the water like great lobsters; in an instant the mountains and the plains were visible, and the cypress and the pine appeared. Then was the Gucumatz filled with joy, crying out: Blessed be thy coming, O Heart of Heaven, Hurakan, Thunderbolt. Our work and our labor has accomplished its end.

The earth and its vegetation having thus appeared, it was peopled with the various forms of animal life. And the Makers said to the animals: Speak now our name, 46 honor us, us your mother and father; invoke Hurakan, the Lightning-flash, the Thunderbolt that strikes, the Heart of Heaven, the Heart of the Earth, the Creator and Former, Him who begets, and Him who gives being—speak, call on us, salute us! So was it said to the animals. But the animals could not answer; they could not speak at all after the manner of men; they could only cluck, and croak, each murmuring after his kind in a different manner. This displeased the Creators, and they said to the animals: Inasmuch as ye can not praise us, neither call upon our names, your flesh shall be humiliated; it shall be broken with teeth; ye shall be killed and eaten.

Again the gods took counsel together; they determined to make man. So they made a man of clay; and when they had made him, they saw that it was not good. He was without cohesion, without consistence, motionless, strengthless, inept, watery; he could not move his head, his face looked but one way; his sight was restricted, he could not look behind him; he had been endowed with language, but he had no intelligence, so he was consumed in the water.

Again is there counsel in heaven: Let us make an intelligent being who shall adore and invoke us. It was decided that a man should be made of wood and a woman of a kind of pith. They were made; but the result was in no wise satisfactory. They moved about perfectly well, it is true; they increased and multiplied; they peopled the world with sons and daughters, little wooden mannikins like themselves; but still the heart and the intelligence were wanting; they held no memory of their Maker and Former; they led a useless existence, they lived as the beasts live; they forgot the Heart of Heaven. They were but an essay, an attempt at men; they had neither blood, nor substance, nor moisture, nor fat; their cheeks were shrivelled, their feet and hands dried up; their flesh languished.


Then was the Heart of Heaven wroth; and he sent ruin and destruction upon those ingrates; he rained upon them night and day from heaven with a thick resin; 47 and the earth was darkened. And the men went mad with terror; they tried to mount upon the roofs and the houses fell; they tried to climb the trees and the trees shook them far from their branches; they tried to hide in the caves and dens of the earth, but these closed their holes against them. The bird Xecotcovach came to tear out their eyes; and the Camalotz cut off their head; and the Cotzbalam devoured their flesh; and the Tecumbalam broke and bruised their bones to powder. Thus were they all devoted to chastisement and destruction, save only a few who were preserved as memorials of the wooden men that had been; and these now exist in the woods as little apes.[II-4]

Once more are the gods in counsel; in the darkness, in the night of a desolated universe do they commune together; of what shall we make man? And the Creator and Former made four perfect men; and wholly of yellow and white maize was their flesh composed. These were the names of the four men that were made: the name of the first was Balam-Quitzé; of the second, Balam-Agab; of the third Mahucutah; and of the fourth, Iqi-Balam.[II-5] They had neither father nor mother, neither were they made by the ordinary agents in the work of creation; but their coming into existence was a miracle extraordinary, wrought by the special intervention of him who is preëminently The Creator. Verily, at last, were there found men worthy of their origin and their destiny; verily, at last, did the gods look on beings who could see with their eyes, and handle with their hands, and understand with their hearts. Grand of countenance and broad of limb the four sires of our race stood up under the white rays of the morning star—sole light as yet of the primeval world—stood up and looked. Their great clear eyes swept rapidly over all; they saw 48 the woods and the rocks, the lakes and the sea, the mountains and the valleys, and the heavens that were above all; and they comprehended all and admired exceedingly. Then they returned thanks to those who had made the world and all that therein was: We offer up our thanks, twice—yea verily, thrice! We have received life; we speak, we walk, we taste; we hear and understand; we know both that which is near and that which is far off; we see all things, great and small, in all the heaven and earth. Thanks then, Maker and Former, Father and Mother of our life! we have been created; we are.

But the gods were not wholly pleased with this thing; Heaven they thought had overshot its mark; these men were too perfect; knew, understood, and saw too much. Therefore there was counsel again in heaven: What shall we do with man now? It is not good, this that we see; these are as gods; they would make themselves equal with us; lo, they know all things, great and small. Let us now contract their sight, so that they may see only a little of the surface of the earth and be content. Thereupon the Heart of Heaven breathed a cloud over the pupil of the eyes of men, and a veil came over it as when one breathes on the face of a mirror; thus was the globe of the eye darkened; neither was that which was far off clear to it any more, but only that which was near.

Then the four men slept, and there was counsel in heaven: and four women were made—to Balam-Quitzé was allotted Caha-Paluma to wife; to Balam-Agab, Chomiha; to Mahucutah, Tzununiha; and to Iqi-Balam, Cakixaha.[II-6] Now the women were exceedingly fair to look upon; and when the men awoke, their hearts were glad because of the women.


Next, as I interpret the narrative, there were other men created, the ancestors of other peoples, while the 49 first four were the fathers of all the branches of the Quiché race. The different tribes at first, however, lived together amicably enough, in a primitive state; and increased and multiplied, leading happy lives under their bright and morning star, precursor of the yet unseen sun. They had as yet no worship save the breathing of the instinct of their soul, as yet no altars to the gods; only—and is there not a whole idyl in the simple words?—only they gazed up into heaven, not knowing what they had come so far to do![II-7] They were filled with love, with obedience, and with fear; and lifting their eyes towards heaven, they made their requests:—

Hail! O Creator, O Former! thou that hearest and understandest us! abandon us not, forsake us not! O God, thou that art in heaven and on the earth, O Heart of Heaven, O Heart of Earth! give us descendants and a posterity as long as the light endure. Give us to walk always in an open road, in a path without snares; to lead happy, quiet, and peaceable lives, free of all reproach. It was thus they spake, living tranquilly, invoking the return of the light, waiting the rising of the sun, watching the star of the morning, precursor of the sun. But no sun came, and the four men and their descendants grew uneasy: We have no person to watch over us, they said, nothing to guard our symbols. So the four men and their people set out for Tulan-Zuiva,[II-8] otherwise called the Seven-caves or Seven-ravines, and there they received gods, each man as head of a family, a god; though inasmuch as the fourth man, Iqi-Balam, had no children and founded no family, his god is not usually taken into the account. Balam-Quitzé received the god Tohil; Balam 50 Agab received the god Avilix; and Mahucutah received the god Hacavitz; all very powerful gods, but Tohil seems to have been the chief, and in a general way, god of the whole Quiché nation. Other people received gods at the same time; and it had been for all a long march to Tulan.

Now the Quichés had as yet no fire, and as Tulan was a much colder climate than the happy eastern land they had left, they soon began to feel the want of it. The god Tohil who was the creator of fire had some in his possession; so to him, as was most natural, the Quichés applied, and Tohil in some way supplied them with fire.

But shortly after, there fell a great rain that extinguished all the fires of the land; and much hail also fell on the heads of the people; and because of the rain and the hail, their fires were utterly scattered and put out. Then Tohil created fire again by stamping with his sandal. Several times thus fire failed them, but Tohil always renewed it. Many other trials also they underwent in Tulan, famines and such things, and a general dampness and cold—for the earth was moist, there being as yet no sun.

Here also the language of all the families was confused so that no one of the first four men could any longer understand the speech of another. This also made them very sad. They determined to leave Tulan; and the greater part of them, under the guardianship and direction of Tohil, set out to see where they should take up their abode. They continued on their way amid the most extreme hardships for want of food; sustaining themselves at one time upon the mere smell of their staves, and by imagining that they were eating, when in verity and in truth, they ate nothing. Their heart, indeed, it is again and again said, was almost broken by affliction. Poor wanderers! they had a cruel way to go, many forests to pierce, many stern mountains to overpass and a long passage to make through the sea, along the shingle and pebbles and drifted sand—the sea being, however, parted for their passage. 51


At last they came to a mountain that they named Hacavitz, after one of their gods, and here they rested—for here they were by some means given to understand that they should see the sun. Then indeed, was filled with an exceeding joy the heart of Balam-Quitzé, of Balam-Agab, of Mahucutah, and of Iqi-Balam. It seemed to them that even the face of the morning star caught a new and more resplendent brightness. They shook their incense pans and danced for very gladness: sweet were their tears in dancing, very hot their incense—their precious incense. At last the sun commenced to advance: the animals, small and great, were full of delight; they raised themselves to the surface of the water; they fluttered in the ravines; they gathered at the edge of the mountains, turning their heads together toward that part from which the sun came. And the lion and the tiger roared. And the first bird that sang was that called the Queletzu. All the animals were beside themselves at the sight; the eagle and the kite beat their wings, and every bird, both small and great. The men prostrated themselves on the ground, for their hearts were full to the brim.

And the sun, and the moon, and the stars were now all established. Yet was not the sun then in the beginning the same as now; his heat wanted force, and he was but as a reflection in a mirror; verily, say the histories, not at all the same sun as that of to-day. Nevertheless he dried up and warmed the surface of the earth, and answered many good ends.

Another wonder when the sun rose! The three tribal gods, Tohil, Avilix, and Hacavitz, were turned into stone, as were also the gods connected with the lion, the tiger, the viper, and other fierce and dangerous animals. Perhaps we should not be alive at this moment—continues the chronicle—because of the voracity of these fierce animals, of these lions, and tigers, and vipers; perhaps to-day our glory would not be in existence, had not the sun caused this petrification.

And the people multiplied on this Mount Hacavitz, 52 and here they built their city. It is here also that they began to sing that song called Kamucu, 'we see.' They sang it, though it made their hearts ache, for this is what they said in singing: Alas! We ruined ourselves in Tulan, there lost we many of our kith and kin, they still remain there, left behind! We indeed have seen the sun, but they—now that his golden light begins to appear, where are they?

And they worshiped the gods that had become stone, Tohil, Avilix, and Hacavitz; and they offered them the blood of beasts, and of birds, and pierced their own ears and shoulders in honor of these gods, and collected the blood with a sponge, and pressed it out into a cup before them.

Toward the end of their long and eventful life Balam-Quitzé, Balam-Agab, Mahucutah, and Iqi-Balam were impelled, apparently by a supernatural vision, to lay before their gods a more awful offering than the life of senseless beasts. They began to wet their altars with the heart's blood of human victims. From their mountain hold they watched for lonely travelers belonging to the surrounding tribes, seized, overpowered, and slew them for a sacrifice. Man after man was missing in the neighboring villages; and the people said: Lo! the tigers have carried them away—for wherever the blood was of a man slain, were always found the tracks of many tigers. Now this was the craft of the priests, and at last the tribes began to suspect the thing and to follow the tracks of the tigers. But the trails had been made purposely intricate, by steps returning on themselves and by the obliteration of steps; and the mountain region where the altars were was already covered with a thick fog and a small rain, and its paths flowed with mud.

The hearts of the villagers were thus fatigued within them, pursuing unknown enemies. At last, however, it became plain that the gods Tohil, Avilix and Hacavitz, and their worship, were in some way or other the cause of this bereavement: so the people of the villages conspired 53 against them. Many attacks, both openly and by ruses, did they make on the gods, and on the four men, and on the children and people connected with them; but not once did they succeed, so great was the wisdom, and power, and courage of the four men and of their deities. And these three gods petrified, as we have told, could nevertheless resume a movable shape when they pleased; which indeed they often did, as will be seen hereafter.

At last the war was finished. By the miraculous aid of a horde of wasps and hornets, the Quichés utterly defeated and put to the rout in a general battle all their enemies. And the tribes humiliated themselves before the face of Balam-Quitzé, of Balam-Agab, and of Mahucutah: Unfortunates that we are, they said, spare to us at least our lives. Let it be so, it was answered, although you be worthy of death; you shall, however, be our tributaries and serve us, as long as the sun endure, as long as the light shall follow his course. This was the reply of our fathers and mothers, upon Mount Hacavitz; and thereafter they lived in great honor and peace, and their souls had rest, and all the tribes served them there.


Now it came to pass that the time of the death of Balam-Quitzé, Balam-Agab, Mahucutah, and Iqi-Balam drew near. No bodily sickness nor suffering came upon them; but they were forewarned that their death and their end was at hand. Then they called their sons and their descendants round them to receive their last counsels.

And the heart of the old men was rent within them. In the anguish of their heart they sang the Kamucu, the old sad song that they had sung when the sun first rose, when the sun rose and they thought of the friends they had left in Tulan, whose face they should see no more forever. Then they took leave of their wives, one by one; and of their sons, one by one; of each in particular they took leave; and they said: We return to our people; already the King of the 54 Stags is ready, he stretches himself through the heaven. Lo, we are about to return; our work is done; the days of our life are complete. Remember us well; let us never pass from your memory. You will see still our houses and our mountains; multiply in them, and then go on upon your way and see again the places whence we are come.

So the old men took leave of their sons and of their wives; and Balam-Quitzé spake again: Behold! he said, I leave you what shall keep me in remembrance. I have taken leave of you—and am filled with sadness, he added. Then instantly the four old men were not; but in their place was a great bundle; and it was never unfolded, neither could any man find seam therein on rolling it over and over. So it was called the Majesty Enveloped; and it became a memorial of these fathers, and was held very dear and precious in the sight of the Quichés; and they burned incense before it.[II-9]

Thus died and disappeared on Mount Hacavitz Balam-Quitzé, Balam-Agab, Mahucutah, and Iqi-Balam, these first men who came from the east, from the other side of the sea. Long time had they been here when they died; and they were very old, and surnamed the Venerated and the Sacrificers.

Such is the Quiché account of the creation of the earth and its inhabitants and of the first years of the existence of mankind. Although we find here described 55 in the plainest and least equivocal terms a supreme, all-powerful Creator of all things, there are joined with him in a somewhat perplexing manner a number of auxiliary deities and makers. It may be that those whose faith the Popol Vuh represents, conceiving and speaking of their supreme god under many aspects and as fulfilling many functions, came at times, either unconsciously or for dramatic effect, to bring this one great Being upon their mythic stage, sustaining at once many of his different parts and characters. Or perhaps, like the Hebrews, they believed that the Creator had made out of nothing or out of his own essence, in some mysterious way, angels and other beings to obey and to assist him in his sovereign designs, and that these 'were called gods.' That these Quiché notions seem foolishness to us, is no argument as to their adaptation to the life and thoughts of those who believed them; for, in the words of Professor Max Müller, "the thoughts of primitive humanity were not only different from our thoughts, but different also from what we think their thoughts ought to have been."[II-10]


Yet whatever be the inconsistencies that obscure the Popol Vuh, we find them multiplied in the Mexican cosmogony, a tangled string of meagre and apparently fragmentary traditions. There appear to have been two principal schools of opinion in Anáhuac, differing as to who was the Creator of the world, as well as on other points—two veins of tradition, perhaps of common origin, which often seem to run into one, and are oftener still considered as one by historians to whom these heathen vanities were matters of little importance. The more advanced school, ascribing its inspiration to Toltec sources, seems to have flourished notably in Tezcuco, especially while the famous Nezahualcoyotl reigned there, and to have had very definite monotheistic ideas. It taught, as is asserted in unmistakable terms, that all things had been 56 made by one God, omnipotent and invisible; and to this school were probably owing the many gentle and beautiful ideas and rites, mingled with the hard, coarse, and prosaic cult of the mass of the people.[II-11]

The other school may be considered as more distinctively national, and as representing more particularly the ordinary Mexican mind. To it is to be ascribed by far the larger part of all we know about the Mexican religion.[II-12] According to the version of this school, Tezcatlipoca, a god whose birth and adventures are set forth hereafter, was the creator of the material heaven and earth, though not of mankind; and sometimes even the honor of this partial creation is disputed by others of the gods.

One Mexican nation, again, according to an ancient writer of their own blood, affirmed that the earth had been created by chance; and as for the heavens, they had always existed.[II-13]



From the fragments of the Chimalpopoca manuscript given by the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg we learn that the Creator—whoever he may have been—produced his work in successive epochs. In the sign Tochtli, the earth was created; in the sign Acatl was made the firmament, and in the sign Tecpatl the animals. Man it is added, was made and animated out of ashes or dust by God on the seventh day, Ehecatl, but finished and perfected by that mysterious personage Quetzalcoatl. However this account may be reconciled with itself or with others, it further appears that man was four times made and four times destroyed.[II-14]


This may perhaps be looked upon as proceeding from what I have called for convenience the Toltecan school, though this particular fragment shows traces of Christian influence. What follows seems however to belong to a distinctively Mexican and ruder vein of thought. It is gathered from Mendieta, who was indebted again to Fray Andres de Olmos, one of the earliest missionaries among the Mexicans of whom he treats; and it is decidedly one of the most authentic accounts of such matters extant.


The Mexicans in most of the provinces were agreed that there was a god in heaven called Citlalatonac, and a goddess called Citlalicue;[II-15] and that this goddess had given birth to a flint knife, Tecpatl. Now she had many sons living with her in heaven, who seeing this extraordinary thing were alarmed, and flung the flint down to the earth. It fell in a place called Chicomoztoc, that is to say the Seven Caves, and there immediately sprang up from it one thousand six hundred gods. These gods being alone on the earth—though as will hereafter appear, there had been men in the world at a former period—sent up their messenger Tlotli, the Hawk, to pray their mother to empower them to create men, so that they might have servants as became their lineage. Citlalicue seemed to be a little 59 ashamed of these sons of hers, born in so strange a manner, and she twitted them cruelly enough on what they could hardly help: Had you been what you ought to have been, she exclaimed, you would still be in my company. Nevertheless she told them what to do in the matter of obtaining their desire: Go beg of Mictlanteuctli, Lord of Hades, that he may give you a bone or some ashes of the dead that are with him; which having received you shall sacrifice over it, sprinkling blood from your own bodies. And the fallen gods having consulted together, sent one of their number, called Xolotl,[II-16] down to hades as their mother had advised. He succeeded in getting a bone of six feet long from Mictlanteuctli; and then, wary of his grisly host, he took an abrupt departure, running at the top of his speed. Wroth at this, the infernal chief gave chase; not causing to Xolotl, however, any more serious inconvenience than a hasty fall in which the bone was broken in pieces. The messenger gathered up what he could in all haste, and despite his stumble made his escape. Reaching the earth, he put the fragments of bone into a basin, and all the gods drew blood from their bodies and sprinkled it into the vessel. On the fourth day there was a movement among the wetted bones and a boy lay there before all; and in four days more, the blood-letting and sprinkling being still kept up, a girl was lifted from the ghastly dish. The children were given to Xolotl to bring up; and he fed them on the juice of the maguey.[II-17] Increasing 60 in stature, they became man and woman; and from them are the people of the present day descended, who, even as the primordial bone was broken into unequal pieces, vary in size and shape. The name of this first man was Iztacmixcuatl, and the name of his wife Ilancueitl,[II-18] and they had six sons born to them, whose descendants, with their god-masters, in process of time moved eastward from their original home, almost universally described as having been towards Jalisco.

Now there had been no sun in existence for many years; so the gods being assembled in a place called Teotihuacan, six leagues from Mexico, and gathered at the time round a great fire, told their devotees that he of them who should first cast himself into that fire, should have the honor of being transformed into a sun. So one of them called Nanahuatzin—either as most say, out of pure bravery, or as Sahagun relates, because his life had become a burden to him through a syphilitic disease—flung himself into the fire. Then the gods began to peer through the gloom in all directions for the expected light and to make bets as to what part of heaven he should first appear in. And some said Here, and some said There; but when the sun rose they were all proved wrong, for not one of them had fixed upon the east.[II-19] And in that same hour, though they knew it 61 not, the decree went forth that they should all die by sacrifice.


The sun had risen indeed, and with a glory of the cruel fire about him that not even the eyes of the gods could endure; but he moved not. There he lay on the horizon; and when the deities sent Tlotli their messenger to him, with orders that he should go on upon his way, his ominous answer was, that he would never leave that place till he had destroyed and put an end to them all. Then a great fear fell upon some, while others were moved only to anger; and among the latter was one Citli, who immediately strung his bow and advanced against the glittering enemy. By quickly lowering his head the Sun avoided the first arrow shot at him; but the second and third had attained his body in quick succession, when, filled with fury, he seized the last and launched it back upon his assailant. And the brave Citli laid shaft to string nevermore, for the arrow of the sun pierced his forehead.

Then all was dismay in the assembly of the gods, and despair filled their heart, for they saw that they could not prevail against the shining one; and they agreed to die, and to cut themselves open through the breast. Xolotl was appointed minister, and he killed his companions one by one, and last of all he slew himself also.[II-20] So they died like gods; and each left to the sad and wondering men who were his servants, his garments for a memorial. And these servants made up, each party, a bundle of the raiment that had been left to 62 them, binding it about a stick into which they had bedded a small green stone to serve as a heart. These bundles were called tlaquimilloli, and each bore the name of that god whose memorial it was; and these things were more reverenced than the ordinary gods of stone and wood of the country. Fray Andres de Olmos found one of these relics in Tlalmanalco, wrapped up in many cloths, and half rotten with being kept hid so long.[II-21]

Immediately on the death of the gods the sun began his motion in the heavens; and a man called Tecuzistecatl, or Tezcociztecatl, who, when Nanahuatzin leaped into the fire, had retired into a cave, now emerged from his concealment as the moon. Others say that instead of going into a cave, this Tecuzistecatl, had leaped into the fire after Nanahuatzin, but that, the heat of the fire being somewhat abated, he had come out less brilliant than the sun. Still another variation is, that the sun and moon came out equally bright, but this not seeming good to the gods, one of them took a rabbit by the heels and slung it into the face of the moon, dimming its lustre with a blotch whose mark may be seen to this day.

After the gods had died in the way herein related, leaving their garments behind as relics, those servants went about everywhere, bearing these relics like bundles upon their shoulders, very sad and pensive and wondering if ever again they would see their departed gods. Now the name of one of these deceased deities was Tezcatlipoca, and his servant having arrived at the sea coast, was favored with an apparition of his master in three different shapes. And Tezcatlipoca spake to his servant saying: Come hither, thou that lovest me so well, that I may tell thee what thou hast to do. Go now to the House of the Sun and fetch thence singers and instruments so that thou mayest make me a festival; but first call upon the whale, and upon the siren, and upon the tortoise, and they shall make thee a bridge to the sun. 63

Then was all this done; and the messenger went across the sea upon his living bridge, towards the House of the Sun, singing what he had to say. And the Sun heard the song, and he straitly charged his people and servants, saying: See now that ye make no response to this chant, for whoever replies to it must be taken away by the singer. But the song was so exceeding sweet that some of them could not but answer, and they were lured away, bearing with them the drum, teponaztli, and the kettle-drum, vevetl. Such was the origin of the festivals and the dances to the gods; and the songs sung during these dances they held as prayers, singing them always with great accuracy of intonation and time.


In their oral traditions, the Tezcucans agreed with the usual Mexican account of creation—the falling of the flint from heaven to earth, and so on—but what they afterward showed in a picture, and explained to Fray Andres de Olmos as the manner of the creation of mankind, was this: The event took place in the land of Aculma, on the Tezcucan boundary at a distance of two leagues from Tezcuco and of five from Mexico. It is said that the sun, being at the hour of nine, cast a dart into the earth at the place we have mentioned and made a hole; from this hole a man came out, the first man and somewhat imperfect withal, as there was no more of him than from the arm-pits up, much like the conventional European cherub, only without wings. After that the woman came up out of the hole. The rest of the story was not considered proper for printing by Mendieta; but at any rate from these two are mankind descended. The name of the first man was Aculmaitl—that is to say, aculli, shoulder, and maitl, hand or arm—and from him the town of Aculma is said to take its name.[II-22] And this etymology seems to make it probable that the details of this myth are derived, to some extent, from the name of the 64 place in which it was located; or that the name of the first man belonging to an early phase of the language, has been misunderstood, and that to the false etymology the details of the myth are owing.

As already stated there had been men on the earth previous to that final and perfect creation of man from the bone supplied by Mictlanteuctli, and wetted by the gods with their own blood at the place of the Seven Caves. These men had been swept away by a succession of great destructions. With regard to the number of these destructions it is hard to speak positively, as on no single point in the wide range of early American religion, does there exist so much difference of opinion. All the way from twice to five times, following different accounts, has the world been desolated by tremendous convulsions of nature. I follow most closely the version of the Tezcucan historian Ixtlilxochitl, as being one of the earliest accounts, as, prima facie, from its origin, one of the most authentic, and as being supported by a majority of respectable historians up to the time of Humboldt.


Of the creation which ushered in the first age we know nothing; we are only told by Boturini, that giants then began to appear on the earth. This First Age; or 'sun,' was called the Sun of the Water, and it was ended by a tremendous flood in which every living thing perished, or was transformed, except, following some accounts, one man and one woman of the giant race, of whose escape more hereafter. The Second Age, called the Sun of the Earth, was closed with earthquakes, yawnings of the earth, and the overthrow of the highest mountains. Giants, or Quinamés, a powerful and haughty race still appear to be the only inhabitants of the world. The Third Age was the Sun of the Air. It was ended by tempests and hurricanes, so destructive that few indeed of the inhabitants of the earth were left; and those that were saved, lost, according to the Tlascaltec account, their reason and speech, becoming monkeys.

The present is the Fourth Age. To it appear to belong 65 the falling of the goddess-born flint from heaven, the birth of the sixteen hundred heroes from that flint, the birth of mankind from the bone brought from hades, the transformation of Nanahuatzin into the sun, the transformation of Tezcatecatl into the moon, and the death of the sixteen hundred heroes or gods. It is called the Sun of Fire, and is to be ended by a universal conflagration.[II-23]

Connected with the great flood of water, there is a 66 Mexican tradition presenting some analogies to the story of Noah and his ark. In most of the painted manuscripts supposed to relate to this event, a kind of boat is represented floating over the waste of water, and containing a man and a woman. Even the Tlascaltecs, the Zapotecs, the Miztecs, and the people of Michoacan are said to have had such pictures. The man is variously called Coxcox, Teocipactli, Tezpi, and Nata; the woman Xochiquetzal and Nena.[II-24]


The following has been usually accepted as the ordinary Mexican version of this myth: In Atonatiuh, the Age of Water, a great flood covered all the face of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof were turned into fishes. Only one man and one woman escaped, saving themselves in the hollow trunk of an ahahuete or bald cypress; the name of the man being Coxcox, and that of his wife Xochiquetzal. On the waters abating a little they grounded their ark on the Peak of Colhuacan, the Ararat of Mexico. Here they increased and multiplied, and children began to gather about them, children who were all born dumb. And a dove came and gave them tongues, innumerable languages. Only fifteen of the descendants of Coxcox, who afterward became heads of families, spake the same language or could at all understand each other; and from these fifteen are descended the Toltecs, the Aztecs, and the Acolhúas. This dove is not the only bird mentioned in these deluvial traditions, and must by no means be confounded with the birds of another palpably Christianized story. For in Michoacan a tradition was preserved, following which the name of the Mexican Noah was Tezpi. With better fortune than that ascribed to Coxcox, he was able to save, in a spacious vessel, not only himself and his wife, 67 but also his children, several animals, and a quantity of grain for the common use. When the waters began to subside, he sent out a vulture that it might go to and fro on the earth and bring him word again when the dry land began to appear. But the vulture fed upon the carcasses that were strewed in every part, and never returned. Then Tezpi sent out other birds, and among these was a humming-bird. And when the sun began to cover the earth with a new verdure, the humming-bird returned to its old refuge bearing green leaves. And Tezpi saw that his vessel was aground near the mountain of Colhuacan and he landed there.

The Mexicans round Cholula had a special legend, connecting the escape of a remnant from the great deluge with the often-mentioned story of the origin of the people of Anáhuac from Chicomoztoc, or the Seven Caves. At the time of the cataclysm, the country, according to Pedro de los Rios, was inhabited by giants. Some of these perished utterly; others were changed into fishes; while seven brothers of them found safety by closing themselves into certain caves in a mountain called Tlaloc. When the waters were assuaged, one of the giants, Xelhua, surnamed the Architect, went to Cholula and began to build an artificial mountain, as a monument and a memorial of the Tlaloc that had sheltered him and his when the angry waters swept through all the land. The bricks were made in Tlamanalco, at the foot of the Sierra de Cocotl, and passed to Cholula from hand to hand along a file of men—whence these came is not said—stretching between the two places. Then were the jealousy and the anger of the gods aroused, as the huge pyramid rose slowly up, threatening to reach the clouds and the great heaven itself; and the gods launched their fire upon the builders and slew many, so that the work was stopped.[II-25] But the half-finished 68 structure, afterwards dedicated by the Cholultecs to Quetzalcoatl, still remains to show how well Xelhua, the giant, deserved his surname of the Architect. 69


Yet another record remains to us of a traditional Mexican deluge, in the following extract from the Chimalpopoca Manuscript. Its words seem to have a familiar sound; but it would hardly be scientific to draw from such a fragment any very sweeping conclusion as to its relationship, whether that be Quiché or Christian:—

When the Sun, or Age, Nahui-Atl came, there had passed already four hundred years; then came two hundred years, then seventy and six, and then mankind were lost and drowned and turned into fishes. The waters and the sky drew near each other; in a single day all was lost; the day Four Flower consumed all that there was of our flesh. And this year was the year Ce-Calli; on the first day, Nahui-Atl, all was lost. The very mountains were swallowed up in the flood and the waters remained, lying tranquil during fifty and two spring-times. But before the flood began, Titlacahuan had warned the man Nata and his wife Nena, saying: 70 Make now no more pulque, but hollow out to yourselves a great cypress, into which you shall enter when, in the month Tozoztli, the waters shall near the sky. Then they entered into it, and when Titlacahuan had shut them in, he said to the man: Thou shalt eat but a single ear of maize, and thy wife but one also. And when they had finished eating, each an ear of maize, they prepared to set forth, for the waters remained tranquil and their log moved no longer; and opening it they began to see the fishes. Then they lit a fire, rubbing pieces of wood together, and they roasted fish. And behold the deities Citlallinicué and Citlallatonac looking down from above, cried out: O divine Lord! what is this fire that they make there? wherefore do they so fill the heaven with smoke? And immediately Titlacahuan Tetzcatlipoca came down, and set himself to grumble, saying: What does this fire here? Then he seized the fishes and fashioned them behind and before, and changed them into dogs.[II-26]

We turn now to the traditions of some nations situated on the outskirts of the Mexican Empire, traditions differing from those of Mexico, if not in their elements, at least in the combination of those elements. Following our usual custom, I give the following legend belonging to the Miztecs just as they themselves were accustomed to depict and to interpret it in their primitive scrolls:—[II-27]


In the year and in the day of obscurity and darkness, yea even before the days or the years were, when the world was in a great darkness and chaos, when the earth was covered with water and there was nothing but mud and slime on all the face of the earth—behold a god became visible, and his name was the Deer, and his surname 71 was the Lion-Snake. There appeared also a very beautiful goddess called the Deer, and surnamed the Tiger-Snake.[II-28] These two gods were the origin and beginning of all the gods.

Now when these two gods became visible in the world, they made, in their knowledge and omnipotence, a great rock, upon which they built a very sumptuous palace, a masterpiece of skill, in which they made their abode upon earth. On the highest part of this building there was an axe of copper, the edge being uppermost, and on this axe the heavens rested.

This rock and the palace of the gods were on a mountain in the neighborhood of the town of Apoala in the province of Mizteca Alta. The rock was called The Place of Heaven; there the gods first abode on earth, living many years in great rest and content, as in a happy and delicious land, though the world still lay in obscurity and darkness.

The father and mother of all the gods being here in their place, two sons were born to them, very handsome and very learned in all wisdom and arts. The first was called the Wind of Nine Snakes, after the name of the day on which he was born; and the second was called, in like manner, the Wind of Nine Caves. Very daintily indeed were these youths brought up. When the elder wished to amuse himself, he took the form of an eagle, flying thus far and wide; the younger turned himself into a small beast of a serpent shape, having wings that he used with such agility and sleight that he became invisible, and flew through rocks and walls even as through the air. As they went, the din and clamor of these brethren was heard by those over whom they passed. They took these figures to manifest the power that was in them, both in transforming themselves and in resuming again their original shape. And they abode in great peace in the mansion of their parents, so they agreed to make 72 a sacrifice and an offering to these gods, to their father and to their mother. Then they took each a censer of clay, and put fire therein, and poured in ground beleño for incense; and this offering was the first that had ever been made in the world. Next the brothers made to themselves a garden, in which they put many trees, and fruit-trees, and flowers, and roses, and odorous herbs of different kinds. Joined to this garden they laid out a very beautiful meadow, which they fitted up with all things necessary for offering sacrifice to the gods. In this manner the two brethren left their parents' house, and fixed themselves in this garden to dress it and to keep it, watering the trees and the plants and the odorous herbs, multiplying them, and burning incense of powder of beleño in censers of clay to the gods, their father and mother. They made also vows to these gods, and promises, praying that it might seem good to them to shape the firmament and lighten the darkness of the world, and to establish the foundation of the earth, or rather to gather the waters together so that the earth might appear—as they had no place to rest in save only one little garden. And to make their prayers more obligatory upon the gods, they pierced their ears and tongues with flakes of flint, sprinkling the blood that dropped from the wounds over the trees and plants of the garden with a willow branch, as a sacred and blessed thing. After this sort they employed themselves, postponing pleasure till the time of the granting of their desire, remaining always in subjection to the gods, their father and mother, and attributing to them more power and divinity than they really possessed.

Fray Garcia here makes a break in the relation—that he may not weary his readers with so many absurdities—but it would appear that the firmament was arranged and the earth made fit for mankind, who about that time must also have made their appearance. For there came a great deluge afterwards, wherein perished many of the sons and daughters that had been born to the gods; and it is said that when the deluge was passed the human 73 race was restored as at the first, and the Miztec kingdom populated, and the heavens and the earth established.

This we may suppose to have been the traditional origin of the common people; but the governing family of Mizteca proclaimed themselves the descendants of two youths born from two majestic trees that stood at the entrance of the gorge of Apoala, and that maintained themselves there despite a violent wind continually rising from a cavern in the vicinity.


Whether the trees of themselves produced these youths, or whether some primeval Æsir, as in the Scandinavian story, gave them shape and blood and breath and sense, we know not. We are only told that soon or late the youths separated, each going his own way to conquer lands for himself. The braver of the two coming to the vicinity of Tilantongo, armed with buckler and bow, was much vexed and oppressed by the ardent rays of the sun, which he took to be the lord of that district striving to prevent his entrance therein. Then the young warrior strung his bow, and advanced his buckler before him, and drew shafts from his quiver. He shot there against the great light even till the going down of the same; then he took possession of all that land, seeing he had grievously wounded the sun, and forced him to hide behind the mountains. Upon this story is founded the lordship of all the caciques of Mizteca, and upon their descent from this mighty archer their ancestor. Even to this day, the chiefs of the Miztecs blazon as their arms a plumed chief with bow, arrows, and shield, and the sun in front of him setting behind gray clouds.[II-29]

Of the origin of the Zapotecs, a people bordering on these Miztecs, Burgoa says, with a touching simplicity, that he could find no account worthy of belief. Their historical paintings he ascribes to the invention of the devil, affirming hotly that these people were blinder in such vanities than the Egyptians and the Chaldeans. 74 Some, he said, to boast of their valor made themselves out the sons of lions and divers wild beasts; others, grand lords of ancient lineage, were produced by the greatest and most shady trees; while still others of an unyielding and obstinate nature, were descended from rocks. Their language, continues the worthy Provincial, striking suddenly and by an undirected shot the very center of mythological interpretation—their language was full of metaphors; those who wished to persuade spake always in parables, and in like manner painted their historians.[II-30]

In Guatemala, according to the relations given to Father Gerónimo Roman by the natives, it was believed there was a time when nothing existed but a certain divine Father called Xchmel, and a divine Mother called Xtmana. To these were born three sons,[II-31] the eldest of whom, filled with pride and presumption, set about a creation contrary to the will of his parents. But he could create nothing save old vessels fit for mean uses, such as earthen pots, jugs, and things still more despicable; and he was hurled into hades. Then the two younger brethren, called respectively Hunchevan and Hunavan, prayed their parents for permission to attempt the work in which their brother had failed so signally. And they were granted leave, being told at the same time, that inasmuch as they had humbled themselves, they would succeed in their undertaking. Then they made the heavens, and the earth with the plants thereon, and fire and air, and out of the earth itself they made a man and a woman—presumably the parents of the human race.

According to Torquemada, there was a deluge some time after this, and after the deluge the people continued to invoke as god the great Father and the great Mother 75 already mentioned. But at last a principal woman[II-32] among them, having received a revelation from heaven, taught them the true name of God, and how that name should be adored; all this, however, they afterward forgot.[II-33]

In Nicaragua, a country where the principal language was a Mexican dialect, it was believed that ages ago the world was destroyed by a flood in which the most part of mankind perished. Afterward the teotes, or gods, restocked the earth as at the beginning. Whence came the teotes, no one knows; but the names of two of them who took a principal part in the creation were Tamagostat and Cipattonal.[II-34]


Leaving now the Central American region we pass north into the Papago country, lying south of the Gila, with the river Santa Cruz on the east and the Gulf of California on the west. Here we meet for the first time the coyote, or prairie wolf; we find him much more than an animal, something more even than a man, only a little lower than the gods. In the following Papago myth[II-35] he figures as a prophet, and as a minister and assistant to a certain great hero-god Montezuma, whom we are destined to meet often, and in many characters, as a central figure in the myths of the Gila valley:—


The Great Spirit made the earth and all living things, 76 before he made man. And he descended from heaven, and digging in the earth, found clay such as the potters use, which, having again ascended into the sky, he dropped into the hole that he had dug. Immediately there came out Montezuma and, with the assistance of Montezuma, the rest of the Indian tribes in order. Last of all came the Apaches, wild from their natal hour, running away as fast as they were created. Those first days of the world were happy and peaceful days. The sun was nearer the earth than he is now; his grateful rays made all the seasons equal, and rendered garments unnecessary. Men and beasts talked together, a common language made all brethren. But an awful destruction ended this happy age. A great flood destroyed all flesh wherein was the breath of life; Montezuma and his friend the Coyote alone escaping. For before the flood began, the Coyote prophesied its coming, and Montezuma took the warning and hollowed out a boat to himself, keeping it ready on the topmost summit of Santa Rosa. The Coyote also prepared an ark; gnawing down a great cane by the river bank, entering it, and stopping up the end with a certain gum. So when the waters rose these two saved themselves, and met again at last on dry land after the flood had passed away. Naturally enough Montezuma was now anxious to know how much dry land had been left, and he sent the Coyote off on four successive journeys, to find exactly where the sea lay toward each of the four winds. From the west and from the south, the answer swiftly came: The sea is at hand. A longer search was that made towards the east, but at last there too was the sea found. On the north only was no water found, though the faithful messenger almost wearied himself out with searching. In the meantime the Great Spirit, aided by Montezuma, had again repeopled the world, and animals and men began to increase and multiply. To Montezuma had been allotted the care and government of the new race; but puffed up with pride and self importance, he neglected the most important duties of his onerous position, and suffered the 77 most disgraceful wickedness to pass unnoticed among the people. In vain the Great Spirit came down to earth and remonstrated with his vicegerent, who only scorned his laws and advice, and ended at last by breaking out into open rebellion. Then indeed the Great Spirit was filled with anger, and he returned to heaven, pushing back the sun on his way, to that remote part of the sky he now occupies. But Montezuma hardened his heart, and collecting all the tribes to aid him, set about building a house that should reach up to heaven itself. Already it had attained a great height, and contained many apartments lined with gold, silver, and precious stones, the whole threatening soon to make good the boast of its architect, when the Great Spirit launched his thunder, and laid its glory in ruins. Still Montezuma hardened himself; proud and inflexible, he answered the thunderer out of the haughty defiance of his heart; he ordered the temple-houses to be desecrated, and the holy images to be dragged in the dust, he made them a scoff and byword for the very children in the village streets. Then the Great Spirit prepared his supreme punishment. He sent an insect flying away towards the east, towards an unknown land, to bring the Spaniards. When these came, they made war upon Montezuma and destroyed him, and utterly dissipated the idea of his divinity.[II-36]



The Pimas,[II-37] a neighboring and closely allied people to the Papagos, say that the earth was made by a certain Chiowotmahke, that is to say Earth-prophet. It appeared in the beginning like a spider's web, stretching far and fragile across the nothingness that was. Then the Earth-prophet flew over all lands in the form of a butterfly, till he came to the place he judged fit for his purpose, and there he made man. And the thing was after this wise: The Creator took clay in his hands, and mixing it with the sweat of his own body, kneaded the whole into a lump. Then he blew upon the lump till it was filled with life and began to move; and it became man and woman. This Creator had a son called Szeukha, who, when the world was beginning to be tolerably peopled, lived in the Gila valley, where lived also at the same time a great prophet, whose name has been forgotten. Upon a certain night when the prophet slept, he was wakened by a noise at the door of his house, and when he looked, a great Eagle stood before him. And the Eagle spake: Arise, thou that healest the sick, thou that shouldest know what is to come, for behold a deluge is at hand. But the prophet laughed the bird to scorn and gathered his robes about him and slept. Afterwards the Eagle came again and warned him of the waters near at hand; but he gave no ear to the bird at all. Perhaps he would not listen because this Eagle had an exceedingly bad reputation among men, being reported to take at times the form of an old woman that lured away girls and children to a certain cliff so that they were never seen again; of this, however, more anon. A third time, the Eagle came to warn the prophet, and to say that all the valley of the Gila should be laid waste with water; but the prophet gave no heed. Then, in 79 the twinkling of an eye, and even as the flapping of the Eagle's wings died away into the night, there came a peal of thunder and an awful crash; and a green mound of water reared itself over the plain. It seemed to stand upright for a second, then, cut incessantly by the lightning, goaded on like a great beast, it flung itself upon the prophet's hut. When the morning broke there was nothing to be seen alive but one man—if indeed he were a man; Szeukha, the son of the Creator, had saved himself by floating on a ball of gum or resin. On the waters falling a little, he landed near the mouth of the Salt River, upon a mountain where there is a cave that can still be seen, together with the tools and utensils Szeukha used while he lived there. Szeukha was very angry with the Great Eagle, who he probably thought had had more to do with bringing on the flood than appears in the narrative. At any rate the general reputation of the bird was sufficiently bad, and Szeukha prepared a kind of rope ladder from a very tough species of tree, much like woodbine, with the aid of which he climbed up to the cliff where the Eagle lived, and slew him.[II-38] Looking about here, he found the mutilated and decaying bodies of a great multitude of those that the Eagle had stolen and taken for a prey; and he raised them all to life again and sent them away to repeople the earth. In the house or den of the Eagle, he found a woman that the monster had taken to wife, and a child. These he sent also upon their way, and from these are descended that great people called Hohocam, 'ancients or grandfathers,' who were led in all their wanderings by an eagle, and who eventually passed into Mexico.[II-39] One of these Hohocam 80 named Sivano, built the Casa Grande on the Gila, and indeed the ruins of this structure are called after his name to this day. On the death of Sivano, his son led a branch of the Hohocam to Salt River, where he built certain edifices and dug a large canal, or acequia. At last it came about that a woman ruled over the Hohocam. Her throne was cut out of a blue stone, and a mysterious bird was her constant attendant. These Hohocam were at war with a people that lived to the east of them, on the Rio Verde, and one day the bird warned her that the enemy was at hand. The warning was disregarded or it came too late, for the eastern people came down in three bands; destroyed the cities of the Hohocam, and killed or drove away all the inhabitants.

Most of the Pueblo tribes call themselves the descendants of Montezuma;[II-40] the Moquis, however, have a quite different story of their origin. They believe in a great Father living where the sun rises; and in a great Mother, whose home is where the sun goes down. The Father is the father of evil, war, pestilence, and famine; but from the Mother are all joys, peace, plenty, and health. In the beginning of time the Mother produced from her western home nine races of men in the following primary forms: First, the Deer race; second, the Sand race; third, the Water race; fourth, the Bear race; fifth, the Hare race; sixth, the Prairie-wolf race; seventh, the Rattle-snake race; eighth, the Tobacco-plant race; and ninth, the Reed-grass race. All these the Mother placed respectively on the spots where their villages now stand, and transformed them into the men who built the present Pueblos. These race-distinctions are still sharply kept up; for they are believed to be realities, not only of the past and present, but also of the future; every man when he dies shall be resolved into his primeval form; shall wave in the grass, or drift in the sand, or prowl on the prairie as in the beginning.[II-41]



The Navajos, living north of the Pueblos, say that at one time all the nations, Navajos, Pueblos, Coyoteros, and white people, lived together, underground in the heart of a mountain near the river San Juan. Their only food was meat, which they had in abundance, for all kinds of game were closed up with them in their cave; but their light was dim and only endured for a few hours each day. There were happily two dumb men among the Navajos, flute-players who enlivened the darkness with music. One of these striking by chance on the roof of the limbo with his flute, brought out a hollow sound, upon which the elders of the tribes determined to bore in the direction whence the sound came. The flute was then set up against the roof, and the Raccoon sent up the tube to dig a way out; but he could not. Then the Moth-worm mounted into the breach, and bored and bored till he found himself suddenly on the outside of the mountain and surrounded by water. Under these novel circumstances, he heaped up a little mound and set himself down on it to observe and ponder the situation. A critical situation enough! for, from the four corners of the universe, four great white Swans bore down upon him, every one with two arrows, one under either wing. The Swan from the north reached him first, and having pierced him with two arrows, drew them out and examined their points, exclaiming as the result: He is of my race. So also, in succession, did all the others. Then they went away; and towards the directions in which they departed, to the north, south, east, and west, were found four great arroyos, by which all the water flowed off, leaving only mud. The worm now returned to the cave, and the Raccoon went up into the mud, sinking in it mid-leg deep, as the marks on his fur show to this day. And the wind began to rise, sweeping up the four great arroyos, and the mud was dried away. Then the men and the animals began to come up from their cave, and their coming up required several days. First came the Navajos, and no sooner had 82 they reached the surface then they commenced gaming at patole, their favorite game. Then came the Pueblos and other Indians who crop their hair and build houses. Lastly came the white people, who started off at once for the rising sun and were lost sight of for many winters.

While these nations lived underground they all spake one tongue; but with the light of day and the level of earth, came many languages. The earth was at this time very small and the light was quite as scanty as it had been down below; for there was as yet no heaven, nor sun, nor moon, nor stars. So another council of the ancients was held and a committee of their number appointed to manufacture these luminaries. A large house or workshop was erected; and when the sun and moon were ready, they were entrusted to the direction and guidance of the two dumb fluters already mentioned. The one who got charge of the sun came very near, through his clumsiness in his new office, to making a Phaethon of himself and setting fire to the earth. The old men, however, either more lenient than Zeus or lacking his thunder, contented themselves with forcing the offender back by puffing the smoke of their pipes into his face. Since then the increasing size of the earth has four times rendered it necessary that he should be put back, and his course farther removed from the world and from the subterranean cave to which he nightly retires with the great light. At night also the other dumb man issues from this cave, bearing the moon under his arm, and lighting up such part of the world as he can. Next the old men set to work to make the heavens, intending to broider in the stars in beautiful patterns, of bears, birds, and such things. But just as they had made a beginning a prairie-wolf rushed in, and crying out: Why all this trouble and embroidery? scattered the pile of stars over all the floor of heaven, just as they still lie.

When now the world and its firmament had been finished, the old men prepared two earthen tinages or water-jars, and having decorated one with bright colors, filled 83 it with trifles; while the other was left plain on the outside, but filled within with flocks and herds and riches of all kinds. These jars being covered and presented to the Navajos and Pueblos, the former chose the gaudy but paltry jar; while the Pueblos received the plain and rich vessel; each nation showing in its choice traits which characterize it to this day. Next there arose among the Navajos a great gambler, who went on winning the goods and the persons of his opponents till he had won the whole tribe. Upon this, one of the old men became indignant, set the gambler on his bowstring and shot him off into space—an unfortunate proceeding, for the fellow returned in a short time with firearms and the Spaniards. Let me conclude by telling how the Navajos came by the seed they now cultivate: All the wise men being one day assembled, a turkey-hen came flying from the direction of the morning star, and shook from her feathers an ear of blue corn into the midst of the company; and in subsequent visits brought all the other seeds they possess.[II-42]


Of some tribes, we do not know that they possess any other ideas of their origin than the name of their first ancestor, or the name of a creator or a tradition of his existence.

The Sinaloas, from Culiacan north to the Yaqui River, have dances in honor of a certain Viriseva, the mother of the first man. This first man, who was her son, and called Vairubi, they hold in like esteem.[II-43] The Cochimis, of Lower California, amid an apparent multiplicity of gods, say there is in reality only one, who created heaven, earth, plants, animals, and man.[II-44] The Pericues, also of Lower California, call the creator Niparaya, and say that the heavens are his dwelling-place. A sect of 84 the same tribe add that the stars are made of metal, and are the work of a certain Purutabui; while the moon has been made by one Cucunumic.[II-45]

The nations of Los Angeles County, California, believe that their one god, Quaoar, came down from heaven; and, after reducing chaos to order, put the world on the back of seven giants. He then created the lower animals, and lastly a man and a woman. These were made separately out of earth and called, the man Tobohar, and the woman Pabavit.[II-46]

Hugo Reid, to whom we are mainly indebted for the mythology of Southern California, and who is an excellent authority, inasmuch as his wife was an Indian woman of that country, besides the preceding gives us another and different tradition on the same subject: Two great Beings made the world, filled it with grass and trees, and gave form, life, and motion to the various animals that people land and sea. When this work was done, the elder Creator went up to heaven and left his brother alone on the earth. The solitary god left below, made to himself men-children, that he should not be utterly companionless. Fortunately also, about this time, the moon came to that neighborhood; she was very fair in her delicate beauty, very kind-hearted, and she filled the place of a mother to the men-children that the god had created. She watched over them, and guarded them from all evil things of the night, standing at the door of their lodge. The children grew up very happily, laying great store by the love with which their guardians regarded them; but there came a day when their heart saddened, in which they began to notice that neither their god-creator nor their moon foster-mother gave them any longer undivided affection and care, but that instead, the two great ones seemed to waste much precious love upon each other. The tall god began to steal out of their lodge at dusk, and spend the night watches in the company of the white-haired moon, who, on the 85 other hand, did not seem on these occasions to pay such absorbing attention to her sentinel duty as at other times. The children grew sad at this, and bitter at the heart with a boyish jealousy. But worse was yet to come: one night they were awakened by a querulous wailing in their lodge, and the earliest dawn showed them a strange thing, which they afterwards came to know was a new-born infant, lying in the doorway. The god and the moon had eloped together; their Great One had returned to his place beyond the ether, and that he might not be separated from his paramour, he had appointed her at the same time a lodge in the great firmament; where she may yet be seen, with her gauzy robe and shining silver hair, treading celestial paths. The child left on the earth was a girl. She grew up very soft, very bright, very beautiful, like her mother; but like her mother also, O so fickle and frail! She was the first of woman-kind, from her are all other women descended, and from the moon; and as the moon changes so they all change, say the philosophers of Los Angeles.[II-47]


A much more prosaic and materialistic origin is that accorded to the moon in the traditions of the Gallinomeros of Central California.[II-48] In the beginning, they say, there was no light, but a thick darkness covered all the earth. Man stumbled blindly against man and against the animals, the birds clashed together in the air, and confusion reigned everywhere. The Hawk happening by chance to fly into the face of the Coyote, there followed mutual apologies and afterwards a long discussion on the emergency of the situation. Determined to make some effort toward abating the public evil, the two set about a remedy. The Coyote gathered a great heap of tules, rolled them into a ball, and gave it to the Hawk, together with some pieces of flint. Gathering all together as well as he could, the Hawk flew straight up into the sky, where he struck fire with the 86 flints, lit his ball of reeds, and left it there, whirling along all in a fierce red glow as it continues to the present; for it is the sun. In the same way the moon was made, but as the tules of which it was constructed were rather damp, its light has been always somewhat uncertain and feeble.[II-49]

In northern California, we find the Mattoles,[II-50] who connect a tradition of a destructive flood with Taylor Peak, a mountain in their locality, on which they say their forefathers took refuge. As to the creation, they teach that a certain Big Man began by making the naked earth, silent and bleak, with nothing of plant or animal thereon, save one Indian, who roamed about in a wofully hungry and desolate state. Suddenly there rose a terrible whirlwind, the air grew dark and thick with dust and drifting sand, and the Indian fell upon his face in sore dread. Then there came a great calm, and the man rose and looked, and lo, all the earth was perfect and peopled; the grass and the trees were green on every plain and hill; the beasts of the fields, the fowls of the air, the creeping things, the things that swim, moved everywhere in his sight. There is a limit set to the number of the animals, which is this: only a certain number of animal spirits are in existence; when one beast dies, his spirit immediately takes up its abode in another body, so that the whole number of animals is always the same, and the original spirits move in an endless circle of earthy immortality.[II-51]


We pass now to a train of myths in which the Coyote again appears, figuring in many important and somewhat mystical rôles—figuring in fact as the great Somebody of many tribes. To him, though involuntarily as it appears, are owing the fish to be found in Clear Lake. The story runs that one summer long ago there was a terrible drought in that region, followed by a plague of grasshoppers. The Coyote ate a great quantity of these 87 grasshoppers, and drank up the whole lake to quench his thirst. After this he lay down to sleep off the effects of his extraordinary repast, and while he slept a man came up from the south country and thrust him through with a spear. Then all the water he had drunk flowed back through his wound into the lake, and with the water the grasshoppers he had eaten; and these insects became fishes, the same that still swim in Clear Lake.[II-52]

The Californians in most cases describe themselves as originating from the Coyote, and more remotely, from the very soil they tread. In the language of Mr. Powers—whose extended personal investigations give him the right to speak with authority—"All the aboriginal inhabitants of California, without exception, believe that their first ancestors were created directly from the earth of their respective present dwelling-places, and, in very many cases, that these ancestors were coyotes."[II-53]

The Potoyantes give an ingenious account of the transformation of the first coyotes into men: There was an age in which no men existed, nothing but coyotes. When one of these animals died, his body used to breed a multitude of little animals, much as the carcass of the huge Ymir, rotting in Ginnunga-gap, bred the maggots that turned to dwarfs. The little animals of our story were in reality spirits, which, after crawling about for a time on the dead coyote, and taking all kinds of shapes, ended by spreading wings and floating off to the moon. This evidently would not do; the earth was in danger of becoming depopulated; so the old coyotes took counsel together if perchance they might devise a remedy. The result was a general order that, for the time to come, all bodies should be incinerated immediately after death. Thus originated the custom of burning the dead, a custom still kept up among these people. We next learn—what indeed might have been expected of animals of such wisdom and parts—that these primeval coyotes 88 began by degrees to assume the shape of men. At first, it is true, with many imperfections; but, a toe, an ear, a hand, bit by bit, they were gradually builded up into the perfect form of man looking upward. For one thing they still grieve, however, of all their lost estate—their tails are gone. An acquired habit of sitting upright, has utterly erased and destroyed that beautiful member. Lost is indeed lost, and gone is gone for ever, yet still when in dance and festival, the Potoyante throws off the weary burden of hard and utilitarian care, he attaches to himself, as nearly as may be in the ancient place, an artificial tail, and forgets for a happy hour the degeneracy of the present in simulating the glory of the past.[II-54]

The Californians tell again of a great flood, or at least of a time when the whole country, with the exception of Mount Diablo and Reed Peak, was covered with water. There was a Coyote on the peak, the only living thing the wide world over, and there was a single feather tossing about on the rippled water. The Coyote was looking at the feather, and even as he looked, flesh and bones and other feathers, came and joined themselves to the first, and became an Eagle. There was a stir on the water, a rush of broad pinions, and before the widening circles reached the island-hill, the bird stood beside the astonished Coyote. The two came soon to be acquainted and to be good friends, and they made occasional excursions together to the other hill, the Eagle flying leisurely overhead while the Coyote swam. After a time they began to feel lonely, so they created men; and as the men multiplied the waters abated, till the dry land came to be much as it is at present.


Now, also, the Sacramento River and the San Joaquin began to find their way into the Pacific, through the mountains which, up to this time, had stretched across the mouth of San Francisco Bay. No Poseidon clove the hills with his trident, as when the pleasant vale of Tempe was formed, but a strong earthquake tore the 89 rock apart and opened the Golden Gate between the waters within and those without. Before this there had existed only two outlets for the drainage of the whole country; one was the Russian River, and the other the San Juan.[II-55]

The natives in the vicinity of Lake Tahoe, ascribe its origin to a great natural convulsion. There was a time, they say, when their tribe possessed the whole earth, and were strong, numerous, and rich; but a day came in which a people rose up stronger than they, and defeated and enslaved them. Afterwards the Great Spirit sent an immense wave across the continent from the sea, and this wave engulfed both the oppressors and the oppressed, all but a very small remnant. Then the taskmasters made the remaining people raise up a great temple, so that they, of the ruling caste, should have a refuge in case of another flood, and on the top of this temple the masters worshiped a column of perpetual fire.

Half a moon had not elapsed, however, before the earth was again troubled, this time with strong convulsions and thunderings, upon which the masters took refuge in their great tower, closing the people out. The poor slaves fled to the Humboldt River, and getting into canoes paddled for life from the awful sight behind them. For the land was tossing like a troubled sea, and casting up fire, smoke, and ashes. The flames went up to the very heaven and melted many stars, so that they rained down in molten metal upon the earth, forming the ore that the white men seek. The Sierra was mounded up from the bosom of the earth; while the place where the great fort stood sank, leaving only the dome on the top exposed above the waters of Lake Tahoe. The inmates of the temple-tower clung to this dome to save themselves from drowning; but the Great Spirit walked upon the waters in his wrath, and took the oppressors one by one like pebbles, and threw them far into the recesses of a great cavern, on the east side of 90 the lake, called to this day the Spirit Lodge, where the waters shut them in. There must they remain till a last great volcanic burning, which is to overturn the whole earth, shall again set them free. In the depths of their cavern-prison they may still be heard, wailing and moaning, when the snows melt and the waters swell in the lake.[II-56]

We again meet the Coyote among the Cahrocs of Klamath River in Northern California. These Cahrocs believe in a certain Chareya, Old Man Above, who made the world, sitting the while upon a certain stool now in the possession of the high-priest, or chief medicine-man. After the creation of the earth, Chareya first made fishes, then the lower animals, and lastly man, upon whom was conferred the power of assigning to each animal its respective duties and position. The man determined to give each a bow, the length of which should denote the rank of the receiver. So he called all the animals together, and told them that next day, early in the morning, the distribution of bows would take place. Now the Coyote greatly desired the longest bow; and, in order to be in first at the division, he determined to remain awake all night. His anxiety sustained him for some time; but just before morning he gave way, and fell into a sound sleep. The consequence was, he was last at the rendezvous, and got the shortest bow of all. The man took pity on his distress, however, and brought the matter to the notice of Chareya, who, on considering the circumstances, decreed that the Coyote should become the most cunning of animals, as he remains to this time. The Coyote was very grateful to the man for his intercession, and he became his friend and the friend of his children, and did many things to aid mankind as we shall see hereafter.[II-57]


The natives in the neighborhood of Mount Shasta, in Northern California, say that the Great Spirit made this mountain first of all. Boring a hole in the sky, using a 91 large stone as an auger, he pushed down snow and ice until they had reached the desired height; then he stepped from cloud to cloud down to the great icy pile, and from it to the earth, where he planted the first trees by merely putting his finger into the soil here and there. The sun began to melt the snow; the snow produced water; the water ran down the sides of the mountains, refreshed the trees, and made rivers. The Creator gathered the leaves that fell from the trees, blew upon them, and they became birds. He took a stick and broke it into pieces; of the small end he made fishes; and of the middle of the stick he made animals—the grizzly bear excepted, which he formed from the big end of his stick, appointing him to be master over all the others. Indeed this animal was then so large, strong, and cunning, that the Creator somewhat feared him, and hollowed out Mount Shasta as a wigwam for himself, where he might reside while on earth, in the most perfect security and comfort. So the smoke was soon to be seen curling up from the mountain, where the Great Spirit and his family lived, and still live, though their hearth-fire is alight no longer, now that the white man is in the land. This was thousands of snows ago, and there came after this a late and severe spring-time, in which a memorable storm blew up from the sea, shaking the huge lodge to its base. The Great Spirit commanded his daughter, little more than an infant, to go up and bid the wind to be still, cautioning her at the same time in his fatherly way, not to put her head out into the blast, but only to thrust out her little red arm and make a sign before she delivered her message. The eager child hastened up to the hole in the roof, did as she was told, and then turned to descend; but the Eve was too strong in her to leave without a look at the forbidden world outside and the rivers and the trees, at the far ocean and the great waves that the storm had made as hoary as the forests when the snow is on the firs. She stopped, she put out her head to look; instantly the storm took her by the long hair, and blew her down to 92 the earth, down the mountain side, over the smooth ice and soft snow, down to the land of the grizzly bears.

Now the grizzly bears were somewhat different then from what they are at present. In appearance they were much the same it is true; but they walked then on their hind legs like men, and talked, and carried clubs, using the fore-limbs as men use their arms.


There was a family of these grizzlies living at the foot of the mountain, at the place where the child was blown to. The father was returning from the hunt with his club on his shoulder and a young elk in his hand, when he saw the little shivering waif lying on the snow with her hair all tangled about her. The old Grizzly, pitying and wondering at the strange forlorn creature, lifted it up, and carried it in to his wife to see what should be done. She too was pitiful, and she fed it from her own breast, bringing it up quietly as one of her family. So the girl grew up, and the eldest son of the old Grizzly married her, and their offspring was neither grizzly nor Great Spirit, but man. Very proud indeed were the whole grizzly nation of the new race, and uniting their strength from all parts of the country, they built the young mother and her family a mountain wigwam near that of the Great Spirit; and this structure of theirs is now known as Little Mount Shasta. Many years passed away, and at last the old grandmother Grizzly became very feeble and felt that she must soon die. She knew that the girl she had adopted was the daughter of the Great Spirit, and her conscience troubled her that she had never let him know anything of the fate of his child. So she called all the grizzlies together to the new lodge, and sent her eldest grandson up on a cloud to the summit of Mount Shasta, to tell the father that his daughter yet lived. When the Great Spirit heard that, he was so glad that he immediately ran down the mountain, on the south side, toward where he had been told his daughter was; and such was the swiftness of his pace that the snow was melted here and there along his course, as it remains to this 93 day. The grizzlies had prepared him an honorable reception, and as he approached his daughter's home, he found them standing in thousands in two files, on either side of the door, with their clubs under their arms. He had never pictured his daughter as aught but the little child he had loved so long ago; but when he found that she was a mother, and that he had been betrayed into the creation of a new race, his anger overcame him; he scowled so terribly on the poor old grandmother Grizzly that she died upon the spot. At this all the bears set up a fearful howl, but the exasperated father, taking his lost darling on his shoulder, turned to the armed host, and in his fury cursed them. Peace! he said. Be silent for ever! Let no articulate word ever again pass your lips, neither stand any more upright; but use your hands as feet, and look downward until I come again! Then he drove them all out; he drove out also the new race of men, shut to the door of Little Mount Shasta, and passed away to his mountain, carrying his daughter; and her or him no eye has since seen. The grizzlies never spoke again, nor stood up; save indeed when fighting for their life, when the Great Spirit still permits them to stand as in the old time, and to use their fists like men. No Indian tracing his descent from the spirit mother and the grizzly, as here described, will kill a grizzly bear; and if by an evil chance a grizzly kill a man in any place, that spot becomes memorable, and every one that passes casts a stone there till a great pile is thrown up.[II-58]

Let us now pass on, and going east and north, enter the Shoshone country. In Idaho there are certain famous Soda Springs whose origin the Snakes refer to the close of their happiest age. Long ago, the legend runs, when the cotton-woods on the Big River were no larger than arrows, all red men were at peace, the hatchet was everywhere buried, and hunter met hunter in the game-lands of the one or the other, with all hospitality and good-will. During this state of things, two chiefs, one of the 94 Shoshone, the other of the Comanche nation, met one day at a certain spring. The Shoshone had been successful in the chase, and the Comanche very unlucky, which put the latter in rather an ill humor. So he got up a dispute with the other as to the importance of their respective and related tribes, and ended by making an unprovoked and treacherous attack on the Shoshone, striking him into the water from behind, when he had stooped to drink. The murdered man fell forward into the water, and immediately a strange commotion was observable there; great bubbles and spirts of gas shot up from the bottom of the pool, and amid a cloud of vapor there arose also an old white-haired Indian, armed with a ponderous club of elk-horn. Well the assassin knew who stood before him; the totem on the breast was that of Wankanaga, the father both of the Shoshone and of the Comanche nations, an ancient famous for his brave deeds, and celebrated in the hieroglyphic pictures of both peoples. Accursed of two nations! cried the old man, this day hast thou put death between the two greatest peoples under the sun; see, the blood of this Shoshone cries out to the Great Spirit for vengeance. And he dashed out the brains of the Comanche with his club, and the murderer fell there beside his victim into the spring. After that the spring became foul and bitter, nor even to this day can any one drink of its nauseous water. Then Wankanaga, seeing that it had been defiled, took his club and smote a neighboring rock, and the rock burst forth into clear bubbling water, so fresh and so grateful to the palate that no other water can even be compared to it.[II-59]


Passing into Washington, we find an account of the origin of the falls of Palouse River and of certain native tribes. There lived here at one time a family of giants, four brothers and a sister. The sister wanted some beaver-fat and she begged her brothers to get it for her—no easy task, as there was only one beaver in the 95 country, and he an animal of extraordinary size and activity. However, like four gallant fellows, the giants set out to find the monster, soon catching sight of him near the mouth of the Palouse, then a peaceful gliding river with an even though winding channel. They at once gave chase, heading him up the river. A little distance up-stream they succeeded in striking him for the first time with their spears, but he shook himself clear, making in his struggle the first rapids of the Palouse, and dashed on up-stream. Again the brothers overtook him, pinning him to the river-bed with their weapons, and again the vigorous beast writhed away, making thus the second falls of the Palouse. Another chase, and, in a third and fatal attack, the four spear-shafts are struck again through the broad wounded back. There is a last stubborn struggle at the spot since marked by the great falls called Aputaput, a tearing of earth and a lashing of water in the fierce death-flurry, and the huge Beaver is dead. The brothers having secured the skin and fat, cut up the body and threw the pieces in various directions. From these pieces have originated the various tribes of the country, as the Cayuses, the Nez Percés, the Walla Wallas, and so on. The Cayuses sprang from the beaver's heart, and for this reason they are more energetic, daring, and successful than their neighbors.[II-60]

In Oregon the Chinooks and neighboring people tell of a pre-human demon race, called Ulháipa by the Chinooks, and Sehuiáb by the Clallams and Lummis. The Chinooks say that the human race was created by Italapas, the Coyote. The first men were sent into the world in a very lumpish and imperfect state, their mouth and eyes were closed, their hands and feet immovable. Then a kind and powerful spirit called Ikánam, took a sharp stone, opened the eyes of these poor creatures, and gave motion to their hands and feet. He taught them how to make canoes as well as all other implements and utensils; and he threw great rocks into 96 the rivers and made falls, to obstruct the salmon in their ascent, so that they might be easily caught.[II-61]

Farther north among the Ahts of Vancouver Island, perhaps the commonest notion of origin is that men at first existed as birds, animals, and fishes. We are told of a certain Quawteaht, represented somewhat contradictorily, as the first Aht that ever lived, thickset and hairy-limbed, and as the chief Aht deity, a purely supernatural being, if not the creator, at least the maker and shaper of most things, the maker of the land and the water, and of the animals that inhabit the one or the other. In each of these animals as at first created, there resided the embryo or essence of a man. One day a canoe came down the coast, paddled by two personages in the, at that time, unknown form of men. The animals were frightened out of their wits, and fled, each from his house, in such haste that he left behind him the human essence that he usually carried in his body. These embryos rapidly developed into men; they multiplied, made use of the huts deserted by the animals, and became in every way as the Ahts are now. There exists another account of the origin of the Ahts, which would make them the direct descendants of Quawteaht and an immense bird that he married—the great Thunder Bird, Tootooch, with which, under a different name and in a different sex, we shall become more familiar presently. The flapping of Tootooch's wings shook the hills with thunder, tootah; and when she put out her forked tongue, the lightning quivered across the sky.

The Ahts have various legends of the way in which fire was first obtained, which legends may be reduced to the following: Quawteaht withheld fire, for some reason or other, from the creatures that he had brought into the world, with one exception; it was always to be found burning in the home of the cuttle-fish, telhoop. The other beasts attempted to steal this fire, but only the 97 deer succeeded; he hid a little of it in the joint of his hind leg, and escaping, introduced the element to general use.

Not all animals, it would appear, were produced in the general creation; the loon and the crow had a special origin, being metamorphosed men. Two fishermen, being out at sea in their canoes, fell to quarreling, the one ridiculing the other for his small success in fishing. Finally the unsuccessful man became so infuriated by the taunts of his companion that he knocked him on the head, and stole his fish, cutting out his tongue before he paddled off, lest by any chance the unfortunate should recover his senses and gain the shore. The precaution was well taken, for the mutilated man reached the land and tried to denounce his late companion. No sound however could he utter but something resembling the cry of a loon, upon which the Great Spirit, Quawteaht, became so indiscriminatingly angry at the whole affair that he changed the poor mute into a loon, and his assailant into a crow. So when the mournful voice of the loon is heard from the silent lake or river, it is still the poor fisherman that we hear, trying to make himself understood and to tell the hard story of his wrongs.[II-62]


The general drift of many of the foregoing myths would go to indicate a wide-spread belief in the theory of an evolution of man from animals.[II-63] Traditions are not wanting, however, whose teaching is precisely the reverse. The Salish, the Nisquallies, and the Yakimas of Washington, all hold that beasts, fishes, and even edible roots are descended from human originals. One account of this inverse Darwinian development is this: The son of the Sun—whoever he may have been—caused certain individuals to swim through a lake of magic oil, a liquid of such Circean potency that the unfortunates 98 immersed were transformed as above related. The peculiarities of organism of the various animals, are the results of incidents of their passage; the bear dived, and is therefore fat all over; the goose swam high, and is consequently fat only up to the water-line; and so on through all the list.[II-64]

Moving north to the Tacullies of British Columbia, we find the Musk-rat an active agent in the work of creation. The flat earth, following the Tacully cosmogony, was at first wholly covered with water. On the water a Musk-rat swam to and fro, seeking food. Finding none there, he dived to the bottom and brought up a mouthful of mud, but only to spit it out again when he came to the surface. All this he did again and again till quite an island was formed and by degrees the whole earth. In some unexplained way this earth became afterwards peopled in every part, and so remained, until a fierce fire of several days' duration swept over it, destroying all life, with two exceptions; one man and one woman hid themselves in a deep cave in the heart of a mountain, and from these two has the world been since repeopled.[II-65]


From the Tacully country we pass north and west to the coast inhabited by the Thlinkeets, among whom the myth of a great Bird, or of a great hero-deity, whose favorite disguise is the shape of a bird, assumes the most elaborate proportions and importance. Here the name of this great Somebody is Yehl, the Crow or Raven, creator of most things, and especially of the Thlinkeets. Very dark, damp, and chaotic was the world in the beginning; nothing with breath or body moved there except Yehl; in the likeness of a raven he brooded over the mist, his black wings beat down the vast confusion, the waters went back before him and the dry land appeared. The Thlinkeets were placed on the earth—though how or when does not exactly appear—while the world was still in darkness, and without sun or moon 99 or stars. A certain Thlinkeet, we are further informed, had a wife and a sister. Of the wife he was devouringly jealous, and when employed in the woods at his trade of building canoes, he had her constantly watched by eight red birds of the kind called kun. To make assurance surer, he even used to coop her up in a kind of box every time he left home. All this while his sister, a widow it would appear, was bringing up certain sons she had, fine tall fellows, rapidly approaching manhood. The jealous uncle could not endure the thought of their being in the neighborhood of his wife. So he inveigled them one by one, time after time, out to sea with him on pretense of fishing, and drowned them there. The poor mother was left desolate, she went to the sea-shore to weep for her children. A dolphin—some say a whale—saw her there, and pitied her; the beast told her to swallow a small pebble and drink some sea-water. She did so, and in eight months was delivered of a child. That child was Yehl, who thus took upon himself a human shape, and grew up a mighty hunter and notable archer. One day a large bird appeared to him, having a long tail like a magpie, and a long glittering bill as of metal; the name of the bird was Kutzghatushl, that is, Crane that can soar to heaven. Yehl shot the bird, skinned it, and whenever he wished to fly used to clothe himself in its skin.

Now Yehl had grown to manhood, and he determined to avenge himself upon his uncle for the death of his brothers; so he opened the box in which the well-guarded wife was shut up. Instantly the eight faithful birds flew off and told the husband, who set out for his home in a murderous mood. Most cunning, however, in his patience, he greeted Yehl with composure, and invited him into his canoe for a short trip to sea. Having paddled out some way, he flung himself on the young man and forced him overboard: Then he put his canoe about and made leisurely for the land, rid as he thought of another enemy. But Yehl swam in quietly another way, and stood up in his uncle's house. The baffled 100 murderer was beside himself with fury, he imprecated with a potent curse a deluge upon all the earth, well content to perish himself so he involved his rival in the common destruction, for jealousy is cruel as the grave. The flood came, the waters rose and rose; but Yehl clothed himself in his bird-skin, and soared up to heaven, where he struck his beak into a cloud, and remained till the waters were assuaged.


After this affair Yehl had many other adventures, so many that "one man cannot know them all," as the Thlinkeets say. One of the most useful things he did was to supply light to mankind—with whom, as appears, the earth had been again peopled after the deluge. Now all the light in the world was stored away in three boxes, among the riches of a certain mysterious old Chief, who guarded his treasure closely. Yehl set his wits to work to secure the boxes; he determined to be born into the chief's family. The old fellow had one daughter upon whom he doted, and Yehl transforming himself into a blade of grass, got into the girl's drinking-cup and was swallowed by her. In due time she gave birth to a son, who was Yehl, thus a second time born of a woman into the world. Very proud was the old chief of his grandson, loving him even as he loved his daughter, so that Yehl came to be a decidedly spoiled child. He fell a crying one day, working himself almost into a fit; he kicked and scratched and howled, and turned the family hut into a little pandemonium as only an infant plague can. He screamed for one of the three boxes; he would have a box; nothing but a box should ever appease him! The indulgent grandfather gave him one of the boxes; he clutched it, stopped crying, and crawled off into the yard to play. Playing, he contrived to wrench the lid off, and lo! the beautiful heaven was thick with stars, and the box empty. The old man wept for the loss of his stars, but he did not scold his grandson, he loved him too blindly for that. Yehl had succeeded in getting the stars into the firmament, and he proceeded to repeat his successful trick, to do the like 101 by the moon and sun. As may be imagined, the difficulty was much increased; still he gained his end. He first let the moon out into the sky, and some time afterward, getting possession of the box that held the sun, he changed himself into a raven and flew away with his greatest prize of all. When he set up the blazing light in heaven, the people that saw it were at first afraid. Many hid themselves in the mountains, and in the forests, and even in the water, and were changed into the various kinds of animals that frequent these places.

There are still other feats of Yehl's replete with the happiest consequences to mankind. There was a time, for instance, when all the fire in the world was hid away in an island of the ocean. Thither flew the indefatigable deity, fetching back a brand in his mouth. The distance, however, was so great that most of the wood was burned away and a part of his beak, before he reached the Thlinkeet shore. Arrived there, he dropped the embers at once, and the sparks flew about in all directions among various sticks and stones; therefore it is that by striking these stones, and by friction on this wood, fire is always to be obtained.

Light they now had, and fire; but one thing was still wanting to men; they had no fresh water. A personage called Khanukh[II-66] kept all the fresh water in his well, in an island to the east of Sitka, and over the mouth of the well, for its better custody, he had built his hut. Yehl set out to the island in his boat, to secure the water, and on his way he met Khanukh himself, paddling along in another boat. Khanukh spoke first: How long hast thou been living in the world? Proudly Yehl answered: Before the world stood in its place, I was there. Yehl in his turn questioned Khanukh: But how long hast thou lived in the world? To which Khanukh replied: Ever since the time that the liver came out from 102 below.[II-67] Then said Yehl: Thou art older than I. Upon this Khanukh, to show that his power was as great as his age, took off his hat, and there rose a dense fog, so that the one could no longer see the other. Yehl then became afraid, and cried out to Khanukh; but Khanukh answered nothing. At last when Yehl found himself completely helpless in the darkness, he began to weep and howl; upon which the old sorcerer put on his hat again, and the fog vanished. Khanukh then invited Yehl to his house, and entertained him handsomely with many luxuries, among which was fresh water. The meal over, host and guest sat down, and the latter began a long relation of his many exploits and adventures. Khanukh listened as attentively as he could, but the story was really so interminable that he at last fell asleep across the cover of his well. This frustrated Yehl's intention of stealing the water while its owner slept, so he resorted to another stratagem: he put some filth under the sleeper, then waking him up, made him believe he had bewrayed himself. Khanukh, whose own nose abhorred him, at once hurried off to the sea to wash, and his deceiver as quickly set about securing the precious water. Just as All-father Odin, the Raven-god, stole Suttung's mead, drinking it up and escaping in the form of a bird, so Yehl drank what fresh water he could, filling himself to the very beak, then took the form of a raven and attempted to fly off through the chimney of the hut. He stuck in the flue however, and Khanukh returning at that instant recognized his guest in the struggling bird. The old man comprehended the situation, and quietly piling up a roaring fire, he sat down comfortably to watch the choking and scorching of his crafty guest. The raven had always been a white bird, but so thoroughly was he smoked in the chimney on this occasion that he has ever since remained the sootiest of 103 fowls. At last Khanukh watching the fire, became drowsy and fell asleep; so Yehl escaped from the island with the water. He flew back to the continent, where he scattered it in every direction; and wherever small drops fell there are now springs and creeks, while the large drops have produced lakes and rivers. This is the end of the exploits of Yehl; having thus done everything necessary to the happiness of mankind, he returned to his habitation, which is in the east, and into which no other spirit, nor any man can possibly enter.

The existing difference in language between the Thlinkeets and other people is one of the consequences of a great flood—perhaps that flood already described as having been brought on through the jealousy of the canoe-builder. Many persons escaped drowning by taking refuge in a great floating building. When the waters fell, this vessel grounded upon a rock, and was broken into two pieces; in the one fragment were left those whose descendants speak the Thlinkeet language, in the other remained all whose descendants employ a different idiom.


Connected with the history of this deluge is another myth in which a great Bird figures. When the waters rose a certain mysterious brother and sister found it necessary to part. The name of the brother was Chethl, that is, Thunder or Lightning, and the name of the sister was Ahgishanakhou, which means the Underground Woman. As they separated Chethl said to her: Sister, you shall never see me again, but while I live you shall hear my voice. Then he clothed himself in the skin of a great bird, and flew towards the south-west. His sister climbed to the top of Mount Edgecomb, which is near Sitka, and it opened and swallowed her up, leaving a great hole, or crater. The world itself is an immense flat plate supported on a pillar, and under the world, in silence and darkness, this Under-ground Woman guards the great pillar from evil and malignant powers. She has never seen her brother since she left the upper world, and she shall never see him again; but 104 still, when the tempest sweeps down on Edgecomb, the lightning of his eyes gleams down her crater-window, and the thundering of his wings re-echoes through all her subterranean halls.[II-68]

The Koniagas, north of the Thlinkeets, have their legendary Bird and Dog—the latter taking the place occupied in the mythology of many other tribes by the wolf or coyote. Up in heaven, according to the Koniagas, there exists a great deity called Shljam Schoa. He created two personages and sent them down to the earth, and the Raven accompanied them carrying light. This original pair made sea, rivers, mountains, forests, and such things. Among other places they made the Island of Kadiak, and so stocked it that the present Koniagas assert themselves the descendants of a Dog.[II-69]

The Aleuts of the Aleutian Archipelago seem to disagree upon their origin. Some say that in the beginning a Bitch inhabited Unalaska, and that a great Dog swam across to her from Kadiak; from which pair the human race have sprung. Others, naming the bitch-mother of their race Mahakh, describe a certain Old Man, called Iraghdadakh, who came from the north to visit this Mahakh. The result of this visit was the birth of two creatures, male and female, with such an extraordinary mixing up of the elements of nature in them that they were each half man, half fox. The name of the male creature was Acagnikakh, and by the other creature he became father of the human race. The Old Man however seems hardly to have needed any help to people the world, for like the great patriarch of Thessaly, he was able to create men by merely casting stones on the earth. He flung also other stones into the air, into the water, and over the land, thus making beasts, birds, and fishes. In another version of the narrative, the first father of the 105 Aleuts is said to have fallen from heaven in the shape of a dog.[II-70]


In the legends of the Tinneh, living inland, north-east of the Koniagas, the familiar Bird and Dog again appear. These legends tell us that the world existed at first as a great ocean frequented only by an immense Bird, the beating of whose wings was thunder, and its glance lightning. This great flying monster descended and touched the waters, upon which the earth rose up and appeared above them; it touched the earth, and therefrom came every living creature—except the Tinneh, who owe their origin to a Dog. Therefore it is that to this day a dog's flesh is an abomination to the Tinneh, as are also all who eat such flesh. A few years before Captain Franklin's visit they almost ruined themselves by following the advice of some fanatic reformer. Convinced by him of the wickedness of exacting labor from their near relations, the dogs, they got rid at once of the sin and of all temptation to its recommission, by killing every cur in their possession.

