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Title: American Hero-Myths - A Study in the Native Religions of the Western Continent
Author: Brinton, Daniel Garrison, 1837-1899
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "American Hero-Myths - A Study in the Native Religions of the Western Continent" ***











This little volume is a contribution to the comparative study of
religions. It is an endeavor to present in a critically correct light some
of the fundamental conceptions which are found in the native beliefs of
the tribes of America.

So little has heretofore been done in this field that it has yielded a
very scanty harvest for purposes of general study. It has not yet even
passed the stage where the distinction between myth and tradition has been
recognized. Nearly all historians continue to write about some of the
American hero-gods as if they had been chiefs of tribes at some
undetermined epoch, and the effort to trace the migrations and
affiliations of nations by similarities in such stories is of almost daily
occurrence. How baseless and misleading all such arguments must be, it is
one of my objects to set forth.

At the same time I have endeavored to be temperate in applying the
interpretations of mythologists. I am aware of the risk one runs in
looking at every legend as a light or storm myth. My guiding principle has
been that when the same, and that a very extraordinary, story is told by
several tribes wholly apart in language and location, then the
probabilities are enormous that it is not a legend but a myth, and must be
explained as such. It is a spontaneous production of the mind, not a
reminiscence of an historic event.

The importance of the study of myths has been abundantly shown of recent
years, and the methods of analyzing them have been established with
satisfactory clearness.

The time has long since passed, at least among thinking men, when the
religious legends of the lower races were looked upon as trivial fables,
or as the inventions of the Father of Lies. They are neither the one nor
the other. They express, in image and incident, the opinions of these
races on the mightiest topics of human thought, on the origin and destiny
of man, his motives for duty and his grounds of hope, and the source,
history and fate of all external nature. Certainly the sincere expressions
on these subjects of even humble members of the human race deserve our
most respectful heed, and it may be that we shall discover in their crude
or coarse narrations gleams of a mental light which their proud Aryan
brothers have been long in coming to, or have not yet reached.

The prejudice against all the lower faiths inspired by the claim of
Christianity to a monopoly of religious truth--a claim nowise set up by
its founder--has led to extreme injustice toward the so-called heathen
religions. Little effort has been made to distinguish between their good
and evil tendencies, or even to understand them. I do not know of a single
instance on this continent of a thorough and intelligent study of a native
religion made by a Protestant missionary.

So little real work has been done in American mythology that very diverse
opinions as to its interpretation prevail among writers. Too many of them
apply to it facile generalizations, such as "heliolatry," "animism,"
"ancestral worship," "primitive philosophizing," and think that such a
sesame will unloose all its mysteries. The result has been that while each
satisfies himself, he convinces no one else.

I have tried to avoid any such bias, and have sought to discover the
source of the myths I have selected, by close attention to two points:
first, that I should obtain the precise original form of the myth by a
rigid scrutiny of authorities; and, secondly, that I should bring to bear
upon it modern methods of mythological and linguistic analysis.

The first of these requirements has given me no small trouble. The sources
of American history not only differ vastly in merit, but many of them are
almost inaccessible. I still have by me a list of books of the first order
of importance for these studies, which I have not been able to find in any
public or private library in the United States.

I have been free in giving references for the statements in the text. The
growing custom among historians of omitting to do this must be deplored in
the interests of sound learning. It is better to risk the charge of
pedantry than to leave at fault those who wish to test an author's
accuracy or follow up the line of investigation he indicates.

On the other hand, I have exercised moderation in drawing comparisons with
Aryan, Semitic, Egyptian and other Old World mythologies. It would have
been easy to have noted apparent similarities to a much greater extent.
But I have preferred to leave this for those who write upon general
comparative mythology. Such parallelisms, to reach satisfactory results,
should be attempted only by those who have studied the Oriental religions
in their original sources, and thus are not to be deceived by superficial

The term "comparative mythology" reaches hardly far enough to cover all
that I have aimed at. The professional mythologist thinks he has completed
his task when he has traced a myth through its transformations in story
and language back to the natural phenomena of which it was the expression.
This external history is essential. But deeper than that lies the study of
the influence of the myth on the individual and national mind, on the
progress and destiny of those who believed it, in other words, its true
_religious_ import. I have endeavored, also, to take some account of this.

The usual statement is that tribes in the intellectual condition of those
I am dealing with rest their religion on a worship of external phenomena.
In contradiction to this, I advance various arguments to show that their
chief god was not identified with any objective natural process, but was
human in nature, benignant in character, loved rather than feared, and
that his worship carried with it the germs of the development of
benevolent emotions and sound ethical principles.

_Media, Pa., Oct., 1882._




Some Kind of Religion Found among all Men--Classifications of
Religions--The Purpose of Religions--Religions of Rite and of Creed--The
Myth Grows in the First of these--Intent and Meaning of the Myth.

Processes of Myth Building in America--Personification, Paronyms and
Figures--Abstract Expressions--Esoteric Teachings.

Outlines of the Fundamental American Myth--The White Culture-hero and the
Four Brothers--Interpretation of the Myth--Comparison with the Aryan
Hermes Myth--With the Aryo-Semitic Cadmus Myth--With Osirian Myths--The
Myth of the Virgin Mother--The Interpretation thus Supported.



§1. _The Algonkin Myth of Michabo._

The Myth of the Giant Rabbit--The Rabbit Creates the World--He Marries the
Muskrat--Becomes the All-Father--Derivation of Michabo--of Wajashk, the
Musk-rat--The Myth Explained--The Light-God as God of the East--The Four
Divine Brothers--Myth of the Huarochiris--The Day-Makers--Michabo's
Contests with His Father and Brother--Explanation of These--The Symbolic
Flint Stone--Michabo Destroys the Serpent King--Meaning of this
Myth--Relations of the Light-God and Wind-God--Michabo as God of Waters
and Fertility--Represented as a Bearded Man.

§2. _The Iroquois Myth of Ioskeha._

The Creation of the Earth--The Miraculous Birth of Ioskeha--He Overcomes
his Brother Tawiscara--Creates and Teaches Mankind--Visits his People--His
Grandmother Ataensic--Ioskeha as Father of his Mother--Similar Conceptions
in Egyptian Myths--Derivation of Ioskeha and Ataensic--Ioskeha as
Tharonhiawakon, the Sky Supporter--His Brother Tawiscara or Tehotennhiaron
Identified--Similarity to Algonkin Myths.



§1. _The Two Antagonists._

The Contest of Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca--Quetzalcoatl the
Light-God--Derivation of His Name--Titles of Tezcatlipoca--Identified with
Darkness, Night and Gloom.

§2. _Quetzalcoatl the God._

Myth of the Four Brothers--The Four Suns and the Elemental Conflict--Names
of the Four Brothers.

§3. _Quetzalcoatl the Hero of Tula._

Tula, the City of the Sun--Who were the Toltecs?--Tlapallan and Xalac--The
Birth of the Hero God--His Virgin Mother Chimalmatl--His Miraculous
Conception--Aztlan, the Land of Seven Caves, and Colhuacan, the Bended
Mount--The Maid Xochitl and the Rose Garden of the Gods--Quetzalcoatl as
the White and Bearded Stranger.

The Glory of the Lord of Tula--The Subtlety of the Sorcerer
Tezcatlipoca--The Magic Mirror and the Mystic Draught--The Myth
Explained--The Promise of Rejuvenation--The Toveyo and the Maiden--The
Juggleries of Tezcatlipoca--Departure of Quetzalcoatl from
Tula--Quetzalcoatl at Cholula--His Death or Departure--The Celestial Game
of Ball and Tiger Skin--Quetzalcoatl as the Planet Venus.

§4. _Quetzalcoatl as Lord of the Winds._

The Lord of the Four Winds--His Symbols, the Wheel of the Winds, the
Pentagon and the Cross--Close Relation to the Gods of Rain and
Waters--Inventor of the Calendar--God of Fertility and
Conception--Recommends Sexual Austerity--Phallic Symbols--God of
Merchants--The Patron of Thieves--His Pictographic Representations.

§5. _The Return of Quetzalcoatl._

His Expected Re-appearance--The Anxiety of Montezuma--His Address to
Cortes--The General Expectation--Explanation of his Predicted Return.



Civilization of the Mayas--Whence it Originated--Duplicate Traditions

§1. _The Culture Hero Itzamna._

Itzamna as Ruler, Priest and Teacher--As Chief God and Creator of the
World--Las Casas' Supposed Christ Myth--The Four Bacabs--Itzamna as Lord
of the Winds and Rains--The Symbol of the Cross--As Lord of the Light and
Day--Derivation of his Various Names.

§2. _The Culture Hero Kukulcan._

Kukulcan as Connected with the Calendar--Meaning of the Name--The Myth of
the Four Brothers--Kukulcan's Happy Rule and Miraculous
Disappearance--Relation to Quetzalcoatl--Aztec and Maya
Mythology--Kukulcan a Maya Divinity--The Expected Return of the
Hero-god--The Maya Prophecies--Their Explanation.



Viracocha as the First Cause--His name Illa Ticci--Qquichua Prayers--Other
Names and Titles of Viracocha--His Worship a True Monotheism--The Myth of
the Four Brothers--Myth of the Twin Brothers.

Viracocha as Tunapa, He who Perfects--Various Incidents in His
Life--Relation to Manco Capac--He Disappears in the West.

Viracocha Rises from Lake Titicaca and Journeys to the West--Derivation of
His Name--He was Represented as White and Bearded--The Myth of Con and
Pachacamac--Contice Viracocha--Prophecies of the Peruvian Seers The White
Men Called Viracochas--Similarities to Aztec Myths.



The Typical Myth found in many parts of the Continent--Difficulties in
Tracing it--Religious Evolution in America Similar to that in the Old
World--Failure of Christianity in the Red Race.

The Culture Myth of the Tarascos of Mechoacan--That of the Kiches of
Guatemala.--The Votan Myth of the Tzendals of Chiapas--A Fragment of a
Mixe Myth--The Hero-God of the Muyscas of New Granada--Of the
Tupi-Guaranay Stem of Paraguay and Brazil--Myths of the Dènè of British

Sun Worship in America--Germs of Progress in American Religions--Relation
of Religion and Morality--The Light-God A Moral and Beneficent
Creation--His Worship was Elevating--Moral Condition of Native Societies
before the Conquest--Progress in the Definition of the Idea of God in
Peru, Mexico and Yucatan--Erroneous Statements about the Morals of the
Natives--Evolution of their Ethical Principles.








The time was, and that not so very long ago, when it was contended by some
that there are tribes of men without any sort of religion; nowadays the
effort is to show that the feeling which prompts to it is common, even
among brutes.

This change of opinion has come about partly through an extension of the
definition of religion. It is now held to mean any kind of belief in
spiritual or extra-natural agencies. Some learned men say that we had
better drop the word "religion," lest we be misunderstood. They would
rather use "daimonism," or "supernaturalism," or other such new term; but
none of these seems to me so wide and so exactly significant of what I
mean as "religion."

All now agree that in this very broad sense some kind of religion exists
in every human community.[1]

[Footnote 1: I suppose I am not going too far in saying "all agree;" for I
think that the latest study of this subject, by Gustav Roskoff, disposes
of Sir John Lubbock's doubts, as well as the crude statements of the
author of _Kraft und Stoff_, and such like compilations. Gustav Roskoff,
_Das Religionswesen der Rohesten Naturvölker_, Leipzig, 1880.]

The attempt has often been made to classify these various faiths under
some few general headings. The scheme of Auguste Comte still has
supporters. He taught that man begins with fetichism, advances to
polytheism, and at last rises to monotheism. More in vogue at present is
the theory that the simplest and lowest form of religion is individual;
above it are the national religions; and at the summit the universal or
world religions.

Comte's scheme has not borne examination. It is artificial and sterile.
Look at Christianity. It is the highest of all religions, but it is not
monotheism. Look at Buddhism. In its pure form it is not even theism. The
second classification is more fruitful for historical purposes.

The psychologist, however, inquires as to the essence, the real purpose of
religions. This has been differently defined by the two great schools of

All religions, says the idealist, are the efforts, poor or noble,
conscious or blind, to develop the Idea of God in the soul of man.

No, replies the rationalist, it is simply the effort of the human mind to
frame a Theory of Things; at first, religion is an early system of natural
philosophy; later it becomes moral philosophy. Explain the Universe by
physical laws, point out that the origin and aim of ethics are the
relations of men, and we shall have no more religions, nor need any.

The first answer is too intangible, the second too narrow. The rude savage
does not philosophize on phenomena; the enlightened student sees in them
but interacting forces: yet both may be profoundly religious. Nor can
morality be accepted as a criterion of religions. The bloody scenes in the
Mexican teocalli were merciful compared with those in the torture rooms of
the Inquisition. Yet the religion of Jesus was far above that of

What I think is the essence, the principle of vitality, in religion, and
in all religions, is _their supposed control over the destiny of the
individual_, his weal or woe, his good or bad hap, here or hereafter, as
it may be. Rooted infinitely deep in the sense of personality, religion
was recognized at the beginning, it will be recognized at the end, as the
one indestructible ally in the struggle for individual existence. At
heart, all prayers are for preservation, the burden of all litanies is a
begging for Life.

This end, these benefits, have been sought by the cults of the world
through one of two theories.

The one, that which characterizes the earliest and the crudest religions,
teaches that man escapes dangers and secures safety by the performance or
avoidance of certain actions. He may credit this or that myth, he may hold
to one or many gods; this is unimportant; but he must not fail in the
penance or the sacred dance, he must not touch that which is _taboo_, or
he is in peril. The life of these cults is the Deed, their expression is
the Rite.

Higher religions discern the inefficacy of the mere Act. They rest their
claim on Belief. They establish dogmas, the mental acceptance of which is
the one thing needful. In them mythology passes into theology; the act is
measured by its motive, the formula by the faith back of it. Their life is
the Creed.

The Myth finds vigorous and congenial growth only in the first of these
forms. There alone the imagination of the votary is free, there alone it
is not fettered by a symbol already defined.

To the student of religions the interest of the Myth is not that of an
infantile attempt to philosophize, but as it illustrates the intimate and
immediate relations which the religion in which it grew bore to the
individual life. Thus examined, it reveals the inevitable destinies of men
and of nations as bound up with their forms of worship.

These general considerations appear to me to be needed for the proper
understanding of the study I am about to make. It concerns itself with
some of the religions which were developed on the American continent
before its discovery. My object is to present from them a series of myths
curiously similar in features, and to see if one simple and general
explanation of them can be found.

The processes of myth-building among American tribes were much the same as
elsewhere. These are now too generally familiar to need specification
here, beyond a few which I have found particularly noticeable.

At the foundation of all myths lies the mental process of
_personification_, which finds expression in the rhetorical figure of
_prosopopeia_. The definition of this, however, must be extended from the
mere representation of inanimate things as animate, to include also the
representation of irrational beings as rational, as in the "animal myths,"
a most common form of religious story among primitive people.

Some languages favor these forms of personification much more than others,
and most of the American languages do so in a marked manner, by the broad
grammatical distinctions they draw between animate and inanimate objects,
which distinctions must invariably be observed. They cannot say "the boat
moves" without specifying whether the boat is an animate object or not, or
whether it is to be considered animate, for rhetorical purposes, at the
time of speaking.

The sounds of words have aided greatly in myth building. Names and words
which are somewhat alike in sound, _paronyms_, as they are called by
grammarians, may be taken or mistaken one for the other. Again, many myths
spring from _homonymy_, that is, the sameness in sound of words with
difference in signification. Thus _coatl_, in the Aztec tongue, is a word
frequently appearing in the names of divinities. It has three entirely
different meanings, to wit, a serpent, a guest and twins. Now, whichever
one of these was originally meant, it would be quite certain to be
misunderstood, more or less, by later generations, and myths would arise
to explain the several possible interpretations of the word--as, in fact,
we find was the case.

Closely allied to this is what has been called _otosis_. This is the
substitution of a familiar word for an archaic or foreign one of similar
sound but wholly diverse meaning. This is a very common occurrence and
easily leads to myth making. For example, there is a cave, near
Chattanooga, which has the Cherokee name Nik-a-jak. This the white
settlers have transformed into Nigger Jack, and are prepared with a
narrative of some runaway slave to explain the cognomen. It may also occur
in the same language. In an Algonkin dialect _missi wabu_ means "the great
light of the dawn;" and a common large rabbit was called _missabo_; at
some period the precise meaning of the former words was lost, and a
variety of interesting myths of the daybreak were transferred to a
supposed huge rabbit! Rarely does there occur a more striking example of
how the deteriorations of language affect mythology.

_Aztlan_, the mythical land whence the Aztec speaking tribes were said to
have come, and from which they derived their name, means "the place of
whiteness;" but the word was similar to _Aztatlan_, which would mean "the
place of herons," some spot where these birds would love to congregate,
from _aztatl_, the heron, and in after ages, this latter, as the plainer
and more concrete signification, came to prevail, and was adopted by the

_Polyonomy_ is another procedure often seen in these myths. A divinity has
several or many titles; one or another of these becomes prominent, and at
last obscures in a particular myth or locality the original personality of
the hero of the tale. In America this is most obvious in Peru.

Akin to this is what Prof. Max Müller has termed _henotheism_. In this
mental process one god or one form of a god is exalted beyond all others,
and even addressed as the one, only, absolute and supreme deity. Such
expressions are not to be construed literally as evidences of a
monotheism, but simply that at that particular time the worshiper's mind
was so filled with the power and majesty of the divinity to whom he
appealed, that he applied to him these superlatives, very much as he would
to a great ruler. The next day he might apply them to another deity,
without any hypocrisy or sense of logical contradiction. Instances of this
are common in the Aztec prayers which have been preserved.

One difficulty encountered in Aryan mythology is extremely rare in
America, and that is, the adoption of foreign names. A proper name without
a definite concrete significance in the tongue of the people who used it
is almost unexampled in the red race. A word without a meaning was
something quite foreign to their mode of thought. One of our most eminent
students[1] has justly said: "Every Indian synthesis--names of persons and
places not excepted--must preserve the consciousness of its roots, and
must not only have a meaning, but be so framed as to convey that meaning
with precision, to all who speak the language to which it belongs." Hence,
the names of their divinities can nearly always be interpreted, though for
the reasons above given the most obvious and current interpretation is not
in every case the correct one.

[Footnote 1: J. Hammond Trumbull, _On the Composition of Indian
Geographical Names_, p. 3 (Hartford, 1870).]

As foreign names were not adopted, so the mythology of one tribe very
rarely influenced that of another. As a rule, all the religions were
tribal or national, and their votaries had no desire to extend them. There
was little of the proselytizing spirit among the red race. Some exceptions
can be pointed out to this statement, in the Aztec and Peruvian
monarchies. Some borrowing seems to have been done either by or from the
Mayas; and the hero-myth of the Iroquois has so many of the lineaments of
that of the Algonkins that it is difficult to believe that it was wholly
independent of it. But, on the whole, the identities often found in
American myths are more justly attributable to a similarity of
surroundings and impressions than to any other cause.

The diversity and intricacy of American mythology have been greatly
fostered by the delight the more developed nations took in rhetorical
figures, in metaphor and simile, and in expressions of amplification and
hyperbole. Those who imagine that there was a poverty of resources in
these languages, or that their concrete form hemmed in the mind from the
study of the abstract, speak without knowledge. One has but to look at the
inexhaustible synonymy of the Aztec, as it is set forth by Olmos or
Sahagun, or at its power to render correctly the refinements of scholastic
theology, to see how wide of the fact is any such opinion. And what is
true of the Aztec, is not less so of the Qquichua and other tongues.

I will give an example, where the English language itself falls short of
the nicety of the Qquichua in handling a metaphysical tenet. _Cay_ in
Qquichua expresses the real being of things, the _essentia_; as, _runap
caynin_, the being of the human race, humanity in the abstract; but to
convey the idea of actual being, the _existentia_ as united to the
_essentia_, we must add the prefix _cascan_, and thus have
_runap-cascan-caynin_, which strictly means "the essence of being in
general, as existent in humanity."[1] I doubt if the dialect of German
metaphysics itself, after all its elaboration, could produce in equal
compass a term for this conception. In Qquichua, moreover, there is
nothing strained and nothing foreign in this example; it is perfectly
pure, and in thorough accord with the genius of the tongue.

[Footnote 1: "El ser existente de hombre, que es el modo de estar el
primer ser que es la essentia que en Dios y los Angeles y el hombre es
modo personal." Diego Gonzalez Holguin, _Vocabvlario de la Lengva Qqichua,
o del Inca; sub voce, Cay_. (Ciudad de los Reyes, 1608.)]

I take some pains to impress this fact, for it is an important one in
estimating the religious ideas of the race. We must not think we have
grounds for skepticism if we occasionally come across some that astonish
us by their subtlety. Such are quite in keeping with the psychology and
languages of the race we are studying.

Yet, throughout America, as in most other parts of the world, the teaching
of religious tenets was twofold, the one popular, the other for the
initiated, an esoteric and an exoteric doctrine. A difference in dialect
was assiduously cultivated, a sort of "sacred language" being employed to
conceal while it conveyed the mysteries of faith. Some linguists think
that these dialects are archaic forms of the language, the memory of which
was retained in ceremonial observances; others maintain that they were
simply affectations of expression, and form a sort of slang, based on the
every day language, and current among the initiated. I am inclined to the
latter as the correct opinion, in many cases.

Whichever it was, such a sacred dialect is found in almost all tribes.
There are fragments of it from the cultivated races of Mexico, Yucatan and
Peru; and at the other end of the scale we may instance the Guaymis, of
Darien, naked savages, but whose "chiefs of the law," we are told, taught
"the doctrines of their religion in a peculiar idiom, invented for the
purpose, and very different from the common language."[1]

[Footnote 1: Franco, _Noticia de los Indios Guaymies y de sus Costumbres_,
p. 20, in Pinart, _Coleccion de Linguistica y Etnografia Americana_. Tom.

This becomes an added difficulty in the analysis of myths, as not only
were the names of the divinities and of localities expressed in terms in
the highest degree metaphorical, but they were at times obscured by an
affected pronunciation, devised to conceal their exact derivation.

The native tribes of this Continent had many myths, and among them there
was one which was so prominent, and recurred with such strangely similar
features in localities widely asunder, that it has for years attracted my
attention, and I have been led to present it as it occurs among several
nations far apart, both geographically and in point of culture. This myth
is that of the national hero, their mythical civilizer and teacher of the
tribe, who, at the same time, was often identified with the supreme deity
and the creator of the world. It is the fundamental myth of a very large
number of American tribes, and on its recognition and interpretation
depends the correct understanding of most of their mythology and religious

The outlines of this legend are to the effect that in some exceedingly
remote time this divinity took an active part in creating the world and in
fitting it to be the abode of man, and may himself have formed or called
forth the race. At any rate, his interest in its advancement was such that
he personally appeared among the ancestors of the nation, and taught them
the useful arts, gave them the maize or other food plants, initiated them
into the mysteries of their religious rites, framed the laws which
governed their social relations, and having thus started them on the road
to self development, he left them, not suffering death, but disappearing
in some way from their view. Hence it was nigh universally expected that
at some time he would return.

The circumstances attending the birth of these hero-gods have great
similarity. As a rule, each is a twin or one of four brothers born at one
birth; very generally at the cost of their mother's life, who is a virgin,
or at least had never been impregnated by mortal man. The hero is apt to
come into conflict with his brother, or one of his brothers, and the long
and desperate struggle resulting, which often involved the universe in
repeated destructions, constitutes one of the leading topics of the
myth-makers. The duel is not generally--not at all, I believe, when we can
get at the genuine native form of the myth--between a morally good and an
evil spirit, though, undoubtedly, the one is more friendly and favorable
to the welfare of man than the other.

The better of the two, the true hero-god, is in the end triumphant, though
the national temperament represented this variously. At any rate, his
people are not deserted by him, and though absent, and perhaps for a while
driven away by his potent adversary, he is sure to come back some time or

The place of his birth is nearly always located in the East; from that
quarter he first came when he appeared as a man among men; toward that
point he returned when he disappeared; and there he still lives, awaiting
the appointed time for his reappearance.

Whenever the personal appearance of this hero-god is described, it is,
strangely enough, represented to be that of one of the white race, a man
of fair complexion, with long, flowing beard, with abundant hair, and
clothed in ample and loose robes. This extraordinary fact naturally
suggests the gravest suspicion that these stories were made up after the
whites had reached the American shores, and nearly all historians have
summarily rejected their authenticity, on this account. But a most careful
scrutiny of their sources positively refutes this opinion. There is
irrefragable evidence that these myths and this ideal of the hero-god,
were intimately known and widely current in America long before any one of
its millions of inhabitants had ever seen a white man. Nor is there any
difficulty in explaining this, when we divest these figures of the
fanciful garbs in which they have been clothed by the religious
imagination, and recognize what are the phenomena on which they are based,
and the physical processes whose histories they embody. To show this I
will offer, in the most concise terms, my interpretation of their main

The most important of all things to life is _Light_. This the primitive
savage felt, and, personifying it, he made Light his chief god. The
beginning of the day served, by analogy, for the beginning of the world.
Light comes before the sun, brings it forth, creates it, as it were. Hence
the Light-God is not the Sun-God, but his Antecedent and Creator.

The light appears in the East, and thus defines that cardinal point, and
by it the others are located. These points, as indispensable guides to the
wandering hordes, became, from earliest times, personified as important
deities, and were identified with the winds that blew from them, as wind
and rain gods. This explains the four brothers, who were nothing else than
the four cardinal points, and their mother, who dies in producing them, is
the eastern light, which is soon lost in the growing day. The East, as
their leader, was also the supposed ruler of the winds, and thus god of
the air and rain. As more immediately connected with the advent and
departure of light, the East and West are twins, the one of which sends
forth the glorious day-orb, which the other lies in wait to conquer. Yet
the light-god is not slain. The sun shall rise again in undiminished
glory, and he lives, though absent.

By sight and light we see and learn. Nothing, therefore, is more natural
than to attribute to the light-god the early progress in the arts of
domestic and social life. Thus light came to be personified as the
embodiment of culture and knowledge, of wisdom, and of the peace and
prosperity which are necessary for the growth of learning.

The fair complexion of these heroes is nothing but a reference to the
white light of the dawn. Their ample hair and beard are the rays of the
sun that flow from his radiant visage. Their loose and large robes typify
the enfolding of the firmament by the light and the winds.

This interpretation is nowise strained, but is simply that which, in Aryan
mythology, is now universally accepted for similar mythological creations.
Thus, in the Greek Phoebus and Perseus, in the Teutonic Lif, and in the
Norse Baldur, we have also beneficent hero-gods, distinguished by their
fair complexion and ample golden locks. "Amongst the dark as well as
amongst the fair races, amongst those who are marked by black hair and
dark eyes, they exhibit the same unfailing type of blue-eyed heroes whose
golden locks flow over their shoulders, and whose faces gleam as with the
light of the new risen sun."[1]

[Footnote 1: Sir George W. Cox, _An Introduction to the Science of
Comparative Mythology and Folk-Lore_, p. 17.]

Everywhere, too, the history of these heroes is that of a struggle against
some potent enemy, some dark demon or dragon, but as often against some
member of their own household, a brother or a father.

The identification of the Light-God with the deity of the winds is also
seen in Aryan mythology. Hermes, to the Greek, was the inventor of the
alphabet, music, the cultivation of the olive, weights and measures, and
such humane arts. He was also the messenger of the gods, in other words,
the breezes, the winds, the air in motion. His name Hermes, Hermeias, is
but a transliteration of the Sanscrit Sarameyas, under which he appears in
the Vedic songs, as the son of Sarama, the Dawn. Even his character as the
master thief and patron saint of the light-fingered gentry, drawn from the
way the winds and breezes penetrate every crack and cranny of the house,
is absolutely repeated in the Mexican hero-god Quetzalcoatl, who was also
the patron of thieves. I might carry the comparison yet further, for as
Sarameyas is derived from the root _sar_, to creep, whence _serpo_,
serpent, the creeper, so the name Quetzalcoatl can be accurately
translated, "the wonderful serpent." In name, history and functions the
parallelism is maintained throughout.

Or we can find another familiar myth, partly Aryan, partly Semitic, where
many of the same outlines present themselves. The Argive Thebans
attributed the founding of their city and state to Cadmus. He collected
their ancestors into a community, gave them laws, invented the alphabet of
sixteen letters, taught them the art of smelting metals, established
oracles, and introduced the Dyonisiac worship, or that of the reproductive
principle. He subsequently left them and lived for a time with other
nations, and at last did not die, but was changed into a dragon and
carried by Zeus to Elysion.

The birthplace of this culture hero was somewhere far to the eastward of
Greece, somewhere in "the purple land" (Phoenicia); his mother was "the
far gleaming one" (Telephassa); he was one of four children, and his
sister was Europe, the Dawn, who was seized and carried westward by Zeus,
in the shape of a white bull. Cadmus seeks to recover her, and sets out,
following the westward course of the sun. "There can be no rest until the
lost one is found again. The sun must journey westward until he sees again
the beautiful tints which greeted his eyes in the morning."[1] Therefore
Cadmus leaves the purple land to pursue his quest. It is one of toil and
struggle. He has to fight the dragon offspring of Ares and the bands of
armed men who spring from the dragon's teeth which were sown, that is, the
clouds and gloom of the overcast sky. He conquers, and is rewarded, but
does not recover his sister.

[Footnote 1: Sir George W. Cox, _Ibid._, p. 76.]

When we find that the name Cadmus is simply the Semitic word _kedem_, the
east, and notice all this mythical entourage, we see that this legend is
but a lightly veiled account of the local source and progress of the light
of day, and of the advantages men derive from it. Cadmus brings the
letters of the alphabet from the east to Greece, for the same reason that
in ancient Maya myth Itzamna, "son of the mother of the morning," brought
the hieroglyphs of the Maya script also from the east to Yucatan--because
both represent the light by which we see and learn.

Egyptian mythology offers quite as many analogies to support this
interpretation of American myths as do the Aryan god-stories.

The heavenly light impregnates the virgin from whom is born the sun-god,
whose life is a long contest with his twin brother. The latter wins, but
his victory is transient, for the light, though conquered and banished by
the darkness, cannot be slain, and is sure to return with the dawn, to the
great joy of the sons of men. This story the Egyptians delighted to repeat
under numberless disguises. The groundwork and meaning are the same,
whether the actors are Osiris, Isis and Set, Ptah, Hapi and the Virgin
Cow, or the many other actors of this drama. There, too, among a brown
race of men, the light-god was deemed to be not of their own hue, but
"light colored, white or yellow," of comely countenance, bright eyes and
golden hair. Again, he is the one who invented the calendar, taught the
arts, established the rituals, revealed the medical virtues of plants,
recommended peace, and again was identified as one of the brothers of the
cardinal points.[1]

[Footnote 1: See Dr. C.P. Tiele, _History of the Egyptian Religion_, pp.
93, 95, 99, et al.]

The story of the virgin-mother points, in America as it did in the old
world, to the notion of the dawn bringing forth the sun. It was one of the
commonest myths in both continents, and in a period of human thought when
miracles were supposed to be part of the order of things had in it nothing
difficult of credence. The Peruvians, for instance, had large
establishments where were kept in rigid seclusion the "virgins of the
sun." Did one of these violate her vow of chastity, she and her fellow
criminal were at once put to death; but did she claim that the child she
bore was of divine parentage, and the contrary could not be shown, then
she was feted as a queen, and the product of her womb was classed among
princes, as a son of the sun. So, in the inscription at Thebes, in the
temple of the virgin goddess Mat, we read where she says of herself: "My
garment no man has lifted up; the fruit that I have borne was begotten of
the sun."[1]

[Footnote 1: "[Greek: Ton emon chitona oudeis apechaluphen on ego charpon
etechan, aelios egeneto.]" Proclus, quoted by Tiele, ubi suprá, p. 204,

I do not venture too much in saying that it were easy to parallel every
event in these American hero-myths, every phase of character of the
personages they represent, with others drawn from Aryan and Egyptian
legends long familiar to students, and which now are fully recognized as
having in them nothing of the substance of history, but as pure creations
of the religious imagination working on the processes of nature brought
into relation to the hopes and fears of men.

If this is so, is it not time that we dismiss, once for all, these
American myths from the domain of historical traditions? Why should we try
to make a king of Itzamna, an enlightened ruler of Quetzalcoatl, a
cultured nation of the Toltecs, when the proof is of the strongest, that
every one of these is an absolutely baseless fiction of mythology? Let it
be understood, hereafter, that whoever uses these names in an historical
sense betrays an ignorance of the subject he handles, which, were it in
the better known field of Aryan or Egyptian lore, would at once convict
him of not meriting the name of scholar.

In European history the day has passed when it was allowable to construct
primitive chronicles out of fairy tales and nature myths. The science of
comparative mythology has assigned to these venerable stories a different,
though not less noble, interpretation. How much longer must we wait to see
the same canons of criticism applied to the products of the religious
fancy of the red race?

Furthermore, if the myths of the American nations are shown to be capable
of a consistent interpretation by the principles of comparative mythology,
let it be recognized that they are neither to be discarded because they
resemble some familiar to their European conquerors, nor does that
similarity mean that they are historically derived, the one from the
other. Each is an independent growth, but as each is the reflex in a
common psychical nature of the same phenomena, the same forms of
expression were adopted to convey them.



§1. _The Algonkin Myth of Michabo._


§2. _The Iroquois Myth of Ioskeha._


Nearly all that vast area which lies between Hudson Bay and the Savannah
river, and the Mississippi river and the Atlantic coast, was peopled at
the epoch of the discovery by the members of two linguistic families--the
Algonkins and the Iroquois. They were on about the same plane of culture,
but differed much in temperament and radically in language. Yet their
religious notions were not dissimilar.

§1. _The Algonkin Myth of Michabo._

Among all the Algonkin tribes whose myths have been preserved we find much
is said about a certain Giant Rabbit, to whom all sorts of powers were
attributed. He was the master of all animals; he was the teacher who first
instructed men in the arts of fishing and hunting; he imparted to the
Algonkins the mysteries of their religious rites; he taught them picture
writing and the interpretation of dreams; nay, far more than that, he was
the original ancestor, not only of their nation, but of the whole race of
man, and, in fact, was none other than the primal Creator himself, who
fashioned the earth and gave life to all that thereon is.

Hearing all this said about such an ignoble and weak animal as the rabbit,
no wonder that the early missionaries and travelers spoke of such fables
with undisguised contempt, and never mentioned them without excuses for
putting on record trivialities so utter.

Yet it appears to me that under these seemingly weak stories lay a
profound truth, the appreciation of which was lost in great measure to the
natives themselves, but which can be shown to have been in its origin a
noble myth, setting forth in not unworthy images the ceaseless and mighty
rhythm of nature in the alternations of day and night, summer and winter,
storm and sunshine.

I shall quote a few of these stories as told by early authorities, not
adding anything to relieve their crude simplicity, and then I will see
whether, when submitted to the test of linguistic analysis, this
unpromising ore does not yield the pure gold of genuine mythology.

The beginning of things, according to the Ottawas and other northern
Algonkins, was at a period when boundless waters covered the face of the
earth. On this infinite ocean floated a raft, upon which were many species
of animals, the captain and chief of whom was Michabo, the Giant Rabbit.
They ardently desired land on which to live, so this mighty rabbit ordered
the beaver to dive and bring him up ever so little a piece of mud. The
beaver obeyed, and remained down long, even so that he came up utterly
exhausted, but reported that he had not reached bottom. Then the Rabbit
sent down the otter, but he also returned nearly dead and without success.
Great was the disappointment of the company on the raft, for what better
divers had they than the beaver and the otter?

In the midst of their distress the (female) muskrat came forward and
announced her willingness to make the attempt. Her proposal was received
with derision, but as poor help is better than none in an emergency, the
Rabbit gave her permission, and down she dived. She too remained long,
very long, a whole day and night, and they gave her up for lost. But at
length she floated to the surface, unconscious, her belly up, as if dead.
They hastily hauled her on the raft and examined her paws one by one. In
the last one of the four they found a small speck of mud. Victory! That
was all that was needed. The muskrat was soon restored, and the Giant
Rabbit, exerting his creative power, moulded the little fragment of soil,
and as he moulded it, it grew and grew, into an island, into a mountain,
into a country, into this great earth that we all dwell upon. As it grew
the Rabbit walked round and round it, to see how big it was; and the story
added that he is not yet satisfied; still he continues his journey and his
labor, walking forever around and around the earth and ever increasing it
more and more.

The animals on the raft soon found homes on the new earth. But it had yet
to be covered with forests, and men were not born. The Giant Rabbit formed
the trees by shooting his arrows into the soil, which became tree trunks,
and, transfixing them with other arrows, these became branches; and as for
men, some said he formed them from the dead bodies of certain animals,
which in time became the "totems" of the Algonkin tribes; but another and
probably an older and truer story was that he married the muskrat which
had been of such service to him, and from this union were born the
ancestors of the various races of mankind which people the earth.

Nor did he neglect the children he had thus brought into the world of his
creation. Having closely studied how the spider spreads her web to catch
flies, he invented the art of knitting nets for fish, and taught it to his
descendants; the pieces of native copper found along the shores of Lake
Superior he took from his treasure house inside the earth, where he
sometimes lives. It is he who is the Master of Life, and if he appears in
a dream to a person in danger, it is a certain sign of a lucky escape. He
confers fortune in the chase, and therefore the hunters invoke him, and
offer him tobacco and other dainties, placing them in the clefts of rocks
or on isolated boulders. Though called the Giant Rabbit, he is always
referred to as a man, a giant or demigod perhaps, but distinctly as of
human nature, the mighty father or elder brother of the race.[1]

[Footnote 1: The writers from whom I have taken this myth are Nicolas
Perrot, _Mémoire sur les Meurs, Coustumes et Relligion des Sauvages de
l'Amérique Septentrionale_, written by an intelligent layman who lived
among the natives from 1665 to 1699; and the various _Relations des
Jesuites_, especially for the years 1667 and 1670.]

Such is the national myth of creation of the Algonkin tribes, as it has
been handed down to us in fragments by those who first heard it. Has it
any meaning? Is it more than the puerile fable of savages?

Let us see whether some of those unconscious tricks of speech to which I
referred in the introductory chapter have not disfigured a true nature
myth. Perhaps those common processes of language, personification and
otosis, duly taken into account, will enable us to restore this narrative
to its original sense.

In the Algonkin tongue the word for Giant Rabbit is _Missabos_, compounded
from _mitchi_ or _missi_, great, large, and _wabos_, a rabbit. But there
is a whole class of related words, referring to widely different
perceptions, which sound very much like _wabos_. They are from a general
root _wab_, which goes to form such words of related signification as
_wabi_, he sees, _waban_, the east, the Orient, _wabish_, white, _bidaban_
(_bid-waban_), the dawn, _wában_, daylight, _wasseia_, the light, and many
others. Here is where we are to look for the real meaning of the name
_Missabos_. It originally meant the Great Light, the Mighty Seer, the
Orient, the Dawn--which you please, as all distinctly refer to the one
original idea, the Bringer of Light and Sight, of knowledge and life. In
time this meaning became obscured, and the idea of the rabbit, whose name
was drawn probably from the same root, as in the northern winters its fur
becomes white, was substituted, and so the myth of light degenerated into
an animal fable.

I believe that a similar analysis will explain the part which the muskrat
plays in the story. She it is who brings up the speck of mud from the
bottom of the primal ocean, and from this speck the world is formed by him
whom we now see was the Lord of the Light and the Day, and subsequently
she becomes the mother of his sons. The word for muskrat in Algonkin is
_wajashk_, the first letter of which often suffers elision, as in _nin
nod-ajashkwe_, I hunt muskrats. But this is almost the word for mud, wet
earth, soil, _ajishki_. There is no reasonable doubt but that here again
otosis and personification came in and gave the form and name of an animal
to the original simple statement.