To return to the origin of the Tinneh, the wonderful Bird before mentioned made and presented to them a peculiar arrow, which they were to preserve for all time with great care. But they would not; they misappropriated the sacred shaft to some common use, and immediately the great Bird flew away never to return. With its departure ended the Golden Age of the Tinneh—an age in which men lived till their throats were worn through with eating, and their feet with walking.[II-71]

Belonging to the Northern-Indian branch of the Tinneh we find a narrative in which the Dog holds a prominent place, but in which we find no mention at all of the Bird: The earth existed at first in a chaotic state, with only one human inhabitant, a woman who dwelt in a cave and lived on berries. While gathering these one day, she encountered an animal like a dog, which followed 106 her home. This Dog possessed the power of transforming himself into a handsome young man, and in this shape he became the father by the woman of the first men. In course of time a giant of such height that his head reached the clouds, arrived on the scene and fitted the earth for its inhabitants. He reduced the chaos to order; he established the land in its boundaries, he marked out with his staff the position or course of the lakes, ponds, and rivers. Next he slew the Dog and tore him to pieces, as the four giants did the Beaver of the Palouse River, or as the creating Æsir did Aurgelmir. Unlike the four brothers, however, and unlike the sons of Bör, this giant of the Tinneh used the fragments not to create men or things, but animals. The entrails of the dog he threw into the water, and every piece became a fish; the flesh he scattered over the land, and every scrap became an animal; the bits of skin he sowed upon the wind, and they became birds. All these spread over the earth, and increased and multiplied; and the giant gave the woman and her progeny power to kill and eat of them according to their necessities. After this he returned to his place, and he has not since been heard of.[II-72]

Leaving now this division of our subject, more particularly concerned with cosmogony, it may not be amiss to forestall possible criticism as to the disconnected manner in which the various myths are given. I have but to repeat that the mythology with which we have to deal is only known in fragments, and to submit that a broken statue, or even a broken shard, of genuine or presumably genuine antiquity, is more valuable to science and even to poetry, than the most skillful ideal restoration.


Further, the absence of any attempt to form a connected whole out of the myths that come under our notice cannot but obviate that tendency to alter in outline and to color in detail which is so insensibly natural to any mythographer prepossessed with the spirit of a 107 system. In advancing lastly the opinion that the disconnected arrangement is not only better adapted toward preserving the original myths in their integrity, but is also better for the student, I may be allowed to close the chapter with the second of the Rules for the Interpretation of Mythes given by so distinguished an authority as Mr. Keightley: "In like manner the mythes themselves should be considered separately, and detached from the system in which they are placed; for the single mythes existed long before the system, and were the product of other minds than those which afterwards set them in connection, not unfrequently without fully understanding them."[II-73]



Sun, Moon, and Stars—Eclipses—The Moon Personified in the Land of the Crescent—Fire—How the Coyote Stole Fire for the Cahrocs—How the Frog Lost His Tail—How the Coyote Stole Fire for the Navajos—Wind and Thunder—The Four Winds and the Cross—Water, the First of Elemental Things—Its Sacred and Cleansing Power—Earth and Sky—Earthquakes and Volcanoes—Mountains—How the Hawk and Crow Built the Coast Range—The Mountains of Yosemite.

Fetichism seems to be the physical philosophy of man in his most primitive state. He looks on material things as animated by a life analogous to his own, as having a personal consciousness and character, as being severally the material body that contains some immaterial essence or soul. A child or a savage strikes or chides any object that hurts him, and caresses the gewgaw that takes his fancy, talking to it much as to a companion.


Let there be something peculiar, mysterious, or dangerous about the thing and the savage worships it, deprecates its wrath and entreats its favor, with such ceremonies, prayers, and sacrifices as he may deem likely to win upon its regard. In considering such cases mythologically, it will be necessary to examine the facts to see whether we have to deal with simple fetichism or with idolatry. That savage worships a fetich who worships the heaving sea as a great living creature, or kneels to flame as to a hissing roaring animal; but the Greeks in conceiving a separate anthropomorphic god of the sea or 109 of the fire, and in representing that god by figures of different kinds, were only idolaters. The two things, however, are often so merged into each other that it becomes difficult or impossible to say in many instances whether a particular object, for example the sun, is regarded as the deity or merely as the representation or symbol of the deity. It is plain enough, however, that a tolerably distinct element of fetichism underlies much of the Indian mythology. Speaking of this mythology in the mass, the North American Review says: "A mysterious and inexplicable power resides in inanimate things. They, too, can listen to the voice of man, and influence his life for evil or for good. Lakes, rivers, and waterfalls are sometimes the dwelling-place of spirits, but more frequently they are themselves living beings, to be propitiated by prayers and offerings."[III-1]

The explicit worship of the sun and more or less that of other heavenly bodies, or at least a recognition of some supernatural power resident in or connected with them, was widely spread through Mexico, as well among the uncivilized as among the civilized tribes. The wild Chichimecs or that portion of the wild tribes of Mexico to which Alegre applied this name, owned the sun as their deity, as did also the people of the Nayarit country.[III-2]

In what we may call civilized Mexico, the sun was definitely worshiped under the name of Tonatiuh, the Sun in his substance, and under that of Naolin, the Sun in his four motions. He was sometimes represented by a human face surrounded with rays, at other times by a full-length human figure, while again he often seems to be confused or connected with the element fire and the god of fire. Sahagun, for instance, usually speaks of the festival of the month Itzcalli as appertaining to the god of fire, but in at least one place he describes it as belonging to the sun and the fire.[III-3] The sun, it is tolerably 110 certain, held, if not the highest place, one not far removed from that position in the Mexican pantheon. Brasseur de Bourbourg, Tylor, Squier, and Schoolcraft agree in considering sun-worship the most radical religious idea of all civilized American religions.[III-4] Professor Müller considers the sun-god and the supreme Mexican Teotl to be identical.[III-5] Dr. Brinton, as we shall see when we come to notice the mythology of fire, while not denying the prominence of the sun-cult, would refer that cult to a basal and original fire-worship. Many interpreters of mythology see also the personification of the sun in others of the Mexican gods besides Tonatiuh. More especially does evidence seem to point strongly in this direction in the case of Quetzalcoatl, as will be seen when we come to deal with this god.

The Mexicans were much troubled and distressed by an eclipse of the sun. They thought that he was much disturbed and tossed about by something, and that he was becoming seriously jaundiced. This was the occasion of a general panic, women weeping aloud, and men howling and shouting and striking the hand upon the mouth. There was an immediate search for men with white hair and white faces, and these were sacrificed to the sun, amid the din and tumult of singing and musical instruments. It was thought that should the eclipse become once total, there would be an end of the light, and that in the darkness the demons would come down to the devouring of the people.[III-6]



The Tlascaltecs, regarding the sun and the moon as husband and wife, believed eclipses to be domestic quarrels, whose consequences were likely to be fatal to the world if peace could not be made before things proceeded to an extremity. To sooth the ruffled spirit of the sun when he was eclipsed, a human sacrifice was offered to him of the ruddiest victims that could be found; and when the moon was darkened she was appeased with the blood of those white-complexioned persons commonly known as Albinos.[III-7]

The idea of averting the evil by noise, in case of an eclipse either of the sun or moon, seems to have been a common one among other American tribes. Alegre ascribes it to the natives of Sonora in general. Ribas tells how the Sinaloas held that the moon in an eclipse was darkened with the dust of battle. Her enemy had come upon her, and a terrible fight, big with consequence to those on earth, went on in heaven. In wild excitement the people beat on the sides of their houses, encouraging the moon and shooting flights of arrows up into the sky to distract her adversary. Much the same as this was also done by certain Californians.[III-8]

With regard to an eclipse of the moon the Mexicans seem to have had rather special ideas as to its effects upon unborn children. At such times, women who were with child became alarmed lest their infant should be turned into a mouse, and to guard against such an undesirable consummation they held a bit of obsidian, iztli, in their mouth, or put a piece of it in their girdle, so that the child should be born perfect and not lipless, or noseless, or wry-mouthed, or squinting, or a monster.[III-9] These ideas are probably connected with the fact that the Mexicans worshiped the moon under the name of Meztli, as a deity presiding over human generations. 112 This moon-god is considered by Clavigero to be identical with Joaltecutli, god of night.[III-10]

It is to the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg, however, that we must turn for a truly novel and cyclopean theory of Mexican lunolatry. He sees back to a time when the forefathers of American civilization lived in a certain Crescent Land in the Atlantic; here they practiced Sabaism. Through some tremendous physical catastrophe their country was utterly overwhelmed by the sea; and this inundation is considered by the abbé to be the origin of the deluge-myths of the Central-American nations. A remnant of these Crescent people saved themselves in the seven principal islands of the Lesser Antilles; these are, he explains, the seven mythical caves or grottoes celebrated in so many American legends as the cradle of the nations. The saved remnant of the people wept the loss of their friends and of their old land, making the latter, with its crescent shape, memorable forever by adopting the moon as their god. "It is the moon," writes the great Américaniste, "male and female, Luna and Lunas, personified in the land of the Crescent, engulfed in the abyss, that I believe I see at the commencement of this amalgam of rites and symbols of every kind."[III-11] I confess inability to follow the path by which the abbé has reached this conclusion; but I have indicated its whereabouts, and future students may be granted a further insight into this new labyrinth and the subtleties of its industrious Dædalus.


The Mexicans had many curious ideas about the stars, some of which have come down to us. They particularly reverenced a certain group of three called mamalhoaztli, in, or in the neighborhood of, the sign Taurus of the zodiac. This name was the same as that of the sticks from which fire was procured: a resemblance of some 113 kind being supposed to exist between them and these stars. Connected again with this was the burning by every male Mexican of certain marks upon his wrist, in honor of the same stars; it being believed that the man who died without these marks should, on his arrival in hades, be forced to draw fire from his wrist by boring upon it as on a fire-stick. The planet Venus was worshiped as the first light that appeared in the world, as the god of twilight, and, according to some, as being identical with Quetzalcoatl. This star has been further said to borrow its light from the moon, and to rise by four starts. Its first twinkle was a bad augury, and to be closed out of all doors and windows; on appearing for the third time, it began to give a steady light, and on the fourth it shone forth in all its clearness and brilliancy.

Comets were called each citlalinpopoca, or the smoking star; their appearance was considered as a public disaster, and as announcing pest, dearth, or the death of some prince. The common people were accustomed to say of one, This is our famine, and they believed it to cast down certain darts, which falling on any animal, bred a maggot that rendered the creature unfit for food. All possible precautions of shelter were of course taken by persons in positions exposed to the influence of these noxious rays. Besides the foregoing, there were many stars or groups of stars whose names were identical with those of certain gods; the following seem to belong to this class: Tonacatlecutli or Citlalalatonalli, the milky way; Yzacatecutli, Tlahvizcalpantecutli, Ceyacatl, Achitumetl, Xacupancalqui, Mixcoatl, Tezcatlipoca, and Contemoctli.[III-12]

I have already noticed a prevailing tendency to connect the worship of fire and that of the sun. The rites of a perpetual fire are found closely connected with 114 a sun-cult, and, whichever may be the older, it is certain they are rarely found apart. "What," says Tylor, "the sea is to Water-worship, in some measure the Sun is to Fire-worship."[III-13] Brinton would reverse this and give to fire the predominance: in short, he says, the sun "is always spoken of as a fire;" "and without danger or error we can merge the consideration of its worship almost altogether in this element."[III-14] This sounds rather extravagant and is hardly needed in any case; for sufficient reason for its deification can always be found in its mysterious nature and awful powers of destruction, as well as in its kind and constantly renewed services, if gratitude have any power in making a god. The mere guarding and holding sacred a particular fire probably originated in the importance of possessing an unfailing source of the element, and in the difficulty of its production if allowed to die out, among men not possessed of the appliances of civilization.

When we come to review the gods in general, those connected with fire will be pointed out as they appear; for the present, let it suffice to say that many American peoples had such gods, or had ceremonies suggesting their existence and recognition, or lastly, had legends of the origin or procurement of the fire they daily used on the altar or on the hearth. In the Pueblos of New Mexico, and more especially among the Pecos, sacred perpetual fires were kept up by special command of their traditionary god and ruler Montezuma; but these fires were not regarded as fetiches.[III-15] The Mexican fire-god was known by the name of Xiuhtecutli, and by other names appertaining to the different aspects in which he was viewed. While preserving his own well-marked identity, he was evidently closely related 115 also to the sun-god. Many and various, even in domestic life, were the ceremonies by which he was recognized; the most important ritual in connection with his service being, perhaps, the lighting of the new fire, with which, as we shall see, the beginning of every Mexican cycle was solemnized.[III-16]

There are various fables scattered up and down among the various tribes regarding the origin or rather the procuring of fire. We know how the Quichés received it from the stamp of the sandal of Tohil; how, from the home of the cuttle-fish, a deer brought it to the Ahts in a joint of his leg; how from a distant island the great Yehl of the Thlinkeets fetched the brand in his beak that filled the flint and the fire-stick with seeds of eternal fire.


The Cahrocs hold that, when in the beginning the creator Chareya made fire, he gave it into the custody of two old hags, lest the Cahrocs should steal it. The Cahrocs, having exhausted every means to procure the treasure, applied for help to their old friend the Coyote; who, having maturely considered how the theft might best be accomplished, set about the thing in this way: From the land of the Cahrocs to the home of the old women he stationed a great company of animals, at convenient distances; the strongest nearest the den of the old beldames, the weakest farthest removed. Last of all he hid a Cahroc in the neighborhood of the hut, and, having left the man precise directions how to act, he trotted up to the door and asked to be let in out of the cold. Suspecting nothing, the crones gave him admittance; so he lay down in front of the fire, and made himself as comfortable as possible, waiting for the further action of his human accomplice without. In good time, the man made a furious attack on the house and the old furies rushed out at once to drive off the invader. This was the Coyote's opportunity. Instantly he seized a 116 half-burnt brand and fled like a comet down the trail; and the two hags, seeing how they had been outwitted, turned after him in immediate and furious chase. It had gone hard then with the hopes of the Cahrocs, if their four-legged Prometheus had trusted to his single speed; but just as he began to feel the pace tell on him, and just as the weird women thought they were about to recover the brand, the Cougar relieved him of it. Great was the satisfaction of our wise Coyote, as he sank down, clearing his sooty eyes and throat, and catching his breath, to see the great lithe cat leap away with the torch, and the hags gnash their choppy gums as they rushed by, hard in pursuit, on the dim trail of sparks. The Cougar passed the brand to the Bear, the Bear to his neighbor, and so on to the end. Down the long line of carriers, the panting crones plied their withered old legs in vain; only two mishaps occurring among all the animals that made up the file. The squirrel, last in the train but one, burned his tail so badly that it curled up over his back, and even scorched the skin above his shoulders. Last of all, the poor Frog, who received the brand when it had burned down to a very little piece, hopped along so heavily that his pursuers gained on him, gained fast and surely. In vain he gathered himself for every spring, in vain he stretched at every leap till the jarred muscles cracked again. He was caught. The smoke-dimmed eyes stood out from his head, his little heart thumped like a club against the lean fingers that closed upon his body—yet that wild croak was not the croak of despair. Once more for the hope of the Cahrocs! one more struggle for the Coyote that trusted him in this great thing! and with a gulp the plucky little martyr swallowed the fire, tore himself from the hands that held him, leaped into a river, and diving deep and long, gained his goal; but gained it a mournful wreck, the handsome tail, which, of all his race, only the tadpole should ever wear again, was utterly gone, left, like that of an O'Shanter's mare, in the witch's grasp; only the ghost of himself was left to spit out on 117 some pieces of wood the precious embers preserved at so great a cost. And it is because the Frog spat out this fire upon these pieces of wood that it can always be extracted again by rubbing them hard together.[III-17]


The Navajos have a legend as to the procuring of fire, that has many analogies to the foregoing. They tell how, when they first gained the earth, they were without fire, and how the Coyote, the Bat, and the Squirrel agreed to procure it for them. The object of their desire seems to have been in the possession of the animals in general, in some distant locality. The Coyote, having attached pine splinters to his tail, ran quickly through the fire and fled with his lighted prize. Being keenly pursued, however, by the other animals, he soon tired; upon which the Bat relieved him, and dodging and flitting here and there, carried the splinters still farther. Then the Squirrel came to the assistance of the Bat, and succeeding him in his office, contrived to reach the hearths of the Navajos with the coveted embers.[III-18]

The natives of Mendocino county, California, believe that lightning is the origin of fire, that a primeval bolt hurled down by the Man Above fell upon certain wood, from which, consequently fire can always be extracted by rubbing two pieces together.[III-19]

From fire let us turn for a moment to wind, whose phenomena, as might be expected, have not been allowed to pass wholly unnoticed by the mythologies with which we have to deal. When we come to examine ideas connected with death and with the soul of man and its future, we shall find the wind, or the air, often in use as the best name and figure for the expression of primitive conceptions of that mysterious thing, the vital essence or spirit. The wind too is often considered as a god, or at least as the breath of a god, and in many American languages the Great Spirit and the Great Wind are one and the same both in word and signification. The name 118 of the god Hurakan, mentioned in Quiché myths, still signifies the Storm in many a language strange to his worshipers, while in Quiché it may be translated Spirit, or swiftly moving Spirit;[III-20] and the name of the Mexican god Mixcoatl is said to be to this day the correct Mexican term for the whirlwind.[III-21]

An interesting point here arises with regard to the division of the heavens into four quarters and the naming of these after the names of the wind. Dr. Brinton believes this fact to be at the bottom of the sacredness and often occurrence of the number four in so many early legends, and he connects these four winds and their embodiment in many quaternions of deities, with the sacredness of the cross and its use among widely separated nations, to whom its later Christian signification was utterly unknown.[III-22]

If we may suppose that the Great Spirit and the wind are often represented under the form of an enormous bird, we must connect with them, as their most inseparable attributes, the thunder and the lightning; the first, as we have so often seen, is the rustling or stridor of the wings of the bird, the second is the flashing of his eyes. The Raven of the Koniagas is not, however, as among most other tribes of the great Northwest, the author of these things; but their principal deity when he is angry sends down two dwarfs, who thunder and lighten according to his command.[III-23] Of the god Hurakan, whom we have noticed as the etymon of the word hurricane, the Popol Vuh says: "The flash is the first sign of Hurakan; the second is the furrow of the flash; the third is the thunderbolt that strikes;"[III-24] and to the Mexican god, Tlaloc, are also attached the same three attributes.[III-25]



Turning to water, we find it regarded among many tribes as the first of elemental things. It is from a primeval ocean of water that the earth is generally supposed to come up. Water is obviously a first and chief nourisher of vegetable life, and an indispensable prerequisite of all fertility; from this it is but a short step to saying that it is the mother of those that live by the earth's fertility. "Your mother, Chalchiuhtlicue, goddess of water," is a phrase constantly found in the midwife's mouth, in her address to the child, in the Mexican washing or baptismal service.[III-26]

The use of water more or less sanctified or set apart or made worthy the distinction 'holy;' the employment of this in a rite of avowed purification from inherent sin, at the time of giving a name—baptism, in one word—runs back to a period far pre-Christian among the Mexican, Maya, and other American nations; as ancient ceremonies to be hereafter described will show. That man sets out in this life-journey of his with a terrible bias toward evil, with a sad and pitiful liability to temptation, is a point upon which all religions are practically unanimous. How else could they exist? Were man born perfect he would remain perfect, otherwise the first element of perfection would be wanting; and perfection admits of no superlative, no greater, no god. Where there is a religion then, there is generally a consciousness of sin voluntary and involuntary. How shall I be cleansed? how shall my child be cleansed from this great wickedness? is the cry of the idolater as well as of the monotheist. Is it strange that the analogy between corporal and spiritual pollution should independently suggest itself to both? Surely not. Wash and be clean, is to all the world a parable needing no interpreter.[III-27]


The ceremonial use of water followed the Mexican through all his life; though for the present we shall only notice one more custom connected with it, the last of all. When a body was buried, a vase of clean, sweet water was let down into the tomb; bright, clear, life-giving and preserving water—hope and love, dumb and inarticulate, stretching vague hand toward a resurrection.

The Mexican rain and water god was Tlaloc, sender of thunder and lightning, lord of the earthly paradise, and fertilizer of earth; his wife was the Chalchiuhtlicue, already mentioned.[III-28] Like Tlaloc was Quiateot, the Nicaraguan rain-god, master of thunderbolts and general director of meteorological phenomena.[III-29]

The Navajos puffed tobacco smoke straight up toward heaven to bring rain, and those of them that carried a corpse to burial were unclean till washed in water.[III-30] In a deep and lonely cañon near Fort Defiance there is a spring that this tribe hold sacred, approaching it only with much reverence and the performance of certain mystic ceremonies. They say it was once a boiling spring, and that even yet if approached heedlessly or by a bad Indian, its waters will seethe up and leap forth to overwhelm the intruder.[III-31]

The Zuñis had also a sacred spring; sacred to the rain-god, who, as we see by implication, is Montezuma the great Pueblo deity himself. No animal might taste of its sacred waters, and it was cleansed annually with vessels also sacred—most ancient vases that had been transmitted from generation to generation since times to 121 which even tradition went not back. These vessels were kept ranged on the wall of the well. The frog, the rattlesnake, and the tortoise were depicted upon them, and were sacred to the great patron of the place, whose terrible lightning should consume the sacrilegious hand that touched these hallowed relics.[III-32]


We have seen how the Californian tribes believe themselves descended from the very earth, how the bodiless ancestor of the Tezcucans came up from the soil, how the Guatemaltecs, Papagos, and Pimas were molded from the clay they tread, and how the Navajos came to light from the bowels of a great mountain near the river San Juan. It seems long ago and often to have come into men's mind that the over-arching heaven or something there and the all-producing earth are, as it were, a father and mother to all living creatures. The Comanches call on the earth as their mother, and on the Great Spirit as their father. The Mexicans used to pray: Be pleased, O our Lord, that the nobles who may die in the war be peacefully and pleasingly received by the sun and the earth, who are the father and mother of all.[III-33] It was probably, again, with some reference to the motherly function of the earth that the same people, when an earthquake came, took their children by the head or hand, and lifted them up saying: The earthquake will make them grow.[III-34] Sometimes they specified a particular part of the earth as closer to them in this relation than other parts. It is said that on the tenth day of the month Quecholli, the citizens of Mexico and those of Tlatelolco were wont to visit a hill called Cacatepec, for they said it was their mother.[III-35]

As to the substance, arrangement, and so on of the earth and sky there remain one or two ideas not already given in connection with the general creation. The Tlascaltecs, and perhaps others of the Anáhuac peoples, believed that the earth was flat, and ending with the sea-shore, 122 was borne up by certain divinities, who when fatigued relieved each other, and that as the burden was shifted from shoulder to shoulder earthquakes occurred. The sea and sky were considered as of one material, the sea being more highly condensed; and the rain was thought to fall not from clouds but from the very substance of heaven itself.[III-36] The Southern Californians believed that when the Creator made the world he fixed it on the back of seven giants, whose movements, as in the preceding myth, caused earthquakes.[III-37] The sky, according to certain of the Yucatecs, was held up by four brothers called each of them Bacab, in addition to their several names, which seem to have been Kan, Muluc, Ix, and Cauac. These four, God had placed at the four corners of the world when he created it, and they had escaped when all else were destroyed by flood.[III-38]

In the interior of the earth, in volcanoes, subterranean gods were often supposed to reside. The Koniagas, for example, held that the craters of Alaska were inhabited by beings mightier then men, and that these sent forth fire and smoke when they heated their sweat-houses or cooked their food.[III-39]

The rugged majesty of hills and mountains has not been without its effect on the reverential mind of the American aborigines. Direct worship was unusual, but several incidents must have already informed the reader that a kind of sanctity is often attached to great elevations in nature. A predilection for hills and mounds as landmarks and fanes of tradition, and as places of worship, was as common among the Americans as among the people of the old world. The Choles of the province of Itza had a hill in their country that they regarded as the god of all the mountains, and on which they burned a perpetual fire.[III-40] The Mexicans, praying for rain, were 123 accustomed to vow that they would make images of the mountains if their petitions were favorably received;[III-41] and, in other points connected with their religion to show, as has appeared and will appear both with them and with other people, their recognition of a divinity abiding on or hedging about the great peaks. What wonder, indeed, that to the rude and awe-struck mind, the everlasting hills seemed nearer and liker heaven than the common-place level of earth? and that the wild man should kneel or go softly there, as in the peculiar presence of the Great Spirit? This is hardly a new feeling, it seems an instinct and custom as old as religion. Where went Abraham in that awful hour, counted to him for righteousness through all the centuries? Where smoked the thunderings and lightnings that heralded the delivery of the Law, when the son of Amram talked with Jehovah face to face, as a man talketh with his friend? Whence saw a greater than Moses the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them? whence, in the all-nights that came after, did the prayers of the Christ ascend? and where stood he when his raiment became as no fuller on earth could white it; Moses and Elias talking with him, and Peter so sore afraid?


Where hills were not found conveniently situated for purposes of worship, they seem to have been counterfeited after man's feeble fashion: from high-place and mound, from pyramid and teocalli, since the morning stars sang together, the smoke of the altar and the censer has not ceased to ascend. But the day begins to broaden out, and the mists of the morning flee away; though the hills be not lowered, God is lifted up. Yet they have their glory and their charm still even to us, and to the savage they often appear as the result of a special and several creation. We remember how the Great Spirit made Mount Shasta as his only worthy abiding-place on earth; and I give here another legend of a much more trivial sort than the first, 124 telling how, not Mount Shasta alone, but all the mountains of California were built and put into position:—[III-42] At a time when the world was covered with water there existed a Hawk and a Crow and a very small Duck. The latter, after diving to the bottom and bringing up a beakful of mud, died; whereupon the Crow and the Hawk took each a half of the mud that had been brought up, and set to work to make the mountains. Beginning at a place called Teheechaypah Pass, they built northwards, the Hawk working on the eastern range and the Crow on the western. It was a long and weary toil, but in time the work was finished, and as they laid the last peak the workers met at Mount Shasta. Then the Hawk saw that there had been foul play somewhere, for the western range was bigger than his; and he charged the Crow with stealing some of his mud. But the smart bird laughed a hoarse guffaw in the face of his eastern brother, not even taking the trouble to disown the theft, and chuckled hugely over his own success and western enterprise. The honest Hawk was at his wits' end, and he stood thinking with his head on one side for quite a long time; then in an absent kind of way he picked up a leaf of Indian tobacco and began to chew, and wisdom came with chewing. And he strengthened himself mightily, and fixed his claws in the mountains, and turned the whole chain in the water like a great floating wheel, till the range of his rival had changed places with his, and the Sierra Nevada was on the east and the Coast Range on the west, as they remain to this day.

This legend is not without ingenuity in its way but there is more of human interest in the following pretty story of the Yosemite nations, as to the origin of the names and present appearance of certain peaks and other natural features of their valley:—


A certain Totokónula was once chief of the people here: a mighty hunter and a good husbandman, his 125 tribe never wanted food while he attended to their welfare. But a change came; while out hunting one day, the young man met a spirit-maid, the guardian angel of the valley, the beautiful Tisayac. She was not as the dusky beauties of his tribe, but white and fair, with rolling yellow tresses that fell over her shoulders like sunshine, and blue eyes with a light in them like the sky where the sun goes down. White, cloudlike wings were folded behind her shoulders, and her voice was sweeter than the song of birds; no wonder the strong chief loved her with a mad and instant love. He reached toward her, but the snowy wings lifted her above his sight, and he stood again alone upon the dome, where she had been.

No more Totokónula led in the chase or heeded the crops in the valley; he wandered here and there like a man distraught, ever seeking that wonderful shining vision that had made all else on earth stale and unprofitable in his sight. The land began to languish, missing the industrious directing hand that had tended it so long; the pleasant garden became a wilderness where the drought laid waste, and the wild beast spoiled what was left, and taught his cubs to divide the prey. When the fair spirit returned at last to visit her valley, she wept to see the desolation, and she knelt upon the dome, praying to the Great Spirit for succor. God heard, and stooping from his place, he clove the dome upon which she stood, and the granite was riven beneath her feet, and the melted snows of the Nevada rushed through the gorge, bearing fertility upon their cool bosom. A beautiful lake was formed between the cloven walls of the mountain, and a river issued from it to feed the valley for ever. Then sang the birds as of old, laving their bodies in the water, and the odor of flowers rose like a pleasant incense, and the trees put forth their buds, and the corn shot up to meet the sun and rustled when the breeze crept through the tall stalks.

Tisayac moved away as she had come, and none knew whither she went; but the people called the dome by her name, as it is indeed known to this day. After her 126 departure the chief returned from his weary quest; and as he heard that the winged one had visited the valley, the old madness crept up into his eyes and entered, seven times worse than at the first, into his empty soul; he turned his back on the lodges of his people. His last act was to cut with his hunting-knife the outline of his face upon a lofty rock, so that if he never returned his memorial at least should remain with them forever. He never did return from that hopeless search, but the graven rock was called Totokónula, after his name, and it may be still seen, three thousand feet high, guarding the entrance of the beautiful valley.[III-43]

Leaving this locality and subject, I may remark that the natives have named the Póhono Fall, in the same valley, after an evil spirit; many persons having been swept over and dashed to pieces there. No native of the vicinity will so much as point at this fall when going through the valley, nor could anything tempt one of them to sleep near it; for the ghosts of the drowned are tossing in its spray, and their wail is heard forever above the hiss of its rushing waters.[III-44]



Rôles Assigned to AnimalsAuguries from their MovementsThe Ill-omened OwlTutelary AnimalsMetamorphosed MenThe Ogress-Squirrel of Vancouver IslandMonkeys and BeaversFallen MenThe Sacred AnimalsProminence of the BirdAn Emblem of the WindThe Serpent, an Emblem of the LightningNot Specially connected With EvilThe Serpent of the PueblosThe Water-SnakeOphiolatryProminence of the Dog, or the CoyoteGenerally though not always a Benevolent PowerHow the Coyote let Salmon up the KlamathDanse Macabre and Sad Death of the Coyote.

The reader must have already noticed the strange rôles filled by animals in the creeds of the Native Races of the Pacific States. Beasts and birds and fishes fetch and carry, talk and act, in a way that leaves even Æsop's heroes in the shade; while a mysterious and inexplicable influence over human destiny is often accorded to them. It is of course impossible to say precisely how much of all this is metaphorical, and how much is held as soberly and literally true. Probably the proportion varies all the way from one extreme to the other among different nations, and among peoples of different stages of culture in the same nation. They spake only in part, these priests and prophets of barbaric cults, and we can understand only in part; we cannot solve the dark riddle of the past; we can oftenest only repeat it, and even that in a more or less imperfect manner.

The Mexicans had their official augurs and soothsayers, 128 who divined much as did their brethren of classic times. The people also drew omen and presage from many things: from the howling of wild beasts at night; the singing of certain birds; the hooting of the owl; a weasel crossing a traveler's path; a rabbit running into its burrow; from the chance movements of worms, beetles, ants, frogs, and mice; and so on in detail.[IV-1]

The owl seems to have been in many places considered a bird of ill omen. Among all the tribes visited by Mr Lord, from the Fraser River to the Saint Lawrence, this bird was portentously sacred, and was a favorite decoration of the medicine-men. To come on an owl at an unusual time, in daylight for example, and to hear its mystic cry, were things not desirable of any that loved fulness of pleasure and length of days.[IV-2] In California, by the tribes on the Russian River, owls were held to be devils or evil spirits incarnate.[IV-3]

We often find an animal adopted in much the same way as a patron saint was selected by the mediæval knight. The Hyperborean lad, for example, when he reaches manhood, takes some beast or fish or bird to be his patron, and the spirit connected with that animal is supposed to guard him. Unlike most Indians, the Eskimo will have no hesitation in killing an animal of his tutelary species: he is only careful to wear a piece of its skin or bone, which he regards as an amulet, which it were to him a serious misfortune to lose. Prolonged ill luck sometimes leads a man to change his patron beast for another. The spirits connected with the deer, the seal, the salmon, and the beluga are regarded by all with special veneration.[IV-4]

The Mexicans used to allot certain animals to certain parts of the body; perhaps in much the same way as astrologers and alchemists used to connect the stars of heaven with different substances and persons. The following twenty Mexican symbols were supposed to rule 129 over the various members of the human body: The sign of the deer, over the right foot; of the tiger, over the left foot; of the eagle, over the right hand; of the monkey, over the left hand; of death—represented by a skull—over the skull; of water, over the hair; of the house, over the brow; of rain, over the eyes; of the dog, over the nose; of the vulture, over the right ear; of the rabbit, over the left ear; of the earthquake, over the tongue; of flint, over the teeth; of air, over the breath; of the rose, over the breast; of the cane, over the heart; of wind, over the lungs—as appears from the plate in the Codex Vaticanus, the Italian interpreter giving, however, "over the liver;" of the grass, over the intestines; of the lizard, over the loins; and of the serpent, over the genitals.[IV-5]


Sometimes the whole life and being of a man was supposed to be bound up in the bundle with that of some animal. Thus, of the Guatemaltecs, old Gage quaintly enough writes: "Many are deluded by the Devil to believe that their life dependeth upon the life of such and such a beast (which they take unto them as their familiar spirit) and think that when that beast dieth they must die; when he is chased their hearts pant; when he is faint they are faint; nay it happeneth that by the devil's delusion they appear in the shape of that beast."[IV-6]

Animals are sometimes only men in disguise; and this is the idea often to be found at the bottom of that sacredness which among particular tribes is ascribed to particular animals.

The Thlinkeet will kill a bear only in case of great necessity, for the bear is supposed to be a man that has taken the shape of an animal. We do not know if they think the same of the albatross, but they certainly will 130 not kill this bird, believing, like mariners ancient and modern, that such a misdeed would be followed by bad weather.[IV-7]

Among the natives seen by Mr Lord on Vancouver Island, ill-luck is supposed to attend the profane killing of the ogress-squirrel, and the conjurers wear its skin as a strong charm among their other trumpery. As tradition tells, there once lived there a monstrous old woman with wolfish teeth, and finger-nails like claws. She ate children, this old hag, wiling them to her with cunning and oily words, and many were the broken hearts and empty cradles that she left. One poor Rachel, weeping for her child and not to be comforted because it was not, cries aloud: Oh, Great Spirit, Great Medicine, save my son, in any way, in any form! And the great, good Father, looking down upon the red mother pities her; lo, the child's soft brown skin turns to fur, and there slides from the ogress's grip no child, but the happiest, liveliest, merriest little squirrel of all the west—but bearing, as its descendants still bear, those four dark lines along the back that show where the cruel claws plowed into it escaping.[IV-8]

Where monkeys are found, the idea seems often to have occurred to men, to account for the resemblance of the monkey to the man by making of the first a fallen or changed form of the latter. We have already seen how the third Quiché destruction of the human race terminated thus; and how the hurricane-ended Sun of the Air in Mexican mythology, also left men in the apish state. The intelligence of beavers may have been the means of winning them a similar distinction. The Flathead says these animals are a fallen race of Indians, condemned for their wickedness to this form, but who will yet, in the fulness of time, be restored to their humanity.[IV-9]

As we shall see more particularly, when we come to 131 deal with the question of the future life, it was a common idea that the soul of the dead took an animal shape, sometimes inhabiting another world, sometimes this. The Thlinkeets, for example, believed that their shamáns used to have interviews with certain spirits of the dead that appeared to them in two forms, some as land animals, some as marine.[IV-10]


The Californians round San Diego will not eat the flesh of large game, believing such animals are inhabited by the souls of generations of people that have died ages ago; 'eater of venison!' is a term of reproach among them.[IV-11]

The Pimos and Maricopas had, if Bartlett's account be correct, some curious and unusual ideas regarding their future state; saying that the several parts of the body should be changed into separate animals; the head would perhaps take the form of an owl, the feet become wolves, and so on.[IV-12] The Moquis supposed that at death they should be severally changed into animals—bears, deer, and such beasts; which indeed, as we have already seen, they believed to have been their original form.[IV-13]

Different reasons are given by different tribes for holding certain animals sacred; some of these we have already had occasion to notice. Somewhat different from most, however, is that given by the Northern-Indian branch of the Tinneh, for not eating the flesh of foxes, wolves, ravens, and so on. This tribe are accustomed to abandon the bodies of their dead wherever they happen to fall, leaving them to the maws of kites or of any other animals of prey in the neighborhood; therefore nothing but the extremest necessity can force any member of the nation to make use of such animals as food.[IV-14]

Certain natives of Guatemala in the province of Acalán, called by Villagutierre Mazotecas, kept deer in so tame a 132 state that they were easily killed by the least active soldiers. These deer were held as sacred by the inhabitants; for tradition told them that their greatest god had visited them in this figure.[IV-15] The Apaches greatly respect the bear, neither killing him nor tasting his flesh. They think that there are spirits of divine origin within or connected with the eagle, the owl, and all birds perfectly white. Swine, they hold to be wholly unclean.[IV-16] Some animals are sacred to particular gods: with the Zuñis, the frog, the turtle, and the rattlesnake were either considered as specially under the protection of Montezuma—here considered as the god of rain—or they were themselves the lesser divinities of water.[IV-17]

It is sometimes necessary to guard against being misled by names. Thus the natives of Nicaragua had gods whose name was that of a rabbit or a deer; yet these animals were not considered as gods. The identity of name went only to say that such and such were the gods to be invoked in hunting such and such animals.[IV-18]


The reader must have already noticed how important is the part assigned to birds in our mythology, especially in creation-myths. A great bird is the agent of the chief deity, perhaps the chief deity himself. The sweep of his wings is thunder; the lightnings are the glances of his eyes.[IV-19] Chipewyans, Thlinkeets, Atnas, Koltschanes, Kenai, and other nations give this being great prominence in their legends.

Brinton believes this bird to be the emblem of the wind, to be "a relic of the cosmogonal myth which explained the origin of the world from the action of the winds, under 133 the image of the bird, on the primeval ocean;"[IV-20] and his view is probably correct in many cases.

The savage is ever ready to be smitten by natural powers. Ignorant and agape with wonder, is it unnatural that he should regard, with a superstitious awe and respect, the higher and more peculiar animal gifts, relating them to like physical powers, and managing to mix and confuse the whole by a strange synthesis of philosophy? Birds flew, the winds flew; the birds were of the kith of the winds, and the winds were of the kin of the gods who are over all. Poor, weary, painted man, who could only toil dustily along, foot-sore and perhaps heart-sore, with strange longings that venison and bear-meat could not satisfy—was it very wonderful if the throbbing music and upward flight of the clear-throated and swift-winged were to him very mysterious and sacred things? "All living beings," say the north-eastern Eskimos, "have the faculty of soul, but especially the bird." From the flight and song of birds, the Mexican divined and shadowed forth the unborn shapes of the to-come. He died too, if he died in an odor of warlike sanctity, in the strong faith that his soul should ultimately take the form of a bird and twitter through the ages in the purple shadows of the trees of paradise.[IV-21]

The Kailtas on the south fork of the Trinity in California, 134 though they do not turn the soul into a bird, do say that as it leaves the body a little bird carries it up to the spirit-land.[IV-22]

The Spaniards of Vizcaino's expedition, in 1602, found the Californians of Santa Catalina Island venerating two great black crows, which, according to Señor Galan, were probably a species of bird known in Mexico as rey de los zopilotes, or king of turkey-buzzards; he adding that these birds are still the objects of respect and devotion among most Californian tribes.[IV-23]

As another symbol, sign, or type of the supernatural, the serpent would naturally suggest itself at an early date to man. Its stealthy, subtle, sinuous motion, the glittering fascination of its eyes, the silent deathly thrust of its channeled fangs—what marvel if the foolishest of men, like the wisest of kings, should say "I know it not; it is a thing too wonderful for me?" It seems to be immortal: every spring-time it cast off and crept from its former skin, a crawling unburnt phœnix, a new animal.

Schwartz, of Berlin, affirms, from deep research in Greek and German mythology, that the paramount germinal idea in this wide-spread serpent-emblem is the lightning, and Dr. Brinton develops the same opinion at some length.[IV-24]

Tlaloc, the Aztec rain-god, held in his hand a serpent-shaped piece of gold, representing most probably the lightning. Hurakan, of the Quiché legends, is otherwise the Strong Serpent, he who hurls below, referring in all likelihood to storm powers as thunderer.[IV-25] This view being accepted, the lightning-serpent 135 is the type of fruitfulness; the thunder storm being inseparably joined with the thick, fertilizing summer showers.[IV-26] Born, too, in the middle heaven, of a cloud mother and of an Ixion upon whom science cannot yet place her finger, amid moaning breeze and threatening tempest, the lightning is surely also akin to the wind and to the bird that is their symbol. The amalgamation of these powers in one deity seems to be what is indicated by such names as Quetzalcoatl, Gucumatz, Cukulcan, all titles of the God of the Air in different American languages, and all signifying 'Bird-Serpent.'


In a tablet on the wall of a room at Palenque is a cross surmounted by a bird, and supported by what appears to be the head of a serpent: "The cross," says Brinton, "is the symbol of the four winds; the bird and serpent, the rebus of the air god, their ruler."

It does not appear that savages attach any special significance of evil to the snake, though the prepossessions of early writers almost invariably blind them on this point.[IV-27] This rule is not without its exceptions however; the Apaches hold that every rattlesnake contains the soul of a bad man or is an emissary of the Evil Spirit.[IV-28] The Piutes of Nevada have a demon-deity in the form of a serpent still supposed to exist in the waters of Pyramid Lake. The wind when it sweeps down among the nine islands of the lake drives the waters into the most fantastic swirls and eddies, even when the general surface of the lake is tolerably placid. This, say the Piutes, is the devil-snake causing the deep to boil like a pot; this is the old serpent seeking whom he may devour; and no native in possession of his five sober wits will be found steering toward those troubled waters at such a time.[IV-29]

In the Pueblo cities, among the Pecos especially, there existed in early times an immense serpent, supposed to be sacred, and which, according to some accounts, was 136 fed with the flesh of his devotees. Gregg heard an "honest ranchero" relate how, one snowy morning, he had come upon this terrible reptile's trail, "large as that of a dragging ox;" the ranchero did not pursue the investigation farther, not obtruding his science, such as it was, upon his religion. This serpent was supposed to be specially connected with Montezuma, and with rain phenomena: it is often called "the great water-snake." It was described to Whipple "as being as large round as a man's body; and of exceeding great length, slowly gliding upon the water, with long wavy folds" like the Nahant sea-serpent—to Möllhausen, as being a great rattlesnake, possessor of power over seas, lakes, rivers and rain; as thick as many men put together, and much longer than all the snakes in the world; moving in great curves and destroying wicked men. The Pueblo Indians prayed to it for rain and revered its mysterious powers.[IV-30]

A people, called by Castañeda Tahus, apparently of Sinaloa in the neighborhood of Culiacan, regarded certain large serpents with sentiments of great veneration if not of worship.[IV-31] These reptiles seem also to have been regarded with considerable reverence in Yucatan. In 1517, Bernal Diaz noticed many figures of serpents in a temple he saw at Campeche. Juan de Grijalva, also, found at the same time many such figures at Champoton, among other idols of clay and wood.[IV-32]

We have already spoken of the Mexican Tlaloc and of the frequent appearance of the serpent in his worship; it does not appear, however, notwithstanding Mr Squier's assertion to the contrary, that the serpent was actually worshiped either in Yucatan or Mexico. Bernal Diaz, indeed, says positively in one passage, speaking of 137 a town called Tenayuca, that "they worshiped here, in their chief temple, three serpents;" but the stout soldier was not one to make fine distinctions between gods and their attributes or symbols; nor, even with the best intentions, was he or any other of the conquistadores in a position to do justice to the faith of 'gentiles.'[IV-33]

We shall hereafter find the serpent closely connected with Quetzalcoatl in many of his manifestations, as well as with others of the Mexican gods.


From the serpent let us turn to the dog, with his relations the wolf and coyote, an animal holding a respectable place in American mythology. We have seen how many tribes derive, figuratively or literally, their origin from him, and how often he becomes legendarily important as the hero of some adventure or the agent of some deity. He is generally brought before us in a rather benevolent aspect, though an exception occurs to this in the case of the Chinooks at the mouth of the Columbia. With these the coyote figures as the chosen medium for the action of the Evil Spirit toward any given malevolent end—as the form taken by the Evil One to counteract some beneficence of the Good Spirit toward the poor Indian whom he loves.[IV-34]

Very different from this is the character of that Coyote of the Cahrocs whose good deeds we have so often had occasion to set forth. One feat of his yet remains to be told—how he stocked the river with salmon. Chareya, the creator, had made salmon, but he had put them in the big-water, and made a great fish-dam at the mouth of the Klamath, so that they could not go up; and this dam was closed with something of the nature of a white man's key, which key was given in charge to two old hags, not wholly unfamiliar to us, to keep and watch over it night and day, so that no Cahroc should get near it. Now fish being wanting to the Cahrocs, they were sorely pushed by hunger, and the voice of women and 138 little children was heard imploring food. The Coyote determined to help them; he swore by the stool of Chareya that before another moon their lodges should drip with salmon, and the very dogs be satisfied withal. So he traveled down the Klamath many days' journey till he came to the mouth of the river and saw the big-water and heard the thunder of its waves. Up he went to the hut of the old women, rapped, and asked hospitality for the night; and he was so polite and debonair that the crones could find no excuse for refusing him. He entered the place and threw himself down by the fire, warming himself while they prepared salmon for supper, which they ate without offering him a bite. All night long he lay by the fire pretending to sleep, but thinking over his plans and waiting for the event that should put him in possession of the mighty key that he saw hanging so high above his reach. In the morning one of the hags took down the key and started off toward the dam to get some fish for breakfast. Like a flash the Coyote leaped at her, hurling himself between her feet; heels over head she pitched, and the key flew far from her hands. Before she well knew what had hurt her the Coyote stood at the dam with the key in his teeth, wrenching at the fastenings. They gave way; and with a great roar the green water raced through, all ashine with salmon, utterly destroying and breaking down the dam, so that ever after fish found free way up the Klamath.


The end of the poor Coyote was rather sad, considering his kindness of heart and the many services he had rendered the Cahrocs. Like too many great personages, he grew proud and puffed up with the adulation of flatterers and sycophants—proud of his courage and cunning, and of the success that had crowned his great enterprises for the good of mankind—proud that he had twice deceived and outwitted the guardian hags to whom Chareya had entrusted the fire and the salmon—so proud that he determined to have a dance through heaven itself, having chosen as his partner a certain star that used to pass quite close by a mountain where he spent a good deal of 139 his time. So he called out to the star to take him by the paw and they would go round the world together for a night; but the star only laughed, and winked in an excessively provoking way from time to time. The Coyote persisted angrily in his demand, and barked and barked at the star all round heaven, till the twinkling thing grew tired of his noise and told him to be quiet and he should be taken next night. Next night the star came quite up close to the cliff where the Coyote stood, who leaping was able to catch on. Away they danced together through the blue heavens. Fine sport it was for a while; but oh, it grew bitter cold up there for a Coyote of the earth, and it was an awful sight to look down to where the broad Klamath lay like a slack bowstring and the Cahroc villages like arrow-heads. Woe for the Coyote! his numb paws have slipped their hold on his bright companion; dark is the partner that leads the dance now, and the name of him is Death. Ten long snows the Coyote is in falling, and when he strikes the earth he is "smashed as flat as a willow-mat".—Coyotes must not dance with stars.[IV-35]



Eskimo Witchcraft—The Tinneh and the Koniagas—Kugans of the Aleuts—The Thlinkeets, the Haidahs, and the Nootkas—Paradise Lost of the Okanagans—The Salish, the Clallams, the Chinooks, the Cayuses, the Walla Wallas, and the Nez Percés—Shoshone Ghouls—Northern California—The Sun at Monterey—Ouiot and Chinigchinich—Antagonistic Gods of Lower California—Comanches, Apaches, and Navajos—Montezuma of the Pueblos—Moquis and Mojaves—Primeval Race of Northern California.

We now come to the broadest, whether or not it be the most important, branch of our subject, namely, the gods and spirits that men worship or know of. Commencing at the extreme north, we shall follow them through the various nations of our territory toward the south. Very wild and conflicting is the general mass of evidence bearing on a belief in supernatural existences. Not only from the nature of the subject is it allied to questions and matters the most abstruse and transcendental—in the expression of which the exactest dialectic terminology must often be at fault; much more the rude and stammering speech of savages—but it is also apt to call up prejudices of the most warping and contradictory kind in the minds of those through whose relation it must pass to us. However hopeless the task, I will strive to hold an equal beam of historical truth, and putting away speculations of either extreme, try to give the naked expression of the belief of the peoples we deal with—however 141 stupid, however absurd—and not what they ought to believe, or may be supposed to believe, according to the ingenious speculations of different theorists.


The Eskimos do not appear to recognize any supreme deity, but only an indefinite number of supernatural beings varying in name, power, and character—the evil seeming to predominate. They carry on the person a small ivory image rudely carved to represent some animal, as a kind of talisman; these are thought to further success in hunting, fishing and other pursuits, but can hardly be looked upon with any great reverence, as they are generally to be bought of their owners for a reasonable price. All supernatural business is transacted through the medium of shamáns;—functionaries answering to the medicine-men of eastern Indian tribes;—of these there are both male and female, each practising on or for the benefit of his or her own respective sex. The rites of their black art differ somewhat, according to Dall, from those of their Tinneh neighbors, and very much from those of the Tschuktschi and other Siberian tribes; and their whole religion may be summed up as a vague fear finding its expression in witchcraft.[V-1]

The Tinneh, that great people stretching north of the fifty-fifth parallel nearly to the Arctic Ocean and to the Pacific, do not seem in any of their various tribes to have a single expressed idea with regard to a supreme power. The Loucheux branch recognize a certain personage, resident in the moon, whom they supplicate for success in starting on a hunting expedition. This being once lived among them as a poor ragged boy that an old woman had found and was bringing up; and who made himself ridiculous to his fellows by making a pair of very large snow-shoes; for the people could not see what a starveling like him should want with shoes of such unusual size. Times of great scarcity troubled the hunters, and they would often have fared badly had they not invariably on such occasions come across a new broad 142 trail that led to a head or two of freshly killed game. They were glad enough to get the game and without scruples as to its appropriation; still they felt curious as to whence it came and how. Suspicion at last pointing to the boy and his great shoes, as being in some way implicated in the affair, he was watched. It soon became evident that he was indeed the benefactor of the Loucheux, and the secret hunter whose quarry had so often replenished their empty pots; yet the people were far from being adequately grateful, and continued to treat him with little kindness or respect. On one occasion they refused him a certain piece of fat—him who had so often saved their lives by his timely bounty! That night the lad disappeared, leaving only his clothes behind, hanging on a tree. He returned to them in a month, however, appearing as a man and dressed as a man. He told them that he had taken up his home in the moon; that he would always look down with a kindly eye to their success in hunting; but he added, that as a punishment for their shameless greed and ingratitude in refusing him the piece of fat, all animals should be lean the long winter through, and fat only in summer; as has since been the case.


According to Hearne, the Tinneh believe in a kind of spirits, or fairies, called nantena, which people the earth, the sea, and the air, and are instrumental for both good and evil. Some of them believe in a good spirit called Tihugun, 'my old friend,' supposed to reside in the sun and in the moon; they have also a bad spirit, Chutsain, apparently only a personification of death, and for this reason called bad.

They have no regular order of shamáns; any one when the spirit moves him may take upon himself their duties and pretensions, though some by happy chances, or peculiar cunning, are much more highly esteemed in this regard than others, and are supported by voluntary contributions. The conjurer often shuts himself in his tent and abstains from food for days till his earthly grossness thins away, and the spirits and things unseen are constrained 143 to appear at his behest. The younger Tinneh care for none of these things; the strong limb and the keen eye, holding their own well in the jostle of life, mock at the terrors of the invisible; but as the pulses dwindle with disease or age, and the knees strike together in the shadow of impending death, the shamán is hired to expel the evil things of which the patient is possessed. Among the Tacullies, a confession is often resorted to at this stage, on the truth and accuracy of which depend the chances of a recovery. As Harmon says, "the crimes which they most frequently confess discover something of their moral character and therefore deserve to be mentioned;" but in truth I cannot mention them; both with women and with men a filthiness and bestiality worse than the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah defy the stomach of description. The same thing is true of the tedious and disgusting rites performed by the Tinneh shamáns over the sick and at various other emergencies. They blow on the invalid, leap about him or upon him, shriek, sing, groan, gesticulate, and foam at the mouth, with other details of hocus-pocus varying indefinitely with tribe and locality. The existence of a soul is for the most part denied, and the spirits with whom dealings are had are not spirits that were ever in or of men; neither are they regarded by men with any sentiment of love or kindly respect; fear and self-interest are the bonds—where any bonds exist—that link the Tinneh with powers supernal or infernal.[V-2]

The Koniagas have the usual legion of spirits haunting water, earth, and air, whose wrath is only to be appeased by offerings to the shamáns; and sometimes, though very rarely, by human sacrifices of slaves. They have also a chief deity or spirit, called Shljam Schoá, and a power for evil called Eyak.[V-3]


Of the Aleuts, it is said that their rites showed a much higher religious development than was to be found among any of their neighbors; the labors of the Russian priests have, however, been successful enough among them to obliterate all remembrance of aught but the outlines of their ancient cult. They recognize a creator-god, but without worshiping him; he had made the world, but he did not guide it; men had nothing to do any longer with him, but only with the lesser kugans, or spirits, to whom the direction and care of earthly affairs have been committed. The stars and the sun and the moon were worshiped, or the spirits of them among others, and avenged themselves on those that adored them not. The offended sun smote the eyes of a scoffer with blindness, the moon stoned him to death, and the stars constrained him to count their number—hopeless task that always left the victim a staring maniac. The shamáns do not seem to have enjoyed that distinction among the Aleuts that their monopoly of mediation between man and the invisible world gave them among other nations. They were generally very poor, living in want and dying in misery; they had no part nor lot in the joys or sorrows of social life; never at feast, at wedding, or at a funeral was their face seen. They lived and wandered men forbid, driven to and fro by phantoms that were their masters and not their slaves. The Aleuts had no permanent idols, nor any worshiping-places built with hands; near every village was some sanctified high place or rock, sacred as a Sinai against the foot of woman or youth, and whoever profaned it became immediately mad or sick to death. Only the men and the old men visited the place leaving there their offerings of skins or feathers with unknown mysterious ceremonies.

The use of amulets was universal; and more than shield or spear to the warrior going to battle was a belt of sea-weed woven in magic knots. What a philosopher's stone was to a Roger Bacon or a Paracelsus, was the tkhimkee, a marvelous pebble thrown up at rare intervals by the sea, to the Aleutian hunter. No beast could 145 resist its attraction; he that carried it had no need to chase his prey, he had only to wait and strike as the animal walked up to its death. Another potent charm was grease taken from a dead man's body; the spearhead touched with this was sure to reach a mortal spot in the whale at which it was hurled.


There are dim Aleutian traditions of certain religious night dances held in the month of December. Wooden idols, or figures of some kind, were made for the occasion and carried from island to island with many esoteric ceremonies. Then was to be seen a marvelous sight. The men and women were put far apart; in the middle of each party a wooden figure was set up; certain great wooden masks or blinders were put on each person, so contrived that the wearer could see nothing outside a little circle round his feet. Then every one stripped, and there upon the snow, under the moonlight, in the bitter Arctic night, danced naked before the image—say rather before the god, for as they danced a kugan descended and entered into the wooden figure. Woe to him or to her whose drift-wood mask fell, or was lifted, in the whirl of that awful dance; the stare of the Gorgon was not more fatal than a glance of the demon that possessed the idol; and for any one to look on one of the opposite sex, however it came about, he might be even counted as one dead. When the dance was over, the idols and the masks were broken and cast away. It may be added that such masks as this were needed, even by prophets in their interviews with the great spirits that know all mortal consequences; and that when a man died such a mask was put over his eyes—O naked and shivering soul, face to face with the darkest kugan of all we will shelter thee what we can.[V-4]

The Thlinkeets are said not to believe in any supreme being. They have that Yehl, the Raven, and that Khanukh, the Wolf, whom we are already to some extent acquainted with; but neither the exact rank and character 146 of these in the supernatural world, nor even their comparative rank, can be established above contradiction. Thus Yehl is said to be the creator of all beings and things, yet we have not forgotten how Khanukh wrung from the unwilling lips of him the confession: Thou art older that I. It is again said of Yehl that his power is unlimited; but alas, we have seen him helpless in the magic darkness raised by Khanukh, and howling as a frightened child might do in a gloomy corridor. The nature of Yehl is kind and he loves men, while the reverse is generally considered true of Khanukh; but Yehl, too, when his anger is stirred up sends sickness and evil fortune. Yehl existed before his birth upon earth; he cannot die nor even become older. Where the sources of the Nass are, whence the east-wind comes, is Nass-Shakieyehl, the home of Yehl; the east-wind brings news of him. By an unknown mother a son was born to him, who loves mankind even more than his father, and provides their food in due season. To conclude the matter, Yehl is, if not the central figure, at least the most prominent in the Thlinkeet pantheon, and the alpha and the omega of Thlinkeet philosophy and theology is summed up in their favorite aphorism: As Yehl acted and lived, so also will we live and do. After Yehl and Khanukh, the Thlinkeets believe in the brother and sister, Chethl and Ahgishanakhou, the Thunder or Thunder-bird, and the Under-ground Woman. Chethl is a kind of great northern rukh that snatches up and swallows a whale without difficulty, while his wings and eyes produce thunder and lightning as already described; his sister Ahgishanakhou sits alone below and guards the Irminsul that supports the world of the North-west.[V-5]


The Thlinkeets have no idols, unless the little images 147 sometimes carried by the magicians for charming with may be called by that name; they have no worship nor priests, unless their sorcerers and the rites of them may be entitled to these appellations. These sorcerers or shamáns seem to be much respected; their words and actions are generally believed and acquiesced in by all; though the death of a patient or victim, or supposed victim, is sometimes avenged upon them by the relatives of the deceased. Shamánism is mostly hereditary; as a natural course of things the long array of apparatus, masks, dresses, and so on, is inherited by the son or grandson of the deceased conjurer. The young man must, however, prove himself worthy of his position before it becomes assured to him, by calling up and communicating with spirits. The future shamán retires into a lonely forest or up some mountain, where he lives retired, feeding only on the roots of the panax-horridum, and waiting for the spirits to come to him, which they are generally supposed to do in from two to four weeks. If all go well the meeting takes place, and the chief of the spirits sends to the neophyte a river-otter, in the tongue of which animal is supposed to be hid the whole power and secret of shamánism. The man meets the beast face to face, and four times, each time in a different fashion, he pronounces the syllable 'Oh!' Upon this the otter falls instantly, reaching out at the same time its tongue, which the man cuts off and preserves; hiding it away in a close place, for if any one not initiated should look on this talisman the sight would drive him mad. The otter is skinned by the new shamán and the skin kept for a sign of his profession, while the flesh is buried; it was unlawful to kill a river-otter save on such occasions as have been described. If, however, the spirits will not visit the would-be shamán, nor give him any opportunity to get the otter-tongue as described above, the neophyte visits the tomb of a dead shamán and keeps an awful vigil over night, holding in his living mouth a finger of the dead man or one of his teeth; this constrains the spirits very powerfully to send the necessary otter. 148 When all these things have been done the shamán returns to his family emaciated and worn out, and his new powers are immediately put to the test. His reputation depends on the number of spirits at his command. The spirits are called yek, and to every conjurer a certain number of them are attached as familiars, while there are others on whom he may call in an emergency; indeed every man of whatever rank or profession is attended by a familiar spirit or demon, who only abandons his charge when the man becomes exceedingly bad. The world of spirits in general is divided into three classes: keeyek, tákeeyek, and tékeeyek. The first-class, 'the Upper Ones,' dwell in the north and seem to be connected with the northern lights; they are the spirits of the brave fallen in battle. The other two classes are the spirits of those that died a natural death, and their dwelling is called takankóu. The tákeeyek, 'land-spirits,' appear to the shamáns in the form of land animals. With regard to the tékeeyek, 'sea-spirits' which appear in the form of marine animals, there is some dispute among the Thlinkeets as to whether these spirits were ever the spirits of men like those of the other two classes, or whether they were merely the souls of sea animals.

The supreme feat of a conjurer's power is to throw one of his liege spirits into the body of one who refuses to believe in his power; upon which the possessed is taken with swooning and fits. The hair of a shamán is never cut. As among the Aleuts, a wooden mask is necessary to his safe intercourse with any spirit; separate masks are worn for interviews with separate spirits. When a shamán sickens, his relatives fast for his recovery; when he dies, his body is not burned like that of other men, but put in a box which is set up on a high frame. The first night following his death his body is left in that corner of his hut in which he died. On the second night it is carried to another corner, and so on for four nights till it has occupied successively all the corners of the yourt, all the occupants of which are supposed to fast 149 during this time. On the fifth day the body is tied down on a board, and two bones that the dead man had often used in his rites when alive are stuck, the one in his hair and the other in the bridge of his nose. The head is then covered with a willow basket, and the body taken to its place of sepulture, which is always near the sea-shore; no Thlinkeet ever passes the spot without dropping a little tobacco into the water to conciliate the manes of the mighty dead.[V-6]


The Haidahs believe the great solar spirit to be the creator and supreme ruler; they do not however confuse him with the material sun, who is a shining man walking round the fixed earth and wearing a "radiated" crown. Sometimes the moon is also connected in a confused indefinite way with the great spirit. There is an evil spirit who, according to Dunn, is provided with hoofs and horns, though nothing is said as to the fashion of them, whether orthodox or not. The Haidahs, at least those seen by Mr Poole on Queen Charlotte Island, have no worship, nor did they look upon themselves as in any way responsible to any deity for their actions. As with their northern neighbors, a belief in goblins, spectres, and sorcery seems to be the sum of their religion.


With some at least of the Haidahs there was in existence a rite of this sorcery attended by circumstances of more than ordinary barbarity and ferocity. When the salmon season is over and the provisions of winter have been stored away, feasting and conjuring begin. The chief—who seems to be the principal sorcerer, and indeed to possess little authority save from his connection with the preterhuman powers—goes off to the loneliest and wildest retreat he knows of or can discover in the mountains or forest, and half starves himself there for some weeks till he is worked up to a frenzy of religious insanity and the nawloks—fearful beings of some kind not human—consent to communicate with him by voices or otherwise. During all this observance, the chief is called taamish, and woe to the unlucky Haidah who happens by chance so much as to look on him during its continuance; even if the taamish do not instantly slay the intruder, his neighbors are certain to do so when the thing comes to their knowledge, and if the victim attempt to conceal the affair, or do not himself confess it, the most cruel tortures are added to his fate. At last the inspired demoniac returns to his village, naked save a bear-skin or a ragged blanket, with a chaplet on his head and a red band of alder-bark about his neck. He springs on the first person he meets, bites out and swallows one or more mouthfuls of the man's living flesh wherever he can fix his teeth, then rushes to another and another, repeating his revolting meal till he falls into a torpor from his sudden and half-masticated surfeit of flesh. For some days after this he lies in a kind of coma, "like an over-gorged beast of prey," as Dunn says; the same observer adding that his breath during that time is "like an exhalation from a grave." The victims of this ferocity dare not resist the bite of the taamish; on the contrary, they are sometimes willing to offer themselves to the ordeal, and are always proud of its scars.[V-7]


The Nootkas acknowledge the existence of a great personage 151 called Quahootze, whose habitation is apparently in the sky, but of whose nature little is known. When a storm begins to rage dangerously the Nootkas climb to the top of their houses and looking upwards to this great god, they beat drums and chant and call upon his name, imploring him to still the tempest. They fast, as something agreeable to the same deity, before setting out on the hunt, and, if their success warrant it, hold a feast in his honor after their return. This festival is held usually in December, and it was formerly the custom to finish it with a human sacrifice, an atrocity now happily fallen into disuse; a boy, with knives stuck through the superficial flesh of his arms, legs, and sides, being exhibited as a substitute for the ancient victim.

Matlose is a famous hob-goblin of the Nootkas; he is a very Caliban of spirits; his head is like the head of something that might have been a man but is not; his uncouth bulk is horrid with black bristles; his monstrous teeth and nails are like the fangs and claws of a bear. Whoever hears his terrible voice falls like one smitten, and his curved claws rend a prey into morsels with a single stroke.

The Nootkas, like so many American peoples, have a tradition of a supernatural teacher and benefactor, an old man that came to them up the Sound long ago. His canoe was copper, and the paddles of it copper; every thing he had on him or about him was of the same metal. He landed and instructed the men of that day in many things; telling them that he came from the sky, that their country should be eventually destroyed, that they should all die, but after death rise and live with him above. Then all the people rose up angry, and took his canoe from him, and slew him; a crime from which their descendants have derived much benefit, for copper and the use of it have remained with them ever since. Huge images, carved in wood, still stand in their houses intended to represent the form and hold in remembrance the visit of this old man—by which visit is not improbably intended to be signified an avatar or incarnation 152 of that chief deity, or great spirit, worshiped by many Californian tribes as 'the Old Man above.'

The Ahts regard the moon and the sun as their highest deities, the moon being the husband and the sun the wife. To the moon chiefly, as the more powerful deity, they pray for what they require; and to both moon and sun, as to all good deities, their prayers are addressed directly and without the intervention of the sorcerers. Quawteaht—which seems to be a local Aht modification of Quahootze—who made most things that are in the world, was the first to teach the people to worship these luminaries who, over all and seeing all, are more powerful than himself, though more distant and less active. There is also that Tootooch, thunder-bird, of which so much has been already said.

The Nootkas, in general, believe in the existence of numberless spirits of various kinds, and in the efficacy of sorcery. As in neighboring nations, the shamán gains or renews his inspiration by fasting and solitary meditation in some retired place, re-appearing at the end of his vigil half-starved and half-insane, but filled with the black virtue of his art. He does not generally collect a meal of living human flesh like the taamish of the preceding family, but he is satisfied with what his teeth can tear from the corpses in the burial-places. Old women are admitted to a share in the powers of sorcery and prophecy and the interpretation of omens and dreams; the latter a most important function, as few days and nights pass over a Nootka house that do not give occasion by some vision or occurrence for the office of the sibyl or the augur.[V-8]



The Okanagans believe in a good spirit or master of life, called Elemehumkillanwaist or Skyappe; and in a bad spirit Kishtsamah or Chacha; both moving constantly through the air, so that nothing can be done without their knowledge. The Okanagans have no worship public or private, but before engaging in anything of importance they offer up a short prayer to the good spirit for assistance; again on state occasions, a pipe is passed round and each one smokes three whiffs toward the rising sun, the same toward the setting, and the same respectively toward the heaven above and the earth beneath. Then they have their great mythic ruler and heroine, Scomalt, whose story is intimately connected with a kind of Okanagan fall or paradise lost. Long ago, so long ago that the sun was quite young and very small and no bigger than a star, there was an island far out at sea called Samahtumiwhoolah, or the White Man's Island. It was inhabited by a white race of gigantic stature, and governed by a tall fair woman called Scomalt; and she was a great and strong 'medicine,' this Scomalt. At last the peace of the island was destroyed by war, and the noise of battle was heard, the white men fighting the one with the other; and Scomalt was exceedingly wroth. She rose up and said: lo, now I will drive these wicked far from me; my soul shall be no longer vexed concerning them, neither shall they trouble the faithful of my people with their strivings any more. And she drove the rebellious together to the uttermost end of the island, and broke off the piece of land on which they were huddled, and pushed it out to sea to 154 drift whither it would. This floating island was tossed to and fro many days and buffeted of the winds exceedingly, so that all the people thereon died save one man and one woman, who, seeing their island was ready to sink, made themselves a canoe and gat them away toward the west. After paddling day and night for many suns, they came to certain islands, whence steering through them, they came at last to where the mainland was, being the territory that the Okanagans now inhabit; it was, however, much smaller in those days, having grown much since. This man and woman were so sorely weather-beaten when they landed that they found their original whiteness quite gone, and a dusky reddish color in its place. All the people of the continent are descended from this pair, and the dingy skin of their storm-tossed ancestors has become a characteristic of the race. And even, as in time past the wrath of the fair Scomalt loosed the island of their ancestors from its mainland, and sent it adrift with its burden of sinful men, so in a time to come, the deep lakes, that like some Hannibal's vinegar soften the rocks of the foundations of the world, and the rivers that run for ever and gnaw them away, shall set the earth afloat again; then shall the end of the world be, the awful itsowleigh.[V-9]

The Salish tribes believe the sun to be the chief deity, and certain ceremonies, described by Mr Lord as having taken place on the death of a chief, seem to indicate that fire is in some way connected with the great light.[V-10] The chief is ex officio a kind of priest, presiding for the most part at the various observances by which the deity of the sun is recognized. There is the usual belief in sorcery and second sight, and individuals succeed, by force of 155 special gifts for fasting and lonely meditation, in having themselves accounted conjurers—an honor of dubious profit, as medicine-men are constantly liable to be shot by an enraged relative of any one whose death they may be supposed to have brought about.


The Clallams, a coast tribe on the mainland opposite the south end of Vancouver Island, have a principal good deity called by various names, and an evil spirit called Skoocoom; to these some add a certain Teyutlma, 'the genius of good fortune.' The medicine-men of the tribe are supposed to have much influence both for good and evil with these spirits and with all the demon race, or sehuiáb as the latter are sometimes called. In this tribe the various conjurers are united by the bonds of a secret society, the initiation into which is attended by a good deal of ceremony and expense. Three days and three nights must the novice of the order fast alone in a mysterious lodge prepared for him, round which during all that time the brethren already initiated sing and dance. This period elapsed, during which it would seem that the old nature has been killed out of him, he is taken up like one dead and soused into the nearest cold water, where he is washed till he revives; which thing they call "washing the dead." When his senses are sufficiently gathered to him, he is set on his feet; upon which he runs off into the forest, whence he soon reappears a perfect medicine-man, rattle in hand and decked out with the various trappings of his profession. He then parts all his worldly gear among his friends, himself henceforth to be supported only by the fees of his new calling.[V-11]

Ikánam, the creator of the universe, is a powerful deity among the Chinooks, who have a mountain named after him from a belief that he there turned himself into stone. After him, or before him as many say, comes Italapas, the Coyote, who created men after an imperfect fashion,[V-12] taught them how to make nets and catch salmon, how to 156 make a fire, and how to cook; for this the first fruits of the fishing season are always sacred to him, and his figure is to be found carved on the head of almost every Chinook canoe on the Columbia. They have a fire-spirit, an evil spirit, and a body of familiar spirits, tamanowas. Each person has his special spirit, selected by him at an early age, sometimes by fasting and other mortification of the flesh, sometimes by the adoption of the first object the child or young man sees, or thinks he sees, on visiting the woods. These spirits have a great effect on the imagination of the Chinooks, and their supposed directions are followed under pain of mysterious and awful punishments; people converse—"particularly when in the water"—with them, apparently talking to themselves in low monotonous tones. Some say that when a man dies his tamanowa passes to his son; but the whole matter is darkened with much mystery and secrecy; the name of one's familiar spirit or guardian never being mentioned even to the nearest friend. A similar custom forbids the mention of a dead man's name, at least till many years have elapsed after the bereavement.

The Chinook medicine-men are possessed of the usual powers of converse and mediation with the spirits good and evil; there are two classes of them, employed in all cases of sickness—the etaminuas, or priests, who intercede for the soul of the patient, and, if necessary, for its safe passage to the land of spirits—and the keelalles, or doctors, sometimes women, whose duty it is to administer medical as well as spiritual aid.[V-13]

With the Cayuses and the Walla-Wallas any one may become a medicine-man; among the Nez Percés the office belongs to an hereditary order. Women are sometimes trained to the profession, but they are not believed to hold such extreme powers as the males, nor are they murdered on the supposed exercise of some fatal influence. 157 For, as with the Chinooks[V-14] so here, the reputation of sorcerer is at once the most terrible to others and the most dangerous to one's self that one can have. His is a power of life, and death; his evil eye can wither and freeze a hated life if not as swiftly at least as surely as the stare of the Medusa; he is mortal, however—he can slay your friend or yourself, and death is bitter, but then how sweet an anodyne is revenge! There is no strong magic can avail when the heart's blood trickles down the avenger's shaft, no cunning enchantment that can keep the life in when his tomahawk crumbles the skull like a potsherd—and so it comes about that the conjurers walk everywhere with their life in their hand, and are constrained to be very wary in their exercise of their nefarious powers.[V-15]


The Shoshone legends people certain parts of the mountains of Montana with little imps or demons called ninumbees, who are about two feet long, perfectly naked, and provided each with a tail. These limbs of the evil one are accustomed to eat up any unguarded infant they may find, leaving in its stead one of their own baneful race. When the mother comes to suckle what she supposes to be her child, the fiendish changeling seizes her breast and begins to devour it; then, although her screams and the alarm thereby given soon force the malicious imp to make his escape, there is no hope further; she dies within the twenty-four hours, and if not well watched in the meantime, the little demon will even return and make an end of her by finishing his interrupted meal. There is another variety of these hobgoblins call pahonahs, 'water-infants,' who devour women and children as do their brother-fiends of the mountain, and complete the ring of ghoulish terror that closes round the Shoshone child and mother.[V-16]


The Californian tribes, taken as a whole, are pretty uniform in the main features of their theogonic beliefs. They seem, without exception, to have had a hazy conception of a lofty, almost supreme being; for the most part referred to as a Great Man, the Old Man Above, the One Above; attributing to him, however, as is usual in such cases, nothing but the vaguest and most negative functions and qualities. The real, practical power that most interested them, who had most to do with them and they with him, was a demon, or body of demons, of a tolerably pronounced character. In the face of divers assertions to the effect that no such thing as a devil proper has ever been found in savage mythology, we would draw attention to the following extract from the Pomo manuscript of Mr Powers—a gentleman who, both by his study and by personal investigation, has made himself one of the best qualified authorities on the belief of the native Californian, and whose dealings have been for the most part with tribes that have never had any friendly intercourse with white men:—"Of course the thin and meagre imagination of the American savages was not equal to the creation of Milton's magnificent imperial Satan, or of Goethe's Mephistopheles, with his subtle intellect, his vast powers, his malignant mirth; but in so far as the Indian fiends or devils have the ability, they are wholly as wicked as these. They are totally bad, they have no good thing in them, they think only evil; but they are weak and undignified and absurd; they are as much beneath Satan as the 'Big Indians' who invent them are inferior in imagination to John Milton."[V-17]

A definite location is generally assigned to the evil one as his favorite residence or resort; thus the Californians in the county of Siskiyou, give over Devil's Castle, its mount and lake, to the malignant spirits, and avoid the vicinity of these places with all possible care.


The medicine-man of these people is a personage of some importance, dressing in the most costly furs; he is a non-combatant, not coming on the field till after the fight; among 159 other duties, it is absolutely necessary for him to visit any camp from which the tribe has been driven by the enemy, there to chant the death-song and appease the angry spirit that wrought this judgment of defeat, for only after this has been done is it thought safe to light again the lodge-fires on the old hearths. Once lit these lodge-fires are never allowed to go out during times of peace; it would be a bad omen, and omens are everything with these men, and deducible from all things. The power of prophecy is thoroughly believed in, and is credited not only to special seers, but also to distinguished warriors going into battle; in the latter case, as far at least as their own several fate is concerned; this, according to Mr Miller, they often predict with startling accuracy.[V-18]

There is a strange sacredness mixed up with the sweat-house and its use, among the Cahrocs, the Eurocs, and many other tribes. The men of every village spend the winter and rainy season in its warm shelter; but squaws are forbidden to enter, under penalty of death, except when they are initiated into the ranks of the 'medicines.' So consistent are the Indians in this matter, that women are not allowed even to gather the wood that is to be burned in the sacred fire of a sweat-house; all is done by men, and that only with certain precautions and ceremonies. The sacred fire is lit every year in September by a 'medicine' who has gone out into the forest and fasted and meditated for ten days; and, till a certain time has elapsed, no secular eye must behold so much as the smoke of it under awful penalties. The flame once burning is never suffered to go out till the spring begins to render further heat unnecessary and inconvenient.

On one only occasion is the ban lifted from the head of women; when a female is being admitted to the medicine ranks, she is made to dance in the sweat-house till she falls exhausted. It does not appear, however, that even by becoming a medicine can she hope to see twice the interior of this lodge.


The admission of a man to the medicine is a much severer affair. He must retire to the forest for ten days, eating no meat the while, and only enough acorn-porridge to keep the life in him; the ten days past, he returns to the sweat-house and leaps up and down till he falls, just as the woman did.

The doctors or sorcerers are of two kinds, 'root doctors' and 'barking doctors.' To the barking doctor falls the diagnosis of a case of sickness. He, or she, squats down opposite the patient, and barks at him after the manner of an enraged cur, for hours together. If it be a poisoning case, or a case of malady inflicted by some conjurer, the barking doctor then goes on to suck the evil thing out through the skin or administer emetics, as may be deemed desirable. If the case, however, be one of less serious proportions, the 'barker,' after having made his diagnosis, retires, and the root-doctor comes in, who, with his herbs and simples and a few minor incantations, proceeds to cure the ailment. If a patient die, then the medicine is forced to return his fee; and if he refuse to attend on anyone and the person die, then he is forced to pay to the relatives a sum equal to that which was tendered to him as a fee in the beginning of the affair; thus like all professions, that of a medicine has its draw-backs as well as advantages.

Several Northern Californian tribes have secret societies which meet in a lodge set apart, or in a sweat-house, and engage in mummeries of various kinds, all to frighten their women. The men pretend to converse with the devil, and make their meeting-place shake and ring again with yells and whoops. In some instances, one of their number, disguised as the master fiend himself, issues from the haunted lodge, and rushes like a madman through the village, doing his best to frighten contumacious women and children out of their senses. This, it would seem, has been going on from time immemorial and the poor women are still gulled by it, and even frightened into more or less prolonged fits of wifely propriety and less easy virtue. 161


The coast tribes of Del Norte County, California, live in constant terror of a malignant spirit that takes the form of certain animals, the form of a bat, of a hawk, of a tarantula, and so on—but especially delights in and affects that of a screech-owl. The belief of the Russian-River tribes and others is practically identical with this.