That statement was that from wet mud dried by the sunlight, the solid
earth was formed; and again, that this damp soil was warmed and fertilized
by the sunlight, so that from it sprang organic life, even man himself,
who in so many mythologies is "the earth born," _homo ab humo, homo

[Footnote 1: Mr. J. Hammond Trumbull has pointed out that in Algonkin the
words for father, _osh_, mother, _okas_, and earth, _ohke_ (Narraganset
dialect), can all be derived, according to the regular rules of Algonkin
grammar, from the same verbal root, signifying "to come out of, or from."
(Note to Roger Williams' _Key into the Language of America_, p. 56). Thus
the earth was, in their language, the parent of the race, and what more
natural than that it should become so in the myth also?]

This, then, is the interpretation I have to offer of the cosmogonical myth
of the Algonkins. Does some one object that it is too refined for those
rude savages, or that it smacks too much of reminiscences of old-world
teachings? My answer is that neither the early travelers who wrote it
down, nor probably the natives who told them, understood its meaning, and
that not until it is here approached by modern methods of analysis, has it
ever been explained. Therefore it is impossible to assign to it other than
an indigenous and spontaneous origin in some remote period of Algonkin
tribal history.

After the darkness of the night, man first learns his whereabouts by the
light kindling in the Orient; wandering, as did the primitive man, through
pathless forests, without a guide, the East became to him the first and
most important of the fixed points in space; by it were located the West,
the North, the South; from it spread the welcome dawn; in it was born the
glorious sun; it was full of promise and of instruction; hence it became
to him the home of the gods of life and light and wisdom.

As the four cardinal points are determined by fixed physical relations,
common to man everywhere, and are closely associated with his daily
motions and well being, they became prominent figures in almost all early
myths, and were personified as divinities. The winds were classified as
coming from them, and in many tongues the names of the cardinal points are
the same as those of the winds that blow from them. The East, however,
has, in regard to the others, a pre-eminence, for it is not merely the
home of the east wind, but of the light and the dawn as well. Hence it
attained a marked preponderance in the myths; it was either the greatest,
wisest and oldest of the four brothers, who, by personification,
represented the cardinal points and the four winds, or else the Light-God
was separated from the quadruplet and appears as a fifth personage
governing the other four, and being, in fact, the supreme ruler of both
the spiritual and human worlds.

Such was the mental processes which took place in the Algonkin mind, and
gave rise to two cycles of myths, the one representing Wabun or Michabo as
one of four brothers, whose names are those of the cardinal points, the
second placing him above them all.

The four brothers are prominent characters in Algonkin legend, and we
shall find that they recur with extraordinary frequency in the mythology
of all American nations. Indeed, I could easily point them out also in the
early religious conceptions of Egypt and India, Greece and China, and many
other old-world lands, but I leave these comparisons to those who wish to
treat of the principles of general mythology.

According to the most generally received legend these four brothers were
quadruplets--born at one birth--and their mother died in bringing them
into life. Their names are given differently by the various tribes, but
are usually identical with the four points of the compass, or something
relating to them. Wabun the East, Kabun the West, Kabibonokka the North,
and Shawano the South, are, in the ordinary language of the interpreters,
the names applied to them. Wabun was the chief and leader, and assigned to
his brothers their various duties, especially to blow the winds.

These were the primitive and chief divinities of the Algonkin race in all
parts of the territory they inhabited. When, as early as 1610, Captain
Argoll visited the tribes who then possessed the banks of the river
Potomac, and inquired concerning their religion, they replied, "We have
five gods in all; our chief god often appears to us in the form of a
mighty great hare; the other four have no visible shape, but are indeed
the four winds, which keep the four corners of the earth."[1]

[Footnote 1: William Strachey, _Historie of Travaile into Virginia_, p.

Here we see that Wabun, the East, was distinguished from Michabo
(_missi-wabun_), and by a natural and transparent process, the eastern
light being separated from the eastern wind, the original number four was
increased to five. Precisely the same differentiation occurred, as I shall
show, in Mexico, in the case of Quetzalcoatl, as shown in his _Yoel_, or
Wheel of the Winds, which was his sacred pentagram.

Or I will further illustrate this development by a myth of the Huarochiri
Indians, of the coast of Peru. They related that in the beginning of
things there were five eggs on the mountain Condorcoto. In due course of
time these eggs opened and from them came forth five falcons, who were
none other than the Creator of all things, Pariacaca, and his brothers,
the four winds. By their magic power they transformed themselves into men
and went about the world performing miracles, and in time became the gods
of that people.[1]

[Footnote 1: Doctor Francisco de Avila, _Narrative of the Errors and False
Gods of the Indians of Huarochiri_ (1608). This interesting document has
been partly translated by Mr. C.B. Markham, and published in one of the
volumes of the Hackluyt Society's series.]

These striking similarities show with what singular uniformity the
religious sense developes itself in localities the furthest asunder.

Returning to Michabo, the duplicate nature thus assigned him as the
Light-God, and also the God of the Winds and the storms and rains they
bring, led to the production of two cycles of myths which present him in
these two different aspects. In the one he is, as the god of light, the
power that conquers the darkness, who brings warmth and sunlight to the
earth and knowledge to men. He was the patron of hunters, as these require
the light to guide them on their way, and must always direct their course
by the cardinal points.

The morning star, which at certain seasons heralds the dawn, was sacred to
him, and its name in Ojibway is _Wabanang_, from _Waban_, the east. The
rays of light are his servants and messengers. Seated at the extreme east,
"at the place where the earth is cut off," watching in his medicine lodge,
or passing his time fishing in the endless ocean which on every side
surrounds the land, Michabo sends forth these messengers, who, in the
myth, are called _Gijigouai_, which means "those who make the day," and
they light the world. He is never identified with the sun, nor was he
supposed to dwell in it, but he is distinctly the impersonation of

[Footnote 1: See H.R. Schoolcraft, _Indian Tribes_, Vol. v, pp. 418, 419.
_Relations des Jesuites_, 1634, p. 14, 1637, p. 46.]

In one form of the myth he is the grandson of the Moon, his father is the
West Wind, and his mother, a maiden who has been fecundated miraculously
by the passing breeze, dies at the moment of giving him birth. But he did
not need the fostering care of a parent, for he was born mighty of limb
and with all knowledge that it is possible to attain.[1] Immediately he
attacked his father, and a long and desperate struggle took place. "It
began on the mountains. The West was forced to give ground. His son drove
him across rivers and over mountains and lakes, and at last, he came to
the brink of the world. 'Hold!' cried he, 'my son, you know my power, and
that it is impossible to kill me.'" The combat ceased, the West
acknowledging the Supremacy of his mighty son.[2]

[Footnote 1: In the Ojibway dialect of the Algonkins, the word for day,
sky or heaven, is _gijig_. This same word as a verb means to be an adult,
to be ripe (of fruits), to be finished, complete. Rev. Frederick Baraga,
_A Dictionary of the Olchipwe Language_, Cincinnati, 1853. This seems to
correspond with the statement in the myth.]

[Footnote 2: H.E. Schoolcraft, _Algic Researches_, vol. i, pp. 135, et

It is scarcely possible to err in recognizing under this thin veil of
imagery a description of the daily struggle between light and darkness,
day and night. The maiden is the dawn from whose virgin womb rises the sun
in the fullness of his glory and might, but with his advent the dawn
itself disappears and dies. The battle lasts all day, beginning when the
earliest rays gild the mountain tops, and continues until the West is
driven to the edge of the world. As the evening precedes the morning, so
the West, by a figure of speech, may be said to fertilize the Dawn.

In another form of the story the West was typified as a flint stone, and
the twin brother of Michabo. The feud between them was bitter, and the
contest long and dreadful. The face of the land was seamed and torn by the
wrestling of the mighty combatants, and the Indians pointed out the huge
boulders on the prairies as the weapons hurled at each other by the
enraged brothers. At length Michabo mastered his fellow twin and broke him
into pieces. He scattered the fragments over the earth, and from them grew
fruitful vines.

A myth which, like this, introduces the flint stone as in some way
connected with the early creative forces of nature, recurs at other
localities on the American continent very remote from the home of the
Algonkins. In the calendar of the Aztecs the day and god Tecpatl, the
Flint-Stone, held a prominent position. According to their myths such a
stone fell from heaven at the beginning of things and broke into sixteen
hundred pieces, each of which became a god. The Hun-pic-tok, Eight
Thousand Flints, of the Mayas, and the Toh of the Kiches, point to the
same association.[1]

[Footnote 1: Brasseur de Bourbourg, _Dissertation sur les Mythes de
l'Antiquite Americaine_, §vii.]

Probably the association of ideas was not with the flint as a fire-stone,
though the fact that a piece of flint struck with a nodule of pyrites will
emit a spark was not unknown. But the flint was everywhere employed for
arrow and lance heads. The flashes of light, the lightning, anything that
darted swiftly and struck violently, was compared to the hurtling arrow or
the whizzing lance. Especially did this apply to the phenomenon of the
lightning. The belief that a stone is shot from the sky with each
thunderclap is shown in our word "thunderbolt," and even yet the vulgar in
many countries point out certain forms of stones as derived from this
source. As the refreshing rain which accompanies the thunder gust instills
new life into vegetation, and covers the ground parched by summer droughts
with leaves and grass, so the statement in the myth that the fragments of
the flint-stone grew into fruitful vines is an obvious figure of speech
which at first expressed the fertilizing effects of the summer showers.

In this myth Michabo, the Light-God, was represented to the native mind as
still fighting with the powers of Darkness, not now the darkness of night,
but that of the heavy and gloomy clouds which roll up the sky and blind
the eye of day. His weapons are the lightning and the thunderbolt, and the
victory he achieves is turned to the good of the world he has created.

This is still more clearly set forth in an Ojibway myth. It relates that
in early days there was a mighty serpent, king of all serpents, whose home
was in the Great Lakes. Increasing the waters by his magic powers, he
began to flood the land, and threatened its total submergence. Then
Michabo rose from his couch at the sun-rising, attacked the huge reptile
and slew it by a cast of his dart. He stripped it of its skin, and
clothing himself in this trophy of conquest, drove all the other serpents
to the south.[1] As it is in the south that, in the country of the
Ojibways, the lightning is last seen in the autumn, and as the Algonkins,
both in their language and pictography, were accustomed to assimilate the
lightning in its zigzag course to the sinuous motion of the serpent,[2]
the meteorological character of this myth is very manifest.

[Footnote 1: H.R. Schoolcraft, _Algic Researches_, Vol. i, p. 179, Vol.
ii, p. 117. The word _animikig_ in Ojibway means "it thunders and
lightnings;" in their myths this tribe says that the West Wind is created
by Animiki, the Thunder. (Ibid. _Indian Tribes_, Vol. v, p. 420.)]

[Footnote 2: When Father Buteux was among the Algonkins, in 1637, they
explained to him the lightning as "a great serpent which the Manito vomits
up." (_Relation de la Nouvelle France_, An. 1637, p. 53.) According to
John Tanner, the symbol for the lightning in Ojibway pictography was a
rattlesnake. (_Narrative_, p. 351.)]

Thus we see that Michabo, the hero-god of the Algonkins, was both the god
of light and day, of the winds and rains, and the creator, instructor and
teacher of mankind. The derivation of his name shows unmistakably that the
earliest form under which he was a mythological existence was as the
light-god. Later he became more familiar as god of the winds and storms,
the hero of the celestial warfare of the air-currents.

This is precisely the same change which we are enabled to trace in the
early transformations of Aryan religion. There, also, the older god of the
sky and light, Dyâus, once common to all members of the Indo-European
family, gave way to the more active deities, Indra, Zeus and Odin,
divinities of the storm and the wind, but which, after all, are merely
other aspects of the ancient deity, and occupied his place to the
religious sense.[1] It is essential, for the comprehension of early
mythology, to understand this twofold character, and to appreciate how
naturally the one merges into and springs out of the other.

[Footnote 1: This transformation is well set forth in Mr. Charles Francis
Keary's _Outlines of Primitive Belief Among the Indo-European Races_
(London, 1882), chaps, iv, vii. He observes: "The wind is a far more
physical and less abstract conception than the sky or heaven; it is also a
more variable phenomenon; and by reason of both these recommendations the
wind-god superseded the older Dyâus. * * * Just as the chief god of
Greece, having descended to be a divinity of storm, was not content to
remain only that, but grew again to some likeness of the older Dyâus, so
Odhinn came to absorb almost all the qualities which belong of right to a
higher god. Yet he did this without putting off his proper nature. He was
the heaven as well as the wind; he was the All-father, embracing all the
earth and looking down upon mankind."]

In almost every known religion the _bird_ is taken as a symbol of the sky,
the clouds and the winds. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that by
the Algonkins birds were considered, especially singing birds, as
peculiarly sacred to Michabo. He was their father and protector. He
himself sent forth the east wind from his home at the sun-rising; but he
appointed an owl to create the north wind, which blows from the realms of
darkness and cold; while that which is wafted from the sunny south is sent
by the butterfly.[1]

[Footnote 1: H.R. Schoolcraft, _Algic Researches_, Vol. i, p. 216. _Indian
Tribes_, Vol. v, p. 420.]

Michabo was thus at times the god of light, at others of the winds, and as
these are the rain-bringers, he was also at times spoken of as the god of
waters. He was said to have scooped out the basins of the lakes and to
have built the cataracts in the rivers, so that there should be fish
preserves and beaver dams.[1]

[Footnote 1: "Michabou, le Dieu des Eaux," etc. Charlevoix, _Journal
Historique_, p. 281 (Paris, 1721).]

In his capacity as teacher and instructor, it was he who had pointed out
to the ancestors of the Indians the roots and plants which are fit for
food, and which are of value as medicine; he gave them fire, and
recommended them never to allow it to become wholly extinguished in their
villages; the sacred rites of what is called the _meday_ or ordinary
religious ceremonial were defined and taught by him; the maize was his
gift, and the pleasant art of smoking was his invention.[1]

[Footnote 1: John Tanner, _Narrative of Captivity and Adventure_, p. 351.
Schoolcraft, _Indian Tribes_, Vol. v, p. 420, etc.]

A curious addition to the story was told the early Swedish settlers on the
river Delaware by the Algonkin tribe which inhabited its shores. These
related that their various arts of domestic life and the chase were taught
them long ago by a venerable and eloquent man who came to them from a
distance, and having instructed them in what was desirable for them to
know, he departed, not to another region or by the natural course of
death, but by ascending into the sky. They added that this ancient and
beneficent teacher _wore a long beard_.[1] We might suspect that this last
trait was thought of after the bearded Europeans had been seen, did it not
occur so often in myths elsewhere on the continent, and in relics of art
finished long before the discovery, that another explanation must be found
for it. What this is I shall discuss when I come to speak of the more
Southern myths, whose heroes were often "white and bearded men from the

[Footnote 1: Thomas Campanius (Holm), _Description of the Province of New
Sweden_, book iii, ch. xi. Campanius does not give the name of the
hero-god, but there can be no doubt that it was the "Great Hare."]

§2. _The Iroquois Myth of Ioskeha._[1]

[Footnote 1: The sources from which I draw the elements of the Iroquois
hero-myth of Ioskeha are mainly the following: _Relations de la Nouvelle
France_, 1636, 1640, 1671, etc. Sagard, _Histoire du Canada_, pp. 451, 452
(Paris, 1636); David Cusick, _Ancient History of the Six Nations_, and
manuscript material kindly furnished me by Horatio Hale, Esq., who has
made a thorough study of the Iroquois history and dialects.]

The most ancient myth of the Iroquois represents this earth as covered
with water, in which dwelt aquatic animals and monsters of the deep. Far
above it were the heavens, peopled by supernatural beings. At a certain
time one of these, a woman, by name Ataensic, threw herself through a rift
in the sky and fell toward the earth. What led her to this act was
variously recorded. Some said that it was to recover her dog which had
fallen through while chasing a bear. Others related that those who dwelt
in the world above lived off the fruit of a certain tree; that the husband
of Ataensic, being sick, dreamed that to restore him this tree must be cut
down; and that when Ataensic dealt it a blow with her stone axe, the tree
suddenly sank through the floor of the sky, and she precipitated herself
after it.

However the event occurred, she fell from heaven down to the primeval
waters. There a turtle offered her his broad back as a resting-place
until, from a little mud which was brought her, either by a frog, a beaver
or some other animal, she, by magic power, formed dry land on which to

At the time she fell from the sky she was pregnant, and in due time was
delivered of a daughter, whose name, unfortunately, the legend does not
record. This daughter grew to womanhood and conceived without having seen
a man, for none was as yet created. The product of her womb was twins, and
even before birth one of them betrayed his restless and evil nature, by
refusing to be born in the usual manner, but insisting on breaking through
his parent's side (or armpit). He did so, but it cost his mother her life.
Her body was buried, and from it sprang the various vegetable productions
which the new earth required to fit it for the habitation of man. From her
head grew the pumpkin vine; from her breast, the maize; from her limbs,
the bean and other useful esculents.

Meanwhile the two brothers grew up. The one was named Ioskeha. He went
about the earth, which at that time was arid and waterless, and called
forth the springs and lakes, and formed the sparkling brooks and broad
rivers. But his brother, the troublesome Tawiscara, he whose obstinacy had
caused their mother's death, created an immense frog which swallowed all
the water and left the earth as dry as before. Ioskeha was informed of
this by the partridge, and immediately set out for his brother's country,
for they had divided the earth between them.

Soon he came to the gigantic frog, and piercing it in the side (or
armpit), the waters flowed out once more in their accustomed ways. Then it
was revealed to Ioskeha by his mother's spirit that Tawiscara intended to
slay him by treachery. Therefore, when the brothers met, as they soon did,
it was evident that a mortal combat was to begin.

Now, they were not men, but gods, whom it was impossible really to kill,
nor even could either be seemingly slain, except by one particular
substance, a secret which each had in his own keeping. As therefore a
contest with ordinary weapons would have been vain and unavailing, they
agreed to tell each other what to each was the fatal implement of war.
Ioskeha acknowledged that to him a branch of the wild rose (or, according
to another version, a bag filled with maize) was more dangerous than
anything else; and Tawiscara disclosed that the horn of a deer could alone
reach his vital part.

They laid off the lists, and Tawiscara, having the first chance, attacked
his brother violently with a branch of the wild rose, and beat him till he
lay as one dead; but quickly reviving, Ioskeha assaulted Tawiscara with
the antler of a deer, and dealing him a blow in the side, the blood flowed
from the wound in streams. The unlucky combatant fled from the field,
hastening toward the west, and as he ran the drops of his blood which fell
upon the earth turned into flint stones. Ioskeha did not spare him, but
hastening after, finally slew him. He did not, however, actually kill him,
for, as I have said, these were beings who could not die; and, in fact,
Tawiscara was merely driven from the earth and forced to reside in the far
west, where he became ruler of the spirits of the dead. These go there to
dwell when they leave the bodies behind them here.

Ioskeha, returning, peaceably devoted himself to peopling the land. He
opened a cave which existed in the earth and allowed to come forth from it
all the varieties of animals with which the woods and prairies are
peopled. In order that they might be more easily caught by men, he wounded
every one in the foot except the wolf, which dodged his blow; for that
reason this beast is one of the most difficult to catch. He then formed
men and gave them life, and instructed them in the art of making fire,
which he himself had learned from the great tortoise. Furthermore he
taught them how to raise maize, and it is, in fact, Ioskeha himself who
imparts fertility to the soil, and through his bounty and kindness the
grain returns a hundred fold.

Nor did they suppose that he was a distant, invisible, unapproachable god.
No, he was ever at hand with instruction and assistance. Was there to be a
failure in the harvest, he would be seen early in the season, thin with
anxiety about his people, holding in his hand a blighted ear of corn. Did
a hunter go out after game, he asked the aid of Ioskeha, who would put fat
animals in the way, were he so minded. At their village festivals he was
present and partook of the cheer.

Once, in 1640, when the smallpox was desolating the villages of the
Hurons, we are told by Father Lalemant that an Indian said there had
appeared to him a beautiful youth, of imposing stature, and addressed him
with these words: "Have no fear; I am the master of the earth, whom you
Hurons adore under the name _Ioskeha_. The French wrongly call me Jesus,
because they do not know me. It grieves me to see the pestilence that is
destroying my people, and I come to teach you its cause and its remedy.
Its cause is the presence of these strangers; and its remedy is to drive
out these black robes (the missionaries), to drink of a certain water
which I shall tell you of, and to hold a festival in my honor, which must
be kept up all night, until the dawn of day."

The home of Ioskeha is in the far East, at that part of the horizon where
the sun rises. There he has his cabin, and there he dwells with his
grandmother, the wise Ataensic. She is a woman of marvelous magical power,
and is capable of assuming any shape she pleases. In her hands is the fate
of all men's lives, and while Ioskeha looks after the things of life, it
is she who appoints the time of death, and concerns herself with all that
relates to the close of existence. Hence she was feared, not exactly as a
maleficent deity, but as one whose business is with what is most dreaded
and gloomy.

It was said that on a certain occasion four bold young men determined to
journey to the sun-rising and visit the great Ioskeha. They reached his
cabin and found him there alone. He received them affably and they
conversed pleasantly, but at a certain moment he bade them hide themselves
for their life, as his grandmother was coming. They hastily concealed
themselves, and immediately Ataensic entered. Her magic insight had warned
her of the presence of guests, and she had assumed the form of a beautiful
girl, dressed in gay raiment, her neck and arms resplendent with collars
and bracelets of wampum. She inquired for the guests, but Ioskeha, anxious
to save them, dissembled, and replied that he knew not what she meant. She
went forth to search for them, when he called them forth from their hiding
place and bade them flee, and thus they escaped.

It was said of Ioskeha that he acted the part of husband to his
grandmother. In other words, the myth presents the germ of that conception
which the priests of ancient Egypt endeavored to express when they taught
that Osiris was "his own father and his own son," that he was the
"self-generating one," even that he was "the father of his own mother."
These are grossly materialistic expressions, but they are perfectly clear
to the student of mythology. They are meant to convey to the mind the
self-renewing power of life in nature, which is exemplified in the sowing
and the seeding, the winter and the summer, the dry and the rainy seasons,
and especially the sunset and sunrise. They are echoes in the soul of man
of the ceaseless rhythm in the operations of nature, and they become the
only guarantors of his hopes for immortal life.[1]

[Footnote 1: Such epithets were common, in the Egyptian religion, to most
of the gods of fertility. Amun, called in some of the inscriptions "the
soul of Osiris," derives his name from the root _men_, to impregnate, to
beget. In the Karnak inscriptions he is also termed "the husband of his
mother." This, too, was the favorite appellation of Chem, who was a form
of Horos. See Dr. C.P. Tiele, _History of the Egyptian Religion_, pp. 124,
146. 149, 150, etc.]

Let us look at the names in the myth before us, for confirmation of this.
_Ioskeha_ is in the Oneida dialect of the Iroquois an impersonal verbal
form of the third person singular, and means literally, "it is about to
grow white," that is, to become light, to dawn. _Ataensic_ is from the
root _aouen_, water, and means literally, "she who is in the water."[1]
Plainly expressed, the sense of the story is that the orb of light rises
daily out of the boundless waters which are supposed to surround the land,
preceded by the dawn, which fades away as soon as the sun has risen. Each
day the sun disappears in these waters, to rise again from them the
succeeding morning. As the approach of the sun causes the dawn, it was
merely a gross way of stating this to say that the solar god was the
father of his own mother, the husband of his grandmother.

[Footnote 1: I have analyzed these words in a note to another work, and
need not repeat the matter here, the less so, as I am not aware that the
etymology has been questioned. See _Myths of the New World_, 2d Ed., p.
183, note.]

The position of Ioskeha in mythology is also shown by the other name under
which he was, perhaps, even more familiar to most of the Iroquois. This is
_Tharonhiawakon_, which is also a verbal form of the third person, with
the dual sign, and literally means, "He holds (or holds up) the sky with
his two arms."[1] In other words, he is nearly allied to the ancient Aryan
Dyâus, the Sky, the Heavens, especially the Sky in the daytime.

[Footnote 1: A careful analysis of this name is given by Father J.A. Cuoq,
probably the best living authority on the Iroquois, in his _Lexique de la
Langue Iroquoise_, p. 180 (Montreal, 1882). Here also the Iroquois
followed precisely the line of thought of the ancient Egyptians. Shu, in
the religion of Heliopolis, represented the cosmic light and warmth, the
quickening, creative principle. It is he who, as it is stated in the
inscriptions, "holds up the heavens," and he is depicted on the monuments
as a man with uplifted arms who supports the vault of heaven, because it
is the intermediate light that separates the earth from the sky. Shu was
also god of the winds; in a passage of the Book of the Dead, he is made to
say: "I am Shu, who drives the winds onward to the confines of heaven, to
the confines of the earth, even to the confines of space." Again, like
Ioskeha, Shu is said to have begotten himself in the womb of his mother,
Nu or Nun, who was, like Ataensic, the goddess of water, the heavenly
ocean, the primal sea. Tiele, _History of the Egyptian Religion_, pp.

The signification of the conflict with his twin brother is also clearly
seen in the two names which the latter likewise bears in the legends. One
of these is that which I have given, _Tawiscara_, which, there is little
doubt, is allied to the root, _tiokaras_, it grows dark. The other is
_Tehotennhiaron_, the root word of which is _kannhia_, the flint stone.
This name he received because, in his battle with his brother, the drops
of blood which fell from his wounds were changed into flints.[1] Here the
flint had the same meaning which I have already pointed out in Algonkin
myth, and we find, therefore, an absolute identity of mythological
conception and symbolism between the two nations.

[Footnote 1: Cuoq, _Lexique de la Langue Iroquoise_, p. 180, who gives a
full analysis of the name.]

Could these myths have been historically identical? It is hard to
disbelieve it. Yet the nations were bitter enemies. Their languages are
totally unlike. These same similarities present themselves over such wide
areas and between nations so remote and of such different culture, that
the theory of a parallelism of development is after all the more credible

The impressions which natural occurrences make on minds of equal stages of
culture are very much alike. The same thoughts are evoked, and the same
expressions suggest themselves as appropriate to convey these thoughts in
spoken language. This is often exhibited in the identity of expression
between master-poets of the same generation, and between cotemporaneous
thinkers in all branches of knowledge. Still more likely is it to occur in
primitive and uncultivated conditions, where the most obvious forms of
expression are at once adopted, and the resources of the mind are
necessarily limited. This is a simple and reasonable explanation for the
remarkable sameness which prevails in the mental products of the lower
stages of civilization, and does away with the necessity of supposing a
historic derivation one from the other or both from a common stock.



§1. _The Two Antagonists._


§2. _Quetzalcoatl the God._


§3. _Quetzalcoatl the Hero of Tula._



§4. _Quetzalcoatl as Lord of the Winds._


§5. _The Return of Quetzalcoatl._


I now turn from the wild hunting tribes who peopled the shores of the
Great Lakes and the fastnesses of the northern forests to that cultivated
race whose capital city was in the Valley of Mexico, and whose scattered
colonies were found on the shores of both oceans from the mouths of the
Rio Grande and the Gila, south, almost to the Isthmus of Panama. They are
familiarly known as Aztecs or Mexicans, and the language common to them
all was the _Nahuatl_, a word of their own, meaning "the pleasant

Their mythology has been preserved in greater fullness than that of any
other American people, and for this reason I am enabled to set forth in
ampler detail the elements of their hero-myth, which, indeed, may be taken
as the most perfect type of those I have collected in this volume.

§1. _The Two Antagonists._

The culture hero of the Aztecs was Quetzalcoatl, and the leading drama,
the central myth, in all the extensive and intricate theology of the
Nahuatl speaking tribes was his long contest with Tezcatlipoca, "a
contest," observes an eminent Mexican antiquary, "which came to be the
main element in the Nahuatl religion and the cause of its modifications,
and which materially influenced the destinies of that race from its
earliest epochs to the time of its destruction."[1]

[Footnote 1: Alfredo Chavero, _La Piedra del Sol_, in the _Anales del
Museo Nacional de Mexico_, Tom. II, p. 247.]

The explanations which have been offered of this struggle have varied with
the theories of the writers propounding them. It has been regarded as a
simple historical fact; as a figure of speech to represent the struggle
for supremacy between two races; as an astronomical statement referring to
the relative positions of the planet Venus and the Moon; as a conflict
between Christianity, introduced by Saint Thomas, and the native
heathenism; and as having other meanings not less unsatisfactory or

Placing it side by side with other American hero-myths, we shall see that
it presents essentially the same traits, and undoubtedly must be explained
in the same manner. All of them are the transparent stories of a simple
people, to express in intelligible terms the daily struggle that is ever
going on between Day and Night, between Light and Darkness, between Storm
and Sunshine.

Like all the heroes of light, Quetzalcoatl is identified with the East. He
is born there, and arrives from there, and hence Las Casas and others
speak of him as from Yucatan, or as landing on the shores of the Mexican
Gulf from some unknown land. His day of birth was that called Ce Acatl,
One Reed, and by this name he is often known. But this sign is that of the
East in Aztec symbolism.[1] In a myth of the formation of the sun and
moon, presented by Sahagun,[2] a voluntary victim springs into the
sacrificial fire that the gods have built. They know that he will rise as
the sun, but they do not know in what part of the horizon that will be.
Some look one way, some another, but Quetzalcoatl watches steadily the
East, and is the first to see and welcome the Orb of Light. He is fair in
complexion, with abundant hair and a full beard, bordering on the red,[3]
as are all the dawn heroes, and like them he was an instructor in the
arts, and favored peace and mild laws.

[Footnote 1: Chavero, _Anales del Museo Nacional de Mexico_, Tom. II, p.
14, 243.]

[Footnote 2: _Historia de las Cosas de Nueva España_, Lib. VII, cap. II.]

[Footnote 3: "La barba longa entre cana y roja; el cabello largo, muy
llano." Diego Duran, _Historia_, in Kingsborough, Vol. viii, p. 260.]

His name is symbolic, and is capable of several equally fair renderings.
The first part of it, _quetzalli_, means literally a large, handsome green
feather, such as were very highly prized by the natives. Hence it came to
mean, in an adjective sense, precious, beautiful, beloved, admirable. The
bird from which these feathers were obtained was the _quetzal-tototl_
(_tototl_, bird) and is called by ornithologists _Trogon splendens_.

The latter part of the name, _coatl_, has in Aztec three entirely
different meanings. It means a guest, also twins, and lastly, as a
syncopated form of _cohuatl_, a serpent. Metaphorically, _cohuatl_ meant
something mysterious, and hence a supernatural being, a god. Thus
Montezuma, when he built a temple in the city of Mexico dedicated to the
whole body of divinities, a regular Pantheon, named it _Coatecalli_, the
House of the Serpent.[1]

[Footnote 1: "Coatecalli, que quiere decir el _templo de la culebra_, que
sin metáfora quiere decir _templo de diversos dioses_." Duran, _Historia
de las Indias de Nueva España_, cap. LVIII.]

Through these various meanings a good defence can be made of several
different translations of the name, and probably it bore even to the
natives different meanings at different times. I am inclined to believe
that the original sense was that advocated by Becerra in the seventeenth
century, and adopted by Veitia in the eighteenth, both competent Aztec
scholars.[1] They translate Quetzalcoatl as "the admirable twin," and
though their notion that this refers to Thomas Didymus, the Apostle, does
not meet my views, I believe they were right in their etymology. The
reference is to the duplicate nature of the Light-God as seen in the
setting and rising sun, the sun of to-day and yesterday, the same yet
different. This has its parallels in many other mythologies.[2]

[Footnote 1: Becerra, _Felicidad de Méjico_, 1685, quoted in Veitia,
_Historia del Origen de las Gentes que poblaron la América Septentrional_,
cap. XIX.]

[Footnote 2: In the Egyptian "Book of the Dead," Ra, the Sun-God, says, "I
am a soul and its twins," or, "My soul is becoming two twins." "This means
that the soul of the sun-god is one, but, now that it is born again, it
divides into two principal forms. Ra was worshipped at An, under his two
prominent manifestations, as Tum the primal god, or more definitely, god
of the sun at evening, and as Harmachis, god of the new sun, the sun at
dawn." Tiele, _History of the Egyptian Religion_, p. 80.]

The correctness of this supposition seems to be shown by a prevailing
superstition among the Aztecs about twins, and which strikingly
illustrates the uniformity of mythological conceptions throughout the
world. All readers are familiar with the twins Romulus and Remus in Roman
story, one of whom was fated to destroy their grandfather Amulius; with
Edipus and Telephos, whose father Laios, was warned that his death would
be by one of his children; with Theseus and Peirithoos, the former
destined to cause the suicide of his father Aigeus; and with many more
such myths. They can be traced, without room for doubt, back to simple
expressions of the fact that the morning and the evening of the one day
can only come when the previous day is past and gone; expressed
figuratively by the statement that any one day must destroy its
predecessor. This led to the stories of "the fatal children," which we
find so frequent in Aryan mythology.[1]

[Footnote 1: Sir George W. Cox, _The Science of Comparative Mythology and
Folk Lore_, pp. 14, 83, 130, etc.]

The Aztecs were a coarse and bloody race, and carried out their
superstitions without remorse. Based, no doubt, on this mythical
expression of a natural occurrence, they had the belief that if twins were
allowed to live, one or the other of them would kill and eat his father or
mother; therefore, it was their custom when such were brought into the
world to destroy one of them.[1]

[Footnote 1: Gerónimo de Mendieta, _Historia Eclesiastica Indiana_. Lib.
II, cap. XIX.]

We shall see that, as in Algonkin story Michabo strove to slay his father,
the West Wind, so Quetzalcoatl was in constant warfare with his father,
Tezcatlipoca-Camaxtli, the Spirit of Darkness. The effect of this
oft-repeated myth on the minds of the superstitious natives was to lead
them to the brutal child murder I have mentioned.

It was, however, natural that the more ordinary meaning, "the feathered or
bird-serpent," should become popular, and in the picture writing some
combination of the serpent with feathers or other part of a bird was often
employed as the rebus of the name Quetzalcoatl.

He was also known by other names, as, like all the prominent gods in early
mythologies, he had various titles according to the special attribute or
function which was uppermost in the mind of the worshipper. One of these
was _Papachtic_, He of the Flowing Locks, a word which the Spaniards
shortened to Papa, and thought was akin to their title of the Pope. It is,
however, a pure Nahuatl word,[1] and refers to the abundant hair with
which he was always credited, and which, like his ample beard, was, in
fact, the symbol of the sun's rays, the aureole or glory of light which
surrounded his face.

[Footnote 1: "_Papachtic_, guedejudo; _Papachtli_, guedeja o vedija de
capellos, o de otra cosa assi." Molina, _Vocabulario de la Lengua
Mexicana_. sub voce. Juan de Tobar, in Kingsborough, Vol. viii, p. 259,

His fair complexion was, as usual, significant of light. This association
of ideas was so familiar among the Mexicans that at the time of an eclipse
of the sun they sought out the whitest men and women they could find, and
sacrificed them, in order to pacify the sun.[1]

[Footnote 1: Mendieta, _Historia Eclesiastica Indiana_, Lib. ii, cap.

His opponent, Tezcatlipoca, was the most sublime figure in the Aztec
Pantheon. He towered above all other gods, as did Jove in Olympus. He was
appealed to as the creator of heaven and earth, as present in every place,
as the sole ruler of the world, as invisible and omniscient.

The numerous titles by which he was addressed illustrate the veneration in
which he was held. His most common name in prayers was _Titlacauan_, We
are his Slaves. As believed to be eternally young, he was Telpochtli, the
Youth; as potent and unpersuadable, he was _Moyocoyatzin_, the Determined
Doer;[1] as exacting in worship, _Monenegui_, He who Demands Prayers; as
the master of the race, _Teyocoyani_, Creator of Men, and _Teimatini_,
Disposer of Men. As he was jealous and terrible, the god who visited on
men plagues, and famines, and loathsome diseases, the dreadful deity who
incited wars and fomented discord, he was named _Yaotzin_, the Arch Enemy,
_Yaotl necoc_, the Enemy of both Sides, _Moquequeloa_, the Mocker,
_Nezaualpilli_, the Lord who Fasts, _Tlamatzincatl_, He who Enforces
Penitence; and as dark, invisible and inscrutable, he was _Yoalli
ehecatl_, the Night Wind.[2]

[Footnote 1: _Moyocoyatzin_, is the third person singular of _yocoya_, to
do, to make, with the reverential termination _tzin_. Sahagun says this
title was given him because he could do what he pleased, on earth or in
heaven, and no one could prevent him. (Historia de Nueva España, Lib. III.
cap. II.) It seems to me that it would rather refer to his demiurgic,
creative power.]

[Footnote 2: All these titles are to be found in Sahagun, _Historia de
Nueva España_.]

He was said to be formed of thin air and darkness; and when he was seen of
men it was as a shadow without substance. He alone of all the gods defied
the assaults of time, was ever young and strong, and grew not old with
years.[1] Against such an enemy who could hope for victory?

[Footnote 1: The description of Clavigero is worth quoting: "TEZCATLIPOCA:
Questo era il maggior Dio, che in que paesi si adorava, dopo il Dio
invisible, o Supremo Essere. Era il Dio della Providenza, l' anima del
Mondo, il Creator del Cielo e della Terra, ed il Signor di tutle le cose.
Rappresentavanlo tuttora giovane per significare, che non s' invecchiava
mai, nè s' indeboliva cogli anni." _Storia Antica di Messico_, Lib. vi, p.

The name "Tezcatlipoca" is one of odd significance. It means The Smoking
Mirror. This strange metaphor has received various explanations. The
mirrors in use among the Aztecs were polished plates of obsidian, trimmed
to a circular form. There was a variety of this black stone called
_tezcapoctli_, smoky mirror stone, and from this his images were at times
made.[1] This, however, seems too trivial an explanation.

[Footnote 1: Sahagun, _Historia_, Lib. ii, cap. xxxvii.]

Others have contended that Tezcatlipoca, as undoubtedly the spirit of
darkness and the night, refers, in its meaning, to the moon, which hangs
like a bright round mirror in the sky, though partly dulled by what the
natives thought a smoke.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Anales del Museo Nacional_, Tom. ii, p. 257.]

I am inclined to believe, however, that the mirror referred to is that
first and most familiar of all, the surface of water: and that the smoke
is the mist which at night rises from lake and river, as actual smoke does
in the still air.

As presiding over the darkness and the night, dreams and the phantoms of
the gloom were supposed to be sent by Tezcatlipoca, and to him were sacred
those animals which prowl about at night, as the skunk and the coyote.[1]

[Footnote 1: Sahagun, _Historia_. Lib. vi, caps. ix, xi, xii.]

Thus his names, his various attributes, his sacred animals and his myths
unite in identifying this deity as a primitive personification of the
Darkness, whether that of the storm or of the night.[1]

[Footnote 1: Señor Alfredo Chavero believes Tezcatlipoca to have been
originally the moon, and there is little doubt at times this was one of
his symbols, as the ruler of the darkness. M. Girard de Rialle, on the
other hand, claims him as a solar deity. "Il est la personnification du
soleil sous son aspect corrupteur et destructeur, ennemi des hommes et de
la nature." _La Mythologie Comparée_, p. 334 (Paris, 1878). A closer study
of the original authorities would, I am sure, have led M. de Rialle to
change this opinion. He is singularly far from the conclusion reached by
M. Ternaux-Compans, who says: "Tezcatlipoca fût la personnification du bon
principe." _Essai sur la Théogonie Mexicaine_, p. 23 (Paris, 1840). Both
opinions are equally incomplete. Dr. Schultz-Sellack considers him the
"Wassergott," and assigns him to the North, in his essay, _Die
Amerikanischen Götter der Vier Weltgegenden, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie_,
Bd. xi, 1879. This approaches more closely to his true character.]