The Cahrocs have, as we already know, some conception of a great deity, called Chareya, the Old Man Above; he is wont to appear upon earth at times to some of the most favored sorcerers; he is described as wearing a close tunic, with a medicine-bag, and as having long white hair that falls venerably about his shoulders. Practically, however, the Cahrocs, like the majority of Californian tribes, venerate chiefly the coyote. Great dread is also had of certain forest-demons of nocturnal habits; these, say the Eurocs, take the form of bears and shoot arrows at benighted wayfarers.[V-19]

Between the foregoing outlines of Californian belief and those connected with the remaining tribes, passing south, we can detect no salient difference till we reach the Olchones, a coast tribe between San Francisco and Monterey; the sun here begins to be connected, or identified by name, with that great spirit, or rather, that Big Man, who made the earth and who rules in the sky.[V-20] So we find it again both around Monterey and around San Luis Obispo; the first fruits of the earth were offered in these neighborhoods to the great light, and his rising was greeted with cries of joy.[V-21]

Father Gerónimo Boscana[V-22] gives us the following 162 relation of the faith and worship of the Acagchemem nations, in the valley and neighborhood of San Juan Capistrano, California. Part of it would fall naturally into that part of this work alloted to origin; but the whole is so intimately mixed with so much concerning the life, deeds, and worship of various supernatural personages that it has seemed better to fit its present position than any other. Of the first part of the tradition there are two versions—if indeed they be versions of the same tradition. We give first that version held by the serranos, or highlanders, of the interior country, three or four leagues inland from the said San Juan Capistrano:—

Before the material world at all existed there lived two beings, brother and sister, of a nature that can not be explained; the brother living above, and his name meaning the Heavens, the sister living below and her name signifying Earth. From the union of these two, there sprang a numerous offspring. Earth and sand were the first fruits of this marriage; then were born rocks and stones; then trees both great and small; then grass and herbs; then animals; lastly was born a great personage called Ouiot, who was a "grand captain." By some unknown mother many children of a medicine race were born to this Ouiot. All these things happened in the north; and afterward when men were created they were created in the north; but as the people multiplied they moved toward the south, the earth growing larger also and extending itself in the same direction.


In process of time, Ouiot becoming old, his children plotted to kill him, alleging that the infirmities of 163 age made him unfit any longer to govern them or attend to their welfare. So they put a strong poison in his drink, and when he drank of it a sore sickness came upon him; he rose up and left his home in the mountains and went down to what is now the sea-shore, though at that time there was no sea there. His mother, whose name is the Earth, mixed him an antidote in a large shell, and set the potion out in the sun to brew; but the fragrance of it attracted the attention of the Coyote, who came and overset the shell. So Ouiot sickened to death, and though he told his children that he would shortly return and be with them again, he has never been seen since. All the people made a great pile of wood and burnt his body there, and just as the ceremony began the Coyote leaped upon the body, saying that he would burn with it; but he only tore a piece of flesh from the stomach and ate it and escaped. After that the title of the Coyote was changed from Eyacque, which means Sub-captain, to Eno, that is to say, Thief and Cannibal.

When now the funeral rites were over, a general council was held and arrangements made for collecting animal and vegetable food; for up to this time the children and descendants of Ouiot had nothing to eat but a kind of white clay. And while they consulted together, behold a marvelous thing appeared before them, and they spoke to it saying: Art thou our captain, Ouiot. But the spectre said: Nay, for I am greater than Ouiot; my habitation is above, and my name is Chinigchinich. Then he spoke further, having been told for what they were come together: I create all things, and I go now to make man, another people like unto you; as for you I give you power, each after his kind, to produce all good and pleasant things. One of you shall bring rain, and another dew, and another make the acorn grow, and others other seeds, and yet others shall cause all kinds of game to abound in the land; and your children shall have this power for ever, and they shall be sorcerers to the men I go to create, and shall receive gifts of them, 164 that the game fail not and the harvests be sure. Then Chinigchinich made man; out of the clay of the lake he formed him, male and female; and the present Californians are the descendants of the one or more pairs there and thus created.

So ends the known tradition of the mountaineers; we must now go back and take up the story anew at its beginning, as told by the playanos, or people of the valley of San Juan Capistrano. These say that an invisible all-powerful being, called Nocuma, made the world and all that it contains of things that grow and move. He made it round like a ball and held it in his hands, where it rolled about a good deal at first, till he steadied it by sticking a heavy black rock called tosaut into it, as a kind of ballast. The sea was at this time only a little stream running round the world, and so crowded with fish that their twinkling fins had no longer room to move; so great was the press that some of the more foolish fry were for effecting a landing and founding a colony, upon the dry land, and it was only with the utmost difficulty that they were persuaded by their elders, that the killing air and baneful sun and the want of feet must infallibly prove the destruction before many days of all who took part in such a desperate enterprise. The proper plan was evidently to improve and enlarge their present home; and to this end, principally by the aid of one very large fish, they broke the great rock tosaut in two, finding a bladder in the centre filled with a very bitter substance. The taste of it pleased the fish, so they emptied it into the water, and instantly the water became salt and swelled up and overflowed a great part of the old earth, and made itself the new boundaries that remain to this day.

Then Nocuma created a man, shaping him out of the soil of the earth, calling him Ejoni. A woman also the great god made, presumably of the same material as the man, calling her Aé. Many children were born to this first pair, and their descendants multiplied over the land. The name of one of these last was Sirout, that is to say, 165 Handful of Tobacco, and the name of his wife was Ycaiut, which means Above; and to Sirout and Ycaiut was born a son, while they lived in a place north-east about eight leagues from San Juan Capistrano. The name of this son was Ouiot, that is to say Dominator; he grew a fierce and redoubtable warrior; haughty, ambitious, tyrannous, he extended his lordship on every side, ruling everywhere as with a rod of iron; and the people conspired against him. It was determined that he should die by poison; a piece of the rock tosaut was ground up in so deadly a way that its mere external application was sufficient to cause death. Ouiot, notwithstanding that he held himself constantly on the alert, having been warned of his danger by a small burrowing animal called the cucumel, was unable to avoid his fate; a few grains of the cankerous mixture were dropped upon his breast while he slept, and the strong mineral ate its way to the very springs of his life. All the wise men of the land were called to his assistance; but there was nothing for him save to die. His body was burned on a great pile with songs of joy and dances, and the nation rejoiced.


While the people were gathered to this end, it was thought advisable to consult on the feasibility of procuring seed and flesh to eat instead of the clay which had up to this time been the sole food of the human family. And while they yet talked together, there appeared to them, coming they knew not whence, one called Attajen, "which name implies man, or rational being." And Attajen, understanding their desires, chose out certain of the elders among them, and to these gave he power; one that he might cause rain to fall, to another that he might cause game to abound, and so with the rest, to each his power and gift, and to the successors of each for ever. These were the first medicine-men.

Many years having elapsed since the death of Ouiot, there appeared in the same place one called Ouiamot, reputed son of Tacu and Auzar—people unknown, but natives; it is thought by Boscana, of "some distant land." This Ouiamot is better known by his great name Chinigchinich, 166 which means Almighty. He first manifested his powers to the people on a day when they had met in congregation for some purpose or other; he appeared dancing before them crowned with a kind of high crown made of tall feathers stuck into a circlet of some kind, girt with a kind of petticoat of feathers, and having his flesh painted black and red. Thus decorated he was called the tobet. Having danced some time, Chinigchinich called out the medicine-men, or puplems as they were called, among whom it would appear the chiefs are always numbered, and confirmed their power; telling them that he had come from the stars to instruct them in dancing and all other things, and commanding that in all their necessities they should array themselves in the tobet, and so dance as he had danced, supplicating him by his great name, that thus they might receive of their petitions. He taught them how to worship him, how to build vanquechs, or places of worship, and how to direct their conduct in various affairs of life. Then he prepared to die, and the people asked him if they should bury him; but he warned them against attempting such a thing: If ye buried me, he said, ye would tread upon my grave, and for that my hand would be heavy upon you; look to it, and to all your ways, for lo, I go up where the high stars are, where mine eyes shall see all the ways of men; and whosoever will not keep my commandments nor observe the things I have taught, behold disease shall plague all his body, and no food shall come near his lips, the bear shall rend his flesh, and the crooked tooth of the serpent shall sting him.


The vanquech, or place of worship, seems to have been an unroofed inclosure of stakes, within which, on a hurdle, was placed the image of the god Chinigchinich. This image was the skin of a coyote or that of a mountain-cat stuffed with the feathers of certain birds, and with various other things, so that it looked like a live animal; a bow and some arrows were attached to it on the outside, and other arrows were thrust down its throat so 167 that the feathers of them appeared at the mouth as out of a quiver. The whole place of the inclosure was sacred, and not to be approached without reverence; it does not seem that sacrifices formed any part of the worship there offered, but only prayer, and sometimes a kind of pantomime connected with the undertaking desired to be furthered—thus, desiring success in hunting one mimicked the actions of the chase, leaping and twanging one's bow. Each vanquech was a city of refuge, with rights of sanctuary exceeding any ever granted in Jewish or Christian countries. Not only was every criminal safe there whatever his crime, but the crime was as it were blotted out from that moment, and the offender was at liberty to leave the sanctuary and walk about as before; it was not lawful even to mention his crime; all that the avenger could do was to point at him and deride him, saying: Lo, a coward, who has been forced to flee to Chinigchinich! This flight was rendered so much a meaner thing in that it only turned the punishment from the head of him that fled upon that of some of his relatives; life went for life, eye for eye, and tooth for tooth, even to the third and fourth generation, for justice' sake.

Besides Chinigchinich they worshiped, or at any rate feared, a god called Touch; who inhabited the mountains and the bowels of the earth, appearing, however, from time to time in the form of various animals of a terrifying kind. Every child at the age of six or seven received, sent to him from this god, some animal as a protector. To find out what this animal or spirit in the shape of animal was, narcotic drinks were swallowed, or the subject fasted and watched in the vanquech for a given time, generally three days. He whose rank entitled him to wait for his guardian apparition in the sacred inclosure, was set there by the side of the god's image, and on the ground before him was sketched by one of the wise men an uncouth figure of some animal. The child was then left to complete his vigil, being warned at the same time to endure its hardships with patience, in that any attempt to infringe upon its rules, 168 by eating or drinking or otherwise, would be reported to the god by the sprawling figure the enchanter had drawn in the clay, and that in such a case the punishment of Chinigchinich would be terrible. After all this was over, a scar was made on the child's right arm, and sometimes on the thick part of the leg also, by covering the part, "according to the figure required," with a peculiar herb dried and powdered, and setting fire to it. This was a brand or seal required by Chinigchinich, and was besides supposed to strengthen the nerves and give "a better pulse for the management of the bow."[V-23]

The Acagchemems, like many other Californian tribes,[V-24] regard the great buzzard with sentiments of veneration, while they seem to have had connected with it several rites and ideas peculiar to themselves. They called this bird the panes, and once every year they had a festival of the same name, in which the principal ceremony was the killing of a buzzard without losing a drop of its blood. It was next skinned, all possible care being taken to preserve the feathers entire, as these were used in making the feathered petticoat and diadem, already described as part of the tobet. Last of all the body was buried within the sacred inclosure amid great apparent grief from the old women, they mourning as over the loss of relative or friend. Tradition explained this: the panes had indeed been once a woman, whom, wandering in the mountain ways, the great god Chinigchinich had come suddenly upon and changed into a bird. How this was connected with the killing of her anew every year by the people, and with certain extraordinary ideas held relative to that killing is, however, by no means clear; for it was believed that as often as the bird was killed it was made alive again, and more, and faith to move mountains—that the birds killed in one same yearly feast in many separate villages were one and the same bird. How these things were or why, none knew, it was enough 169 that they were a commandment and ordinance of Chinigchinich, whose ways were not as the ways of men.[V-25]


The Pericues of Lower California were divided into two sects, worshiping two hostile divinities who made a war of extermination upon each other. The tradition explains that there was a great lord in heaven, called Niparaya, who made earth and sea, and was almighty and invisible. His wife was Anayicoyondi, a goddess who, though possessing no body, bore him in a divinely mysterious manner three children; one of whom, Quaayayp, was a real man and born on earth, on the Acaragui mountains. Very powerful this young god was, and a long time he lived with the ancestors of the Pericues, whom it is almost to be inferred that he created; at any rate we are told that he was able to make men, drawing them up out of the earth. The men at last killed this their great hero and teacher, and put a crown of thorns upon his head.[V-26] Somewhere or other he remains lying dead to this day, and he remains constantly beautiful, neither does his body know corruption. Blood drips constantly from his wounds, and he can speak no more, being dead; yet there is an owl that speaks to him. And besides the before-spoken-of god Niparaya in heaven, there was another and hostile god called Wac or Tuparan. According to the Niparaya sect, this Wac had made war on their favorite god, and been by him defeated and cast forth of heaven into a cave under the earth, of which cave the whales of the sea were the guardians. With a perverse, though not unnatural obstinacy, the sect that held Wac or Tuparan to be their great god persisted in holding ideas peculiar to themselves with regard to the truth of the foregoing story; and their account of the great war in heaven and its results differed from the other, as differ the creeds of heterodox and orthodox everywhere; they ascribe, for example, part of the creation to other gods besides 170 Niparaya.[V-27] The Cochimis and remaining natives of the Californian peninsula seem to have held in the main much the same ideas with regard to the gods and powers above them as the Pericues held, and the sorcerers of all had the common blowings, leapings, fastings, and other mummeries that make these professors of the sinister art so much alike everywhere in our territory.[V-28]

The natives of Nevada have ideas respecting a great kind Spirit of some kind, as well as a myth concerning an evil one; but they have no special class set apart as medicine-men.[V-29] The Utah belief seems to be as nearly as possible identical with that of Nevada.[V-30]

The Comanches acknowledge more or less vaguely a Supreme Spirit, but seem to use the Sun and the Earth as mediators with and, in some sort, as embodiments of him. They have a recognized body of sorcerers called puyacantes, and various religious ceremonies and chants; for the most part of a simple kind, and directed to the Sun as the great source of life, and to the Earth as the producer and receptacle of all that sustains life. According to the Abbé Domenech, every Comanche wears a little figure of the sun attached to his neck, or has a picture of it painted on his shield; from the ears of each hang also two crescents, which may possibly represent the moon.[V-31]

The Apaches recognize a supreme power in heaven under the name Yaxtaxitaxitanne, the creator and master of all things; but they render him no open service nor worship. To any taciturn cunning man they are accustomed to credit intercourse with a preternatural power of some kind, and to look to him as a sort of oracle in various emergencies. This is, in fact, their medicine-man, and 171 in cases of illness he pretends to perform cures by the aid of herbs and ceremonies of various kinds.[V-32]

The Navajos, having the usual class of sorcerers, call their good deity Whaillahay, and their evil one Chinday; the principal use of their good god seems to be to protect them from their evil one. In smoking they sometimes puff their tobacco-smoke toward heaven with great formality; this is said to bring rain; to the same end certain long round stones, thought to be cast down by the clouds in a thunderstorm, are used with various ceremonies.

The sun, moon, and stars are thought to be powers connected with rain and fine weather; while the god Montezuma of their Pueblo neighbors is unknown among them.[V-33]


All the Pueblo cities, though speaking different languages hold substantially the same faith. They seem to assent to the statement of the existence of a great and good spirit whose name is too sacred to be mentioned; but most say that Montezuma is his equal; and some, again, that the Sun is the same as or equal to Montezuma. There are, besides, the lesser divinities of water—Montezuma being considered in one aspect as the great rain-god, and as such often mentioned as being aided by or being in connection with a serpent. Over and above all these, the existence of a general class or body of evil spirits is taken for granted.

Many places in New Mexico claim to be the birthplace of the great leader, teacher, and god Montezuma. At any rate he is traditionally supposed to have appeared among the Pueblos before they had arrived at or built their present towns. Some traditions would make him either the ancestor or the creator of the same people; but 172 the most regard him as a kind of semi or wholly divine priest, prophet, leader, and legislator. Under restrictions pointed out in a former note,[V-34] we may fairly regard him as at once the Melchizedek, the Moses, and the Messiah of these Pueblo desert wanderers from an Egypt that history is ignorant of, and whose name even tradition whispers not. He taught his people to build cities with tall houses, to construct estufas, or semi-sacred sweat-houses, and to kindle and guard the sacred fire.

At Acoma, it is said by some, was established the first Pueblo, and thence the people marched southward, forming others. Acoma was one, and Pecos another. At this last, Montezuma planted a tree upside down, and said that, on his leaving them, a strange nation should oppress them for many years, years also in which there should be no rain, but that they were to persist in watching the sacred fire until the tree fell, when he would return, with a white race which should destroy their enemies; and then rain should fall again and the earth be fertile. It is said that this tree fell from its abnormal position, as the American army entered Santa Fé.


The watching of the fire, kept up in subterranean estufas, under a covering of ashes generally, and in the basin of a small altar, was no light task. The warriors took the post by turns, some said, for two successive days and nights, sans food, sans drink, sans sleep, sans everything. Others affirm that this watching was kept up till exhaustion and even death relieved the guard—the last not to be wondered at, seeing the insufferable closeness of the place and the accumulation of carbonic acid. The remains of the dead were, it was sometimes supposed, carried off by a monstrous serpent. This holy fire was believed to be the palladium of the city, and the watchers by it could well dream of that day, when, coming with the sun, Montezuma should descend by the column of smoke whose roots they fed, and should fill the shabby 173 little estufa with a glory like that in a wilderness tabernacle they knew not of, where a more awful pillar of smoke shadowed the mystic cherubim. Hope dies hard, and the dim memories of a great past never quite fade away from among any people. No true-born British bard ever doubted of Arthur's return from his kingly rest in Avalon, nor that the flash of Excalibar should be one day again as the lightning of death in the eyes of the hated Saxon. The herders on the shore of Lucerne know that were Switzerland in peril, the Tell would spring from his sleep as at the crack of doom. "When Germany is at her lowest then is her greatness nearest" say the weird old ballads of that land; for then shall the Great Kaiser rise from the vault in the Kyffhäuser—Barbarossa shall rise, though his beard be grown through the long stone table. Neither is the Frank without his savior: Sing, O troubadours, sing and strike the chords proudly! Who shall prevail while Charlemagne but sleeps in the shadow of the Untersberg?—And so our Pueblo sentinel climbing the housetop at Pecos, looking ever eastward from Santo Domingo on the Rio Grande; he too waits for the beautiful feet upon the mountains and the plumes of him—

Who dwelt up in the yellow sun,

And sorrowing for man's despair,

Slid by his trailing yellow hair

To earth, to rule with love and bring

The blessedness of peace.[V-35]

The Pueblo chiefs seem to be at the same time priests; they perform the various simple rites by which the power of the sun and of Montezuma is recognized as well as the power—according to some accounts—of "the Great Snake, to whom by order of Montezuma they are to look for life;" they also officiate in certain ceremonies with which they pray for rain. There are painted representations of the Great Snake, together with that of a misshapen red-haired man declared to stand for Montezuma. Of this last there was also in 1845, in the pueblo of 174 Laguna, a rude effigy or idol, intended, apparently, to represent only the head of the deity; it was made of tanned skin in the form of a brimless hat or cylinder open at the bottom. Half-way round, it was painted red; the other half was green. The green side was rudely marked to suggest a face: two triangles were cut for eyes; there was no nose; a circular leather patch served for a mouth, and two other patches in an appropriate situation suggested ears. Crowning the head was a small tuft of leather, said to be supplemented by feathers on festal occasions. A sorry image one would say, yet one looked upon by its exhibitors with apparently the greatest veneration; they kneeling in a most devoted manner, going through a form of prayer, and sprinkling it with a white powder. One of the worshipers said it was God and the brother of God; and the people bring it out in dry seasons, and, with dancing and other rites, invoke it for rain.

Christianity has now effaced the memory of most of the rites of the Pueblo religion, but Dr Ten Broeck noticed that many of the worshipers at the Christian church in Laguna carried little baskets in their hands containing images of domestic animals, or of beasts of the chase, molded in mud or dough; it being the custom, as it had been there from time immemorial, for those that had been successful in the chase, or in accumulating cattle, to bring such simulachres of their prosperity before the altar of God—probably, a modification produced by the poverty of the people of a rite as old as the altar of Abel, to wit, the offering of the firstlings and first-fruits to that Deity whose blessing had given the increase.

It has been affirmed, without much foundation or probability of truth, that the Pueblos worshiped fire and water.[V-36]


The Moquis know nothing of Montezuma; they believe in a Great Father, living where the sun rises, and in a great Mother, whose home is where the sun goes down. This Father is the father of evil, war, pestilence, and famine; but from the mother are all their joy, peace, plenty, and health.[V-37]


The Mojaves tell of a certain Matevil, creator of heaven and earth, who was wont in time past to remain among them in a certain grand casa. This habitation was, however, by some untoward event broken down; the nations were destroyed; and Matevil departed eastward. Whence, in the latter days, he will again return to consolidate, prosper, and live with his people forever. This Matevil, or Mathowelia, has a son called Mastamho, who made the water and planted trees. There is also an Evil Spirit Newathie.[V-38]

From a letter just received from Judge Roseborough, I am enabled to close this chapter with some new and valuable facts regarding the religious ideas of certain tribes—not accurately specified—of the north-west portion of Upper California. The learned judge has given unusual attention to the subject of which he writes, and his opportunities for procuring information must have been frequent during ten years of travel and residence in the districts of the northern counties of California:—

Among the tribes in the neighborhood of Trinity river is found a legend relating to a certain Wappeckquemow, who was a giant, and apparently the father and leader of 176 a pre-human race like himself. He was expelled from the country that he inhabited—near the mouth of the Klamath—for disobeying or offending some great god, and a curse was pronounced against him, so that not even his descendants should ever return to that land. On the expulsion of these Anakim, the ancestors of the people to whom this legend belongs came down from the north-west, a direction of migration, according to Judge Roseborough, uniformly adhered to in the legends of all the tribes of north-west California. These new settlers, however, like their predecessors of the giant race, quarreled with the great god and were abandoned by him to their own devices, being given over into the hands of certain evil powers or devils. Of these the first is Omahá, who, possessing the shape of a grizzly bear, is invisible and goes about everywhere bringing sickness and misfortune on mankind. Next there is Makalay, a fiend with a horn like a unicorn; he is swift as the wind and moves by great leaps like a kangaroo. The sight of him is usually death to mortals. There is, thirdly, a dreadful being called Kalicknateck, who seems a faithful reproduction of the great thunder-bird of the north: thus Kalicknateck "is a huge bird that sits on the mountain-peak, and broods in silence over his thoughts until hungry; when he will sweep down over the ocean, snatch up a large whale, and carry it to his mountain-throne, for a single meal."

Besides the before-mentioned powers of evil, these Trinity people have legends connected with other personages of the same nature, among whom are Wanuswegock, Surgelp, Napousney, and Nequiteh.

When white miners first came to work on the Trinity River, their advent caused, as may be imagined, much unsatisfactory speculation among the aborigines; some saying one thing of the whites and some another. At last an old seer of the Hoopah Valley settled the question by declaring that the new-comers were descendants of that banished Wappeckquemow, from whose heads the already-mentioned curse, forbidding their return, had been by some means lifted. 177


The coast people in northern California have a story about a mysterious people called Hohgates, to whom is ascribed an immense bed of mussel-shells and bones of animals still existing on the table-land of Point St George, near Crescent City. These Hohgates, seven in number, are said to have come to the place in a boat, to have built themselves "houses above-ground, after the style of white men"—all this about the time that the first natives came down the coast from the north. These Hohgates, living at the point mentioned, killed many elk on land, and many seals and sea-lions in fishing excursions from their boats; using for the latter purpose a kind of harpoon made of a knife attached to a stick, and the whole fastened to the boat with a long line. They also sailed frequently to certain rocks, and loaded their little vessels with mussels. By all this they secured plenty of food, and the refuse of it, the bones and shells and so on, rapidly accumulated into the great kjökken mödding still to be seen. One day, however, all the Hohgates being out at sea in their boat, they struck a huge sea-lion with their rude harpoon, and, unable or unwilling to cut or throw off their line, were dragged with fearful speed toward a great whirlpool, called Chareckquin, that lay far toward the north-west. It is the place where souls go, where in darkness and cold the spirits shiver for ever; living men suffer even from its winds—from the north-west wind, the bleak and bitter Charreck-rawek. And just as the boat reached the edge of this fearful place, behold, a marvelous thing: the rope broke and the sea-monster was swept down alone into the whirl of wind and water, while the Hohgates were caught up into the air; swinging round and round, their boat floated steadily up into the vast of heaven. Nevermore on earth were the Hohgates seen; but there are seven stars in heaven that all men know of, and these stars are the seven Hohgates that once lived where the great shell-bed near Crescent City now is. 178


Gods and Religious Rites of Chihuahua, Sonora, Durango, and Sinaloa—The Mexican Religion, received with different degrees of credulity by different classes of the people—Opinions of different Writers as to its Nature—Monotheism of Nezahualcoyotl—Present condition of the Study of Mexican Mythology—Tezcatlipoca—Prayers to Him in time of Pestilence, of War, for those in Authority—Prayer used by an Absolving Priest—Genuineness of the foregoing PrayersCharacter and Works of Sahagun.

From the Pueblo cities let us now pass down into Mexico, glancing first at the northern and north-western neighbors of this great people that ruled on the plateau of Anáhuac. The Chihuahuans worshiped a great god called by them the 'captain of heaven' and recognized a lesser divinity as abiding in and inspiring their priests and medicine-men. They rendered homage to the sun; and when any comet or other phenomenon appeared in the heavens they offered sacrifice thereto; their sacrifice being much after the Mexican fashion—fruits, herbs, and such things as they had, together with blood drawn from their bodies by the pricks of a thorn.[VI-1]


In Sonora—the great central heart of Mexico making its beatings more and more clearly felt as we approach it nearer—the vague feelings of awe and reverence with which the savage regards the unseen, unknown, and unknowable powers, begin at last to somewhat lose their 179 vagueness and to crystallize into the recognition of a power to be represented and symbolized by a god made with hands. The offerings thereto begin also, more and more, to lose their primitive simple shape, and the blood, without which is no remission of sins, stains the rude altar that a more Arcadian race had only heaped with flowers and fruit. The natives of Sonora bring, says Las Casas, "many deer, wolves, hares, and birds before a large idol, with music of many flutes and other instruments of theirs; then cutting open the animals through the middle, they take out their hearts and hang them round the neck of the image, wetting it with the flowing blood. It is certain that the only offering made in all this province of Sonora was the hearts of brutes."[VI-2] All this they did more especially in two great festivals they had, the one at seed-time, the other at harvest; and we have reason to rejoice that the thing was no worse, reason to be glad that the hearts of brave men and fair women, and soft children not knowing their right hand from their left, were not called for, as in the land of the eagle and cactus banner, to feed that devil's Minotaur, superstition.

The people of Durango called the principal power in which they believed Meyuncame, that is to say, Maker of All Things; they had another god, Cachiripa, whose name is all we know of him. They had besides innumerable private idols, penates of all possible and impossible figures; some being stone, shaped by nature only. In one village they worshiped a great flint knife that their flint implements of every kind might be good and sure. They had gods of storm and gods of sunshine, gods of good and gods of evil, gods of everything in heaven above or in the earth beneath or in the waters under the earth. Their idols received bloody sacrifices, not always of beasts; a bowl containing beans and the cooked human flesh of an enemy was offered to them for success in war.[VI-3]


Much of the preceding paragraph belongs also to Sinaloa or cannot be exactly located more in the one province than in the other. The Sinaloas are said to have venerated above all the other gods one called Cocohuame, which is, being interpreted, Death. They worshiped also a certain Ouraba,[VI-4] which is Valor, offering him bows, arrows, and all kinds of instruments of war. To Sehuatoba, that is to say Pleasure, they sacrificed feathers, raiment, beads of glass, and women's ornaments. Bamusehua was the god of water. In some parts, it is said, there was recognized a divine element in common herbs and birds. One deity—or devil, as Ribas calls him with the exquisite courtesy that distinguishes the theosophic historian—was the especial patron of a class of wizards closely resembling the shamáns and medicine-men of the north. No one seemed to know exactly the powers of this deity, but everyone admitted their extent by recognizing with a respectful awe their effects; effects brought about through the agency of the wizards, by the use of bags, rattles, magic stones, blowings, suckings, and all that routine of sorcery with which we are already familiar. This deity was called Grandfather or Ancestor.[VI-5]

One Sinaloa nation, the Tahus, in the neighborhood of Culiacan, reared great serpents for which they had a good deal of veneration. They propitiated their gods with offerings of precious stones and rich stuffs, but they did not sacrifice men. With an altogether characteristic insinuation, the Abbé Domenech says, that though highly immoral in the main, they so highly respected women who devoted themselves to a life of celibacy, 181 that they held great festivals in their honor—leaving the reader to suppose that the Tahus had a class of female religious who devoted themselves to a life of chastity and were respected for that reason; the truth is found to be, on referring to the author Castañeda—from whom apparently the abbé has taken this half truth and whole falsehood—that these estimable celibate women were the public prostitutes of the nation.[VI-6]


The Mexican religion, as transmitted to us, is a confused and clashing chaos of fragments. If ever the great nation of Anáhuac had its Hesiod or its Homer, no ray of his light has reached the stumbling feet of research in that direction; no echo of his harmony has been ever heard by any ear less dull than that of a Zumárraga. It is given to few men to rise above their age, and it is folly to expect grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles; yet it is hard to suppress wholly some feelings of regret, in poring upon those ponderous tomes of sixteenth and seventeenth century history that touch upon Mexican religion; one pities far less the inevitable superstition and childish ignorance of the barbarian than the senility of his Christian historian and critic—there was some element of hope and evidence of attainment in what the half-civilized barbarian knew; but from what heights of Athenian, Roman, and Alexandrian philosophy and eloquence, had civilization fallen into the dull and arrogant nescience of the chronicles of the clergy of Spain.

We have already noticed[VI-7] the existence of at least two schools of religious philosophy in Mexico, two average 182 levels of thought, the one that of the vulgar and credulous, the other that of the more enlightened and reflective. It has resulted from this that different writers differ somewhat in their opinions with regard to the precise nature and essence of that religion, some saying one thing and some another. I cannot show this more shortly and—what is much more important in a subject like this—more exactly, than by quoting a number of these opinions:

"Turning from the simple faiths of savage tribes of America, to the complex religion of the half-civilized Mexican nation, we find what we might naturally expect, a cumbrous polytheism complicated by mixture of several national pantheons, and beside and beyond this, certain appearances of a doctrine of divine supremacy. But these doctrines seem to have been spoken of more definitely than the evidence warrants. A remarkable native development of Mexican theism must be admitted, in so far as we may receive the native historian Ixtlilxochitl's account of the worship paid by Nezahualcoyotl, the poet-king of Tezcuco, to the invisible supreme Tloque-Nahuaque, he who has all in him, the cause of causes, in whose star-roofed pyramid stood an idol, and who there received no bloody sacrifice, but only flowers and incense. Yet it would have been more satisfactory, were the stories told by this Aztec panegyrist of his royal ancestors confirmed by other records. Traces of divine supremacy in Mexican religion are especially associated with Tezcatlipoca, 'Shining Mirror,' a deity who seems in his original nature the Sun-god, and thence by expansion to have become the soul of the world, creator of heaven and earth, lord of all things, Supreme Deity. Such conceptions may, in more or less measure, have arisen in native thought, but it should be pointed out that the remarkable Aztec religious formulas collected by Sahagun, in which the deity Tezcatlipoca is so prominent a figure, show traces of Christian admixture in their material, as well as of Christian influence in their style. In distinct and absolute personality, the divine Sun in 183 Aztec theology was Tonatiuh[VI-8] whose huge pyramid-mound stands on the plain of Teotihuacan, a witness of his worship for future ages. Beyond this the religion of Mexico, in its complex system, or congeries of great gods, such as results from the mixture and alliance of the deities of several nations, shows the solar element rooted deeply and widely in other personages of its divine mythology, and attributes especially to the sun the title of Teotl, God."[VI-9]


"It is remarkable," says Professor J. G. Müller, "that the well-instructed Acosta should have known nothing about the adoration of a highest invisible God, under the name of Teotl. And yet this adoration has been reported in the most certain manner by others, and made evident from more exact statements regarding the nature of this deity. He has been surnamed Ipalnemoan, that is, He through whom we live, and Tloquenahuaque, that is, He who is all things through himself. He has been looked upon as the originator and essence of all things, and as especially throned in the high cloud-surrounded mountains. Rightly does Wuttke contend against any conception of this deity as a monotheistic one, the polytheism of the people being considered—for polytheism and monotheism will not be yoked together; even if a logical concordance were found, the inner spirits of the principles of the two would still be opposed to each other. Another argument stands also clearly out, in the total absence of any prayers, offerings, feasts, or temples to or in the honor of this god. From this it is evident that Teotl was not a god of the common people. Yet this, on the other hand, cannot justify us—the so-frequently-occurring statements of well-informed authorities being taken into account—in denying in toto all traces of a pantheistic monotheism, as this latter may easily spring up 184 among cultivated polytheists as a logical result and outcome of their natural religion. Nezahualcoyotl, the enlightened king of Tezcuco, adored as the cause of causes, a god without an image. The chief of the Totonac aborigines of Cempoallan had, if we may credit the speech put in his mouth by Las Casas and Herrera, an idea of a highest god and creator. This abstract idea has also here, as in other parts of America, intertwined itself with the conception of a sun-god. Hence the Mexicans named the sun-god pre-eminently Teotl; and that enlightened king of Tezcuco, who built a temple of nine stories—symbolizing the nine heavens—in honor of the stars, called the sun-god his father."[VI-10]

"To the most ancient gods," says Klemm, "belonged the divinities of nature, as well as a highest being called Teotl, God. He was perfect, independent, and invisible, and consequently not represented by any image. His qualities were represented by expressions like these: He through whom we live, He who is all in himself. This god coincides very nearly with the Master of Life of the North Americans. In opposition to him is the evil spirit, the enemy of mankind, who often appears to and terrifies them. He is called Tlacatecololotl, that is to say, Rational Owl, and may possibly, like the Lame-foot of the Peruvians, be a survival from the times when the old hunter-nations inhabited the forests and mountains. Next to Teotl 185 was Tezcatlipoca, that is to say, Shining Mirror; he was the god of providence, the soul of the world, and the creator of heaven and earth. Teotl was not represented by any image, and was probably not worshiped with offerings nor in any special temples; Tezcatlipoca was, however, so represented, and that as a youth, because time could have no power over his beauty and his splendor. He rewarded the righteous, and punished the ungodly with sickness and misfortune. He created the world, and mankind, and the sun, and the water, and he was himself in a certain degree the overseer thereof."[VI-11]


The Abbé Brasseur believes in the knowledge by the Mexicans and certain neighboring or related nations, of a Supreme God; but he thinks also that the names of great priests and legislators have often been used for or confounded with the one Name above every name. He says: "In the traditions that have reached us the name of the legislator is often confused with that of the divinity; and behind the symbolic veil that covers primitive history, he who civilized and brought to light in the Americans a new life, is designedly identified with the Father of the universal creation. The writers who treat of the history of the ancient American nations avow that, at the time of the landing of the Spaniards on the soil of the western continent, there was not one that did not recognize the existence of a supreme deity and arbiter of the universe. In that confusion of religious ideas, which is the inevitable result of ignorance and superstition, the notion of a unique immaterial being, of an invisible power, had survived the shipwreck of pure primitive creeds. Under the name Tloque-Nahuaque, the Mexicans adored Him who is the first cause of all things, who preserves and sustains all by his providence; calling him again, for the same reason, Ipalnemoaloni, He in whom and by whom we are and live. This god was the same as that Kunab-Ku, the Alone Holy, who was adored in Yucatan; the same again as that Hurakan, 186 the Voice that Cries, the Heart of Heaven, found with the Guatemalan nations of Central America; and the same lastly as that Teotl, God, whom we find named in the Tzendal and Mexican books. This "God of all purity," as he was styled in a Mexican prayer, was, however, too elevated for the thoughts of the vulgar. His existence was recognized, and sages invoked him; but he had neither temples nor altars—perhaps because no one knew how he should be represented—and it was only in the last times of the Aztec monarchy that Nezahualcoyotl, king of Tezcuco, dedicated to him a teocalli of nine terraces, without statues, under the title of the unknown god."[VI-12]

Mr Gallatin says of the Mexicans: "Their mythology, as far as we know it, presents a great number of unconnected gods, without apparent system or unity of design. It exhibits no evidence of metaphysical research or imaginative powers. Viewed only as a development of the intellectual faculties of man, it is, in every respect, vastly inferior to the religious systems of Egypt, India, Greece, or Scandinavia. If imported, it must have been from some barbarous country, and brought directly from such country to Mexico, since no traces of a similar worship are found in the more northern parts of America."[VI-13]

"The Aztecs," writes Prescott, "recognized the existence of a Supreme Creator and Lord of the Universe. But the idea of unity—of a being, with whom volition is action, who has no need of inferior ministers to execute his purposes—was too simple, or too vast, for their understandings; and they sought relief as usual, in a plurality of deities, who presided over the elements, the changes of the seasons, and the various occupations of man. Of these, there were thirteen principal deities, and more than two hundred inferior; to each of whom some special day, or appropriate festival, was consecrated."[VI-14] 187


According to Mr Squier: "The original deities of the Mexican pantheon are few in number. Thus when the Mexicans engaged in a war, in defense of the liberty or sovereignty of their country, they invoked the War God, under his aspect and name Huitzlipochtli. When suddenly attacked by enemies, they called upon the same god, under his aspect and name of Paynalton, which implied God of Emergencies, etc. In fact, as already elsewhere observed, all the divinities of the Mexican, as of every other mythology, resolve themselves into the primeval God and Goddess."[VI-15]

"The population of Central America," says the Vicomte de Bussierre, "although they had preserved the vague notion of a superior eternal God and creator, known by the name Teotl, had an Olympus as numerous as that of the Greeks and the Romans. It would appear—the most ancient, though, unfortunately, also the most obscure legends being followed—that during the civilized period which preceded the successive invasions of the barbarous hordes of the north, the inhabitants of Anáhuac joined to the idea of a supreme being the worship of the sun and the moon, offering them flowers, fruits, and the first fruits of their fields. The most ancient monuments of the country, such as the pyramids of Teotihuacan, were incontestably consecrated to these luminaries. Let us now trace some of the most striking features of these people. Among the number of their gods, is found one represented under the figure of a man eternally young, and considered as the symbol of the supreme and mysterious God. Two other gods there were, watching over mortals from the height of a celestial city, and charged with the accomplishment of their prayers. Air, earth, fire, and water had their particular divinities. The woman of the serpent, the prolific woman, she who never gave birth but to twins, was adored as the mother of the human race. The sun and the moon had their altars. Various divinities presided over the phenomena of nature, over the day, the night, 188 the mist, the thunder, the harvest, the mountains, and so on. Souls, the place of the dead, warriors, hunters, merchants, fishing, love, drunkenness, medicine, flowers, and many other things had their special gods. A multitude of heroes and of illustrious kings, whose apotheosis had been decreed, took their place in this vast pantheon, where were besides seated two hundred and sixty divinities of inferior rank, to each of whom nevertheless one of the days of the year was consecrated. Lastly, every city, every family, every individual, had its or his celestial protector, to whom worship was rendered. The number of the temples corresponded to that of the gods; these temples were found everywhere, in the cities, in the fields, in the woods, along the roads, and all of them had priests charged with their service. This complicated mythology was common to all the nations of Anáhuac, even to those that the empire had been unable to subjugate and with which it was at war; but each country had its favorite god, such god being to it, what Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, was to the Aztecs."[VI-16]

The Mexican religion, as summed up by Mr Brantz Mayer,[VI-17] "was a compound of spiritualism and gross idolatry; for the Aztecs believed in a Supreme Deity, whom they called Teotl, God; or Ipalnemoani, He by whom we live; or Tloque Nahuaque, He who has all in himself; while their evil spirit bore the name of Tlaleatcololotl, the Rational Owl. These spiritual beings are surrounded by a number of lesser divinities, who were probably the ministerial agents of Teotl. These were Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, and Teoyaomiqui, his spouse, whose duty it was to conduct the souls of warriors who perished in defense of their homes and religion to the 'house of the sun,' the Aztec heaven. Huitzilopochtli, or Mextli, the god of war, was the special protector of the Aztecs; and devoted as they were to war, this deity was always invoked before battle, 189 and recompensed after it by the offering of numerous captives taken in conflict."


"The religion of the Mexicans," writes Señor Carbajal Espinosa,[VI-18] plagiarizing as literally as possible from Clavigero, "was a tissue of errors and of cruel and superstitious rites. Similar infirmities of the human mind are inseparable from a religious system originating in caprice and fear, as we see even in the most cultured nations of antiquity. If the religion of the Mexicans be compared with that of the Greeks and Romans, it will be found that the latter is the more superstitious and ridiculous and the former the more barbarous and sanguinary. These celebrated nations of ancient Europe multiplied excessively their gods because of the mean idea that they had of their power; restricting their rule within narrow limits, attributing to them the most atrocious crimes, and solemnizing their worship with such execrable impurities as were so justly condemned by the fathers of Christianity. The gods of the Mexicans were less imperfect, and their worship although superstitious contained nothing repugnant to decency. They had some idea, although imperfect, of a Supreme Being, absolute, independent, believing that they owed him tribute, adoration, and fear. They had no figure whereby to represent him, believing him to be invisible, neither did they give him any other name, save the generic one, God, which is in the Mexican tongue teotl, resembling even more in sense than in pronunciation the theos of the Greeks; they used, however, epithets, in the highest degree expressive, to signify the grandeur and the power which they believed him endowed with, calling him Ipalnemoani, that is to say, He by whom we live, and Tloque-Nahuaque, which means, He that is all things in himself. But the knowledge and the worship of this Supreme Essence were obscured by the multitude of gods invented by superstition. The people believed furthermore in an evil spirit, inimical to mankind, calling 190 him Tlacatecololotl, or Rational Owl, and saying that oftentimes he revealed himself to men, to hurt or to terrify them."

"The Mexicans and the Tezcucans," following Señor Pimentel, "recognized the existence of a Supreme Being, of a First Cause, and gave him that generic title Teotl, God, the analogy of which with the Theos of the Greeks, has been already noted by various authors. The idea of God is one of those that appear radical to our very existence.... With the Mexicans and Tezcucans this idea was darkened by the adoration of a thousand gods, invoked in all emergencies; of these gods there were thirteen principal, the most notable being the god of providence, that of war, and that of the wind and waters. The god of providence had his seat in the sky, and had in his care all human affairs. The god of the waters was considered as the fertilizer of earth, and his dwelling was in the highest of the mountains where he arranged the clouds. The god of war was the principal protector of the Mexicans, their guide in their wanderings from the mysterious country of Aztlan, the god to whose favor they owed those great victories that elevated them from the lowly estate of lake-fishermen up to the lordship of Anáhuac. The god of the wind had an aspect more benign.... The Mexicans also worshiped the sun and the moon, and even, it would appear, certain animals considered as sacred. There figured also in the Aztec mythology an evil genius called the Owl-man,[VI-19] since in some manner the good and the bad, mixed up here on earth, have to be explained. So the Persians had their Oromasdes and Arimanes, the first the genius of good, and the second of evil, and so, later, Manicheism presents us with analogous explanations."[VI-20]


Solis, writing of Mexico and the Mexicans says: "There was hardly a street without its tutelary god; neither was there any calamity of nature without its altar, to which they had recourse for remedy. They imagined 191 and made their gods out of their own fear; not understanding that they lessened the power of some by what they attributed to others.... But for all so many as were their gods, and so complete as was the blindness of their idolatry, they were not without the knowledge of a Superior Deity, to whom they attributed the creation of the heavens and the earth. This original of things was, among the Mexicans, a god without name; they had no word in their language with which to express him, only they gave it to be understood that they knew him, pointing reverently towards heaven, and giving to him after their fashion the attribute of ineffable, with that sort of religious uncertainty with which the Athenians venerated the Unknown God."[VI-21]

The interpreter of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis calls the Supreme God of the Mexicans by the name Tonacateotle.[VI-22] The interpreter says: "God, Lord, Creator, Governor of all, Tloque, Nauaq, Tlalticpaque, Teotlalale-Matlava-Tepeva—all these epithets they bestowed on their god Tonacateotle, who, they said, was the god that created the world; and him alone they painted with a crown as lord of all. They never offered sacrifices to this god for they said he cared not for such things. All the others to whom they sacrificed were men once on a time, or demons."[VI-23]

We have already seen from Herrera that "the Mexicans confessed to a Supreme God, Lord, and maker of all things, and the said God was the principal that they venerated, looking towards heaven, and calling him 192 Creator of heaven and earth."[VI-24] In contradistinction to this it may be well to consider the following extract from the same author: "Such was the blindness of the Mexicans, even to the natural light, that they did not think like men of good judgment that all created things were the work and effect of some immense and infinite cause, the which only the First Cause and true God is.... And in Mexico alone (according to the common opinion) they had and adored two thousand gods, of whom the principal were Vizilipuztli and Tezcatlipucatl, who as supreme were set up in the height of the great temple, over two altars.... Tezcatlipucatl was the god of providence, and Vizilipuztli the god of war."[VI-25]

Speaking of Mexican temples[VI-26] and gods, Oviedo says: "But Montezuma had the chief [temple], together with three other prayer-houses, in which he sacrificed in honor of four gods, or idols, that he had; of these they had one for god of war, as the Gentiles had Mars; to another they gave honor and sacrifice as god of the waters, even as the ancients gave to Neptune; another they adored for god of the wind, as the lost heathen adored Æolus; and another still they revered as their sovereign god, and this was the sun.... They had further other gods; making one of them god of the maize-fields, attributing to him the power of guarding and multiplying the same, as the fable-writing poets and ancients of antiquity did to Ceres. They had gods for everything, giving attributes to each according to their surmises, investing them with that godhead which they had not, and with which it was not right to invest any save only the true God."[VI-27]

Speaking in general terms of probably a large part of 193 New Spain, Torquemada, says: "These idolaters did not deny that they had a god called Ypalnemoaloni, that is to say, Lord by whom we live, and his nature is that his existence is in himself:[VI-28] the which is most proper to God, who is in his essence life. But that in which these people erred was in distributing this divinity and attributing it to many gods; yet, in reality, and verily, they recognized a Supreme God, to whom all the others were inferior. But for the greatness of their sins, they lacked faith and ran into this error like the other nations that have done so."


Acosta, as has been already noticed by Professor J. G. Müller, either never heard of or disbelieved in the existence of the name Teotl and of the ideas connected therewith by so many historians.[VI-29] The said Acosta says: "If wee shall seeke into the Indian tongue for a word to answer to this name of God, as in Latin, Deus; in Greeke, Theos; in Hebrew, El; in Arabike, Alla; but wee shall not finde any in the Cuscan or Mexicaine tongues. So as such as preach, or write to the Indians, vse our Spanish name Dios, fitting it to the accent or pronounciation of the Indian tongues; the which differ much, whereby appeares the small knowledge they had of God, seeing they cannot so much as name him, if it be not by our very name: yet in trueth they had some little knowledge.... The Mexicaines almost in the same manner [as the Peruvians] after the supreame God, worshiped the Sunne: And therefore they called Hernando Cortez, Sonne of the Sunne, for his care and courage to compasse the earth. But they made their 194 greatest adoration to an Idol called Vitzilipuztli, the which in all this region they called the most puissant and Lord of all things: for this cause the Mexicaines built him a Temple, the greatest, the fairest, the highest, and the most sumptuous of all others.... But heere the Mexicaines Idolatrie hath bin more pernicious and hurtfull than that of the Inguas, as wee shall see plainer heereafter, for that the greatest part of their adoration and idolatrie, was employed to Idols, and not to naturall things, although they did attribute naturall effects to these Idolls, as raine, multiplication of cattell, warre, and generation, even as the Greekes and Latins have forged Idolls of Phœbus, Mercurie, Jupiter, Minerva, and of Mars. To conclude, who so shall neerely looke into it, shall finde this manner which the Divell hath vsed to deceive the Indians, to be the same wherewith hee hath deceived the Greekes and Romans, and other ancient Gentiles, giving them to vnderstand that these notable creatures, the Sunne, Moone, Starres, and Elements, had power and authoritie to doe good or harme to men."[VI-30]


Mendieta says: "It is to be noted for a general rule that, though these people, in all the continent of these Indias, from the farthest parts of New Spain to the parts of Florida, and farther still to the kingdoms of Peru, had, as has been said, an infinity of idols that they reverenced as gods, nevertheless, above all, they still held the sun as chiefest and most powerful. And they dedicated to the sun the greatest, richest, and most sumptuous of their temples. This should be the power the Mexicans called Ipalnemohuani, that is to say, 'by whom all live,' and Moyucuyatzin ayac oquiyocux ayac oquipic, that is to say, 'he that no one created or formed, but who, on the contrary, made all things by his own power and will.' ... So many are the fictions and fables that the Indians invented about their gods, and so differently are these related in the different towns, that neither can they agree among themselves in recounting 195 them, nor shall there be found any one who shall understand them. In the principal provinces of this New Spain, they had—after the sun, which was the common god of them all—each province, its particular and principal god, to which god above all others they offered their sacrifices; as the Mexicans to Uzilopuchtli—a name that the Spaniards not being able to pronounce called Ocholobos, 'eight wolves', or Uchilobos; as the Tezucans to Tezcatlipuca; as the Tlaxcalans to Camaxtli, and as the Cholulans to Quetzalcoatl; doubtless all these were famous men that performed some notable feats, or invented some new thing, to the honor and benefit of the state; or perhaps again these gave the people laws and a rule of life, or taught them trades, or to offer up sacrifices, or some other thing that appeared good and worthy to be rewarded with grateful acknowledgements.... The demon, the old enemy, did not content himself with the service that these people did him in the adoration of almost every visible creature, in making idols of them, both carven and painted, but he also kept them blinded with a thousand fashions of witchcrafts, parodies of sacraments, and superstitions."[VI-31]

"It is well to remark," writes Camargo, "that although the Indians had a divinity for each thing, they were aware of the existence of a Supreme God that they named Tloque-Nahuaque, or He who contains all, regarding the same as superior to all the other gods." This Tlascaltec author has also preserved us a native prayer couched in the following terms: "O, all-powerful gods, that inhabit the heavens, even as far as the ninth, where abides your master and ours, the great Tloque-Nahuaque (this name means, He that accompanies the other gods[VI-32])—you that 196 have all power over men forsake us not in danger. We invoke you, as well also as the sun Nauholin, and the moon, spouse of that brilliant luminary, the stars of heaven also, and the wind of the night and of the day."[VI-33]

According to the somewhat vague and incomplete account of Fray Toribio de Benavente, or Motolinia—the latter his adopted name and that by which he is best known—another of the original and early authorities in matter concerning the gentile Mexicans: "Tezcatlipoca was the god or demon that they held for greatest and to whom most dignity was attributed.... They had idols of stone, and of wood, and of baked clay; they also made them of dough and of seeds kneaded into the dough.... Some of them were shaped like men, ... some were like women; ... some were like wild beasts, as lions, tigers, dogs, deer, and such other animals as frequented the mountains and plains; ... some like snakes of many fashions, large and coiling.... Of the owl and other night-birds, and of others as the kite, and of every large bird, or beautiful, or fierce, or preciously feathered—they had an idol. But the principal of all was the sun. Likewise had they idols of the moon and stars, and of the great fishes, and of the water-lizards, and of toads and frogs, and of other fishes; and these they said were the gods of the fishes.... They had for gods fire, water, and earth; and of all these they had painted figures.... Of many other things they had figures and idols, carved or painted, even of butterflies, fleas, and locusts."[VI-34]


Nezahualcoyotl, king of Tezcuco, was he who—according to the no doubt somewhat partial account of his descendant Ixtlilxochitl—pushed the farthest into overt speech and act his contempt of the vulgar idolatry and his recognition of a high, holy, and to a great extent unknowable supreme power. This thoughtful monarch "found for false all the gods adored by the people of this land, saying that they were statues and demons 197 hostile to the human race; for he was very learned in moral things, and he went to and fro more than any other, seeking if haply he might find light to affirm the true God and creator of all things, as has been seen in the discourse of his history, and as bear witness the songs that he composed on this theme. He said that there was only One, that this One was the maker of heaven and earth, that he sustained all he had made and created, and that he was where was no second, above the nine heavens; that no eye had ever seen this One, in a human shape nor in any shape whatever; that the souls of the virtuous went to him after death, while the souls of the bad went to another place, some most infamous spot of earth, filled with horrible hardships and sufferings. Never—though there were many gods representing many idols—did the king neglect an opportunity of saying when divinity was discussed, 'yntloque in nauhaque y palne moalani,' which sentence sums up his convictions as above expressed. Nevertheless he recognized the sun as his father and the earth as his mother."[VI-35]

Now it is in the face of much that has been said denying or doubting Ixtlilxochitl's account of the creed of Nezahualcoyotl that I have selected the passage above translated, from among other passages touching the same subject in the Historia Chichimeca and in the Relaciones. I have selected it not because it is the most clearly worded, or the most eloquent, or the most complete; but 198 solely on account of the sentence with which it concludes: Nezahualcoyotl "recognized the sun as his father and the earth as his mother." These few words occurring at the end of a eulogy of the great Tezcucan by a confessed admirer, these few words that have passed unnoticed amid the din and hubbub raised over the lofty creed to which they form the last article, these few words so insignificant apparently and yet so significant in their connection—should go far to prove the faithfulness of Ixtlilxochitl's record, and the greater or less completeness of his portrait of his great ancestor. Were Ixtlilxochitl dishonest, would he ever have allowed such a pagan chord as this to come jangling into the otherwise perfect music of his description of a perfect sage and Christian, who believed in a God alone and all-sufficient, who believed in a creator of all things without any help at all, much less the help of his dead material creatures the sun and the earth? Let us admit the honesty of Ixtlilxochitl, and admit with him a knowledge of that Unknown God, whom, as did the Athenians, Nezahualcoyotl ignorantly worshiped; but let us not be blinded by a glitter of words—which we may be sure lose nothing in the repetition—as to the significance of that 'ignorantly;' let us never lose sight across the shadow of that obscure Athenian altar to the Unknown God, of the mighty columns of the Acropolis and the crest of the Athena Promachos. Nezahualcoyotl seems a fair type of a thoughtful, somewhat sceptical Mexican of that better-instructed class which is ever and everywhere the horror of hypocrites and fanatics, of that class never without its witnesses in all countries and at all times, of that class two steps above the ignorant laity, and one step above the learned priesthood, yet far still from that simple and perfect truth which shall one day be patent enough to all.


Turning from the discussion of a point so obscure and intangible as the monotheism of Nezahualcoyotl and the school of which he was the type, let us review the very palpable and indubitable polytheism of the Mexicans. 199 It seems radically to differ little from other polytheisms better known, such as those of Greece, Rome, and Scandinavia; it seems to have been a jumble of personified powers, causes, and qualities, developed in the ordinary way from the mythical corruption of that florid hyperbolical style of speech natural to all peoples in days before the exact definition of words was either possible or necessary; just such a jumble as the Aryan polytheisms were in the days of the Euhemerists, and for too long after unfortunately; such a jumble as Aryan mythology was till the brothers Grimm led the van of the ripest talent and scholarship of the nineteenth century into the paths of 'word-shunting,' which led again into god or hero shunting, if the term may be invented. Unfortunately the philologic and mythologic material for such an exhaustive synthesis of the origin and relations of the American creeds as Mr Cox, for example, has given to the world on the Aryan legends, in his Mythology of the Aryan Nations, is yet far from complete; which fact indeed makes the raison d'être of works like the present. There is nothing for me at present but to gather, sift, and arrange, with such sifting and arrangement as may be possible, all accessible materials relating to the subject in hand; that done let more skilled workmen find and give them their place in the wall of science. For they have a place there, whether or no it be found to-day or to-morrow; a breach is there that shall be empty until they fit and fill it.

Tezcatlipoca seems to have been considered on the whole, and the patron-gods of different cities aside, as the most important of the Mexican gods. We have seen him identified in several of the preceding quotations with a supreme invisible god, and I now proceed, illustrating this phase of his character, to translate as closely as possible the various prayers given by Sahagun as addressed to this great deity under his various names, Titlacoan, Yautl, Telpuchtli, Tlamatzincatl, Moiocoiatzin, Iaotzin, Necociautl, Necaoalpilli, and others:— 200

O, thou almighty God, that givest life to men, and art called Titlacaoan, grant me in thy mercy everything needful to eat and to drink, and to enjoy of thy soft and delicate things; for in grievous toil and straitness I live in the world. Have mercy on me, so poor I am and naked, I that labor in thy service, and for thy service sweep, and clean, and put light in this poor house, where I await thine orders; otherwise let me die soon and end this toilful and miserable life, so that my body may find rest and a breathing-time.

In illness the people prayed to this deity as follows: O God, whose name is Titlacaoan, be merciful and send away this sickness which is killing me, and I will reform my life. Let me be once healed of this infirmity and I swear to serve thee and to earn the right to live; should I by hard toil gain something, I will not eat it nor employ it in anything save only to thine honor; I will give a feast and a banquet of dancing in this poor house.

But the sick man that could not recover, and that felt it so, used to grow desperate and blaspheme saying: O Titlacaoan, since thou mockest me, why dost thou not kill me?[VI-36]



Then following is a prayer to Tezcatlipoca, used by the priest in time of pestilence: O mighty Lord, under whose wing we find defense and shelter, thou art invisible and impalpable even as night and the air. How can I that am so mean and worthless dare to appear before thy majesty? Stuttering and with rude lips I speak; ungainly is the manner of my speech as one leaping among furrows, as one advancing unevenly; for all this I fear to raise thine anger, and to provoke instead of appeasing thee; nevertheless thou wilt do unto me as may please thee. O Lord, that hast held it good to forsake us in these days, according to the counsel thou hast as well in heaven as in hades—alas for us, in that thine anger and indignation has descended in these days upon us; alas, in that the many and grievous afflictions of thy wrath have overgone and swallowed us up, 201 coming down even as stones, spears, and arrows upon the wretches that inhabit the earth—this is the sore pestilence with which we are afflicted and almost destroyed. Alas, O valiant and all-powerful Lord, the common people are almost made an end of and destroyed; a great destruction and ruin the pestilence already makes in this nation; and, what is most pitiful of all, the little children that are innocent and understand nothing, only to play with pebbles and to heap up little mounds of earth, they too die, broken and dashed to pieces as against stones and a wall—a thing very pitiful and grievous to be seen, for there remain of them not even those in the cradles, nor those that could not walk nor speak. Ah, Lord, how all things become confounded; of young and old and of men and women there remains neither branch nor root; thy nation and thy people and thy wealth are leveled down and destroyed. O our Lord, protector of all, most valiant and most kind, what is this? Thine anger and thine indignation, does it glory or delight in hurling the stone and arrow and spear? The fire of the pestilence, made exceeding hot, is upon thy nation, as a fire in a hut, burning and smoking, leaving nothing upright or sound. The grinders of thy teeth are employed, and thy bitter whips upon the miserable of thy people, who have become lean and of little substance, even as a hollow green cane. Yea, what doest thou now, O Lord, most strong, compassionate, invisible, and impalpable, whose will all things obey, upon whose disposal depends the rule of the world, to whom all is subject—what in thy divine breast hast thou decreed? Peradventure hast thou altogether forsaken thy nation and thy people? Hast thou verily determined that it utterly perish, and that there be no more memory of it in the world, that the peopled place become a wooded hill and a wilderness of stones? Peradventure wilt thou permit that the temples, and the places of prayer, and the altars, built for thy service, be razed and destroyed and no memory of them be left? Is it indeed possible that thy wrath and punishment, and vexed indignation are altogether implacable and 202 will go on to the end to our destruction? Is it already fixed in thy divine counsel that there is to be no mercy nor pity for us, until the arrows of thy fury are spent to our utter perdition and destruction? Is it possible that this lash and chastisement is not given for our correction and amendment, but only for our total destruction and obliteration; that the sun shall nevermore shine upon us, but that we must remain in perpetual darkness and silence; that nevermore thou wilt look upon us with eyes of mercy, neither little nor much? Wilt thou after this fashion destroy the wretched sick that cannot find rest nor turn from side to side, whose mouth and teeth are filled with earth and scurf? It is a sore thing to tell how we are all in darkness, having none understanding nor sense to watch for or aid one another. We are all as drunken and without understanding, without hope of any aid; already the little children perish of hunger, for there is none to give them food, nor drink, nor consolation, nor caress—none to give the breast to them that suck; for their fathers and mothers have died and left them orphans, suffering for the sins of their fathers. O our Lord, all-powerful, full of mercy, our refuge, though indeed thine anger and indignation, thine arrows and stones, have sorely hurt this poor people, let it be as a father or a mother that rebukes children, pulling their ears, pinching their arms, whipping them with nettles, pouring chill water upon them; all being done that they may amend their puerility and childishness. Thy chastisement and indignation have lorded and prevailed over these thy servants, over this poor people, even as rain falling upon the trees and the green canes, being touched of the wind, drops also upon those that are below. O most compassionate Lord, thou knowest that the common folk are as children, that being whipped they cry and sob and repent of what they have done. Peradventure, already these poor people by reason of thy chastisement weep, sigh, blame, and murmur against themselves; in thy presence they blame and bear witness against their bad deeds and 203 punish themselves therefor. Our Lord most compassionate, pitiful, noble, and precious, let a time be given the people to repent; let the past chastisement suffice, let it end here, to begin again if the reform endure not. Pardon and overlook the sins of the people; cause thine anger and thy resentment to cease; repress it again within thy breast that it destroy no farther; let it rest there; let it cease, for of a surety none can avoid death nor escape to any place. We owe tribute to death; and all that live in the world are the vassals thereof; this tribute shall every man pay with his life. None shall avoid from following death, for it is thy messenger what hour soever it may be sent, hungering and thirsting always to devour all that are in the world and so powerful that none shall escape: then indeed shall every man be punished according to his deeds. O most pitiful Lord, at least take pity and have mercy upon the children that are in the cradles, upon those that cannot walk. Have mercy also, O Lord, upon the poor and very miserable, who have nothing to eat, nor to cover themselves withal, nor a place to sleep, who do not know what thing a happy day is, whose days pass altogether in pain, affliction, and sadness. Than this, were it not better, O Lord, if thou should forget to have mercy upon the soldiers and upon the men of war, whom thou wilt have need of sometime; behold it is better to die in war and go to serve food and drink in the house of the sun, than to die in this pestilence and descend to hades. O most strong Lord, protector of all, lord of the earth, governor of the world, and universal master, let the sport and satisfaction thou hast already taken in this past punishment suffice; make an end of this smoke and fog of thy resentment; quench also the burning and destroying fire of thine anger: let serenity come and clearness; let the small birds of thy people begin to sing and to approach the sun; give them quiet weather so that they may cause their voices to reach thy highness and thou mayest know them. O our Lord, most strong, most compassionate, and most noble, this little have I said before thee, 204 and I have nothing more to say, only to prostrate and throw myself at thy feet, seeking pardon for the faults of this my prayer; certainly I would not remain in thy displeasure, and I have no other thing to say.


The following is a prayer to the same deity, under his names Tezcatlipuca and Yoalliehecatl, for succor against poverty: O our Lord, protector most strong and compassionate, invisible, and impalpable, thou art the giver of life; lord of all, and lord of battles, I present myself here before thee to say some few words concerning the need of the poor people, the people of none estate nor intelligence. When they lie down at night they have nothing, nor when they rise up in the morning; the darkness and the light pass alike in great poverty. Know, O Lord, that thy subjects and servants, suffer a sore poverty that cannot be told of more than that it is a sore poverty and desolateness. The men have no garments nor the women to cover themselves with, but only certain rags rent in every part that allow the air and the cold to pass everywhere. With great toil and weariness they scrape together enough for each day, going by mountain and wilderness seeking their food; so faint and enfeebled are they that their bowels cleave to the ribs, and all their body reëchoes with hollowness; and they walk as people affrighted, the face and the body in likeness of death. If they be merchants, they now sell only cakes of salt and broken pepper; the people that have something despise their wares, so that they go out to sell from door to door and from house to house; and when they sell nothing they sit down sadly by some fence, or wall, or in some corner, licking their lips and gnawing the nails of their hands for the hunger that is in them; they look on the one side and on the other at the mouths of those that pass by, hoping peradventure that one may speak some word to them. O compassionate God, the bed on which they lie down is not a thing to rest upon, but to endure torment in; they draw a rag over them at night and so sleep; there they throw down their bodies and the bodies of children that thou hast 205 given them. For the misery they grow up in, for the filth[VI-37] of their food, for the lack of covering, their faces are yellow and all their bodies of the color of earth. They tremble with cold, and for leanness they stagger in walking. They go weeping, and sighing, and full of sadness, and all misfortunes are joined to them; though they stay by a fire they find little heat. O our Lord, most clement, invisible, and impalpable, I supplicate thee to see good to have pity upon them as they move in thy presence wailing and clamoring and seeking mercy with anguish of heart. O our Lord, in whose power it is to give all content, consolation, sweetness, softness, prosperity and riches, for thou alone art lord of all good—have mercy upon them for they are thy servants. I supplicate thee, O Lord, that thou prove them a little with tenderness, indulgence, sweetness, and softness, which indeed they sorely lack and require. I supplicate thee that thou will lift up their heads with thy favor and aid, that thou will see good that they enjoy some days of prosperity and tranquillity, so they may sleep and know repose, having prosperous and peaceable days of life. Should they still refuse to serve thee, thou afterwards canst take away what thou hast given; they having enjoyed it but a few days, as those that enjoy a fragrant and beautiful flower and find it wither presently. Should this nation, for whom I pray and entreat thee to do them good, not understand what thou hast given, thou canst take away the good and pour out cursing; so that all evil may come upon them, and they become poor, in need, maimed, lame, blind, and deaf: then indeed they shall waken and know the good that they had and have not, and they shall call upon thee and lean towards thee; but thou wilt not listen, for in the day of abundance they would not understand thy goodness towards them. In conclusion, I supplicate thee, O most kind and benificent Lord, that thou will see good to give this people to taste of the goods and riches that thou art wont to give, and that proceed from thee, things sweet and soft 206 and bringing content, and joy, although it be but for a little while, and as a dream that passes. For it is certain that for a long time the people go sadly before thee, weeping and thoughtful, because of the anguish, hardship, and anxiety that fill their bodies and hearts, taking away all ease and rest. Verily, it is not doubtful that to this poor nation, needy and shelterless, happens all I have said. If thou answerest my petition it will be only of thy liberality and magnificence, for no one is worthy to receive thy bounty for any merit of his, but only through thy grace. Search below the dung-hills and in the mountains for thy servants, friends, and acquaintance, and raise them to riches and dignities. O our Lord, most clement, let thy will be done as it is ordained in thy heart, and we shall have nothing to say. I, a rude man and common, would not by importunity and prolixity disgust and annoy thee, detailing my sickness, destruction, and punishment. Whom do I speak to? Where am I? Lo I speak with thee, O King; well do I know that I stand in an eminent place, and that I talk with one of great majesty, before whose presence flows a river through a chasm, a gulf sheer down of awful depth; this also is a slippery place, whence many precipitate themselves, for there shall not be found one without error before thy majesty. I myself, a man of little understanding and lacking speech, dare to address my words to thee; I put myself in peril of falling into the gorge and cavern of this river. I, Lord, have come to take with my hands blindness to mine eyes, rottenness and shrivelling to my members, poverty and affliction to my body; for my meanness and rudeness this it is that I merit to receive. Live and rule for ever in all quietness and tranquillity, O thou that art our lord, our shelter, our protector, most compassionate, most pitiful, invisible, impalpable.



This following is a petition in time of war to the same principal god, under his name of Tezcatlipoca Yautlnecociautlmonenequi, praying favor against the enemy: O our Lord, most compassionate, protector, defender, invisible, 207 impalpable, by whose will and wisdom we are directed and governed, beneath whose rule we live—O, Lord of battles, it is a thing very certain and settled that war begins to be arranged and prepared for. The god of the earth opens his mouth, thirsty to drink the blood of them that shall die in this strife. It seems that they wish to be merry, the sun and the god of the earth called Tlaltecutli; they wish to give to eat and drink to the gods of heaven and hades, making them a banquet with the blood and flesh of the men that have to die in this war. Already do they look, the gods of heaven and hades, to see who they are that have to conquer, and who to be conquered; who they are that have to slay, and who to be slain; whose blood it is that has to be drunken, and whose flesh it is that has to be eaten;—which things the noble fathers and mothers whose sons have to die, are ignorant of. Even so are ignorant all their kith and kin, and the nurses that gave them suck—ignorant also are the fathers that toiled for them, seeking things needful for their food and drink and raiment until they reached the age they now have. Certainly they could not foretell how those sons should end whom they reared so anxiously, or that they should be one day left captives or dead upon the field. See good, O our Lord, that the nobles who die in the shock of war be peacefully and agreeably received, and with bowels of love, by the sun and the earth that are father and mother of all. For verily thou dost not deceive thyself in what thou doest,[VI-38] to wit, in wishing them to die in war; for certainly for this didst thou send them into the world, so that with their flesh and their blood they might be for meat and drink to the sun and the earth. Be not wroth, O Lord, anew against those of the profession of war, for in the same place where they will die have died 208 many generous[VI-39] and noble lords and captains, and valiant men. The nobility and generosity of the nobles and the great-heartedness of the warriors is made apparent, and thou makest manifest, O Lord, how estimable and precious is each one, so that as such he may be held and honored, even as a stone of price or a rich feather. O Lord, most clement, lord of battles, emperor of all, whose name is Tezcatlipoca, invisible and impalpable, we supplicate thee that he or they that thou wilt permit to die in this war may be received into the house of the sun in heaven, with love and honor, and may be placed and lodged between the brave and famous warriors already dead in war, to wit, the lords Quitzicquaquatzin, Maceuhcatzin, Tlacahuepantzin, Ixtlilcuechavac, Ihuitltemuc, Chavacuetzin, and all the other valiant and renowned men that died in former times—who are rejoicing with and praising our lord the sun, who are glad and eternally rich through him, and shall be for ever; they go about sucking the sweetness of all flowers delectable and pleasant to the taste. This is a great dignity for the stout and valiant ones that died in war; for this they are drunken with delight, keeping no account of night, nor day, nor years, nor times; their joy and their wealth is without end; the nectarous flowers they sip never fade, and for the desire thereof men of high descent strengthen themselves to die. In conclusion, I entreat thee, O Lord, that art our lord most clement, our emperor most invincible, to see good that those that die in this war be received with bowels of pity and love by our father the sun, and our mother the earth; for thou only livest and rulest and art our most compassionate lord. Nor do I supplicate alone for the illustrious and noble, but also for the other soldiers, who are troubled and tormented in heart, who clamor, calling upon thee, holding their lives as nothing, and who fling themselves without fear upon the enemy, seeking death. Grant 209 them at least some small part of their desire, some rest and repose in this life; or if here, in this world, they are not destined to prosperity, appoint them for servants and officers of the sun, to give food and drink to those in hades and to those in heaven. As for those whose charge it is to rule the state and to be tlacateccatl or tlacochcalatl,[VI-40] make them to be fathers and mothers to the men of war that wander by field and mountain, by height and ravine—in their hand is the sentence of death for enemies and criminals, as also the distribution of dignities, the offices and the arms of war, the badges, the granting privileges to those that wear visors and tassels[VI-41] on the head, and ear-rings, pendants, and bracelets, and have yellow skins tied to their ankles—with them is the privilege of appointing the fashion of the raiment that every one shall wear. It is to these also to give permission to certain to use and wear precious stones, as chalchivetes, turquoises, and rich feathers in the dances, and to wear necklaces and jewels of gold: all of which things are delicate and precious gifts proceeding from thy riches, and which thou givest to those that perform feats and valiant deeds in war. I entreat thee also, O Lord, to make grace of thy largess to the common soldiers, give them some shelter and good lodging in this world, make them stout and brave, and take away all cowardice from their heart, so that not only shall they meet death with cheerfulness, but even desire it as a sweet thing, as flowers and dainty food, nor dread at all the hoots and shouts of their enemies: this do to them as to thy friend. Forasmuch as thou art lord of battles, on whose will depends the victory, aiding whom thou wilt, needing not that any counsel thee—I entreat thee, O Lord, to make mad and drunken our enemies so that without hurt to us they may cast themselves into our hands, into the hands of our men of war enduring 210 so much hardship and poverty. O our Lord, since thou art God, all-powerful, all-knowing, disposer of all things, able to make this land rich, prosperous, praised, honored, famed in the art and feats of war, able to make the warriors now in the field to live and be prosperous, if, in the days at hand, thou see good that they die in war, let it be to go to the house of the sun, among all the heroes that are there and that died upon the battle-field.



The following prayer is one addressed to the principal deity, under his name Tezcatlipoca Teiocoiani Tehimatini, asking favor for a newly elected ruler: To-day, a fortunate day, the sun has risen upon us, warming us, so that in it a precious stone may be wrought, and a handsome sapphire. To us has appeared a new light, has arrived a new brightness, to us has been given a glittering axe to rule and govern our nation—has been given a man to take upon his shoulders the affairs and troubles of the state. He is to be the image and substitute of the lords and governors that have already passed away from this life, who for some days labored, bearing the burden of thy people, possessing thy throne and seat, which is the principal dignity[VI-42] of this thy nation, province, and kingdom; having and holding the same in thy name and person some few days. These have now departed from this life, put off their shoulders the great load and burden that so few are able to suffer. Now, O Lord, we marvel that thou hast indeed set thine eyes on this man, rude and of little knowledge, to make him for some days, for some little time, the governor of this state, nation, province, and kingdom. O our Lord, most clement, art thou peradventure in want of persons and friends?—nay verily, thou that hast thereof more than can be counted! Is it, peradventure, by error, or that thou dost not know him; or is it that thou hast taken him for the nonce, while thou seekest among many for 211 another and a better than he, unwise, indiscrete, unprofitable, a superfluous man in the world. Finally, we give thanks to thy majesty for the favor thou hast done us. What thy designs therein are thou alone knowest; perhaps beforehand this office has been provided for: thy will be done as it is determined in thy heart; let this man serve for some days and times. It may be that he will fill this office defectively, giving unrest and fear to his subjects, doing things without counsel or consideration, deeming himself worthy of the dignity he has, thinking that he will remain in it for a long time, making a sad dream of it, making the occupation and dignity thou hast given him an occasion of pride and presumption, making little of everybody and going about with pomp and pageantry. Within a few days, thou wilt know the event of all, for all men are thy spectacle and theatre, at which thou laughest and makest thyself merry. Perhaps this ruler will lose his office through his childishness, or it will happen through his carelessness and laziness; for verily nothing is hidden from thee, thy sight makes way through stone and wood, and thine hearing. Or perhaps his arrogance, and the secret boasting of his thoughts will destroy him. Then thou wilt throw him among the filth and upon the dung-hills, and his reward will be blindness, and shrivellings, and extreme poverty till the hour of his death, when thou wilt put him under thy feet. Since this poor man is put in this risk and peril, we supplicate thee, who art our Lord, our invisible and impalpable protector, under whose will and pleasure we are, who alone disposes of and provides for all—we supplicate thee that thou see good to deal mercifully with him; inasmuch as he is needy, thy subject and servant, and blind; deign to provide him with thy light, that he may know what he has to think, what he has to do, and the road he has to follow, so as to commit no error in his office, contrary to thy disposition and will. Thou knowest what is to happen to him in this office both by day and night; we know, O our Lord, most clement, that our 212 ways and deeds are not so much in our hands as in the hands of our ruler. If this ruler after an evil and perverse fashion, in the place to which thou hast elevated him, and in the seat in which thou hast put him—which is thine—where he manages the affairs of the people, as one that washes filthy things with clean and clear water, (yea in the same seat holds a similar cleansing office the ancient god, who is father and mother to thyself, and is god of fire, who stands in the midst of flowers, in the midst of the place bounded by four walls, who is covered with shining feathers that are as wings)—if this ruler-elect of ours do evil with which to provoke thine ire and indignation, and to awaken thy chastisement against himself, it will not be of his own will or seeking, but by thy permission or by some impulse from without; for which I entreat thee to see good to open his eyes to give him light; open also his ears and guide him, not so much for his own sake as for that of those whom he has to rule over and carry on his shoulders.[VI-43] I supplicate 213 thee, that now, from the beginning, thou inspire him with what he is to conceive in his heart, and the road he is to follow, inasmuch as thou hast made of him a seat on which to seat thyself, and also as it were a flute that, being played upon, may signify thy will. Make him, O Lord, a faithful image of thyself, and permit not that in thy throne and hall he make himself proud and haughty; but rather see good, O Lord, that quietly and prudently he rule and govern those in his charge who are common people: do not permit him to insult and oppress his subjects, nor to give over without reason any of them to destruction. Neither permit, O Lord, that he spot and defile thy throne and hall with any injustice or oppression, for in so doing he will stain also thine honor and fame. Already, O Lord, has this poor man accepted and received the honor and lordship that thou hast given him; already he possesses the glory and riches thereof; already thou hast adorned his hands, feet, head, ears, and lips, with visor, ear-rings, and bracelets, and put yellow leather upon his ankles. Permit it not, O Lord, that these decorations, badges, and ornaments be to him a cause of pride and presumption; but rather that he serve thee with humility and plainness. May it please thee, O our Lord, most clement, that he rule and govern this, thy seignory, that thou hast committed to him, with all prudence and wisdom. May it please thee that he do nothing wrong or to thine offense; deign to walk with him and direct him in all his ways. But if thou wilt not do this, ordain that from this day henceforth he be abhorred and disliked, and that he die in war at the hands of his enemies, that he depart to the house of the sun; where he will be taken care of as a precious stone, and his heart esteemed by the sun-lord; he dying in the war like a stout and valiant man. This would be much better than to be dishonored in the world, to be disliked and abhorred of his people for his faults or defects. O our Lord, thou that providest to all the things needful for them, let this thing be done as I have entreated and supplicated thee. 214


The next prayer, directed to the god under his name Tezcatlipoca Titlacaoamoquequeloa, is to ask, after the death of a ruler, that another may be given: O our Lord, already thou knowest how our ruler is dead, already thou hast put him under thy feet; he is gathered to his place; he is gone by the road that all have to go by, and to the house where all have to lodge; house of perpetual darkness, where there is no window, nor any light at all; he is now where none shall trouble his rest. He served thee here in his office during some few days and years, not indeed without fault and offense. Thou gavest him to taste in this world somewhat of thy kindness and favor, passing it before his face as a thing that passes quickly. This is the dignity and office that thou placedst him in, that he served thee in for some days, as has been said, with sighs, tears and devout prayers before thy majesty. Alas, he is gone now where our father and mother the god of hades is, the god that descended head foremost below the fire,[VI-44] the god that desires to carry us all to his place, with a very importunate desire, with such a desire as one has that dies of hunger and thirst; the god that is moved exceedingly, both by day and night, crying and demanding that all go to him. There, with this god, is now our late-departed ruler; he is there with all his ancestors that were in the first times, that governed this kingdom, with Acamapichtli, with Tyzoc, with Avitzotl, with the first Mocthecuzoma, with Axayacatl, and with those that came last, as the second Mocthecuzoma and also Mocthecuzoma Ilhuicamina.[VI-45] All these lords and kings ruled, governed, and enjoyed the sovereignty and royal dignity, and throne and seat of this empire; they ordered and regulated the affairs of this thy kingdom—thou that art the universal lord and emperor, and that needest not to take counsel with another. Already had 215 these put off the intolerable load that they had on their shoulders, leaving it to their successor, our late ruler, so that for some days he bore up this lordship and kingdom; but now he has passed on after his predecessors to the other world. For thou didst ordain him to go, and didst call him to give thanks for being unloaded of so great a burden, quit of so sore a toil, and left in peace and rest. Some few days we have enjoyed him, but now forever he is absent from us, never more to return to the world. Peradventure has he gone to any place whence he can return here, so that his subjects may see his face again? Will he come again to tell us to do this or that? Will he come again to look to the consuls or governors of the state? Peradventure will they see him any more, or hear his decree and commandment? Will he come any more to give consolation and comfort to his principal men and his consuls? Alas, there is an end to his presence, he is gone for ever. Alas, that our candle has been quenched, and our light, that the axe that shone with us is lost altogether. All his subjects and inferiors, he has left in orphanage and without shelter. Peradventure will he take care henceforward of this city, province, and kingdom, though this city be destroyed and leveled to the ground, with this seignory and kingdom? O our Lord, most clement, is it a fit thing that by the absence of him that died shall come to the city, seignory, and kingdom some misfortune, in which will be destroyed, undone, and affrighted the vassals that live therein? For while living, he who has died gave shelter under his wings, and kept his feathers spread over the people. Great danger runs this your city, seignory, and kingdom, if another ruler be not elected immediately to be a shelter thereto. What is it that thou art resolved to do? Is it good that thy people be in darkness? Is it good that they be without head or shelter? Is it thy will that they be leveled down and destroyed? Woe for the poor and the little ones, thy servants, that go seeking a father and mother, some one to shelter and govern them, even as little children that 216 go weeping, seeking an absent father and mother, and that grieve, not finding them. Woe for the merchants, petty and poor, that go about by the mountains, deserts, and meadows, woe also to the sad toilers that go about seeking herbs to eat, roots and wood to burn, or to sell, to eke out an existence withal. Woe for the poor soldiers, for the men of war, that go about seeking death, that abhor life, that think of nothing but the field and the line where battle is given—upon whom shall they call? who shall take a captive? to whom shall they present the same? And if they themselves be taken captive, to whom shall they give notice, that it may be known in their land? Whom shall they take for father and mother, so that in such a case favor may be granted them? Since he whose duty it was to see to this, who was as father and mother to all, is already dead. There will be none to weep, to sigh for the captives, to tell their relatives about them. Woe for the poor of the litigants, for those that have lawsuits with those that would take their estates. Who will judge, make peace among, and clear them of their disputes and quarrels? Behold when a child becomes dirty, if his mother clean him not, he must remain filthy. And those that make strife between themselves, that beat, that knock down, who will keep peace between them? Those that for all this go weeping and shedding tears, who shall wipe away their tears and put a stop to their laments? Peradventure can they apply a remedy to themselves? Those deserving death, will they peradventure pass sentence upon themselves? Who shall set up the throne of justice? Who shall possess the hall of the judge, since there is no judge? Who will ordain the things that are necessary for the good of this city, seignory, and kingdom? Who will elect the special judges that have charge of the lower people, district by district? Who will look to the sounding of the drum and fife to gather the people for war? who will collect and lead the soldiers and dexterous men to battle? O our Lord and protector see good to elect and decide upon 217 some person sufficient to fill your throne and bear upon his shoulders the sore burden of the ruling of the state, to gladden and cheer the common people, even as the mother caresses the child, taking it in her lap; who will make music to the troubled bees[VI-46] so that they may be at rest? O our Lord, most clement, favor our ruler-elect, whom we deem fit for this office, elect and choose him so that he may hold this your lordship and government; give him as a loan your throne and seat, so that he may rule over this seignory and kingdom as long as he lives; lift him from the lowliness and humility in which he is, and put on him this honor and dignity that we think him worthy of; O our Lord, most clement, give light and splendor with your hand to this state and kingdom. What has been said I only come to propose to thy majesty; although very defectively, as one that is drunken, and that staggers, almost ready to fall. Do that which may best serve thee, in all and through all.