This is further shown by the beliefs current as to his occasional
appearance on earth. This was always at night and in the gloom of the
forest. The hunter would hear a sound like the crash of falling trees,
which would be nothing else than the mighty breathings of the giant form
of the god on his nocturnal rambles. Were the hunter timorous he would die
outright on seeing the terrific presence of the god; but were he of
undaunted heart, and should rush upon him and seize him around the waist,
the god was helpless and would grant him anything he wished. "Ask what you
please," the captive deity would say, "and it is yours. Only fail not to
release me before the sun rises. For I must leave before it appears."[1]

[Footnote 1: Torquemada, _Monarquía Indiana_, Lib. XIV, cap. XXII.]

§2. _Quetzalcoatl the God._

In the ancient and purely mythical narrative, Quetzalcoatl is one of four
divine brothers, gods like himself, born in the uttermost or thirteenth
heaven to the infinite and uncreated deity, which, in its male
manifestations, was known as _Tonaca tecutli_, Lord of our Existence, and
_Tzin teotl_, God of the Beginning, and in its female expressions as
_Tonaca cihuatl_, Queen of our Existence, _Xochiquetzal_, Beautiful Rose,
_Citlallicue_, the Star-skirted or the Milky Way, _Citlalatonac_, the Star
that warms, or The Morning, and _Chicome coatl_, the Seven Serpents.[1]

[Footnote 1: The chief authorities on the birth of the god Quetzalcoatl,
are Ramirez de Fuen-leal _Historia de los Mexicanos por sus Pinturas_,
Cap. i, printed in the _Anales del Museo Nacional_; the _Codex
Telleriano-Remensis_, and the _Codex Vaticanus_, both of which are in
Kingsborough's _Mexican Antiquities_.

The usual translation of _Tonaca tecutli_ is "God of our Subsistence,"
_to_, our, _naca_, flesh, _tecutli_, chief or lord. It really has a more
subtle meaning. _Naca_ is not applied to edible flesh--that is expressed
by the word _nonoac_--but is the flesh of our own bodies, our life,
existence. See _Anales de Cuauhtitlan_, p. 18, note.]

Of these four brothers, two were the black and the red Tezcatlipoca, and
the fourth was Huitzilopochtli, the Left handed, the deity adored beyond
all others in the city of Mexico. Tezcatlipoca--for the two of the name
blend rapidly into one as the myth progresses--was wise beyond compute; he
knew all thoughts and hearts, could see to all places, and was
distinguished for power and forethought.

At a certain time the four brothers gathered together and consulted
concerning the creation of things. The work was left to Quetzalcoatl and
Huitzilopochtli. First they made fire, then half a sun, the heavens, the
waters and a certain great fish therein, called Cipactli, and from its
flesh the solid earth. The first mortals were the man, Cipactonal, and the
woman, Oxomuco,[1] and that the son born to them might have a wife, the
four gods made one for him out of a hair taken from the head of their
divine mother, Xochiquetzal.

[Footnote 1: The names Cipactli and Cipactonal have not been
satisfactorily analyzed. The derivation offered by Señor Chavero (_Anales
del Museo Nacional_, Tom. ii, p.116), is merely fanciful; _tonal_ is no
doubt from _tona_, to shine, to warn; and I think _cipactli_ is a softened
form with the personal ending from _chipauac_, something beautiful or
clear. Hence the meaning of the compound is The Beautiful Shining One.
Oxomuco, which Chavero derives from _xomitl_, foot, is perhaps the same as
_Xmukane_, the mother of the human race, according to the _Popol Vuh_, a
name which, I have elsewhere shown, appears to be from a Maya root,
meaning to conceal or bury in the ground. The hint is of the fertilizing
action of the warm light on the seed hidden in the soil. See _The Names of
the Gods in the Kiche Myths, Trans. of the Amer. Phil. Soc._ 1881.]

Now began the struggle between the two brothers, Tezcatlipoca and
Quetzalcoatl, which was destined to destroy time after time the world,
with all its inhabitants, and to plunge even the heavenly luminaries into
a common ruin.

The half sun created by Quetzalcoatl lighted the world but poorly, and the
four gods came together to consult about adding another half to it. Not
waiting for their decision, Tezcatlipoca transformed himself into a sun,
whereupon the other gods filled the world with great giants, who could
tear up trees with their hands. When an epoch of thirteen times fifty-two
years had passed, Quetzalcoatl seized a great stick, and with a blow of it
knocked Tezcatlipoca from the sky into the waters, and himself became sun.
The fallen god transformed himself into a tiger, and emerged from the
waves to attack and devour the giants with which his brothers had
enviously filled the world which he had been lighting from the sky. After
this, he passed to the nocturnal heavens, and became the constellation of
the Great Bear.

For an epoch the earth flourished under Quetzalcoatl as sun, but
Tezcatlipoca was merely biding his time, and the epoch ended, he appeared
as a tiger and gave Quetzalcoatl such a blow with his paw that it hurled
him from the skies. The overthrown god revenged himself by sweeping the
earth with so violent a tornado that it destroyed all the inhabitants but
a few, and these were changed into monkeys. His victorious brother then
placed in the heavens, as sun, Tlaloc, the god of darkness, water and
rains, but after half an epoch, Quetzalcoatl poured a flood of fire upon
the earth, drove Tlaloc from the sky, and placed in his stead, as sun, the
goddess Chalchiutlicue, the Emerald Skirted, wife of Tlaloc. In her time
the rains poured so upon the earth that all human beings were drowned or
changed into fishes, and at last the heavens themselves fell, and sun and
stars were alike quenched.

Then the two brothers whose strife had brought this ruin, united their
efforts and raised again the sky, resting it on two mighty trees, the Tree
of the Mirror (_tezcaquahuitl_) and the Beautiful Great Rose Tree
(_quetzalveixochitl_), on which the concave heavens have ever since
securely rested; though we know them better, perhaps, if we drop the
metaphor and call them the "mirroring sea" and the "flowery earth," on one
of which reposes the horizon, in whichever direction we may look.

Again the four brothers met together to provide a sun for the now darkened
earth. They decided to make one, indeed, but such a one as would eat the
hearts and drink the blood of victims, and there must be wars upon the
earth, that these victims could be obtained for the sacrifice. Then
Quetzalcoatl builded a great fire and took his son--his son born of his
own flesh, without the aid of woman--and cast him into the flames, whence
he rose into the sky as the sun which lights the world. When the Light-God
kindles the flames of the dawn in the orient sky, shortly the sun emerges
from below the horizon and ascends the heavens. Tlaloc, god of waters,
followed, and into the glowing ashes of the pyre threw his son, who rose
as the moon.

Tezcatlipoca had it now in mind to people the earth, and he, therefore,
smote a certain rock with a stick, and from it issued four hundred
barbarians (_chichimeca_).[1] Certain five goddesses, however, whom he had
already created in the eighth heaven, descended and slew these four
hundred, all but three. These goddesses likewise died before the sun
appeared, but came into being again from the garments they had left
behind. So also did the four hundred Chichimecs, and these set about to
burn one of the five goddesses, by name Coatlicue, the Serpent Skirted,
because it was discovered that she was with child, though yet unmarried.
But, in fact, she was a spotless virgin, and had known no man. She had
placed some white plumes in her bosom, and through these the god
Huitzilopochtli entered her body to be born again. When, therefore, the
four hundred had gathered together to burn her, the god came forth fully
armed and slew them every one.

[Footnote 1: The name Chichimeca has been a puzzle. The derivation appears
to be from _chichi_, a dog, _mecatl_, a rope. According to general
tradition the Chichimecs were a barbarous people who inhabited Mexico
before the Aztecs came. Yet Sahagun says the Toltecs were the real
Chichimecs (Lib. x, cap. xxix). In the myth we are now considering, they
were plainly the stars.]

It is not hard to guess who are these four hundred youths slain before the
sun rises, destined to be restored to life and yet again destroyed. The
veil of metaphor is thin which thus conceals to our mind the picture of
the myriad stars quenched every morning by the growing light, but
returning every evening to their appointed places. And did any doubt
remain, it is removed by the direct statement in the echo of this
tradition preserved by the Kiches of Guatemala, wherein it is plainly said
that the four hundred youths who were put to death by Zipacna, and
restored to life by Hunhun Ahpu, "rose into the sky and became the stars
of heaven."[1]

[Footnote 1: _Popol Vuh, Le Livre Sacré des Quichés_, p. 193.]

Indeed, these same ancient men whose explanations I have been following
added that the four hundred men whom Tezcatlipoca created continued yet to
live in the third heaven, and were its guards and watchmen. They were of
five colors, yellow, black, white, blue and red, which in the symbolism of
their tongue meant that they were distributed around the zenith and to
each of the four cardinal points.[1]

[Footnote 1: See H. de Charencey, _Des Couleurs Considérées comme Symboles
des Points de l'Horizon chez les Peuples du Nouveau Monde_, in the _Actes
de la Société Philologiques_, Tome vi. No. 3.]

Nor did these sages suppose that the struggle of the dark Tezcatlipoca to
master the Light-God had ceased; no, they knew he was biding his time,
with set purpose and a fixed certainty of success. They knew that in the
second heaven there were certain frightful women, without flesh or bones,
whose names were the Terrible, or the Thin Dart-Throwers, who were waiting
there until this world should end, when they would descend and eat up all
mankind.[1] Asked concerning the time of this destruction, they replied
that as to the day or season they knew it not, but it would be "when
Tezcatlipoca should steal the sun from heaven for himself"; in other
words, when eternal night should close in upon the Universe.[2]

[Footnote 1: These frightful beings were called the _Tzitzimime_, a word
which Molina in his Vocabulary renders "cosa espantosa ó cosa de aguero."
For a thorough discussion of their place in Mexican mythology, see _Anales
del Museo Nacional_, Tom. ii, pp. 358-372.]

[Footnote 2: The whole of this version of the myth is from the work of
Ramirez de Fuen-leal, which I consider in some respects the most valuable
authority we possess. It was taken directly from the sacred books of the
Aztecs, as explained by the most competent survivors of the Conquest.]

The myth which I have here given in brief is a prominent one in Aztec
cosmogony, and is known as that of the Ages of the World or the Suns. The
opinion was widely accepted that the present is the fifth age or period of
the world's history; that it has already undergone four destructions by
various causes, and that the present period is also to terminate in
another such catastrophe. The agents of such universal ruin have been a
great flood, a world-wide conflagration, frightful tornadoes and famine,
earthquakes and wild beasts, and hence the Ages, Suns or Periods were
called respectively, from their terminations, those of Water, Fire, Air
and Earth. As we do not know the destiny of the fifth, the present one, it
has as yet no name.

I shall not attempt to go into the details of this myth, the less so as it
has recently been analyzed with much minuteness by the Mexican antiquary
Chavero.[1] I will merely point out that it is too closely identified with
a great many similar myths for us to be allowed to seek an origin for it
peculiar to Mexican or even American soil. We can turn to the Tualati who
live in Oregon, and they will tell us of the four creations and
destructions of mankind; how at the end of the first Age all human beings
were changed into stars; at the end of the second they became stones; at
the end of the third into fishes; and at the close of the fourth they
disappeared, to give place to the tribes that now inhabit the world.[2] Or
we can read from the cuneiform inscriptions of ancient Babylon, and find
the four destructions of the race there specified, as by a flood, by wild
beasts, by famine and by pestilence.[3]

[Footnote 1: Alfredo Chavero, _La Piedra del Sol_, in the _Anales del
Museo Nacional_, Tom. i, p. 353, et seq.]

[Footnote 2: A.S. Gatschet, _The Four Creations of Mankind_, a Tualati
myth, in _Transactions of the Anthropological Society of Washington_, Vol.
i, p. 60 (1881).]

[Footnote 3: Paul Haupt, _Der Keilinschriftliche Sintfluthbericht_, p. 17
(Leipzig, 1881).]

The explanation which I have to give of these coincidences--which could
easily be increased--is that the number four was chosen as that of the
four cardinal points, and that the fifth or present age, that in which we
live, is that which is ruled by the ruler of the four points, by the
Spirit of Light, who was believed to govern them, as, in fact, the early
dawn does, by defining the relations of space, act as guide and governor
of the motions of men.

All through Aztec mythology, traditions and customs, we can discover this
ancient myth of the four brothers, the four ancestors of their race, or
the four chieftains who led their progenitors to their respective
habitations. The rude mountaineers of Meztitlan, who worshiped with
particular zeal Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl, and had inscribed, in
gigantic figures, the sacred five points, symbol of the latter, on the
side of a vast precipice in their land, gave the symbolic titles to the
primeval quadruplet;--

_Ixcuin_, He who has four faces.

_Hueytecpatl_, the ancient Flint-stone.

_Tentetemic_, the Lip-stone that slays.

_Nanacatltzatzi_, He who speaks when intoxicated with the poisonous
mushroom, called _nanacatl_.

These four brothers, according to the myth, were born of the goddess,
Hueytonantzin, which means "our great, ancient mother," and, with unfilial
hands, turned against her and slew her, sacrificing her to the Sun and
offering her heart to that divinity.[1] In other words, it is the old
story of the cardinal points, defined at daybreak by the Dawn, the eastern
Aurora, which is lost in or sacrificed to the Sun on its appearance.

[Footnote 1: Gabriel de Chaves, _Relacion de la Provincia de Meztitlan_,
1556, in the _Colecion de Documentos Ineditos del Archivo de Indias_, Tom.
iv, pp. 535 and 536. The translations of the names are not given by
Chaves, but I think they are correct, except, possibly, the third, which
may be a compound of _tentetl_, lipstone, _temictli_, dream, instead of
with _temicti_, slayer.]

Of these four brothers I suspect the first, Ixcuin, "he who looks four
ways," or "has four faces," is none other than Quetzalcoatl,[1] while the
Ancient Flint is probably Tezcatlipoca, thus bringing the myth into
singularly close relationship with that of the Iroquois, given on a
previous page.

[Footnote 1: _Ixcuina_ was also the name of the goddess of pleasure. The
derivation is from _ixtli_, face, _cui_, to take, and _na_, four. See the
note of MM. Jourdanet and Simeon to their translation of Sahagun,
_Historia_ p. 22.]

Another myth of the Aztecs gave these four brothers or primitive heroes,


Of these Dr. Schultz-Sellack advances plausible reasons for believing that
Itztlacoliuhqui, which was the name of a certain form of head-dress, was
another title of Quetzalcoatl; and that Pantecatl was one of the names of
Tezcatlipoca.[1] If this is the case we have here another version of the
same myth.

[Footnote 1: Dr. Schultz Sellack, _Die Amerikanischen Götter der Vier
Weltgegenden und ihre Tempel in Palenque_, in the _Zeitschrift für
Ethnologie_, Bd. xi, (1879).]

§3. _Quetzalcoatl, the Hero of Tula._

But it was not Quetzalcoatl the god, the mysterious creator of the visible
world, on whom the thoughts of the Aztec race delighted to dwell, but on
Quetzalcoatl, high priest in the glorious city of Tollan (Tula), the
teacher of the arts, the wise lawgiver, the virtuous prince, the master
builder and the merciful judge.

Here, again, though the scene is transferred from heaven to earth and from
the cycles of other worlds to a date not extremely remote, the story
continues to be of his contest with Tezcatlipoca, and of the wiles of this
enemy, now diminished to a potent magician and jealous rival, to
dispossess and drive him from famous Tollan.

No one versed in the metaphors of mythology can be deceived by the thin
veil of local color which surrounds the myth in this its terrestrial and
historic form. Apart from its being but a repetition or continuation of
the genuine ancient account of the conflict of day and night, light and
darkness, which I have already given, the name Tollan is enough to point
out the place and the powers with which the story deals. For this Tollan,
where Quetzalcoatl reigned, is not by any means, as some have supposed,
the little town of Tula, still alive, a dozen leagues or so northwest from
the city of Mexico; nor was it, as the legend usually stated, in some
undefined locality from six hundred to a thousand leagues northwest of
that city; nor yet in Asia, as some antiquaries have maintained; nor,
indeed, anywhere upon this weary world; but it was, as the name denotes,
and as the native historian Tezozomoc long since translated it, where the
bright sun lives, and where the god of light forever rules so long as that
orb is in the sky. Tollan is but a syncopated form of _Tonatlan_, the
Place of the Sun.[1]

[Footnote 1: "Tonalan, ô lugar del sol," says Tezozomoc (_Cronica
Mexicana_, chap. i). The full form is _Tonatlan_, from _tona_, "hacer
sol," and the place ending _tlan_. The derivation from _tollin_, a rush,
is of no value, and it is nothing to the point that in the picture writing
Tollan was represented by a bundle of rushes (Kingsborough, vol. vi, p.
177, note), as that was merely in accordance with the rules of the picture
writing, which represented names by rebuses. Still more worthless is the
derivation given by Herrera (_Historia de las Indias Occidentals_, Dec.
iii, Lib. i, cap. xi), that it means "Lugar de Tuna" or the place where
the tuna (the fruit of the Opuntia) is found; inasmuch as the word _tuna_
is not from the Aztec at all, but belongs to that dialect of the Arawack
spoken by the natives of Cuba and Haiti.]

It is worth while to examine the whereabouts and character of this
marvelous city of Tollan somewhat closely, for it is a place that we hear
of in the oldest myths and legends of many and different races. Not only
the Aztecs, but the Mayas of Yucatan and the Kiches and Cakchiquels of
Guatemala bewailed, in woful songs, the loss to them of that beautiful
land, and counted its destruction as a common starting point in their
annals.[1] Well might they regret it, for not again would they find its
like. In that land the crop of maize never failed, and the ears grew as
long as a man's arm; the cotton burst its pods, not white only, but
naturally of all beautiful colors, scarlet, green, blue, orange, what you
would; the gourds could not be clasped in the arms; birds of beauteous
plumage filled the air with melodious song. There was never any want nor
poverty. All the riches of the world were there, houses built of silver
and precious jade, of rosy mother of pearl and of azure turquoises. The
servants of the great king Quetzalcoatl were skilled in all manner of
arts; when he sent them forth they flew to any part of the world with
infinite speed; and his edicts were proclaimed from the summit of the
mountain Tzatzitepec, the Hill of Shouting, by criers of such mighty voice
that they could be heard a hundred leagues away.[2] His servants and
disciples were called "Sons of the Sun" and "Sons of the Clouds."[3]

[Footnote 1: The _Books of Chilan Balam_, of the Mayas, the _Record from
Tecpan Atitlan_, of the Cakchiquels, and the _Popol vuh_, National Book,
of the Kiches, have much to say about Tulan. These works were all written
at a very early date, by natives, and they have all been preserved in the
original tongues, though unfortunately only the last mentioned has been

[Footnote 2: Sahagun, _Historia_, Lib. iii, cap. iii.]

[Footnote 3: Duran, _Historia de los Indios_, in Kingsborough, vol. viii,
p. 267.]

Where, then, was this marvelous land and wondrous city? Where could it be
but where the Light-God is on his throne, where the life-giving sun is
ever present, where are the mansions of the day, and where all nature
rejoices in the splendor of its rays?

But this is more than in one spot. It may be in the uppermost heavens,
where light is born and the fleecy clouds swim easily; or in the west,
where the sun descends to his couch in sanguine glory; or in the east,
beyond the purple rim of the sea, whence he rises refreshed as a giant to
run his course; or in the underworld, where he passes the night.

Therefore, in ancient Cakchiquel legend it is said: "Where the sun rises,
there is one Tulan; another is in the underworld; yet another where the
sun sets; and there is still another, and there dwells the God. Thus, O my
children, there are four Tulans, as the ancient men have told us."[1]

[Footnote 1: Francisco Ernantez Arana Xahila, _Memorial de Tecpan
Atitlan_. MS. in Cakchiquel, in my possession.]

The most venerable traditions of the Maya race claimed for them a
migration from "Tollan in Zuyva." "Thence came we forth together," says
the Kiche myth, "there was the common parent of our race, thence came we,
from among the Yaqui men, whose god is Yolcuat Quetzalcoat."[1] This
Tollan is certainly none other than the abode of Quetzalcoatl, named in an
Aztec manuscript as _Zivena vitzcatl_, a word of uncertain derivation, but
applied to the highest heaven.