What follows is a kind of greater excommunication, or prayer to get rid of a ruler that abused and misused his power and dignity: O our Lord, most clement, that givest shelter to every one that approaches, even as a tree of great height and breadth, thou that art invisible and impalpable; that art, as we understand, able to penetrate the stones and the trees, seeing what is contained therein. For this same reason thou seest and knowest what is within our hearts and readest our thoughts. Our soul in thy presence is as a little smoke or fog that rises from the earth. It cannot at all be hidden from thee, the deed and the manner of living of any one; for thou seest and knowest his secrets and the sources of his pride and ambition. Thou knowest that our ruler has a cruel and hard heart and abuses the dignity that thou hast given him, as the drunkard abuses his wine, as one drunken with a soporific;[VI-47] that is to say that the riches, dignity, and abundance that for a little 218 while thou hast given him, fill him with error, haughtiness, and unrest, and that he becomes a fool, intoxicated with the poison that makes him mad. His prosperity causes him to despise and make little of every one; it seems that his heart is covered with sharp thorns and also his face: all of which is made apparent by his manner of living, and by his manner of talking; never saying nor doing anything that gives pleasure to any one, never caring for any one, never taking counsel of any one; he ever lives as seems good to him and as the whim directs. O our Lord, most clement, protector of all, creator and maker of all, it is too certain that this man has destroyed himself, has acted like a child ungrateful to his father, like a drunkard without reason. The favors thou hast accorded him, the dignity thou hast set him in, have occasioned his perdition. Besides these, there is another thing, exceedingly hurtful and reprehensible: he is irreligious, never praying to the gods, never weeping before them, nor grieving for his sins, nor sighing; from this it comes about that he is as headstrong as a drunkard in his vices, going about like a hollow and empty person, wholly senseless; he stays not to consider what he is nor the office that he fills. Of a verity he dishonors and affronts the dignity and throne that he holds, which is thine, and which ought to be much honored and reverenced; for from it depends the justice and rightness of the judicature that he holds, for the sustaining and worthily directing of thy nation, thou being emperor of all. He should so hold his power that the lower people be not injured and oppressed by the great; from him should fall punishment and humiliation on those that respect not thy power and dignity. But all things and people suffer loss in that he fills not his office as he ought. The merchants suffer also, who are those to whom thou givest the most of thy riches, who overrun all the world, yea the mountains and the unpeopled places, seeking through much sorrow thy gifts, favors, and dainties, the which thou givest sparingly and to thy friends. Ah, Lord, not only does he dishonor thee as aforesaid, 219 but also when we are gathered together to intone thy songs, gathered in the place where we solicit thy mercies and gifts, in the place where thou art praised and prayed to, where the sad afflicted ones and the poor gather comfort and strength, where very cowards find spirit to die in war—in this so holy and reverend place this man exhibits his dissoluteness and hurts devotion; he troubles those that serve and praise thee in the place where thou gatherest and markest thy friends, as a shepherd marks his flock.[VI-48] Since thou, Lord, hearest and knowest to be true all that I have now said in thy presence, there remains no more but that thy will be done, and the good pleasure of thy heart to the remedy of this affair. At least, O Lord, punish this man in such wise that he become a warning to others, so that they may not imitate his evil life. Let the punishment fall on him from thy hand that to thee seems most meet, be it sickness or any other affliction; or deprive him of the lordship, so that thou mayest give it to another, to one of thy friends, to one humble, devoted, and penitent; for many such thou hast, thou that lackest not persons such as are necessary for this office, friends that hope, crying to thee: thou knowest those for friends and servants that weep and sigh in thy presence every day. Elect some one of these that he may hold the dignity of this thy kingdom and seignory; make trial of some of these. And now, O Lord, of all the aforesaid things which is it that thou wilt grant? Wilt thou take from this ruler the lordship, dignity, and riches on which he prides himself, and give them to another who may be devout, penitent, humble, obedient, capable, and of good understanding? Or, peradventure, wilt thou be served by the falling of this proud one into poverty and misery, as one of the poor rustics that can hardly gather the wherewithal to eat, drink, and clothe himself? Or, peradventure, will it please thee to smite him with a sore punishment so that 220 all his body may shrivel up, or his eyes be made blind, or his members rotten? Or wilt thou be pleased to withdraw him from the world through death, and send him to hades, to the house of darkness and obscurity, where his ancestors are, whither we have all to go, where our father is, and our mother, the god and the goddess of hell. O our Lord, most clement, what is it that thy heart desires the most? Let thy will be done. And in this matter in which I supplicate thee, I am not moved by envy nor hate; nor with any such motives have I come into thy presence. I am moved only by the robbery and ill-treatment that the people suffer, only by a desire for their peace and prosperity. I would not desire, O Lord, to provoke against myself thy wrath and indignation, I that am a mean man and rude; for it is to thee, O Lord, to penetrate the heart and to know the thoughts of all mortals.


The following is a form of Mexican prayer to Tezcatlipoca, used by the officiating confessor after having heard a confession of sins from some one. The peculiarity of a Mexican confession was that it could not lawfully have place in a man's life more than once; a man's first absolution and remission of sins was also the last and the only one he had to hope for:—O our most compassionate Lord, protector and favorer of all, thou hast now heard the confession of this poor sinner, with which he has published in thy presence his rottenness and unsavoriness. Perhaps he has hidden some of his sins before thee, and if it be so he has irreverently and offensively mocked thy majesty, and thrown himself into a dark cavern and into a deep ravine;[VI-49] he has snared and entangled himself; he has made himself worthy of blindness, shrivelling and rotting of the members, poverty, and misery. Alas, if this poor sinner have attempted 221 any such audacity as to offend thus before thy majesty, before thee that art lord and emperor of all, that keepest a reckoning with all, he has tied himself up, he has made himself vile, he has mocked himself. Thou thoroughly seest him, for thou seest all things, being invisible and without bodily parts. If he have done this thing, he has, of his own will, put himself in this peril and risk; for this is a place of very strict justice and very strait judgment. This rite is like very clear water with which thou washest away the faults of him that wholly confesses, even if he have incurred destruction and shortening of days; if indeed he have told all the truth, and have freed and untied himself from his sins and faults, he has received the pardon of them and of what they have incurred. This poor man is even as a man that has slipped and fallen in thy presence, offending thee in divers ways, dirting himself also and casting himself into a deep cavern, and a bottomless well.[VI-50] He fell like a poor and lean man, and now he is grieved and discontented with all the past; his heart and body are pained and ill at ease; he is now filled with heaviness for having done what he did; he is now wholly determined never to offend thee again. In thy presence, O Lord, I speak, that knowest all things, that knowest also that this poor wretch did not sin with an entire liberty of free will; he was pushed to it and inclined by the nature of the sign under which he was born. And since this is so, O our Lord, most clement, protector and helper of all, since also this poor man has gravely offended thee, wilt thou not remove thine anger and thine indignation from him? Give him time, O Lord; favor and pardon him, inasmuch as he weeps, sighs, and sobs, looking before him on the evil he has done, and on that wherein he has offended thee. He is sorrowful, he sheds many tears, the sorrow of his sins afflicts his heart; he is not sorry only, but terrified also at thoughts of them. This being so, it is also a just thing that thy fury and 222 indignation against him be appeased and that his sins be thrown on one side. Since thou art full of pity, O Lord, see good to pardon and to cleanse him; grant him the pardon and remission of his sins, a thing that descends from heaven, as water very clear and very pure to wash away sins,[VI-51] with which thou washest away all the stain and impurity that sin causes in the soul. See good, O Lord, that this man go in peace, and command him in what he has to do; let him go to do penance for and to weep over his sins; give him the counsels necessary to his well living.



At this point the confessor ceases from addressing the god and turns to the penitent, saying: O my brother, thou hast come into a place of much peril, a place of travail and fear; thou hast come to a steep chasm and a sheer rock, where if any one fall he shall never come up again; thou hast come to the very place where the snares and the nets touch one another, where they are set one upon another, in such wise that no one may pass thereby without falling into some of them, and not only snares and nets but also holes like wells. Thou hast thrown thyself down the banks of the river and among the snares and nets, whence without aid it is not possible that thou shouldst escape. These thy sins are not only snares, nets, and wells, into which thou hast fallen, but they are also wild beasts that kill and rend both body and soul. Peradventure, hast thou hidden some one or some of thy sins, weighty, huge, filthy, unsavory, hidden something now published in heaven, earth, and hades, something that now stinks to the uttermost part of the world? Thou hast now presented thyself before our most clement Lord and protector of all, whom thou didst irritate, offend, and provoke the anger of, who to-morrow, or some other day, will take thee out of this world and put thee under 223 his feet, and send thee to the universal house of hades, where thy father is and thy mother, the god and the goddess of hell, whose mouths are always open desiring to swallow thee and as many as may be in the world. In that place shall be given thee whatsoever thou didst merit in this world, according to the divine justice, and to what thou hast earned with thy works of poverty, misery, and sickness. In divers manners thou wilt be tormented and afflicted in the extreme, and wilt be soaked in a lake of intolerable torments and miseries; but here, at this time, thou hast had pity upon thyself in speaking and communicating with our Lord, with him that sees all the secrets of every heart. Tell therefore wholly all that thou hast done, as one that flings himself into a deep place, into a well without bottom. When thou wast created and sent into the world, clean and good thou wast created and sent; thy father and thy mother Quetzalcoatl formed thee like a precious stone, and like a bead of gold of much value; when thou wast born thou wast like a rich stone and a jewel of gold very shining and very polished. But of thine own will and volition thou hast defiled and stained thyself, and rolled in filth, and in the uncleanness of the sins and evil deeds that thou hast committed and now confessed. Thou hast acted as a child without judgment or understanding, that playing and toying defiles himself with a loathsome filth; so hast thou acted in the matter of the sins that thou hast taken pleasure in, but hast now confessed and altogether discovered before our Lord, who is the protector and purifier of all sinners. This thou shalt not take for an occasion of jesting, for verily thou hast come to the fountain of mercy, which is like very clear water, with which filthinesses of the soul are washed away by our Lord God, the protector and favorer of all that turn to him. Thou hast snatched thyself from hades, and hast returned again to come to life in this world, as one that comes from another. Now thou hast been born anew, thou hast begun to live anew, and our Lord God gives thee light and a new sun. Now once 224 more thou beginnest to radiate and to shine anew like a very precious and clear stone, issuing from the belly of the matrix in which it was created. Since this is thus, see that thou live with much circumspection and very advisedly now and henceforward, all the time that thou mayest live in this world under the power and lordship of our Lord God, most clement, beneficent, and munificent. Weep, be sad, walk humbly, with submission, with the head low and bowed down, praying to God. Look that pride find no place within thee, otherwise thou wilt displease our Lord, who sees the hearts and the thoughts of all mortals. In what dost thou esteem thyself? At how much dost thou hold thyself? What is thy foundation and root? On what dost thou support thyself? It is clear that thou art nothing, canst do nothing, and art worth nothing; for our Lord will do with thee all he may desire and none shall stay his hand. Peradventure, must he show thee those things with which he torments and afflicts, so that thou mayest see them with thine eyes in this world? Nay verily, for the torments and horrible sufferings of his tortures of the other world are not visible, nor able to be seen by those that live here. Perhaps he will condemn thee to the universal house of hades; and the house where thou now livest will fall down and be destroyed, and be as a dung-hill of filthiness and uncleanness, thou having been accustomed to live therein with much satisfaction, waiting to know how he would dispose of thee, he our Lord and helper, the invisible, incorporeal and alone one. Therefore I entreat thee to stand up and strengthen thyself and to be no more henceforth as thou hast been in the past. Take to thyself a new heart and a new manner of living, and take good care not to turn again to thine old sins. Consider that thou canst not see with thine eyes our Lord God, for he is invisible and impalpable, he is Tezcatlipoca, he is Titlacaoa, he is a youth of perfect perfection and without spot. Strengthen thyself to sweep, to clean, and to arrange thy house; for if thou do not this, thou wilt reject from thy company and from thy 225 house, and wilt offend much the very clement youth that is ever walking through our houses, and through our streets, enjoying and amusing himself—the youth that labors, seeking his friends, to comfort them and to comfort himself with them. To conclude, I tell thee to go and learn to sweep, and to get rid of the filth and sweepings of thy house, and to cleanse everything, thyself not the least. Seek out also a slave to immolate him before God; make a feast to the principal men, and let them sing the praises of our Lord. It is moreover fit that thou shouldst do penance, working a year or more in the house of God; there thou shalt bleed thyself, and prick thy body with maguey thorns; and, as a penance for the adulteries and other vilenesses that thou hast committed, thou shalt, twice every day, pass osier twigs through holes pierced in thy body, once through thy tongue, and once through thine ears. This penance shalt thou do not alone for the carnalities above mentioned, but also for the evil and injurious words with which thou hast insulted and affronted thy neighbors; as also for the ingratitude thou hast shown with reference to the gifts bestowed on thee by our Lord, and for thine inhumanity toward thy neighbors, neither making offerings of the goods that were given thee by God, nor sharing with the poor the temporal benefits given by our Lord. Thou shalt burden thyself to offer paper and copal; thou shalt give alms to the needy and the hungry, to those that have nothing to eat nor to drink nor to cover themselves with; even though thou thyself go without food to give it away and to clothe the naked: look to it, for their flesh is like thy flesh, and they are men as thou. Care most of all for the sick, they are the image of God.[VI-52] There remains nothing more to be said to thee; go in peace, and entreat God to aid thee to fulfill what thou art obliged to do; for he gives favor to all.


The following prayer is one addressed to Tezcatlipoca by a recently elected ruler, to give thanks for his election 226 and to ask favor and light for the proper performance of his office: O our lord, most clement, invisible and impalpable protector and governor, well do I know that thou knowest me, who am a poor man, of low destiny, born and brought up among filth, and a man of small reason and mean judgment, full of many defects and faults, a man that knows not himself, nor considers who he is. Thou hast bestowed on me a great benefit, favor, and mercy, without any merit on my part; thou hast lifted me from the dung-hill and set me in the royal dignity and throne. Who am I, my Lord, and what is my worth that thou shouldst put me among the number of those that thou lovest? among the number of thine acquaintance, of those thou holdest for chosen friends and worthy of all honor; born and brought up for thrones and royal dignities; to this end thou hast created them able, prudent, descended from noble and generous fathers; for this end they were created and educated; to be thine instruments and images they were born and baptized under the signs and constellations that lords are born under. They were born to rule thy kingdoms, thy word being within them and speaking by their mouth—according to the desire of the ancient god, the father of all the gods, the god of fire, who is in the pond of water among turrets surrounded with stones like roses, who is called Xiuhtecutli, who determines, examines, and settles the business and lawsuits of the nation and of the common people, as it were washing them with water; in the company and presence of this god the generous personages aforementioned always are. O most clement Lord, ruler, and governor, thou hast done me a great favor. Perhaps it has been through the intercession and through the tears shed by the departed lords and ladies that had charge of this kingdom.[VI-53] It would be great madness to suppose that for any merit or courage of mine thou hast favored me, setting me over this your kingdom, the government of which is 227 something very heavy, difficult, and even fearful; it is as a huge burden, carried on the shoulders, and one that with great difficulty the past rulers bore, ruling in thy name. O our Lord, most clement, invisible, and impalpable, ruler and governor, creator and knower of all things and thoughts, beautifier of thy creatures,[VI-54] what shall I say more, poor me? In what wise have I to rule and govern this thy state, or how have I to carry this burden of the common people? I who am blind and deaf, who do not even know myself, nor know how to rule over myself. I am accustomed to walk in filth, my faculties fit me for seeking and selling edible herbs, and for carrying and selling wood. What I deserve, O Lord, is blindness for mine eyes and shriveling and rotting for my limbs, and to go dressed in rags and tatters; this is what I deserve and what ought to be given me. It is I that need to be ruled and to be carried on some one's back. Thou hast many friends and acquaintances that may be trusted with this load. Since, however, thou has already determined to set me up for a scoff and a jeer to the world, let thy will be done and thy word fulfilled. Peradventure thou knowest not who I am; and, after having known me, wilt seek another and take the government from me; taking it again to thyself, hiding again in thyself this dignity and honor, being already angry and weary of bearing with me; and thou wilt give the government to another, to some close friend and acquaintance of thine, to some one very devout toward thee, that weeps and sighs and so merits this dignity. Or, peradventure, this thing that happened to me is a dream, or a walking in sleep. O Lord, thou that art present in every place, that knowest all thoughts, that distributest all gifts, be pleased not to hide from me thy words and thine inspiration. I do not know the road I have to follow, nor what I have to do, deign then not 228 to hide from me the light and the mirror that have to guide me. Do not allow me to cause those I have to rule and carry on my shoulders to lose the road and to wander over rocks and mountains. Do not allow me to guide them in the tracks of rabbits and deer. Do not permit, O Lord, any war to be raised against me, nor any pestilence to come upon those I govern; for I should not know, in such a case, what to do, nor where to take those I have upon my shoulders; alas for me, that am incapable and ignorant. I would not that any sickness come upon me, for in that case thy nation and people would be lost, and thy kingdom desolated and given up to darkness. What shall I do, O Lord and creator, if by chance I fall into some disgraceful fleshly sin, and thereby ruin the kingdom? what do if by negligence or sloth I undo my subjects? what do if through my fault I hurl down a precipice those I have to rule? Our Lord, most clement, invisible and impalpable, I entreat thee not to separate thyself from me; visit me often; visit this poor house, for I will be waiting for thee therein. With great thirst I await thee and demand urgently thy word and inspiration, which thou didst breathe into thine ancient friends and acquaintances that have ruled with diligence and rectitude over thy kingdom. This is thy throne and honor, on either side whereof are seated thy senators and principal men, who are as thine image and very person. They give sentence and speak on the affairs of the state in thy name; thou usest them as thy flutes, speaking from within them and placing thyself in their faces and ears, opening their mouths so that they may speak well. In this place the merchants mock and jest at our follies, with which merchants thou art spending thy leisure, since they are thy friends and acquaintances; there also thou inspirest and breathest upon thy devoted ones, who weep and sigh in thy presence, sincerely giving thee their heart.[VI-55] For this reason thou 229 adornest them with prudence and wisdom, so that they may look as into a mirror with two faces, where every one's image is to be seen;[VI-56] for this thou givest them a very clear axe, without any dimness, whose brightness flashes into all places. For this cause also thou givest them gifts and precious jewels, hanging them from their necks and ears, even like material ornaments such as are the nacochtl, the tentetl, the tlapiloni or head-tassel, the matemecatl or tanned strap that lords tie round their wrists,[VI-57] the yellow leather bound on the ankles, the beads of gold, and the rich feathers. In this place of the good governing and rule of thy kingdom, are merited thy riches and glory, thy sweet and delightful things, calmness and tranquillity, a peaceable and contented life; all of which come from thy hand. In the same place, lastly, are also merited the adverse and wearisome things, sickness, poverty, and the shortness of life; which things are sent by thee to those that in this condition do not fulfill their duty. O our Lord, most clement, knower of thoughts and giver of gifts, is it in my hand, that am a mean man, to know how to rule? is the manner of my life in my hand, and the works that I have to do in my office? which indeed is of thy kingdom and dignity and not mine. What thou mayest wish me to do and what may be thy will and disposition, thou aiding me I will do. The road thou mayest show me I will walk in; that thou mayest inspire me with, and put in my heart, that I will say and speak. O our Lord, most clement, in thy hand I wholly place myself, for it is not possible for me to direct or govern myself; I am blind, darkness, a dung-hill. See good, O Lord, to give me a 230 little light, though it be only as much as a fire-fly gives out, going about at night; to light me in this dream, in this life asleep that endures as for a day; where are many things to stumble at, many things to give occasion for laughing at one, many things like a rugged road that has to be gone over by leaps. All this has to happen in the position thou hast put me in, giving me thy seat and dignity. O Lord, most clement, I entreat thee to visit me with thy light, that I may not err, that I may not undo myself, that my vassals may not cry out against me. O our Lord, most pitiful, thou hast made me now the back-piece[VI-58] of thy chair, also thy flute; all without any merit of mine. I am thy mouth, thy face, thine ears, thy teeth, and thy nails. Although I am a mean man I desire to say that I unworthily represent thy person, and thine image, that the words I shall speak have to be esteemed as thine, that my face has to be held as thine, mine eyes as thine, and the punishment that I shall inflict as if thou hadst inflicted it. For all this I entreat thee to put thy spirit within me, and thy words, so that all may obey them and none contradict.[VI-59]




Now with regard to the measure of the genuineness of the prayers to Tezcatlipoca, just given, it seems evident that either with or without the conscious connivance of Father Bernardino de Sahagun, their historian, a certain amount of sophistication and adaptation to Christian ideas has crept into them; it appears to be just as evident, however, on the other hand, that they contain a great deal that is original, indigenous, and characteristic in regard to the Mexican religion. At any rate they purport to do so, and as evidence bearing on the matter, presented by a hearer and eye-witness at first hand, by 231 a man of strongly authenticated probity, learning, and above all, of strong sympathy with the Mexican people, beloved and trusted by those of them with whom he came in contact, and admitted to the familiarity of a friend with their traditions and habits of thought—for all these reasons his evidence, however we may esteem it, must be heard and judged.[VI-60]



Image of Tezcatlipoca—His Seats at the Street-corners—Various Legends about his Life on Earth—Quetzalcoatl—His Dexterity in the Mechanical Arts—His Religious Observances—The Wealth and Nimbleness of his Adherents—Expulsion from Tulla of Quetzalcoatl by Tezcatlipoca and Huitzilopochtli—The Magic Draught—Huemac, or Vemac, King of the Toltecs, and the Misfortunes brought upon him and his people by Tezcatlipoca in various disguises—Quetzalcoatl in Cholula—Differing Accounts of the Birth and Life of Quetzalcoatl—His Gentle Character—He drew up the Mexican Calendar—Incidents of his Exile and of his Journey to Tlapalla, as related and commented upon by various writers—Brasseur's ideas about the Quetzalcoatl Myths—Quetzalcoatl considered a Sun-God by Tylor, and as a Dawn-Hero by Brinton—Helps—Domenech—The Codices—Long Discussion of the Quetzalcoatl Myths by J. G. Müller.

In the preceding chapter I have given only the loftier view of Tezcatlipoca's nature, which even on this side cannot be illustrated without many inconsistencies. We pass now to relations evidencing a much meaner idea of his character, and showing him whom we have seen called invisible, almighty, and beneficent, in a new and much less imposing light. We pass, in fact, from the Zeus of Plato and Socrates to the Zeus of Hesiod and Homer.

Let us glance first at the fashion of his representation in the temples, though with little hope of seeing the particular fitness of many of the trappings and symbols with which his statue was decorated. His principal image, at least 238 in the city of Mexico, was cut out of a very shining black stone, called iztli, a variety of obsidian—a stone valued, in consideration of its capabilities of cleavage, for making those long splinters, used as knives by the Aztecs, for sacrificial and other purposes. For these uses in worship, and perhaps indeed for its manifold uses in all regards, it was surnamed teotetl, divine stone. In places where stone was less convenient the image was made of wood. The general idea intended to be given was that of a young man; by which the immortality of the god was set forth. The ears of the idol were bright with ear-rings of gold and silver. Through his lower lip was thrust a little crystal tube, perhaps six inches long, and through the hollow of this tube a feather was drawn; sometimes a green feather, sometimes a blue, giving the transparent ornament the tint at one time of an emerald, at another of a turquoise. The hair—carved from the stone, we may suppose—was drawn into a queue and bound with a ribbon of burnished gold, to the end of which ribbon, hanging down behind, was attached a golden ear with certain tongues of ascending smoke painted thereon; which smoke was intended to signify the prayers of those sinners and afflicted that, commending themselves to the god, were heard by him. Upon his head were many plumes of red and green feathers. From his neck there hung down in front a great jewel of gold that covered all his breast. Bracelets of gold were upon his arms, and in his navel was set a precious green stone. In his left hand there flashed a great circular mirror of gold, bordered like a fan with precious feathers, green and azure and yellow; the eyes of the god were ever fixed on this, for therein he saw reflected all that was done in the world. This mirror was called itlachia, that is to say, the 'looker-on,' the 'viewer.' Tezcatlipoca was sometimes seated on a bench covered with a red cloth, worked with the likeness of many skulls, having in his right hand four darts, signifying, according to some, that he punished sin. To the top of his feet were attached twenty bells of gold, and to his right foot the fore-foot 239 of a deer, to show the exceeding swiftness of this deity in all his ways. Hiding the shining black body, was a great cloak, curiously wrought in black and white, adorned with feathers, and fringed about with rosettes of three colors, red, white, and black. This god, whose decorations vary a little with different writers—variations probably not greater than those really existing among the different figures representing in different places the same deity—had a kind of chapel built to hold him on the top of his temple. It was a dark chamber lined with rich cloths of many colors; and from its obscurity the image looked out, seated on a pedestal, with a costly canopy immediately overhead, and an altar in front; not apparently an altar of sacrifice, but a kind of ornamental table, like a Christian altar, covered with rich cloth. Into this holy of holies it was not lawful for any but a priest to enter.


What most of all, however, must have served to bring the worship of Tezcatlipoca prominently before the people, were the seats of stone, built at the corners of the streets, for the accommodation of this god when he walked invisibly abroad. Mortal, born of woman, never sat thereon; not the king himself might dare to use them: sacred they were, sacred for ever, and always shadowed by a canopy of green boughs, reverently renewed every five days.[VII-1]

Lower and lower we must now descend from the idea of an almighty god, to take up the thread of various legends in which Tezcatlipoca figures in an anything but creditable light. We have already seen him described as one of those hero-gods whom the new-born Sun was instrumental in destroying;[VII-2] and we may suppose that he then ascended into heaven, for we find him afterward descending thence, letting himself down by a 240 rope twined from spider's web. Rambling through the world he came to a place called Tulla, where a certain Quetzalcoatl—another, according to Sahagun, of the hero-gods just referred to—had been ruling for many years. The two engaged in a game of ball, in the course of which Tezcatlipoca suddenly transformed himself into a tiger, occasioning thereby a tremendous panic among the spectators, many of whom in the haste of their flight precipitated themselves down a ravine in the neighborhood into a river and were drowned. Tezcatlipoca then began to persecute Quetzalcoatl from city to city till he drove him to Cholula. Here Quetzalcoatl was held as chief god, and here for some time he was safe. But only for a few years; his indefatigable and powerful enemy forced him to retreat with a few of his adherents toward the sea, to a place called Tlillapa or Tizapan. Here the hunted Quetzalcoatl died, and his followers inaugurated the custom of burning the dead by burning his body.[VII-3]

The foregoing, from Mendieta, gives us a glimpse, from one point of view, of that great personage Quetzalcoatl, of whom we shall know much more anon, and whom in the meantime we meet again and again as the opponent, or rather victim of Tezcatlipoca. Let us consider Sahagun's version of the incidents of this strife:—


Quetzalcoatl was, from very ancient times, adored as a god in Tulla. He had a very high cu[VII-4] there, with many steps up to it, steps so narrow that there was not room for a whole foot on any of them. His image was always in a recumbent position and covered with blankets. The face of it was very ugly, the head large and furnished with a long beard. The adherents of this god were all devoted to the mechanical arts, dexterous in working the green stone called chalchiuite, and in founding the precious metals; all of which arts had their beginning and origin with the said Quetzalcoatl. He had whole houses made of chalchiuites, others made of silver, others of white and red shells, others of planks, others of turquoises, 241 and others of rich feathers. His adherents were very light of foot and swift in going whither they wished, and they were called tlanquacemilhiyme. There is a mountain called Tzatzitepetl on which Quetzalcoatl used to have a crier, and the people afar off and scattered, and the people of Anáhuac, a hundred leagues distant, heard and understood at once whatever the said Quetzalcoatl commanded. And Quetzalcoatl was very rich; he had all that was needful both to eat and to drink; maize was abundant, and a head of it was as much as a man could carry clasped in his arms; pumpkins measured a fathom round; the stalks of the wild amarinth were so large and thick that people climbed them like trees. Cotton was sowed and gathered in of all colors, red, scarlet, yellow, violet, whitish, green, blue, blackish, grey, orange, and tawny; these colors in the cotton were natural to it, thus it grew. Further it is said that in that city of Tulla, there abounded many sorts of birds of rich and many-colored plumage, the xiuhtototl, the quetzaltototl, the zaquan, the tlauquechol, and other birds that sang with much sweetness. And this Quetzalcoatl had all the riches of the world, of gold and silver, of green stones called chalchiuites, and of other precious things, and a great abundance of cocoa-nut trees of divers colors. The vassals or adherents of Quetzalcoatl were also very rich and wanted for nothing; they were never hungry; they never lacked maize, nor ate the small ears of it, but burned them like wood to heat the baths. It is said lastly that Quetzalcoatl did penance by pricking his legs and drawing blood with the spines of the maguey and by washing at midnight in a fountain called xicapoya;[VII-5] this custom the priests and ministers of the Mexican idols adopted.

There came at last a time in which the fortunes of Quetzalcoatl and of his people, the Toltecs, began to fail; for there came against them three sorcerers, gods in disguise, to wit Tezcatlipoca, Huitzilopochtli, and Tlacavepan, 242 who wrought many deceits in Tulla. Tezcatlipoca especially prepared a cunning trick; he turned himself into a hoary-headed old man, and went to the house of Quetzalcoatl, saying to the servants there, I wish to see and speak to your master. Then the servants said, Go away, old man, thou canst not see our king, for he is sick, thou wilt annoy him and cause him heaviness. But Tezcatlipoca insisted, I must see him. Then the servants bid the sorcerer to wait, and they went in and told Quetzalcoatl how an old man without affirmed that he would see the king and would not be denied. And Quetzalcoatl answered, Let him come in, behold for many days I have waited for his coming. So Tezcatlipoca entered, and he said to the sick god-king, How art thou? adding further that he had a medicine for him to drink. Then Quetzalcoatl answered, Thou art welcome, old man, behold for many days I have waited for thee. And the old sorcerer spake again, How is thy body, and how art thou in health? I am exceedingly sick, said Quetzalcoatl, all my body is in pain, I cannot move my hands nor my feet. Then, answered Tezcatlipoca, behold this medicine that I have, it is good and wholesome and intoxicating; if thou will drink it, thou shalt be intoxicated and healed and eased at the heart, and thou shalt have in mind the toils and fatigues of death and of thy departure.[VII-6] Where, cried Quetzalcoatl, have I to go? To Tullantlapallan, replied Tezcatlipoca, where there is another old man waiting for thee; he and thou shall talk together, and on thy return thence thou shalt be as a youth, yea, as a boy. And Quetzalcoatl hearing these words his heart was moved, while the old sorcerer, insisting more and more, said, Sir, drink this medicine. But the king did not wish to drink it. The sorcerer, however, insisted, Drink, my lord, or thou wilt be sorry for it hereafter; at least rub a little on thy brow and taste a sip. So Quetzalcoatl tried and tasted it, and drank, saying, What is this? it 243 seems to be a thing very good and savory; already I feel myself healed and quit of mine infirmity; already I am well. Then the old sorcerer said again, Drink once more, my lord, since it is good; so thou shall be the more perfectly healed. And Quetzalcoatl drank again, he made himself drunk, he began to weep sadly, his heart was eased and moved to depart, he could not rid himself of the thought that he must go; for this was the snare and deceit of Tezcatlipoca. And the medicine that Quetzalcoatl drank was the white wine of the country, made from the magueys that are called teumetl.


So Quetzalcoatl, whose fortunes we shall hereafter follow more particularly, set out upon his journey; and Tezcatlipoca proceeded further guilefully to kill many Toltecs, and to ally himself by marriage with Vemac, who was the temporal lord of the Toltecs, even as Quetzalcoatl was the spiritual ruler of that people. To accomplish these things Tezcatlipoca took the appearance of a poor foreigner, and presented himself naked, as was the custom of such people, in the market-place of Tulla, selling green chilly pepper. Now the palace of Vemac, the great king, overlooked the market-place, and he had an only daughter, and the girl, looking by chance among the buyers and sellers, saw the disguised god. She was smitten through with love of him, and she began to sicken. Vemac heard of her sickness and he inquired of the women that guarded her as to what ailed his daughter. They told him as best they could, how for the love of a peddler of pepper, named Toveyo, the princess had lain down to die. The king immediately sent a crier upon the mountain Tzatzitepec to make this proclamation: O Toltecs, seek me out Toveyo that goes about selling green pepper, let him be brought before me. So the people sought everywhere for the handsome pepper vender; but he was nowhere to be found. Then, after they could not find him, he appeared of his own accord one day, at his old place and trade in the market. He was brought before the king, who said to him, Where dost thou belong to? and Toveyo answered, I am a foreigner 244 come here to sell my green pepper. Why dost thou delay to cover thyself with breeches and with a blanket? said Vemac. Toveyo answered that in his country such things were not in fashion. Vemac continued, My daughter longs after thee, not willing to be comforted by any Toltec; she is sick of love and thou must heal her. But Toveyo replied, This thing can in no wise be, kill me first; I desire to die, not being worthy to hear these words, who get my living by selling green pepper. I tell thee, said the king, that thou must heal my daughter of this her sickness; fear not. Then they took the cunning god, and washed him, and cut his hair, and dyed all his body, and put breeches on him and a blanket; and the king Vemac said, Get thee in and see my daughter, there where they guard her. Then the young man went in and he remained with the princess and she became sound and well; thus Toveyo became the son-in-law of the king of Tulla.

Then behold all the Toltecs being filled with jealousy and offended, spake injurious and insulting words against king Vemac, saying among themselves, Of all the Toltecs can there not to be found a man, that this Vemac marries his daughter to a peddler? Now when the king heard all the injurious and insulting words that the people spake against him, he was moved, and he spoke to the people saying, Come hither, behold I have heard all these things that ye say against me in the matter of my son-in-law Toveyo; dissimulate then; take him deceitfully with you to the war of Cacatepec and Coatepec, let the enemy kill him there. Having heard these words the Toltecs armed themselves, and collected a multitude, and went to the war, bringing Toveyo along. Arrived where the fighting was to take place, they hid him with the lame and the dwarfs, charging them, as the custom was in such cases, to watch for the enemy, while the soldiers went on to the attack. The battle began; the Toltecs at once gave way; treacherously and guilefully deserting Toveyo and the cripples, leaving them to be slaughtered at their post, they returned to Tulla and told 245 the king how they had left Toveyo and his companions alone in the hands of the enemy. When the king heard the treason he was glad, thinking Toveyo dead, for he was ashamed of having him for a son-in-law. Affairs had gone otherwise, however, with Toveyo from what the plotters supposed. On the approach of the hostile army he consoled his deformed companions, saying, Fear nothing; the enemy come against us. but I know that I shall kill them all. Then he rose up and went forward against them, against the men of Coatepec and Cacatepec; he put them to flight and slew of them without number. When this came to the ears of Vemac, it weighed upon and terrified him exceedingly. He said to his Toltecs, Let us now go and receive my son-in-law. So they all went out with king Vemac to receive Toveyo, bearing the arms or devises called quetzalapanecayutl, and the shields called xiuchimali. They gave these things to Toveyo, and he and his comrades received them with dancing and the music of flutes, with triumph and rejoicing. Furthermore, on reaching the palace of the king, plumes were put upon the heads of the conquerors, and all the body of each of them was stained yellow, and all the face red; this was the customary reward of those that came back victorious from war. And king Vemac said to his son-in-law, I am now satisfied with what thou hast done and the Toltecs are satisfied; thou hast dealt very well with our enemies, rest and take thine ease. But Toveyo held his peace.


And after this, Toveyo adorned all his body with the rich feathers called tocivitl, and commanded the Toltecs to gather together for a festival, and sent a crier up to the top of the mountain, Tzatzitepec, to call in the strangers and the people afar off to dance and to feast. A numberless multitude gathered to Tulla. When they were all gathered Toveyo led them out, young men and girls, to a place called Texcalapa, where he himself began and led the dancing, playing on a drum. He sang too, singing each verse to the dancers, who sang it after him, though they knew not the song before hand. Then was 246 to be seen there a marvelous and terrible thing. From sunset till midnight the beat of the countless feet grew faster and faster; the tap, tap, tap of the drum closed up and poured into a continual roll; the monotonous song rose higher, wilder, till it burst into a roar. The multitude became a mob, the revel a riot; the people began to press upon and hustle each other; the riot became a panic. There was a fearful gorge or ravine there, with a river rushing through it called the Texcaltlauhco; a stone bridge led over the river. Toveyo broke down this bridge as the people fled; grim corypheus of this fearful revel, he saw them tread and crush each other down, under-foot, and over into the abyss. They that fell were turned into rocks and stones; as for them that escaped, they did not see nor think that it was Toveyo and his sorceries had wrought this great destruction; they were blinded by the witchcraft of the god, and out of their senses like drunken men.

Far from being satisfied with the slaughter at Texcalapa, Tezcatlipoca proceeded to hatch further evil against the Toltecs. He took the appearance of a certain valiant man called Teguioa, and commanded a crier to summon all the inhabitants of Tulla and its neighborhood to come and help at a certain piece of work in a certain flower-garden (said to have been a garden belonging to Quetzalcoatl.). All the people gathered to the work, whereupon the disguised god fell upon them, knocking them on the head with a coa.[VII-7] Those that escaped the coa were trodden down and killed by their fellows in attempting to escape; a countless number was slain; every man that had come to the work was left lying dead among the trodden flowers.


And after this Tezcatlipoca wrought another witchcraft against the Toltecs. He called himself Tlacavepan, or Acexcoch, and came and sat down in the midst of the market-place of Tulla, having a little manikin (said 247 to have been Huitzilopochtli) dancing upon his hand. There was an instant uproar of all the buyers and sellers and a rush to see the miracle. The people crushed and trod each other down, so that many were killed there; and all this happened many times. At last the god-sorcerer cried out, on one such occasion, What is this? do you not see that you are befooled by us? stone and kill us. So the people took up stones and killed the said sorcerer and his little dancing manikin. But when the body of the sorcerer had lain in the market-place for some time it began to stink and to taint the air, and the wind of it poisoned many. Then the dead sorcerer spake again, saying, Cast this body outside the town, for many Toltecs die because of it. So they prepared to cast out the body, and fastened ropes thereto and pulled. But the talkative and ill-smelling corpse was so heavy that they could not move it. Then a crier made a proclamation, saying, Come all ye Toltecs, and bring ropes with you, that we may drag out and get rid of this pestilential carcass. All came accordingly, bringing ropes, and the ropes were fastened to the body, and all pulled. It was utterly in vain. Rope after rope broke with a sudden snap, and those that dragged on a rope fell and were killed when it broke. Then the dead wizard looked up and said, O Toltecs, a verse of a song is needed; and he himself gave them a verse. They repeated the verse after him, and, singing it, pulled all together, so that with shouts they hauled the body out of the city; though still not without many ropes breaking and many persons being killed as before. All this being over, those Toltecs that remained unhurt returned every man to his place, not remembering anything of what had happened, for they were all as drunken.

Other signs and wonders were wrought by Tezcatlipoca in his rôle of sorcerer. A white bird called Yztaccuixtli, was clearly seen flying over Tulla, transfixed with a dart. At night also, the sierra called Zacatepec burned, and the flames were seen from far. All the people were stirred up and affrighted, saying one to another, 248 O Toltecs, it is all over with us now; the time of the end of Tulla is come; alas for us, whither shall we go?

Then Tezcatlipoca wrought another evil upon the Toltecs: he rained down stones upon them. There fell also, at the same time, a great stone from heaven called techcatl; and when it fell the god-sorcerer took the appearance of an old woman, and went about selling little banners in a place called Chapultepecuitlapilco, otherwise named Vetzinco. Many then became mad and bought of these banners and went to the place where was the stone Techcatl, and there got themselves killed; and no one was found to say so much as, What is this that happens to us? they were all mad.

Another woe Tezcatlipoca brought upon the Toltecs. All their victuals suddenly became sour, and no one was able to eat of them. The old woman, above mentioned, took up then her abode in a place called Xochitla[VII-8], and began to roast maize; and the odor of the roasted maize reached all the cities round about. The starving people set out immediately, and with one accord, to go where the old woman was. They reached her instantly, for here it may be again said, that the Toltecs were exceedingly light of foot, and arrived always immediately whithersoever they wished to go. As for the Toltecs that gathered to the sham sorceress, not one of them escaped, she killed them every one.[VII-9]


Turning, without remark for the present, from Tezcatlipoca, of whose life on earth the preceding farrago of legends is all that is known, let us take up the same period in the history of Quetzalcoatl. The city of Cholula was the place in which this god was most honored, and towards which he was supposed to be most favorably inclined; Cholula being greatly given to commerce and 249 handicraft, and the Cholulans considering Quetzalcoatl to be the god of merchandise. As Acosta tells: "In Cholula, which is a commonwealth of Mexico, they worshipt a famous idoll which was the god of marchandise, being to this day greatly given to trafficke. They called it Quetzaalcoalt. This idoll was in a great place in a temple very hie: it had about it, golde, silver, jewells, very rich feathers, and habites of divers colours. It had the forme of a man, but the visage of a little bird, with a red bill, and above a combe full of wartes, having ranckes of teeth, and the tongue hanging out. It carried vpon the head, a pointed myter of painted paper, a sithe in the hand, and many toyes of golde on the legges; with a thousand other foolish inventions, whereof all had their significations, and they worshipt it, for that hee enriched whome hee pleased, as Memnon and Plutus. In trueth this name which the Choluanos gave to their god, was very fitte, although they vnderstood it not: they called it Quetzaalcoalt, signifying colour of a rich feather, for such is the divell of covetousnesse."[VII-10]

Motolinia gives the following confused account of the birth as a man, the life, and the apotheosis of this god. The Mexican Adam, called Iztacmixcoatl by some writers, married a second time.[VII-11] This second wife, Chimamatl by name, bore him, it is said, an only son who was called Quetzalcoatl. This son grew up a chaste and temperate man. He originated by his preaching and practice the custom of fasting and self-punishment; and from that time many in that country began to do this penance. He never married, nor knew any woman, but lived restrainedly and chastely all his days. The custom of sacrificing the ears and the tongue, by drawing blood from these members, was also introduced by him; not for the service of the devil but in penitence for the sins of his speech and his hearing: it is true that afterward the demon misappropriated these rites to his own use and worship. A man called Chichimecatl fastened a 250 leather strap on the arm of Quetzalcoatl, fixing it high up near the shoulder; Chichimecatl was from that time called Acolhuatl, and from him, it is said, are descended those of Colhua, ancestors of Montezuma and lords of Mexico and Coluacan. This Quetzalcoatl is now held as a deity and called the god of the air; everywhere an infinite number of temples has been raised to him, and everywhere his statue or picture is found.[VII-12]

According to the account of Mendieta, tradition varied much as to the facts of the life of Quetzalcoatl. Some said he was the son of Camaxtli, god of hunting and fishing, and of Camaxtli's wife Chimalma. Others make mention only of the name of Chimalma, saying that as she was sweeping one day she found a small green stone called chalchiuite, that she picked it up, became miraculously pregnant, and gave birth to the said Quetzalcoatl. This god was worshiped as a principal deity in Cholula, where, as well as in Tlaxcala and Huejotzingo, there were many of his temples. We have already had one legend from Mendieta,[VII-13] giving an account of the expulsion from Tulla and death of Quetzalcoatl; the following from the same source gives a different and more usual version of the said expulsion:—


Quetzalcoatl came from the parts of Yucatan (although some said from Tulla) to the city of Cholula. He was a white man, of portly person, broad brow, great eyes, long black hair, and large round beard; of exceedingly chaste and quiet life, and of great moderation in all things. The people had at least three reasons for the great love, reverence, and devotion with which they regarded him: first, he taught the silversmith's art, a craft the Cholulans greatly prided themselves on; second, he desired no sacrifice of the blood of men or animals, but delighted only in offerings of bread, roses and other flowers, of perfumes and sweet odors; third, he prohibited and forbade all war and violence. Nor were these qualities esteemed only in the city of his chiefest 251 labors and teachings; from all the land came pilgrims and devotees to the shrine of the gentle god. Even the enemies of Cholula came and went secure, in fulfilling their vows; and the lords of distant lands had in Cholula their chapels and idols to the common object of devotion and esteem. And only Quetzalcoatl among all the gods was preëminently called Lord; in such sort, that when any one swore, saying, By Our Lord, he meant Quetzalcoatl and no other; though there were many other highly esteemed gods. For indeed the service of this god was gentle, neither did he demand hard things, but light; and he taught only virtue, abhorring all evil and hurt. Twenty years this good deity remained in Cholula, then he passed away by the road he had come, carrying with him four of the principal and most virtuous youths of that city. He journeyed for a hundred and fifty leagues, till he came to the sea, in a distant province called Goatzacoalco. Here he took leave of his companions and sent them back to their city, instructing them to tell their fellow citizens that a day should come in which white men would land upon their coasts, by way of the sea in which the sun rises; brethren of his and having beards like his; and that they should rule that land. The Mexicans always waited for the accomplishment of this prophecy, and when the Spaniards came they took them for the descendants of their meek and gentle prophet, although, as Mendieta remarks with some sarcasm, when they came to know them and to experience their works, they thought otherwise.

Quetzalcoatl is further reported by Mendieta to have assisted in drawing up and arranging the Mexican Calendar, a sacred book of thirteen tables, in which the religious rites and ceremonies proper to each day were set forth, in connection with the appropriate signs. It is said that the gods having created mankind, bethought themselves that it would be well if the people they had made had some writings by which they might direct themselves. Now there were, in a certain cave at Cuernavaca, two personages of the number of the gods, and 252 they were man and wife, he Oxomoco and she Cipactonal; and they were consulting together. It appeared good to the old woman that her descendant Quetzalcoatl should be consulted. The Cholulan god thought the thing of the calendar to be good and reasonable; so the three set to work. To the old woman was respectfully allotted the privilege of choosing and writing the first sign; she painted a kind of water-serpent called cipactli, and called the sign Ce Cipactli, that is "a serpent." Oxomoco, in his turn wrote "two canes," and then Quetzalcoatl wrote "three houses;" and so they went on till the whole thirteen signs of each table were written out in their order.[VII-14]


Let us now take up again the narrative of Sahagun, at the point where Quetzalcoatl, after drinking the potion prepared by Tezcatlipoca, prepares to set off upon his journey. Quetzalcoatl, very heavy in heart for all the misfortunes that this rival god was bringing upon the Toltecs, burned his beautiful houses of silver and of shell, and ordered other precious things to be buried in the mountains and ravines. He turned the cocoa-nut trees into a kind of trees that are called mizquitl; he commanded all the birds of rich plumage, the quetzaltototl, and the xiuhtotl, and the tlauquechol, to fly away and go into Anáhuac, a hundred leagues distant. Then he himself set out upon his road from Tulla; he traveled on till he came to a place called Quauhtitlan, where was a great tree, high and very thick. Here the exile rested, and he asked his servants for a mirror, and looked at his own face. What thoughts soever were working in his heart, he only said, I am already old. Then he named that place Vevequauhtitlan, and he took up stones and stoned the great tree; and all the stones he threw sank into it, and were for a long time to be seen sticking there, from the ground even up to the topmost branches. Continuing his journey, having flute-players playing before him, he came to a place on the road where he was weary and sat down on a stone to rest. And looking 253 toward Tulla, he wept bitterly. His tears marked and ate into the stone on which he sat, and the print of his hands, and of his back parts, was also found therein when he resumed his journey. He called that place Temacpalco. After that he reached a very great and wide river, and he commanded a stone bridge to be thrown across it; on that bridge he crossed the river, and he named the place Tepanoaya. Going on upon his way, Quetzalcoatl came to another place, where certain sorcerers met and tried to stop him, saying, Whither goest thou? why dost thou leave thy city? to whose care wilt thou commend it? who will do penance? Quetzalcoatl replied to the said sorcerers, Ye can in no wise hinder my going, for I must go. They asked him further, Whither goest thou? He said, To Tlapalla. They continued, But to what end goest thou? He said, I am called and the sun calls me. So the sorcerers said, Go then, but leave behind all the mechanical arts, the melting of silver, the working of precious stones and of masonry, the painting, feather-working, and other crafts. And of all these the sorcerers despoiled Quetzalcoatl. As for him, he cast into a fountain all the rich jewels that he had with him; and that fountain was called Cohcaapa, and it is so named to this day.

Quetzalcoatl continued his journey; and there came another sorcerer to meet him, saying, Whither goest thou? Quetzalcoatl said, To Tlapalla. The wizard said, Very well; but drink this wine that I have. The traveler answered, No: I cannot drink it; I cannot so much as taste it. Thou must drink, said the grim magician, were it but a drop; for to none of the living can I give it; it intoxicates all, so drink. Then Quetzalcoatl took the wine and drank it through a cane. Drinking, he made himself drunk; he slept upon the road; he began to snore; and when he awoke, he looked on one side and on the other, and tore his hair with his hands. And that place was called Cochtoca.

Quetzalcoatl going on upon his way and passing between the sierra of the volcano and the snowy sierra, all 254 his servants, being hump-backed and dwarfs, died of cold in the pass between the said mountains. And Quetzalcoatl bewailed their death bitterly and sang with weeping and sighing. Then he saw the other snowy sierra, which is called Poyauhtecatl and is near Tecamachalco; and so he passed by all the cities and places, leaving many signs, it is said, in all the mountains and roads.[VII-15] It is said further that he had a way of crossing the sierras whereby he amused and rested himself at the same time: when he came to the top of a mountain he used to sit down, and so seated, let himself slide down the mountain-side to the bottom. In one place he built a court for ball-play, all of squared stone, and here he used to play the game called tlachtli.[VII-16] Through the midst of this court he drew a line called the telcotl; and where that line was made the mountain is now opened with a deep gash. In another place he cast a dart at a great tree called a pochutl, piercing it through with the dart in such wise that the tree looked like a cross; for the dart he threw was itself a tree of the same kind.[VII-17] Some say that Quetzalcoatl built certain subterranean houses, called mictlancalco; and further, that he set up and balanced a great stone, so that one could move it with one's little finger, yet a multitude could not displace it. Many other notable things remain that Quetzalcoatl did among many peoples; he it was that named all the places and woods and mountains. Traveling ever onward, he came at last to the sea-shore, and there commanded a raft to be made of the snakes called coatlapechtli. Having seated himself on this raft as in a canoe, he put out to sea, and no man knows how he got to Tlapallan.[VII-18]

Torquemada gives a long and valuable account of Quetzalcoatl, gathered from many sources, which cannot be overlooked. It runs much as follows:—The name 255 Quetzalcoatl means Snake-plumage, or Snake that has plumage—and the kind of snake referred to in this name, is found in the province of Xicalanco, which is on the frontier of the kingdom of Yucatan as one goes thence to Tabasco. This god Quetzalcoatl was very celebrated among the people of the city of Cholula, and held in that place for the greatest of all. He was, according to credible histories, high priest in the city of Tulla. From that place he went to Cholula, and not, as Bishop Bartolomé de las Casas says in his Apologia, to Yucatan; though he went to Yucatan afterwards, as we shall see. It is said of Quetzalcoatl that he was a white man, large bodied, broad-browed, great-eyed, with long black hair, and a beard heavy and rounded.[VII-19] He was a great artificer, and very ingenious. He taught many mechanical arts, especially the art of working the precious stones called chalchiuites, which are a kind of green stone highly valued, and the art of casting silver and gold. The people, seeing him so inventive, held him in great estimation, and reverenced him as king in that city; and so it came about that, though in temporal things the ruler of Tulla was a lord named Huemac,[VII-20] yet in all spiritual and ecclesiastical matters Quetzalcoatl was supreme, and as it were chief pontiff.


It is feigned by those that seek to make much of their god that he had certain palaces made of green stone like emeralds, others made of silver, others of shells, red and white, others of all kinds of wood, others of turquoise, and others of precious feathers. He is said to have been very rich, and in need of nothing. His vassals were very obedient to him, and very light of foot; they were called tlanquacemilhuique. When they wished to publish any command of Quetzalcoatl, they sent a crier up upon a high mountain called Tzatzitepec, where with a loud voice he proclaimed the order; and the voice of this crier was heard for a hundred leagues distance, and 256 farther, even to the coasts of the sea: all this is affirmed for true. The fruits of the earth and the trees flourished there in an extraordinary degree, and sweet singing birds were abundant. The great pontiff inaugurated a system of penance, pricking his legs, and drawing blood and staining therewith maguey thorns. He washed also at midnight in a fountain called Xiuhpacoya. From all this, it is said, the idolatrous priests of Mexico adopted their similar custom.


While Quetzalcoatl was enjoying this good fortune with pomp and majesty, we are told that a great magician called Titlacahua [Tezcatlipoca], another of the gods, arrived at Tulla. He took the form of an old man, and went in to see Quetzalcoatl, saying to him, My lord, inasmuch as I know thine intent and how much thou desirest to set out for certain distant lands, also, because I know from thy servants that thou art unwell, I have brought thee a certain beverage, by drinking which thou shalt attain thine end. Thou shalt so make thy way to the country thou desirest, having perfect health to make the journey; neither shalt thou remember at all the fatigues and toils of life, nor how thou art mortal.[VII-21] Seeing all his projects thus discovered by the pretended old man, Quetzalcoatl questioned him, Where have I to go. Tezcatlipoca answered, That it was already determined with the supreme gods, that he had to go to Tlapalla, and that the thing was inevitable, because there was another old man waiting for him at his destination. As Quetzalcoatl heard this, he said that it was true, and that he desired it much; and he took the vessel and drank the liquor it contained. Quetzalcoatl was thus easily persuaded to what Tezcatlipoca desired, because he wished to make himself immortal and to enjoy perpetual life. Having swallowed the draught he became beside himself, and out of his mind, weeping sadly and bitterly. He determined to go to Tlapalla. He destroyed or buried all his plate and other property and 257 set out. First he arrived at the place, Quauhtitlan, where the great tree was and where he, borrowing a mirror from his servants, found himself "already old." The name of this place was changed by him to Huehuequauhtitlan, that is to say, "near the old tree, or the tree of the old man;" and the trunk of the tree was filled with stones that he cast at it. After that he journeyed on, his people playing flutes and other instruments, till he came to a mountain near the city of Tlalnepantla, two leagues from the city of Mexico, where he sat down on a stone and put his hands on it, leaving marks embedded therein that may be seen to this day. The truth of this thing is strongly corroborated by the inhabitants of that district; I myself have questioned them upon the subject, and it has been certified to me. Furthermore we have it written down accurately by many worthy authors; and the name of the locality is now Temacpalco, that is to say "in the palm of the hand."

Journeying on to the coast and to the kingdom of Tlapalla, Quetzalcoatl was met by the three sorcerers, Tezcatlipoca and other two with him, who had already brought so much destruction upon Tulla. These tried to stop or hinder him in his journey, questioning him, Whither goest thou? He answered, To Tlapalla. To whom, they inquired, hast thou given the charge of thy kingdom of Tulla, and who will do penance there? But he said that that was no longer any affair of his and that he must pursue his road. And being further questioned as to the object of his journey, he said that he was called by the lord of the land to which he was going, who was the sun.[VII-22] The three wizards seeing then the determination 258 of Quetzalcoatl, made no further attempt to dissuade him from his purpose, but contented themselves with taking from him all his instruments and his mechanical arts, so that though he departed those things should not be wanting to the state. It was here that Quetzalcoatl threw into a fountain all the rich jewels that he carried with him; for which thing the fountain was called from that time Cozcaapan, that is to say, "The water of the strings or chains of jewels." The same place is now called Coaapan, that is to say, "In the snake-water," and very properly, because the word Quetzalcoatl means "feathered snake." In this way he journeyed on, suffering various molestations from those sorcerers, his enemies, till he arrived at Cholula where he was received (as we in another part say),[VII-23] and afterward adored as god. Having lived twenty years in that city he was expelled by Tezcatlipoca. He set out for the kingdom of Tlapalla, accompanied by four virtuous youths of noble birth, and in 259 Goatzacoalco, a province distant from Cholula toward the sea a hundred and fifty leagues, he embarked for his destination. Parting with his disciples, he told them that there should surely come to them in after times, by way of the sea where the sun rises, certain white men with white beards, like him, and that these would be his brothers and would rule that land.

After that the four disciples returned to Cholula, and told all that their master and god had prophesied when departing. Then the Cholulans divided their province into four principalities and gave the government to those four, and some four of their descendants always ruled in like manner over these tetrarchies till the Spaniard came; being, however, subordinate to a central power.


This Quetzalcoatl was god of the air, and as such had his temple, of a round shape and very magnificent. He was made god of the air for the mildness and gentleness of all his ways, not liking the sharp and harsh measures to which the other gods were so strongly inclined. It is to be said further that his life on earth was marked by intensely religious characteristics; not only was he devoted to the careful observance of all the old customary forms of worship, but he himself ordained and appointed many new rites, ceremonies, and festivals for the adoration of the gods; and it is held for certain that he made the calendar. He had priests who were called quequetzalcohua, that is to say "priests of the order of Quetzalcoatl." The memory of him was engraved deeply upon the minds of the people, and it is said that when barren women prayed and made sacrifices to him, children were given them. He was, as we have said, god of the winds, and the power of causing them to blow was attributed to him as well as the power of calming or causing their fury to cease. It was said further that he swept the road, so that the gods called Tlaloques could rain: this the people imagined because ordinarily a month or more before the rains began there blew strong winds throughout all New Spain. Quetzalcoatl is described as having worn during life, for the 260 sake of modesty, garments that reached down to the feet, with a blanket over all, sown with red crosses. The Cholulans preserved certain green stones that had belonged to him, regarding them with great veneration and esteeming them as relics. Upon one of these was carved a monkey's head, very natural. In the city of Cholula there was to be found dedicated to him a great and magnificent temple, with many steps, but each step so narrow that there was not room for a foot on it. His image had a very ugly face, with a large and heavily bearded head. It was not set on its feet but lying down, and covered with blankets. This, it is said, was done as a memorial that he would one day return to reign. For reverence of his great majesty, his image was kept covered, and to signify his absence it was kept lying down, as one that sleeps, as one that lies down to sleep. In awaking from that sleep, he was to rise up and reign. The people also of Yucatan reverenced this god Quetzalcoatl, calling him Kukulcan, and saying that he came to them from the west, that is from New Spain, for Yucatan is eastward therefrom. From him it is said the kings of Yucatan are descended, who call themselves Cocomes, that is to say "judges or hearers."[VII-24]


Clavigero's account is characteristically clear and comprehensible. It may be summed up as follows:—

Among the Mexicans and other nations of Anáhuac, Quetzalcoatl was accounted god of the air. He is said to have been sometime high-priest of Tulla. He is described as having been white—a large, broad-browed, great-eyed man, with long black hair and thick beard. His life was rigidly temperate and exemplary, and his industry was directed by the profoundest wisdom. He amassed great treasure, and his was the invention of gem-cutting and of metal-casting. All things prospered in his time. One ear of corn was a man's load; and the gourds, or pumpkins, of the day were as tall as one's body. No one dyed cotton then, for it grew of all colors; and all other things in like manner were perfect and 261 abundant. The very birds in the trees sang such songs as have never since been heard, and flashed such marvelous beauties in the sun as no plumage of later times could rival. Quetzalcoatl had his laws proclaimed from the top of the hill Tzatzitepec, (mountain of outcry), near Tulla, by a crier whose voice was audible for three hundred miles.

All this, however, was put an end to, as far as Tulla was concerned, by Tezcatlipoca, who, moved perhaps by jealousy, determined to remove Quetzalcoatl. So the god appeared to the great teacher in the guise of an old man, telling him it was the will of the gods that he betake himself to Tlapalla, and administering at the same time a potion, the effect of which was to cause an intense longing for the said journey. Quetzalcoatl set out and, having performed many marvels on the way, arrived in Cholula. Here the inhabitants would not suffer him to go farther, but persuaded him to accept the government of their city; and he remained with them, teaching many useful arts, customs, and ceremonies and preaching against war and all other forms of cruelty. According to some, he at this time arranged the divisions of the seasons and the calendar.

Having lived twenty years in Cholula, he left, still impelled by the subtle draught, to seek this imaginary city of Tlapalla. He was no more seen of men, some said one thing and some another; but, however he might have disappeared, he was apotheosized by the Toltecs of Cholula, who raised him a great mound and built a sanctuary upon it. A similar structure was erected to his honor at Tulla. From Cholula his worship as god of the air spread over all the country; in Yucatan the nobles claimed descent from him.[VII-25]


The ideas of Brasseur with regard to Quetzalcoatl have their roots in and must be traced back to the very first appearing of the Mexican religion, or of the religion or religions by which it was preceded; so that to arrive at those ideas I must give a summary of the abbé's whole 262 theory of the origin of that creed. He believes that in the seething and thundering of volcanoes a conception of divinity and of supernatural powers first sprang up in the mind of the ancestors of the Mexicans. The volcanoes were afterwards identified with the stars, and the most terrific of all, Nanahuatl or Nanahuatzin,[VII-26] received the honors of apotheosis in the sun. Issued from the earth of the Crescent (Brasseur's sunken island or continent in the Atlantic),[VII-27] personified in the antique Quetzalcoatl, prototype of priests and of sacerdotal continence, he is thus his son and identifies himself with him; he (the divinity, Tylor's "Great Somebody") is the model of sages under the name of Hueman and the prototype of kings under that of Topiltzin. Strange thing to find united in one being, personalities so diverse! King, philosopher, priest par excellence, whose virtues serve as a rule to all the priests of the pagan antiquity, and, side by side with all that, incontinence and passion deified in this invalid, whose name even, "the syphilitic," is the expression of the abuse he has made of the sex.

At the commencement of the religion two sects appear to have sprung up, or rather two manners of judging the same events. There was first a struggle, and then a separation; under the banner-names of Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca the rival schools fought for the most part—of course there were divers minor factions; but the foregoing were the principal and most important. There is every reason to believe that the religion that took Quetzalcoatl for symbol was but a reformation upon another more ancient, that had the moon for its object. It is the moon, male and female, Luna Lunus, personified in the earth of the Crescent, engulfed in the abyss, that I believe (it is always the abbé that speaks) I see at the commencement of the amalgam of rites and symbols of every kind, religion of enjoyments and material pleasures, born of the promiscuity of the men and 263 women, taken refuge in the lesser Antilles after the cataclysm.

The religion that had taken the moon for point of departure, and in which women seem to have played the principal rôle, as priestesses, attacked formally, by this very fact, a more antique religion, a pre-diluvian religion that appears to have been Sabaism, entirely exempt from idolatry, and in which the sun received the chief homage. In the new religion, on the contrary, it was not the moon as a star, which was the real object of worship, it was the moon-land (lune-terre), it was the region of the Crescent, shrouded under the waves, whose death was wept and whose resurrection was afterward celebrated in the appearance of the isles—refuge of the shipwrecked of the grand catastrophe—of the Lesser Antilles; to the number of seven principal islands, sung, in all American legends, as the Seven Grottoes, cradle of nations.

This is the myth of Quetzalcoatl, who dies or disappears, and whose personality is represented at the outset in the isles, then successively, in all the countries whither the civilization was carried of which he was the flag. So far as I can judge at present, the priest who placed himself under the ægis of this grand name, labored solely to reform what there was of odious and barbarous in the cult of which the women had the chief direction, and under whose regime human blood flowed in waves. After the triumph of Quetzalcoatl, the men who bore his name took the direction of religion and society, which then made considerable progress in their hands.

But if we are to believe the same traditions, their preponderance had not a very long duration. The most restless and the most audacious among the partisans of the ancient order of things, raised the flag of revolt: they became the chiefs of a warlike faction, rival of the sacerdotal—a conquering faction, source of veritable royal dynasties and of the religion of the sun living and victorious, in opposition to the god entombed in the 264 abyss. Quetzalcoatl, vanquished by Tezcatlipoca, then retired before a too-powerful enemy, and the Toltecs were dispersed among all nations. Those of them that remained coalesced with the victors, and from the accord of the aforementioned three cults, there sprang that monstrous amalgam of so many different ideas and symbols, such as is found to-day in what remains to us of the Mexican religion.

For me (and it is always the abbé that speaks), I believe I perceive the origin of the struggle, not alone in the diversity of races, but principally in the existence of two currents of contrary ideas, having had the same point of departure in the events of the great cataclysm of the Crescent Land, above referred to. Different manners of looking at these events and of commemorating them, seem to me to have marked from the beginning the starting point of two religions that lived, perhaps, side by side for centuries without the explosion of their disagreements, otherwise than by insignificant agitations. Before these two could take, with regard to each other, the proportions of a schism or a heresy, it was necessary that all the materials of which these religions are constituted had had time to elaborate themselves, and that the hieroglyphics which represented their origin had become sufficiently obscure for the priesthood to keep the vulgar from understanding them. For, if schism has brought on the struggle between and afterward the violent separation of families, this separation can not have taken place till after the entire creation of myths, the entire construction of these divine genealogies, of these poetic traditions, that are found scattered among all the peoples of the earth, but of which the complete whole does not exist, save in the history and religion of Mexico.[VII-28]


Two orders of gods—the one order fallen from heaven 265 into the abyss, becoming there the judges of the dead, and being personified in one of their number, who came to life again, symbolizing thus life and death—the other order surviving the cataclysm and symbolizing thus an imperishable life—such, at its origin, is the double character of the myth of Quetzalcoatl. But, in reality, this god he is the earth, he is the region swallowed up by the waters, he is the vanquished stifled under the weight of his adversary, under the force of the victorious wave; which adversary, which power in opposition to the first, joining itself to the fire on the blazing pile of Nanahuatl, is Tezcatlipoca, is Hercules, conqueror of enemies, is the god whose struggle is eternal as that of the ocean beating the shore, is he in whom the light becomes afterward personified, and who becomes thus the battle-flag of the opponents of Quetzalcoatl. To the dead god a victim is necessary, one that like him descends into the abyss. This victim was a young girl, chosen among those that were consecrated at the foot of the pyramid, and drowned; a custom long found as well in Egypt as at Chichen-Itza,[VII-29] and in many other countries of the world. But to the god come to life again, to the god in whom fire was personified, and immortal life, to Quetzalcoatl when he became Huitzilopochtli, victims were sacrificed, by tearing out the heart—symbol of the jet of flame issuing from the volcano—to offer it to the conquering sun, symbol of Tezcatlipoca, who first demanded holocausts of human blood.[VII-30]


Mr Tylor declares Quetzalcoatl to have been the Sun: "We may even find him identified with the Sun by name, and his history is perhaps a more compact and perfect series of solar myths than hangs to the name of any single personage in our own Aryan mythology. His mother, the Dawn or the Night, gives birth to him, and dies. His father Camaxtli is the sun, and was worshiped with solar rites in Mexico, but he is the old Sun of yesterday. The clouds, personified in the mythic race of the Mixcohuas, or "Cloud-Snakes" (the Nibelungs of the western hemisphere), bear down the old Sun and choke him, and bury him in their mountain. But the young Quetzalcoatl, the Sun of to-day, rushes up into the midst of them from below, and some he slays at the first onset, and some he leaves, rift with red wounds to die. We have the Sun boat of Helios, of the Egyptian Ra, of the Polynesian Maui. Quetzalcoatl, his bright career drawing toward its close, is chased into far lands by his kinsman Tezcatlipoca, the young Sun of to-morrow. He, too, is well known as a Sun God in the Mexican theology. Wonderfully fitting with all this, one incident after another in the life of Quetzalcoatl falls into its place. The guardians of the sacred fire tend him, his funeral pile is on the top of Orizaba, he is the helper of travelers, the maker of the calendar, the source of astrology, the beginner of history, the bringer of wealth and happiness. He is the patron of the craftsmen, whom he lights to his labor; as it is written in an ancient Sanskrit hymn, 'He steps forth, the splendor of the sky, the wide-seeing, the far-aiming, the shining wanderer; surely enlivened by the sun, do men go to their tasks and do their work.' Even his 267 people, the Toltecs, catch from him solar qualities. Will it be even possible to grant to this famous race, in whose story the legend of Quetzalcoatl is the leading incident, anything more than a mythic existence?"[VII-31]


Dr Brinton is of opinion "that there were in truth many Quetzalcoatls, for his high priest always bore his name, but he himself is a pure creation of the fancy, and all his alleged history is nothing but a myth. His emblematic name, the Bird-Serpent, and his rebus and cross at Palenque, I have already explained. Others of his titles were, Ehecatl, the air; Yolcuat, the rattlesnake; Tohil, the rumbler; Huemac, the strong hand; Nanihehecatl, lord of the four winds. The same dualism reappears in him that has been noted in his analogues elsewhere. He is both lord of the eastern light and the wind.

As the former, he was born of a virgin in the land of Tula or Tlapallan, in the distant Orient, and was high priest of that happy realm. The morning star was his symbol, and the temple of Cholula was dedicated to him expressly as the author of light. As by days we measure time, he was the alleged inventor of the calendar. Like all the dawn heroes, he too was represented as of white complexion, clothed in long white robes, and, as most of the Aztec gods, with a full and flowing beard. When his earthly work was done he too returned to the east, assigning as a reason that the sun, the ruler of Tlapallan, demanded his presence. But the real motive was that he had been overcome by Tezcatlipoca, otherwise called Yoalliehecatl, the wind or spirit of night, who had descended from heaven by a spider's web and presented his rival with a draught pretended to confer immortality, but, in fact, producing uncontrollable longing for home. For the wind and the light both depart when the gloaming draws near, or when the clouds spread their dark and shadowy webs along the mountains, and pour the vivifying rain upon the fields.

In his other character, he was begot of the breath of 268 Tonacateotl, god of our flesh or subsistence, or (according to Gomara) was the son of Iztac Mixcoatl, the white cloud serpent, the spirit of the tornado. Messenger of Tlaloc, god of rain, he was figuratively said to sweep the road for him, since in that country violent winds are the precursors of the wet seasons. Wherever he went all manner of singing birds bore him company, emblems of the whistling breezes. When he finally disappeared in the far east, he sent back four trusty youths who had ever shared his fortunes, 'incomparably swift and light of foot,' with directions to divide the earth between them and rule it till he should return and resume his power. When he would promulgate his decrees, his herald proclaimed them from Tzatzitepec, the hill of shouting, with such a mighty voice that it could be heard a hundred leagues around. The arrows which he shot transfixed great trees, the stones he threw leveled forests, and when he laid his hands on the rocks the mark was indelible. Yet as thus emblematic of the thunderstorm, he possessed in full measure its better attributes. By shaking his sandals he gave fire to men; and peace, plenty, and riches blessed his subjects. Tradition says he built many temples to Mictlantecutli, the Aztec Pluto, and at the creation of the sun that he slew all the other gods, for the advancing dawn disperses the spectral shapes of night, and yet all its vivifying power does but result in increasing the number doomed to fall before the remorseless stroke of death.

His symbols were the bird, the serpent, the cross and the flint, representing the clouds, the lightning, the four winds, and the thunderbolt. Perhaps, as Huemac, the Strong Hand, he was god of the earthquakes. The Zapotecs worshiped such a deity under the image of this number carved from a precious stone, calling to mind the 'Kab ul,' the Working Hand, adored by the Mayas, and said to be one of the images of Zamná their hero god. The human hand, 'that divine tool,' as it has been called, might well be regarded by the reflective mind as the teacher of the arts and the amulet whose 269 magic power has won for man what vantage he has gained in his long combat with nature and his fellows."[VII-32]


Mr Helps sees in Quetzalcoatl the closest analogies with certain other great civilizers and teachers that made their appearance in various parts of the American continent:—"One peculiar circumstance, as Humboldt remarks, is very much to be noted in the ancient records and traditions of the Indian nations. In no less than three remarkable instances has superior civilization been attributed to the sudden presence among them of persons differing from themselves in appearance and descent.

Bohica, a white man with a beard, appeared to the Mozca Indians in the plains of Bogota, taught them how to build and to sow, formed them into communities, gave an outlet to the waters of the great lake, and, having settled the government civil and ecclesiastical, retired into a monastic state of penitence for two thousand years.

In like manner Manco Capac, accompanied by his sister, Mama Oello, descended amongst the Peruvians, gave them a code of admirable laws, reduced them into communities, and then ascended to his father, the Sun.

Amongst the Mexicans there suddenly appeared Quetzalcoatl (green-feathered snake), a white and bearded man, of broad brow, dressed in a strange dress; a legislator, who recommended severe penances, lacerating his own body with the prickles of the agave and the thorns of the cactus, but who dissuaded his followers from human sacrifice. While he remained in Anáhuac, it was a Saturnian reign; but this great legislator, after moving on to the plains of Cholula, and governing the Cholulans with wisdom, passed away to a distant country, and was never heard of more. It is said briefly of him that 'he ordained sacrifices of flowers and fruits, and stopped his ears when he was spoken to of war.'"[VII-33]

The Abbé Domenech considers the tradition of the 270 lives of Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca to be a bit of simple and slightly veiled history, and also that there were several Quetzalcoatls. Let it be remembered in reading the abbé's version of this matter that the names of places, peoples, and the dates he gives are in great part mythical and conjectural:—"After the enfranchisement of the Olmecs, a man named Quetzalcoatl arrived in the country, whom Garcia, Torquemada, Sahagun, and other Spanish writers took to be Saint Thomas. It was also at that time that the third age ended, and that the fourth began, called Sun of the fire, because it was supposed that it was in this last stage that the world would be destroyed by fire.

It is in this fourth period that the Mexican historian places the Toltecs' arrival in New Spain, that is to say, about the third century before the Christian era. According to the Quichés' traditions, the primitive portion of the Nahoas, or ancestors of the Toltecs, were in a distant East, beyond immense seas and lands. Amongst the families and tribes that bore with least patience this long repose and immobility, those of Canub, and of Tlocab may be cited, for they were the first who determined to leave their country. The Nahoas sailed in seven barks or ships, which Sahagun calls Chicomoztoc, or the seven grottos. It is a fact worthy of note, that in all ages the number seven was a sacred number among the American people, from one pole to the other. It was at Pánuco, near Tampico, that those strangers disembarked; they established themselves at Paxil, with the Votanites' consent, and their state took the name of Huehue-Tlopallan. It is not stated from whence they came, but merely that they came out of the regions where the sun rises. The supreme command was in the hand of a chieftain, whom history calls Quetzalcohuatl, that is to say, Lord par excellence. To his care was confided the holy envelope, which concealed the divinity from the human gaze, and he alone received from it the necessary instructions to guide his people's march. These kinds of divinities, thus enveloped, passed for 271 being sure talismans, and were looked upon with the greatest respect and veneration. They consisted generally of a bit of wood, in which was inserted a little idol of green stone; this was covered with the skin of a serpent or of a tiger, after which it was rolled in numerous little bands of stuff, wherein it would remain wrapped for centuries together. Such is, perhaps, the origin of the medicine bags made use of, even in the present day, by the Indians of the Great Desert, and of which we shall speak in the second volume of this work."

Of apparently another Quetzalcoatl, he writes: "The Toltecs became highly flourishing under the reign of Ceocatl Quetzalcohuatl, a Culhuacan prince, who preached a new religion, sanctioning auricular confession and the celibacy of the priests. He proscribed all kinds of warfare and human sacrifices. Tezcatlipoca put himself at the head of the dissatisfied party, and besieged Tollan, the residence of Ceocatl Quetzalcohuatl; but the latter refused to defend himself, in order to avoid the effusion of blood, which was prohibited by the laws of the religion he himself had established, and retired to Cholula, that had been constructed by his followers. From thence he went to Yucatan. Tezcatlipoca, his fortunate rival, after a long reign became in his turn the victim of the popular discontent, and fell in a battle that was given him by Ceocatl Quetzalcohuatl's relatives. Those two kings are elevated to the rank of gods, and their worship was a perpetual subject of discord and civil war in all Anáhuac until the arrival of the Spaniards in the New World."[VII-34]


The interpreters of the different codices, or Mexican paintings represented in Kingsborough's great work, give, as is their wont in all matters, a confused, imperfect, and often erroneous account of Quetzalcoatl:—"Quetzalcoatl is he who was born of the virgin, called Chalchihuitztli, which means the precious stone of penance or of sacrifice. He was saved in the deluge, and was born in Zivenaritzcatl where he resides. His fast 272 was a kind of preparation for the arrival of the end of the world which they said would happen on the day of Four Earthquakes, so that they were thus in daily expectation of that event. Quetzalcoatl was he who they say created the world, and they bestowed on him the appellation of lord of the wind, because they said that Tonacatecotli, when it appeared good to him, breathed and begat Quetzalcoatl. They erected round temples to him, without any corners. They said that it was he (who was also the lord of the thirteen signs which are here represented), who formed the first man. He alone had a human body like that of men, the other gods were of an incorporeal nature."[VII-35]

"They declare that their supreme deity, or more properly speaking, demon Tonacatecotle, whom we have just mentioned, who by another name was called Citinatonali, ... begot Quetzalcoatl, not by connection with a woman, but by his breath alone, as we have observed above, when he sent his ambassador, as they say, to the virgin of Tulla. They believed him to be the god of the air, and he was the first to whom they built temples and churches, which they formed perfectly round, without any angles. They say it was he who effected the reformation of the world by penance, as we have already said; since, according to their account, his father had created the world, and men had given themselves up to vice, on which account it had been so frequently destroyed. Citinatonali sent this his son into the world to reform it. We certainly must deplore the blindness of these miserable people, on whom Saint Paul says the wrath of God has to be revealed, inasmuch as his eternal truth was so long kept back by the injustice of attributing to this demon that which belonged to Him; for He being the sole creator of the universe, and He who made the division of the waters, which these poor people just now attributed to the Devil, when it appeared good to Him, dispatched the heavenly ambassador to announce 273 to the virgin that she should be the mother of his eternal word; who, when He found the world corrupt, reformed it by doing penance and by dying upon the cross for our sins; and not the wretched Quetzalcoatl, to whom these miserable people attributed this work. They assigned to him the dominion over the other thirteen signs, which are here represented, in the same manner as they had assigned the preceding thirteen to his father. They celebrated a great festival on the arrival of his sign, as we shall see in the sign of Four Earthquakes, which is the fourth in order here, because they feared that the world would be destroyed in that sign, as he had foretold to them when he disappeared in the Red Sea; which event occurred on the same sign. As they considered him their advocate, they celebrated a solemn festival, and fasted during four signs."[VII-36]


J. G. Müller holds Quetzalcoatl to be the representative national god of the Toltecs, surviving under many misconceptions and amid many incongruities—bequeathed to or adopted into the later Mexican religion. The learned professor has devoted an unusual amount of care and research to the interpretation of the Quetzalcoatl myths; and as no other inquirer has shown therein at once so accurate and extensive an acquaintance with the subject and so calm and judicious a judgment, we give his opinion at length, and first his summing up of the fable-history of Quetzalcoatl:—

The Toltecs, a traditional pre-historic people, after leaving their original northern home Huehuetlapallan (that is Old-red-land) chose Tulla, north of Anáhuac as the first capital of their newly founded kingdom. Quetzalcoatl was their high-priest and religious chief at this place. Huemac, or Huematzin, conducted the civil government as the companion of Quetzalcoatl, and wrote the code of the nation. Quetzalcoatl is said to have been a white man (some gave him a bright red 274 face), with a strong formation of body, broad forehead, large eyes, black hair, and a heavy beard. He always wore a long white robe; which, according to Gomara, was decorated with crosses; he had a mitre on his head and a sickle in his hand. At the volcano of Cotcitepec, or Tzatzitepec, near Tulla, he practised long and numerous penances, giving thereby an example to his priests and successors. The name of this volcano means "the mountain of outcry;" and when Quetzalcoatl gave laws, he sent a crier to the top of it whose voice could be heard three hundred miles off. He did what the founders of religions and cults have done in other countries: he taught the people agriculture, metallurgy, stone-cutting, and the art of government. He also arranged the calendar, and taught his subjects fit religious ceremonies; preaching specially against human sacrifices, and ordering offerings of fruits and flowers only. He would have nothing to do with wars, even covering his ears when the subject was mentioned. His was a veritable golden age, as in the time of Saturn; animals and even men lived in peace, the soil produced the richest harvests without cultivation, and the grain grew so large that a man found it trouble enough to carry one ear; no cotton was dyed, as it grew of all colors, and fruits of all kinds abounded. Everybody was rich and Quetzalcoatl owned whole palaces of gold, silver, and precious stones. The air was filled with the most pleasant aromas, and a host of finely feathered birds filled the world with melody.

But this earthly happiness came to an end. Tezcatlipoca rose up against Quetzalcoatl and against Huemac, in order to separate them, and to destroy their government. He descended from the sky on a rope of spider-web and commenced to work for his object with the aid of magic arts. He first appeared in the form of a handsome youth (and in the dress of a merchant), dressed as a merchant selling pepper-pods, and presented himself before the daughter of king Huemac. He soon seduced the princess, and thereby opened the road to a general 275 immorality and a total collapse of the laws. He presented himself before Quetzalcoatl in the form of an old man, with the view of inducing him to depart to his home in Tlapalla. For this purpose he offered him a drink which he pretended would endow him with immortality. No sooner had Quetzalcoatl taken the drink, then he was seized with a violent desire to see his fatherland. He destroyed the palaces of gold, silver, and precious stones, transformed the fruit-trees into withered trunks, and ordered all song-birds to leave the country, and to accompany him. Thus he departed, and the birds entertained him during his journey with their songs.


He first traveled southward, and arrived in Quauhtitlan, in Anáhuac. In the vicinity of this town he broke down a tree by throwing stones, the stones remaining in the trunk. Farther south, in the same valley, near Tlalnepantla, or Tanepantla, he pressed hand and foot into a rock with such force that the impression has remained down to the latest centuries, in the same manner as the mark of the shoes of the horses of Castor and Pollux near Regillum. The Spaniards were inclined to ascribe these and similar freaks of nature to the Apostle Thomas.

Quetzalcoatl now turned toward the east, and arrived in Cholula, where he had to remain for a longer period, as the inhabitants intrusted him with the government of their state. The same order of things which had taken place in Tulla, his first residence, was here renewed. From this centre his rule spread far and wide; he sent colonists from Cholula to Huaxayacac, Tabasco and Campeche, and the nobility of Yucatan prided themselves on their descent from him; men having been found in our time who bear his name, just as the descendants of Votan bore the name of Votan in Chiapas. In Cholula itself he was adored, and temples were everywhere erected in his honor, even by the enemies of the Cholulans. After a residence of twenty years in Cholula, he proceeded on his journey toward Tlalpalla until he arrived at the river and in the province of Coatzacoalco, or Goasacoalco, 276 Guasacualco, that is, Hiding-nook of the snake—south of Vera Cruz. He now sent the four youths, who had accompanied him from Cholula, back to the Cholulans, promising to return later on and renew the old government. The Cholulans placed the four youths at the head of their government, out of love for him. This hope of his return still existed among the Mexican nations at the time of Cortés' arrival. In fact, Cortés was at first held to be the returning Quetzalcoatl, and a man was sacrificed to him, with whose blood the conqueror and his companions were marked. Father Sahagun was also asked, by everybody on his journey to Mexico, if he and his suite came from Tlapalla. According to Montezuma's account to Cortés, Quetzalcoatl really did once return to Cholula, but after such a length of time that he found his subjects married to the native women, having children, and so numerous that a number of new districts had to be founded. This new race would not recognize their old chief, and refused to obey him. He thereupon departed angrily, threatening to return at another time and to subdue them by force. It is not remarkable that an expectation, which was a hope to the Cholulans, should be a dread to Montezuma and his subjects.

According to some accounts, Quetzalcoatl died in the Hiding-nook of the snakes, in the Goatzacoalco country; according to others, he suddenly disappeared toward the east, and a ship, formed of snakes wound together, brought him to Tlapalla.

A closer view and criticism of this tale, in the light of the analogy of mythological laws, shows us that Quetzalcoatl is the euhemerized religious ideal of the Toltecan nations. The similarity of this tale with those of Manco Capac, Botschika, Saturn, and others, is at once apparent. The opinion of Prescott, Wuttke, and many others, who held him for a deified man, founder of a religion and of a civilization, is confirmed by the latest version of the fable, in which Quetzalcoatl is represented in this character. Although euhemerism is an old idea with all people, as well as with the Americans—personification 277 being the first step toward it—the general reasons which everywhere appear against the existence of such founders of a civilization must also be made to speak against this idea of Quetzalcoatl.

If a special value is placed upon the white face and the beard, it must be remembered that the beard, which is given to the Mexican priests, could not be omitted with Quetzalcoatl; and the mention by some of his having had a white face, and by others a red, might arouse a suspicion that Quetzalcoatl has been represented as a white man on account of his white robe.

The fable of Quetzalcoatl contains contradictions, the younger elements of which are a pure idealism of the more ancient. For instance, the statement that the earth produced everything spontaneously, without human labor, does not agree with the old version of the myth, according to which Quetzalcoatl taught agriculture and other industries requiring application and hard work. The sentimental love of peace has also been attributed to this god in later times, during a time when the Toltecs had lost the martial spirit of their victorious ancestors, and when the Cholulans, given to effeminacy, distinguished themselves more by cunning than by courage. The face of the god is represented, in the fable, as more beautiful and attractive, than it is depicted on the images. At the place where he was most worshiped, in Cholula, the statue of Quetzalcoatl stood in his temple, on the summit of the great pyramid. Its features had a gloomy cast, and differed from the beautiful face which is said to have been his on earth.


The fable shows its later idealized elements in these points. In all other respects, the Toltecan peculiarities of the entire nation are either clearly and faithfully depicted in their hero, as in a personified ideal, or else the original attributes of the nature deity are recognizable. Where the Toltecs were, there was he also, or a hero identical with him; the Toltecs who journeyed southward are colonists sent by him; the Toltec capitals, Tulla and Cholula, are his residences; and as the laws 278 of the Toltecs extended far and wide, so did the voice of his crier reach three hundred miles into the country. The arts and welfare of the Toltecs, their riches and religious feeling, even their later unwarlike peacefulness, all these attributes are transferred to Quetzalcoatl. The long robe of the Toltecs was also the dress of their hero; the necktie of the boys of his religious order is attached to his image; and, as his priests wore the mitre, he is also represented with it. He is, above all, depicted as the original model of the Toltec priests, the Tlamacazque (the order was called Tlamacazcojotl), whose chief, or superior, always bore the name of Quetzalcoatl. As these orders of his had to submit to the strictest observances—their members having to slit the tongue, ears and lips in honor of Quetzalcoatl, and the small boys being set apart for him by making an incision on their breasts—so he submitted, before all others, to these penances on the Tzatzitipec Mountain. These self-inflicted punishments must not be termed penances, as is often done, for they have no moral meaning, such as to do penance for committed sins, nor have they the mystic meaning of the East Indian idea of the end of the world (Weltabsterben) and the return to the pantheistic chaos (Urall and Urnichts); all this is foreign to the American religion. They are, on the contrary, blood-offerings, substitutes for the human sacrifices in the background, to obtain earthly blessings, and to avert earthly misfortunes. As Quetzalcoatl preached against human sacrifices, so his priests under the Aztec rule, were very reluctant to make them. After the great slaughter by Cortés, in Cholula, Montezuma proceeded to the great temple of Huitzilopochtli, made many human sacrifices, and questioned the god, who bade him to be of good heart, and assured him that the Cholulans had suffered so terribly merely on account of their reluctance to offer up human beings.

As the disappearance of the Toltecs toward the south and the south-east agrees with the disappearance of Quetzalcoatl, so we find many traits from the end of the 279 last Toltec king reproduced in the end of the Toltec hero. After the defeat of king Tlolpintzin, he (Tlolpintzin) fled southward, toward Tlapalla. He made use of these words, in his last farewell to his friends: I have retired toward the east, but will return after 5012 years to avenge myself on the descendants of mine enemies. After having lived thirty years in Tlapalla, he died. His laws were afterward accepted by Nezalhualcoyotzin. The belief that Tlolpintzin stayed with Nezalhualcoyotzin, and some other brave kings, in the cave of Xicco, after death, like the three Tells of Switzerland, but would at some time come out and deliver his people, was long current among the Indians. Every one will notice how well this agrees with Montezuma's account of the return of Quetzalcoatl.


Quetzalcoatl cannot, however, be a representative and a national god of the Toltecs, without having an original nature-basis for his existence as a god. It is everywhere the case among savages with their national god, that the latter is a nature-deity, who becomes gradually transformed into a national god, then into a national king, high-priest, founder of a religion, and at last ends in being considered a human being. The older and purer the civilization of a people is, the easier it is to recognize the original essence of its national god, in spite of all transformations and disguises. So it is here. Behind the human form of the god glimmers the nature shape, and the national god is known by, perhaps, all his worshipers as also a nature deity. From his powerful influence upon nature, he might also be held as the creator.

The pure human form of this god, as it appears in the fable, as well as in the image, is not the original, but the youngest. His oldest concrete forms are taken from nature, to which he originally belongs, and have maintained themselves in many attributes. All these symbolize him as the god of fertility, chiefly, as it is made apparent, by means of the beneficial influence of the air. All Mexican and European statements make 280 him appear as the god of the air and of the wind; even the euhemeristic idea deifies the man Quetzalcoatl into a god of the air. All the Mexican tribes adored him at the time of the conquest as god of the air, and all accounts, however much they may differ on the particular points of his poetical life, agree, without exception, in this one respect, as the essential and chief point. Besides the symbols, which are merely attached to the image, there are three attributes, which represent as many original visible forms and exteriors of the god, in which he is represented and worshiped: the sparrow, the flint (Feuerstein), and the snake.

According to Herrera, the image of Quetzalcoatl had the body of a man, but the head of a bird, a sparrow with a red bill, a large comb, and with the tongue hanging far out of the mouth. The air-god of these northern people, parallel to Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec Huitzilopochtli, was represented with devices connected with the humming-bird, in remembrance of his former humming-bird nature. This is the northern element. The great spirit of the northern redskins also appear in his most esteemed form as a bird. The Latin Picus was originally a woodpecker (Specht), afterward anthropomorphized and even euhemerized, but he has ever the woodpecker by his side, in his capacity of human seer. Several Egyptian gods have human bodies and animal heads, especially heads of birds. Birds are not alone symbols of particular godlike attributes, as used in the anthropomorphic times, not mere messengers and transmitters of the orders of the gods, but they have originally been considered as gods themselves, with forms of godlike powers, especially in North America; and the exterior of the god of the air, the fructifying air, is naturally that of a bird, a singing-bird. The hieroglyphic sign among the Mexicans for the air is, therefore, the head of a bird with three tongues. Wherever Quetzalcoatl stayed and ruled, there birds filled the air, and song-birds gave indication of their presence; when he departed, he took them with him, and was entertained during the journey by their singing. 281


A second form of Quetzalcoatl was the flint, which we have already learned to know as a symbol and hieroglyphic sign for the air. He was either represented as a black stone, or several small green ones, supposed to have fallen from heaven, most likely ærolites, which were adored by the Cholulans in the service of Quetzalcoatl. Bétancourt even explains the meaning of the name Quetzalcoatl, contrary to the usual definition, as "twin of a precious stone." The fable of Quauhtitlan is also connected with this stone-worship; how Quetzalcoatl had overthrown a tree by means of stones which remained fixed in it. These stones were later on adored as holy stones of Quetzalcoatl. The stone at Tlalnepantla, into which he pressed his hand, must also have represented the god himself. Similar ancient stone-worships, of greater nature deities as well as fetiches, were found, in many instances, in Peru, in the pre-Inca times. In ancient Central America we meet with the worship of such green stones called chalchihuites. Votan was worshiped in the form of such a green stone, connected with the other two attributes. This attribute of Quetzalcoatl most likely belongs to the south.

The third form of Quetzalcoatl, which also belongs to the south, is the snake; he is a snake-god, or, at least, merged into an ancient snake-god. The snake is not, as far as I know, a direct symbol of the air, and this attribute is, therefore, not the one pertaining to him from the beginning; but the snake represents the season which, in conjunction with heat and rain, contains the fructifying influence of the atmosphere, spring, the rejuvenating year. However, the very name of the god signifies, according to the usual explanation given to it, "the feathered snake, the snake covered with feathers, the green feathered-snake, the wood-snake with rich feathers." A snake has consequently been added to the human figure of this god. The other name, under which he is adored in Yucatan, is Cuculcan, a snake covered with godlike feathers. The entrance to his round temple in Mexico represented the jaw and fangs of a tremendous 282 snake. Quetzalcoatl disappeared in Goatzacoalco, the Snake-corner (or nook), and a ship of snakes brought him to Tlapalla. His followers in Yucatan were called snakes, Cocome (plural of Coatl), while he himself bore the name of Cocolcan in this country as well as in Chiapas. The snake attribute signifies, in connection with Huitzilopochtli, also the beneficial influence of the atmosphere, the yearly renewed course of nature, the continual rejuvenation of nature in germs and blossoms. The northern celestial god, Odin, is in many ways connected with snakes, he transformed himself into a snake, and bore the by-name of Snake.

The relationship of Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl, as given in the fable, may be touched upon here. The driving away of the latter by Tezcatlipoca does not, as may be supposed, signify a contest between the Aztec religion and the preceding Toltecan. In such a case Huitzilopochtli, the chief of the Aztec gods, by whose adoration the contrast is painted in the deepest colors, would have been a much better representant.

Quetzalcoatl no doubt preached against human sacrifices, brought into such unprecedented swing by the Aztecs, yet the worshipers of this god adopted the sacrifice of human beings in an extensive way during the Aztec rule, to which period this part of the Quetzalcoatl fable necessarily owes its origin. At this time the contrast was so slight that Quetzalcoatl partook of the highest adoration of Aztecs, not only in Cholula, but in Mexico and everywhere. His priest enjoyed the highest esteem and his temple in Mexico stood by the side of that of Huitzilopochtli. Montezuma not only calls the Toltec hero a leader of his forefathers, but the Aztecs actually consider him as a son of Huitzilopochtli. The opposition of the two gods, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, has another reason: the difference lies not in their worship, but in their nature and being, in the natural phenomena which they represent. If the god of the beneficial atmosphere, the manifested god-power of the atmosphere of the fructifying seasons, is adored in Quetzalcoatl; then 283 Tezcatlipoca is his opposite, the god of the gloomy lower regions destitute of life and germ, the god of drought, of withering, of death.


Wherever, therefore, Quetzalcoatl rules, there are riches and abundance, the air is filled with fragrance and song-birds—an actual golden era; but when he goes southward with his song-birds, he is expelled by Tezcatlipoca, drought sets in, and the palaces of gold, silver, and precious stones, symbols of wealth, are destroyed. He promises, however, everywhere to return. A representation mentioned and copied by Humboldt, shows Tezcatlipoca in the act of cutting up the snake. This has not the meaning of the acts of Hercules, of Tonatiuh, of the great spirit of the Chippewas, of the German Siegfried, of the Celtic dragon-killers Tristan and Iwein, or of the other sun-gods, spring-gods, and culture-heroes, who fight and subdue the snake of the unfertile moisture; such an interpretation would be opposed to the nature of this god. On the contrary, the god of death and drought here fights the snake as the symbol of moisture, of the fertilization of the plant-life.

The question now arises: if Quetzalcoatl only received his snake attribute in the south, and this his name, what was his original northern and Toltecan name? We answer, coinciding with the views expressed by Ixtlilxochitl and others, who affirm that Quetzalcoatl and his worldly companion, Huemac, were one and the same person. The opposed opinion of Ternaux-Compans, who states that Quetzalcoatl must have been an Olmec, while Huemac was a Toltec, actually gives the key to the solution of the question. Both are right, Ixtlilxochitl and Ternaux, Huemac is the original Toltec name of the Toltec national god, ruler, and author of the holy books, the ancient name used by the Toltecs. As this people succumbed more and more to southern influences, and their ancient air-god in his sparrow form received in addition the snake attribute, on account of his rejuvenating influence upon nature, then, the new name of the more cultivated people soon appeared. 284 The name may, therefore, be Olmec, but not the god; we may sooner suppose that the attributes of the Maya god, Votan, have been transferred to the Toltec god. Both names having thus a double origin; the legend which found two names, made also two persons of them, and placed them side by side. It is, however, easy to see that they are naturally one: Huemac has just as much a religious signification as Quetzalcoatl; as Huematzin, he wrote the divine book, containing all the earthly and heavenly wisdom of the Toltecs. Quetzalcoatl has, in the same degree, besides his religious position, the worldly one of ruler and founder of a civilization. As Quetzalcoatl possesses a divine nature, so does Huemac, to whom also are ascribed the three hundred years of life, and the impression of the hand in the rock.

Besides the attributes of the sparrow, flint, and snake, there are others which ascribe to Quetzalcoatl the same properties, but less prominently. As god of the air, he holds the wonderfully painted shield in his hand, a symbol of his power over the winds. As god of the fertilizing influence of the air, he holds, like Saturn, the sickle, symbol of the harvest—he it is that causes the grain to ripen. It used to be said that he prepared the way for the water-god, for in these regions, the rains are always preceded by winds. It was on account of this intimate connection with the rain, which had already procured him the snake attribute, that his mantle was adorned with crosses. We have already seen that such crosses represented the rain-god with the Mayas, and are symbols of the fructifying rain. Consequently they are well suited for the god who is only air-god in the sense of the air exercising its fructifying and invigorating influence upon the earth.


Another question, which has already occurred to us, must here be considered. Why did this god come from the east, depart toward the east, and why should he be expected from the east? The Toltecs have, according to almost unanimous statements, come from the north, 285 and even Quetzalcoatl commences his rule in the north, in Tulla, and proceeds gradually on his journey from the north to the south-east, just like the Toltecs, who traveled southward from Tulla. It is plain that he departs for the east, because this is his home, from which he came and will return. His eastern origin is, no doubt, based upon the direction of the eastern trade-winds, which carry rain and, with it, fertility to the interior of Central America. The rains began three or four weeks earlier in Vera Cruz, Tampico, and Tabasco than in Puebla and Mexico. Another reason, which has, however, a certain connection with the above, may be the relationship of the god of air and the sun-god, who often assumed an equal position in nature and in worship. We know that the founders of the Peruvian and Muyscan cults come from the east, because they are sun-gods. Quetzalcoatl is not such a deity, it is true, but the fertilizing air-god is also in other places closely connected with the fructifying sun, as, for example Huitzilopochtli, Odin, and Brama. The sun is his eye. This connection with the sun, Montezuma referred to when he spoke in the presence of Cortés of the departure of Quetzalcoatl for the regions from which the sun comes. As the sun is the eye of heaven, to whom the heart of the victim sacrificed to the god of heaven is presented, so it is at night with the moon, to whom the same tribute was paid at the feast of Quetzalcoatl. I merely refer to this here to show the connection of the air-god with the great heavenly bodies.

Several other significations are attached to the idea of an air-god. It is natural that the god of heavenly blessing should also be the god of wealth. All wealth depends originally upon the produce of the soil, upon the blessing of heaven, however worldly the opinion of the matter may be. Gold is merely the symbol of this wealth, like the golden shower of Zeus. The image of Quetzalcoatl was, therefore, according to Acosta, adorned with gold, silver, jewels, rich feathers, and gay dresses, to illustrate his wealth. For this reason he wore a golden helmet, 286 and his sceptre was decorated with costly stones. The same view is also the basis of the myths of the ancients about snakes and dragons guarding treasures. The fact that the merchants of Cholula worshiped the god of wealth before all others, and as their chief deity, requires no explanation.

His worship in Cholula was conducted as follows: Forty days before the festival, the merchants bought a spotless slave, who was first taken to bathe in a lake called the Lake of the Gods, then dressed up as the god Quetzalcoatl, whom he had to represent for forty days. During this time he enjoyed the same adoration as was given to the god: he was set upon a raised place, presented with flowers, and fed on the choicest viands. He was, however, well guarded during the night, so that he might not escape. During his exhibition through the town, he danced and sang, and the women and children ran out of their houses to salute him and make him presents. This continued until nine days before the end of the forty days. Then two old priests approached him in all humility, saying, in deep voice: Lord, know that in nine days thy singing and dancing will cease, because thou must die! If he continued of good spirit, and inclined to dance and sing, it was considered a good omen, if the contrary, a bad one. In the latter case they prepared him a drink of blood and cacao, which was to obliterate the remembrance of the past conversation. After drinking this, it was hoped that he would resume his former good humor. On the day of the festival still greater honors were shown him, music sounded and incense was burnt. At last, at the midnight hour, he was sacrificed, the heart was torn out of his body, held up to the moon, and then thrown toward the image of the god. The body was cast down the steps of the temple, and served the merchants, especially the slave-dealers, for a sacrificial meal. This feast and sacrifice took place every year, but after a certain number of cycles, as in the divine year, Teoxihuitl, they were celebrated with much more pomp. Quetzalcoatl had, generally, 287 his human sacrifices during the Aztec rule, as well as the other gods.


The power which reëstablishes the macrocosm, heals and rejuvenates the microcosm also: it is the general healing power. With the good weather thousands of invalids are restored, and refreshing rains not only revive the thirsty plains of the tropics, but man himself. Thus the air-god, the atmosphere, becomes a healing god. A Phœnician told Pausanius that the snake god, Æsculapius, signified the health-restoring air. If this god of heaven is also a snake-god, like Quetzalcoatl, the rejuvenating and reinvigorating power of nature is expressed in a clear parallelism.

The snake-god is also a healing god, and even the Greek Æsculapius cannot dispense with the snake. It is, thus, not to be wondered at that the sterile women of the Mexican peoples directed their prayers to Quetzalcoatl.[VII-37]

This concludes the able summing-up presented by Müller, and it is given as I give all theoretical matter, neither accepting nor rejecting it, as simply another ray of light bent in upon the god Quetzalcoatl, whose nature it is not proposed here to either explain or illustrate, but only to reproduce, as regarded from many sides by the earliest and closest observers.



Various accounts of the Birth, Origin, and Derivation of the name of the Mexican War God, Huitzilopochtli, of his Temple, Image, Ceremonial, Festivals, and his deputy, or page, PaynalClavigeroBoturiniAcostaSolisSahagunHerreraTorquemadaJ. G. Müller's Summary of the Huitzilopochtli Myths, their Origin, Relation, and SignificationTylorCodex VaticanusTlaloc, God of Water, especially of Rain, and of MountainsClavigero, Gama, and Ixtlilxochitl—Prayer in the time of DroughtCamargo, Motolinia, Mendieta, and the Vatican Codex on the Sacrifices to TlalocThe Decorations of his Victims and the places of their ExecutionGathering Rushes for the Service of the Water GodHighway Robberies by the Priests at this timeDecorations and Implements of the PriestsPunishments for Ceremonial OffencesThe Whirlpool of PantitlanImages of the Mountains in honor of the Tlaloc Festivalof the coming Rain and Mutilation of the Images of the MountainsGeneral Prominence in the cult of Tlaloc, of the Number Four, the Cross, and the Snake.


Huitzilopochtli, Huitziloputzli, or Vitziliputzli, was the god of war and the especially national god of the Mexicans. Some said that he was a purely spiritual being, others that a woman had borne him after miraculous conception. This legend, following Clavigero, ran as follows:

In the ancient city of Tulla, lived a most devout woman, Coatlicue by name. Walking one day in the temple as her custom was, she saw a little ball of feathers floating down from heaven, which, taking without 289 thought, she put into her bosom. The walk being ended, however, she could not find the ball, and wondered much, all the more that soon after this she found herself pregnant. She had already many children, who now, to avert this dishonor of their house, conspired to kill her; at which she was sorely troubled. But, from the midst of her womb the god spoke: Fear not, O my mother, for this danger will I turn to our great honor and glory. And lo, Huitzilopochtli, perfect as Pallas Athena, was instantly born, springing up with a mighty war-shout, grasping the shield and the glittering spear. His left leg and his head were adorned with plumes of green; his face, arms, and thighs barred terribly with lines of blue. He fell upon the unnatural children, slew them all, and endowed his mother with their spoils. And from that day forth his names were Tezahuitl, Terror, and Tetzauhteotl, Terrible god.

This was the god who became protector of the Mexicans, who conducted them so many years in their pilgrimage, and settled them at last on the site of Mexico. And in this city they raised him that proud temple so much celebrated even by the Spaniards, in which were annually held their solemn festivals, in the fifth, ninth, and fifteenth months; besides those kept every four years, every thirteen years, and at the beginning of every century. His statue was of gigantic size, in the posture of a man seated on a blue-colored bench, from the four corners of which issued four huge snakes. His forehead was blue, but his face was covered with a golden mask, while another of the same kind covered the back of his head. Upon his head he carried a beautiful crest, shaped like the beak of a bird; upon his neck a collar consisting of ten figures of the human heart; in his right hand, a large, blue, twisted club; in his left, a shield, on which appeared five balls of feathers disposed in the form of a cross, and from the upper part of the shield rose a golden flag with four arrows, which the Mexicans pretended to have been sent to them from heaven to perform those glorious actions which we have seen in their history. His 290 body was girt with a large golden snake, and adorned with various lesser figures of animals made of gold and precious stones, which ornaments and insignia had each their peculiar meaning. They never deliberated upon making war without imploring the protection of this god, with prayers and sacrifices; and offered up a greater number of human sacrifices to him than to any other of the gods.[VIII-1]

A different account of the origin of this deity is given by Boturini, showing the god to have been a brave Mexican chief, who was afterward apotheosized:—

While the Mexicans were pushing their conquests and their advance toward the country now occupied by them, they had a very renowned captain, or leader, called Huitziton. He it was that in these long and perilous journeys through unknown lands, sparing himself no fatigue, took care of the Mexicans. The fable says of him that being full of years and wisdom he was one night caught up in sight of his army, and of all his people, and presented to the god Tezauhteotl, that is to say the Frightful God, who, being in the shape of a horrible dragon, commanded him to be seated at his right hand, saying: Welcome, O valiant captain; very grateful am I for thy fidelity in my service and in governing my people. It is time that thou shouldest rest, since thou art already old, and since thy great deeds raise thee up to the fellowship of the immortal gods. Return then to thy sons and tell them not to be afflicted if in future they cannot see thee as a mortal man; for from the nine heavens thou shalt look down propitious upon them. And not only that, but also, when I strip the vestments of humanity from thee, I will leave to thine afflicted and orphan people thy bones and thy skull so that they may be comforted in their sorrow, and may consult thy relics as to the road they have to follow: and in due time the land shall be shown them that 291 I have destined for them, a land in which they shall hold wide empire, being respected of the other nations.

Huitziton did according to these instructions, and after a sorrowful interview with his people, disappeared, carried away by the gods. The weeping Mexicans remained with the skull and bones of their beloved captain, which they carried with them till they arrived in New Spain, and at the place where they built the great city of Tenochtitlan, or Mexico. All this time the devil spoke to them through this skull of Huitziton, often asking for the immolation of men and women, from which thing originated those bloody sacrifices, practiced afterwards by this nation with so much cruelty on prisoners of war. This deity was called, in early as well as in later times, Huitzilopochtli—for the principal men believed that he was seated at the left hand of Tezcatlipoca—a man derived from the original name Huitziton, and from the word mapoche, 'left hand.'[VIII-2]


Acosta gives a minute description of the image and temple of this god:—

"The chiefest idoll of Mexico was, as I have sayde, Vitziliputzli. It was an image of wood like to a man, set vpon a stoole of the colour of azure, in a brankard or litter, at every corner was a piece of wood in forme of a Serpent's head. The stoole signified that he was set in heaven: this idoll hadde all the forehead azure, and had a band of azure vnder the nose from one eare to another: vpon his head he had a rich plume of feathers, like to the beake of a small bird, the which was covered on the toppe with golde burnished very browne: hee had in his left hand a white target, with the figures of five pine apples, made of white feathers, set in a crosse: and from above issued forth a crest of gold, and at his sides hee hadde foure dartes, which (the Mexicaines say) had beene sent from heaven to do those actes and prowesses which shall be spoken of: In his right hand he had an azured staffe, cutte in fashion of a waving snake. All those ornaments with the rest hee had, carried his sence 292 as the Mexicaines doe shew; the name of Vitziliputzli signifies the left hand of a shining feather. I will speake heereafter of the prowde Temple, the sacrifices, feasts and ceremonies of this great idoll, being very notable things. But at this present we will only shew, that this idoll thus richly appareled and deckt, was set vpon an high Altare, in a small peece or boxe, well covered with linnen clothes, jewells, feathers and ornaments of golde, with many rundles of feathers, the fairest and most exquisite that could be found: hee had alwaies a curtine before him for the greater veneration. Ioyning to the chamber or chappell of this idoll, there was a peece of lesse worke, and not so well beautified, where there was another idoll they called Tlaloc. These two idolls were alwayes together, for that they held them as companions, and of equal power.


There was in Mexico, this Cu, the famous Temple of Vitziliputzli, it had a very great circuite, and within a faire Court. It was built of great stones, in fashion of snakes tied one to another, and the circuite was called Coatepantli, which is, a circuite of snakes: vppon the toppe of every chamber and oratorie where the Idolls were, was a fine piller wrought with small stones, blacke as ieate, set in goodly order, the ground raised vp with white and red, which below gave a great light. Vpon the top of the pillar were battlements very artificially made, wrought like snailes [caracoles], supported by two Indians of stone, sitting, holding candlesticks in their hands, the which were like Croisants garnished and enriched at the ends, with yellow and greene feathers and long fringes of the same. Within the circuite of this court, there were many chambers of religious men, and others that were appointed for the service of the Priests and Popes, for so they call the soveraigne Priests which serve the Idoll.

There were foure gates or entries, at the east, west, north, and south; at every one of these gates beganne a faire cawsey of two or three leagues long. There was in the midst of the lake where the cittie of Mexico is built, 293 foure large cawseies in crosse, which did much beautify it; vpon every portall or entry, was a God or Idoll, having the visage turned to the causey, right against the Temple gate of Vitziliputzli. There were thirtie steppes of thirtie fadome long, and they divided from the circuit of the court by a streete that went betwixt them; vpon the toppe of these steppes there was a walke thirtie foote broad, all plaistered with chalke, in the midst of which walke was a Pallisado artificially made of very high trees, planted in order a fadome one from another. These trees were very bigge, and all pierced with small holes from the foote to the top, and there were roddes did runne from one tree to another, to the which were chained or tied many dead mens heades. Vpon every rod were twentie sculles, and these ranckes of sculles continue from the foote to the toppe of the tree. This Pallissado was full of dead mens sculls from one end to the other, the which was a wonderfull mournefull sight and full of horror. These were the heads of such as had beene sacrificed; for after they were dead, and had eaten the flesh, the head was delivered to the Ministers of the Temple, which tied them in this sort vntil they fell off by morcells; and then had they a care to set others in their places. Vpon the toppe of the temple were two stones or chappells, and in them were the two Idolls which I have spoken of, Vitziliputzli, and his companion Tlaloc. These Chappells were carved and graven very artificially, and so high, that to ascend vp to it, there was a staire of stone of sixscore steppes. Before these Chambers or Chappells, there was a Court of fortie foote square, in the midst thereof, was a high stone of five hand breadth, poynted in fashion of a Pyramide, it was placed there for the sacrificing of men; for being laid on their backes, it made their bodies to bend, and so they did open them and pull out their hearts, as I shall shew heereafter."[VIII-3]


Solis describes this temple also:—

The top of the truncated pyramid on which the idols of Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc were placed was forty feet square, and reached by a stair of a hundred and twenty steps. On this platform, on either hand, at the head of the stairs, stood two sentinel-statues supporting great candlesticks of an extraordinary fashion. And first, from the jasper flags, rose a hump-backed altar of green stone. Opposite and beyond was the chapel wherein behind curtains sat Huitzilopochtli, on a throne supported by a blue globe. From this, supposed to represent the heavens, projected four staves with serpents' heads, by which the priests carried the god when he was brought before the public. The image bore on its head a bird of wrought plumes whose beak and crest were of burnished gold. The feathers expressed horrid cruelty and were made still more ghastly by two stripes of blue one on the brow and the other on the nose. Its right hand leaned as on a staff upon a crooked serpent. Upon the left arm was a buckler bearing five white plumes, arranged in form of a cross; and the hand grasped four arrows venerated as heaven-descended. To the left of this was another chapel, that of Tlaloc. Now these two chapels and idols were the same in every particular. These gods were esteemed brothers—their attributes, qualities, powers, inclinations, service, prayers, and so on, were identical or interchangeable.[VIII-4]


Sahagun says of Huitzilopochtli, that, being originally a man, he was a sort of Hercules, of great strength and warlike, a great destroyer of towns and slayer of men. 295 In war he had been a living fire, very terrible to his adversaries; and the devise he bore was a dragon's head, frightful in the extreme, and casting fire out of its mouth. A great wizard he had been, and sorcerer, transforming himself into the shape of divers birds and beasts. While he lived, the Mexicans esteemed this man very highly for his strength and dexterity in war, and when he died they honored him as a god, offering slaves, and sacrificing them in his presence. And they looked to it that those slaves were well fed and well decorated with such ornaments as were in use, with ear-rings and visors; all for the greater honor of the god. In Tlaxcala also they had a deity, called Camaxtli, who was similar to this Huitzilopochtli.[VIII-5]

Gage, in a pretty fair translation of Herrera, describes this god with Tezcatlipoca. He says:—

"The gods of Mexico (as the Indians reported to the first Spaniards) were two thousand in number; the chiefest were Vitzilopuchtli, and Tezcatlipoca, whose images stood highest in the temple upon the altars. They were made of stone in full proportion as big as a giant. They were covered with a lawn called Nacar; they were beset with pearls, precious stones, and pieces of gold, wrought like birds, beasts, fishes, and flowers, adorned with emeralds, turquies, chalcedons, and other little fine stones, so that when the lawn was taken away, the images seemed very beautiful and glorious to behold. These two Indian idols had for a girdle great snakes of gold, and for collars or chains about their necks ten hearts of men made of gold; and each of them had a counterfeit visor with eyes of glass, and in their necks Death painted. These two gods were brethren, for Tezcatlipoca was the god of providence, and Vitzilopuchtli, god of the wars, who was worshiped and feared more than all the rest."[VIII-6]

Torquemada goes to some length into the legend 296 and description of this god of war, Huitzilopochtli, or Mexitl:[VIII-7]

Huitzilopochtli, the ancient god and guide of the Mexicans, is a name variously derived. Some say it is composed of two words: huitzilin, 'a humming-bird', and tlahuipuchtli, 'a sorcerer that spits fire.' Others say that the second part of the name comes not from tlahuipuchtli, but from opuchtli, that is, 'the left hand;' so that the whole name, Huitzilopochtli, would mean 'the shining-feathered left hand.' For this idol was decorated with rich and resplendent feathers on the left arm. And this god it was that led out the Mexicans from their own land and brought them into Anáhuac.

Some held him to be a purely spiritual being, others affirmed that he had been born of a woman, and related his history after the following fashion: Near the city of Tulla there is a mountain called Coatepec, that is to say the Mountain of the Snake, where a woman lived, named Coatlicue, or Snake-petticoat. She was the mother of many sons called Centzunhuitznahua, and of a daughter whose name was Coyolxauhqui. Coatlicue was very devout and careful in the service of the gods, and she occupied herself ordinarily in sweeping and cleaning the sacred places of that mountain. It happened that one day, occupied with these duties, she saw a little ball of feathers floating down to her through the air, which she taking, as we have already related, found herself in a short time pregnant.[VIII-8]


Upon this all her children conspired against her to 297 slay her, and came armed against her, the daughter Coyolxauhqui being the ringleader and most violent of all. Then, immediately, Huitzilopochtli was born, fully armed, having a shield called teuehueli in his left hand, in his right a dart, or long blue pole, and all his face barred over with lines of the same color. His forehead was decorated with a great tuft of green feathers, his left leg was lean and feathered, and both thighs and the arms barred with blue. He then caused to appear a serpent made of torches, teas, called xiuhcoatl; and he ordered a soldier named Tochaucalqui to light this serpent, and taking it with him, to embrace Coyolxauhqui. From this embrace the matricidal daughter immediately died, and Huitzilopochtli himself slew all her brethren and took their spoil, enriching his mother therewith. After this he was surnamed Tetzahuitl, that is to say, Fright, or Amazement, and held as a god, born of a mother, without a father—as the great god of battles, for in these his worshipers found him very favorable to them. Besides the ordinary image of this god, permanently set up in the great temple of Mexico, there was another, renewed every year, made of grains and seeds of various kinds. In one of the halls in the neighborhood of the temple the priests collected and ground up with great devotion a mass of seeds, of the amaranth and other plants, moistening the same with the blood of children, and making a dough thereof, which they shaped into a statue of the form and stature of a man. The priests carried this image to the temple and the altar, previously arranged for its reception, playing trumpets and other instruments, and making much noise and ado with dancing and singing at the head of the procession. All this during the night; in the morning the high-priest and the other priests blessed and consecrated the image, with such blessing and consecration as were in use among them. This done, and the people assembled, every person that could come at the image touched it wherever he could, as Christians touch a relic, and made offerings thereto, of jewels of gold and precious 298 stones, each according to his means and devotion, sticking the said offerings into the soft fresh dough of which the idol was confected. After this ceremony no one was allowed to touch the image any more, nor to enter the place where it was, save only the high-priest. After that they brought out the image of the god Paynalton,[VIII-9]—who is also a war god, being vicar or sub-captain of the said Huitzilopochtli—an image made of wood. It was carried in the arms of a priest who represented the god Quetzalcoatl, and who was decorated with ornaments rich and curious. Before this priest there marched another carrying [the image of] a great snake, large and thick, twisted and of many coils. The procession filed along at great length, and here and there at various temples and altars the priests offered up sacrifices, immolating human captives and quails. The first station, or stopping-place, was at the ward of Teotlachco. Thence the cortège passed to Tlatelulco (where I, Torquemada, am now writing this history); then to Popotlan; then to Chapultepec—nearly a league from, the city of Mexico; then to Tepetoca; then to Acachinanco; then back again to the temple whence it had set out; and then the image of Paynalton was put on the altar where stood that of Huitzilopochtli, being left there with the banner, called ezpaniztli, that had been carried before it during the march: only the great snake, mentioned above, was carried away and put in another place, 299 to which it belonged. And at all these places where the procession appeared, it was received with incensings, sacrifices, and other ceremonies.

This procession finished, it having occupied the greater part of the day, all was prepared for a sacrifice. The king himself acted the part of priest; taking a censer, he put incense therein with certain ceremonies and incensed the image of the god. This done, they took down again the idol, Paynalton, and set out in march, those going in front that had to be sacrificed, together with all things pertaining to the fatal rite. Two or three times they made the circle of the temple, moving in horrid cortège, and then ascended to the top, where they slew the victims; beginning with the prisoners of war, and finishing with the fattened slaves, purchased for the occasion, rending out their hearts and casting the same at the feet of the idol.


All through this day the festivities and the rejoicings continued, and all the day and night the priests watched vigilantly the dough statue of Huitzilopochtli, so that no oversight or carelessness should interfere with the veneration and service due thereto. Early next day they took down said statue and set it on its feet in a hall. Into this hall there entered the priest, called after Quetzalcoatl, who had carried the image of Paynalton in his arms in the procession, as before related; there entered also the king, with one of the most intimate servants, called Tehua, of the god Huitzilopochtli, four other great priests, and four of the principal youths, called Telpochtlatoque, out of the number of those that had charge of the other youths of the temple. These mentioned, and these alone, being assembled, the priest named after Quetzalcoatl took a dart tipped with flint and hurled it into the breast of the statue of dough, which fell on receiving the stroke. This ceremony was styled, 'killing the god Huitzilopochtli so that his body might be eaten.' Upon this the priests advanced to the fallen image and one of them pulled the heart out of it, and gave the same to the king. The other priests 300 cut the pasty body into two halves. One half was given to the people of Tlatelulco, who parted it out in crumbs among all their wards, and specially to the young soldiers—no woman being allowed to taste a morsel. The other half was allotted to the people of that part of Mexico called Tenochtlitlan; it was divided among the four wards, Teopan, Atzaqualco, Quepopan, and Moyotlan; and given to the men, to both small and great, even to the men-children in the cradle. All this ceremony was called teoqualo, that is to say, 'god is eaten,' and this making of the dough statue and eating of it was renewed once every year.[VIII-10]

Closely as J. G. Müller studied the character of Quetzalcoatl, his examination of that of Huitzilopochtli, has been still more minute and was indeed the subject of a monograph published by him in 1847. A student of the subject cannot afford to overlook this study, and I translate the more important parts of it in the paragraphs which follow; not, indeed, either for or against the interests of the theory it supports, but for the sake of the accurate and detailed handling, rehandling, and grouping there, by a master in this department of mythological learning, of almost all the data relating to the matter in hand:—

Huitzilopochtli has been already referred to as an original god of the air and of heaven. He agrees also with Quetzalcoatl in a second capital point, in having become the anthropomorphic national god of the Aztecs, as Quetzalcoatl of the Toltecs. On their marches and in their wars, in the establishment of codes and towns, in happiness as well as in misfortune, the Aztecs were guided by his oracle, by the spirit of his being. As the Toltecs, especially in their later national character, differ from the Aztecs, so differ their two chief national gods. If the capital of the Toltecs, Cholula, resembled modern Rome in its religious efforts, so the god enthroned there was transformed into the human form of a high-priest, in whom this people saw his human ideal. In 301 the same manner one might be led to compare the capital of the Aztecs with ancient Rome, on account of its warlike spirit, and therefore it was right to make the national god of the Aztecs a war god like the Roman Mars.


We will commence with the name of the god, which, according to Sahagun, Acosta, Torquemada, and most of the writers, signifies 'on the left side a humming-bird;' from huitzilin, 'a humming-bird,' and opochtli, 'left.' In connecting the Aztec words, the ending is cut off. The image of the god had in reality, frequently, the feathers of the humming-bird on the left foot. The connection of this bird with the god is, in many ways, appropriate. It no doubt appeared to them as the most beautiful of birds, and as the most worthy representant of their chief deity. Does not its crest glitter like a crown set with rubies and all kinds of precious stones? The Aztecs have accordingly, in their way, called the humming-bird, 'sun-beam,' 'or sun-hair;' as its alighting upon flowers, is like that of a sun-beam. The chief god of the Caribs, Juluca, is also decorated with a band of its feathers round the forehead. The ancient Mexicans had, as their most noble adornment, state-mantles of the same feathers, so much praised by Cortés; and even at the present time the Aztec women adorn their ears with these plumes. This humming-bird decoration on the left foot of the god was not the only one; he had also a green bunch of plumage upon his head, shaped like the bill of a small bird. The shield in his left hand was decorated with white feathers, and the whole image was at times covered with a mantle of feathers. To the general virtues which make comprehensible the humming-bird attribute as a divine one, must be added the special virtue of bravery peculiar to this bird, which is specially suited to the war god. The English traveler Bullock tells how this bird distinguishes itself for its extraordinary courage, attacking others ten times its own size, flying into their eyes, and using its sharp bill as a most dangerous weapon. Nothing 302 more daring can be witnessed than its attack upon other birds of its own species, when it fears disturbance during the breeding-season. The effects of jealousy transform these birds into perfect furies, the throat swells, the crest on their head, the tail, and the wings are expanded; they fight whistling in the air, until one of them falls exhausted to the ground. That such a martial spirit should exist in so small a creature shows the intensity of this spirit; and the religious feeling is the sooner aroused, when the instrument of a divine power appears in so trifling and weak a body. The small but brave and warlike woodpecker stood in a similar relation to Mars, and is accordingly termed picus martius.

This, the most common explanation of the name Huitzilopochtli, as 'humming-bird, left side' is not followed by Veytia, with whom Prichard agrees. He declares the meaning of the name to be 'left hand,' from huitzitoc, 'hand,' because Huitzilopochtli, according to the fable, after his death, sits on the left side of the god Tezcatlipoca, Now, Huitzilopochtli is in another place considered as the brother of this god; he also stands higher, and can therefore scarcely have obtained his name from his position with respect to the other deity. Besides, hand in Aztec is properly translated as maitl, or toma.

Over and above this attribute which gives the god his name, there are others which point towards the conception of a war god. Huitzilopochtli had, like Mars and Odin, the spear, or a bow, in his right hand, and in the left, sometimes a bundle of arrows, sometimes a round white shield, on the side of which were the four arrows sent him from heaven wherewith to perform the heroic deeds of his people. On these weapons depended the welfare of the state, just as on the ancile of the Roman Mars, which had fallen from the sky, or on the palladium of the warlike Pallas Athena.

By-names also point out Huitzilopochtli as war god; for he is called the terrible god, Tetzateotl, or the raging, 303 Tetzahuitl. These names he received at his birth, when he, just issued from his mother's womb, overthrew his adversaries.


Not less do his connections indicate his warlike nature. His youngest brother, Tlacahuepancuextotzin, was also a war god, whose statue existed in Mexico, and who received homage, especially in Tezcuco. In still closer relationship to him stands his brother-in-arms, or, as Bernal Diaz calls him, his page, Paynalton, that is, 'the fleet one;' he was the god of the sudden war alarm, tumultus or general levée en masse; his call obliged all capable of bearing arms to rush to the defence. He is otherwise considered as the representant of Huitzilopochtli and subordinate to him, for he was only a small image, as Diaz says, and as the ending ton denotes. The statue of this little war-crier was always placed upon the altar of Huitzilopochtli, and sometimes carried round at his feast.

Other symbolic attributes establish Huitzilopochtli as the general national god of this warlike people, and symbolized his personal presence. On the march from the ancient home, the priests took their turn, in fours, to carry his wooden image, with the little flag fallen from heaven, and the four arrows. The litter, upon which the image was carried, was called the 'chair of god,' teoicpalli, and was a holy box, such as was used among the Etruscans and Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans, in Ilium, among the Japanese, among the Mongols. In America, the Cherokees are also found with such an ark. The ark of the covenant carried by the Levites through the desert and in battle, was of a similar kind. Wherever the Aztecs halted for some time during their wanderings, they erected an altar or a sacrifice mound to their god, upon which they placed this god's-litter with the image; which ancient observance they kept up, in later times, in their temples. By its side they erected a movable tent, tabernaculum, (Stiftshütte), in the open country, as is customary among nomadic people, such as the Mongols. The god, 304 however, gave them the codes and usages of a cultured people, and received offerings of prisoners, hawks, and quails.

As the head of a sparrow on a human body points to the former worship of Quetzalcoatl under the form of a sparrow, so the humming-bird attribute on the image and in the name of Huitzilopochtli, points him out as an original animal god. The general mythological rule, that such animal attributes refer to an ancient worship of the god in question under the form of an animal, points this out in his case, and the special myth of Huitziton assists here in the investigation of the foundation of this original nature.

When the Aztecs still lived in Aztlan, a certain Huitziton enjoyed their highest esteem, as the fable tells. This Huitziton heard the voice of a bird, which cried "tihui," that is 'let us go.'[VIII-11] He thereupon asked the people to leave their home, which they accordingly did. When we consider the name Huitziton, the nature of the story, and the mythical time to which it refers, no doubt remains as to who this Huitziton is supposed to be. It is evident that he is none other than the little bird itself, which, in our later form of the myth, as an anthropomorphic fable, is separated from him; separated euhemeristically, just as the Latin Picus was separated from his woodpecker. This Picus, whose songs and flight were portentous, was represented as a youth with a woodpecker on his head, of which he made use for his seer-art; but was originally, as denoted by his name, nothing else than a woodpecker, which was adored on the wooden pillar from which it sent its sayings. This woodpecker placed itself upon the vexillum of the Sabines, and guided them to the region which has been named Picenum after it. As this bird guided its people to their new abode, like Huitziton, so many other animal gods have lead those who, in ancient times, sought new homes. Thus a crow conducted Battus to Cyrene; a dove led the Chalcidians 305 to Cyrene; Apollo, in the form of a dolphin, took the Cretans to Pytho; Antinous founded a new settlement, to which a snake had pointed the way; a bull carried Cadmus to Thebes; a wolf led the Hirpinians. The original stock of the South American people, the Mbayas, received the divine order, through the bird Caracara, to roam as enemies in the territories of other people instead of settling down in a fixed habitation—this is an anti-culture myth. As the founding of towns favors the birth of myths like the preceding, so also does the founding of convents, the sites of which, according to the numerous fables of the Christian mediæval age, were pointed out by animals—one of the remnants of old heathenism then existing in the popular fancy. To resume the subject, Huitziton is, therefore, the humming-bird god, who, as oracular god, commanded the Aztecs to emigrate. His name signifies nothing else than 'small humming-bird,' the ending ton being a diminutive syllable, as in Paynalton. Thus the humming-bird was the bearer, at the time of the great flood, of the divine message of joy to the Tezpi of the Michoacans, a people related to the Aztecs. It had been let loose as the water receded, and soon returned with a small twig to the ark.[VIII-12] On the Catherine Islands [islands of Santa Catalina],[VIII-13] in California, crows were adored as interpreters of the divine will. From the above it is also self-evident that Huitziton and Huitzilopochtli were one, which is the conclusion arrived at by the learned researcher of Mexican languages and traditions, the Italian Boturini. The name, myth, and attributes of Huitzilopochtli point then to the humming-bird. Previous to the transformation of this god, by anthropomorphism, he was merely a small humming-bird, huitziton; by anthropomorphism, the bird became, however, merely the attribute, emblem or symbol, and name of the god—a name which changed with his form into 'humming-bird on the left,' or Huitzilopochtli.


The identity of the two, in spite of the different explanations of the name, is accepted by Veytia, who gives Huitzitoc as the name of the chief who led the Aztec armies during their last wanderings from Chicomoztoc, or the Seven Caves, into Anáhuac. Under his leadership the Aztecs were everywhere victorious, and for this reason he was placed, after his death, on the left side of the god Tezcatlipoca; since which time he was called Huitzilopochtli.


The identity of Huitziton and Huitzilopochtli, is also shown by other facts besides the name, the attribute, and the mythological analogy: the same important acts are ascribed to both. We have seen that Huitziton commanded the Aztecs to leave their home; according to another account of Acosta, this was done on the persuasion of Huitzilopochtli. If other Spanish authors state that this was done by instigation of the devil, they mean none other than Huitzilopochtli, using a mode of speech which had become an established one. This name became a common title of the devil in Germany, under the form of Vizliputzli, soon after the conquest of Mexico, as may be seen in the old popular drama of Faust. The fable further relates of Huitziton that he taught the Aztecs to produce fire by friction, during their wanderings. The gift of fire is usually ascribed to a culture-god. Huitzilopochtli was such a deity; he introduced dress, laws, and ceremonies among his people. The statement that Huitziton had at some time, given fire to the people, has no historical meaning; there is no people without fire, and a formerly told myth mentions that man made fire even before the existence of the present sun. The signification of the fable is a religious one, it is a myth in which the Aztecs ascribe the origin of all human culture to Huitziton their culture-god, afterward Huitzilopochtli.


This god wore also a band of human hearts and faces of gold and silver; while various bones of dead men, as well as a man torn in pieces, were depicted on his dress. These attributes like those of the Indian Schiwa and Kali, clearly point him out as the god to whom human 307 sacrifices were made. It was extensively believed among the nations composing the Mexican Empire that human sacrifices had been introduced by the Aztecs within the last two centuries. Before that time only bloodless offerings had been made. A myth places the commencement of human sacrifices in the fourteenth century, in which the three first successive cases thereof are said to have occurred.

The Colhuas, the ruling nation at that time in the valley of Anáhuac, are said to have fought a battle with their enemies of Xochimilco, which was decided in favor of the Colhuas, owing to the impetuous attack made by the tributary Aztecs in their aid. While the Colhuas were presenting a large number of prisoners before their king, the Aztecs had only secured four, whom they kept secreted, but exhibited, in token of their bravery, a number of ears that they had cut from their slain enemies, boasting that the victory would have been much delayed had they lost time in making prisoners. Proud of their triumph, they erected an altar to Huitzilopochtli, in Huitzilopochco, and made known to their lord, the king of the Colhuas, that they desired to offer this god a costly and worthy sacrifice. The king sent them, by the hands of priests, a dead bird, which the messengers laid irreverently upon the altar, and departed. The Aztecs swallowed their chagrin, and set a fragrant herb with a knife of iztli beside the bird. As the king with his suite arrived at the festival, more for the sake of mocking the proceedings than to grace them, the four prisoners taken from the Xochimilcos were brought out, placed upon the stone of sacrifice, their breasts cut open with the iztli, and the palpitating heart torn out. This sacrifice brought consternation upon the Colhuas, they discharged the Aztecs from their service and drove them away. The Aztecs wandered for some time about the country, and then, at the command of their god, founded the town of Tenochtitlan, or Mexico, on a site where they had found a nopal (Opuntie) growing upon a rock. 308

At the second sacrifice a Colhua was the victim. An Aztec was hunting, on the shore of the lake, for an animal to offer his patron deity, when he met a Colhua called Xomimitl; he attacks him furiously, bears him down, and the defeated man is made to bleed upon the sacrifice stone.

Both myths are aitiological, and explained by the sacrifice system (Opferkultus). This is shown in the case of the four prisoners, of whom we shall learn more in the third story. The second story personifies the Aztec and the Colhua peoples in the two men, the second nation supplying the first with human sacrifices. With the sacrifice of Xomimitl, the parallelism of which to the four Xochimilcos cannot be overlooked by any one, the first temple of Huitzilopochtli, in Tenochtitlan, was inaugurated.

The third sacrifice shows still more closely the religious basis (Kultusgrundlage) of the myth. Here also, as in the former, we have to do with a Colhua. The Aztecs offered the Colhua king to show divine honors to his daughter and to apotheosize her into the mother of their national god, declaring that such was the will of the deity. The king, rejoicing at the honor intended for his daughter, let her go, and she was brought to Tenochtitlan with great pomp. No sooner, however, had she arrived than she was sacrificed, flayed, and one of the bravest youths dressed in her skin. The king was invited to the solemn act of the deification of his daughter, and only became aware of her death when the flame from the copal gum revealed to him the bloody skin about the youth placed at the side of the god. The daughter was, however, at once formally declared mother of Huitzilopochtli and of all the gods.


This aitiological cultus-myth is easily explained. The name of the daughter is Teteionan, whom we have learned to know as the gods'-mother, and as Tocitzin, 'our grandmother.'[VIII-14] She was never the daughter of a 309 human king, but has been transformed into one by euhemerism, somewhat as Iphigenia is to be considered as originally Artemis. The goddess Teteionan had her special festival in Mexico, when a woman, dressed as goddess, was sacrificed; while held on the back of another woman, her head was cut off, then she was flayed, and the skin carried by a youth, accompanied by a numerous retinue, as a present to Huitzilopochtli. Four prisoners of war were, moreover, previously sacrificed.

Similar to this story, told by Clavigero, is another, narrated by Acosta. According to the latter, Tozi was the daughter of the king of Culhuacan, and was made the first human sacrifice by order of Huitzilopochtli, who desired her for a sister. Tozi is, however, none other than Tocitzin, and is also shown to be 'our grandmother.' According to the Aztec version, the custom of dressing priests in the skin of sacrificed beings dates from her—such representations are often seen, especially in Humboldt; the Bâsle collection of Mexican antiquities possesses also the stone image of a priest dressed in a human skin. The fourth month, Tlacaxipehualitzli, this is, 'to flay a man,' derived its name from this custom, which is said to have been most frequent at this period of the year.

Goddesses, or beings representing goddesses, are sacrificed in both of these fables. We have met with human sacrifices among the Muyscas in Central America, and in connection with many deities of the Mexicans, in which the human victim represents the god to whom he is to be sacrificed. Slaves impersonating gods were also sacrificed among the northern Indians, the so-called Indios bravos. The person sacrificed is devoured by the god, is given over to him, is already part of him, is the god himself. Such was the case with the slave that personated Quetzalcoatl in the merchants' festival in Cholula.

The critic is only able to admit the relative truth of 310 the recentness of the period in which the origin of Mexican human sacrifices is placed by these three myths. We already know that human sacrifices are very ancient in all America, and that they have only been put aside at a few places by humane efforts; as in Peru to some extent by means of the Incas. We have met with them throughout all South America.

The statement so generally made that the Toltec Quetzalcoatl preached against human sacrifices, certainly implies the previous existence of such sacrifices. This statement about Quetzalcoatl also points out the way to the assimilation of the varying accounts, fables, and myths. In very ancient times human sacrifices predominated everywhere. The Toltecs, like the Incas, endeavored more or less to abolish them, and, even if not altogether successful, they reduced them considerably. The Aztecs reintroduced them. In the East Indies, these sacrifices date back to the era before the flood, and the Greeks there met with remains of anthropophagy, the basis thereof.

Brahmanism sought to exterminate these ancient sacrifices, and the Vedas forbid them, a prohibition which, in connection with the custom of pretending to sacrifice human beings, gives evidence of a former use of actual sacrifices. The later sect of Shiwaits again introduced them.

However ancient the national political phase of Huitzilopochtli may be, the nature phase is still older. This god, too, has a nature-basis which not only explains his being, but throws light upon his further unfolding as a national or war god. All searchers who do not begin with this basis, see nothing but inexplicable riddles and contradictions before them.


This nature-basis is first seen in the myth about his birth. In the neighborhood of Tulla there was a place called Coatepec, where lived a god-fearing woman, called Coatlicue. One day, as she was going to the temple, according to her custom, a gaily colored ball of feathers fell down from heaven; she picked it up, and 311 hid it in her bosom, intending to decorate the altar therewith. As she was on the point of producing it for this purpose, it could not be found. A few days afterward she was aware of being pregnant. Her children, the Centzunhuitznahuas, also noticed this, and, in order to avoid their own disgrace, they determined to kill her before she was delivered. Her sorrow was however, miraculously consoled by a voice that made itself heard from within her womb, saying: Fear not, O mother, I will save thee to thy great honor, and to my great fame! The brothers, urged on by their sister, were on the point of killing her, when, behold, even as the armed Athena sprang from her father's head, Huitzilopochtli was born; the shield in his left hand, the spear in his right, the green plumage on his head, and humming-bird feathers on his left leg; his face, arms, and legs being, moreover, striped with blue. At once he slew his opponents, plundered their dwellings, and brought the spoils to his mother. From this he was called Terror and the Frightful God.

If we dissect this myth, we notice that another mother appears than the one formerly sacrificed in his honor, Teteionan. Two mothers present nothing remarkable in mythology, I have only to mention Aphrodite and Athena, who according to different accounts, had different fathers. So long as the formation of myths goes on, founded upon fresh conceptions of nature, somewhat different ideas (for wholly different, even here, the two mothers are not) from distinct points of view, are always possible. It is the anthropomorphism of the age that fixes on the one-sided conclusion. Teteionan is Huitzilopochtli's mother, because she is the mother of all the gods. The mother, in this instance, is the Flora of the Aztecs, euhemerized into a god-fearing woman, Coatlicue, or Coatlantana, of whose worship in Coatepec and Mexico we have already spoken.

The second point prominent in the myth, is the close connection of Huitzilopochtli with the botanical kingdom. The humming-bird is the messenger of 312 spring, sent by the south to the north, by the hot to the temperate region. It is the means of fructifying the flowers, its movements causing the transfer of the pollen from the stamens to the germ-shells. It sticks its long, thin little bill deep into the flower, and rummaging beneath the stamens, drinks the nectar of the flower, while promoting the act of plant-reproduction. In the Latin myth also, Mars stands in close connection with Flora: Juno gives him birth with Flora's aid, without the assistance of Jupiter. In our mythology of the north, Thor is on a friendly footing with Nanna, the northern Flora. We are already acquainted also with a fable of the Pimas, according to which the goddess of maize became pregnant by a raindrop, and bore the forefather of the people, he who built the great houses.


The question, why Huitzilopochtli should be the son of the goddess of plants, and what his real connection with the botanical kingdom consists in, is solved by examining his worship at the three ancient yearly feasts, which take place exactly at those periods of the year that are the most influential for the Mexican climate, the middle of May, the middle of August, and the end of December. As a rule, in the first half of May the rain begins. Previous to this, the greatest drought and torpidness reign; the plants appear feeble and drooping; nature is bare, the earth gray with dry, withered grass. After a few days of rain, however, the trees appear in a fresh green, the ground is covered with new herbs, all nature is reanimated. Trees, bushes, plants, develop their blossoms; a vapory fragrance rises over all. The fruit shoots from the cultivated field, the juicy, bright green of the maize refreshes the eye. Mühlenpfordt, who stayed a long time in these regions, gives this description of the season. Völker's statement that rain and water stand as fructifying principles in the first rank in ancient physics, and that they meet us in innumerable myths, holds doubly good for the tropics. It requires little imagination to understand what a powerful impression transformed nature, with all its beauty 313 and blessings, must produce in the soul of the child of nature. It is on this account that the ancient Tlaloc came to enjoy so high a regard among the Aztecs, nor has Quetzalcoatl disdained to adorn his mantle with the crosses of a rain-god. And so Huitzilopochtli's first feast of the year, the festival of the arrival of the god, of the offering of incense, stands at the beginning of the season of the reinvigorating of nature by the rain. The pagan Germans used to say that Nerthus, Freya, Hulda, Bertha, Frieg, and other divinities, entered the country at this period. The Aztecs prepared especially for this feast an image of their chief god, made of edible plants and honey, of the same size as the wooden image; and the youths sang the deeds of their god before it, and hymns praying for rain and fertility. Offering of multitudes of quails, incense-burning, and the significant dance of priests and virgins, followed. The virgins, who on this day were called sisters of Huitzilopochtli, wore garlands of dry maize-leaves on their heads, and carried split reeds in their hands; by this representing the dry season. The priests, on the contrary, represented the quickened nature, having their lips smeared with honey.

Now although, according to Max von Wied, there were no bees in America before the arrival of the Europeans, the bees are here represented by humming-birds, also called honey or bee birds, which, hovering and humming like bees, gather their food from the tube-shaped flowers. This food consists of a small insect that lives on honey, and they feed their young by letting them suck at the tongue covered with this honey. The priests bore, further, another symbol of spring: each one held a staff in his hand, on which a flower of feathers was fixed, having another bunch of feathers fixed over it; thus too, Freya's hawk-plumage denoted the advent of the fine season. A prisoner had been selected a year in advance as a victim, and was called 'wise lord of the heaven,' for he personated the god, and had the privilege of choosing the hour of the sacrifice; he did not die, like the other prisoners, on the sacrifice stone, but on the shoulders of 314 the priests. The little children were consecrated to the god of their country, at this festival, by a small incision on the breast.

So also Mars appears as god of spring, he to whom the grass and the sacred spring time of the birth of animals (ver sacrum) were dedicated, whose chief festival and whose month are placed at the commencement of spring, at which time the Salii also sang their old religious songs, and a man personated the god. The Tyrian festival of the awaking of Hercules fell also in spring, for the same reason. Thus, in the myth of the birth of Huitzilopochtli, and in his first festival, spring, or the energy that produces spring, is made the basis of his being. His warlike attributes are appendages of the anthropomorphized national and war god.

The second great festival of the deity takes place in the middle of August. The rains which have lasted and refreshed up to this time, become intermittent, and the fine season approaches, during which the azure sky of the tropics pours its splendor and its beneficial warmth upon men, animals, and plants, scattered over a plain situated 8500 feet above the level of the sea. This is the twelfth month there, the month of ripe fruits. The idols in all temples and dwellings are decorated with flowers. It is now no longer the rain which is the blessing, but the blue sky which cherishes the variegated flower-world. For this reason the image of Huitzilopochtli was blue, his head was wound round with an azure ribbon, in his right hand he held an azure staff or club, and he sat on an azure stool, which, according to ancient accounts, represents heaven as his dwelling-place. His arms and legs had also blue stripes, and costly blue stones hung round his neck. The Egyptian god of fertility, Khem, was also represented in blue.


The third festival of Huitzilopochtli takes place during the winter solstice, a period which plays a great rôle in all worships and myths. The best-known festival of this kind is the one held on the 25th of December throughout the Roman Empire, to celebrate the birth of 315 Mithras, the invincible sun. The Chipewas in North America call December the month of the small spirit, and January that of the great spirit. The Mexican festival of this month represented the character of the entering season, and the new state of nature. The cold sets in, the mountains are covered with snow, the ground dries up, the plants search in vain for their nourishment, many trees lose their foliage—in a word, nature seems dead. And so it happened with their god. The priests prepared his image of various seeds kneaded with the blood of sacrificed children. Numerous religious purifyings and penances, washings with water, blood-lettings, fasts, processions, burning of incense, sacrifices of quails and human beings, inaugurated the festival. One of Quetzalcoatl's priests then shot an arrow at this image of Huitzilopochtli, which penetrated the god who was now considered as dead. His heart was cut out, as with human victims, and eaten by the king, the representative of the god on earth. The body, however, was divided among the various quarters of the city, so that every man received a piece. This was called teoqualo 'the god who is eaten.'

The meaning of the death of this god is, on the whole, evident; it corresponds with the death of vegetation; and a comparison of the myth of his birth, with the two other feasts of Huitzilopochtli, leads to the same conclusion. This third feast is, therefore, at the same time, a festival in honor of the brother of this god, Tezcatlipoca, the god of the under-world, of death, of drought, and of hunger, whose rule commences where that of his brother ends. The myth gives a similar form and sense to the death of Osiris, who is killed by Typhon, and the death of Dionysos and Hercules in the Phœnician colonies. Adonis lives with Aphrodite during one half of the year, and with Persephone the other half; the Indian Krishna leaves for the under-world; thus, too, Brahma and the Celtic sun-god, Hu, died yearly, and were yearly born again. The festival of the self-burning of the Tyrian Heracles is also of this kind; it takes place at the time 316 of the dying off of vegetation, even if this should be in the summer.

As regards the custom of eating the god, this also occurs at another feast which is celebrated during this season, in honor of the gods of the mountains and the water. Small idols of seeds and dough were then prepared, their breasts were opened like those of human victims, the heart was cut out, and the body distributed for eating. The time at which this occurs, shows that it stands in necessary connection with the death of the god. When the god dies it must be as a sacrifice in the fashion of his religion, and when the anthropomorphized god dies, it is as a human sacrifice amid all the necessary usages pertaining thereto: he is killed by priests, the heart is torn out, and his body eaten at the sacrifice meal, just as was done with every human sacrifice. Could it be meant that the god, in being eaten, is imparted to, or incorporated with, the person eating him? This is no doubt so, though not in the abstract, metaphysical, Christian or moral sense, but only with regard to his nature-sense, (seiner Naturseite), which is the real essence of the god. He gives his body, in seed, to be eaten by his people, just as nature, dying at the approach of the winter, at this very period, has stored up an abundance of its gifts for the sustenance of man. It gives man its life-fruit, or its fruit of life as a host or holy wafer. As a rule, the god, during the time of sacrifice, regales with the offering those bringing sacrifices; and, the eating of the flesh of the slave, who so often represents the god to whom he is sacrificed, is the same as eating the god. We have heard of the custom among some nations of eating the ashes of their forefathers, to whom they give divine honors, in order to become possessors of their virtues. The Arkansas nation, west of the Mississippi, which worshiped the dog, used to eat dog-flesh at one of its feasts. Many other peoples solemnly slaughter animals, consume their flesh, and moreover pay divine honors to the remains of these animals. Here the eating of the god, in seeds, is made 317 clear—this custom also existed among the Greeks. The division of the year-god by the ancients, in myth and religious system, has, for the rest, no other sense than has this distribution of the body of Huitzilopochtli. This is done with the sun-bull at the festival of the Persian Mithras, as at the feast, and in the myth of the Dionysos-Zagreus, of Osiris and Attys.


The three yearly festivals, as well as the myth of his birth, all tend to show the positive connection of Huitzilopochtli with the yearly life of the plant-world. The first festival is the arrival of the god, as the plant-world is ushered in, with its hymns praying for rain, its virgins representing the sisters of the god and the inimical drought, in the same sense as the brothers and sister, especially the latter, are his enemies in the myth of his birth, and, as Tezcatlipoca, the god of drought is his brother. Brothers and sisters not seldom represent parallel contrasts in mythology and worship. The second celebration presents the god as the botanical kingdom in its splendor, for which reason the Mexicans call the humming-bird the sunbeam, from the form assumed by the god at this time. The humming-bird, moreover, takes also his winter sleep, and thus the god dies in winter with the plants. The Greenlanders asked the younger Egede if the god of heaven and earth ever died, and, when answered in the negative, they were much surprised, and said that he must surely be a great god. This intimate connection with the plant-world is also shown in the birth-myth of Huitzilopochtli, who here appears as the son of the goddess of plants. It now becomes easier to answer the question of Wuttke: has the fable of this birth reference merely to the making a man out of a god already existing, or to the actual birth of the god? The Aztecs, it is true, were undecided on this point, some conceding to him a human existence on earth, others investing him with a consciousness of his nature being. We, however, answer this question simply, from the preceding: the birth of the god is annual, and the myth has therefrom invented one birth, said to have 318 taken place at some period, while the anthropomorphism fables very prettily the transformation into a man. Of the former existence of a born god, the myth knows nothing, for it is only afterward that it raises the god into heaven. It has not, however, come to euhemerism in the case of Huitzilopochtli, though it has with Huitziton. In placing the god in the position of son to the plant-goddess, the myth separates his being from that of the mother, consequently, Huitzilopochtli is not the plant-world himself, however closely he may be related to it. This is made clearer by following up the birth-myth, which makes him out to be not only the son of Coatlicue, but also of the force causing her fructification. The variegated ball of feathers which fell from heaven, is none other than Huitzilopochtli himself, the little humming-bird, which is the means of fructifying the plants, and the virile, fructifying nature-force manifested by and issuing from him in the spring. He is also born with the feather-tuft, and this symbol of the fine season never leaves him in any of his forms, it remains his attribute.

The Tapuas in South America have, after a similar symbolism, the custom, at their yearly seed-sowing festivals, of letting some one hang a bunch of ostrich-feathers on his back, the feathers being spread over like a wheel. This feather-bunch is their symbol of the fructifying power which comes from heaven. Their belief that bread falls from heaven into this tuft of feathers is thus made clear. In this myth we find the natural basis of such a birth-myth. In our northern mythology, Neekris, the ball, is, in the same manner, the father of Nanna, the northern Flora. That this virile power of heaven is made to appear as a ball of feathers, suits the humming-bird god. The Esths also imagined their god of thunder, as the god of warmth, in the form of a bird. In the same sense, doves were consecrated to Zeus, in Dodona and Arcadia, and a flying bird is a symbol of heaven among the Chinese. This force may, however, be symbolized in another form, and give rise to a 319 birth-myth of exactly the same kind. Thus, the daughter of the god Sangarius, in the Phrygian myth, hid in her bosom the fruit of an almond-tree, which had grown out of the seed of the child of the earth, Agdistis: the fruit disappeared, the daughter became pregnant and bore the beautiful boy Attes. According to Arnobius, it was the fruit of a pomegranate-tree, which fructified Nanna. Among the Chinese, a nymph, called Puzza, the nourisher of all living things, became pregnant by eating a lotus-flower, and gave birth to a great law-giver and conqueror. Danaë, again, becomes pregnant from the golden shower of Zeus—an easily understood symbolism. It is always the virile nature-power, either as seen in the sun, or in the azure sky (for which reason Huitzilopochtli is called the lord of the heaven, Ochibus or Huchilobos), which puts the variegated seed into the womb of the plant-world, 'at the same time bringing himself forth again, and making himself manifest in the plant-world.' This heavenly life-force no sooner finds an earthly mother-womb than its triumph is assured, even before birth, while developing its bud; just as the inner voice, in the myth, consoled the mother, and protected her against all her enemies. It is only after his birth that the myth holds Huitzilopochtli as a personal anthropomorphic god.


This is the natural signification of Huitzilopochtli, which we have accepted as the basis of all other developments of the god, and for this universal reason, namely, that the most ancient heathen gods are nature-gods, mythologic rules being followed, and that the pagan religion is essentially a nature-worship as well as a polytheism. The special investigation and following up of the various virtues have led to the same result. But, as this view has not yet been generally accepted in regard to this god, a few words concerning the union of the anthropomorphic national aspect of Huitzilopochtli, with his natural one may be added. It has been thought necessary to make the martial phase of Huitzilopochtli the basis of the others, as with Mars. War is, from 320 this point of view, a child of spring, because weapons are then resumed after the long winter armistice. This is not at all the case with Huitzilopochtli, because the rainy season, setting in in spring, when the arrival and birth of the god are celebrated, renders the soft roads of Mexico unsuitable for war expeditions. Wars were originally children of autumn, at which time the ripe fruits were objects of robbery. But the idea of a war and national god is easily connected with the basis of a fructifying god of heaven. This chief nature-god may either be god of heaven, as Huitzilopochtli, as the rain-giving Zeus is made the national god by Homer, to whom human sacrifices were brought in Arcadia down to a late period, or he may be a sun-god, like Baal, to whom prayers for rain were addressed in Phœnicia, to further the growth of the fruit, and who also received human sacrifices. The Celtic Hu is also an ethereal war god, properly sun-god, who received human sacrifices in honor of the victory of spring; none the less is Odin's connection with war, battle, and war horrors; he is a fire-god, like Moloch and Shiva, to whom human sacrifices were made for fear of famine and failure of crops. The apparent basis of such a god has not to be considered so much as the point that the people ascribed to him the chief government of the course of the year. In such a case, the chief ruler also becomes the national god, the life of the nation depending immediately on the yearly course of nature. Is the nation warlike, then, the national god naturally becomes a war god as well. As anthropomorphism connects itself with the nature-god only at a later period, so does his worship as war god and national god. In the case of Mars, as well as of Picus and Faunus, the same succession is followed. Mars, for example, is called upon in a prayer which has been preserved by Cato, to protect shepherds and flocks, and to avert bad weather and misgrowth; Virgil refers to him as a god of plants. In the song of the Arvalian brothers, he is called upon as the protector of the flowers. Thus, in his case also, the nature side is the basis. The 321 Chinese symbolism of the union of the two sides or phases, is expressed in such a manner as to make spears and weapons representations of the germs of plants. This union has already been illustrated among the Aztecs, in the humming-bird, the sunbeam which plays round the flowers, in whose little body the intensest war spirit burns. Among the Egyptians, the beetle was placed upon the ring of the warrior, with whom it signified world and production.


It remains to speak of another attribute of Huitzilopochtli, the snake attribute. Huitzilopochtli is also a snake-god. We have already, when treating of the snake-worship of the Mayas, referred to the numerous snakes with which this god is connected by myth and image, and how this attribute was added to the original humming-bird attribute, in Coatepec, where the snake-goddess Coatlicue gave him birth. If the snake signifies, in one case, time, in another, world, and in another instance, water, or the yearly rejuvenation of germs and blossoms, the eternal circle of nature, domination, soothsaying—it is quite proper; for all these qualities are found united in the god. Still other qualities, not seemingly possessed by him, we pass over, such as a connection with the earth and with the healing power, to be found in other Mexican gods, or the evil principle, which is entirely wanting. Just as the snake changes its skin every year, and takes its winter sleep, so does Huitzilopochtli, whose mother, Flora, is, therefore, a snake-goddess. Even so the snake represents the seed-corn in the mysteries of Demeter. In the Sabazii it represents the fructifying Zeus and the blessing. It is also the symbol of productive power and heat, or of life, attribute of the life-endowing Shiva; among the Egyptians it represents the yearly rejuvenation of germs and blossoms. The snake Agathodæmon appears with ears of grain and poppies, as the symbol of fertility. If the god exhibits this nature of his, in spring, in the rain, then the snake is a suitable attribute. In India, snakes are genii of seas, and the Punjab, whose fertility is assured by the 322 yearly inundations, has the name of snake lands (Nagakhanda), and claims an ancient worship. The sustaining water-god, Vishnu, also received the snake attribute. Among the Chinese, the water could be represented by a snake. The Peruvians call the boa constrictor the mother of nature.