[Footnote 1: _Le Popol Vuh_, p. 247. The name _Yaqui_ means in Kiche
civilized or polished, and was applied to the Aztecs, but it is, in its
origin, from an Aztec root _yauh_, whence _yaque_, travelers, and
especially merchants. The Kiches recognizing in the Aztec merchants a
superior and cultivated class of men, adopted into their tongue the name
which the merchants gave themselves, and used the word in the above sense.
Compare Sahagun, _Historia de Nueva España_, Lib. ix, cap. xii.]

Where Quetzalcoatl finally retired, and whence he was expected back, was
still a Tollan--Tollan Tlapallan--and Montezuma, when he heard of the
arrival of the Spaniards, exclaimed, "It is Quetzalcoatl, returned from

The cities which selected him as their tutelary deity were named for that
which he was supposed to have ruled over. Thus we have Tollan and
Tollantzinco ("behind Tollan") in the Valley of Mexico, and the pyramid
Cholula was called "Tollan-Cholollan," as well as many other Tollans and
Tulas among the Nahuatl colonies.

The natives of the city of Tula were called, from its name, the _Tolteca_,
which simply means "those who dwell in Tollan." And who, let us ask, were
these Toltecs?

They have hovered about the dawn of American history long enough. To them
have been attributed not only the primitive culture of Central America and
Mexico, but of lands far to the north, and even the earthworks of the Ohio
Valley. It is time they were assigned their proper place, and that is
among the purely fabulous creations of the imagination, among the giants
and fairies, the gnomes and sylphs, and other such fancied beings which in
all ages and nations the popular mind has loved to create.

Toltec, Toltecatl,[1] which in later days came to mean a skilled craftsman
or artificer, signifies, as I have said, an inhabitant of Tollan--of the
City of the Sun--in other words, a Child of Light. Without a metaphor, it
meant at first one of the far darting, bright shining rays of the sun. Not
only does the tenor of the whole myth show this, but specifically and
clearly the powers attributed to the ancient Toltecs. As the immediate
subjects of the God of Light they were called "Those who fly the whole day
without resting,"[2] and it was said of them that they had the power of
reaching instantly even a very distant place. When the Light-God himself
departs, they too disappear, and their city is left uninhabited and

[Footnote 1: Toltecatl, according to Molina, is "oficial de arte mecanica
ò maestro," (_Vocabulario de la Lengua Mexicana_, s.v.). This is a
secondary meaning. Veitia justly says, "Toltecatl quiere decir artifice,
porque en Thollan comenzaron a enseñar, aunque a Thollan llamaron Tula, y
por decir Toltecatl dicen Tuloteca" (_Historia_, cap. xv).]

[Footnote 2: Their title was _Tlanqua cemilhuique_, compounded of
_tlanqua_, to set the teeth, as with strong determination, and
_cemilhuitia_, to run during a whole day. Sahagun, _Historia_, Lib. iii,
cap. iii, and Lib. x, cap. xxix; compare also the myth of Tezcatlipoca
disguised as an old woman parching corn, the odor of which instantly
attracted the Toltecs, no matter how far off they were. When they came she
killed them. Id. Lib. iii, cap. xi.]

In some, and these I consider the original versions of the myth, they do
not constitute a nation at all, but are merely the disciples or servants
of Quetzalcoatl.[1] They have all the traits of beings of supernatural
powers. They were astrologers and necromancers, marvelous poets and
philosophers, painters as were not to be found elsewhere in the world, and
such builders that for a thousand leagues the remains of their cities,
temples and fortresses strewed the land. "When it has happened to me,"
says Father Duran, "to ask an Indian who cut this pass through the
mountains, or who opened that spring of water, or who built that old ruin,
the answer was, 'The Toltecs, the disciples of Papa.'"[2]

[Footnote 1: "Discipulos," Duran, _Historia_, in Kingsborough, vol. vii,
p. 260.]

[Footnote 2: Ibid.]

They were tall in stature, beyond the common race of men, and it was
nothing uncommon for them to live hundreds of years. Such was their energy
that they allowed no lazy person to live among them, and like their master
they were skilled in every art of life and virtuous beyond the power of
mortals. In complexion they are described as light in hue, as was their
leader, and as are usually the personifications of light, and not the less
so among the dark races of men.[1]

[Footnote 1: For the character of the Toltecs as here portrayed, see
Ixtlilxochitl, _Relaciones Historicas_, and Veitia, _Historia, passion_.]

When Quetzalcoatl left Tollan most of the Toltecs had already perished by
the stratagems of Tezcatlipoca, and those that survived were said to have
disappeared on his departure. The city was left desolate, and what became
of its remaining inhabitants no one knew. But this very uncertainty
offered a favorable opportunity for various nations, some speaking Nahuatl
and some other tongues, to claim descent from this mysterious, ancient and
wondrous race.

The question seems, indeed, a difficult one. When the Light-God disappears
from the sky, shorn of his beams and bereft of his glory, where are the
bright rays, the darting gleams of light which erewhile bathed the earth
in refulgence? Gone, gone, we know not whither.

The original home of the Toltecs was said to have been in Tlapallan--the
very same Red Land to which Quetzalcoatl was fabled to have returned; only
the former was distinguished as Old Tlapallan--Hue Tlapallan--as being
that from which he and they had emerged. Other myths called it the Place
of Sand, Xalac, an evident reference to the sandy sea strand, the same
spot where it was said that Quetzalcoatl was last seen, beyond which the
sun rises and below which he sinks. Thither he returned when driven from
Tollan, and reigned over his vassals many years in peace.[1]

[Footnote 1: "Se metió (Quetzalcoatl) la tierra adentro hasta Tlapallan ó
segun otros Huey Xalac, antigua patria de sus antepasados, en donde vivió
muchos años." Ixtlilxochitl, _Relaciones Historicas_, p. 394, in
Kingsborough, vol. ix. Xalac, is from _xalli_, sand, with the locative
termination. In Nahuatl _xalli aquia_, to enter the sand, means to die.]

We cannot mistake this Tlapallan, new or old. Whether it is bathed in the
purple and gold of the rising sun or in the crimson and carnation of his
setting, it always was, as Sahagun tells us, with all needed distinctness,
"the city of the Sun," the home of light and color, whence their leader,
Quetzalcoatl had come, and whither he was summoned to return.[1]

[Footnote 1: "Dicen que caminó acia el Oriente, y que se fué á la ciudad
del Sol, llamada Tlapallan, y fué llamado del sol." Libro. viii, Prologo.]

The origin of the earthly Quetzalcoatl is variously given; one cycle of
legends narrates his birth in Tollan in some extraordinary manner; a
second cycle claims that he was not born in any country known to the
Aztecs, but came to them as a stranger.

Of the former cycle probably one of the oldest versions is that he was a
son or descendant of Tezcatlipoca himself, under his name Camaxtli. This
was the account given to the chancellor Ramirez,[1] and it is said by
Torquemada to have been the canonical doctrine taught in the holy city of
Cholollan, the centre of the worship of Quetzalcoatl.[2] It is a
transparent metaphor, and could be paralleled by a hundred similar
expressions in the myths of other nations. The Night brings forth the Day,
the darkness leads on to the light, and though thus standing in the
relation of father and son, the struggle between them is forever

[Footnote 1: Ramirez de Fuen-leal, _Hist. de los Mexicanos_, cap. viii.]

[Footnote 2: _Monarquia Indiana_, Lib. vi, cap. xxiv. _Camaxtli_ is also
found in the form _Yoamaxtli_; this shows that it is a compound of
_maxtli_, covering, clothing, and _ca_, the substantive verb, or in the
latter instance, _yoalli_, night; hence it is, "the Mantle," or, "the garb
of night" ("la faja nocturna," _Anales del Museo Nacional_, Tom. ii, p.

Another myth represents him as the immediate son of the All-Father Tonaca
tecutli, under his title Citlallatonac, the Morning, by an earth-born
maiden in Tollan. In that city dwelt three sisters, one of whom, an
unspotted virgin, was named Chimalman. One day, as they were together, the
god appeared to them. Chimalman's two sisters were struck to death by
fright at his awful presence, but upon her he breathed the breath of life,
and straightway she conceived. The son she bore cost her life, but it was
the divine Quetzalcoatl, surnamed _Topiltcin_, Our Son, and, from the year
of his birth, _Ce Acatl_, One Reed. As soon as he was born he was
possessed of speech and reason and wisdom. As for his mother, having
perished on earth, she was transferred to the heavens, where she was given
the honored name Chalchihuitzli, the Precious Stone of Sacrifice.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Codex Vaticanus_, Tab. x; _Codex Telleriano-Remensis_, Pt.
ii, Lam. ii. The name is from _chalchihuitl_, jade, and _vitztli_, the
thorn used to pierce the tongue, ears and penis, in sacrifice.
_Chimalman_, more correctly, _Chimalmatl_, is from _chimalli_, shield, and
probably, _matlalin_, green.]

This, also, is evidently an ancient and simple figure of speech to express
that the breath of Morning announces the dawn which brings forth the sun
and disappears in the act.

The virgin mother Chimalman, in another legend, is said to have been
brought with child by swallowing a jade or precious green stone
(_chalchihuitl_);[1] while another averred that she was not a virgin, but
the wife of Camaxtli (Tezcatlipoca);[2] or again, that she was the second
wife of that venerable old man who was the father of the seven sons from
whom all tribes speaking the Nahuatl language, and several who did not
speak it (Otomies, Tarascos), were descended.[3] This latter will repay

[Footnote 1: Mendieta, _Historia Eclesiastica Indiana_, Lib. ii, cap. vi.]

[Footnote 2: Ibid.]

[Footnote 3: Motolinia, _Historia de los Indios de Nueva España, Epistola
Proemial_, p. 10. The first wife was Ilancueitl, from _ilantli_, old
woman, and _cueitl_, skirt. Gomara, _Conquista de Méjico_, p. 432.]

All through Mexico and Central America this legend of the Seven Sons,
Seven Tribes, the Seven Caves whence they issued, or the Seven Cities
where they dwelt, constantly crops out. To that land the Aztecs referred
as their former dwelling place. It was located at some indefinite distance
to the north or northwest--in the same direction as Tollan. The name of
that land was significant. It was called the White or Bright Land,
_Aztlan_.[1] In its midst was situated the mountain or hill Colhuacan the
Divine, _Teoculhuacan_.[2] In the base of this hill were the Seven
Caverns, _Chicomoztoc_, whence the seven tribes with their respective gods
had issued, those gods including Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli and the
Tezcatlipocas. There continued to live their mother, awaiting their

[Footnote 1: The derivation of Aztlan from _aztatl_, a heron, has been
rejected by Buschmann and the best Aztec scholars. It is from the same
root as _izlac_, white, with the local ending _tlan_, and means the White
or Bright Land. See the subject discussed in Buschmann, _Ueber die
Atzekischen Ortsnamen_. p. 612, and recently by Señor Orozco y Berra, in
_Anales del Museo Nacional_, Tom. ii, p. 56.]

[Footnote 2: Colhuacan, is a locative form. It is usually derived from
_coloa_, to curve, to round. Father Duran says it is another name for
Aztlan: "Estas cuevas son en Teoculacan, _que por otro nombre_ se llama
Aztlan." _Historia de los Indios de Nueva España_, Lib. i, cap. i.]

_Teo_ is from _teotl_, god, deity. The description in the text of the
relations of land and water in this mythical land, is also from Duran's

The lord of this land and the father of the seven sons is variously and
indistinctly named. One legend calls him the White Serpent of the Clouds,
or the White Cloud Twin, _Iztac Mixcoatl_.[1] Whoever he was we can hardly
mistake the mountain in which or upon which he dwelt. _Colhuacan_ means
the bent or curved mountain. It is none other than the Hill of Heaven,
curving down on all sides to the horizon; upon it in all times have dwelt
the gods, and from it they have come to aid the men they favor. Absolutely
the same name was applied by the Choctaws to the mythical hill from which
they say their ancestors first emerged into the light of day. They call it
_Nane Waiyah_, the Bent or Curved Hill[2]. Such identity of metaphorical
expression leaves little room for discussion.

[Footnote 1: Mendieta, _Historia Eclesiastica Indiana_, Lib. ii, cap.

[Footnote 2: See my work, _The Myths of the New World_, p. 242.]

If it did, the other myths which surround the mystic mountain would seem
to clear up doubt. Colhuacan, we are informed, continued to be the
residence of the great Mother of the Gods. On it she dwelt, awaiting their
return from earth. No one can entirely climb the mountain, for from its
middle distance to the summit it is of fine and slippery sand; but it has
this magical virtue, that whoever ascends it, however old he is, grows
young again, in proportion as he mounts, and is thus restored to pristine
vigor. The happy dwellers around it have, however, no need of its youth
restoring power; for in that land no one grows old, nor knows the outrage
of years.[1]

[Footnote 1: "En esta tierra nunca envejecen los hombres. * * * Este cerro
tiene esta virtud, que el que ya viejo se quiere remozar, sube hasta donde
le parece, y vuelve de la edad que quiere." Duran, in Kingsborough, Vol.
viii, p. 201.]

When Quetzalcoatl, therefore, was alleged to be the son of the Lord of the
Seven Caves, it was nothing more than a variation of the legend that gave
him out as the son of the Lord of the High Heavens. They both mean the
same thing. Chimalman, who appears in both myths as his mother, binds the
two together, and stamps them as identical, while Mixcoatl is only another
name for Tezcatlipoca.

Such an interpretation, if correct, would lead to the dismissal from
history of the whole story of the Seven Cities or Caves, and the pretended
migration from them. In fact, the repeated endeavors of the chroniclers to
assign a location to these fabulous residences, have led to no result
other than most admired disorder and confusion. It is as vain to seek
their whereabouts, as it is that of the garden of Eden or the Isle of
Avalon. They have not, and never had a place on this sublunary sphere, but
belong in that ethereal world which the fancy creates and the imagination

A more prosaic account than any of the above, is given by the historian,
Alva Ixtlilxochitl, so prosaic that it is possible that it has some grains
of actual fact in it.[1] He tells us that a King of Tollan, Tecpancaltzin,
fell in love with the daughter of one of his subjects, a maiden by name
Xochitl, the Rose. Her father was the first to collect honey from the
maguey plant, and on pretence of buying this delicacy the king often sent
for Xochitl. He accomplished her seduction, and hid her in a rose garden
on a mountain, where she gave birth to an infant son, to the great anger
of the father. Casting the horoscope of the infant, the court astrologer
found all the signs that he should be the last King of Tollan, and should
witness the destruction of the Toltec monarchy. He was named _Meconetzin_,
the Son of the Maguey, and in due time became king, and the prediction was

[Footnote 1: Ixtlilxochitl, _Relaciones Historicas_, p. 330, in
Kingsborough, Vol. ix.]

[Footnote 2: In the work of Ramirez de Fuen-leal (cap. viii), Tezcatlipoca
is said to have been the discoverer of pulque, the intoxicating wine of
the Maguey. In Meztitlan he was associated with the gods of this beverage
and of drunkenness. Hence it is probable that the name _Meconetzin_
applied to Quetzalcoatl in this myth meant to convey that he was the son
of Tezcatlipoca.]

In several points, however, this seemingly historic narrative has a
suspicious resemblance to a genuine myth preserved to us in a certain
Aztec manuscript known as the _Codex Telleriano-Remensis_. This document
tells how Quetzalcoatl, Tezcatlipoca and their brethren were at first
gods, and dwelt as stars in the heavens. They passed their time in
Paradise, in a Rose Garden, _Xochitlycacan_ ("where the roses are lifted
up"); but on a time they began plucking the roses from the great Rose tree
in the centre of the garden, and Tonaca-tecutli, in his anger at their
action, hurled them to the earth, where they lived as mortals.

The significance of this myth, as applied to the daily descent of sun and
stars from the zenith to the horizon, is too obvious to need special
comment; and the coincidences of the rose garden on the mountain (in the
one instance the Hill of Heaven, in the other a supposed terrestrial
elevation) from which Quetzalcoatl issues, and the anger of the parent,
seem to indicate that the supposed historical relation of Ixtlilxochitl is
but a myth dressed in historic garb.

The second cycle of legends disclaimed any miraculous parentage for the
hero of Tollan. Las Casas narrates his arrival from the East, from some
part of Yucatan, he thinks, with a few followers,[1] a tradition which is
also repeated with definitiveness by the native historian, Alva
Ixtlilxochitl, but leaving the locality uncertain.[2] The historian,
Veytia, on the other hand, describes him as arriving from the North, a
full grown man, tall of stature, white of skin, and full-bearded,
barefooted and bareheaded, clothed in a long white robe strewn with red
crosses, and carrying a staff in his hand.[3]

[Footnote 1: Torquemada, _Monarquia Indiana_, Lib. vi, cap. xxiv. This was
apparently the canonical doctrine in Cholula. Mendieta says: "El dios ó
idolo de Cholula, llamado Quetzalcoatl, fué el mas celebrado y tenido por
mejor y mas digno sobre los otro dioses, segun la reputacion de todos.
Este, segun sus historias (aunque algunos digan que de Tula) vino de las
partes de Yucatan á la ciudad de Cholula." _Historia Eclesiastica
Indiana_, Lib. ii, cap. x.]

[Footnote 2: _Historia Chichimeca_, cap. i.]

[Footnote 3: _Historia_, cap. xv.]

Whatever the origin of Quetzalcoatl, whether the child of a miraculous
conception, or whether as an adult stranger he came from some far-off
land, all accounts agree as to the greatness and purity of his character,
and the magnificence of Tollan under his reign. His temple was divided
into four apartments, one toward the East, yellow with gold; one toward
the West, blue with turquoise and jade; one toward the South, white with
pearls and shells, and one toward the North, red with bloodstones; thus
symbolizing the four cardinal points and four quarters of the world over
which the light holds sway.[1]

[Footnote 1: Sahagun, Lib. ix, cap. xxix.]

Through the midst of Tollan flowed a great river, and upon or over this
river was the house of Quetzalcoatl. Every night at midnight he descended
into this river to bathe, and the place of his bath was called, In the
Painted Vase, or, In the Precious Waters.[1] For the Orb of Light dips
nightly into the waters of the World Stream, and the painted clouds of the
sun-setting surround the spot of his ablutions.

[Footnote 1: The name of the bath of Quetzalcoatl is variously given as
_Xicàpoyan_, from _xicalli_, vases made from gourds, and _poyan_, to paint
(Sahagun, Lib. iii, cap. iii); _Chalchiuhapan_, from _atl_, water _pan_,
in, and _chalchiuitl_, precious, brilliant, the jade stone (_id._, Lib. x,
cap. xxix); and _Atecpanamochco_, from _atl_, water, _tecpan_, royal,
_amochtli_, any shining white metal, as tin, and the locative _co_, hence,
In the Shining Royal Water (_Anales de Cuauhtitlan_, p. 21). These names
are interesting as illustrating the halo of symbolism which surrounded the
history of the Light-God.]

I have said that the history of Quetzalcoatl in Tollan is but a
continuation of the conflict of the two primal brother gods. It is still
the implacable Tezcatlipoca who pursues and finally conquers him. But
there is this significant difference, that whereas in the elemental
warfare portrayed in the older myth mutual violence and alternate
destruction prevail, in all these later myths Quetzalcoatl makes no effort
at defence, scarcely remonstrates, but accepts his defeat as a decree of
Fate which it is vain to resist. He sees his people fall about him, and
the beautiful city sink into destruction, but he knows it is the hand of
Destiny, and prepares himself to meet the inevitable with what stoicism
and dignity he may.

The one is the quenching of the light by the darkness of the tempest and
the night, represented as a struggle; in the other it is the gradual and
calm but certain and unavoidable extinction of the sun as it noiselessly
sinks to the western horizon.