The idea of the yearly renewal of nature is also connected with that of time forever young, and the Aztecs, therefore, encircle their cycle with a snake as the symbol of time. The more positive signification which the snake, placed by the side of the humming-bird, gives to Huitzilopochtli, is that of a soothsaying god, like the snake Python among the Greeks. The snake signified 'king' among the Egyptians, and this suits Huitzilopochtli also, who may properly enough be considered the real king of his people. If, as connected with Huitzilopochtli, the snake also represents the war god, on account of its spirited mode of attack, I cannot with certainty say, but the myth as well as the worship places it in this relation to the war goddess Athene. Although the idea of a national and a war god is not quite obscured in the snake attribute, yet the nature side is especially denoted by it, as in the southern countries, where snake worship prevailed; the reference to the southern nature of this god is quite evident in the snake attribute. In the north, moisture, represented by the snake, has never attained the cosmological import which it has in the hot countries of the south. There, the snake rather represents an anticosmogonic, or a bad principle.[VIII-15]


Mr Tylor, without committing himself to any extent in details, yet agrees, as far as he goes, with Müller. He says: "The very name of Mexico seems derived from Mexitli, the national war-god, identical or identified with the hideous gory Huitzilopochtli. Not to attempt a general solution of the enigmatic nature of this inextricable compound parthenogenetic deity, we may notice the association of his principal festival with the winter solstice, 323 when his paste idol was shot through with an arrow, and being thus killed, was divided into morsels and eaten, wherefore the ceremony was called the teoqualo, or 'god-eating.' This, and other details, tend to show Huitzilopochtli as originally a nature-deity, whose life and death were connected with the year's, while his functions of war-god may be of later addition."[VIII-16]

Of this festival of the winter solstice the date and further particulars are given by the Vatican Codex as follows:—

The name Panquetzaliztli, of the Mexican month that began on the first of December, means, being interpreted, 'the elevation of banners.' For, on the first day of December every person raised over his house a small paper flag in honor of this god of battle; and the captains and soldiers sacrificed those that they had taken prisoners in war, who, before they were sacrificed, being set at liberty, and presented with arms equal to their adversaries, were allowed to defend themselves till they were either vanquished or killed, and thus sacrificed. The Mexicans celebrated in this month the festival of their first captain, Vichilopuchitl. They celebrated at this time the festival of the wafer or cake. They made a cake of the meal of bledos, which is called tzoalli, and having made it, they spoke over it in their manner, and broke it into pieces. These the high priest put into certain very clean vessels, and with a thorn of maguey, which resembles a thick needle, he took up with the utmost reverence single morsels, and put them into the mouth of each individual, in the manner of a communion—and I am willing to believe that these poor people have had the knowledge of our mode of communion or of the preaching of the gospel; or perhaps the devil, most envious of the honor of God, may have led them into this superstition in order that by this ceremony he might be adored and served as Christ our Lord. On the twenty-first of December they celebrated 324 the festival of this god—through whose instrumentality, they say, the earth became again visible after it had been drowned with the waters of the deluge: they therefore kept his festival during the twenty following days, in which they offered sacrifices to him.[VIII-17]


The deity Tlaloc, or Tlalocateuchtli, whom we have several times found mentioned as seated beside Huitzilopochtli in the great temple, was the god of water and rain, and the fertilizer of the earth. He was held to reside where the clouds gather, upon the highest mountain-tops, especially upon those of Tlaloc, Tlascala, and Toluca, and his attributes were the thunderbolt, the flash, and the thunder. It was also believed that in the high hills there resided other gods, subaltern to Tlaloc—all passing under the same name, and revered not only as gods of water but also as gods of mountains. The prominent colors of the image of Tlaloc were azure and green, thereby symbolizing the various shades of water. The decorations of this image varied a good deal according to locality and the several fancies of different worshipers: the description of Gama, founded on the inspection of original works of Mexican religious art, is the most authentic and complete. In the great temple of Mexico, in his own proper chapel, called epeoatl, adjoining that of Huitzilopochtli, this god of water stood upon his pedestal. In his left hand was a shield ornamented with feathers; in his right were certain thin, shining, wavy sheets of gold representing his thunderbolts, or sometimes a golden serpent representing either the thunderbolt or the moisture with which this deity was so intimately connected. On his feet were a kind of half-boots, with little bells of gold hanging therefrom. Round his neck was a band or collar set with gold and gems of price; while from his wrists depended strings of costly stones, even such as are the ornaments of kings. His vesture was an azure smock reaching to the middle of the thigh, cross-hatched all over with ribbons 325 of silver forming squares; and in the middle of each square was a circle also of silver, while in the angles thereof were flowers, pearl-colored, with yellow leaves hanging down. And even as the decoration of the vesture so was that of the shield; the ground blue, covered with crossed ribbons of silver and circles of silver: and the feathers of yellow and green and flesh-color and blue, each color forming a distinct band. The body was naked from mid-thigh down, and of a grey tint, as was also the face. This face had only one eye of a somewhat extraordinary character: there was an exterior circle of blue, the interior was white with a black line across it and a little semi-circle below the line. Either round the whole eye or round the mouth was a doubled band, or ribbon of blue; this, although unnoticed by Torquemada, is affirmed by Gama to have been never omitted from any figure of Tlaloc, to have been his most characteristic device, and that which distinguished him specially from the other gods. In his open mouth were to be seen only three grinders; his front teeth were painted red, as was also the pendant, with its button of gold, that hung from his ear. His head-adornment was an open crown, covered in its circumference with white and green feathers, and from behind it over the shoulder depended other plumes of red and white. Sometimes the insignium of the thunderbolt is omitted with this god, and Ixtlilxochitl represents him, in the picture of the month Etzalli, with a cane of maize in the one hand, and in the other a kind of instrument with which he was digging in the ground. In the ground thus dug were put maize leaves filled with a kind of food, like fritters, called etzalli; from this the month took its name.[VIII-18]



A prayer to this god has been preserved by Sahagun, in which it will be noticed that the word Tlaloc is used sometimes in the singular and sometimes in the plural:—

O our Lord, most clement, liberal giver and lord of verdure and coolness, lord of the terrestrial paradise, 326 odorous and flowery, and lord of the incense of copal, woe are we that the gods of water, thy subjects, have hid themselves away in their retreat, who are wont to serve us with the things we need and who are themselves served with ulli and auchtli and copal. They have left concealed all the things that sustain our lives, and carried away with them their sister the goddess of the necessaries of life, and carried away also the goddess of pepper. O our Lord, take pity on us that live; our food goes to destruction, is lost, is dried up; for lack of water, it is as if turned to dust and mixed with spiders' webs. Woe for the miserable laborers and for the common people; they are wasted with hunger, they go about unrecognizable and disfigured every one. They are blue under the eyes as with death; their mouths are dry as sedge; all the bones of their bodies may be counted as in a skeleton. The children are disfigured and yellow as earth; not only those that begin to walk, but even those in the cradle. There is no one to whom this torment of hunger does not come; the very animals and birds suffer hard want, by the drought that is. It is pitiful to see the birds, some dragging themselves along with drooping wings, others falling down utterly and unable to walk, and others still with their mouths open through this hunger and thirst. The animals, O our Lord, it is a grievous sight to see them stumbling and falling, licking the earth for hunger, and panting with open mouth and hanging tongue. The people lose their senses and die for thirst; they perish, none is like to remain. It is woeful, O our Lord, to see all the face of the earth dry, so that it cannot produce the herbs nor the trees, nor anything to sustain us—the earth that used to be as a father and mother to us, giving us milk and all nourishment, herbs and fruits that therein grew. Now is all dry, all lost; it is evident that the Tlaloc gods have carried all away with them, and hid in their retreat, which is the terrestrial paradise. The things, O Lord, that thou wert graciously wont to give us, upon which we lived and were joyful, which are the 327 life and joy of all the world, and precious as emeralds or sapphires—all these things are departed from us. O our Lord, god of nourishment and giver thereof, most humane and most compassionate, what thing hast thou determined to do with us? Hast thou, peradventure altogether forsaken us? Thy wrath and indignation shall it not be appeased? Hast thou determined on the perdition of all thy servants and vassals, and that thy city and kingdom shall be left desolate and uninhabited? Peradventure, this has been determined, and settled in heaven and hades. O our Lord, concede at least this, that the innocent children, who cannot so much as walk, who are still in the cradle, may have something to eat, so that they may live, and not die in this so great famine. What have they done that they should be tormented and should die of hunger? No iniquity have they committed, neither know they what thing it is to sin; they have neither offended the god of heaven nor the god of hell. We, if we have offended in many things, if our sins have reached heaven and hades, and the stink thereof gone out to the ends of the earth, just it is that we be destroyed and made an end of; we have nothing to say thereto, nor to excuse ourselves withal, nor to resist what is determined against us in heaven and in hades. Let it be done; destroy us all, and that swiftly, that we may not suffer from this long weariness which is worse than if we burned in fire. Certainly it is a horrible thing to suffer this hunger; it is like a snake lacking food, it gulps down its saliva, it hisses, it cries out for something to devour. It is a fearful thing to see the anguish of it demanding somewhat to eat; this hunger is intense as burning fire, flinging out sparks. Lord, let the thing happen that many years ago we have heard said by the old men and women that have passed away from us, let the heavens fall on us and the demons of the air come down, the Izitzimites, who are to come to destroy the earth with all that dwell on it; let darkness and obscurity cover the whole world, and the habitation of men be nowhere found therein. This thing was 328 known to the ancients, and they divulged it, and from mouth to mouth it has come down to us, all this that has to happen when the world ends and the earth is weary of producing creatures. Our Lord, such present end would be now dear to us as riches or pleasures once were—miserable that we are! See good, O Lord, that there fall some pestilence to end us quickly. Such plague usually comes from the god of hades; and if it came there would peradventure be provided some allowance of food, so that the dead should not travel to hades without any provision for the way. O that this tribulation were of war, which is originated by the sun, and which breaks from sleep like a strong and valiant one—for then would the soldiers and the brave, the stout and warlike men, take pleasure therein. In it many die, and much blood is spilt, and the battle-field is filled with dead bodies and with the bones and skulls of the vanquished; strewn also is the face of the earth with the hairs of the head of warriors that rot; but this they fear not, for they know that their souls go to the house of the sun. And there they honor the sun with joyful voices, and suck the various flowers with great delight; there all the stout and valiant ones that died in war are glorified and extolled; there also the little and tender children that die in war are presented to the Sun, very clean and well adorned and shining like precious stones. Thy sister, the goddess of food, provides for those that go thither, supplying them with provision for the way; and this provision of necessary things is the strength and the soul and the staff of all the people of the world, and without it there is no life. But this hunger with which we are afflicted, O our most humane Lord, is so sore and intolerable that the miserable common people are not able to suffer nor support it; being still alive they die many deaths; and not the people alone suffer but also all the animals. O our most compassionate Lord, lord of green things and gums, of herbs odorous and virtuous, I beseech thee to look with eyes of pity on the people of this thy city and 329 kingdom; for the whole world down to the very beasts is in peril of destruction, and disappearance, and irremediable end. Since this is so, I entreat thee to see good to send back to us the food-giving gods, gods of the rain and storm, of the herbs and of the trees; so that they perform again their office here with us on the earth. Scatter the riches and the prosperity of thy treasures, let the timbrels of joy be shaken that are the staves of the gods of water, let them take their sandals of india-rubber that they may walk with swiftness. Give succor, O Lord, to our lord, the god of the earth, at least with one shower of water, for when he has water he creates and sustains us. See good, O Lord, to invigorate the corn, and the other foods, much wished for and much needed, now sown and planted; for the ridges of the earth suffer sore need and anguish from lack of water. See good, O Lord, that the people receive this favor and mercy at thine hand, let them see and enjoy of the verdure and coolness that are as precious stones; see good that the fruit and the substance of the Tlalocs be given, which are the clouds that these gods carry with them and that sow the rain about us. See good, O Lord, that the animals and herbs be made glad, and that the fowls and birds of precious feather, such as the quechotl and the caguan, fly and sing and suck the herbs and flowers. And let not this come about with thunderings and lightnings, symbols of thy wrath; for if our lords the Tlalocs come with thunder and lightning the whole people, being lean and very weak with hunger, would be terrified. If indeed some are already marked out to go to the earthly paradise by the stroke of the thunderbolt, let this death be restricted to them, and let no injury befall any of the other people in mountain or cabin; neither let hurt come near the magueys or the other trees and plants of the earth; for these things are necessary to the life and sustenance of the people, poor, forsaken, and cast-away, who can with difficulty get food enough to live, going about through hunger with the bowels empty and sticking 330 to the ribs. O our Lord, most compassionate, most generous, giver of all nourishment, be pleased to bless the earth and all the things that live on the face thereof. With deep sighing and with anguish of heart I cry upon all those that are gods of water, that are in the four quarters of the world, east and west, north and south, and upon those that dwell in the hollow of the earth, or in the air, or in the high mountains, or in the deep caves, I beseech them to come and console this poor people and to water the earth; for the eyes of all that inhabit the earth, animals as well as men, are turned toward you, and their hope is set upon your persons. O our Lord, be pleased to come.[VIII-19]


This is a prayer to Tlaloc. But it was not with prayers alone that they deprecated his wrath and implored his assistance; here as elsewhere in the Mexican religion sacrifices played an important part. When the rain failed and the land was parched by drought, great processions were made in which a number of hairless dogs, common to the country, and good to eat, were carried on decorated litters to a place devoted to this use. There they were sacrificed to the god of water by cutting out their hearts. Afterwards the carcasses were eaten amid great festivities. All these things the Tlascaltec historian, Camargo, had seen with his own eyes thirty years before writing his book. The sacrifices of men, which were added to these in the days of greatness of the old religion, he describes as he was informed by priests who had officiated thereat. Two festivals in the year were celebrated to Tlaloc, the greater feast and the less. Each of these was terminated by human sacrifices. The side of the victim was opened with a sharp knife; the high priest tore out the heart, and turning toward the east offered it with lifted hands to the sun, crushing it at the same time with all his strength. He repeated this, turning in succession towards the remaining three cardinal points; the other tlamacaxques, or 331 priests, not ceasing the while to darken with clouds of incense the faces of the idols. The heart was lastly burned and the body flung down the steps of the temple. A priest, who had afterwards been converted to Christianity, told Camargo that when he tore out the heart of a victim and flung it down, it used to palpitate with such force as to clear itself of the ground several times till it grew cold. Tlaloc was held in exceeding respect and the priests alone had the right to enter his temple. Whoever dared to blaspheme against him was supposed to die suddenly or to be stricken of thunder; the thunderbolt, instrument of his vengeance, flashed from the sky even at the moment it was clearest. The sacrifices offered to him in times of drought were never without answer and result; for, as Camargo craftily insinuates, the priests took good care never to undertake them till they saw indications of coming rain; besides, he adds—introducing, in defiance of nec deus intersit, a surely unneeded personage, if we suppose his last statement true—the devil, to confirm these people in their errors, was always sure to send rain.[VIII-20]

Children were also sacrificed to Tlaloc. Says Motolinia, when four years came together in which there was no rain, and there remained as a consequence hardly any green thing in the fields, the people waited till the maize grew as high as the knee, and then made a general subscription with which four slave children, of five or six years of age, were purchased. These they sacrificed in a cruel manner by closing them up in a cave, which was never opened except on these occasions.[VIII-21]

According to Mendieta, again, children were sometimes 332 offered to this god by drowning. The children were put into a canoe which was carried to a certain part of the lake of Mexico where was a whirlpool, which is no longer visible. Here the boat was sunk with its living cargo. These gods had, according to the same author, altars in the neighborhood of pools especially near springs; which altars were furnished with some kind of roof, and at the principal fountains were four in number set over against each other in the shape of a cross—the cross of the rain god.[VIII-22]

The Vatican Codex says that in April a boy was sacrificed to Tlaloc and his dead body put into the maize granaries or maize fields—it is not clearly apparent which—to preserve the food of the people from spoiling.[VIII-23] It is to Sahagun, however, that we must turn for the most complete and authentic account of the festivals of Tlaloc with their attendant sacrifices.


In the first days of the first month of the year, which month is called in some parts of Mexico, Quavitleloa, but generally Atlcaoalo, and begins on the second of our February, a great feast was made in honor of the Tlalocs, gods of rain and water. For this occasion many children at the breast were purchased from their mothers; those being chosen that had two whirls (remolinos) in their hair, and that had been born under a good sign; it being said that such were the most agreeable sacrifice to the storm gods, and most likely to induce them to send rain in due season. Some of these infants were butchered for this divine holiday on certain mountains, and some were drowned in the lake of Mexico. With the beginning of the festival, in every house, from the hut to the palace, certain poles were set up and to 333 these were attached strips of the paper of the country, daubed over with india-rubber gum, said strips being called amateteuitl; this was considered an honor to the water-gods. And the first place where children were killed was Quauhtepetl, a high mountain in the neighborhood of Tlatelulco; all infants, boys or girls, sacrificed there were called by the name of the place, Quauhtepetl, and were decorated with strips of paper dyed red. The second place where children were killed was Yoaltecatl, a high mountain near Guadalupe. The victims were decorated with pieces of black paper, with red lines on it, and were named after the place, Yoaltecatl. The third death-halt was made at Tepetzingo, a well-known hillock that rose up from the waters of the lake opposite Tlatelulco; there they killed a little girl, decking her with blue paper, and calling her Quetzalxoch, for so was this hillock called by another name. Poiauhtla, on the boundary of Tlascala, was the fourth hill of sacrifice. Here they killed children, named as usual after the locality, and decorated with paper on which were lines of india-rubber oil. The fifth place of sacrifice was the no longer visible whirlpool or sink of the lake of Mexico, Pantitlan. Those drowned here were called Epcoatl, and their adornment epuepaniuhqui. The sixth hill of death was Cocotl,[VIII-24] near Chalcoatenco; the infant victims were named after it and decorated with strips of paper of which half the number were red and half a tawny color. The mount Yiauhqueme, near Atlacuioaia, was the seventh station; the victims being named after the place and adorned with paper of a tawny color.

All these miserable babes before being carried to their death were bedecked with precious stones and rich feathers and with raiment and sandals wrought curiously; they put upon them paper wings (as if they were angels); they stained their faces with oil of 334 india-rubber, and on the middle of each tiny cheek they painted a round spot of white. Not able yet to walk, the victims were carried in litters shining with jewels and awave with plumes; flutes and trumpets bellowed and shrilled round the little bedizened heads, all so unfortunate in their two whirls of hair, as they passed along; and everywhere as the litters were borne by, all the people wept. When the procession reached the temple near Tepetzinco, on the east, called Tozocan, the priests rested there all night, watching and singing songs, so that the little ones could not sleep. In the morning the march was again resumed; if the children wept copiously those around them were very glad, saying it was a sign that much rain would fall; while if they met any dropsical person on the road it was taken for a bad omen and something that would hinder the rain. If any of the temple ministers, or of the others called quaquavitli, or of the old men, broke off from the procession or turned back to their houses before they came to the place where the sacrifice was done, they were held for infamous and unworthy of any public office; thenceforward they were called mocauhque, that is to say, 'deserters.'[VIII-25]


More ludicrous than diabolical are the ceremonies of the next feast of Tlaloc. In the sixth Aztec month, the month Etzalqualixtli, there was held a festival in honor of the gods of water and rain. Before the commencement of this festival the idol priests fasted four days, and before beginning to fast they made a procession to a certain piece of water, near Citlaltepec, to gather tules; for at that place these rushes grew very tall and thick and what part of them was under water was very white. There they pulled them up, rolled them in bundles wrapped about with their blankets, and so carried them back on their shoulders. Both on going out for these rushes and on coming back with them, it was the custom to rob anyone that was met on the road; 335 and as every one knew of this custom the roads were generally pretty clear of stragglers about this time. No one, not even a king's officer returning to his master with tribute, could hope to escape on such an occasion, nor to obtain from any court or magistrate any indemnification for loss or injury so sustained in goods or person; and if he made any resistance to his clerical spoilers they beat and kicked and dragged him over the ground. When they reached the temple with their rushes they spread them out on the ground and plaited them, white with green, into as it were painted mats, sewing them firm with threads of maguey-root; of these mats they made stools, and chairs with backs. The first day of the fast arrived, all the idol ministers and priests retired to their apartments in the temple buildings. There retired all those called tlamacaztequioagues, that is to say, 'priests that have done feats in war, that have captured three or four prisoners;' these although they did not reside continually in the temple, resorted thither at set times to fulfil their offices. There retired also those called tlamacazcayiaque, that is, 'priests that have taken one prisoner in war;' these also, although not regular inmates of the cues, resorted thither, when called by their duties. There retired also those that are called tlamacazquecuicanime, 'priest singers,' who resided permanently in the temple building because they had as yet captured no one in war. Last of all those also retired that were called tlamacaztezcahoan, which means 'inferior ministers,' and those boys, like little sacristans, who were called tlamacatoton, 'little ministers.'

Next, all the rush mats that had been made which were called aztapilpetlatl, 'jaspered mats of rushes, or mats of white and green' were spread round about the hearths (hogares) of the temple, and the priests proceeded to invest themselves for their offices. They put on a kind of jacket that they had, called xicolli, of painted cloth; on the left arm they put a kind of scarf, macataxtli; in the left hand they took a bag of copal, and in the right a censer, temaitl, which is a kind of sauce-pan 336 or frying-pan of baked clay. Then they entered into the court-yard of the temple, took up their station in the middle of it, put live coals into their censers, added copal, and offered incense toward the four quarters of the world, east, north, west, and south. This done they emptied the coals from their incense-pans into the great brasiers that were always burning at night in the court, brasiers somewhat less in height than the height of a man, and so thick that two men could with difficulty clasp them.


This over, the priests returned to the temple buildings, calmecac, and put off their ornaments. Then they offered before the hearth little balls of dough, called veutelolotli; each priest offering four, arranging them on the aforementioned rush mats, and putting them down with great care, so that they should not roll nor move; and if the balls of any one stirred, it was the duty of his fellows to call attention to the matter and have him punished therefor. Some offered instead of dough four little pies or four pods of green pepper. A careful scrutiny was also observed to see if any one had any dirt on his blanket, or any bit of thread or hair or feather, and that no one should trip or fall; for in such a case he had to be punished; and as a consequence every man took good heed to all his steps and ways during these four days. At the end of each day's offerings, certain old men, called quaquacuiltin came, their faces dyed black, and their heads shaved, save only the crown of the head, where the hair was allowed to grow long, the reverse of the custom of the Christian priests. These old men daily collected the offerings that had been made, dividing them among themselves. It was further the custom with all the priests and in all the temples, while fasting these four days, to be wakened at midnight by the blast of horns and shells and other instruments; when all rose up and, utterly naked, went to where were certain thorns of maguey, cut for the purpose the day before, and with little lancets of stone they hacked their ears, staining the prepared thorns of maguey and besmearing 337 their faces with the blood that flowed; each man staining maguey-thorns with his blood in number proportioned to his devotion, some five, others more, others less. This done all the priests went to bathe themselves, how cold soever it might be, attended by the music of marine shells and shrill whistles of baked clay. Every one had a little bag strapped to his shoulders, ornamented with tassels or strips of painted paper; in these bags was carried a sort of herb ground fine and made up with a kind of black dye into little longish pellets.[VIII-26] The general body of the priests marched along, each one carrying a leaf of maguey in which the thorns were stuck, as in a pincushion, which he had to use. Before these went a priest with his censer full of live coals and a bag of copal; and in advance of all these walked one carrying a board on his shoulder of about a span broad and two yards long, hollowed apparently in some way, and filled with little rollers of wood that rattled and sounded as the bearer went along shaking them.[VIII-27] All the priests took part in this procession, only four remaining behind to take care of the temple-building, or calmecac, which was their monastery. These four during the absence of the others remained seated in the calmecac and occupied themselves in devotion to the gods, in singing and in rattling with a hollow board of the sort mentioned above. At the piece of water where the priests were to bathe there were four houses, called axaucalli, 'fog houses,' set each toward one of the four quarters of the compass; in the ablutions of the first night one of these houses was occupied, on the second 338 night another, and so on through all the four nights and four houses of the fog. Here also were four tall poles standing up out of the water. And the unfortunate bathers, naked from the outset as we remember, reached this place trembling and their teeth chattering with cold. One of their number mumbled a few words, which being translated mean: this is the place of snakes, the place of mosquitos, the place of ducks, and the place of rushes. This said, all flung themselves into the water and began to splash with their hands and feet, making a great noise and imitating the cries of various aquatic birds.[VIII-28] When the bathing was over, the naked priests took their way back accompanied by the music of pipes and shells. Half dead with cold and weariness they reached the temple, where drawing their mantles over them they flung themselves down in a confused heap on the rush mats, so often mentioned, and slept as best they could. We are told that some talked in their sleep, and some walked about in it, and some snored, and some sighed in a painful manner. There they lay in a tangled weary heap not rising till noon of the next day.


The first thing to be done on waking was to array themselves in their canonicals, take their censers, and to follow an old priest called Quaquacuilti to all the chapels and altars of the idols, incensing them. After this they were at liberty to eat; they squatted down in groups, and to each one was given such food as had been sent to him from his own house; and if any one took any of the portion of another, or even exchanged his for that of another, he was punished for it. Punishment also attended the dropping of any morsel while eating, if the fault were not atoned for by a fine. After this meal, they all went to cut down branches of a certain 339 kind called acxoiatl, or, where these were not to be found, green canes instead, and to bring them to the temple in sheaves. There they sat down, every man with his sheaf, and waited for an arranged signal. The signal given, every one sprang up to some appointed part of the temple to decorate it with his boughs; and if any one went to a place not his, or wandered from his companions, or lagged behind them, they punished him—a punishment only to be remitted by paying to his accuser, within the four days of which we are now speaking, either a hen or a blanket or a breech-clout, or, if very poor, a ball of dough in a cup.

These four days over, the festival was come, and every man began it by eating etzalli, a kind of maize porridge, in his own house. For those that wished it there was general dancing and rejoicing. Many decked themselves out like merry-andrews and went about in parties carrying pots, going from house to house, demanding etzalli. They sang and danced before the door, and said, "If you do not give me some porridge, I will knock a hole in your house;" whereupon the etzalli was given. These revels began at midnight and ceased at dawn. Then indeed did the priests array themselves in all their glory: underneath was a jacket, over that a thin transparent mantle called aiauhquemitl, decorated with parrot-feathers set cross-wise. Between the shoulders they fastened a great round paper flower, like a shield. To the nape of the neck they attached other flowers of crumpled paper of a semi-circular shape; these hung down on both sides of the head like ears. The forehead was painted blue and over the paint was dusted powder of marcasite. In the right hand was carried a bag made of tiger-skin, and embroidered with little white shells which clattered as one walked. The bag seems to have been three-cornered; from one angle hung down the tiger's tail, from another his two fore feet, from another his two hind feet. It contained incense made from a certain herb called yiauhtli.[VIII-29] There went one priest 340 bearing a hollow board filled with wooden rattles, as before described. In advance of this personage there marched a number of others, carrying in their arms images of the gods made of that gum that is black and leaps, called ulli (india-rubber), these images were called ulteteu, that is to say 'gods of ulli.' Other ministers there were carrying in their arms lumps of copal, shaped like sugar loaves; each pyramid having a rich feather, called quetzal, stuck in the peak of it like a plume. In this manner went the procession with the usual horns and shells, and the purpose of it was to lead to punishment those that had transgressed in any of the points we have already discussed. The culprits were marched along, some held by the hair at the nape of the neck, others by the breech-clout; the boy offenders were held by the hand, or, if very small, were carried. All these were brought to a place called Totecco, where water was. Here certain ceremonies were performed, paper was burned in sacrifice, as were also the pyramids of copal and images of ulli, incense being thrown into the fire and other incense scattered over the rush mats with which the place was adorned. While this was going on those in charge of the culprits had not been idle, but were flinging them into the water. Great was the noise, it is said, made by the splash of one tossed in, and the water leaped high with the shock. As any one came to the surface or tried to scramble out he was pushed in or pushed down again—well was it then for him who could swim, and by long far diving keep out of the reach of his tormentors. For the others they were so roughly handled that they were often left for dead on the water's edge, where their relatives would come and hang them up by the feet to let the water they had swallowed run out of them; a method of cure surely as bad as the malady.


The shrill music struck up again and the procession returned by the way it had come; the friends of the punished ones carrying them. The monastery or calmecac reached, there began another four days' fast, 341 called netlacacaoaliztli; but in this the sharp religious etiquette of the first four days' fast was not observed, or at least one was not liable to be informed upon or punished for a breach of such etiquette. The conclusion of this fast was celebrated by feasting. Again the priests decorated themselves in festal array. All the head was painted blue, the face was covered with honey (miel) mixed with a black dye. Over the shoulders were carried the incense-bags embroidered with little white shells—bags made of tiger-skins, as before described, for the chief priests, and of paper painted to imitate tiger-skin in the case of the inferior priests. Some of these satchels were fashioned to resemble the bird called atzitzicuilotl, others to resemble ducks. The priests marched in procession to the temple, and before all marched the priest of Tlaloc. He had on his head a crown of basketwork, fitting close to the temples below and spreading out above, with many plumes issuing from the middle of it. His face was anointed with melted india-rubber gum, black as ink, and concealed by an ugly mask with a great nose, and a wig attached which fell as low as the waist. All went along mumbling to themselves as if they prayed, till they came to the cu of Tlaloc. There they stopped and spread tule mats on the ground, and dusted them over with powdered tule-leaves mixed with yiauhtli incense. Upon this the acting priest placed four round chalchiuites, like little balls; then he took a small hook painted blue, and touched each ball with it; and as he touched each he made a movement as if drawing back his hand, and turned himself completely round. He scattered more incense on the mats, then he took the board with the rattles inside and sounded with it—perhaps a kind of religious stage thunder in imitation of the thunder of his god. Upon this every one retired to his house or to his monastery and put off his ornaments; and the unfortunates who had been ducked were carried at last to their own dwellings for the rest and recovery that they so sorely needed. That night the festivities burst out with a new glory, 342 the musical instruments of the cu itself were sounded, the great drums and the shrill shells. Well watched that night were the prisoners who were doomed to death on the morrow. When it came they were adorned with the trappings of the Tlaloc gods—for it was said they were the images of these gods—and those that were killed first were said to be the foundation of the others, which seemed to be symbolized by those who had to die last being made to seat themselves on those who had been first killed.[VIII-30]

The slaughter over, the hearts of the victims were put into a pot that was painted blue and stained with ulli in four places. Together with this pot offerings were taken of paper and feathers and precious stones and chalchiuites, and a party set out with the whole for that part of the lake where the whirlpool is, called Pantitlan. All who assisted at this offering and sacrifice were provided with a supply of the herb called iztauhiatl, which is something like the incense used in Spain, and they puffed it with their mouths over each other's faces and over the faces of their children. This they did to hinder maggots getting into the eyes, and also to protect against a certain disease of the eyes called exocuillo-o-alixtli; some also put this herb into their ears, and others for a certain superstition they had held a handful of it clutched in the hand. The party entered a great canoe belonging to the king, furnished with green oars, or paddles, spotted with ulli, and rowed swiftly to the place Pantitlan, where the whirlpool was. This whirlpool was surrounded by logs driven into the bottom of the lake like piles—probably to keep canoes from being drawn into the sink. These logs being reached, the priests, standing in the bows of the royal vessel, began to play on their horns and shells. Conspicuous among them stood their chief holding the 343 pot containing the hearts; he flung them far into the whirling hollow of water, and it is said that when the hearts plunged in, the waters were strangely moved and stirred into waves and foam. The precious stones were also thrown in, and the papers of the offering were fastened to the stakes with a number of the chalchiuites and other stones. A priest took a censer and put four papers called telhuitl into it, and burned them, offering them toward the whirlpool; then he threw them, censer and all, still burning into the sink. That done, the canoe was put about and rowed to the landing of Tetamacolco, and every one bathed there.

All this took place between midnight and morning, and when the light began to break the whole body of the priests went to bathe in the usual place. They washed the blue paint off their heads, save only on the forehead; and if there were any offences of any priest to be punished he was here ducked and half drowned as described above. Lastly all returned to their monasteries, and the green rush mats spread there were thrown out behind each house.[VIII-31]

We have given the description of two great festivals of the Tlalocs—two being all that are mentioned by many authorities—there still remain, however, two other notable occasions on which they were propitiated and honored.


In the thirteenth month, which was called Tepeilhuitl, and which began, according to Clavigero, on the 24th of October, it was the custom to cut certain sticks into the shape of snakes. Certain images as of children were also cut out of wood, and these dolls, called hecatotonti, together with the wooden snakes, were used as a foundation or centre round which to build up little effigies of the mountains; wherein the Tlalocs were honored as gods of the mountains, and wherein memorial was had of those that had been drowned, or killed by thunderbolts, or whose bodies had been buried without cremation—the 344 dolls perhaps representing the bodies of these, and the snakes the thunderbolts. Having then these wooden dolls and snakes as a basis, they were covered with dough mixed from the seeds of the wild amaranth; over each doll certain papers were put; round one snake and one doll, set back to back, there appears next to have been bound a wisp of hay, (which wisp was kept from year to year and washed on the vigil of every feast), till the proper shape of a mountain was arrived at; over the whole was then daubed a layer of dough, of the kind already mentioned. We have now our image of the mountain with two heads looking opposite ways, sticking out from its summit. Round this summit there seem to have been stuck rolls of dough representing the clouds usually formed about the crests of high mountains. The face of the human image that looked out over these dough clouds was daubed with melted ulli; and to both cheeks of it were stuck little tortillas, or cakes of the everywhere-present dough of wild amaranth seeds. On the head of this same image was put a crown with feathers issuing from it.[VIII-32] These images were made at night, 345 and in the morning they were carried to their 'oratories,' and laid down on beds of rushes or reeds; then food was offered to them, small pies or tarts, a porridge of maize-flour and sugar, and the stewed flesh of fowls or of dogs. Incense was burned before them, being thrown into a censer shaped like a hand, as it were a great spoon full of burning coals. Those who could afford it sang and drank pulque in honor of their dead ones and of these gods.


In this feast four women and a man were killed in honor of the Tlalocs and of the mountains. The four women were named respectively, Tepoxch, Matlalquac, Xochetecatl, and Mayavel—this last was decorated to appear as the image of the magueyes. The man was called Milnaoatl; he stood for an image of 'the snakes.' These victims, adorned with crowns of paper stained with ulli, were borne to their doom in litters. Being carried to the summit of the cu, they were thrown one by one on the sacrificial stone, their hearts taken out with the flint and offered to Tlaloc, and their bodies allowed to slide slowly down the temple-steps to the earth—a too rapid descent being hindered by the priests. The corpses were carried to a place where the heads were cut off and preserved, spitted on poles thrust through the temples of each skull. The bodies were lastly carried to the wards from which they had set out alive, and there cut in pieces and eaten. At the same time the images of the mountains, which we have attempted to describe, were broken up, the dough with which they were covered was set out to dry in the sun, and was eaten, every day a piece. The papers with which the said images had been adorned were then spread over the wisps of hay, above mentioned, and the whole was fastened up in the rafters of the oratory that every one had in his house; there to remain till required 346 for the next year's feast of the same kind; on which occasion, and as a preliminary to the other ceremonies which we have already described in the first part of this feast, the people took down the paper and the wisp from their private oratories, and carried them to the public oratory called the acaucalli, left the paper there, and returned with the wisp to make of it anew the image of a mountain.[VIII-33]


The fourth and last festival of Tlaloc which we have to describe, fell in our December and in the sixteenth Aztec month, called the month Atemuztli. About this time it began to thunder round the mountain-tops, and the first rains to fall there; the common people said, "Now come the Tlalocs," and for love of the water they made vows to make images of the mountains—not, however, as it would appear, such images as have been described as appertaining to the preceding festival. The priests were very devout at this season and very earnest in prayer, expecting the rain. They took each man his incense-pan or censer, made like a great spoon with a long round hollow handle filled with rattles and terminating in a snake's head, and offered incense to all the idols. Five days before the beginning of the feast the common people bought paper and ulli and flint knives and a kind of coarse cloth called nequen, and devoutly prepared themselves with fasting and penance to make their images of the mountains and to cover them with paper. In this holy season, although every one bathed, he washed no higher than the neck, the head was left unwashed; the men, moreover, abstained from their wives. The night preceding the great feast-day was spent wholly, flint knife in hand, cutting out paper into various shapes. These papers called tetevitl, were stained with ulli; and every householder got a long pole, covered it with pieces of this paper, and set it up in his court-yard, where it remained all the day of the festival. Those that had vowed to make images of the mountains 347 invited priests to their houses to do it for them. The priests came, bearing their drums and rattles and instruments of music of tortoise-shell. They made the images—apparently like human figures—out of the dough of wild amaranth seed, and covered them with paper. In some houses there were made five of such images, in others ten, in others fifteen; they were figures that stood for such mountains as the clouds gather round, such as the volcano of the Sierra Nevada or that of the Sierra of Tlascala. These images being constructed, they were set in order in the oratory of the house, and before each one was set food—very small pies, on small platters, proportionate to the little image, small boxes holding a little sweet porridge of maize, little calabashes of cacao, and other small green calabashes containing pulque. In one night they presented the figures with food in this manner four times. All the night too they sang before them, and played upon flutes; the regular flutists not being employed on this occasion, but certain small boys who were paid for their trouble with something to eat. When the morning came, the ministers of the idols asked the master of the house for his tzotzopaztli, a kind of broad wooden knife used in weaving,[VIII-34] and thrust it into the breasts of the images of the mountains, as if they were living men, and cut their throats and drew out the hearts, which they put in a green cup and gave to the owner of the house. This done, they took all the paper with which these images had been adorned, together with certain green mats that had been used for the same purpose, and the utensils in which the offering of food had been put, and burned all in the court-yard of the house. The ashes and the mutilated images seem then to have been carried to a public oratory called Aiauhcalco, on the shore of the lake. Then all who assisted at these ceremonies joined themselves to eat and drink in honor of the mutilated images, which were called tepieme. Women were allowed to join in this banquet provided 348 they brought fifteen or twenty heads of maize with them; they received every one his or her share of food and pulque. The pulque was kept in black jars and lifted out to be drunk with black cups. This banquet over, the paper streamers were taken down from the poles set up in the court-yards of the houses and carried to certain places in the water that were marked out by piles driven in—we may remember that our whirlpool of Pantitlan, in the lake of Mexico, was one place so marked—and to the tops of the mountains, and left there as it would appear.[VIII-35]

In taking leave here of Tlaloc I may draw attention to the prominence in his cult of the number four, the cross, and the snake; and add that as lord of one of the three Aztec divisions of the future world, lord of the terrestrial paradise, we shall meet with him again in our examination of the Mexican ideas of a future life.



The Mother or all-nourishing Goddess under various names and in various aspectsHer Feast in the Eleventh Aztec month OchpaniztliFestivals of the Eighth month, Hueytecuilhuitl, and of the Fourth, HueytozoztliThe deification of women that died in child-birthThe Goddess of Water under various names and in various aspectsCeremonies of the Baptism or lustration of childrenThe Goddess of Love, her various names and aspectsRites of confession and absolutionThe God of fire and his various namesHis festivals in the tenth month Xocotlveti and in the eighteenth month Yzcali; also his quadriennial festival in the latter monthThe great festival of every fifty-two years; lighting the new fireThe God of hades, and Teoyaomique, collector of the souls of the fallen braveDeification of dead rulers and heroesMixcoatl, God of hunting and his feast in the fourteenth month, QuecholliVarious other Mexican deitiesFestival in the second month, Tlacaxipehualiztli, with notice of the gladiatorial sacrificesComplete synopsis of the festivals of the Mexican Calendar, fixed and movableTemples and Priests.

Centeotl is a goddess, or according to some good authorities a god, who held, under many names and in many characters, a most important place in the divine world of the Aztecs, and of other Mexican and Central American peoples. She was goddess of maize, and consequently, from the importance in America of this grain, of agriculture, and of the producing earth generally. Many of her various names seem dependent on the varying aspects of the maize at different stages of its growth; others seem to have originated in the mother-like nourishing qualities 350 of the grain of which she was the deity. Müller lays much stress on this aspect of her character: "The force which sustains life must also have created it. Centeotl was therefore considered as bringing children to light, and is represented with an infant in her arms. Nebel gives us such a representation, and in our Mexican museum at Basel there are many images in this form, made of burnt clay. Where agriculture rules, there more children are brought to mature age than among the hunting nations, and the land revels in a large population. No part of the world is so well adapted to exhibit this difference as America. Centeotl is consequently the great producer, not of children merely, she is the great goddess, the most ancient goddess."[IX-1]


Centeotl was known, according to Clavigero, by the titles Tonacajohua, 'she who sustains us;' Tzinteotl, 'original goddess;' and by the further names Xilonen, Iztacacenteotl, and Tlatlauhquicenteotl. She was further, according to the same author, identical with Tonantzin, 'our mother,' and, according to Müller and many Spanish authorities, either identical or closely connected with the various deities known as Teteionan, 'the mother of the gods,'[IX-2] Cihuatcoatl, 'the snake-woman,' Tazi or Toci or Tocitzin, 'our grandmother,' and Earth, the universal material mother. Squier says of Tiazolteotl, that "she is Cinteotl the goddess of maize, under another aspect."[IX-3]

She was particularly honored by the Totonacs, with 351 whom she was the chief divinity. They greatly loved her, believing that she did not demand human victims, but was content with flowers and fruits, the fat banana and the yellow maize, and small animals, such as doves, quails, and rabbits. More, they hoped that she would in the end utterly deliver them from the cruel necessity of such sacrifices, even to the other gods.

With very different feelings, as we shall soon see, did the Mexicans proper approach this deity, making her temples horrid with the tortured forms of human sacrifices. It shows how deep the stain of the blood was in the Mexican religious heart, how poisonous far the odor of it had crept through all the senses of the Aztec soul, when it could be believed that the great sustainer, the yellow waving maize, the very mother of all, must be fed upon the flesh of her own children.[IX-4]

To make comprehensible various allusions it seems well here to sum up rapidly the characters given of certain 352 goddesses identical with or resembling in various points this Centeotl. Chicomecoatl[IX-5] was, according to Sahagun, the Ceres of Mexico, and the goddess of provisions, as well of what is drunk as of what is eaten. She was represented with a crown on her head, a vase in her right hand, and on her left arm a shield with a great flower painted thereon; her garments and her sandals were red.

The first of the Mexican goddesses was, following the same authority, Cioacoatl, or Civacoatl, the goddess of adverse things, such as poverty, downheartedness, and toil. She appeared often in the guise of a great lady, wearing such apparel as was used in the palace; she was also heard at night in the air shouting and even roaring. Besides her name Cioacoatl, which means 'snake-woman,' she was known as Tonantzin, that is to say, 'our mother.' She was arrayed in white robes, and her hair was arranged in front, over her forehead, in little curls that crossed each other. It was a custom with her to carry a cradle on her shoulders, as one that carries a child in it, and after setting it down in the market-place beside the other women, to disappear. When this cradle was examined, 353 there was found a stone knife in it, and with this the priests slew their sacrificial victims.


The goddess of Sahagun's description most resembling the Toci of other writers, is the one that he calls 'the mother of the gods, the heart of the earth, and our ancestor or grandmother (abuela).' She is described as the goddess of medicine and of medicinal herbs, as worshiped by doctors, surgeons, blood-letters, of those that gave herbs to produce abortions, and also of the diviners that pronounced upon the fortune of children according to their birth. They worshiped her also that cast lots with grains of maize, those that augured by looking into water in a bowl, those that cast lots with bits of cord tied together, those that drew little worms or maggots from the mouth or eyes, those that extracted little stones from other parts of the body, and those that had sweat-baths, temazcallis, in their houses. These last always set the image of this goddess in the baths, calling her Temazcalteci, that is to say, 'the grandmother of the baths.' Her adorers made this goddess a feast every year, buying a woman for a sacrifice, decorating this victim with the ornaments proper to the goddess. Every evening they danced with this unfortunate, and regaled her delicately, praying her to eat as they would a great lady, and amusing her in every way that she might not weep nor be sad at the prospect of death. When the dreadful hour did come, having slain her, together with two others that accompanied her to death, they flayed her; then a man clothed himself in her skin, and went about all the city playing many pranks—by all of which her identity with Tozi seems sufficiently clear. This goddess was represented with the mouth and chin stained with ulli, and a round patch of the same on her face; on her head she had a kind of turban made of cloth rolled round and knotted behind. In this knot were stuck plumes which issued from it like flames, and the ends of the cloth fell behind over the shoulders. She wore sandals, a shirt with a kind of broad serrated lower border, and white petticoats. In her left hand 354 she held a shield with a round plate of gold in the centre thereof; in her right hand she held a broom.[IX-6]

The festival in which divers of the various manifestations of the mother-goddess were honored, was held in the beginning of the eleventh Aztec month, beginning on the 14th of September; Centeotl, or Cinteotl, or Centeutl, or Tzinteutl, is however represented therein as a male and not a female.


Fifteen days before the commencement of the festival those that took part in it began to dance, if dancing it could be called, in which the feet and body were hardly moved, and in which the time was kept by raising and lowering the hands to the beat of the drum. This went on for eight days, beginning in the afternoon and finishing with the set of sun, the dancers being perfectly silent, arranged in four lines, and each having both hands full of flowers, cut branches and all. Some of the youths, indeed, too restless to bear the silence, imitated with their mouths the sound of the drum; but all were forced to keep, as well in motion as in voice, the exactest time and good order. On the expiration of these eight days the medical women, both old and young, divided themselves into two parties, and fought a kind of mock battle before the woman that had to die in this festival, to amuse her and keep tears away; for they held it of bad augury if this miserable creature gave way to her grief, and as a sign that many women had to die in childbirth. This woman who was called for the time being, 'the image of the mother of the gods,' led in person the first attack upon one of the two parties of fighters, being accompanied by three old women that were to her as mothers and never left her side, called respectively Aoa, Tlavitezqui, and Xocuauhtli.[IX-7] The fight consisted in pelting each other with handfuls of red leaves, or leaves of the nopal, or of yellow flowers called cempoalsuchitl, the same sort as had been carried by the actors in the 355 preceding dance. These women all wore girdles, to which were suspended little gourds filled with powder of the herb called yietl. When the pelting-match was over, the woman that had to die was led back to the house where she was guarded; and all this was repeated during four successive days. Then the victim representing Toci, that is to say, 'our grandmother or ancestor,' for so was called the mother of the gods, was led for the last time through the market-place by the medical woman. This ceremony was called 'the farewell to the market-place;' for never more should she see it who this day passed through, decorated in such mournful frippery, surrounded by the pomp of such hollow mirth. She went sowing maize on every side as she walked, and having passed through the market she was received by the priests who took her to a house near the cu where she had to be killed. There the medical women and midwives consoled her: Daughter, be joyful and not sad, this night thou shalt sleep with the king. Then they adorned her with the ornaments of the goddess Toci, striving all the while to keep the fact of her death in the back-ground, that she might die suddenly and without knowing it. At midnight, in darkness, not so much as a cough breaking the silence, she was led to the holy temple-top, and caught up swiftly on the shoulders of a man. There was hardly a struggle; her bearer felt himself deluged with blood, while she was beheaded with all despatch, and flayed, still warm. The skin of the thighs was first taken off and carried, for a purpose to be presently revealed, to the cu of Centeotl, who was the son of Toci. With the remainder of the skin, next taken off, a priest clothed himself, drawing it on, it would appear from other records, like a glove; this priest who was a young man chosen for his bodily forces and size, thus clothed represented Toci, the goddess herself. The Toci priest, with this horrible jacket sticking to his sinewy bust, then came down from the temple amid the chanting of the singers of the cu. On each side of him went two persons, who had made a vow to help him in 356 this service, and behind came several other priests. In front there ran a number of principal men and soldiers, armed with besoms of blood-stained grass, who looked back from time to time, and struck their shields as if provoking a fight; these he pretended to pursue with great fury, and all that saw this play (which was called cacacalli) feared and trembled exceedingly. On reaching the cu of Huitzilopochtli, the Toci priest spread out his arms and stood like a cross before the image of the war god; this he did four times and then went on to the cu of Centeotl, whither, as we remember, the skin of the thighs of the flayed woman had been sent. This skin of the thighs another young priest, representing the god Centeotl, son of Toci, had put on over his face like a mask. In addition to this loathsome veil, he wore a jacket of feathers and a hood of feathers attached to the jacket. This hood ran out into a peak of a spiral form falling behind; and the back-bone or spine of this spiral resembled the comb of a cock; this hood was called ytztlacoliuhqui, that is to say 'god of frost.'

The Toci priest and the Centeotl priest next went together to the cu of Toci, where the first waited for the morning (for all this already described took place at night) to have certain trappings put on over his horrid under-vest. When the morning broke, amid the chanting of the singers, all the principal men, who had been waiting below, ran with great swiftness up the steps of the temple carrying their offerings. Some of these principal men began to cover the feet and the head of the Toci priest with the white downy inner feathers of the eagle; others painted his face red; others put on him a rather short shirt with the figure of an eagle wrought or woven into the breast of it, and certain painted petticoats; others beheaded quails and offered copal. All this done quickly, these men took their departure.


Then were brought forth and put on the Toci priest all his rich vestures, and a kind of square crown very wide above and ornamented with five little banners, one 357 in each corner, and in the centre one higher than the others. All the captives that had to die were brought out and set in line, and he took four of them one after the other, threw them down on the sacrificial stone and took out their hearts; the rest of the captives he handed over to the other priests to complete the work he had begun. After this he set out with the Centeotl priest for the cu of the latter. In advance of these a little way there walked a party of their devotees, called ycuexoan, decorated with papers, girt for breech-clout with twisted paper, carrying at their shoulders a crumpled paper, round like a shield, and tassels of untwisted cotton. On either side also there went those that sold lime[IX-8] in the market, and the medical women, moving to the singing of the priests and the beat of drum. Having come to the place where heads were spitted at the cu of Centeotl, the Toci priest set one foot on the drum and waited there for the Centeotl priest. The two being come together it would seem that he who represented Centeotl now set out alone, with much haste and accompanied by many soldiers, for a place on the enemy's frontier where there was a kind of small hut built. There at last was deposited and left the skin of the thighs of the sacrificed woman which had served such ghastly use. And often, it is said, it happened, this ceremony taking place on the border of a hostile territory, that the enemy sallied out against the procession, and there was fighting and many were slain.

After this the young man who represented the goddess Toci was taken to the house that is called Atempan. The king took his seat on a throne with a mat of eagle-skin and feathers under his feet, and a tiger-skin over the back of his seat, and there was a grand review of the army, and a distribution from the royal treasury of raiment, ornaments, and arms; and it was understood that those who received such arms had to die with them in war. This done, dancing was begun in the court-yard 358 of the temple of Toci; and all who had received presents, as above, repaired thither. This dancing, as in the first part of the festival, consisted for the most part in keeping time to the beat of the drum with hands filled with flowers; so that the whole court looked like a living garden; and there was so much gold, for the king and all the princes were there, that the sun flashed through all as on water. This began at mid-day and went on for two days. On the evening of the second day, the priests of the goddess Chicomecoatl, clothed with the skins of the captives that had died in a former day, ascended a small cu called the table of Huitzilopochtli and sowed maize of all kinds, white and yellow and red, and calabash-seeds, upon the heads of the people that were below. The people tried to gather up these as they fell, and elbowed each other a good deal. The damsels, called cioatlamacazque, that served the goddess Chicomecoatl, carried each one on her shoulder, rolled in a rich mantle, seven ears of maize, striped with melted ulli and wrapped in white paper; their legs and arms were decorated with feathers sprinkled over with marcasite. These sang with the priest of their goddess. This done, one of the priests descended from the above-mentioned cu of Huitzilopochtli, carrying in his hand a large basket filled with powdered chalk and feather-down, which he set in a small chamber, or little cave, called coaxalpan, between the temple-stairs and the temple itself. This cavity was reached from below by four or five steps, and when the basket was put down there was a general rush of the soldiers to be first to secure some of the contents. Every one, as he got his hands filled, with much elbowing, returned running to the place whence he had set out. All this time the Toci priest had been looking on, and now he pretended to chase those that ran, while they pelted him back with the down and powdered chalk they had in their hands; the king himself running a little way and pelting him like the rest. After this fashion they all ran away from him and left him alone, except some priests, who followed him to a place called 359 Tocititlan, when he took off the skin of the sacrificed woman and hung it up in a little hut that was there; taking care that its arms were stretched out, and that the head (or, surely, the neck—for have we not read that the head was cut off the woman on the fatal night which terminated her life?), was turned toward the road, or street. And this was the last of the ceremonies of the feast of Ochpaniztli.[IX-9]


The intimate connection of the goddess Xilonen (from xilotl, a young or tender ear of maize) with Centeotl is shown by the fact that in the cu of Centeotl was killed the unfortunate woman who was decorated to resemble the goddess Xilonen. The festival of Xilonen commenced on the eleventh day of the eighth Mexican month, which month begins on the 16th of July. The victim was made to resemble the image of the goddess by having her face painted yellow from the nose downward, and her brow red. On her head was put a crown of paper with four corners, from the centre and top of which issued many plumes. Round her neck and over her breasts hung strings of precious stones, and over these was put a round medal of gold. Her garments and sandals were curiously wrought, the latter painted with red stripes. On her left arm was a shield, and in the right hand she held a stick, or baton, painted yellow. The women led her to death dancing round her, and the priests and the principal men danced before them, sowing incense as they went. The priest who was to act as executioner had on his shoulders a bunch of feathers held there in the grip of an eagle's talons, artificial; another of the priests carried the hollow board filled with rattles, so often mentioned. At the foot of the cu of Centeotl, this latter stopped in front of the Xilonen woman, scattered incense before her, and rattled with his board, waving it from side to side. They ascended the cu, and one of the priests caught the victim up, twisting her backwards, her shoulders against his shoulders; on which living 360 altar her heart was cut out through her breast, and put into a cup. After that there was more dancing, in which the women, old and young, took part in a body by themselves, their arms and legs decorated with red macaw feathers, and their faces painted yellow and dusted with marcasite. There was also a banquet of small pies called xocotamalli, during which to the old men and women license was given to drink pulque; the young, however, being restrained from the bacchanalian part of this enjoyment by severe and sometimes capital punishment.[IX-10]

Lastly, the intimate connection or identity of Centeotl with the earth-mother, the all-nourisher, seems clearly symbolized in the feast of the fourth month of the Mexicans, which began on the 27th of April. In it they made a festival to the god of cereals, under the name of Centeotl, and to the goddess of provisions, called Chicomecoatl. First they fasted four days, putting certain rushes or water-flags beside the images of the gods, staining the white part of the bottom of each rush with blood drawn from their ears or legs; branches too, of the kind called acxoiatl, and a kind of bed or mattress of hay were put before the altars. A sort of porridge of maize called mazamorra was also made and given to the youths. Then all walked out into the country, and through the maize-fields, carrying stalks of maize, and other herbs called mecoatl. With these they strewed the image of the god of cereals that every one had in his house, and they put papers on it and food before it of various kinds; five chiquivites,[IX-11] or baskets, of tortillas, and on the top of each chiquivitl a cooked frog, a basket of chian[IX-12] flour, which they call pinolli;[IX-13] and a basket of toasted maize mixed with beans. They cut also a joint from a green maize-stalk, stuffed the little tube with morsels of every 361 kind of the above-mentioned food, and set it carefully on the back of the frog.[IX-14] This each one did in his own house, and in the afternoon all this offering of food was carried to the cu of the goddess of provisions, of the goddess Chicomecoatl, and eaten there in a general scramble, take who take could; symbolizing one knows not what, if not the laisser-faire and laisser-aller system of national commisariat much advocated by many political economists, savage and civilized.


In this festival the ears of maize that were preserved for seed were carried in procession by virgins to a cu, apparently the one just mentioned, but which is here called the cu of Chicomecoatl and of Centeotl. The maidens carried on their shoulders not more than seven ears of corn apiece, sprinkled with drops of oil of ulli, and wrapped first in papers and then in a cloth. The legs and arms of these girls were ornamented with red feathers, and their faces were smeared with the pitch called chapopotli and sprinkled with marcasite. As they went along in this bizarre attire, the people crowded to see them pass, but it was forbidden to speak to them. Sometimes indeed an irrepressible youth would break out into words of admiration or love toward some fair pitch-besmeared face, but his answer came sharp and swift from one of the old women that watched the younger, in some such fashion as this: And so thou speakest, raw coward! thou must be speaking, eh? Think first of performing some man's feat, and get rid of that tail of hair at the nape of thy neck that marks the coward and the good-for-nothing. It is not for thee to speak here; thou art as much a woman as I am; thou hast never come out from behind the fire! But the young lovers of Tenochtitlan were not without insolent springalls among them, much given to rude gibes, and retorts like the following: Well said, my lady, I receive this with thanks, I will do what you command me, will take care to show myself a man; but as for you, 362 I value two cacao-beans more than you and all your lineage; put mud on your body, and scratch yourself; fold one leg over the other and roll in the dust; see! here is a rough stone, knock your face against it; and if you want anything more take a red-hot coal and burn a hole in your throat to spit through; for God's sake, hold your peace.

This the young fellows said, writes Sahagun, to show their courage; and so it went, give and take, till the maize was carried to the cu and blessed. Then the folk returned to their houses and sanctified maize was put in the bottom of every granary, and it was said that it was the heart thereof, and it remained there till taken out for seed. These ceremonies were specially in honor of the goddess Chicomecoatl. She supplied provisions, she it was that had made all kinds of maize and frijoles, and whatsover vegetables could be eaten, and all sorts of chia; and for this they made her that festival with offerings of food, and with songs and dances, and with the blood of quails. All the ornaments of her attire were bright red and curiously wrought, and in her hands they put stalks of maize.[IX-15]

The Mexicans deified, under the name Cioapipilti, all women that died in child-bed. There were oratories raised to their honor in every ward that had two streets. In such oratories, called cioateucalli or ciateupan, there were kept images of these goddesses adorned with certain papers called amatetevitl. The eighth movable feast of the Mexican calendar was dedicated to them, falling in the sign Cequiahuitl, in the first house; in this feast were slain in their honor all lying in the jails under pain of death. These goddesses were said to move through the air at pleasure, and to appear to whom they would of those that lived upon the earth, and sometimes to enter into and possess them. They were accustomed to hurt children with various infirmities, especially paralysis 363 and other sudden diseases. Their favorite haunt on earth was the cross-roads, and, on certain days of the year, people would not go out of their houses for fear of meeting them. They were propitiated in their temples and at the cross-roads by offerings of bread kneaded into various shapes—into figures of butterflies and thunderbolts for example—by offerings of small tamales, or pies, and of toasted maize. Their images, besides the papers above mentioned, were decorated by having the face, arms, and legs painted very white; their ears were made of gold; their hair was dressed like that of ladies, in little curls; the shirt was painted over with black waves; the petticoats were worked in divers colors; the sandals were white.


The mother-goddess, under the form of the serpent-woman, Cioacoatl, or Ciuacoatl, or Cihuacoatl, or, lastly, Quilaztli, seems to have been held as the patroness of women in child-bed generally, and, especially, of those that died there. When the delivery of a woman was likely to be tedious and dangerous, the midwife addressed the patient saying: Be strong, my daughter; we can do nothing for thee. Here are present thy mother and thy relations, but thou alone must conduct this business to its termination. See to it, my daughter, my well-beloved, that thou be a strong and valiant and manly woman; be like her who first bore children, like Cioacoatl, like Quilaztli. And if still after a day and a night of labor the woman could not bring forth, the midwife took her away from all other persons and brought her into a closed room and made many prayers, calling upon the goddess Cioacoatl, and upon the goddess Yoalticitl,[IX-16] and upon other goddesses. If, notwithstanding 364 all, however, the woman died, they gave her the title, mociaquezqui, that is 'valiant woman,' and they washed all her body, and washed with soap her head and her hair. Her husband lifted her on his shoulders, and, with her long hair flowing loose behind him, carried her to the place of burial. All the old midwives accompanied the body, marching with shields and swords, and shouting as when soldiers close in the attack. They had need of their weapons, for the body that they escorted was a holy relic which many were eager to win; and a party of youths fought with these Amazons to take their treasure from them: this fight was no play but a very bone-breaking earnest. The burial procession set out at the setting of the sun and the corpse was interred in the court-yard of the cu of the goddesses, or celestial women called Cioapipilti. Four nights the husband and his friends guarded the grave and four nights the youths, or rawest and most inexperienced soldiers, prowled like wolves about the little band. If, either from the fighting midwives or from the night-watchers, they succeeded in securing the body, they instantly cut off the middle finger of the left hand and the hair of the head; either of these things being put in one's shield, made one fierce, brave, invincible in war, and blinded the eyes of one's enemies. There prowled also round the sacred tomb certain wizards, called temamacpalitotique, seeking to hack off and steal the whole left arm of the dead wife; for they held it to be of mighty potency in their enchantments, and a thing that when they went to a house to work their malice thereon, would wholly take away the courage of the inmates, and dismay them so that they could neither move hand nor foot, though they saw all that passed.


The death of this woman in child-bed was mourned by the midwives, but her parents and relations were joyful thereat; for they said that she did not go to hades, or the under-ground world, but to the western part of 365 the House of the Sun. To the eastern part of the House of the Sun, as the ancients said, were taken up all the soldiers that died in war. When the sun rose in the morning these brave men decorated themselves in their panoply of war, and accompanied him towards the mid-heaven, shouting and fighting, apparently in a sham or review battle, until they reached the point of noonday, which was called nepantlatonatiuh. At this point the heroines, whose home was in the west of heaven, the mocioaquezque, the valiant women, dead in child-bed, who ranked as equal with the heroes fallen in war, met these heroes and relieved them of their duty as guards of honor of the sun. From noon till night, down the western slope of light, while the forenoon escort of warriors were scattered through all the fields and gardens of heaven, sucking flowers till another day should call them anew to their duty, the women, in panoply of war, just as the men had been, and fighting like them with clashing shields and shouts of joy, bore the sun to his setting; carrying him on a litter of quetzales, or rich feathers, called the quetzal-apanecaiutl. At this setting-place of the sun the women were, in their turn, relieved by those of the under world, who here came out to receive him. For it was reported of old by the ancients that when night began in the upper world the sun began to shine through hades, and that thereupon the dead rose up from their sleep and bore his shining litter through their domain. At this hour too the celestial women, released from their duty in heaven, scattered and poured down through the air upon the earth, where, with a touch of the dear nature that makes the world kin, they are described as looking for spindles to spin with, and shuttles to weave with, and all the old furniture and implements of their house-wifely pride. This thing, says Sahagun, "the devil wrought to deceive withal, for very often, in the form of those women, he appeared to their bereaved husbands, giving them petticoats and shirts."

Very beautiful was the form of address before burial 366 used by the midwife to the dead woman who had taken rank among the mocioaquezque or mocioaquetza: O woman, strong and warlike, child well-beloved, valiant one, beautiful and tender dove, strong hast thou been and toil-enduring as a hero; thou hast conquered, thou hast done as did thy mother the lady Cioacoatl, or Quilaztli. Very valiantly hast thou fought, stoutly hast thou handled the shield and the spear that the great mother put in thine hand. Up with thee! break from sleep! behold it is already day; already the red of morning shoots through the clouds; already the swallows and all birds are abroad. Rise, my daughter, attire thyself, go to that good land where is the house of thy father and mother the Sun; thither let thy sisters, the celestial women, carry thee, they that are always joyful and merry and filled with delight, because of the Sun with whom they take pleasure. My tender daughter and lady, not without sore travail hast thou gotten the glory of this victory; a great pain and a hard penance hast thou undergone. Well and fortunately hast thou purchased this death. Is this, peradventure, a fruitless death, and without great merit and honor? Nay, verily, but one of much honor and profit. Who receives other such great mercy, other such happy victory as thou? for thou hast gained with thy death eternal life, a life full of joy and delight, with the goddesses called Cioapipilti, the celestial goddesses. Go now, my lady, my well-beloved; little by little advance toward them; be one of them, that they may receive thee and be always with thee, that thou mayest rejoice and be glad in our father and mother the Sun, and accompany him whithersoever he wish to take pleasure. O my lady, my well-beloved daughter, thou hast left us behind, us old people, unworthy of such glory; thou hast torn thyself away from thy father and mother, and departed. Not indeed of thine own will, but thou wast called; thou didst follow a voice that called. We must remain orphans and forlorn, old and luckless and poor; misery will glorify itself in us. O my lady, thou hast left us here that we 367 may go from door to door and through the streets in poverty and sorrow; we pray thee to remember us where thou art, and to provide for the poverty that we here endure. The sun wearies us with his great heat, the air with its coldness, and the frost with its torment. All these things afflict and grieve our miserable earthen bodies; hunger is lord over us, and we can do nothing against it. My well-beloved, I pray thee to visit us since thou art a valorous woman and a lady, since thou art settled forever in the place of delight and blessedness, there to live and be forever with our Lord. Thou seest him with thine eyes, thou speakest to him with thy tongue, pray to him for us, entreat him that he favor us, and therewith we shall be at rest.[IX-17]


Chalchihuitlicue or Chalchiuhcyeje is described by Clavigero as the goddess of water and the mate of Tlaloc. She had other names relating to water in its different states, as Apozonallotl and Acuecuejotl, which mean the swelling and fluctuation of water; Atlacamani, or the storms excited thereon; Ahuic and Aiauh, or its motion, now to one side, now to the other; and Xixiquipilihui, the alternate rising and falling of the waves. The Tlascaltecs called her Matlalcueje, that is 'clothed in a green robe;' and they gave the same name to the highest mountain of Tlascala, on whose summit are found those stormy clouds which generally burst over the city of Puebla. To that summit the Tlascaltecs ascended to perform their sacrifices, and offer up their prayers. This is the very same goddess of water to whom Torquemada gives the name of Hochiquetzal, and Boturini that of Macuilxochiquetzalli.[IX-18]

Of the accuracy of the assertions of this last sentence I am by no means certain; Boturini and Torquemada both describe their goddess of water without giving any support thereto. Boturini says that 368 she was metaphorically called by the Mexicans the goddess of the Petticoat of Precious Stones—chalchihuites, as it would appear from other authorities, being meant—and that she was represented with large pools at her feet, and symbolized by certain reeds that grow in moist places. She was particularly honored by fishermen and others whose trade connected them with water, and great ladies were accustomed to dedicate to her their nuptials—probably, as will be seen immediately, because this goddess had much to do with certain lustral ceremonies performed on new-born children.[IX-19]

Many names, writes Torquemada, were given to this goddess, but that of Chalchihuitlicue was the most common and usual; it meant to say, 'petticoat of water, of a shade between green and blue,' that is, of the color of the stones called chalchihuites.[IX-20] She was the companion, not the wife of Tlaloc, for indeed as our author affirms, the Mexicans did not think so grossly of their gods and goddesses as to marry them.[IX-21]


According to Sahagun, Chalchihuitlicue was the sister of the Tlalocs. She was honored because she had power over the waters of the sea and of the rivers to drown 369 those that went down to them, to raise tempests and whirlwinds, and to cause boats to founder. They worshiped her all those that dealt in water, that went about selling it from canoes, or peddled jars of it in the market. They represented this goddess as a woman, painted her face yellow, save the forehead, which was often blue, and hung round her neck a collar of precious stones from which depended a medal of gold. On her head was a crown of light blue paper, with plumes of green feathers, and tassels that fell to the nape of her neck. Her ear-rings were of turquoise wrought in mosaic. Her clothing was a shirt, or upper body-garment, clear blue petticoats with fringes from which hung marine shells, and white sandals. In her left hand she held a shield, and a leaf of the broad round white water-lily, called atlacuezona.[IX-22] In her right hand she held as a sceptre a vessel in the shape of a cross, or of a monstrance of the Catholic Church. This goddess, together with Chicomecoatl, goddess of provisions, and Vixtocioatl, goddess of salt, was held in high veneration by kings and lords, for they said that these three supported the common people so that they could live and multiply.[IX-23]


Chalchihuitlicue was especially connected with certain ceremonies of lustration of children, resembling in many 370 points baptism among Christians. It would seem that two of these lustrations were practiced upon every infant, and the first took place immediately upon its birth. When the midwife had cut the umbilical cord of the child, then she washed it, and while washing it said, varying her address according to its sex: My son, approach now thy mother, Chalchihuitlicue, the goddess of water; may she see good to receive thee, to wash thee, and to put away from thee the filthiness that thou takest from thy father and mother; may she see good to purify thine heart, to make it good and clean, and to instill into thee good habits and manners.

Then the midwife turned to the water itself and spoke: Most compassionate lady, Chalchihuitlicue, here has come into the world this thy servant, sent hither by our father and mother, whose names are Ometecutli and Omecioatl,[IX-24] who live on the ninth heaven, which is the place of the habitation of the gods. We know not what are the gifts that this infant brings with it; we know not what was given to it before the beginning of the world; we know not what it is, nor what mischief and vice it brings with it taken from its father and mother. It is now in thine hands, wash and cleanse it as thou knowest to be necessary; in thine hands we leave it. Purge it from the filthiness it inherits from its father and its mother, all spot and defilement let the water carry away and undo. See good, O our lady, to cleanse and purify its heart and life that it may lead a quiet and peaceable life in this world; for indeed we leave this creature in thine hands, who art mother and lady of the gods, and alone worthy of the gift of cleansing that thou has held from before the beginning of the world; see good to do as we have entreated thee to this child now in thy presence.

Then the midwife spake again; I pray thee to receive this child here brought before thee. This said, the midwife took water and blew her breath upon it, and gave to taste of it to the babe, and touched the babe with it 371 on the breast and on the top of the head. Then she said: My well-beloved son, or daughter, approach here thy mother and father, Chalchihuitlicue and Chalchihuitlatonac; let now this goddess take thee, for she has to bear thee on her shoulders and in her arms through this world. Then the midwife dipped the child into water and said: Enter, my son, into the water that is called mamatlac and tuspalac; let it wash thee; let him cleanse thee that is in every place, let him see good to put away from thee all the evil that thou hast carried with thee from before the beginning of the world, the evil that thy father and thy mother have joined to thee. Having so washed the creature, the midwife then wrapped it up, addressing it the while as follows: O precious stone, O rich feather, O emerald, O sapphire, thou wert shaped where abide the great god and the great goddess that are above the heavens; created and formed thou wert by thy mother and father, Ometecutli and Omecioatl, the celestial woman and the celestial man. Thou hast come into this world, a place of many toils and troubles, of intemperate heat and intemperate cold and wind, a place of hunger and thirst, of weariness and of tears; of a verity we cannot say that this world is other than a place of weeping, of sadness, of vexation. Behold thy lot, weariness and weeping and tears. Thou hast come, my well-beloved, repose then and take here thy rest; let our Lord that is in every place provide for and support thee. And in saying all these things the midwife spake softly, as one that prays.

The second lustration or baptism, usually took place on the fifth day after birth, but in every case the astrologers and diviners were consulted, and if the signs were not propitious, the baptism was postponed till a day of good sign came. The ceremony, when the child was a boy, began by bringing to it a little shield, bow, and arrows; of which arrows there were four, one pointing toward each of the four points of the world. There were also brought a little shield, bow, and arrows, made of paste or dough of wild amaranth seeds, and a pottage 372 of beans and toasted maize, and a little breech-clout and blanket or mantle. The poor in such cases had no more than the little shield, bow, and arrows, together with some tamales and toasted maize. When the child was a girl, there were brought to it, instead of mimic weapons, certain woman's implements and tools for spinning and weaving, the spindle and distaff, a little shirt and petticoats. These things being prepared, suiting the sex of the infant, its parents and relatives assembled before sunrise. When the sun rose the midwife asked for a new vessel full of water; and she took the child in her hands. Then the by-standers carried all the implements and utensils already mentioned into the court-yard of the house, where the midwife set the face of the child toward the west, and spake to the child saying: O grandson of mine, O eagle, O tiger, O valiant man, thou hast come into the world, sent by thy father and mother, the great Lord and the great lady; thou wast created and begotten in thy house, which is the place of the supreme gods that are above the nine heavens. Thou art a gift from our son Quetzalcoatl, who is in every place; join thyself now to thy mother, the goddess of water, Chalchihuitlicue.

Then the midwife gave the child to taste of the water, putting her moistened fingers in its mouth, and said: Take this; by this thou hast to live on the earth, to grow and to flourish; through this we get all things that support existence on the earth; receive it. Then with her moistened fingers she touched the breast of the child, and said: Behold the pure water that washes and cleanses thine heart, that removes all filthiness; receive it; may the goddess see good to purify and cleanse thine heart. Then the midwife poured water upon the head of the child saying: O my grandson, my son, take this water of the Lord of the world, which is thy life, invigorating and refreshing, washing and cleansing. I pray that this celestial water, blue and light blue, may enter into thy body and there live; I pray that it may destroy in thee and put away from thee all the things 373 evil and adverse that were given thee before the beginning of the world. Into thine hand, O goddess of water, are all mankind put, because thou art our mother Chalchihuitlicue. Having so washed the body of the child and so spoken, the midwife said: Wheresoever thou art in this child, O thou hurtful thing, begone, leave it, put thyself apart; for now does it live anew, and anew is it born; now again is it purified and cleansed; now again is it shaped and engendered by our mother the goddess of water.


All these things being done and spoken, the midwife lifted the child in both her hands toward heaven and said: O Lord, behold here thy creature that thou hast sent to this place of pain, of affliction, of anguish, to this world. Give it, O Lord, thy gifts and thine inspiration, forasmuch as thou art the great god, and hast with thee the great goddess. Then the midwife stooped again and set the child upon the earth, and raised it the second time toward heaven, saying: O our lady, who art mother of the heavens, who art called Citlalatonac,[IX-25] to thee I direct my voice and my cry; I pray thee to inspire with thy virtue, what virtue soever it may be, to give and to instil it into this creature. Then the midwife 374 stooped again and set the child on the ground, and raised it the third time toward heaven, and said: O our Lord, god and goddess celestial, that are in the heavens, behold this creature; see good to pour into it thy virtue and thy breath, so that it may live upon the earth. Then a fourth and last time the midwife set the babe upon the ground, a fourth time she lifted it toward heaven, and she spake to the sun and said: O our Lord, Sun, Totonametl, Tlaltecutli, that art our mother and our father, behold this creature, which is like a bird of precious plumage, like a zaquan or a quechutl;[IX-26] thine, O our Lord the Sun, he is; thou who art valiant in war and painted like a tiger in black and gray, he is thy creature and of thine estate and patrimony. For this he was born, to serve thee and to give thee food and drink; he is of the family of warriors and soldiers that fight on the field of battle.


Then the midwife took the shield, and the bow and 375 the dart that were there prepared, and spake to the Sun after this sort: Behold here the instruments of war which thou art served with, which thou delightest in; impart to this babe the gift that thou art wont to give to thy soldiers, enabling them to go to thine house of delights, where, having fallen in battle, they rest and are joyful and are now with thee praising thee. Will this poor little nobody ever be one of them? Have pity upon him, O clement Lord of ours.

During all the time of these ceremonies a great torch of candlewood was burning; and when these ceremonies were accomplished, a name was given to the child, that of one of his ancestors, so that he might inherit the fortune or lot of him whose name was so taken. This name was applied to the child by the midwife, or priestess, who performed the baptism. Suppose the name given was Yautl. Then the midwife began to shout and to talk like a man to the child: O Yautl, O valiant man, take this shield and this dart; these are for thy amusement, they are the delight of the sun. Then she tied the little mantle on its shoulders and girt the breech-clout about it. Now all the boys of the ward were assembled, and at this stage of the ceremony they rushed into the house where the baptism had taken place, and representing soldiers and forrayers, they took food that was there prepared for them, which was called 'the navel-string,' or 'navel,' of the child, and set out with it into the streets, shouting and eating. They cried O Yautl, Yautl, get thee to the field of battle, put thyself into the thickest of the fight; O Yautl, Yautl, thine office is to make glad the sun and the earth, to give them to eat and to drink; upon thee has fallen the lot of the soldiers that are eagles and tigers, that die in war, that are now making merry and singing before the sun. And they cried again: O soldiers, O men of war, come hither, come to eat of the navel of Yautl. Then the midwife, or priestess, took the child into the house, and departed, the great torch of candlewood being carried 376 burning before her, and this was the last of the ceremony.[IX-27]



The goddess (or god, as some have it) connected by the Mexicans with carnal love was variously called Tlazolteotl, Ixcuina, Tlaclquani, with other names, and, especially it would appear in Tlascala, Xochiquetzal. She had no very prominent or honorable place in the minds of the people and was much more closely allied to the Roman Cloacina than to the Greek Aphrodite. Camargo, the Tlascaltec, gives much the most agreeable and pleasing account of her. Her home was in the ninth heaven, in a pleasant garden, watered by innumerable fountains, where she passed her time spinning and weaving rich stuffs, in the midst of delights, ministered to by the inferior deities. No man was able to approach her, but she had in her service a crowd of dwarfs, buffoons, and hunchbacks, who diverted her with their songs and dances, and acted as messengers to such gods as she took a fancy to. So beautiful was she painted that no woman in the world could equal her; and the place of her habitation was called Iamotamohuanichan, Xochitlycacan, Chitamihuany, Cicuhnauhuepaniuhcan, and Tuhecayan, that is to say 'the place of Tamohuan, the place of the tree of flowers Xochitlihcacan, where the air is purest, beyond the nine heavens.' It was further said, that whoever had been touched by one of the 378 flowers that grow in the beautiful garden of Xochiquetzal should love to the end, should love faithfully.[IX-28]


Boturini gives a legend in which this goddess figures in a very characteristic way. There was a man called Yáppan, who, to win the regard of the gods made himself a hermit, leaving his wife and his relations, and retiring to a desert place, there to lead a chaste and solitary life. In that desert was a great stone or rock, called Tehuehuetl, dedicated to penitential acts, which rock Yáppan ascended and took up his abode upon like a western Simeon Stylites. The gods observed all this with attention, but doubtful of the firmness of purpose of the new recluse, they set a spy upon him in the person of an enemy of his, named Yáotl, the word yáotl indeed signifying 'enemy.' Yet not even the sharpened eye of hate and envy could find any spot in the austere continent life of the anchorite, and the many women sent by the gods to tempt him to pleasure were repulsed and baffled. In heaven itself the chaste victories of the lonely saint were applauded, and it began to be thought that he was worthy to be transformed into some higher form of life. Then Tlazolteotl, feeling herself slighted and held for naught, rose up in her evil beauty, wrathful, contemptuous, and said: Think not, ye high and immortal gods, that this hero of yours has the force to preserve his resolution before me, or that he is worthy of any very sublime transformation; I descend to earth, behold now how strong is the vow of your devotee, how unfeigned his continence!

That day the flowers of the gardens of Xochiquetzal were untended by their mistress, her singing dwarfs were silent, her messengers undisturbed by her behests, and away in the desert, by the lonely rock, the crouching spy Yáotl saw a wondrous sight: one shaped 379 like a woman, but fairer than eye can conceive, advancing toward the lean penance-withered man on the sacred height. Ha! thrills not the hermit's mortified flesh with something more than surprise, while the sweet voice speaks: My brother Yáppan, I the goddess Tlazolteotl, amazed at thy constancy, and commiserating thy hardships, come to comfort thee; what way shall I take, or what path, that I may get up to speak with thee? The simple one did not see the ruse, he came down from his place and helped the goddess up. Alas, in such a crisis, what need is there to speak further?—no other victory of Yáppan was destined to be famous in heaven, but in a cloud of shame his chaste light went down for ever. And thou, O shameless one, have thy fierce red lips had their fill of kisses, is thy Paphian soul satisfied withal, as now, flushed with victory, thou passest back to the tinkling fountains, and to the great tree of flowers, and to the far-reaching gardens where thy slaves await thee in the ninth heaven? Do thine eyes lower themselves at all in any heed of the miserable disenchanted victim left crouching, humbled on his desecrated rock, his nights and days of fasting and weariness gone for naught, his dreams, his hopes dissipated, scattered like dust at the trailing of thy robes? And for thee, poor Yáppan, the troubles of this life are soon to end; Yáotl, the enemy, has not seen all these things for nothing; he, at least, has not borne hunger and thirst and weariness, has not watched and waited in vain. O it avails nothing to lift the pleading hands, they are warm but not with clasping in prayer, and weary but not with waving the censer; the flint-edged mace beats down thy feeble guard, the neck that Tlazolteotl clasped is smitten through, the lips she kissed roll in the dust beside a headless trunk.

The gods transformed the dead man into a scorpion, with the forearms fixed lifted up as when he deprecated the blow of his murderer; and he crawled under the stone upon which he had abode. His wife, whose name was Tlahuitzin, that is to say 'the inflamed,' still lived. 380 The implacable Yáotl sought her out, led her to the spot stained with her husband's blood, detailed pitilessly the circumstances of the sin and death of the hermit, and then smote off her head. The gods transformed the poor woman into that species of scorpion called the alacran encendido, and she crawled under the stone and found her husband. And so it comes that tradition says that all reddish colored scorpions are descended from Tlahuitzin, and all dusky or ash-colored scorpions from Yáppan, while both keep hidden under the stones and flee the light for shame of their disgrace and punishment. Last of all the wrath of the gods fell on Yáotl for his cruelty and presumption in exceeding their commands; he was transformed into a sort of locust that the Mexicans call ahuacachapullin.[IX-29]


Sahagun gives a very full description of this goddess and her connection with certain rites of confession, much resembling those already described in speaking of Tezcatlipoca.[IX-30] The goddess had according to our author, three names. The first was Tlazolteotl, that is to say 'the goddess of carnality.' The second name was Yxcuina, which signifies four sisters, called respectively, and in order of age, Tiacapan, Teicu, Tlaco, Xucotsi. The third and last name of this deity was Tlaclquani, which means 'eater of filthy things,' referring it is said to her function of hearing and pardoning the confessions of men and women guilty of unclean and carnal crimes. For this goddess, or these goddesses, had power not only to inspire and provoke to the commission of such sins, and to aid in their accomplishment, but also to pardon them, if they were confessed to certain priests who were also diviners and tellers of fortunes and wizards generally. In this confession, however, Tlazolteotl seems not to have been directly addressed, 381 but only the supreme deity under several of his names. Thus the person whom, by a stretch of courtesy, we may call the penitent, having sought out a confessor from the class above mentioned, addressed that functionary in these words: Sir, I wish to approach the all-powerful god, protector of all, Yoalliehecatl, or Tezcatlipoca; I wish to confess my sins in secret. To this the wizard, or priest, replied: Welcome, my son; the thing thou wouldst do is for thy good and profit. This said, he searched the divining book, tonalamatl, to see what day would be most opportune for hearing the confession. That day come, the penitent brought a new mat, and white incense called copalli, and wood for the fire in which the incense was to be burned. Sometimes when he was a very noble personage, the priest went to his house to confess him, but as a general rule the ceremony took place at the residence of the priest. On entering this house the penitent swept very clean a portion of the floor and spread the new mat there for the confessor to seat himself upon, and kindled the wood. The priest then threw the copal upon the fire and said: O Lord, thou that art the father and the mother of the gods and the most ancient god,[IX-31] know that here is come thy vassal and servant, weeping and with great sadness; he is aware that he has wandered from the way, that he has stumbled, that he has slidden, that he is spotted with certain filthy sins and grave crimes worthy of death. Our Lord, very pitiful, since thou art the protector and defender of all, accept the penitence, give ear to the anguish of this thy servant and vassal.

At this point the confessor turned to the sinner and said: My son, thou art come into the presence of God, favorer and protector of all; thou art come to lay bare thy inner rottenness and unsavoriness; thou art come to publish the secrets of thine heart; see that thou fall into no pit by lying unto our Lord; strip thyself, put away all shame before him who is called Yoalliehecatl and Tezcatlipoca. It is certain that thou art now in his presence, 382 although thou art not worthy to see him, neither will he speak with thee, for he is invisible and impalpable. See then to it how thou comest, and with what heart; fear nothing to publish thy secrets in his presence, give account of thy life, relate thine evil deeds as thou didst perform them; tell all with sadness to our Lord God, who is the favorer of all, and whose arms are open and ready to embrace and set thee on his shoulders. Beware of hiding anything through shame or through weakness.

Having heard these words the penitent took oath, after the Mexican fashion, to tell the truth. He touched the ground with his hand and licked off the earth that adhered to it;[IX-32] then he threw copal in the fire, which was another way of swearing to tell the truth. Then he set himself down before the priest and, inasmuch as he held him to be the image and vicar of god, he, the penitent, began to speak after this fashion: O our Lord who receivest and shelterest all, give ear to my foul deeds; in thy presence I strip, I put away from myself what shameful things soever I have done. Not from thee, of a verity, are hidden my crimes, for to thee all things are manifest and clear. Having thus said, the penitent proceeded to relate his sins in the order in which they had been committed, clearly and quietly, as in a slow and 383 distinctly pronounced chant, as one that walked along a very straight way turning neither to the right hand nor to the left. When he had done the priest answered him as follows: My son, thou hast spoken before our Lord God, revealing to him thine evil works; and I shall now tell thee what thou hast to do. When the goddesses Civapipilti descend to the earth, or when it is the time of the festival of the four sister goddesses of carnality that are called Yxcuina, thou shalt fast four days afflicting thy stomach and thy mouth; this feast of the Yxcuina being come, at daybreak thou shalt do penance suitable to thy sins.[IX-33] Through a hole pierced by a maguey-thorn through the middle of thy tongue thou shall pass certain osier-twigs called teucalzacatl or tlacotl, passing them in front of the face and throwing them over the shoulder one by one; or thou mayest fasten them the one to the other and so pull them through thy tongue like a long cord. These twigs were sometimes passed through a hole in the ear; and, wherever they were passed, it would appear by our author that there were sometimes used of them by one penitent to the number of four hundred, or even of eight hundred.


If the sin seemed too light for such a punishment as the preceding, the priest would say to the penitent: My son, thou shalt fast, thou shall fatigue thy stomach with hunger and thy mouth with thirst, and that for four days, eating only once on each day and that at noon. Or, the priest would say to him: Thou shalt go to offer paper in the usual places, thou shalt make images covered therewith in number proportionate to thy devotion, thou shalt sing and dance before them as custom directs. Or, again, he would say to him: Thou hast offended God, 384 thou hast got drunk; thou must expiate the matter before Totochti, the god of wine; and when thou goest to do penance thou shalt go at night, naked, save only a piece of paper hanging from thy girdle in front and another behind; thou shalt repeat thy prayer and then throw down there before the gods those two pieces of paper, and so take thy departure.

This confession was held not to have been made to a priest, or to a man, but to God; and, inasmuch as it could only be heard once in a man's life, and, as for a relapse into sin after it there was no forgiveness, it was generally put off till old age. The absolution given by the priest was valuable in a double regard; the absolved was held shriven of every crime he had confessed, and clear of all pains and penalties, temporal or spiritual, civil or ecclesiastical, due therefor. Thus was the fiery lash of Nemesis bound up, thus were struck down alike the staff of Minos and the sword of Themis before the awful ægis of religion. It may be imagined with what reluctance this last hope, this unique life-confession was resorted to; it was the one city of refuge, the one Mexican benefit of sanctuary, the sole horn of the altar, of which a man might once take hold and live, but no more again for ever.[IX-34]



The Mexican god of fire as we have already noticed was usually called Xiuhtecutli. He had, however, other names such as Ixcozauhqui, that is to say, 'yellow-faced;' and Cuecaltzin, which means 'flame of fire;' and Huehueteotl, or 'the ancient god.'[IX-35] His idol represented a naked man, the chin blackened with ulli, and wearing a lip-jewel of red stone. On his head was a parti-colored paper crown, with green plumes issuing from the top of it like flames of fire; from the sides hung tassels of feathers down to the ears. The ear-rings of the image were of turquoise wrought in mosaic. On the idol's back was a dragon's head made of yellow feathers and some little marine shells. To the ankles were attached little bells or rattles. On the left arm was a shield, almost entirely covered with a plate of gold, into which were set in the shape of a cross five chalchiuites. In the right hand the god held a round pierced plate of gold, called the 'looking-plate,' (mirador ó miradero); with this he covered his face, looking only through the hole in the golden plate. Xiuhtecutli was held by the people to be their father, and regarded with feelings of mingled love and fear; and they celebrated to him two fixed festivals every year, one in the tenth and another in the eighteenth month, together with a movable feast in which, according to Clavigero, they appointed magistrates and renewed the ceremony of the investiture of the fiefs of the kingdom. The sacrifices of the first of these festivals, the festival of the tenth month, Xocotlveti, were particularly cruel even for the Mexican religion.


The assistants began by cutting down a great tree of five and twenty fathoms long and dressing off the branches, removing all it would seem but a few round the top. This tree was then dragged by ropes into the city, on rollers apparently, with great precaution against 386 bruising or spoiling it; and the women met the entering procession giving those that dragged cacao to drink. The tree, which was called xocotl, was received into the court of a cu with shouts; and there set up in a hole in the ground and allowed to remain for twenty days. On the eve of the festival Xocotlvetzi, they let this large tree or pole down gently to the ground, by means of ropes and trestles, or rests, made of beams tied two and two, probably in an X shape; and carpenters dressed it perfectly smooth and straight, and, where the branches had been left, near the top, they fastened with ropes a kind of yard or cross-beam of five fathoms long. Then was prepared, to be set on the very top of the pole or tree, a statue of the god Xiuhtecutli, made like a man out of the dough of wild amaranth seeds, and covered and decorated with innumerable white papers. Into the head of the image were stuck strips of paper instead of hair; sashes of paper crossed the body from each shoulder; on the arms were pieces of paper like wings, painted over with figures of sparrow-hawks; a maxtli of paper covered the loins; and a kind of paper shirt or tabard covered all. Great strips of paper, half a fathom broad and ten fathoms long, floated from the feet of the dough god half way down the tree; and into his head were struck three rods with a tamale or small pie on the top of each. The tree being now prepared with all these things, ten ropes were attached to the middle of it, and by the help of the above-mentioned trestles and a large crowd pulling all together, the whole structure was reared into an upright position and there fixed, with great shouting and stamping of feet.

Then came all those that had captives to sacrifice; they came decorated for dancing, all the body painted yellow (which is the livery color of the god), and the face vermilion. They wore a mass of the red plumage of the parrot, arranged to resemble a butterfly, and carried shields covered with white feathers and as it were the feet of tigers or eagles walking. Each one went dancing side by side with his captive. These 387 captives had the body painted white, and the face vermilion, save the cheeks which were black; they were adorned with papers, much, apparently, as the dough image was, and they had white feathers on the head and lip-ornaments of feathers. At set of sun the dancing ceased; the captives were shut up in the calpulli, and watched by their owners, not being even allowed to sleep. About midnight every owner shaved away the hair of the top of the head of his slave, which hair, being fastened with red thread to a little tuft of feathers, he put in a small case of cane, and attached to the rafters of his house, that every one might see that he was a valiant man and had taken a captive. The knife with which this shaving was accomplished was called the claw of the sparrow-hawk. At daybreak the doomed and shorn slaves were arranged in order in front of the place called Tzompantli, where the skulls of the sacrificed were spitted in rows. Here one of the priests went along the row of captives taking from them certain little banners that they carried and all their raiment or adornment, and burning the same in a fire; for raiment or ornament these unfortunates should need no more on earth. While they were standing thus all naked and waiting for death, there came another priest, carrying in his arms the image of the god Paynal and his ornaments; he ran up with this idol to the top of the cu Tlacacouhcan where the victims were to die. Down he came, then up again, and as he went up the second time the owners took their slaves by the hair and led them to the place called Apetlac and there left them. Immediately there descended from the cu those that were to execute the sacrifice, bearing bags of a kind of stupefying incense called yiauhtli,[IX-36] which 388 they threw by handfuls into the faces of the victims to deaden somewhat their agonies in the fearful death before them. Each captive was then bound hand and foot and so carried up to the top of the cu where smouldered a huge heap of live coal. The carriers heaved their living burdens in; and the old narrative gives minute details about the great hole made in the sparkling embers by each slave, and how the ashy dust rose in a cloud as he fell. As the dust settled the bound bodies could be seen writhing and jerking themselves about in torment on their soft dull-red bed, and their flesh could be heard crackling and roasting. Now came a part of the ceremony requiring much experience and judgment; the wild-eyed priests stood grappling-hook in hand biding their time. The victims were not to die in the fire, the instant the great blisters began to rise handsomely over their scorched skins it was enough, they were raked out. The poor blackened bodies were then flung on the 'tajon' and the agonized soul dismissed by the sacrificial breast-cut (from nipple to nipple, or a little lower); the heart was then torn out and cast at the feet of Xiuhtecutli, god of fire.


This slaughter being over, the statue of Paynal was carried away to its own cu and every man went home to eat. And the young men and boys, all those called quexpaleque,[IX-37] because they had a lock of hair at the nape of the neck, came, together with all the people, the women in order among the men, and began at mid-day to dance and to sing in the court-yard of Xiuhtecutli; the place was so crowded that there was hardly room to move. Suddenly there arose a great cry, and a rush was made out of the court toward the place where was raised the tall tree already described at some length. Let us shoulder our way forward, not without risk to 389 our ribs, and see what we can see: there stands the tall pole with streamers of paper and the ten ropes by which it was raised dangling from it. On the top stands the dough image of the fire god, with all his ornaments and weapons, and with the three tamales sticking out so oddly above his head. Ware clubs! we press too close; shoulder to shoulder in a thick serried ring round the foot of the pole stand the 'captains of the youths' keeping the youngsters back with cudgels, till the word be given at which all may begin to climb the said pole for the great prize at the top. But the youths are wild for fame; old renowned heroes look on; the eyes of all the women of the city are fixed on the great tree where it shoots above the head of the struggling crowd; glory to him who first gains the cross-beam and the image. Stand back, then, ye captains, let us pass! There is a rush, and a trampling, and despite a rain of blows, all the pole with its hanging ropes is aswarm with climbers, thrusting each other down. The first youth at the top seizes the idol of dough; he takes the shield and the arrows and the darts and the stick atalt for throwing the darts; he takes the tamales from the head of the statue, crumbles them up, and throws the crumbs with the plumes of the image down into the crowd; the securing of which crumbs and plumes is a new occasion for shouting and scrambling and fisticuffs among the multitude. When the young hero comes down with the weapons of the god which he has secured, he is received with far-roaring applause and carried up to the cu Tlacacouhcan, there to receive the reward of his activity and endurance, praises and jewels and a rich mantle not lawful for another to wear, and the honor of being carried by the priests to his house, amid the music of horns and shells. The festivity is over now; all the people lay hold on the ropes fastened to the tree, and pull it down with a crash that breaks it to pieces, together, apparently, with all that is left of the wild-amaranth-dough image of Xiuhtecutli.[IX-38]


Another feast of the god of fire was held in the month Yzcalli, the eighteenth month; it was called motlaxquiantota, that is to say 'our father the fire toasts his food.' An image of the god of fire was made, with a frame of hoops and sticks tied together as the basis or model to be covered with his ornaments. On the head of this image was put a shining mask of turquoise mosaic, banded across with rows of green chalchiuites. Upon the mask was put a crown fitting to the head below, wide above, and gorgeous with rich plumage as a flower; a wig of reddish hair was attached to this crown so that the evenly cut locks flowed from below it, behind and around the mask, as if they were natural. A robe of costly feathers covered all the front of the image and fell over the ground before the feet, so light that it shivered and floated with the least breath of air till the variegated feathers glittered and changed color like water. The back of the image seems to have been left unadorned, concealed by a throne on which it was seated, a throne covered with a dried tiger-skin, paws and head complete. Before this statue new fire was produced at midnight by boring rapidly by hand one stick upon another; the spunk or tinder so inflamed was put on the hearth and a fire lit.[IX-39] At break of day came all the boys and youths with game and fish that they had captured on the previous day; walking round the fire, they gave it to certain old men that stood there, who taking it threw it into the flames before the god, giving the youths in return certain tamales that had been made and offered for this purpose by the women. To eat these tamales it was necessary to strip off the maize-leaves in which they had been wrapped and cooked; these leaves were not thrown into the fire, 391 but were all put together and thrown into water. After this all the old men of the ward in which the fire was, drank pulque and sang before the image of Xiuhtecutli till night. This was the tenth day of the month and thus finished that feast, or that part of the feast, which was called vauquitamalqualiztli.

On the twentieth and last day of the month was made another statue of the fire god, with a frame of sticks and hoops as already described. They put on the head of it a mask with a ground of mosaic of little bits of the shell called tapaztli,[IX-40] composed below the mouth of black stones, banded across the nostrils with black stones of another sort, and the cheeks made of a still different stone called tezcapuchtli. As in the previous case there was a crown on this mask, and over all and over the body of the image costly and beautiful decorations of feather-work. Before the throne on which this statue sat there was a fire, and the youths offered game to and received cakes from the old men with various ceremonies; the day being closed with a great drinking of pulque by the old people, though not to the point of intoxication. Thus ended the eighteenth month; and with regard to the two ceremonies just described, Sahagun says, that though not observed in all parts of Mexico, they were observed at least in Tezcuco.


It will be noticed that the festivals of this month have been without human sacrifices; but every fourth year was an exception to this. In such a year on the twentieth and last day of this eighteenth month, being also, according to some, the last day of the year, the five Nemonteni, or unlucky days, being excepted, men and women were slain as images of the god of fire. The women that had to die carried all their apparel and ornaments on their shoulders, and the men did the same. Arrived thus naked where they had to die, men and women alike were decorated to resemble the god of fire; they ascended the cu, walked round the sacrificial stone, and then descended 392 and returned to the place where they were to be kept for the night. Each male victim had a rope tied round the middle of his body which was held by his guards. At midnight the hair of the crown of the head of each was shaven off before the fire and kept for a relic, and the head itself was covered with a mixture of resin and hens' feathers. After this the doomed ones burned or gave away to their keepers their now useless apparel, and as the morning broke they were decorated with papers and led in procession to die, with singing and shouting and dancing. These festivities went on till mid-day, when a priest of the cu, arrayed in the ornaments of the god Paynal, came down, passed before the victims, and then went up again. They were led up after him, captives first and slaves after, in the order they had to die in; they suffered in the usual manner. There was then a grand dance of the lords, led by the king himself; each dancer wearing a high-fronted paper coronet, a kind of false nose of blue paper, ear-rings of turquoise mosaic, or of wood wrought with flowers, a blue curiously flowered jacket, and a mantle. Hanging to the neck of each was the figure of a dog made of paper and painted with flowers; in the right hand was carried a stick shaped like a chopping-knife, the lower half of which was painted red and the upper half white; in the left hand was carried a little paper bag of copal. This dance was begun on the top of the cu and finished by descending and going four times round the court-yard of the cu; after which all entered the palace with the king. This dance took place only once in four years, and none but the king and his lords could take part in it. On this day the ears of all children born during the three preceding years were bored with a bone awl, and the children themselves passed near or through the flames of a fire as already related.[IX-41] There was a further ceremony of taking the children by the head and lifting them up "to make them grow;" 393 and from this the month took its name, Yzcalli meaning 'growth.'[IX-42]

There was generally observed in honor of fire a custom called 'the throwing,' which was that no one ate without first flinging into the fire a scrap of the food. Another common ceremony was in drinking pulque to first spill a little on the edge of the hearth. Also when a person began upon a jar of pulque he emptied out a little into a broad pan and put it beside the fire, whence with another vessel he spilt of it four times upon the edge of the hearth; this was 'the libation or the tasting.'[IX-43]


The most solemn and important of all the Mexican festivals was that called Toxilmolpilia or Xiuhmolpilli, the 'the binding up of the years.' Every fifty-two years was called a sheaf of years; and it was held for certain that at the end of some sheaf of fifty-two years the motion of the heavenly bodies should cease and the world itself come to an end. As the possible day of destruction drew near all the people cast their household gods of wood and stone into the water, as also the stones used on the hearth for cooking and bruising pepper. They washed thoroughly their houses, and last of all put out all fires. For the lighting of the new fire there was a place set apart, the summit of a mountain called Vixachtlan, or Huixachtla, on the boundary line between the cities of Itztapalapa and Colhuacan, about six miles from the city of Mexico. In the production of this new fire none but priests had any part, and the task fell specially upon those of the ward Copolco. On the last day of the fifty-two years, after the sun had set, all the priests clothed themselves with the dress and insignia of their gods, so as to themselves appear like very gods, and set out in procession 394 for the mountain, walking very slowly, with much gravity and silence, as befitted the occasion and the garb they wore, "walking," as they phrased it, "like gods." The priest of the ward of Copolco, whose office it was to produce the fire, carried the instruments thereof in his hand, trying them from time to time to see that all was right. Then, a little before midnight, the mountain being gained, and a cu which was there builded for that ceremony, they began to watch the heavens and especially the motion of the Pleiades. Now this night always fell so that at midnight these seven stars were in the middle of the sky with respect to the Mexican horizon; and the priests watched them to see them pass the zenith and so give sign of the endurance of the world, for another fifty and two years. That sign was the signal for the production of the new fire, lit as follows. The bravest and finest of the prisoners taken in war was thrown down alive, and a board of very dry wood was put upon his breast; upon this the acting priest at the critical moment bored with another stick, twirling it rapidly between his palms till fire caught. Then instantly the bowels of the captive were laid open, his heart torn out, and it with all the body thrown upon and consumed by a pile of fire. All this time an awful anxiety and suspense held possession of the people at large; for it was said, that if anything happened to prevent the production at the proper time of the new fire, there would be an end of the human race, the night and the darkness would be perpetual, and those terrible and ugly beings the Tzitzimitles[IX-44] would descend to devour all mankind. As the fateful hour approached, the people gathered on the flat house-tops, no one willingly remaining below. All pregnant women, however, were closed into the granaries, their faces being covered with maize-leaves; for it was said that if the new fire could not be produced, these women would turn into fierce animals and devour men and women. Children also had masks 395 of maize-leaf put on their faces, and they were kept awake by cries and pushes, it being believed that if they were allowed to sleep they would become mice.


From the crowded house-tops every eye was bent on Vixachtlan. Suddenly a moving speck of light was seen by those nearest, and then a great column of flame shot up against the sky. The new fire! and a great shout of joy went up from all the country round about. The stars moved on in their courses; fifty and two years more at least had the universe to exist. Every one did penance; cutting his ear with a splinter of flint and scattering the blood toward the part where the fire was; even the ears of children in the cradle were so cut. And now from the blazing pile on the mountain, burning brands of pine candle-wood were carried by the swiftest runners toward every quarter of the kingdom. In the city of Mexico, on the temple of Huitzilopochtli, before the altar, there was a fire-place of stone and lime containing much copal; into this a blazing brand was flung by the first runner, and from this place fire was carried to all the houses of the priests, and thence again to all the city. There soon blazed great central fires in every ward, and it was a thing to be seen the multitude of people that came together to get light, and the general rejoicings.

The hearth-fires being thus lit, the inhabitants of every house began to renew their household gods and furniture, and to lay down new mats, and to put on new raiment; they made everything new in sign of the new sheaf of years; they beheaded quails, and burned incense in their court-yard toward the four quarters of the world, and on their hearths. After eating a meal of wild amaranth seed and honey, a fast was ordered, even the drinking of water till noon being forbidden. Then the eating and drinking were renewed, sacrifices of slaves and captives were made, and the great fires renewed. The last solemn festival of the new fire was celebrated in the year 1507, the Spaniards being not then in the land; and through their presence, there was no public 396 ceremony when the next sheaf of years was finished in 1559.[IX-45]


Mictlan, the Mexican hades, or place of the dead, signifies either primarily, or by an acquired meaning, 'northward, or toward the north,' though many authorities have located it underground or below the earth. This region was the seat of the power of a god best known under his title of Mictlantecutli; his female companion was called Mictlancihuatl, made identical by some legends with Tlazolteotl, and by others apparently with the serpent-woman and mother goddess.[IX-46] There has been discovered 397 and there is now to be seen in the city of Mexico a huge compound statue, representing various deities, the most prominent being a certain goddess Teoyaomique, who, it seems to me, is almost identical with or at least 398 a connecting link between the mother goddess and the companion of Mictlantecutli. Mr Gallatin says[IX-47] that the Mexican gods "were painted in different ways according to their various attributes and names: and the priests were also in the habit of connecting with the statue of a god or goddess, symbols of other deities which partook of a similar character. Gama has adduced several instances of both practices, in the part of his dissertation which relates to the statue of the goddess of death found buried in the great Square of Mexico of which he, and lately Mr Nebel, have given copies.[IX-48] Her name is Teoyaomiqui, which means, to die in sacred war, or 'in defense of the gods,' and she is the proper companion of Huitzilopochtli, the god of war. The symbols of her own attributes are found in the upper part of the statue: but those from the waist downwards relate to other deities connected with her or with Huitzilopochtli. The serpents are the symbols of his mother Cohuatlycue, and also of Cihuacohuatl, the serpent woman who begat twins, male and female, from which mankind proceeded: the same serpents and feathers are the symbol of Quezatlcohuatl, the precious stones designate Chalchihuitlycue, the goddess of water; the teeth and claws refer to Tlaloc and to Tlatocaocelocelotl (the tiger king): and together 399 with her own attributes, the whole is a most horrible figure."


Of this great compound statue of Huitzilopochtli (for the most part under his name of Teoyaotlatohua), Teoyaomique, and Mictlantecutli, and of the three deities separately Leon y Gama treats, in substance as follows, beginning with Mictlantecutli:[IX-49]

The Chevalier Boturini mentions another of his names, Teoyaotlatohua, and says that as director and chief of sacred war he was always accompanied by Teoyaomique, a goddess whose business it was to collect the souls of those that died in war and of those that were sacrificed afterward as captives. Let these statements be put alongside of what Torquemada says, to wit, that in the great feast of the month Hueimiccailhuitl,[IX-50] divine names were given to dead kings and to all famous persons who had died heroically in war, and in the power of the enemy; idols were made furthermore of these persons, and they were put with the deities; for it was said that they had gone to the place of delights and pleasures there to be with the gods. From all this it would appear that before this image, in which were closely united Teoyaotlatohua and Teoyaomique, there were each year celebrated certain rites in memory and honor of dead kings and lords and captains and soldiers fallen in battle. And not only did the Mexicans venerate in the temple this image of many 400 gods, but the judicial astrologers feigned a constellation answering thereto and influencing persons born under it. In depicting this constellation Teoyaotlatohua Huitzilopochtli was represented with only half his body, as it were seated on a bench, and with his mouth open as if speaking. His head was decorated after a peculiar fashion with feathers, his arms were made like trunks of trees with branches, while from his girdle there issued certain herbs that fell downwards over the bench. Opposite this figure was Teoyaomique, naked save a thin robe,[IX-51] and standing on a pedestal, apparently holding her head in her hands, at any rate with her head cut off, her eyes bandaged, and two snakes issuing from the neck where the head should have been. Between the god and the goddess was a flowering tree divided through the middle, to which was attached a beam with various crosspieces, and over all was a bird with the head separated from its body. There was to be seen also the head of a bird in a cup, and the head of a serpent, together with a pot turned upside down while the contents—water as it would appear by the hieroglyphics attached—ran out.

In this form were painted these two gods, as one of the twenty celestial signs, sufficiently noticed by Boturini, although as he confesses, he had not arranged them in the proper order. Returning to notice the office attributed to Teoyaomique, that of collecting the souls of the dead, we find that Cristóbal del Castillo says that all born under the sign which, with the god of war, this goddess ruled, were to become at an early age valorous soldiers; but that their career was to be short as it was 401 brilliant, for they were to fall in battle young. These souls were to rise to heaven, to dwell in the house of the sun, where were woods and groves. There they were to exist four years, at the end of which time they were to be converted into birds of rich and beautiful plumage, and to go about sucking flowers both in heaven and on earth.


To the statue mentioned above there was joined with great propriety the image of another god, feigned to be the god of hell, or of the place of the dead, which latter is the literal signification of his name, Mictlantecutli. This image was engraved in demi-relief on the lower plane of the stone of the great compound statue; but it was also venerated separately in its own proper temple, called Tlalxicco, that is to say, 'in the bowels or navel of the earth.' Among the various offices attributed to this deity was that of burying the corpses of the dead, principally of those that died of natural infirmities; for the souls of these went to hell to present themselves before this Mictlantecutli and before his wife Mictecacihuatl, which name Torquemada interprets as 'she that throws into hell.' Thither indeed it was said that these dead went to offer themselves as vassals carrying offerings, and to have pointed out to them the places that they were to occupy according to the manner of their death. This god of hades was further called Tzontemoc, a term interpreted by Torquemada to mean 'he that lowers his head;' but it would rather appear that it should take its signification from the action indicated by the great statue, where this deity is seen as it were carrying down tied to himself the heads of corpses to bury them in the ground, as Boturini says. The places or habitations supposed to exist in hell, and to which the souls of the dead had to go, were nine; in the last of which, called Chicuhnauhmictlan, the said souls were supposed to be annihilated and totally destroyed. There was lastly given to this god a place in heaven, he being joined with one of the planets and accompanied by Teotlamacazqui; at his feet, there was painted a body that 402 was half buried, or covered with earth from the head to the waist, while the rest stuck out uncovered. It only remains to be said that such was the veneration and religious feeling with which were regarded all things relating to the dead, that not only there were invented for them tutelary gods, much honored by frequent feasts and sacrifice; but the Mexicans elevated Death itself, dedicating to it a day of the calendar (the first day of the sixth 'trecena'), joining it to the number of the celestial signs; and erecting to it a sumptuous temple called Tolnahuac, within the circuit of the great temple of Mexico, wherein it was particularly adored with holocausts and victims under the title Ce Miquiztli.[IX-52]



Mixcoatl is the god—or goddess according to some good authorities—of hunting. The name means 'cloud-serpent' and indeed seems common to a whole class of deities or heroes somewhat resembling the Nibelungs of northern European mythology.[IX-53] He is further supposed to be connected with the thunderstorm: "Mixcoatl, the Cloud-Serpent, or Iztac-Mixcoatl, the White or Gleaming Cloud-Serpent," writes Brinton,[IX-54] "said to have been the only divinity of the ancient Chichimecs, held in high honor by the Nahuas, Nicaraguans, and Otomís, and identical with Taras, supreme god of the Tarascos, and Camaxtli, god of the Teo-Chichimecs, is another personification of the thunderstorm. To this day this is the familiar name of the tropical tornado in the Mexican language. He was represented, like Jove, with a bundle of arrows in his hand, the thunderbolts. Both the Nahuas and Tarascos related legends in which he figured as father of the race of man. Like other lords of the lightning he was worshiped as the dispenser of riches and the patron of traffic; and in Nicaragua his image is described as being 'engraved stones' probably the supposed products of the thunder."


In the fourteenth month, called Quecholli, and beginning, according to Clavigero, on the fourteenth of November, there was made with many obscure ceremonies, a feast to this god. On the sixth day of the month all assembled at the cu of Huitzilopochtli, where during four days they made arrows and darts for use in war and for general practice at a mark, mortifying at the same time their flesh by drawing blood, and by abstaining from women and pulque. This done they made, in honor of the dead, certain little mimic darts of a hand long, of which four seem to have been tied together with four splinters of candle-wood pine; these were put on the graves, and at set of sun, lit and burned, after which the ashes were interred on the spot. There were taken a maize-stalk of nine knots with a paper flag on the top that hung down to the bottom, together with a shield and dart belonging to the dead man, and his maxtli and blanket; the last two being attached to the maize-stalk. The hanging flag was ornamented on either side with red cotton thread, in the figure of an X; a piece of twisted white thread also hung down to which was suspended a dead humming-bird. Handfuls of the white feathers of the heron were tied two and two and fastened to the burdened maize-stalk, while all the cotton threads used were covered with white hen's feathers, stuck on with resin. Lastly all these were burned on a stone block called the quaulixicalcalico.

In the court of the cu of Mixcoatl was scattered much dried grass brought from the mountains, upon which the old women-priests, or cioatlamacazque, seated themselves, each with a mat before her. All the women that had children came, each bringing her child and five sweet tamales; and the tamales were put on the mats before the old women, who in return took the children, tossed them in their arms and then returned them to their mothers.


About the middle of the month was made a special feast to this god of the Otomís, to Mixcoatl. In the morning all prepared for a great drive-hunt, girding 405 their blankets to their loins, and taking bows and arrows. They wended their way to a mountain-slope, anciently Zapatepec, or Yxillantonan, above the sierra of Atlacuizoayan, or as it is now called, according to Bustamante, Tacubaya. There they drove deer, rabbits, hares, coyotes, and other game together, little by little, every one in the meantime killing what he could; few or no animals escaping. To the most successful hunters blankets were given, and every one brought to his house the heads of the animals he had taken, and hanged them up for tokens of his prowess or activity.

There were human sacrifices in honor of this hunting god with other deities. The manufacturers of pulque bought, apparently two slaves who were decorated with paper and killed in honor of the gods Tlamatzincatl and Yzquitecatl; there were also sacrificed women supposed to represent the wives of these two deities. The calpixquis on their part led other two slaves to the death in honor of Mixcoatl and of Cohuatlicue his wife. On the morning of the last day but one of the month, all the doomed were brought out and led round the cu where they had to die; after mid-day they were led up the cu, round the sacrificial block, down again, then back to the calpulco, to be at once guarded and forced to keep awake for the night. At midnight their heads were shaven before the fire, and every one of them burned there what goods he had, little paper flags, cane tobacco-pipes[IX-55] and drinking-vessels; the women threw into the flame their raiment, their ornaments, their spindles, little baskets, vessels in which the spindles were twirled, warping-frames, fuller's earth, pieces of cane for pressing a fabric together, cords for fastening it up, maguey-thorns, measuring-rods, and other implements for weaving; and they said that all these things had to be given to them in the other world after their death. At daybreak these captives were carried or assisted up, each having a paper flag 406 borne before him, to the several cues of the gods they were to die in honor of. Four that had to die, probably before Mixcoatl, were, each by four bearers, carried up to a temple, bound hand and foot to represent dead deer; while others were merely assisted up the steps by a youth at each arm, so that they should not faint nor fail; two other youths trailing or letting them down the same steps after they were dead. The preceding relates only to the male captives, the women being slain before the men, in a separate cu called the coatlan; it is said that as they were forced up the steps of it some screamed and others wept. In letting the dead bodies of these women down the steps again, it is also specially written, that they were not hurled down roughly, but rolled down little by little. At the place where the skulls of the dead were exposed, waited two old women called teixamique, having by them salt water and bread and a mess or gruel of some kind. The carcasses of the victims being brought to them, they dipped cane-leaves into the salt water and sprinkled the faces of them therewith, and into each mouth they put four morsels of bread moistened with the gruel or mess above-mentioned. Then the heads were cut off and spitted on poles; and so the feast ended.[IX-56]


In connection with the religious honors paid to the dead, it may be here said that the Mexicans had a deity of whom almost all we know is that he was the god of those that died in the houses of the lords or in the palaces of the principal men; he was called Macuilxochitl, 407 'the chief that gives flowers, or that takes care of the giving of flowers.'[IX-57] The festival of this god fell among the movable feasts and was called Xochilhuitl, or 'the festival of flowers.' There were in it the usual preliminary fasting (that is to say, eating but once a day, at noon, and then only of a restricted diet), blood-letting, and offering of food in the temple; though there did not occur therein anything suggestive either of a god of flowers or of a god of the more noble dead. The image of this deity was in the likeness of an almost naked man, either flayed or painted of a vermilion color; the mouth and chin were of three tints, white, black, and light blue; the face was of a light reddish tinge. It had a crown of light green color, with plumes of the same hue, and tassels that hung down to the shoulders. On the back of the idol was a device wrought in feathers, representing a banner planted on a hill; about the loins of it was a bright reddish blanket, fringed with sea-shells; curiously wrought sandals adorned its feet; on the left arm of it was a white shield, in the midst of which were set four stones, joined two and two; it held a sceptre, shaped like a heart and tipped with green and yellow feathers.[IX-58]


Ome Acatl was the god of banquets and of guests; his name signified 'two canes.' When a man made a feast to his friends, he had the image of this deity carried to his house by certain of its priests; and if the host did not do this, the deity appeared to him in a dream, rebuking him in such words as these: Thou bad man, because thou hast withheld from me my due honor, know that I will forsake thee and that thou shalt pay dearly for this insult. When this god was excessively angered, he was accustomed to mix hairs with the food and drink of the guests of the object of his wrath, so that the giver of the feast should be disgraced. As in the case of Huitzilopochtli, there was a kind of communion sacrament in connection with the adoration of this god of feasts: in each ward dough was taken and kneaded by the principal men into the figure of a bone of about a cubit long, called the bone of Ome Acatl. A night seems to have been spent in eating and in drinking pulque; then at break of day an unfortunate person, set up as the living image of the god, had his belly pricked with pins, or some such articles; being hurt thereby, as we are told. This done the bone was divided and each one ate what of it fell to his lot; and when those that had insulted this god ate, they often grew sick, and almost choked, and went stumbling and falling. Ome Acatl was represented as a man seated on a bunch of cyperus-sedges. His face was painted white and black; upon his head was a paper crown surrounded by a long and broad fillet of divers colors, knotted up at the back of the head; and again round and over the fillet, was wound a string of chalchiuite beads. His blanket was made like a net, and had a broad border of flowers woven into it. He bore a shield, from the lower part of which hung a kind of fringe of broad tassels. In the right hand he held a sceptre called the tlachielonique, or 'looker,'[IX-59] because it was furnished with a round plate through which a hole 409 was pierced, and the god kept his face covered with the plate and looked through the hole.[IX-60]


Yxtliton, or Ixtlilton—that is to say 'the little negro,' according to Sahagun, and 'the black-faced,' according to Clavigero—was a god who cured children of various diseases.[IX-61] His 'oratory' was a kind of temporary building made of painted boards; his image was neither graven nor painted; it was a living man decorated with certain vestments. In this temple or oratory were kept many pans and jars, covered with boards, and containing a fluid which was called 'black water.' When a child sickened, it was brought to this temple and one of these jars was uncovered, upon which the child drank of the black water and was healed of its disease—the cure being probably most prompt and complete when the priests as well as the god knew something of physic. When one made a feast to this god—which seems to have been when one made new pulque—the man that was the image of Ixtlilton came to the house of the feast-giver with music and dancing, and preceded by the smoke of 410 copal incense. The representative of the deity having arrived, the first thing he did was to eat and drink; there were more dances and festivities in his honor, in which he took part, and then he entered the cellar of the house, where were many jars of pulque that had been covered for four days with boards or lids of some kind. He opened one or many of these jars, a ceremony called 'the opening of the first, or of the new wine,' and himself with those that were with him drank thereof. This done, he went out into the court-yard of the house, where there were prepared certain jars of the above-mentioned black water, which also had been kept covered four days; these he opened, and if there was found therein any dirt, or piece of straw, or hair, or ash, it was taken as a sign that the giver of the feast was a man of evil life, an adulterer, or a thief, or a quarrelsome person, and he was affronted with the charge accordingly. When the representative of the god set out from the house where all this occurred, he was presented with certain blankets called yxguen, or ixquen, that is to say, 'covering of the face,' because when any fault had been found in the black water, the giver of the feast was put to shame.[IX-62]


Opuchtli, or Opochtli, 'the left-handed,' was venerated by fishermen as their protector and the inventor of their nets, fish-spears, oars, and other gear. In Cuitlahuac, an island of lake Chalco, there was a god of fishing called Amimitl, who, according to Clavigero, differed from the first-mentioned only in name. Sahagun says that Opuchtli was counted among the number of the Tlaloques, and that the offerings made to him were composed of pulque, stalks of green maize, flowers, the smoking-canes, or pipes called yietl, copal incense, the odorous herb yiauhtli, and parched maize. These things seem to have been strewed before him as rushes used to be strewed before a procession. There were used in these solemnities 411 certain rattles enclosed in hollow walking-sticks. The image of this god was like a man, almost naked, with the face of that grey tint seen in quails' feathers; on the head was a paper crown of divers colors, made like a rose, as it were, of leaves overlapping each other, topped by green feathers issuing from a yellow tassel; other long tassels hung from this crown to the shoulders of the idol. Crossed over the breast was a green stole resembling that worn by the Christian priest when saying mass; on the feet were white sandals; on the left arm was a red shield, and in the centre of its field a white flower with four leaves disposed like a cross; and in the left hand was a sceptre of a peculiar fashion.[IX-63]

Xipe, or Totec, or Xipetotec, or Thipetotec, is, according to Clavigero, a god whose name has no meaning,[IX-64] who was the deity of the goldsmiths, and who was much venerated by the Mexicans, they being persuaded that those that neglected his worship would be smitten with 412 diseases; especially the boils, the itch, and pains of the head and eyes. They excelled themselves therefore in cruelty at his festival time, occurring ordinarily in the second month.

Sahagun describes this god as specially honored by dwellers on the sea-shore, and as having had his origin at Zapotlan in Jalisco. He was supposed to afflict people with sore eyes and with various skin-diseases, such as small-pox, abscesses, and itch. His image was made like a human form, one side or flank of it being painted yellow, and the other of a tawny color; down each side of the face from the brow to the jaw a thin stripe was wrought; and on the head was a little cap with hanging tassels. The upper part of the body was clothed with the flayed skin of a man; round the loins was girt a kind of green skirt. It had on one arm a yellow shield with a red border, and held in both hands a scepter shaped like the calix of a poppy and tipped with an arrow-head.[IX-65]


On the last day of the second month—or, according to some authors, of the first—Tlacaxipehualiztli, there was celebrated a solemn feast in honor at once of Xipetotec and of Huitzilopochtli. It was preceded by a very solemn dance at noon of the day before. As the night of the vigil fell, the captives were shut up and guarded; at midnight—the time when it was usual to draw blood from the ears—the hair of the middle of the head of each was shaven away before a fire. When the dawn appeared they were led by their owners to the foot of the stairs of the temple of Huitzilopochtli—and if they would not ascend willingly the priests dragged them up by the hair. The priests threw them down one by one on the back on a stone of three quarters of a yard or more high, and square on the top something more than a foot every way. Two assistants held the victim down by the feet, two by the hands, and one by the head—this last according to many accounts putting 413 a yoke over the neck of the man and so pressing it down. Then the priest, holding with both hands a splinter of flint, or a stone resembling flint, like a large lance-head, struck across the breast therewith, and tore out the heart through the gash so made; which, after offering it to the sun and other gods by holding it up toward the four quarters of heaven, he threw into a wooden vessel.[IX-66] The blood was collected also in a vessel and given to the owner of the dead captive, while the body, thrown down the temple steps, was taken to the calpule by certain old men, called quaquacuiltin, flayed, cut into pieces, and divided for eating; the king receiving the flesh of the thigh, while the rest of the carcass was eaten at the house of the owner of the captive, though, as will appear by a remark hereafter,[IX-67] it is improbable that the captor or owner himself ate any of it. With the skin of these flayed persons, a party of youths called the tototecli clothed themselves, and fought in sham fight with another party of young men; prisoners being taken on both sides, who were not released without a ransom of some kind or other. This sham battle was succeeded by combats of a terribly real sort, the famous so-called gladiatorial fights of Mexico. On a great round stone, like an 414 enormous mill-stone, a captive was tied by a cord, passing round his waist and through the hole of the stone, long enough to permit him freedom of motion everywhere about the block—set near or at a temple called yopico, of the god Totec, or Xipe.[IX-68] With various ceremonies, more particularly described in the preceding volume, the bound man furnished with inferior weapons was made to fight with a picked Mexican champion—the latter holding up his sword and shield to the sun before engaging. If, as sometimes happened, the desperate though hampered and ill-armed captive—whose club-sword was, by a refinement of mockery, deprived of its jagged flint edging and set with feathers—slew his opponent, another champion was sent against him, and so on to the number of five, at which point, according to some, the captive was set free; though according to other authorities, he was not allowed so to escape, but champions were sent against him till he fell. Upon which a priest called the yooallaoa opened his breast, tore out his heart, offered it to the sun, and threw it into the usual wooden vessel; while the ropes used for binding to the fighting-stone were carried to the four quarters of the world, reverently with weeping and sighing. A second priest thrust a piece of cane into the gash in the victim's breast and held it up stained with blood to the sun. Then the owner of the captive came and received the blood into a vessel bordered with feathers; this vessel he took with a little cane-and-feather broom or aspergillum and went about all the temples and calpules, giving to each 415 of the idols, as it were to taste of the blood of his captive. The slain body was then carried to the calpulco—where, while alive, it had been confined the night before the sacrifice—and there skinned. Thence it was brought to the house of its owner, who divided and made presents of it to his superiors, relatives, and friends; not however tasting thereof himself, for, we are told, "he counted it as the flesh of his own body," because from the hour that he took the prisoner "he held him to be his son, and the captive looked up to his captor as to a father."


The skins of the dead belonged to their captors, who gave them again to others to be worn by them for apparently twenty days, probably as a kind of penance—the persons so clothed collecting alms from everyone in the meantime and bringing all they got, each to the man that had given him the skin. When done with, these skins were hid away in a rotting condition in a certain cave, while the ex-wearers thereof washed themselves with great rejoicings. At the putting away of these skins there assisted numbers of people ill with the itch and such other diseases as Xipe inflicted—hoping thus to be healed of their infirmities, and it is said that many were so cured.[IX-69]


The merchants of Mexico—a class of men who hawked their goods from place to place and wandered often far into strange countries to buy or sell—had various deities to whom they did special honor. Among these the chief, and often the only one mentioned, was the god Yiacatecutli, or Jacateuctli, or Iyacatecuhtli, that is 'the lord that guides,' otherwise called Yacacoliuhqui, or Jacacoliuhqui.[IX-70] This chief god of the merchants had, however, according to Sahagun, five brothers and a sister, also reverenced by traders, the sister being called Chalmecacioatl, and the brothers respectively Chiconquiavitl, Xomocuil, Nacxitl, Cochimetl, and Yacapitzaoac. The principal image of this god was a figure representing a man walking along a road with a staff; the face black and white; the hair tied up in a bundle on the middle of the top of the head with two tassels of rich quetzal-feathers; the ear-rings of gold; the mantle blue, bordered with a flowered fringe, and covered with a red net, through whose meshes the blue appeared; round the ankles leather straps from which hung marine shells; curiously wrought sandals on the feet; and on the arm a plain unornamented yellow shield, with a spot of light blue in the centre of its field. Practically, however, every merchant reverenced his own stout staff—generally made of a solid, knotless piece of black cane, called utatl—as the representative or symbol of this god Yiacatecutli; keeping it, when not in use, in the oratory or sacred place in his house, and invariably putting food before it preliminary to eating his own meal. When traveling the traders were accustomed nightly to stack up their staves in a convenient position, bind them about, build a fire before them,[IX-71] and then offering blood 417 and copal, pray for preservation and shelter from the many perils to which their wandering life made them especially subject.[IX-72]


Napatecutli, that is to say 'four times lord,' was the god of the mat-makers and of all workers in water-flags and rushes. A beneficent and helpful divinity, and one of the Tlalocs, he was known by various names, such as Tepahpaca Teaaltati, 'the purifier or washer;' Quitzetzelohua, or Tlaitlanililoni, 'he that scatters or winnows down;' Tlanempopoloa, 'he that is large and liberal;' Teatzelhuia, 'he that sprinkles with water;' and Amotenenqua, 'he that shows himself grateful.' This god had two temples in Mexico and his festival fell in the thirteenth month, by Clavigero's reckoning. His image resembled a black man, the face being spotted with white and black, with tassels hanging down behind supporting a green plume of three feathers. Round the loins and reaching to the knees was girt a kind of white and black skirt or petticoat, adorned with little sea-shells. The 418 sandals of this idol were white; on its left arm was a shield made like the broad leaf of the water-lily, or nenuphar; while the right hand held a sceptre like a flowering staff, the flowers being of paper; and across the body, passing under the left arm, was a white scarf, painted over with black flowers.[IX-73]

The Mexicans had several gods of wine, or rather of pulque; of these the chief seems to have been Tezcatzoncatl, otherwise known as Tequechmecaniani 'the strangler,' and as Teatlahuiani 'the drowner;' epithets suggested by the effects of drunkenness. The companion deities of this Aztec Dionysus were called as a class by the somewhat extraordinary name of Centzontotochtin or 'the four hundred rabbits'; Yiaulatecatl, Yzquitecatl, Acoloa, Thilhoa, Pantecatl (the Patecatl of the interpreters of the codices), Tultecatl, Papaztac, Tlaltecaiooa, Ometochtli (often referred to as the principal god of wine), Tepuztecatl, Chimapalnecatl, were deities of this class. The principal characteristic of the image of the Mexican god of drunkenness was, according to Mendieta and Motolinia, a kind of vessel carried on the head of the idol, into which vessel wine was ceremoniously poured. The feast of this god, like that of the preceding divinity, fell in the thirteenth month, Tepeilhuitl, and in his temple in the city of Mexico there served four hundred consecrated priests, so great was the service done this everywhere too widely and well known god.[IX-74] 419


The Mexicans had certain household gods called Tepitoton, or Tepictoton, 'the little ones,'—small statues of which kings kept six in their houses, nobles four, and common folks two. Whether these were a particular class of deities or merely miniature images of the already described greater gods it is hard to say. Similar small idols are said to have adorned streets, cross-roads, fountains and other places of public traffic and resort.[IX-75]


With these Tepitoton may be said to finish the list of Mexican gods of any repute or any general notoriety; so that it seems fit to give here a condensed and arranged résumé of all the fixed festivals and celebrations of the Aztec calendar, with its eighteen months of twenty days each, and its five supplementary days at the end of the year. There is some disagreement as to which of the months the year began with; but it will best suit our present purpose to follow the arrangement of Sahagun, the interpreters of the Codices, Torquemada, and Clavigero, in which the month variously called Atlcahualco, or Quahuitlehua, or Cihuailhuitl, or Xilomanaliztli, is the first.[IX-76] The name Atlchualco, or Atlaooalo, 420 or Atalcaoplo, means 'the buying or scarcity of water;' Quahuitlehua, or Quavitleloa, 'the sprouting of trees;' and Xilomanaliztli, 'the offering of Xilotl (that is heads of maize, which were then presented to the gods to secure their blessing on the seed time).' This first month beginning on the second of February according to Sahagun, the eighteenth according to Gama, and the twenty-sixth according to Clavigero, was consecrated to Tlaloc and the other gods of water, and in it great numbers of children were sacrificed.[IX-77] In further honor of the Tlalocs there were also at this time killed many captives on the gladiatorial stone.

It was the second month, called Tlacaxiphualiztli,[IX-78] or 'the flaying of men,' that was specially famous for its gladiatorial sacrifices, sacrifices already described and performed to the honor of Xipe, or Xipetotec.[IX-79]

The third month called Tozoztontli, 'the lesser fast or penance,' was inaugurated by the sacrifice on the mountains of children to the Tlalocs. Those also that traded in flowers and were called Sochimanque, or Xochimanqui, made a festival to their goddess, Coatlycue, or Coatlantona, offering her the first-fruits of the flowers 421 of the year, of these that had grown in the precincts of the cu yapico, a cu as we have seen, consecrated to Tlaloc. Into a cave belonging to this temple there were also at this time cast the now rotten skins of the human beings that had been flayed in the preceding month. Thither, "stinking like dead dogs," as Sahagun phrases it, marched in procession the persons that wore these skins and there they put them off, washing themselves with many ceremonies; and sick folk troubled with certain skin-diseases followed and looked on, hoping by the sight of all these things to be healed of their infirmities. The owners of the captives that had been slain had also been doing penance for twenty days, neither washing nor bathing during that time; and they now, when they had seen the skins deposited in the cave, washed and gave a banquet to all their friends and relatives, performing many ceremonies with the bones of the dead captives. All the twenty days of this month singing exercises, praising the god, were carried on in the houses called Cuicacalli, the performers not dancing but remaining seated.

The fourth month was called, in contradistinction to the third, Veitozoztli, or Hueytozoztli, that is to say, 'the greater penance or letting of blood;' because in it not only the priests but also the populace and nobility did penance, drawing blood from their ears, shins, and other parts of the body, and exposing at their doors leaves of sword-grass stained therewith. After this they performed certain already described ceremonies,[IX-80] and then made, out of the dough known as tzoalli,[IX-81] an image of the goddess Chicomecoatl, in the court-yard of her temple, offering before it all kinds of maize, beans, and chian, because she was the maker and giver of these things and the sustainer of the people. In this month, as well as in the three months preceding, little children were sacrificed, a cruelty which was supposed to please 422 the water gods, and which was kept up till the rains began to fall abundantly.


The fifth month, called Toxcatl and sometimes Tepopochuiliztli,[IX-82] was begun by the most solemn and famous feast of the year, in honor of the principal Mexican god, a god known by a multitude of names and epithets, among which were Tezcatlipoca, Titlacaoan, Yautl, Telpuchtli, and Tlamatzincatl. A year before this feast, one of the most distinguished of the captives reserved for sacrifice was chosen out for superior grace and personal appearance from among all his fellows, and given in charge to the priestly functionaries called calpixques. These instructed him with great diligence in all the arts pertaining to good breeding, according to the Mexican idea: such as playing on the flute, walking, speaking, saluting those he happened to meet, the use and carrying about of straight cane tobacco-pipes and of flowers, with the dexterous smoking of the one, and the graceful inhalation of the odor of the other. He was attended upon by eight pages, who were clad in the livery of the palace, and had perfect liberty to go where he pleased night and day; while his food was so rich that to guard against his growing too fat, it was at times necessary to vary the diet by a purge of salt and water. Everywhere honored and adored as the living image and accredited representative of Tezcatlipoca, he went about playing on a small shrill clay flute, or fife, and adorned with rich and curious raiment furnished by the king, while all he met did him reverence kissing the earth. All his body and face was painted—black, it would appear; his long hair flowed to the waist; his head was covered with white hens' feathers stuck on 423 with resin, and covered with a garland of the flowers called yzquisuchitl; while two strings of the same flowers crossed his body in the fashion of cross-belts. Earrings of gold, a necklace of precious stones with a great dependent gem hanging to the breast, a lip-ornament (barbote) of sea-shell, bracelets of gold above the elbow on each arm, and strings of gems called macuextli winding from wrist almost to elbow, glittered and flashed back the light as the doomed man-god moved. He was covered with a rich beautifully fringed mantle of netting, and bore on his shoulders something like a purse made of white cloth of a span square, ornamented with tassels and fringe. A white maxtli of a span broad went about his loins, the two ends, curiously wrought, falling in front almost to the knee. Little bells of gold kept time with every motion of his feet, which were shod with painted sandals called ocelunacace.

All this was the attire he wore from the beginning of his year of preparation; but twenty days before the coming of the festival, they changed his vestments, washed away the paint or dye from his skin, and cut down his long hair to the length, and arranged it after the fashion, of the hair of the captains, tying it up on the crown of the head with feathers and fringe and two gold-buttoned tassels. At the same time they married to him four damsels, who had been pampered and educated for this purpose, and who were surnamed respectively after the four goddesses, Xochiquetzal, Xilonen, Atlatonan, and Vixtocioatl.[IX-83] Five days before the great day of 424 the feast,[IX-84] the day of the feast being counted one, all the people, high and low, the king it would appear being alone excepted, went out to celebrate with the man-god a solemn banquet and dance, in the ward called Tecanman; the fourth day before the feast, the same was done in the ward in which was guarded the statue of Tezcatlipoca. The little hill, or island, called Tepetzinco, rising out of the waters of the lake of Mexico, was the scene of the next day's solemnities; solemnities renewed for the last time on the next day, or that immediately preceding the great day, on another like island called Tepelpulco, or Tepepulco. There, with the four women that had been given him for his consolation, the honored victim was put into a covered canoe usually reserved for the sole use of the king; and he was carried across the lake to a place called Tlapitzaoayan, near the road that goes from Yztapalapan to Chalco, at a 425 place where was a little hill called Acacuilpan, or Cabaltepec. Here left him the four beautiful girls, whose society for twenty days he had enjoyed, they returning to the capital with all the people; there accompanying the hero of this terrible tragedy only those eight attendants that had been with him all the year. Almost alone, done with the joys of beauty, banquet, and dance, bearing a bundle of his flutes, he walked to a little ill-built cu, some distance from the road mentioned above, and about a league removed from the city. He marched up the temple steps, not dragged, not bound, not carried like a common slave or captive; and as he ascended he dashed down and broke on every step one of the flutes that he had been accustomed to play on in the days of his prosperity. He reached the top;—by sickening repetition we have learned to know the rest; one thing only, from the sacrificial stone his body was not hurled down the steps, but was carried by four men down to the Tzompantli, to the place of the spitting of heads.


And the chroniclers say that all this signified that those who enjoyed riches, delights in this life, should at the end come to poverty and sorrow—so determined are these same chroniclers to let nothing escape without its moral.

In this feast of Toxcatl, in the cu called Huitznahuac, where the image of Huitzilopochtli was always kept, the priests made a bust of this god out of tzoalli dough, with pieces of mizquitl-wood inserted by way of bones. They decorated it with his ornaments; putting on a jacket wrought over with human bones, a mantle of very thin nequen, and another mantle called the tlaquaquallo, covered with rich feathers, fitting the head below and widening out above; in the middle of this stood up a little rod, also decorated with feathers and sticking into the top of the rod was a flint knife half covered with blood. The image was set on a platform made of pieces of wood resembling snakes and so arranged that heads and tails alternated all the way round; the whole borne 426 by many captains and men of war. Before this image and platform a number of strong youths carried an enormous sheet of paper resembling pasteboard, twenty fathoms long, one fathom broad, and a little less than an inch thick; it was supported by spear-shafts arranged in pairs of one shaft above and one below the paper, while persons on either side of the paper held each one of these pairs in one hand. When the procession, with dancing and singing, reached the cu to be ascended, the snaky platform was carefully and cautiously hoisted up by cords attached to its four corners, the image was set on a seat, and those that carried the paper rolled it up and set down the roll before the bust of the god. It was sunset when the image was so set up; and the following morning every one offered food in his own house before the image of Huitzilopochtli there, incensing also such images of other gods as he had, and then went to offer quails' blood before the bust set up on the cu. The king began, wringing off the heads of four quails; the priests offered next, then all the people; the whole multitude carrying clay fire-pans and burning copal incense of every kind, after which every one threw his live coals upon a great hearth in the temple-yard. The virgins painted their faces, put on their heads garlands of parched maize with strings of the same across their breasts, decorated their arms and legs with red feathers, and carried black paper flags stuck into split canes. The flags of the daughters of nobles were not of paper but of a thin cloth called canaoac, painted with vertical black stripes. These girls joining hands danced round the great hearth, upon or over which on an elevated place of some kind there danced, giving the time and step, two men, having each a kind of pine cage covered with paper flags on his shoulders, the strap supporting which passed, not across the forehead—the usual way for men to carry a burden—but across the chest as was the fashion with women. The priests of the temple, dancing on this occasion with the women, bore shields of paper, crumpled up like great flowers; their heads were adorned with white feathers, 427 their lips and part of the face were smeared with sugar-cane juice which produced a peculiar effect over the black with which their faces were always painted. They carried in their hands pieces of paper called amasmaxtli, and sceptres of palm-wood tipped with a black flower and having in the lower part a ball of black feathers. In dancing they used this sceptre like a staff, and the part by which they grasped it was wrapped round with a paper painted with black lines. The music for the dancers was supplied by a party of unseen musicians, who occupied one of the temple buildings, where they sat, he that played on the drum in the centre, and the performers on the other instruments about him. The men and women danced on till night, but the strictest order and decency were preserved, and any lewd word or look brought down swift punishment from the appointed overseers.


This feast was closed by the death of a youth who had been during the past year dedicated to and taken care of for Huitzilopochtli, resembling in this the victim of Tezcatlipoca, whose companion he had indeed been, but without receiving such high honors. This Huitzilopochtli youth was entitled Yxteucalli, or Tlacabepan, or Teicauhtzin, and was held to be the image and representative of the god. When the day of his death came, the priests decorated him with papers painted over with black circles, and put a mitre of eagles' feathers on his head, in the midst of whose plumes was stuck a flint knife, stained half way up with blood and adorned with red feathers. Tied to his shoulders, by strings passing across the breast, was a piece of very thin cloth about a span square, and over it hung a little bag. Over one of his arms was thrown a wild beast's skin, arranged somewhat like a maniple; bells of gold jingled at his legs as he walked or danced. There were two peculiar things connected with the death of this youth; first he had absolute liberty of choice regarding the hour in which he was to die; and second, he was not extended upon any block or altar, 428 but when he wished he threw himself into the arms of the priests, and had his heart so cut out. His head was then hacked off and spitted alongside of that of the Tezcatlipoca youth, of whom we have spoken already. In this same day the priests made little marks on children, cutting them, with thin stone knives, in the breast, stomach, wrists, and fleshy part of the arms; marks, as the Spanish priests considered, by which the devil should know his own sheep.[IX-85] The ceremonies of the ensuing monthly festivals have already been described at length.[IX-86]


There were, besides, a number of movable feasts in honor of the higher gods, the celestial bodies, and the patron deities of the various trades and professions. Sahagun gives an account of sixteen movable feasts, many of which, however, contained no religious element.[IX-87] The first was dedicated to the sun, to whom a ghostly deputation of eighteen souls was sent to make known the wants of the people, and implore future favors. The selected victims were ranged in order at the place of sacrifice, and addressed by the priest, who exhorted them to bear in mind the sacred nature of their mission, and the glory which would be theirs upon its proper fulfillment. The music now strikes up; amid the crash and din the victims one after another are stretched upon the altar; a few flashes of the iztli-knife in the practiced hand of the slayer, and the embassy has set out for the presence of the sun.[IX-88]

The sixth, seventh, and eleventh festivals were celebrated to Quetzalcoatl, Tezcatlipoca, and Huitzilopochtli respectively. The public and household idols of these 429 gods were at such seasons decorated, and presented with offerings of food, quails, and incense. During the festival of the god of fire, the thirteenth of the movable feasts, various public officials were elected, and a great many grand banquets given. The atamalqualiztli, or 'fast of bread and water,' seems to have been one of the most important of the movable feasts. The people prepared for its celebration, which took place every eight years, by a rigid fast, broken only by a midday meal of water and unsalted bread. Those who offended the gods by neglecting to observe this fast were thought to expose themselves to an attack of leprosy. The people indulged in all sorts of amusements during the holiday season which succeeded the fast. The most interesting feature of the festivities was a bal masqué, which was supposed to be attended by all the gods. The chief honors of the day were, however, rendered to the Tlalocs, and round their effigy, which stood in the midst of a pond alive with frogs and snakes, the dancers whirled continually. It was a part of the ceremonies for a number of men called maxatecaz to devour the reptiles in the pond; this they did by each seizing a snake or a frog in his teeth, and swallowing it gradually as he joined in the dance; the one who first bolted his titbit cried out triumphantly, 'Papa, papa!'

Every fourth year, called teoxihuitl, or 'divine year,' and at the beginning of every period of thirteen years, the feasts were more numerous and on a larger scale, the fasts more severe, and the sacrifices far greater in number than upon ordinary occasions.[IX-89] The entire series of festivals may be said to have closed with the solemn Toxilmolpilia, or 'binding up of the years,' which took place every fifty-two years, and marked the expiration and renewal of the world's lease of existence.[IX-90]



Revenues of the Mexican TemplesVast number of the PriestsMexican Sacerdotal SystemPriestessesThe Orders of Tlamaxcacayotl and TelpochtiliztliReligious DevoteesBaptismCircumcisionCommunionFasts and PenanceBlood-drawingHuman SacrificesThe Gods of the TarascosPriests and Temple Service of MichoacanWorship in Jalisco and OajacaVotan and QuetzalcoatlTravels of VotanThe Apostle WixepecochaCave near XustlahuacaThe Princess PinopiaaWorship of CostahuntoxTree Worship.

We have seen in the preceding volume that the number of religious edifices was very great; that in addition to the temples in the cities—and Mexico alone is said to have contained two thousand sacred buildings—there were "on every isolated hill, along the roads, and in the fields, substantial structures consecrated to some deity." Torquemada estimates the whole number at eighty thousand.


The vast revenues needed for the support and repair of the temples, and for the maintenance of the immense army of priests that officiated in them, were derived from various sources. The greatest part was supplied from large tracts of land which were the property of the church, and were held by vassals under certain conditions, or worked by slaves. Besides this, taxes of wine and grain, especially first fruits, were levied upon 431 communities, and stored in granaries attached to the temples. The voluntary contributions, from a cake, feather, or robe to slaves or priceless gems, given in performance of a vow, or at the numerous festivals, formed no unimportant item. Quantities of food were provided by the parents of the children attending the schools, and there were never wanting devout women eager to prepare it. In the kingdom of Tezcuco, thirty towns were required to provide firewood for the temples and palaces;[X-1] in Meztitlan, says Chaves, every man gave four pieces of wood every five days; it is easy to believe that the supply of fuel must have been immense, when we consider that six hundred fires were kept continually blazing in the great temple of Mexico alone.[X-2] Whatever surplus remained of the revenues after all expenses had been defrayed, is said to have been devoted to the support of charitable institutions and the relief of the poor;[X-3] in this respect, at least the Holy Mother Church of contemporary Europe might have taken a lesson from her pagan sister in the New World.

Each temple had its complement of ministers to conduct and take part in the daily services, and of servants to attend to the cleansing, firing, and other menial offices. In the great temple at Mexico there were five thousand priests and attendants,[X-4] the total number of the ecclesiastical host must therefore have been immense; Clavigero places it at a million, which does not appear improbable if we accept Torquemada's statement that there were forty thousand temples as a basis for the computation. It should be remembered, however, that the sacerdotal body was not composed entirely 432 of permanent members; some were merely engaged for a certain number of years, in fulfillment of a vow made by themselves or their parents; others were obliged to attend at intervals only, or at certain festivals, the rest of their time being passed in the pursuit of some profession, usually that of arms.[X-5]

The vast number of the priests, their enormous wealth, and the blind zeal of the people, all combined to render the sacerdotal power extremely formidable. The king himself performed the functions of high-priest on certain occasions, and frequently held some sacred office before succeeding to the throne. The heads of Church and State seem to have worked amicably together, and to have united their power to keep the masses in subjection. The sovereign took no step of importance without first consulting the high-priests to learn whether the gods were favorable to the project. The people were guided in the same manner by the inferior ministers, and this influence was not likely to decrease, for the priests as the possessors of all learning, the historians and poets of the nation, were intrusted with the education of the youth, whom they took care to mold to their purposes.

At the head of the Mexican priesthood were two supreme ministers; the Teotecuhtli or 'divine lord,' who seems to have attended more particularly to secular matters, and the Hueiteopixqui, who chiefly superintended religious affairs. These ministers were elected, ostensibly from among the priests most distinguished in point of birth, piety, and learning; but as the king and principal nobles were the electors, the preference was doubtless given to those who were most devoted to their interests, or to members of the royal family.[X-6] They 433 were distinguished by a tuft of cotton, falling down upon the breast. Their robes of ceremony varied with the nature of the god whose festival they celebrated. In Tezcuco and Tlacopan, the pontifical dignity was always conferred upon the second son of the king. The Totonacs elected their pontiff from among the six chief priests, who seem to have risen from the ranks of the Centeotl monks; the ointment used at his consecration was composed partly of children's blood. High as was the high-priest's rank, he was not by any means exempt from punishment; in Ichatlan, for instance, where he was elected by his fellow-priests, if he violated his vow of celibacy he was cut in pieces, and the bloody limbs were given as a warning to his successor.[X-7]


Next in rank to the two Mexican high-priests was the Mexicatlteohuatzin, who was appointed by them, and seems to have been a kind of Vicar General. His duties were to see that the worship of the gods was properly observed throughout the kingdom, and to supervise the priesthood, monasteries, and schools. His badge of office was a bag of incense of peculiar shape. Two coadjutors assisted him in the discharge of his duties; the Huitzuahuacteohuatzin, who acted in his place when necessary, and the Tepanteohuatzin, who attended chiefly to the schools.[X-8] Conquered provinces retained 434 control over their own religious affairs.[X-9] Among other dignitaries of the church may be mentioned the Topiltzin, who held the hereditary office of sacrificer, in which he was aided by five assistants;[X-10] the Tlalquimiloltecuhtli, keeper of relics and ornaments; the Ometochtli, composer of hymns; the Tlapixcatzin, musical director; the Epcoaquacuiltzin, master of ceremonies; the treasurer; the master of temple properties; and a number of leaders of special celebrations. Besides these, every ward, or parish, had its rector, who performed divine service in the temple, assisted by a number of inferior priests and school-children. The nobles kept private chaplains to attend to the worship of the household gods, which everyone was required to have in his dwelling.[X-11] The statement of some writers indicate that the body of priests attached to the service of each god, was to a certain extent independent, and governed by its own rules. Thus in some wards the service of Huitzilopochtli was hereditary, and held in higher estimation than any other.


The distinguishing dress of the ordinary priests was a black cotton cloth, from five to six feet square, which hung from the back of the head like a veil. Their hair, which was never cut and frequently reached to the knees, was painted black and braided with cord; during many of their long fasts it was left unwashed, and it was a rule with some of the more ascetic orders never to cleanse their heads.[X-12] Reed sandals protected their feet. They frequently dyed their bodies with a black mixture made of ocotl-root, and painted themselves with ochre and cinnabar. They bathed every night in ponds set apart for the purpose within the temple enclosure. When they went out into the mountains to sacrifice, or do penance, they anointed their bodies with a mixture called teopatli, which consisted of the ashes of poisonous insects, snakes, and worms, mixed with ocotl-soot, tobacco, ololiuhqui, and sacred water. This filthy compound was supposed to be a safeguard against snakebites, and the attack of wild beasts.[X-13]


Sacred offices were not occupied by males only; females held positions in the temples, though they were excluded from the sacrificial and higher offices. The manner in which they were dedicated to the temple school has been already described.[X-14] Like the Roman vestals, their chief duty seems to have been to tend the sacred fires, though they were also required to place the meat offerings upon the altar, and to make sacerdotal vestments. The punishment inflicted upon those who violated their vow of chastity was death. They were divided into watches, and during the performance of 436 their duties were required to keep at a proper distance from the male assistants, at whom they did not even dare to glance.[X-15]

Of the several religious orders the most renowned for its sanctity was the Tlamaxcacayotl, which was consecrated to the service of Quetzalcoatl. The superior of this order, who was named after the god, never deigned to issue from his seclusion except to confer with the king. Its members, called tlamacaxqui, led a very ascetic life, living on coarse fare, dressing in simple black robes,[X-16] and performing all manner of hard work. They bathed at midnight, and kept watch until an hour or two before dawn, singing hymns to Quetzalcoatl; on occasions some of them would retire into the desert to lead a life of prayer and penance in solitude. Children dedicated to this order were distinguished by a collar called yanuati, which they wore till their fourth year, the earliest age at which they were admitted as novices. The females who joined these orders were not necessarily virgins, for it seems that married women were admitted.[X-17]

The order of Telpochtiliztli, 'congregation of young men,' was composed of youths who lived with their parents, but met at sunset in a house set apart for them, to dance and chant hymns in honor of their patron god, Tezcatlipoca. Females also attended these meetings, and, according to report, strict decorum was maintained, at least while the services lasted.[X-18]


Acosta makes mention of certain ascetics who dedicated themselves for a year to the most austere life; 437 they assisted the priests at the hours of incensing, and drew much blood from their bodies in sacrifice. They dressed in white robes and lived by begging.[X-19] Camargo refers to a similar class of penitents in Tlascala, who called themselves tlamaceuhque, and sought to obtain divine favor by passing from temple to temple at night, carrying pans of fire upon their heads; this they kept up for a year or two, during which time they led a very strict life.[X-20] The Totonacs had a very strict sect, limited in number, devoted to Centeotl, to which none were admitted but widowers of irreproachable character, who had passed the age of sixty. It was they who made the historical and other paintings from which the high-priest drew his discourses. They were much respected by the people, and were applied to by all classes for advice, which they gave gravely, squatted upon their haunches and with lowered eyes. They dressed in skins, and ate no meat.[X-21]

The children, who were all required, says Las Casas, to attend school between the ages of six and nine, rendered valuable assistance to the priests by performing the minor duties about the temple. Those of the lower school performed much of the outside labor, such as carrying wood and drawing water, while the sons of the nobility were assigned higher tasks in the interior of the building.[X-22]

The daily routine of temple duties was performed by bodies of priests, who relieved each other at intervals of a few hours or days. The service, which chiefly consisted of hymn-chanting and incense-burning, was performed four times each day, at dawn, noon, sunset, and midnight. At the midnight service the priests drew blood from their bodies and bathed themselves. The sun received offerings of quails four times during 438 the day, and five times during the night.[X-23] The priests of Quetzalcoatl sounded the hours of these watches with shell-trumpets and drums. Thrice every morning the Totonac pontiff wafted incense toward the sun; after which the elder priests, who followed him in a file, according to rank, waved their censers three times before the principal idols, and once before the others; finally, incense was burned in honor of the pontiff himself. The copal that remained was distributed in heaps upon the various altars. Later in the day, the high-priest delivered a lecture before the priests and nobles.[X-24] Their prayers were standard compositions, learned by rote at school;[X-25] while reciting them, they assumed a squatting posture,[X-26] usually with the face toward the east; on occasions of great solemnity they prostrated themselves. A test was sometimes applied to ascertain whether the deity was disposed to respond to the prayers of the nation, when offered for a particular purpose. This was done by sprinkling snuff upon the altar, and if, shortly afterwards, the foot-print of an animal, particularly that of an eagle, was found impressed in the snuff, it was regarded as a mark of divine favor, and great was the shouting when the priest announced the augury.[X-27]

Many rites and ceremonies were found to exist 439 among the civilized nations of America that were very similar to certain others observed by Jews and Christians in the old world. The innumerable speculators on the origin of the aboriginal inhabitants of the new world, or at least on the origin of their civilization, have not neglected to bring forward these coincidences—there is no good reason to suppose them anything else—in support of their various theories.


The cleansing virtue of water would naturally suggest its adaptability to the purification of spiritual stains; the priests and ascetics, plunging at midnight, with their self-inflicted wounds unclosed, into the icy pool within the temple inclosure, had this end in view; there is therefore no cause to wonder that baptism developed into an established rite. The fact that infants were baptized immediately after birth, proves that these people believed, with the Christians and Jews, that sin is inherited; but this, to my thinking at least, does not necessarily show that any communication or connection of any kind ever took place or existed between the inhabitants of the old world and those of the new. They saw that life was not all happiness; they saw that a man's suffering begins at his birth; they were peculiarly apt to regard every misfortune as a direct visitation of the offended gods, whose anger they continually deprecated by prayer and sacrifice; how, then, could they help but believe in the inherency of sin—in the visiting of the sins of the fathers upon the children—while the suffering entailed upon irresponsible infancy was continually before them?

The rite of circumcision has been the main-stay of the numerous theorists who have attempted to prove that the native Americans are descended from the Jews; but with the same evidence they may be proved to be descended from the Caffirs, the South Sea Islanders, the Ethiopians, the Egyptians, or from any Mohammedan people, who all either have practiced, or do now practice circumcision.[X-28] Brinton thinks that the rite was 440 probably a symbolic renunciation of the lusts of the flesh;[X-29] but, as it would be difficult to find a more licentious race than the American, this supposition is unsatisfactory. After all, why need we grope among the recesses of an obscure cult for the meaning and origin of a custom which may have had no religious ideas connected with it? We know that several of the nations of the old world practiced circumcision merely for purposes of cleanliness and convenience, why not also the Americans?

A rite, analogous in some aspects to the Christian communion, was observed on certain occasions. Thus, in the fifteenth month, a dough statue of Huitzilopochtli was broken up and distributed among the men; this ceremony was called teoqualo, meaning 'the god is eaten.' At other times, sacred cakes of amaranth-seeds and honey, were stuck upon maguey-thorns and distributed. Mendieta states that tobacco was eaten in honor of Cihuacoatl. The Totonacs made a dough of first-fruits from the temple garden, ulli, and the blood of three infants sacrificed at a certain festival; of this the men above twenty-five years of age, and the women above sixteen, partook every six months; as the dough became stale, it was moistened with the heart's blood of ordinary victims.[X-30] The rite of confession has been already described.[X-31]


Fasting was observed as an atonement for sin, as well as a preparation for solemn festivals. An ordinary fast consisted in abstaining from meat for a period of from one to ten days, and taking but one meal a day, at noon; at no other hour might so much as a drop of water be touched. In the 'divine year' a fast of eighty days was observed. Some of the fasts held by the priests lasted one hundred and sixty days, and, owing to the insufficient food allowed and terrible mutilations 441 practiced, these long feasts not unfrequently resulted fatally to the devotees. The high-priest sometimes set a shining example to his subordinates by going into the mountains and there passing several months, in perfect solitude, praying, burning incense, drawing blood from his body, and supporting life upon uncooked maize.[X-32]

In Teotihuacan, four priests undertook a four years' penance, which, if strictly observed, entitled them to be regarded as saints forever after. A thin mantle and a breech-clout were all the dress allowed them, no matter what the weather might be; the bare ground was their only bed, a stone their softest pillow; their noonday and only meal was a two-ounce cake, and a small bowl of porridge made of meal and honey, except on the first of each month, when they were allowed to take part in the general banquets. Two of them watched every alternate night, drawing blood and praying. Every twentieth day they passed twenty sticks through the upper part of the ear; and these, Gomara solemnly assures us, were allowed to accumulate from month to month, so that at the end of the four years, the ear held four thousand three hundred and twenty sticks, which were burned in honor of the gods at the expiration of the time of penance.[X-33]

Blood-drawing was the favorite and most common mode of expiating sin and showing devotion. Chaves says that the people of Meztitlan drew blood every five days, staining pieces of paper with it, and offering them to the god.[X-34] The instruments used in ordinary scarification were maguey-thorns, which were offered to the idol, and afterwards burned, but for more severe discipline 442 iztli knives were used, and cords or sticks were passed through the tongue, ears, or genitals.


The offering most acceptable to the Nahua divinities was human life, and without this no festival of any importance was complete. The origin of the rite of human sacrifice, as connected with sun-worship at least, dates back to the earliest times. It is mentioned in the story of the first appearance of the sun to the Mexicans, which relates how that luminary refused to proceed upon its daily circuit until appeased by the sacrifice of certain heroes who had offended it.[X-35] Some affirm that human sacrifice was first introduced by Tezcatlipoca; others again say that it was practiced before Quetzalcoatl's time, which is likely enough, if, as we are told, that prophet not only preached against it as an abomination, but shut his ears with both hands when it was even mentioned. Written, or painted, records show its existence in 1091, though some native writers assert that it was not practiced until after this date. The nations that encompass the Aztecs ascribe the introduction of human sacrifice to the latter people; a statement accepted by most of the early historians, who relate that the first human victims were four Xochimilcos, with whose blood the newly erected altar of Huitzilopochtli was consecrated.[X-36]

The number of human victims sacrificed annually in Mexico is not exactly known. Las Casas, the champion of the natives, places it at an insignificantly low figure, while Zumárraga states that twenty thousand were sacrificed 443 in the capital alone every year. That the number was immense we can readily believe, when we read in Torquemada, Ixtlilxochitl, Boturini, and Acosta, that from seventy to eighty thousand human beings were slaughtered at the inauguration of the temple of Huitzilopochtli, and a proportionately large number at the other celebrations of the kind.[X-37]

The victims were mostly captives of war, and for the sole purpose of obtaining these wars were often made; a large proportion of the sacrificed, however, were of slaves and children, either bought or presented for the purpose, and condemned criminals. Moreover, instances are not wanting of devout people offering themselves voluntarily for the good of the people and the honor of the god.[X-38] The greater part of the victims died under the knife, in the manner so often described;[X-39] some, however, were, as we have seen in the preceding volume, burned alive; children were often buried, or immured alive, or drowned; in some cases criminals were crushed between stones. The Tlascaltecs frequently bound the doomed one to a pole and made his body a target for their spears and arrows.

It is difficult to determine what religious ideas were connected with the almost universal practice of anthropophagy. We have seen that several of the savage tribes ate portions of slain heroes, thinking thereby to inherit a portion of the dead man's good qualities; the same reason might be assigned for the cannibalism of the Aztecs, were it not for the fact that they ate the flesh of sacrificed slaves and children as well as that of 444 warriors and notable persons. Whatever may have been the original significance of the rite, it is most probable that finally the body, the essence of which served to regale the god, was regarded merely as the remains of a divine feast, and, therefore, as sacred food. It is quite possible, however, that religious anthropophagy gradually degenerated into an unnatural appetite for human flesh and nothing more.

I here close the review of the Aztec gods. Like most of its branches, this great centre of North American mythology rests on natural phenomena and anthropomorphic creations, with an occasional euhemeristic development or apotheosis, but is attended by a worship so sanguinary and monstrous that it stands out an isolated spectacle of the extreme to which fanatical zeal and blind superstition can go. A glance at the Greek and Roman mythology is sufficient to show how much purer was the Nahua conception of divine character. The Nahua gods did not, like those of Greece, play with vice, but rather abhorred it. Tezcatlipoca is the only deity that can be fairly compared with the fitful Zeus of Homer—now moved with extreme passion, now governed by a noble impulse, now swayed by brutal lust, now drawn on by a vein of humor. But the polished Greek, poetic, refined, full of ideas, exulting in his strong, beautiful, immoral gods, and making his art immortal by his sublime representations of them, presents a picture very different from the Aztec, phlegmatic, bloody-minded, ferocious, broken in body and in spirit by the excesses of his worship, overshadowed by countless terrors of the imagination, quaking continually before gods who feast on his flesh and blood. Nevertheless there was one bright spot, set afar off on the horizon, upon which the Aztec might look and hope. Like the Brahmans, the Buddhists, and the Jews, he looked forward to a new era under a great leader, even Quetzalcoatl, who had promised to return from the glowing east, bringing with him all the prosperity, peace, and 445 happiness of his former reign. The Totonacs, also, knew of one in heaven who pleaded unceasingly for them with the great god, and who was ultimately to bring about a gentler era.