The story of the subtlety of Tezcatlipoca is variously told. In what may
well be its oldest and simplest version it is said that in his form as
Camaxtli he caught a deer with two heads, which, so long as he kept it,
secured him luck in war; but falling in with one of five goddesses he had
created, he begat a son, and through this act he lost his good fortune.
The son was Quetzalcoatl, surnamed Ce Acatl, and he became Lord of Tollan,
and a famous warrior. For many years he ruled the city, and at last began
to build a very great temple. While engaged in its construction
Tezcatlipoca came to him one day and told him that toward Honduras, in a
place called Tlapallan, a house was ready for him, and he must quit Tollan
and go there to live and die. Quetzalcoatl replied that the heavens and
stars had already warned him that after four years he must go hence, and
that he would obey. The time past, he took with him all the inhabitants of
Tula, and some he left in Cholula, from whom its inhabitants are
descended, and some he placed in the province of Cuzcatan, and others in
Cempoal, and at last he reached Tlapallan, and on the very day he arrived
there, he fell sick and died. As for Tula, it remained without an
inhabitant for nine years.[1]

[Footnote 1: Ramirez de Fuen-leal, _Historia de los Mexicanos por sus
Pinturas_, cap. viii.]

A more minute account is given by the author of the _Annals of
Cuauhtitlan_, a work written at an early date, in the Aztec tongue. He
assures his readers that his narrative of these particular events is
minutely and accurately recorded from the oldest and most authentic
traditions. It is this:--

When those opposed to Quetzalcoatl did not succeed in their designs, they
summoned to their aid a demon or sorcerer, by name Tezcatlipoca, and his
assistants. He said: "We will give him a drink to dull his reason, and
will show him his own face in a mirror, and surely he will be lost." Then
Tezcatlipoca brewed an intoxicating beverage, the _pulque_, from the
maguey, and taking a mirror he wrapped it in a rabbit skin, and went to
the house of Quetzalcoatl.

"Go tell your master," he said to the servants, "that I have come to show
him his own flesh."

"What is this?" said Quetzalcoatl, when the message was delivered. "What
does he call my own flesh? Go and ask him."

But Tezcatlipoca refused. "I have not come to see you, but your master,"
he said to the servants. Then he was admitted, and Quetzalcoatl said:--

"Welcome, youth, you have troubled yourself much. Whence come you? What is
this, my flesh, that you would show me?"

"My Lord and Priest," replied the youth, "I come from the mountain-side of
Nonoalco. Look, now, at your flesh; know yourself; see yourself as you are
seen of others;" and with that he handed him the mirror.

As soon as Quetzalcoatl saw his face in the mirror he exclaimed:--

"How is it possible my subjects can look on me without affright? Well
might they flee from me. How can a man remain among them filled as I am
with foul sores, his face wrinkled and his aspect loathsome? I shall be
seen no more; I shall no longer frighten my people."

Then Tezcatlipoca went away to take counsel, and returning, said:--

"My lord and master, use the skill of your servant. I have come to console
you. Go forth to your people. I will conceal your defects by art."

"Do what you please," replied Quetzalcoatl. "I will see what my fate is to

Tezcatlipoca painted his cheeks green and dyed his lips red. The forehead
he colored yellow, and taking feathers of the _quechol_ bird, he arranged
them as a beard. Quetzalcoatl surveyed himself in the mirror, and rejoiced
at his appearance, and forthwith sallied forth to see his people.

Tezcatlipoca withdrew to concoct another scheme of disgrace. With his
attendants he took of the strong _pulque_ which he had brewed, and came
again to the palace of the Lord of Tollan. They were refused admittance
and asked their country. They replied that they were from the Mountain of
the Holy Priest, from the Hill of Tollan. When Quetzalcoatl heard this, he
ordered them to be admitted, and asked their business. They offered him
the _pulque_, but he refused, saying that he was sick, and, moreover, that
it would weaken his judgment and might cause his death. They urged him to
dip but the tip of his finger in it to taste it; he complied, but even so
little of the magic liquor overthrew his self control, and taking the bowl
he quaffed a full draught and was drunk. Then these perverse men ridiculed
him, and cried out:--

"You feel finely now, my son; sing us a song; sing, worthy priest."

Thereupon Quetzalcoatl began to sing, as follows:--

"My pretty house, my coral house,
  I call it Zacuan by name;
And must I leave it, do you say?
  Oh my, oh me, and ah for shame."[1]

[Footnote 1: The original is--

Quetzal, quetzal, no calli,
  Zacuan, no callin tapach
No callin nic yacahuaz
  An ya, an ya, an quilmach.


Beautiful, beautiful (is) my house
  Zacuan, my house of coral;
My house, I must leave it.
  Alas, alas, they say.

Zacuan, instead of being a proper name, may mean a rich yellow leather
from the bird called _zacuantototl_.]

As the fumes of the liquor still further disordered his reason, he called
his attendants and bade them hasten to his sister Quetzalpetlatl, who
dwelt on the Mountain Nonoalco, and bring her, that she too might taste
the divine liquor. The attendants hurried off and said to his sister:--

"Noble lady, we have come for you. The high priest Quetzalcoatl awaits
you. It is his wish that you come and live with him."

She instantly obeyed and went with them. On her arrival Quetzalcoatl
seated her beside him and gave her to drink of the magical pulque.
Immediately she felt its influence, and Quetzalcoatl began to sing, in
drunken fashion--

"Sister mine, beloved mine,
Come with me, drink with me,
  'Tis no sin, sin, sin."

Soon they were so drunken that all reason was forgotten; they said no
prayers, they went not to the bath, and they sank asleep on the floor.[1]

[Footnote 1: It is not clear, at least in the translations, whether the
myth intimates an incestuous relation between Quetzalcoatl and his sister.
In the song he calls her "Nohueltiuh," which means, strictly, "My elder
sister;" but Mendoza translates it "Querida esposa mia." _Quetzalpetlatl_
means "the Beautiful Carpet," _petlatl_ being the rug or mat used on
floors, etc. This would be a most appropriate figure of speech to describe
a rich tropical landscape, "carpeted with flowers," as we say; and as the
earth is, in primitive cosmogony, older than the sun, I suspect that this
story of Quetzalcoatl and his sister refers to the sun sinking from
heaven, seemingly, into the earth. "Los Nahoas," remarks Chavero,
"figuraban la tierra en forma de un cuadrilátero dividido en pequeños
quatros, lo que semijaba una estera, _petlatl_" (_Anales del Museo
Nacional_, Tom. ii, p. 248).]

Sad, indeed, was Quetzalcoatl the next morning.

"I have sinned," he said; "the stain on my name can never be erased. I am
not fit to rule this people. Let them build for me a habitation deep under
ground; let them bury my bright treasures in the earth; let them throw the
gleaming gold and shining stones into the holy fountain where I take my
daily bath."

All this was done, and Quetzalcoatl spent four days in his underground
tomb. When he came forth he wept and told his followers that the time had
come for him to depart for Tlapallan, the Red Land, Tlillan, the Dark
Land, and Tlatlallan, the Fire Land, all names of one locality.

He journeyed eastward until he came to a place where the sky, and land,
and water meet together.[1] There his attendants built a funeral pile, and
he threw himself into the flames. As his body burned his heart rose to
heaven, and after four days became the planet Venus.[2]

[Footnote 1: Designated in the Aztec original by the name _Teoapan
Ilhuicaatenco_, from _teotl_, divine, _atl_, water, _pan_, in or near,
_ilhuicac_, heaven, _atenco_, the waterside: "Near the divine water, where
the sky meets the strand."]

[Footnote 2: The whole of this account is from the _Anales de
Cuauhtitlan_, pp. 16-22.]

That there is a profound moral significance in this fiction all will see;
but I am of opinion that it is accidental and adventitious. The means that
Tezcatlipoca employs to remove Quetzalcoatl refer to the two events that
mark the decline of day. The sun is reflected by a long lane of beams in
the surface waters of lake or sea; it loses the strength of its rays and
fails in vigor; while the evening mists, the dampness of approaching
dewfall, and the gathering clouds obscure its power and foretell the
extinction which will soon engulf the bright luminary. As Quetzalcoatl
cast his shining gold and precious stones into the water where he took his
nightly bath, or buried them in underground hiding places, so the sun
conceals his glories under the waters, or in the distant hills, into which
he seems to sink. As he disappears at certain seasons, the Star of Evening
shines brightly forth amid the lingering and fading rays, rising, as it
were, from the dying fires of the sunset.

To this it may be objected that the legend makes Quetzalcoatl journey
toward the East, and not toward the sunset. The explanation of this
apparent contradiction is easy. The Aztec sages had at some time
propounded to themselves the question of how the sun, which seems to set
in the West, can rise the next morning in the East? Mungo Parke tells us
that when he asked the desert Arabs this conundrum, they replied that the
inquiry was frivolous and childish, as being wholly beyond the capacities
of the human mind. The Aztecs did not think so, and had framed a definite
theory which overcame the difficulty. It was that, in fact, the sun only
advances to the zenith, and then returns to the East, from whence it
started. What we seem to see as the sun between the zenith and the western
horizon is, in reality, not the orb itself, but only its _brightness_, one
of its accidents, not its substance, to use the terms of metaphysics.
Hence to the Aztec astronomer and sage, the house of the sun is always
toward the East.[1]

[Footnote 1: Ramirez de Fuen-leal, _Historia_, cap. xx, p. 102.]

We need not have recourse even to this explanation. The sun, indeed,
disappears in the West; but his journey must necessarily be to the East,
for it is from that point that he always comes forth each morning. The
Light-God must necessarily daily return to the place whence he started.

The symbols of the mirror and the mystic drink are perfectly familiar in
Aryan sun-myths. The best known of the stories referring to the former is
the transparent tale of Narcissus forced by Nemesis to fall in love with
his own image reflected in the waters, and to pine away through
unsatisfied longing; or, as Pausanias tells the story, having lost his
twin sister (the morning twilight), he wasted his life in noting the
likeness of his own features to those of his beloved who had passed away.
"The sun, as he looks down upon his own face reflected in a lake or sea,
sinks or dies at last, still gazing on it."[1]

[Footnote 1: Sir George A. Cox, _The Science of Mythology and Folk Lore_,
p. 96.]

Some later writers say that the drink which Quetzalcoatl quaffed was to
confer immortality. This is not stated in the earliest versions of the
myth. The beverage is health-giving and intoxicating, and excites the
desire to seek Tlapallan, but not more. It does not, as the Soma of the
Vedas, endow with unending life.

Nevertheless, there is another myth which countenances this view and
explains it. It was told in the province of Meztitlan, a mountainous
country to the northwest of the province of Vera Cruz. Its inhabitants
spoke the Nahuatl tongue, but were never subject to the Montezumas. Their
chief god was Tezcatlipoca, and it was said of him that on one occasion he
slew Ometochtli (Two Rabbits), the god of wine, at the latter's own
request, he believing that he thus would be rendered immortal, and that
all others who drank of the beverage he presided over would die. His
death, they added, was indeed like the stupor of a drunkard, who, after
his lethargy has passed, rises healthy and well. In this sense of renewing
life after death, he presided over the native calendar, the count of years
beginning with Tochtli, the Rabbit.[1] Thus we see that this is a myth of
the returning seasons, and of nature waking to life again after the cold
months ushered in by the chill rains of the late autumn. The principle of
fertility is alone perennial, while each individual must perish and die.
The God of Wine in Mexico, as in Greece, is one with the mysterious force
of reproduction.

[Footnote 1: Gabriel de Chaves, _Relacion de la Provincia de Meztitlan_,
1556, in the _Colecion de Documentos Ineditos del Archivo de Indias_, Tom.
iv, p. 536.]

No writer has preserved such numerous traditions about the tricks of
Tezcatlipoca in Tollan, as Father Sahagun. They are, no doubt, almost
verbally reported as he was told them, and as he wrote his history first
in the Aztec tongue, they preserve all the quaintness of the original
tales. Some of them appear to be idle amplifications of story tellers,
while others are transparent myths. I shall translate a few of them quite
literally, beginning with that of the mystic beverage.

The time came for the luck of Quetzalcoatl and the Toltecs to end; for
there appeared against them three sorcerers, named Vitzilopochtli,
Titlacauan and Tlacauepan,[1] who practiced many villanies in the city of
Tullan. Titlacauan began them, assuming the disguise of an old man of
small stature and white hairs. With this figure he approached the palace
of Quetzalcoatl and said to the servants:--

[Footnote 1: Titlacauan was the common name of Tezcatlipoca. The three
sorcerers were really Quetzalcoatl's three brothers, representing the
three other cardinal points.]

"I wish to see the King and speak to him."

"Away with you, old man;" said the servants. "You cannot see him. He is
sick. You would only annoy him."

"I must see him," answered the old man.

The servants said, "Wait," and going in, they told Quetzalcoatl that an
old man wished to see him, adding, "Sire, we put him out in vain; he
refuses to leave, and says that he absolutely must see you." Quetzalcoatl

"Let him in. I have been waiting his coming for a long time."

They admitted the old man and he entered the apartment of Quetzalcoatl,
and said to him:--

"My lord and son, how are you? I have with me a medicine for you to

"You are welcome, old man," replied Quetzalcoatl. "I have been looking for
your arrival for many days."

"Tell me how you are," asked the old man. "How is your body and your

"I am very ill," answered Quetzalcoatl. "My whole body pains me, and I
cannot move my hands or feet."

Then the old man said:--

"Sire, look at this medicine which I bring you. It is good and healthful,
and intoxicates him who drinks it. If you will drink it, it will
intoxicate you, it will heal you, it will soothe your heart, it will
prepare you for the labors and fatigues of death, or of your departure."

"Whither, oh ancient man," asked Quetzalcoatl, "Whither must I go?"

The old man answered:--

"You must without fail go to Tullan Tlapallan, where there is another old
man awaiting you; you and he will talk together, and at your return you
will be transformed into a youth, and you will regain the vigor of your

When Quetzalcoatl heard these words, his heart was shaken with strong
emotion, and the old man added:--

"My lord, drink this medicine."

"Oh ancient man," answered the king, "I do not want to drink it."

"Drink it, my lord," insisted the old man, "for if you do not drink it
now, later you will long for it; at least, lift it to your mouth and taste
a single drop."

Quetzalcoatl took the drop and tasted it, and then quaffed the liquor,

"What is this? It seems something very healthful and well-flavored. I am
no longer sick. It has cured me. I am well."

"Drink again," said the old man. "It is a good medicine, and you will be
healthier than ever."

Again did Quetzalcoatl drink, and soon he was intoxicated. He began to
weep; his heart was stirred, and his mind turned toward the suggestion of
his departure, nor did the deceit of the old sorcerer permit him to
abandon the thought of it. The medicine which Quetzalcoatl drank was the
white wine of the country, made of those magueys call _teometl_.[1]

[Footnote 1: From _teotl_, deity, divine, and _metl_, the maguey. Of the
twenty-nine varieties of the maguey, now described in Mexico, none bears
this name; but Hernandez speaks of it, and says it was so called because
there was a superstition that a person soon to die could not hold a branch
of it; but if he was to recover, or escape an impending danger, he could
hold it with ease and feel the better for it. See Nieremberg, _Historia
Naturae_, Lib. xiv, cap. xxxii. "Teomatl, vitae et mortis Index."]

This was but the beginning of the guiles and juggleries of Tezcatlipoca.
Transforming himself into the likeness of one of those Indians of the Maya
race, called _Toveyome_,[1] he appeared, completely nude, in the market
place of Tollan, having green peppers to sell. Now Huemac, who was
associated with Quetzalcoatl in the sovereignty of Tollan (although other
myths apply this name directly to Quetzalcoatl, and this seems the correct
version),[2] had an only daughter of surpassing beauty, whom many of the
Toltecs had vainly sought in marriage. This damsel looked forth on the
market where Tezcatlipoca stood in his nakedness, and her virginal eyes
fell upon the sign of his manhood. Straightway an unconquerable longing
seized her, a love so violent that she fell ill and seemed like to die.
Her women told her father the reason, and he sent forth and had the false
Toveyo brought before him. Huemac addressed him:--

[Footnote 1: _Toveyome_ is the plural of _toveyo_, which Molina, in his
dictionary, translates "foreigner, stranger." Sahagun says that it was
applied particularly to the Huastecs, a Maya tribe living in the province
of Panuco. _Historia_, etc., Lib. x, cap. xxix, §8.]

[Footnote 2: _Huemac_ is a compound of _uey_, great, and _maitl_, hand.
Tezozomoc, Duran, and various other writers assign this name to

"Whence come you?"

"My lord," replied the Toveyo, "I am a stranger, and I have come to sell
green peppers."

"Why," asked the king "do you not wear a _maxtli_ (breech-cloth), and
cover your nakedness with a garment?"

"My lord," answered the stranger, "I follow the custom of my country."

Then the king added:--

"You have inspired in my daughter a longing; she is sick with desire; you
must cure her."

"Nay, my lord," said the stranger, "this may not be. Rather slay me here;
I wish to die; for I am not worthy to hear such words, poor as I am, and
seeking only to gain my bread by selling green peppers."

But the king insisted, and said:--

"Have no fear; you alone can restore my daughter; you must do so."

Thereupon the attendants cut the sham Toveyo's hair; they led him to the
bath, and colored his body black; they placed a _maxtli_ and a robe upon
him, and the king said:--

"Go in unto my daughter."

Tezcatlipoca went in unto her, and she was healed from that hour.

Thus did the naked stranger become the son-in-law of the great king of
Tula. But the Toltecs were deeply angered that the maiden had given his
black body the preference over their bright forms, and they plotted to
have him slain. He was placed in the front of battle, and then they left
him alone to fight the enemy. But he destroyed the opposing hosts and
returned to Tula with a victory all the more brilliant for their desertion
of him.

Then he requited their treachery with another, and pursued his intended
destruction of their race. He sent a herald to the top of the Hill of
Shouting, and through him announced a magnificent festival to celebrate
his victory and his marriage. The Toltecs swarmed in crowds, men, women
and children, to share in the joyous scene. Tezcatlipoca received them
with simulated friendship. Taking his drum, he began to beat upon it,
accompanying the music with a song. As his listeners heard the magic
music, they became intoxicated with the strains, and yielding themselves
to its seductive influence, they lost all thought for the future or care
for the present. The locality to which the crafty Tezcatlipoca had invited
them was called, The Rock upon the Water.[1] It was the summit of a lofty
rock at the base of which flowed the river called, By the Rock of
Light.[2] When the day had departed and midnight approached, the magician,
still singing and dancing, led the intoxicated crowd to the brink of the
river, over which was a stone bridge. This he had secretly destroyed, and
as they came to the spot where it should have been and sought to cross,
the innumerable crowd pressing one upon the other, they all fell into the
water far below, where they sank out of sight and were changed into

[Footnote 1: _Texcalapan_, from _texcalli_, rock, and _apan_, upon or over
the water.]

[Footnote 2: _Texcaltlauhco_, from _texcalli_, rock, _tlaulli_, light, and
the locative ending _co_, by, in or at.]

Is it pushing symbolism too far to attempt an interpretation of this
fable, recounted with all the simplicity of the antique world, with
greater directness, indeed, than I have thought wise to follow?

I am strongly inclined to regard it as a true myth, which, in
materialistic language, sets forth the close of the day and the extinction
of the light. May we not construe the maiden as the Evening Twilight, the
child of the Day at the close of its life? The black lover with whom she
is fatally enamored, is he not the Darkness, in which the twilight fades
away? The countless crowds of Toltecs that come to the wedding
festivities, and are drowned before midnight in the waters of the
strangely named river, are they not the infinitely numerous light-rays
which are quenched in the world-stream, when the sun has sunk, and the
gloaming is lost in the night?

May we not go farther, and in this Rock of Light which stands hard by the
river, recognize the Heavenly Hill which rises beside the World Stream?
The bright light of one day cannot extend to the next. The bridge is
broken by the intervening night, and the rays are lost in the dark waters.