Worship in Michoacan, though on a smaller scale, was very similar to that in Mexico. The misty form of a Supreme Being that hovers through the latter, here assumes a more distinct outline, however. A First Cause, a Creator of All, a Ruler of the World, who bestows existence, and regulates the seasons, is recognized in the god Tucapacha; an invisible being whose abode is in the heaven above, an inconceivable being whom no image can represent, a merciful being to whom the people may hopefully pray.[X-40] But the very beauty and simplicity of the conception of this god seem to have operated against the popularity of his worship. The people needed a less shadowy personification of their ideas, and this they found in Curicaneri, originally the patron divinity of the Chichimec rulers of the country, and by them exalted over Xaratanga, the former head god of the Tarascos. Brasseur de Bourbourg thinks Curicaneri to be identical with the sun, and gives as his reason that the Chichimecs presented their offerings first to that luminary and then to the inferior deities. There is another point that seems to favor this view. The insignia of Curicaneri and Xaratanga were carried by the priests in the van of the army to inspire courage and confidence of victory. Before setting out on the march a fire was lighted before the idol, and as the incense rose to heaven, the priest addressed the god of fire, imploring him to accept the offering and favor the expedition.[X-41] The image of Curicaneri was profusely adorned with jewels, each one of which represented a human sacrifice made in honor of the god.


The goddess Xaratanga, though second in rank, seems to have occupied the first place in the affections of the Tarascos, in spite of the myth which associates her name with the downfall of the native dynasty, saying that she transformed their princes into snakes, because they appeared drunk at her festivals, and thus afforded the Chichimecs an opportunity to seize the sceptre. The priests did their utmost, besides, to maintain her prestige, and they were successful, as we have seen from the position of the goddess by the side of Curicaneri, in the van of the army.

Among the inferior gods were Manovapa, son of Xaratanga, and Taras, from whom, says Sahagun, the Tarascos took their name, and who corresponded to the Mexican Mixcoatl. The Matlaltzincas worshiped Coltzin, suffocating before his image the few human beings offered to him. They reverenced very highly, also, a great reformer, Surites, a high-priest, who preached morality, and, inspired by a prophetic spirit, is said to have prepared the people for a better faith, which was to come from the direction of the rising sun. The festivals of the Peranscuaro, which corresponded to our Christmas, and the Zitacuarencuaro, or 'resurrection,' were instituted by Surites. These ideas, however, bear traces of having been 'improved' by the padres.

The priests of Michoacan exercised even a greater influence over the people than those of Mexico. In order to retain this power they appealed to the religious side of the people's character by thundering sermons and solemn rites, and to their affections by practicing charity at every opportunity. The king himself, when he paid his annual visit to the high-priest to inaugurate the offering of first-fruits, set an example of humility by kneeling before the pontiff and reverently kissing his hand. The priests of Michoacan formed a distinct class, composed of three orders, at the head of which stood the high priest of Curicaneri.[X-42] Those who served the goddess 447 Xaratanga were called watarecha, and were distinguished by their shaven crowns, long black hair, and tunics bordered with red fringe.[X-43] Marriage was one of their privileges.

The temple-service of Michoacan was much the same as in Mexico. Human sacrifices, which seem to have been introduced at a late period, were probably very numerous, since hundreds of human victims were immolated at the funeral of a monarch. The hearts of the sacrificed were eaten by the priests, says Beaumont, and this is not unlikely since the Otomí population of Michoacan sold flesh in the public market. During seasons of drought the Otomís sought to propitiate the rain gods by sacrificing a virgin on the top of a hill.[X-44]


In Jalisco, several forms of worship appear, each with its special divinities. These were mostly genii of natural features. Thus, the towns about Chapala paid divine honors to the spirit of the lake, who was represented by a misshapen image with a miniature lake before it. The people of other places had idols mounted on rocks, or represented in the act of fighting with a wild animal or monster. In Zentipac and Acaponeta the stars were honored with offerings of the choicest fruit and flowers. Equally innocent were the offerings brought to Piltzinteolli, the 'child god,' whose youthful form was reared in several places. An instance of apotheosis occurred in Nayarit, where the skeleton of a king, enthroned in a cave, received divine honors.

Among the temples consecrated to the various idols, may be mentioned one in Jalisco, which was a square pyramid, decorated with breast-work and turrets, to 448 which access was had by a staircase sixty feet in height. At each of the four corners was a hearth so arranged that the smoke from the sacred fire spread in a dense cloud over the temple. Another, at Teul, consisted of a stone building, five fathoms in length, by three in breadth, and gradually widening towards the top. Two entrances, one at the north corner, the other at the south, each with five steps, gave admission to the interior; close by were several piles, formed of the bones of the sacrificed.

The festivals which took place seem to have been disgraced not only by excesses of the most infamous character, but by the most horrible cruelties, if we are to believe Oviedo, who writes of furnaces filled with charred human remains. These sacrifices, however, if sacrifices they were, which were common in the north-eastern parts, where intercourse with Mexico had produced many changes, do not appear as we advance southward. Not only do they entirely vanish, but the chroniclers state that in Colima, which was reputed to have been at one time governed by a very wise prince, no outward worship of any kind could be found; moreover, they hint at an atheism having existed there, restricted only by moral precepts. But the reality of an oasis of this character, in the midst of the most degraded superstitions and the wildest fanaticism, is at the least, doubtful, and the work of the Fathers seems to be once more apparent.[X-45]


The worship of Oajaca bore even a stronger resemblance to that of Mexico than did that of Michoacan, and the assertion of some modern writers that both nations have a common origin seems fully borne out by the records of the old chroniclers. The array of gods was, if possible, greater, for almost every feature of the grand, wild scenery, every want, every virtue, even every vice, 449 says Burgoa, had one or more patron deities, to whom offerings were made on the household altars. This was especially the case in the upper district of Mizteca and Zapoteca, where the rugged, cloud-capped peaks, dense forests, boiling cataracts, and stealthy streams, all tended to fill the crude mind of the native with a superstitious awe that must have vent. Through all this may be discerned the vague shape of a Supreme Being, bearing many titles, such as Piyetao Piyexoo, 'one without being,' Pitao Cozaana, 'creator of beings,' Wichaana, 'creator of men and fishes,' Coquiza-Chibataya Cozaanatao, 'the sustainer and governor of all,' and a multitude of other titles, which merely serve to show how indefinite was the position this Invisible One occupied in the minds of a people unable to rise to a definite conception of his eminence, and groveling before the hideous gnomes bred of their own imagination.[X-46]

When the disciples of Quetzalcoatl, the Toltec god and lawgiver, went forth at the command of their master to preach his doctrines, some are said to have wended their way to Oajaca, where they founded several centres of worship,[X-47] and among them Achiuhtla, the headquarters of the Miztec religion, situated in the most rugged part of the mountains. Here, in a cave the interior of which was filled with idols, set up in niches upon stones dyed with human blood and smoke of incense, was a large transparent chalchiuite,[X-48] entwined by a snake whose head pointed toward a little bird perched on the apex. This relic, worshiped since time immemorial under the name of the 'heart of the people,' has all the chief attributes of Quetzalcoatl; the stone, the emblem of the air god, the snake and the bird; yet how mutilated 450 the original myth, how much of its beautiful significance gone! Burgoa invests the relic with another attribute in making it the supporter of the earth, another Atlas in fact, whose movements produce earthquakes. This also accords with the character of Quetzalcoatl, who, under the name of Huemac, was supposed to produce earthquakes. The Zapotecs, besides, prayed to it for victory and wealth, and Quetzalcoatl as the 'peace god,' could doubtless influence the former, while the latter gift was always in his power.[X-49] In several other places were idols with the same name, as at Yangüistlan, Chalcatongo, and Coatlan, where the temples were caves, a fact worthy of note when we consider that Quetzalcoatl is stated by the myth to have erected temples to Mictlantecutli, the Mexican Pluto.[X-50]


The few authors, however, who have referred to this relic, nearly all hold it to represent Votan; the old writers doubtless because the name signifies 'heart'[X-51] in the Tzendal dialect of Chiapas, where he was the most prominent deity, the modern, because its attributes accord with those of this god. But Votan has so much in common with Quetzalcoatl that some writers are inclined to consider them identical, or at least related. Müller, however, declares him to be an original Maya snake-god, one of the thirteen chief snakes, to whom the bird attribute was given at a late period, borrowed, perhaps, from Quetzalcoatl. He is gradually anthropomorphized into one of the many leaders whose names have been given to the days of the month, Votan taking the third of the four names that designated days as well as years. Yet Professor Müller concedes that the god was 451 brought from Cholula, and that certain special attributes of Quetzalcoatl may be recognized in the figures on the Palenque ruins, which probably refer to Votan; and further, that a phase of the myth seems to point to him as the grandson of Quetzalcoatl.[X-52] Brasseur de Bourbourg, while accepting his identity with the 'heart of the people,' considers that the double aspect of the tradition allows us to suppose that there were several Votans, or that this name was accorded to deserving men who came after him. At times he seems to be a mythic creation, the mediator between man and God, the representation of wisdom and power; at times a prince and legislator who introduced a higher culture among his people. The analogy presented by traditions between Votan, Gucumatz, Cukulcan, and Quetzalcoatl, would lead us to believe that one individual united in his person all these appellations. Nevertheless, a comparison of the different traditions admits of two, Votan and Quetzalcoatl, the other names having the same signification as the latter.

It is certain, however, that from them, whether heroes, priests, rulers, or warriors, Central America received the culture which their successors brought to such perfection. The knowledge of one supreme being appears to have been among the first dogmas instilled into the minds of their people; but in the tradition presented to us, the hero's name is often confounded with that of the divinities.[X-53] Like Quetzalcoatl, Votan was the first historian of his people, and wrote a book on the origin of the race, in which he declares himself a snake, a descendant of Imos, of the line of Chan, of the race of Chivim.[X-54] 452 One of his titles was 'lord of the hollow tree,' the tepahuaste, or teponaztli.[X-55]

From the confused tradition of the Tzendals, as rendered by Nuñez de la Vega and Ordoñez y Aguiar, it seems that Votan, proceeded by divine command to America and there portioned out the land.[X-56] He accordingly departed from Valum Chivim, passed by the 'dwelling of the thirteen snakes,' and arrived in Valum Votan,[X-57] where he took with him several of his family to form the nucleus of the settlement. With them he passed through the island-strewn Laguna de Terminos, ascended the Usumacinta, and here, on one of its tributaries founded Nachan,[X-58] or Palenque, the future metropolis of a mighty kingdom, and one of the reputed cradles of American civilization. The Tzendal inhabitants bestowed upon the strange-looking new-comers the name Tzequiles, 'men with petticoats,' on account of their long 453 robes, but soon exchanged ideas and customs with them, submitted to their rule, and gave them their daughters in marriage. This event is laid a thousand years before Christ.[X-59]


Ordoñez proceeds to say that Votan, after the establishment of his government, made four or more visits to his former home. On his first voyage he came to a great city, wherein a magnificent temple was in course of erection; this city Ordoñez supposed to be Jerusalem; he next visited an edifice which had been originally intended to reach heaven, an object defeated by a confusion of tongues; finally he was allowed to penetrate by a subterranean passage to the root of heaven.[X-60] On returning to Palenque, Votan found that several more of his nations had arrived; these he recognized as snakes, and showed them many favors, in return for which his supremacy was made secure, and he was at last apotheosized.[X-61] Among the monuments left by the hero was a temple on the Huehuetan River, called 'house of darkness,' from its subterranean chambers, where the records of the nation were deposited under the charge of a fixed number of old men, termed tlapianes, or guardians, and an order of priestesses, whose superior was likewise the head of the 454 male members. Here were also kept a number of tapirs, a sacred animal among the people.[X-62]

The claims of Votan to be considered as the 'heart of the people,' are supported, according to the above accounts, chiefly by his name, which means 'heart,' and by the fact that a chalchiuite, of which stone the relic was made, was placed by the Mexicans and other peoples between the lips of deceased. The other attributes accord more with the character of Quetzalcoatl, as we have seen, and the tradition is very similar; its confusion goes to show that it is a mutilated version of the Toltec myth. If we accept Votan as a grandson of Quetzalcoatl we may also suppose that he was one of the disciples sent out by the prophet to spread his doctrines, and that his own name has been substituted for that of his master. This view is favored by the fact that Quetzalcoatl is identified with the snake-heroes of Yucatan and Guatemala, countries that lie beside and beyond Chiapas. Then, again, we find that Votan's worship was known in Cholula, and that he landed in the very region where the former hero disappeared. However doubtful the preceding tradition may be, there is one among the Oajacans, which to me has all the appearance of a mutilated version of the myth of Quetzalcoatl, deformed still more by the orthodox Fathers. In very remote times, about the era of the apostles, according to the padres, an old white man, with long hair and beard, appeared suddenly at Huatulco, coming from the south-west by sea, and preached to the natives in their own tongue, but of things beyond their understanding. He lived a strict life, passing the greater part of the night in a kneeling posture, and eating but little. He disappeared shortly after as mysteriously as he had come, but left as a memento of his visit 455 a cross, which he planted with his own hand, and admonished the people to preserve it sacredly, for one day they would be taught its significance.[X-63] Some authors describe a personage of the same appearance and character, coming from the same quarter, and appearing in the country shortly after, but it is doubtless the same old man, who, on leaving Huatulco, may have turned his steps to the interior. His voice is next heard in Mictlan,[X-64] inveighing in gentle but firm accents against the pleasures of this world, and enjoining repentance and expiation. His life was in strict accordance with his doctrines, and never, except at confession, did he approach a woman. But the lot of Wixepecocha, as the Zapotecs call him, was that of most reformers. Persecuted by those whose vice and superstitions he attacked, he was driven from one province to another, and at last took refuge on Mount Cempoaltepec. Even here his pursuers followed him, climbing its craggy sides to lay hands upon the prophet. Just as they reached the summit, he vanished like a shadow, leaving only the print of his feet upon the rock.[X-65]


Among the points in this myth that correspond to the character of Quetzalcoatl may be noticed the appearance of the prophet from the south-west, which agrees with the direction of the moisture-bearing winds, the chief attribute of the Toltec god; the cross, which indicates not only the four winds, but the rain of which they are the bearers, attributes recognized by the Mexicans who decorated the mantle of the god with crosses; the long beard, the white face, and the dress, which all accord with the Toltec Quetzalcoatl. Like him Wixepecocha taught gentle doctrines of reform, like him he was persecuted 456 and forced to wander from place to place, and at last disappeared, leaving his followers the hope of a better future. The doctrine of Wixepecocha, took root and flourished in the land he had consecrated with his toils and prayers, and, according to Brasseur de Bourbourg, Wiyatao, the pontiff of Zapotecapan, was vicar and successor of the 'prophet of Monapostiac.'[X-66]

The early padres saw in this personage none other than St. Thomas, the apostle, who had walked across to plant the cross and prepare the way for christianity. There is, or was until recently, a statue of him in the village of Magdalena, four leagues from Tehuantepec, which represented him with long white beard, and muffled up in a long robe with a hood, secured by a cord round the waist; he was seated in a reflective attitude, listening to the confession of a woman kneeling by his side.[X-67] A similar statue is mentioned by Burgoa, as having existed in a cave not far from Xustlahuaca, in Mistecapan,[X-68] where it stood near the entrance, on a marble monolith eleven feet in height. The approach to the cavern appears to have formerly led through a beautiful garden; within were masses of stalactite of the most fantastic and varied forms, many of which the people had fashioned into images of different kinds, and of the most artistic execution, says the padre, whose fancy was doubtless aided by the twilight within. Here lay the embalmed bodies of kings and pontiffs, surrounded by treasures, for this was a supposed entrance to the flowered fields of heaven. The temple cave at Mictlan bore a similar reputation, and served as a sepulchre for the Zapotec grandees. It consisted of four chief divisions, the largest forming the sanctuary proper, the second and 457 third the tombs of kings and pontiffs, and the fourth a vestibule to an immense labyrinthine grotto, in which brave warriors were occasionally buried. Into this, the very ante-room of paradise, frenzied devotees would at times enter, and seek in its dark mazes for the abode of the gods; none ever returned from this dread quest, for the entrance was closed with a great stone, and doubtless many a poor wretch as he touched in his last feeble gropings the bones of those who had preceded him, felt the light come in upon his soul in spite of the thick darkness, and knew he had been deluded; but the mighty stone at the mouth of the cave told no secrets.[X-69]


The prominence of the Plutonic element in the worship of Oajaca is shown by the fact that Pezelao, whose character corresponded to that of the Mexican Mictlantecutli, received high honors. The other conspicuous gods, as enumerated by Brasseur de Bourbourg, were Pitao-Cocobi, god of abundance, or of the harvest; Cociyo, the rain god; Cozaana, patron of hunters and fishermen; and Pitao-Xoo, god of earthquakes. Other deities controlled riches, misfortunes, auguries, poetic inspiration—even the hens had their patron divinity. As might be expected of a people who regarded even living kings and priests with adoration, apotheosis was common. Thus, Petela, an ancient Zapotec cacique whose name signified dog, was worshiped in the cavern of Coatlan. At one end of this subterranean temple a yawning abyss received the foaming waters of a mountain torrent, and into this slaves and captives, gaily dressed and adorned with flowers, were cast on certain occasions.[X-70]

At another place was a white stone shaped like a nine-pin, supposed to be the embodiment of Pinopiaa, a saintly princess of Zapotecapan, whose corpse had been miraculously conveyed to heaven and returned in this form for the benefit of the devout.[X-71]


In Chiapas they worshiped Costahuntox, who was represented with ram's horns on his head, and sat on a throne surrounded by thirteen grandees. In the district of Llanos, Yabalan, or Yahalan, and Canamlum were the chief gods. Even living beings held the position of deities, according to Diaz, who states that a fat old woman, dressed in richly decorated robes, whom the natives venerated as a goddess, led them against the Spanish invaders, but was killed.[X-72] Among the Mijes a green flat stone, with blood-red, lustrous rays, was held in much veneration. Although this is the only reference made by the chroniclers that may be connected with sun worship—which, by the way, could scarcely have claimed a very high position here, since the founder of the Miztec royal family is stated to have been victorious in a contest with the sun—it is worthy of note that the Zapotec word nuhu, fire, also denotes divinity, idol, everything sacred, the earth itself.[X-73] The household idols had their names, history, and worship depicted on bark, and smoked or painted hides, in order to keep them always before the people, and insure to the youth a knowledge of their god. How firmly rooted idolatry was, and how slow the work of eradicating it must have been, to the padres, notwithstanding they destroyed every idol they could lay hands on, is shown by the fact that among the Guechecoros a statue of Cortés served as an object of worship.[X-74] Nagualism is one of the ancient forms of worship which still flourish, and consists in choosing an animal as the tulelary divinity of child, whose existence will be so closely connected with it, that 459 the life of one depends on that of the other. Burgoa states that the priest selected the animal by divination; when the boy grew up he was directed to proceed to a mountain to offer sacrifice, and there the animal would appear to him. Others say that at the hour of the mother's confinement, the father and friends drew on the floor of the hut the outline of various animals, effacing each figure as soon as they began the next, and the figure that remained at the moment of delivery represented the guardian of the infant; or, that the bird or beast first seen by the watchers after the confinement was accepted as the nagual. The bestowal of the sign of the day upon the infant as its name may perhaps be considered as a species of nagualism, since the name of animals often formed these signs.[X-75]


A form of worship particularly marked in this country was the veneration accorded to trees, as may be judged from the myth which attributes the origin of the Miztec, as well as a portion at least of the Zapotec people to two trees. This cult existed also in other parts of Mexico and Central America, where cypresses and palms growing near the temples, generally in groups of three, were tended with great care, and often received offerings of incense and other gifts. They do not, however, seem to have been dedicated to any particular god, as among the Romans, where Pluto claimed the cypress, and Victory the palm. One of the most sacred of these relics is a cypress standing at Santa María de Tule, the venerable trunk of which measures ninety feet in circumference, at a height of six feet from the ground.[X-76]

One of the chief offerings of the Zapotecs was the blood of the, to them sacred, turkey; straws and feathers smeared with blood from the back of the ear, and from beneath the tongue of persons, also constituted a large portion 460 of the sacred offerings, and were presented in special grass vessels. Human sacrifices were not common with the Oajacan people, but in case of emergency, captives and slaves were generally the victims. The usual mode of offering them was to tear out the heart, but in some places, as at Coatlan, they were cast into an abyss. Herrera states that men were offered to the gods, women to goddesses, and children to inferior deities, and that their bodies were eaten, but the latter statement is doubtful.[X-77]



Maya PantheonZamnáCukulcanThe Gods of YucatanThe Symbol of the Cross in AmericaHuman Sacrifices in YucatanPriests of YucatanGuatemalan PantheonTepeu and HurakanAvilix and HacavitzThe Heroes of the Sacred BookQuiché GodsWorship of the Choles, Manches, Itzas, Lacandones, and othersTradition of ComizahualFastsPriests of GuatemalaGods, Worship, and Priests of NicaraguaWorship on the Mosquito CoastGods and Worship of the IsthmiansPhallic Worship in America.

The religion of the Mayas was fundamentally the same as that of the Nahuas, though it differed somewhat in outward forms. Most of the gods were deified heroes, brought more or less prominently to the front by their importance. Occasionally we find very distinct traces of an older sun-worship, which has succumbed to later forms, introduced, according to vague tradition, from Anáhuac. The generality of this cult is testified to by the numerous representations of sun-plates and sun-pillars found among the ruins of Central America.[XI-1]


In Yucatan, Hunab Ku, 'the only god', called also Kinehahau, 'the mouth or eyes of the sun',[XI-2] is represented as the Supreme Being, the Creator, the Invisible one, whom no image can represent.[XI-3] His spouse Ixazalvoh was honored as the inventor of weaving, and their son Zamná, or Yaxcocahmut, one of the culture-heroes of the people, is supposed to have been the inventor of the art of writing.[XI-4] The inquiries instituted by Las Casas revealed the existence of a trinity, the first person of which was Izona, the Great Father; the second was the Son of the Great Father, Bacab, born of the virgin Chibirias,[XI-5] scourged and crucified, he descended into the realms of the dead, rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; the third person of the trinity was Echuah, or Ekchuah, the Holy Ghost.[XI-6] Now, to accuse the reverend Fathers of deliberately concocting this and other statements of a similar character is to accuse them of acts of charlatanism which no religious zeal could justify. On the other hand, that this mysterious trinity, had any real existence in the original belief of the natives, is, to put it in its mildest form, exceedingly doubtful. It may be, however, that the natives, when questioned concerning their religion, endeavored to make it conform as nearly as possible to that of their conquerors, hoping by this means to gain the good will of their masters, and to lull suspicions of lurking idolatry.

Bacab, stated above to mean the Son of the Great Father, was in reality the name of four spirits who supported 463 the firmament; while Echuah, or the Holy Ghost, was the patron god of merchants and travelers.


The goddess Ixcanleox was held to be the mother of the gods, but as Cogolludo states that she had several names, she may possibly be identical with Ixazaluoh, the wife of Hunab Ku, whose name implies generation.[XI-7] The Mayas were not behind their neighbors in the number of their lesser and special divinities, so that there was scarcely an animal or imaginary creature which they did not represent by sacred images. These idols, or zemes,[XI-8] as they were called, were generally made of terra cotta, though sometimes they were of stone, gold, or wood. In the front rank of the circle of gods, known by the name of ku, were the deified kings and heroes, whom we often find credited with attributes so closely connected as to imply identity, or representation of varied phases of the same element.[XI-9] The most popular names were Zamná and Cukulcan, both culture-heroes, and considered by some to be identical; a very probable supposition when we consider that Quetzalcoatl, who is admitted to be the same as Cukulcan, had the attribute of the strong hand, as well as Zamná. The tradition relates that some time after the fall of the Quinamean Empire, Zamná appeared in Yucatan, coming from the west, and was received with great respect wherever he stayed. Besides being the inventor of the alphabet, he is said to have named all points and places in the country. Over his grave rose a city called Izamal or Itzamat Ul, which soon became one of the chief centres of pilgrimage in the peninsula, especially for the afflicted, who sincerely believed that their prayers when accompanied by suitable presents would not fail to obtain 464 a hearing. This class of devotees generally resorted to the temple where he was represented in the form of a hand, Kab Ul, or working hand, whose touch was sufficient to restore health.[XI-10]

Professor Müller thinks it very uncertain whether the creating or working hand referred to the sun, as was the case among the northern tribes, but the account given of the following idol seems to me to make this not improbable. In the same city was an image of Kinich Kakmo, 'face or eye of the sun', whom Landa represents to be the offspring of the sun, but who subsequently became identified with that luminary and received divine honors in the very temple that he had erected to his father. He is represented in the act of sacrifice, pointing the finger toward a ray from the midday sun, as if to draw a spark wherewith to kindle the sacred fire. To this idol the people resorted in times of calamity and sickness, bringing offerings to induce oracular advice.[XI-11] There are many things which seem to me to identify this personage with Zamná, although other writers hold them to be distinct. Cogolludo, for instance, implies that Zamná was the only son of the sun, or Supreme Being, while Landa and others declare Kinich Kakmo to be the son of that luminary; both are placed on or about the same level and considered as healers, and the uplifted hand of the latter reminds us strongly of the Kab Ul. Another form in which we may recognize 465 Zamná is the image of Itzamat Ul, or 'the dew of heaven', who is said to have been a great ruler, the son of god, and who cured diseases, raised the dead, and pronounced oracles. When asked his name, he replied, ytzencaan, ytzenmuyal.[XI-12]


The other culture-hero, Cukulcan, appeared in Yucatan from the west, with nineteen followers, two of whom were gods of fishes, two gods of farms, and one of thunder, all wearing full beard, long robes, and sandals, but no head-covering. This event is supposed to have occurred at the very time that Quetzalcoatl disappeared in the neighboring province of Goazacoalco, a conjecture which, in addition to the similarity of the names, character, and work of the heroes, forms the basis for their almost generally accepted identity. Cukulcan stopped at several places in Yucatan, but at last settled in Chichen Itza, where he governed for ten years, and framed laws. At the expiration of this period, he left without apparent reason to return to the country whence he had come. A grateful people erected temples at Mayapan and Chichen, to which pilgrims resorted from all quarters to worship him as a god, and to drink of the waters in which he had bathed. His worship, although pretty general throughout Yucatan at one time, was later on confined chiefly to the immediate scenes of his labors.[XI-13]


Besides Izamal and Chichen, there was a third great centre of worship in Yucatan, namely, the temple of Ahulneb, on Cozumel Island, said by some writers to have been the chief sanctuary, Chichen being second in importance. It consisted of a square tower of considerable size, within which was the gigantic terra-cotta statue of Ahulneb, dressed as a warrior, and holding an arrow in his hand. The statue was hollow and set up close against an aperture in the wall, by which the priest entered the figure to deliver the oracle; should the prediction not be fulfilled, which was scarcely likely as it was generally so worded that it might mean anything or nothing, the failure was ascribed to insufficient sacrifice or unatoned sin. So famous did this oracle become, and so great was the multitude of pilgrims continually flocking to it, that it was found necessary to construct roads leading from the chief cities of Yucatan, and even from Tabasco and Guatemala, to Polé, a town on the continent opposite the island. Before embarking, the genius of the sea was always propitiated by the sacrifice of a dog, which was slain with arrows amid music and dancing.[XI-14]


The Bacabs were four brothers who supported the four corners of the firmament; they were also regarded as air gods. Cogolludo speaks of them as Zacal Bacab, Canal Bacab, Chacal Bacab, and Ekel Bacab, but they were also known by other names. Echuah was the patron-god of merchants and of roads; to him the traveler erected every night a rude altar of six stones, three laid flat, and three set upright, upon which he burned incense while he invoked the protection of the god. It 467 was considered a religious duty by Yucatec wayfarers, when passing some prominent point on the road or spot where an image of Echuah stood, to add a stone or two to the heap already accumulated there, an act of devotion similar to that performed by the Romans in honor of Mercury. Yuncemil was Lord of Death, or, perhaps, the personification of death itself; this dread deity was propitiated with offerings of food.[XI-15] Acat was God of Life; he it was that formed the infant in the womb. At Tihoo, the present Mérida, stood the magnificent temple of Yahau Kuna in which Baklum Chaam, the Priapus of the Mayas and their most ancient god was worshiped. Chac, or Chaac, a former king of Izamal, was honored as the god of fields, and fertility, and the inventor of agriculture. Some distance south-west of this city was the temple of Hunpictok, 'commander of eight thousand lances', a title given also to the general of the army.[XI-16] Abchuy Kak was another apotheosized warrior-prince, whose statue, dressed in royal robes, was borne in the van of the army by four of the most illustrious captains, and received an ovation all along the route. Yxchebelyax is mentioned as the inventor of the art of interweaving figures in cloth, and of painting. Xibalba, 'he who disappears,' was the name of the evil spirit. Exquemelin relates that nagualism obtained on the coast. The naked child was placed on a bed of ashes in the temple, and the animal whose footprint was noticed in the ashes, was adopted as the nagual, and to it the child offered incense as it grew up.[XI-17]



One of the most remarkable emblems of Maya worship, in the estimation of the conquerors, was the cross, which has also been noticed in other parts of Central America and in Mexico,[XI-18] although less prominently than here. Among the many conjectures as to its origin it is supposed that it was received from Spaniards who were wrecked on the coast before Córdova discovered Yucatan, as, for instance, the pious Aguilar, Cortés' interpreter; but this would not account for the crosses that existed in other parts of Central America. The natives had a tradition, however, which placed the introduction of the cross a few years before the conquest. Among the many prophets who arose at that time was one who predicted the coming of a strange people from the direction of the rising sun, who would bring with them a monotheistic faith having the cross for its emblem. He admonished them to accept the new religion, and erected a cross as a token of his prophecy.[XI-19] Another tradition states that a very handsome man passed through the country and left the cross as a memento, and this many of the padres readily believed, declaring this personage to be none other than the wanderer St Thomas.[XI-20] The opinion that it was introduced by early Christians, or old-world pagans, is, however, opposed by the argument that other more practical features of their culture 469 would have left their mark at the same time. The symbol itself is so simple and suggestive of so many ideas that it seems to me most reasonable to suppose that the natives adopted it without foreign aid. At all events, as the cross was in use both as a religious emblem and an instrument of punishment long before the Christian era, it is surely unnecessary to account for its presence in America by theories invented for the occasion, or, in fact, in any way to connect it with Christianity. The most common signification attributed to the symbol is fertility or generation. A piece of wood fastened horizontally to an upright beam indicated the height of the overflow of the Nile. If the flood reached this mark, the crops flourished; should it fail to do so, famine was the result; thus, we are told, in Egypt the cross came to be worshipped as a symbol of life and generation, or feared as an image of decay and death. By other peoples and for other reasons it was closely connected with phallic rites, of which I shall speak elsewhere, or was connected with the worship of that great fertilizer and life-giver, the sun. Among the Chinese the cross signifies conception. The cross of Thor may possibly be an exception, and refer merely to his hammer or thunderbolt.[XI-21]

With the Mexicans the cross was a symbol of rain, the fertilizing element, or rather of the four winds, the bearers of rain, and as such it was one of Quetzalcoatl's emblems. Chalchiuitlicue, the sister of the rain-gods, bore in her hands a cross-shaped vessel. The cross is to be found in Mexican MSS., and appears in that of Fejérvary 470 with a bird, which, as an inhabitant of the air, may be said to accord with the character of the symbol. The Mexican name of the cross, tonacaquahuitl, 'tree of one life, or flesh,' certainly conveys the idea of fertility. It is nevertheless regarded by some writers merely as an astronomical sign.[XI-22] The first cross noticed by the Spaniards stood within the turreted court-yard of a temple on Cozumel Island; it was composed of lime and stone, and was ten spans (palmos) in height. To this cross the natives prayed for rain, and in times of drought went in procession to offer vahomche, as they called the symbol, quails and other propitiatory gifts. Another cross stood within the precincts of the Spanish cloister at Mérida, whither the pious monks had most likely brought it from Cozumel; it was about three feet high, six inches thick, and had another cross sculptured on its face.[XI-23] The sculptured cross at Palenque has the latin form; a bird is perched on its apex, and on either side stands a human figure, apparently priests, one of whom offers it a child.[XI-24]



The Yucatecs were as careful as the Mexicans to prepare for their numerous festivals by fasts marked by strict chastity and absence from salt and pepper.[XI-25] Scarification could not be omitted by the pious on these occasions, although women were not called upon to draw blood.[XI-26] Yet their gods were not by any means so blood-thirsty as the Mexican, being generally appeased by the blood of animals, and human sacrifices were called for only on extraordinary occasions. Cukulcan, like his prototype Quetzalcoatl, doubtless opposed the shedding of human blood, but after his departure the practice certainly existed, and the pit at Chichen Itza, whose waters he had consecrated with his person, was among the first places to be polluted. The victims here were generally young virgins, who were charged when they should come into the presence of the gods to entreat them for the needed blessings. Medel relates that on one occasion the victim threatened to invoke the most terrible evils upon the people, instead of blessings, if they sacrificed her against her will; the perplexed priests thought it prudent to let the girl go, and select another and more tractable sacrifice in her place. The victims who died under the knife, or were tied to a tree and shot, were usually enslaved captives, especially those of rank, but when these failed, criminals and even children were substituted. All contributed to these sacrifices, either by presenting slaves and children, or by subscribing to the purchase money. While awaiting this doom the victims were well treated, and conducted from town to town amid great rejoicings; care was taken, however, that no sinful act should detract from their purity or 472 value.[XI-27] Sometimes the body was eaten, says Landa, the feet, hands and head being given to the priests, the rest to the chiefs and others; but Cogolludo and Gomara insist that cannibalism was not practiced. The latter statement can not apply to the whole of the peninsula, however, for on a preceding page Cogolludo relates that Aguilar's shipwrecked companions were sacrificed and eaten by the natives.[XI-28]

Confession, which Cukulcan is said to have introduced, was much resorted to, the more so as death and disease were thought to be direct punishments for sin committed. Married priests were the regular confessors, but these were not always applied to for spiritual aid; the wife would often confess to her husband, or a husband to his wife, or sometimes a public avowal was made. Mental sins however, says Landa, were not confessed.[XI-29]


The priesthood of Yucatan were divided into different factions, some of which regarded Zamná and Cukulcan as their respective founders, while others remained true to more ancient leaders. According to Landa the high-priest was termed Ahkin Mai, or Ahau Can Mai, and held in great veneration, as one whose advice was followed by the kings and grandees. The revenues of the office, which passed as an inheritance to the son or nearest relative, consisted of presents from the king and of tributes collected by the priests. The ordinary priests bore the title of ahkin,[XI-30] and were divided into several 473 classes. Some of them preached, made offerings, kept records, and instructed the sons of nobles and those destined for the priesthood in the various branches of education. The chilanes who construed the oracles of the gods, and accordingly exercised great influence, held the highest place in the estimation of the people, before whom they appeared in state, borne in litters. The sorcerers and medicine men foretold fortunes and cured diseases. The chacs were four old men elected at every celebration to assist the priests, from which it would seem that the priesthood was not a very numerous body. Nacon was the title of the sacrificer, an office held for life, but little esteemed; this title was also borne by the general of the army, who assisted at certain festivals. Marriage seems to have been permitted to all, and confessors were actually required to have wives, yet there were doubtless a large number who lived in a state of celibacy, devoted to their sacred duties. Their dress varied according to their rank, the high-priest being distinguished by a mitre in addition to his peculiar robe; the most usual dress was, however, a large white cotton robe[XI-31] and a turban formed by wreathing the unwashed hair round the head, and keeping it pasted in that position with blood. Connected with the sun worship was an order of vestals, formed by princess Zuhui Kak, 'fire virgin,' the daughter of Kinich Kakmo, superioress of the vestals. The members were all volunteers, who generally enrolled themselves for a certain time, at the expiration of which they were allowed to leave and enter the married state; some, however, remained for ever in the service of the temple, and were apotheosized. Their duty was to tend the sacred fire, the emblem of the sun, and to keep strictly chaste; those who broke their vows were shot to death with arrows.[XI-32]


The chief account of Guatemalan worship is derived from the sacred book of the Quichés, the Popol Vuh, to which I have already referred in the opening pages of this volume, but the description given in it is so confused, the names and attributes of the gods so mixed, that no very reliable conclusions can be derived therefrom. This very confusion seems, however, to indicate that the imported names of Hurakan, Gucumatz, and others, were with their attributes attached to native heroes, who undergo the most varying fortunes and character, amid which now and then a glance is obtained at their original form.


The most ancient of the gods are two persons called Hun Ahpu Vuch and Hun Ahpu Utïu, or Xpiyacoc and Xmucane, Creator and Protector, Grandfather and Grandmother of the sun and moon, who are often confounded under either gender and represented with big noses, like tapirs, an animal sacred to these people. Brasseur identifies them with the Mexican Oxomoco and Cipactonal,[XI-33] Tonacatlecutli and Tonacatepetl, Ometecutli and Omecihuatl, the female also with Centeotl and Toci, and places her in the Quiché calendar as Hun Ahpu, while the male heads the list of months under the name of Imox.[XI-34] Connected 475 with them stands Tepeu, termed by the sacred book Dominator, He who Begets, and whose name means grand, majestic. Ximenez, by translating his name as buboes, or syphilis, connects him with Nanahuatzin, the Nahua hero who threw himself into the fire and rose as the sun.[XI-35] Tepeu is more generally known under the name of Gucumatz, 'feathered snake,' which is universally identified with Quetzalcoatl, the Nahua air god. In this character he is said to transform himself every seven days into four forms, snake, eagle, tiger, a mass of coagulated blood, one after the other, and every seven days he visits heaven and hell alternately. He is also held to be the introducer of culture in Guatemala, though more, as one who directs man in his search for improvement, than as a culture-hero.[XI-36] These two gods blending into one, often form a trinity with Hun Ahpu Vuch and Hun Ahpu Utïu, under the one name of Gucumatz, the Heart of Heaven. The assumption by this god of four forms may have reference to the divine quartette, and in the expression "they are enveloped in a mist of green and azure," Brasseur de Bourbourg sees a reference to the sacred bundle containing the four first men and sacrifices, transformed into gods.[XI-37]

Hurakan,[XI-38] although connected with the above quartette in the enumeration of titles of the supreme deity, keeps aloof from the lower sphere in which these move at times, and is even invoked by Gucumatz, who calls 476 him, among other names, Creator, he who begets and gives being. That he was held to be distinct, and worshiped as such by the Quichés, may be seen from the fact that they had one high-priest for Gucumatz, and another for Tohil, another name of Hurakan, who seems to have ranked a degree above the former.[XI-39] He represented the thunder and lightning, and his particular title seems to have been Heart of Heaven, under which were included the three phases of his attribute, the thunder, the lightning, and the thunderbolt, or, as stated in another place, the flash, the track of the lightning, and the thunderbolt,[XI-40] another conception of a trinity. He is also called Centre of the Earth and is represented with thunder in his hand. The bird Voc was his messenger. Müller considers him a sun god, probably because of his title 'Heart of Heaven,' which determines nothing, while others hold him to be identical with the Tlalocs, the Mexican rain gods. He is doubtless the same as Tohil, the leader of the Quiché gods, who is represented by the sign of water, but whose name signifies rumble, clash.[XI-41] In him are also found united the three symbols of Quiché trinity, as will be seen shortly, and his priests address him: "Hail, Beauty of the Day, Hurakan, Heart of Heaven and of Earth! Thou who givest glory, riches and children! Thou Tohil, Avilix, Gagavitz, Bowels of Heaven, Bowels of Earth! Thou who dost constitute the four ends of Heaven!"[XI-42] He was also god of fire, and as such gave his people fire by shaking his sandals.[XI-43] According to the version of 477 Brasseur de Bourbourg, his temple at Utatlan, where he seems to have taken the place of an ancient god, was a truncated pyramid with extremely steep steps in the façade. On its summit was a temple of great height, built of cut stone, and with a roof of precious woods; the walls within and without were covered with fine, brilliant stucco of extreme hardness. In the midst of the most splendid surroundings sat the idol, on a throne set with precious stones. His priests perpetually prayed and burnt precious incense before him, relieving each other in bands of thirteen, so that while some attended to his service, the others fasted to prepare for it. The chief men of the kingdom also attended in bands of eighteen, to invoke his blessing for them and their provinces, nine fasting, while nine offered incense.[XI-44] Tohil, and the other members of the trinity, Avilix and Hacavitz, or Gagavitz, who also represent the thunder, the lightning, and the thunderbolt, were the family gods given by the Creator to the founders of the Quiché race, and though they afterwards became stone, they could still assume other shapes in conformity with the supreme will. As family gods they had special temples in the palace of the princes, where their regular service was conducted, and three mountain peaks bearing their names, served to keep them before the people.[XI-45] The flint with which Brinton identifies Tohil may, perhaps, be the black stone brought from the far east, and venerated in the temple 478 of Kahba, 'house of sacrifice,' at Utatlan, but there is no confirmation by the chroniclers. It is, besides, stated that the worship of Kahba had greatly declined, but was again restored to something like its former glory by Gucumatz; Tohil, on the other hand, always stood high, and his high-priest belonged to a different family.[XI-46] A similar stone existed in a temple situated in a deep ravine near Iximche, in whose polished face the gods made known their will. This stone was often used to determine the fate of those accused of crime; if the judges perceived no change in the stone the prisoner went free.[XI-47]



We now come to the heroes with whose adventures the Popol Vuh is chiefly occupied. From the union of the Grandfather and Grandmother who head the list of Quiché deities, proceeded two sons, Hunhun Ahpu and Vukab Hun Ahpu.[XI-48] They incur the suspicion and hatred of the princes of Xibalba, who plan their downfall and for this purpose invite them to their court, under the pretence of playing a game of ball with them. On their arrival they are subjected to various indignities and finally condemned to lose their heads. The head of Hunhun Ahpu is placed between the withered branches of a calabash-tree; but lo! a miracle takes place; the tree immediately becomes laden with fruit and the head turns into a calabash. Henceforth the tree is held sacred and the king commands that none shall touch it. Xquiq, however, a royal princess, Eve-like, disregards the injunction, and approaches to pluck the fruit. As she stretches forth her arm, Hunhun Ahpu spits into her hand, and Xquiq finds herself pregnant. Her father soon perceives her condition, and in a fury condemns her to death, telling the executioners to bring him the heart of his daughter to prove that they have 479 done their duty. While being led to the wood Xquiq pleads earnestly for her life, and finally prevails upon her executioners to deceive her father by substituting for her heart the jelly-like resin of a tree, which she procures. Xquiq proceeds to Utatlan, to the Grandmother, Xmucane, and gives birth to the twins Hun Ahpu and Xbalanque,[XI-49] who develop rapidly; their superior talents soon make their elder brothers jealous, and they attempt their destruction, but the twins anticipate their designs and transform them into apes. These brothers Hun Batz and Hun Chouen, were the sons of Hunhun Ahpu by Xbakiyalo, and were invoked as the patrons of the fine arts[XI-50]. Brasseur de Bourbourg explains this myth by saying that Hunhun Ahpu denotes the Nahua immigrants who by their superiority gain the women of the country, and whose children carry on a successful struggle with the aboriginal race. The continuance of the contest and the triumph of the Nahuas is described in the adventures of Hun Ahpu and Xbalanque. A rat reveals to them their origin, and the place where the ball-game implements of their father are hidden. They play a match with the Xibalba princes who had challenged their father, and are successful in this as well as several herculean tasks assigned to them, but are nevertheless burned.[XI-51] The ashes, thrown into the water, are transformed into two handsome young men, and then into man-fishes, a reference, perhaps, to the arrival by sea of allies to help them. Again they make their appearance in Xibalba, this time as conjurers, and lay 480 their plans so skillfully as to overthrow the Prince Vukub Cakix with his adherents, and obtain the apotheosis of their father and his adherents as sun, moon, and stars. Vukub Cakix, who represents the sun, may be taken as the representative of an older sun-worship replaced by the newer cult introduced by Hun Ahpu.[XI-52] The burning of this hero agrees with that of the Mexican Nanahuatzin who by this act became a sun. In fact, Brasseur de Bourbourg considers the whole as a version of the Nahua myth. From another point of view Hun Ahpu, whose name, signifying 'sarbacan-blower or air-shooter,' suits the attribute of the air-god, may be considered as the morning wind dispersing the clouds and disclosing the splendors of the sun.[XI-53]

In the Quatre Lettres, the Abbé takes another view of the myth, and sees in it but a version of the convulsions that take place in the Antilles, the Seven Grottos of the Mexican myth, of which I have spoken in a preceding chapter. Hunhun Ahpu, Vukub Hun Ahpu, and the two legitimate sons of the former are volcanoes, and their plays, death, and transformation, are earthquakes, extinction, and upheavals. The burning of Hun Ahpu and Xbalanque and the scattering of their ashes upon the waters is the final catastrophe, the sinking of the Atlantides, or the seven islands; and as the brothers rise again in the form of beautiful young men, so do new islands take the place of those destroyed. 481 The confirmation of this he finds in a tradition current on the islands, which speaks of certain upheavals similar to the above.[XI-54]


The Quichés had a multitude of other gods and genii, who controlled the elements and exercised their influence upon the destinies of man. The places where they most loved to linger were dark quiet spots, in the undisturbed silence of the grotto, at the foot of some steep precipice, beneath the shade of mighty trees, especially where a spring trickled forth between its roots, and on the summit of the mountains; and here the simple native came to pour out his sorrow, and to offer his sacrifice. In some places this idea of seclusion was carried to such an extent that idols were kept hidden in subterranean chapels, that they might not be disturbed or the people become too familiar with them; another reason, however, was to prevent their being stolen by other villagers. The god of the road had sanctuaries, called mumah, all along the highways, especially at the junctions, and the traveler in passing never failed to rub his legs with a handful of grass, upon which he afterwards spat with great respect, and deposited it upon the altar together with a small stone, believing that this act of piety would give him renewed strength. He also left a small tribute from his stock of food or merchandise, which remained to decay before the idol, for none dared to remove it. This custom was also observed in Nicaragua.

The household gods were termed chahalha, 'guardian of the house,' and to them incense was burned and sacrifice made during the erection of a building; when finished, a corner in the interior was consecrated to their use. They seem to have been identified with the spirit of departed friends, for occasionally a corpse was buried beneath the house to insure their presence.[XI-55]

Among the more superstitious highlanders, the ancient worship has retained its hold upon the population to a 482 great extent, in spite of the efforts of the padres. Scherzer tells us that the people of Istlavacan reverenced gods of reason, health, sowing, and others, under the names of Noj, Ajmak, Kanil, and Ik, who were generally embodied in natural features, as mountains, or big trees. They recognized an Ormuzd and an Ahriman in Kij, the god of light and good principle, opposed by Juiup, the god of earth and evil principle, who was represented by a rock, three feet high and one foot thick, supposed to be a distorted human face. The native priests generally took the horoscope, and appointed a nagual, or guardian spirit for their children, before the padres were allowed to baptize them. They are said to have sacrificed infants, scattering their heart's blood upon a stone before the idol, and burying the body in the woods to avoid detection.[XI-56]

The Choles and Manches of Vera Paz, impressed with the wild features of their country, venerated the mountains, and on one called Escurruchan, which stood at the junction of several branches of their principal river, they kept up a perpetual fire to which passers-by added fuel, and at which sacrifices were offered. At another place the padres found a rough altar of stone and clay surrounded by a fence, where they burned torches of black wax and resinous wood, and offered fowls, and blood from their bodies, to mountains, cross-roads and pools in the river, whence came all means of existence and all increase.[XI-57]


The chief idol of the Itzas was Hubo, who was represented by a hollow metal figure with an opening between the shoulders, through which human beings were passed, charged to implore the favors of the gods. A fire was then lighted beneath the figure, and while the victims were roasting alive, their friends joined in 483 a dance around it, drowning the cries of the victims with shouts and rattling of drums. No women were allowed to join in the temple ceremonies. On the chief island in the lake of Peten, the conquerors found twenty-one stone temples with stone roofs, the chief of which formed a kind of pyramid of nine steps. In this was found a large chalchiuite, representing one of their two battle-gods, Pakoc and Hunchunchan, who gave oracles and were supposed to join the people in their dances. This familiarity evidently bred contempt, however, for it is related that when a prediction of the oracle was not fulfilled, the priest without hesitation castigated the idol. In the same temple stood a gypsum image in the form of the sun, adorned with rays, inlaid with nacar, and having a gaping mouth set with human teeth. The bones of a horse, which hung from the rafters, were adored as sacred relics. These were the remains of a wounded horse left by Cortés among the natives when on his way to Honduras. Having seen the Spaniards fire from its back, they believed that the animal produced the flash and report, and hence adored it as Tziminchac, god of thunder, and brought it flowers, flesh, and incense; but such offerings did not sustain life, and it was not long before the bones of the apotheosized charger were all that remained to his worshipers. In another place was a stone and lime imitation of this horse, seated on the floor on its haunches, which the natives adored in the same manner. This animal-worship was the more readily admitted, since their gods was supposed to assume such forms.[XI-58]

Their idols were so numerous, say the conquerors, that it took over a hundred men a whole day to destroy those existing on the chief island alone; Cogolludo affirms that the priests had charge of all the idols.[XI-59] The chief god of the Cakchiquels, Chamalcan, or Chimalacan,[XI-60] 484 had many of the attributes of Tohil, but took the form of a bat, the symbol of the royal house of Zotzil. Every seventh and thirteenth day of the month the priests placed before him blood-stained thorns, fresh white resin, bark and branches of pine, and a cat, the emblem of night, which were burned in his honor.[XI-61]

The purest form of sun-worship appears among the Lacandones, who adored the luminary without the intervention of an image, and sacrificed before it in the Mexican fashion. They had temples, however, the walls of which were decorated with hieroglyphs of the sun and moon, and with a figure in the act of praying to the sun.[XI-62] The Nahua tribe of the Pipiles also worshiped the sun, before which they prostrated themselves while offering incense and muttering invocations. Quetzalcoatl and the goddess Itzqueye were honored in the sacrifice,[XI-63] which generally consisted of a deer. The relative importance of Quetzalcoatl and Itzqueye, may be seen from the statement that the festival held in honor of the former on certain occasions lasted fifteen days, while that in honor of the latter was but of five days duration. The chief centre of worship was at Mictlan, near Huixa Lake, where now is the village of Santa Maria Mita, founded, according to tradition, by an old man, who in company with an exceedingly beautiful girl issued from the lake, both dressed in long blue robes, the man also wearing a mitre. He seated himself upon a stone on the hill, while the girl pursued her way and disappeared, and here, by his order, was built the temple of Mictlan, round which stately palaces afterwards arose; he also organized the government of the place.[XI-64]



Among the vestiges of older worship we find the natives of Cerquin in Honduras,[XI-65] venerating and praying for health to two idols, called respectively Great Father and Great Mother, which probably refer to the Grandfather and Grandmother of the Quichés. A faint idea of a Supreme Being, says Torquemada, was mixed up with the worship of the sun and stars, to which sacrifices were made. Their culture-tradition speaks of a beautiful white woman, called Comizahual, or 'flying tigress,' a reputed sorceress, as the introducer of civilization in Cerquin. She is said to have descended from heaven and to have been transported by an invisible hand to the city of Cealcoquin, where she built a palace adorned with monstrous figures of men and animals, and placed in the chief temple a stone having on each of its three sides three faces of strange and hideous aspect; by aid of this stone she conquered her enemies. She remained a virgin, yet three sons were born to her,[XI-66] among whom she divided the kingdom when she grew old. After arranging her affairs, she commanded her attendants to carry her on her bed to the highest part of the palace, whence she suddenly disappeared amid thunder and lightning, doubtless to resume her place among the gods; directly afterwards a beautiful bird was seen to fly upwards and disappear. The people erected a temple in her honor, where the priest delivered her oracles, and celebrated every year the anniversary of her disappearance with great feasts. Palacio refers to a stone, like the one with three faces, named Icelaca, in Cezori, which disclosed things past, present, and future, and before which the people sacrificed fowls, rabbits and various 486 kinds of food, and smeared the face with blood drawn from the generative organs.[XI-67]

The religious fervor of the people is shown by the fact that whatever work they undertook they commenced by sanctifying it with prayers and offerings and by incensing their implements that they might acquire more efficacy; thus, before commencing to sow, the laborers killed a turkey whose blood they scattered over the field, and performed other ceremonies.[XI-68] Simple in their mode of life, they did not importune the gods for vain luxuries: their prayers were for long life, health, children, and the necessaries of life. The first they hoped to obtain by scarifications and penances; to guard against disease, they sent the priest a bird, generally a quail, to sacrifice. When actually attacked by sickness confession was resorted to as a powerful means of propitiation, as was also the case on all important occasions to secure divine blessings and avert immediate danger. It is related by an old chronicler that when a party of travelers met a jaguar or puma, each one immediately commended himself to the gods and confessed in a loud voice the sins he had committed, imploring pardon. If the object of their terror still advanced upon them, they cried, "we have committed as many more sins, do not kill us!" and sat down, saying one to another, "one of us has done some grievous deed, and him the wild beast will kill!"[XI-69]


In their scarifications, those who drew the most blood, especially from the secret organs, were held to be the most pious. Among the Pipiles the women joined in drawing blood from the ears and tongue, and smearing 487 it on cotton, offered it to Quetzalcoatl, and then to Itzcueye.[XI-70] On extraordinary occasions, as in the event of a public calamity, the priests and chief men held a council to determine the propitiatory penance to be imposed on the people, and the kind of sacrifice to be offered; the Ahgih were called upon to trace magic circles and figures, and to cast grains, so as to determine the time when it should be made. The esteemed task of collecting the fuel for this celebration devolved upon a royal prince, who formed the boys of the district into bands to forage for the wood. The efforts of the people alone were not considered sufficient at such times to propitiate the gods; it required the sanctified presence and powerful influence of the high priest to secure remission of sins. This personage, whether king or pontiff, subjected himself to a very severe fast and penance during the twenty, or even hundred days determined upon. He removed to an arbor near the hidden sanctuary of the idols, and lived in entire solitude, subsisting on grains and fruit, touching no food prepared by fire, sacrificing the offerings brought him during the day, and drawing blood. The fast over, with its attendant separation of man and wife, bathing, painting in red, and other acts of penance, the nobles went in a body to the retreat of the idols, and having adorned them in the most splendid manner, conducted them in procession to the town, attended by the high priest and victims. In places where the idols were kept in the temples of the town, they marched with them round the city. The various rites closed with games of ball, played under the supervision of the idols, and with feasting and reveling.[XI-71]

The Popol Vuh ascribes the introduction of human sacrifices to Tohil, who exacted this offering from the first four men in return for the fire given to the Quichés, while Las Casas states that Xbalanque initiated 488 them. Their knives of sacrifice, he says, had fallen from heaven, and were accordingly adored as 'hands of God,' and set in rich handles of gold or silver, ornamented with turquoises and emeralds. The ordinary sacrifices occurred several times a month, and among the Pipiles, the number and quality were indicated by the calendar and consisted chiefly of bastard boys from six to twelve years of age. Their most solemn offerings were made at the commencement and end of the rains, and were attended by the chief men only. Juarros states that human sacrifices were not offered by the Pipiles and that the attempt of caciques to introduce them resulted in an insurrection; and, although this will scarcely apply to later times, it seems that formerly the sacrifices were very few in number. The Cakchiquels are, however, said to have abstained from the rite. Cortés relates that at Acalá the fairest girls to be found were selected by the priests and brought up, in strict chastity, to be sacrificed, at the proper time, to the goddess of the place. The Itzas, who, when captives failed, took the fattest of their young men for victims, had several modes of immolation, as roasting the victims alive in the metal image; dispatching them with the knife on the stone of sacrifice, a large one of which was found at Taysal; impalement, followed by extraction of the heart, as at Prospero; and in earlier times shooting, as was done by their Yucatec ancestors. According to Cogolludo, three persons assisted at the sacrifices, the adkulel, master of ceremonies, the adkayom, and a virgin who must be the daughter of one of these; but Villagutierre mentions that the stone of sacrifice at the chief temple at Taysal, was surrounded by twelve seats for the attendant priests; and assistants to hold the victims were certainly required. Cannibalism seems to have attended all these sacrifices, the flesh being boiled and seasoned, and the choice bits reserved for the high priests and chiefs.[XI-72]



Each of the numerous tribes of Guatemala had a distinct and separate body of priests, who by means of their oracles exercised a decided influence on the state, and some, the Quichés for instance, were spiritually governed by independent pontiffs. The high priests of Tohil and Gucumatz, Ahau Ah Tohil and Ahau Ah Gucumatz, belonged to the royal house of Cawek, and held the fourth and fifth rank respectively among the grandees of the Empire; Ahau-Avilix, the high-priest of Avilix, was a member of the Nihaïb family; Ahau Gagavitz came of the Ahau Quiché house; and the two high-priests of the Kahba temple in Utatlan were of the Zakik house, and each had a province allotted him for his support. The Tohil priests were vowed to perpetual continence and austere penitence, and were not permitted to taste meat or bread.[XI-73] The pontiff at Mictlan, in Salvador, who stood on nearly the same level as the king, bore the title of Teoti, 'divine'[XI-74] and was distinguished by a long blue robe, a diadem, and a baton like an episcopal cross; on solemn occasions he substituted a mitre of beautiful feathers for the diadem. Next to him came an ecclesiastical council composed of the Tehuamatlini, chief of the astrologers and learned priests, who acted as lieutenant of the high priest, and superintended the writings and divinations, and four other priests, teopixqui, who dressed in different colors. These ruled the rest of the priesthood, composed of keepers of properties, sacrificers, watchers, and the ordinary priests, termed teupas, who were all appointed by the high-priests from the sons of 490 the ministers. When the high-priest died, the body was embalmed and placed in a crypt beneath the palace. After fifteen days of mourning, attended by fasts, the king and Tehuamatlini drew lots for his successor from among the four teopixqui, the vacancy in their ranks being filled by a son of the pontiff, or one of their own sons. The elected purified himself for the office by blood-letting and other observances, while the people celebrated his accession with feasting and dancing. In Vera Paz the chief priest was elected according to merit from a certain family by the people, and ranked next to the king.[XI-75] As an instance of the lasting influence possessed by the priesthood over the people, Scherzer relates that at Istlávacan there were a few years ago as many as sixty priests, diviners, and medicine-men, Ahgih, Ahqixb, and Ahqahb, as they used to be termed, who exercised their offices among them. At Coban, says Villagutierre, a priest was so highly respected that the person who presumed to touch him was expected to fall dead immediately.[XI-76]


The Nahua impress, noticeable in the languages and customs of Nicaragua, is still more strongly marked in the mythology of that country.[XI-77] Instead of obliterating the older forms of worship, however, as it seems to have done in the northern part of Central America, it has here and there passed by many of the distinct beliefs held by different tribes, and blended with the chief element of a system which is traced to the Muyscas in South America. The inquiries instituted by a Spanish friar among different classes of people in the Nagrando district go to prove that Tamagostat[XI-78] and Cipattonal, 491 male and female deities who inhabit the regions of the rising sun, were the supreme beings. They created all things, stars as well as mortals, and re-created what had been destroyed by the flood, in which work they were aided by Ecalchot, surnamed Huehue, 'the aged,' and Ciagat 'the little.' In Tamagostat Müller at once recognizes Fomagata, the ancient sun-god of the Muyscas, who after his dethronement by a newer solar deity became more particularly the fire-god of that people, but retained more of his original preëminence in the countries to which his worship spread, as in Nicaragua. This view is supported by the statement that he inhabited the heavens above, or rather the region of sunrise. His consort Cipattonal, Müller, judging from their relationship, holds to be the moon; her name seems however, to be derived from a Mexican source, probably from xipalli, 'dark blue color,' and tonalli, 'sun,'[XI-79] which may be construed as referring to the sun in its blue element, or, as the fainter sun, to the moon. In either case the connection of the two is perfectly legitimate. Ecalchot, who is represented as a young man, yet is surnamed 'the aged,' seems to be the same as the Mexican Ehecatl, 'wind, air,' an element ever young, yet ever old, and Ciagat may mean 'moisture;'[XI-80] both forming with the sun the fertilizing forces that create.[XI-81] Oviedo gives the names of these deities as Tamagostat or Tamagostad, Zipattoval or Zipattonal, Calchithuehue, and Chicoziagat,[XI-82] 'father.' He further names Chiquinaut and Hecat as gods of the winds, which seems to be merely another version of Chicoziagat and Ehecatl.[XI-83]


The Guatemalan trinity reappears in the character of Omeyateite and Omeyatezigoat[XI-84]—easily recognizable in the Mexican Ometecutli and Omecihuatl—and their son Ruiatcot, the rain god,[XI-85] who sends forth thunder, lightning and rain. They are also supposed to live where the sun rises, doubtless because that seems the abode of bliss, and as fertilizing forces they are regarded as creators, but not connected with the two before mentioned. Quiateot was the most prominent, if not the supreme, member of the trinity, for the other two, as representing the thunder and lighting, the forerunners, or parents, of the showers, do not seem to have been invoked when rain was wanted, or to have participated in the sacrifices of young boys and girls offered on such occasions.[XI-86]


The Nicaraguans had other deities presiding over the elements, seasons, and necessaries of life. Thus, Macat and Toste, also written Mazat and Teotost,[XI-87] the deer and rabbit, were gods of the chase. When a deer was killed, the hunter placed the head in a basket in his house, and regarded it as the representation of the god.[XI-88] Mixcoa was the god invoked by the traders, and those about to make purchases; Cacaguat was the patron of cacao-culture; Miquetanteot, god of hades, was evidently the same as Mictlantecutli of Mexico; there were, besides, others whose names have been given to the days of the month. In Martiari the chief deity was called Tipotani. In Nicaragua proper, they adored Tomaoteot, 'the great god,' whose son Teotbilche was sent down to mankind. This looks like another Christ-myth, especially when we read of attendant angels who had wings and 493 flew about in heaven. The names of the two chief angels were Taraacazcati and Tamacaztobal.[XI-89] The Dirans revered in particular the goddess of the volcano Masaya; for her they placed food on the brink of the crater, into which they cast human beings, especially when she manifested her anger by earthquakes. On such occasions the chiefs and priests, who alone were permitted to look into the seething abyss, went to the summit and called upon the genius, who issued from the lake of fire in the form of an old woman and instructed them what to do. She is described as a naked, dark-skinned hag, with hanging breasts, scanty hair, long, sharp teeth, and sunken glaring eyeballs. The gods were invested with all the peculiarities of humanity, formed of flesh and blood, and lived on the food provided for man, besides blood and incense. They also appeared on earth dressed like the natives, but since the death of the cacique Xostoval these visits ceased.[XI-90] They were personified by idols of stone, clay, or wood, called teobat,[XI-91] whose forms their forefathers had transmitted; to them were brought offerings of food and other things, which were taken in at the door of the temple by boys serving there, for none except the consecrated were allowed to enter the sanctuary.[XI-92] To encourage the piety that prompted these offerings, the priests never failed to remind the people of the punishment inflicted on the inhabitants of the ancient capital of Nagrando, who having given themselves up to the pursuit of pleasure, and neglected the gods, were one night swallowed up, not a vestige of their city being left.[XI-93] The most acceptable offering was, of course, human blood. At certain times 494 the favorite idol was set on a spear and planted in an open place amid gorgeously adorned attendants holding banners, and flowers. Here the priests gashed their tongues, and other parts, smearing the face of the image with the blood that flowed, while the devout approached to whisper their desires into the ear of the idol. Songs, dances, and games attended these ceremonies.

Before each temple was a conic or pyramidal mound of adobe, called tescuit, or tezarit, ascended by an interior staircase.[XI-94] From its summit, upon which there was room for about ten men to stand, the priest proclaimed the nature of the approaching festival, and the kind of sacrifice to be made, and here, upon a stone block, the victims, generally captives and slaves, had their hearts cut out, after which they were decapitated, the body to be cut up and prepared for the grand banquets, while the head, if that of a captive, was hung on a tree near the temple, a particular tree being reserved for each tribe from whom the victims were captured. The most prized victims were young boys and girls, who were brought up by the chiefs for the purpose and treated with great care and respect wherever they went, for they were supposed to become deified after death and to exercise great influence over the affairs of life. Women, who were held to be unworthy to perform any duty in connection with the temples, were immolated outside the temple ground of the large sanctuaries, and even their flesh was unclean food for the high-priest, who accordingly ate only of the flesh of males.[XI-95]

Fasts and baptismal rites, so prominent hitherto, do not appear to have been practiced in Nicaragua. A kind of sacrament was administered, however, by means of maize sprinkled with blood drawn from the generative organs, and confession was a recognized institution. The 495 confessor was chosen from among the most aged and respected citizens; a calabash suspended from the neck was his badge of office. He was required to be a man of blameless life, unmarried, and not connected with the temple. Those who wished to confess went to his house, and there standing with humility before him unburdened their conscience. The confessor was forbidden to reveal any secret confided to him in his official capacity, under pain of punishment. The penance he imposed was generally some kind of labor to be performed for the benefit of the temple. Boys did not confess, but seem to have reserved the avowal of their peccadillos for maturer age.[XI-96]


The office of high-priest was held by the caciques, who each in his turn left home and occupation and removed to the chief temple, there to remain for a year attending to religious matters and praying for the people. At the expiration of the term he received the honorable distinction of having his nose perforated. Subordinate duties were performed by boys. In the inferior temples other classes entered for a year's penance, living like the chief in strict seclusion, except at festivals perhaps, seeing none but the boys who brought food from their homes. The ordinary priests were called tamagast[XI-97] and lived on the offerings made to the idols, and perhaps by their own exertions, for the temples had no fixed revenues.[XI-98] They had sorcerers, texoxes, who sometimes caused the 496 death of children by merely looking at them, and who could assume animal forms, for which reasons they were much feared by the people. To strengthen this belief they at times disguised themselves in skins of beasts.[XI-99] In Honduras the idea of a Supreme Being and Creator was connected with a worship of the sun, moon, and stars, to which the people made sacrifices.[XI-100] Near Truxillo were three chief temples[XI-101] in one of which was a chalchiuite in the form of a woman, to which the people prayed, and which answered them through the priests. Preparatory to any important undertaking, cocks, dogs, or even men, were sacrificed to secure the favor of the gods. In each of the sanctuaries presided a papa, or chief priest, to whom the education of the sons of the nobles was entrusted. These were unmarried men, distinguished by long hair reaching to the waist, though in some places they wound it round the head in plaits. Their sanctity and superior knowledge gave them great influence, and their advice was sought on all affairs of importance by the principal men, for none else dared to approach them. There were also sorcerers who could assume animal forms, in which guise they went about devouring men and spreading diseases.[XI-102]


Among the barbarians of the Mosquito Coast, we find, of course, a much lower order of belief, and one which calls to mind the ghouls and ghosts of Californian mythology. The natives acknowledged a good spirit or principle, to which they gave no definite name[XI-103] and rendered no homage, for there was no necessity, they said, to pray to one who always did good; as for thanking him for mercies received, such an idea seems never 497 to have occurred to them. In fact, they had neither temples nor idols, and the only ceremonies that partook of a religious character were the conjurations of their sukias, or sorceresses, who were constantly engaged in breaking the spells of evil spirits, with which the people's fancy, excited by grewsome stories told round the camp-fire, had filled every dark and dismal place, every stream and mountain top. These gnomes were known by the name of Wulasha,[XI-104] and were supposed to issue from their hiding-places, especially at night, to do all manner of evil; they were especially addicted to carrying off solitary wanderers; it was, therefore, say the chroniclers, almost impossible to induce a native to go out alone after dark.

Amid the underwood and fallen trees about the sources of rivers, big snakes were thought to dwell. These monsters were assisted by a resistless upward current and a strong wind which swept the unwary boatman within the reach of the red jaws and slimy folds. Patook, among other rivers, had this bad reputation, and a white man who despite the warnings of the natives started to explore its mysteries, returned in a few days with the story that his progress had been opposed by a big white cock. Leewa[XI-105] was the name of the water spirit, who sucked the bather into pools and eddies and sent forth devastating waterspouts and hurricanes. Wihwin, a spirit having the appearance of a horse,[XI-106] with tremendous teeth to devour human prey, haunted the hills during the summer, but retired with the winter to the sea, whence he originally issued. In mountain caves, guarded by fierce white boars, lived the patron deity of the warrees, the wild pigs of the country, of childish form but immense strength, who directed the movements of the droves. There were, besides, certain 498 venomous lizards, who after biting a man ran immediately to the nearest water: if the wounded person did the same and succeeded in reaching the water first, he was saved, and the lizard died; otherwise the man was doomed.[XI-107] The Sukias who were called upon to exorcise these malignant beings on every occasion of sickness, or misfortune, were generally old hags, supposed to have a compact with the evil one, in whose name they exacted half their fee before commencing their enchantments. The Caribs held regular meetings or festivals to propitiate these spirits, and the Woolwas, who seem to have had many religious forms in common with the Nicaraguans, had "dances with the gods."[XI-108]


Among the Isthmians several forms of worship appear, that in the vicinity of Panamá resembling the system prevalent in Hayti and Cuba, says Gomara.[XI-109] The heavenly bodies seem to have been very generally adored, especially in the northern part of the Isthmus, where all good things were thought to come from the sun and moon, which were considered as man and wife; but no accounts are given of temples, or forms of worship, except that prayers were addressed to the sun.[XI-110]

The most prominent personage in the Isthmian pantheon was Dabaiba, a goddess who controlled the thunder and lightning, and with their aid devastated the lands of those who displeased her. In South America, thunder and lightning were held to be the instruments used by the sun to inflict punishment upon its enemies, which makes it probable that Dabaiba was a transformed sun-goddess. Pilgrims resorted from afar to her temple at Urabá, bringing costly presents and human victims, who were first killed and then burned, that the savory odors of roasting flesh might be grateful in the delicate nostrils of the goddess. Some describe her as a native princess, 499 whose reign was marked by great wisdom and many miracles, and who was apotheosized after death. She was also honored as the mother of the Creator, the maker of the sun, the moon, and all invisible things, and the sender of blessings, who seems to have acted as mediator between the people and his mother, for their prayers for rain were addressed to him, although she is described as controlling the showers, and once when her worship was neglected she inflicted a severe drought upon the country.

When the needs of the people were very urgent, the chiefs and priests remained in the temple fasting and praying with uplifted hands; the people meanwhile observed a four-days fast, lacerating their bodies and washing their faces, which were at other times covered with paint. So strict was this fast that no meat or drink was to be touched until the fourth day, and then only a soup made from maize-flour. The priests themselves were sworn to perpetual chastity and abstinence, and those who went astray in these matters were burned or stoned to death. Their temples were encompassed with walls and kept scrupulously clean; golden trumpets, and bells with bone clappers summoned the people to worship.[XI-111]

In the province of Pocorosa the existence of a rain-god called Chipiripe was recognized, who inhabited the heaven above, whence he regulated celestial movements; with him lived a beautiful woman with one child. Nothing else was known respecting this divine family. This ignorance of the deity was further manifested by the absence of any form of worship; the moral laws were well defined, however, so that adultery and even lying were regarded as sinful.[XI-112] Las Casas states that Chicune, 'the beginning of all,' who lived in heaven, was the one being to whom the people of Darien addressed their invocations and sacrifices, though a 500 certain sect, or tribe, among them worshiped the water. In another chapter he declares that the Isthmians had little or no religion, for they had no temples and few or no gods or idols.[XI-113] According to Peter Martyr, the embalmed and bejeweled bodies of ancestors were worshiped in Comagre, and in Veragua gold was invested with divine qualities, so that the gathering of it was attended with fasting and penance.[XI-114] Tuira, whom the Spanish writers declared to have been the devil himself, was a widely known being who communed with his servants, tequina, 'masters,'[XI-115] in roofless huts kept for this purpose. Here the tequinas entered at night, and spoke in different voices, to induce the belief that the spirits were actually answering their questions; the result of the interview was communicated to their patrons. At times the evil one appeared in the guise of a handsome boy without hands[XI-116] and with three-toed feet, and accompanied the sorcerers upon their expeditions to work mischief, and supplied them with a protecting ointment. Among the evil deeds imputed to these sorcerers was that of sucking the navel of sleeping people until they died.[XI-117] These men naturally took care to foster ideas that tended to sustain or increase their influence, and circulated, besides, most extravagant stories of supernatural events and beings. Once a terrible hurricane, blowing from the east, devastated the country and brought with it two birds with maiden faces, one of which was of a size so great that it seized upon men and carried them off to its mountain nest. No tree could support it, and where it alighted upon the rocks, the imprint of its talons were left. The other bird was smaller and supposed to be the offspring of the first. 501 After trying several plans to kill these man-eating harpies, they hit upon the device of fixing a large beam in the ground, near the place where they usually alighted, leaving only one end exposed, on which was carved the image of a man. With the dawn of day the larger bird came swooping down upon the decoy and imbedded its claws so firmly in the beam that it could not withdraw them, and thus the people were enabled to kill it.[XI-118]

The knowledge that the human mind, no matter how low its condition, can be capable of such puerile conceptions, must bring with it a sense of humiliation to the thinking man; and well were it for him could he comfort himself with the belief that such debasing superstitions were at least confined to humanity in its first and lowest stages; but this he cannot do. It is true that the belief of the civilized Aztec was far higher and nobler than that of the uncivilized Carib, but can he who has read the evidence upon which old women and young maidens were convicted of riding upon broomsticks to witches' Sabbaths, by the most learned judges of the most learned law-courts of modern Europe, deny that the coarsest superstition and the highest civilization have hitherto gone hand in hand.


Before leaving this division it will be well to say a few words concerning the existence of Phallic Worship in America.

One of the first problems of the primitive man is creation. If analogies lead him to conceive it as allied to a birth, and the joint result of some unknown male and female energy, then the symbolization of this power is liable to take the gross form of phallic worship. Thus it is that among the earliest nations of which we possess any knowledge, the life-giving and vivifying principle of nature has been always symbolized by the human organs of generation. The Lingham of India, the Phallus of Greece, the Priapus of Rome, the Baal-Peor of the Hebrew records, and the Peor-Apis of Egypt, 502 all have plainly the same significance. In most mythologies the sun, the principle of fire, the moon, and the earth, were connected with this belief; the sun and moon as the celestial emblems of the generative and productive powers of nature, fire and the earth as the terrestrial emblems. These were the Father and the Mother, and their most obvious symbols, as already stated, were the phallus and wares, or the Skuas and yoni of Hindustan.

It is unnecessary to multiply quotations respecting the basal though often veiled idea of One, underlying the polytheistic systems. The difficulty to the human mind of considering anything in another than human aspect, and our natural delight in analogies, leads, however, in many cases to the consideration in certain aspects of this deity as a duality or joint essence of the masculine and the feminine. Take the learned Cory's summary of ancient mythology: "It recognizes, as the primary elements of all things, two independent principles, of the nature of male and female; and these, in mystic union, as the soul and body, constitute the Great Hermaphrodite Deity, The One, the universe itself, consisting still of the two separate elements of its composition, modified though combined in one individual.... If we investigate the Pantheons of the ancient nations, we shall find that each, notwithstanding the variety of names, acknowledged the same deities and the same system of Theology; and, however humble any of the deities may appear, each who has any claim to antiquity will be found ultimately, if not immediately, resolvable into one or other of the Primeval Principles, the Great God and Goddess of the Gentiles."[XI-119]



To the moral ideal of the present age, an ideal derived from acquired habit, not from nature, phallic worship will doubtless appear repulsive and indelicate in the extreme. It was, nevertheless, the most natural form of worship that the primitive man could adopt; for him the symbol had no impure meaning, and was associated with none of the disgusting excesses by means of which, as he became more sophisticated, he converted his reverence of Nature into a worship of Lust.

What could be more natural than that he should symbolize the fecundating principle, the creative power, by the immediate cause of reproduction, or as he doubtless took it, of creation, the phallus. He recognized no impurity or licentiousness in the moderate and regular gratification of any natural appetite; nor did it seem to him that the organs of one species of enjoyment were naturally to be considered as subjects of shame and concealment more than those of another. As Payne Knight remarks of the ancient nations of the old world: "In an age, therefore, when no prejudices of artificial decency existed, what more just and natural image could they find, by which to express their idea of the beneficent power of the great Creator than that organ which endowed them with the power of procreation, and made them partakers, not only of the felicity of the Deity, but of his great characteristic attribute, that of multiplying his own image, communicating his blessings, and extending them to the generations yet unborn." Nothing natural was to them offensively obscene. When the Egyptian matrons touched the phallus they did so with the pure wish of obtaining offspring. The gold lingam on the neck of the Hindoo wives was not an object of shame to them.


That the worship of the reciprocal principles of nature was recognized and practiced in America, there is in my mind no doubt. The almost universal prevalence of sun-worship, which is, as I have already intimated, closely 504 connected with phallic rites, would alone go far to prove this, but an account of certain material relics and well known customs is still more satisfactory evidence.

In Yucatan, according to Stephens, "the ornaments upon the external cornice of several large buildings actually consisted of membra conjuncta in coitu, too plainly sculptured to be misunderstood. And, if this were not sufficient testimony, more was found in the isolated and scattered representations of the membrum virile, so accurate that even the Indians recognised the object, and invited the attention of Mr Catherwood to the originals of some of his drawings as yet unpublished."

The sculptured pillars to be seen at Copan and other ruins in Central America, which are acknowledged to be connected with sun worship, are very similar to the sculptured phallus-pillars of the East.[XI-120] Mr Squier 505 is of the opinion that they may be considered as such, and the Abbé Brasseur takes the same view in making the plain cylindrical pillar found in so many places the representation of the volcano, the goddess of love, and whence it issues as the symbol of new life. On another page he terms the phallus the Crescent, the land whence the Nahuas originated, and the continent of America the body.[XI-121] Some of the pillars appear without ornament, as the picote at Uxmal, a round stone of irregular form, which stood in front of one of the ruins, but the worshipers of Priapus at Thespia and other places were content with a rude stone for an image in early times. In Mexico according to Gama, the presiding god of spring, Xopancalehuey Tlalloc, was often represented without a human body, having instead a pilaster or square column, upon a pedestal covered with various sculptured designs.[XI-122] In Pánuco images of the generative organs were kept in the temples as objects of worship, and statues representing men and women performing the sexual act in various postures stood in the temple-courts.[XI-123] Near Laguna de Terminos, on the coast of Yucatan, Grijalva found images of men committing acts of indescribable beastliness, while close by lay the bodies of victims recently sacrificed in their honor.[XI-124] The united symbols of the sexual 506 organs were publicly worshiped in Tlascala, and in the month of Quecholli a grand festival was held in honor of Xochiquetzal, Xochitecatl, and Tlazolteotl, goddesses of sensual delights, when the prostitutes and young men addicted to sodomy were allowed to solicit custom on the public streets.[XI-125] On Zapatero Island, around Lake Nicaragua, and in Costa Rica, a number of idols have been found of which the disproportionately large membrum generationis virile in erectione was the most prominent feature. Palacio relates that at Cezori, in Honduras, the natives offered blood drawn from the organs of generation and circumcised boys before an idol called Icelaca, which was simply a round stone,[XI-126] with two faces and a number of eyes, and was supposed to know all things, past, present, and future.[XI-127] The frequent occurrence of the cross, which has served in so many and such widely separated parts of the earth as the symbol of the life-giving, creative, and fertilizing principle in nature, is, perhaps, one of the most striking evidences of the former recognition of the reciprocal principles of nature by the Americans; especially when we remember that the Mexican name for the emblem, tonacaquahuitl, signifies 'tree of one life, or flesh.'[XI-128] Of two terra-cotta relics found at Ococingo, in the state of Chiapas, one would certainly attract the attention of any one who had investigated the subject of phallic worship or had seen the phallic amulets and ornaments of the old world.[XI-129] In the Museum at Mexico are two small images which w