But whether this interpretation is too venturesome or not, we cannot deny
the deep human interest in the story, and its poetic capacities. The
overmastering passion of love was evidently as present to the Indian mind
as to that of the mediaeval Italian. In New as well as in Old Spain it
could break the barriers of rank and overcome the hesitations of maidenly
modesty. Love clouding the soul, as night obscures the day, is a figure of
speech, used, I remember, by the most pathetic of Ireland's modern

"Love, the tyrant, evinces,
  Alas! an omnipotent might;
He treads on the necks of princes,
  He darkens the mind, like night."[1]

[Footnote 1: Clarence Mangan, _Poems_, "The Mariner's Bride."]

I shall not detail the many other wiles with which Tezcatlipoca led the
Toltecs to their destruction. A mere reference to them must suffice. He
summoned thousands to come to labor in the rose-garden of Quetzalcoatl,
and when they had gathered together, he fell upon them and slew them with
a hoe. Disguised with Huitzilopochtli, he irritated the people until they
stoned the brother gods to death, and from the corrupting bodies spread a
pestilential odor, to which crowds of the Toltecs fell victims. He turned
the thought of thousands into madness, so that they voluntarily offered
themselves to be sacrificed. By his spells all articles of food soured,
and many perished of famine.

At length Quetzalcoatl, wearied with misfortune, gave orders to burn the
beautiful houses of Tollan, to bury his treasures, and to begin the
journey to Tlapallan. He transformed the cacao trees into plants of no
value, and ordered the birds of rich plumage to leave the land before him.

The first station he arrived at was Quauhtitlan, where there was a lofty
and spreading tree. Here he asked of his servants a mirror, and looking in
it said: "I am already old." Gathering some stones, he cast them at the
tree. They entered the wood and remained there.

As he journeyed, he was preceded by boys playing the flute. Thus he
reached a certain spot, where he sat upon a stone by the wayside, and wept
for the loss of Tollan. The marks of his hands remained upon the stone,
and the tears he dropped pierced it through. To the day of the Conquest
these impressions on the solid rock were pointed out.

At the fountain of Cozcapan, sorcerers met him, minded to prevent his

"Where are you going?" they asked. "Why have you left your capital? In
whose care is it? Who will perform the sacred rites?"

But Quetzalcoatl answered:--

"You can in no manner hinder my departure. I have no choice but to go."

The sorcerers asked again: "Whither are you going?"

"I am going," replied Quetzalcoatl, "to Tlapallan. I have been sent for.
The Sun calls me."

"Go, then, with good luck," said they. "But leave with us the art of
smelting silver, of working stone and wood, of painting, of weaving
feathers and other such arts."

Thus they robbed him, and taking the rich jewels he carried with him he
cast them into the fountain, whence it received its name _Cozcapan_,
Jewels in the Water.

Again, as he journeyed, a sorcerer met him, who asked him his

"I go," said Quetzalcoatl, "to Tlallapan."

"And luck go with you," replied the sorcerer, "but first take a drink of
this wine."

"No," replied Quetzalcoatl, "not so much as a sip."

"You must taste a little of it," said the sorcerer, "even if it is by
force. To no living person would I give to drink freely of it. I
intoxicate them all. Come and drink of it."

Quetzalcoatl took the wine and drank of it through a reed, and as he drank
he grew drunken and fell in the road, where he slept and snored.

Thus he passed from place to place, with various adventures. His servants
were all dwarfs or hunchbacks, and in crossing the Sierra Nevada they
mostly froze to death. By drawing a line across the Sierra he split it in
two and thus made a passage. He plucked up a mighty tree and hurling it
through another, thus formed a cross. At another spot he caused
underground houses to be built, which were called Mictlancalco, At the
House of Darkness.

At length he arrived at the sea coast where he constructed a raft of
serpents, and seating himself on it as in a canoe, he moved out to sea. No
one knows how or in what manner he reached Tlapallan.[1]

[Footnote 1: These myths are from the third book of Sahagun's _Historia de
las Cosas de Nueva España_. They were taken down in the original Nahuatl,
by him, from the mouth of the natives, and he gives them word for word, as
they were recounted.]

The legend which appears to have been prevalent in Cholula was somewhat
different. According to that, Quetzalcoatl was for many years Lord of
Tollan, ruling over a happy people. At length, Tezcatlipoca let himself
down from heaven by a cord made of spider's web, and, coming to Tollan,
challenged its ruler to play a game of ball. The challenge was accepted,
and the people of the city gathered in thousands to witness the sport.
Suddenly Tezcatlipoca changed himself into a tiger, which so frightened
the populace that they fled in such confusion and panic that they rushed
over the precipice and into the river, where nearly all were killed by the
fall or drowned in the waters.

Quetzalcoatl then forsook Tollan, and journeyed from city to city till he
reached Cholula, where he lived twenty years. He was at that time of light
complexion, noble stature, his eyes large, his hair abundant, his beard
ample and cut rounding. In life he was most chaste and honest. They
worshiped his memory, especially for three things: first, because he
taught them the art of working in metals, which previous to his coming was
unknown in that land; secondly, because he forbade the sacrifice either of
human beings or the lower animals, teaching that bread, and roses, and
flowers, incense and perfumes, were all that the gods demanded; and
lastly, because he forbade, and did his best to put a stop to, wars,
fighting, robbery, and all deeds of violence. For these reasons he was
held in high esteem and affectionate veneration, not only by those of
Cholula, but by the neighboring tribes as well, for many leagues around.
Distant nations maintained temples in his honor in that city, and made
pilgrimages to it, on which journeys they passed in safety through their
enemy's countries.

The twenty years past, Quetzalcoatl resumed his journey, taking with him
four of the principal youths of the city. When he had reached a point in
the province of Guazacoalco, which is situated to the southeast of
Cholula, he called the four youths to him, and told them they should
return to their city; that he had to go further; but that they should go
back and say that at some future day white and bearded men like himself
would come from the east, who would possess the land.[1]

[Footnote 1: For this version of the myth, see Mendieta, _Historia
Eclesiastica Indiana_, Lib. ii, caps, v and x.]

Thus he disappeared, no one knew whither. But another legend said that he
died there, by the seashore, and they burned his body. Of this event some
particulars are given by Ixtlilxochitl, as follows:[1]--

[Footnote 1: Ixtlilxochitl, _Relaciones Historicas_, p. 388, in
Kingsborough, vol. ix.]

Quetzalcoatl, surnamed Topiltzin, was lord of Tula. At a certain time he
warned his subjects that he was obliged to go "to the place whence comes
the Sun," but that after a term he would return to them, in that year of
their calendar of the name _Ce Acatl_, One Reed, which returns every
fifty-two years. He went forth with many followers, some of whom he left
in each city he visited. At length he reached the town of Ma Tlapallan.
Here he announced that he should soon die, and directed his followers to
burn his body and all his treasures with him. They obeyed his orders, and
for four days burned his corpse, after which they gathered its ashes and
placed them in a sack made of the skin of a tiger.

The introduction of the game of ball and the tiger into the story is not
so childish as it seems. The game of ball was as important an amusement
among the natives of Mexico and Central America as were the jousts and
tournaments in Europe in the Middle Ages.[1] Towns, nations and kings were
often pitted against each other. In the great temple of Mexico two courts
were assigned to this game, over which a special deity was supposed to
preside.[2] In or near the market place of each town there were walls
erected for the sport. In the centre of these walls was an orifice a
little larger than the ball. The players were divided into two parties,
and the ball having been thrown, each party tried to drive it through or
over the wall. The hand was not used, but only the hip or shoulders.

[Footnote 1: Torquemada gives a long but obscure description of it.
_Monarquia Indiana_, Lib. xiv, cap. xii.]

[Footnote 2: Nieremberg, "De septuaginta et octo partibus maximi templi
Mexicani," in his _Historia Naturae_, Lib. viii, cap. xxii (Antwerpt,
1635). One of these was called "The Ball Court of the Mirror," perhaps
with special reference to this legend. "Trigesima secunda Tezcatlacho,
locus erat ubi ludebatur pilâ ex gumi olli, inter templa." The name is
from _tezcatl_, mirror, _tlachtli_, the game of ball, and locative ending

From the earth the game was transferred to the heavens. As a ball, hit by
a player, strikes the wall and then bounds back again, describing a curve,
so the stars in the northern sky circle around the pole star and return to
the place they left. Hence their movement was called The Ball-play of the

[Footnote 1: "_Citlaltlachtli_," from _citlalin_, star, and _tlachtli_,
the game of ball. Alvarado Tezozomoc, _Cronica Mexicana_, cap. lxxxii. The
obscure passage in which Tezozomoc refers to this is ingeniously analyzed
in the _Anales del Museo Nacional_, Tom. ii, p. 388.]

A recent writer asserts that the popular belief of the Aztecs extended the
figure to a greater game than this.[1] The Sun and Moon were huge balls
with which the gods played an unceasing game, now one, now the other,
having the better of it. If this is so, then the game between Tezcatlipoca
and Quetzalcoatl is again a transparent figure of speech for the contest
between night and day.

[Footnote 1: _Anales del Museo Nacional_, Tom. ii, p. 367.]

The Mexican tiger, the _ocelotl_, was a well recognized figure of speech,
in the Aztec tongue, for the nocturnal heavens, dotted with stars, as is
the tiger skin with spots.[1] The tiger, therefore, which destroyed the
subjects of Quetzalcoatl--the swift-footed, happy inhabitants of Tula--was
none other than the night extinguishing the rays of the orb of light. In
the picture writings Tezcatlipoca appears dressed in a tiger's skin, the
spots on which represent the stars, and thus symbolize him in his
character as the god of the sky at night.

[Footnote 1: "Segun los Anales de Cuauhtitlan el _ocelotl_ es el cielo
manchado de estrellas, como piel de tigre." _Anales del Mus. Nac._, ii, p.

The apotheosis of Quetzalcoatl from the embers of his funeral pyre to the
planet Venus has led several distinguished students of Mexican mythology
to identify his whole history with the astronomical relations of this
bright star. Such an interpretation is, however, not only contrary to
results obtained by the general science of mythology, but it is
specifically in contradiction to the uniform statements of the old
writers. All these agree that it was not till _after_ he had finished his
career, _after_ he had run his course and disappeared from the sight and
knowledge of men, that he was translated and became the evening or morning
star.[1] This clearly signifies that he was represented by the planet in
only one, and that a subordinate, phase of his activity. We can readily
see that the relation of Venus to the sun, and the evening and morning
twilights, suggested the pleasing tale that as the light dies in the west,
it is, in a certain way, preserved by the star which hangs so bright above
the horizon.

[Footnote 1: _Codex Telleriano-Remensis_, plate xiv.]

§4. _Quetzalcoatl as Lord of the Winds._

As I have shown in the introductory chapter, the Light-God, the Lord of
the East, is also master of the cardinal points and of the winds which
blow from them, and therefore of the Air.

This was conspicuously so with Quetzalcoatl. As a divinity he is most
generally mentioned as the God of the Air and Winds. He was said to sweep
the roads before Tlaloc; god of the rains, because in that climate heavy
down-pours are preceded by violent gusts. Torquemada names him as "God of
the Air," and states that in Cholula this function was looked upon as his
chief attribute,[1] and the term was distinctly applied to him
_Nanihe-hecatli_, Lord of the four Winds.

[Footnote 1: Sahagun, _Historia_, Lib. i, cap. v. Torquemada, _Monarquia
Indiana_, Lib. vi, cap. xxiv.]

In one of the earliest myths he is called _Yahualli ehecatl_, meaning "the
Wheel of the Winds,"[1] the winds being portrayed in the picture writing
as a circle or wheel, with a figure with five angles inscribed upon it,
the sacred pentagram. His image carried in the left hand this wheel, and
in the right a sceptre with the end recurved.

[Footnote 1: "Queçalcoatl y por otro nombre yagualiecatl." Ramirez de
Fuen-leal, _Historia_, cap. i. _Yahualli_ is from the root _yaual_ or
_youal_, circular, rounding, and was applied to various objects of a
circular form. The sign of Quetzalcoatl is called by Sahagun, using the
native word, "el _Yoel_ de los Vientos" (_Historia_, ubi supra).]

Another reference to this wheel, or mariner's box, was in the shape of the
temples which were built in his honor as god of the winds. These, we are
informed, were completely circular, without an angle anywhere.[1]

[Footnote 1: "Se llaman (á Quetzalcoatl) Señor de el Viento * * * A este
le hacian las yglesias redondas, sin esquina ninguna." _Codex
Telleriano-Remensis_. Parte ii, Lam. ii. Describing the sacred edifices of
Mexico, Motolinia says: "Habio en todos los mas de estos grandes patios un
otro templo que despues de levantada aquella capa quadrada, hecho su
altar, cubrianlo con una pared redonda, alta y cubierta con su chapital.
Este era del dios del aire, cual dijimos tener su principal sella en
Cholollan, y en toda esta provincia habia mucho de estos. A este dios del
aire llamaban en su lengua Quetzalcoatl," _Historia de los Indios_,
Epistola Proemial. Compare also Herrera, _Historia de las Indias
Occidentals_, Dec. ii, Lib. vii, cap. xvii, who describes the temple of
Quetzalcoatl, in the city of Mexico, and adds that it was circular,
"porque asi como el Aire anda al rededor del Cielo, asi le hacian el
Templo redondo."]

Still another symbol which was sacred to him as lord of the four winds was
the Cross. It was not the Latin but the Greek cross, with four short arms
of equal length. Several of these were painted on the mantle which he wore
in the picture writings, and they are occasionally found on the sacred
jades, which bear other of his symbols.

This has often been made use of by one set of writers to prove that
Quetzalcoatl was some Christian teacher; and by others as evidence that
these native tales were of a date subsequent to the Conquest. But a
moment's consideration of the meaning of this cruciform symbol as revealed
in its native names shows where it belongs and what it refers to. These
names are three, and their significations are, "The Rain-God," "The Tree
of our Life," "The God of Strength."[1] As the rains fertilize the fields
and ripen the food crops, so he who sends them is indeed the prop or tree
of our subsistence, and thus becomes the giver of health and strength. No
other explanation is needed, or is, in fact, allowable.

[Footnote 1: The Aztec words are _Quiahuitl teotl, quiahuitl_, rain,
_teotl_, god; _Tonacaquahuitl_, from _to_, our, _naca_, flesh or life,
_quahuitl_, tree; _Chicahualizteotl_, from _chicahualiztli_, strength or
courage, and _teotl_, god. These names are given by Ixtlilxochitl,
_Historia chichimeca_, cap. i.]

The winds and rains come from the four cardinal points. This fact was
figuratively represented by a cruciform figure, the ends directed toward
each of these. The God of the Four Winds bore these crosses as one of his
emblems. The sign came to be connected with fertility, reproduction and
life, through its associations as a symbol of the rains which restore the
parched fields and aid in the germination of seeds. Their influence in
this respect is most striking in those southern countries where a long dry
season is followed by heavy tropical showers, which in a few days change
the whole face of nature, from one of parched sterility to one of a wealth
of vegetable growth.

As there is a close connection, in meteorology, between the winds and the
rains, so in Aztec mythology, there was an equally near one between
Quetzalcoatl, as the god of the winds, and the gods of rain, Tlaloc and
his sister, or wife, or mother, Chalchihuitlicue. According to one myth,
these were created by the four primeval brother-gods, and placed in the
heavens, where they occupy a large mansion divided into four apartments,
with a court in the middle. In this court stand four enormous vases of
water, and an infinite number of very small slaves (the rain drops) stand
ready to dip out the water from one or the other vase and pour it on the
earth in showers.[1]

[Footnote 1: Ramirez de Fuen-leal, _Historia de los Mexicanos_, cap. ii.]

_Tlaloc_ means, literally, "The wine of the Earth,"[1] the figure being
that as man's heart is made glad, and his strength revived by the joyous
spirit of wine, so is the soil refreshed and restored by the rains.
_Tlaloc tecutli_, the Lord of the Wine of the Earth, was the proper title
of the male divinity, who sent the fertilizing showers, and thus caused
the seed to grow in barren places. It was he who gave abundant crops and
saved the parched and dying grain after times of drought. Therefore, he
was appealed to as the giver of good things, of corn and wine; and the
name of his home, Tlalocan, became synonymous with that of the terrestrial

[Footnote 1: _Tlalli_, earth, _oc_ from _octli_, the native wine made from
the maguey, enormous quantities of which are consumed by the lower classes
in Mexico at this day, and which was well known to the ancients. Another
derivation of the name is from _tlalli_, and _onoc_, being, to be, hence,
"resident on the earth." This does not seem appropriate.]

His wife or sister, Chalchihuitlicue, She of the Emerald Skirts, was
goddess of flowing streams, brooks, lakes and rivers. Her name, probably,
has reference to their limpid waters.[1] It is derived from
_chalchihuitl_, a species of jade or precious green stone, very highly
esteemed by the natives of Mexico and Central America, and worked by them
into ornaments and talismans, often elaborately engraved and inscribed
with symbols, by an art now altogether lost.[2] According to one myth,
Quetzalcoatl's mother took the name of _chalchiuitl_ "when she ascended to
heaven;"[3] by another he was engendered by such a sacred stone;[4] and by
all he was designated as the discoverer of the art of cutting and
polishing them, and the patron deity of workers in this branch.[5]

[Footnote 1: From _chalchihuitl_, jade, and _cueitl_, skirt or petticoat,
with the possessive prefix, _i_, her.]

[Footnote 2: See E.G. Squier, _Observations on a Collection of
Chalchihuitls from Central America_, New York, 1869, and Heinrich Fischer,
_Nephrit und Jadeit nach ihrer Urgeschichtlichen und Ethnographischen
Bedeutung_, Stuttgart, 1880, for a full discussion of the subject.]

[Footnote 3: _Codex Telleriano-Remensis_, Pt. ii, Lam. ii.]

[Footnote 4: See above, chapter iii, §3]

[Footnote 5: Torquemada, _Monarquia Indiana_, Lib. vi, cap. xxiv.]

The association of this stone and its color, a bluish green of various
shades, with the God of Light and the Air, may have reference to the blue
sky where he has his home, or to the blue and green waters where he makes
his bed. Whatever the connection was, it was so close that the festivals
of all three, Tlaloc, Chalchihuitlicue and Quetzalcoatl, were celebrated
together on the same day, which was the first of the first month of the
Aztec calendar, in February.[1]

[Footnote 1: Sahagun, _Hisioria_, Lib. ii, cap. i. A worthy but visionary
Mexican antiquary, Don J.M. Melgar, has recognized in Aztec mythology the
frequency of the symbolism which expresses the fertilizing action of the
sky (the sun and rains) upon the earth. He thinks that in some of the
manuscripts, as the _Codex Borgia_, it is represented by the rabbit
fecundating the frog. See his _Examen Comparativo entre los Signos
Simbolicos de las Teogonias y Cosmogonias antiguas y los que existen en
los Manuscritos Mexicanos_, p. 21 (Vera Cruz, 1872).]

In his character as god of days, the deity who brings back the diurnal
suns, and thus the seasons and years, Quetzalcoatl was the reputed
inventor of the Mexican Calendar. He himself was said to have been born on
Ce Acatl, One Cane, which was the first day of the first month, the
beginning of the reckoning, and the name of the day was often added to his
own.[1] As the count of the days really began with the beginning, it was
added that Heaven itself was created on this same day, Ce Acatl.[2]

[Footnote 1: _Codex Vaticanus_, Pl. xv.]

[Footnote 2: _Codex Telleriano Remensis_, Pl. xxxiii.]

In some myths Quetzalcoatl was the sole framer of the Calendar; in others
he was assisted by the first created pair, Cipactli and Oxomuco, who, as I
have said, appear to represent the Sky and the Earth. A certain cave in
the province of Cuernava (Quauhnauac) was pointed out as the scene of
their deliberations. Cipactonal chose the first name, Oxomuco the second,
and Quetzalcoatl the third, and so on in turn.[1]

[Footnote 1: Mendieta, _Hist. Eclesiastia Indiana_, Lib. ii, cap. xiv.
"Una tonta ficcion," comments the worthy chronicler upon the narrative,
"como son las demas que creian cerca de sus dioses." This has been the
universal opinion. My ambition in writing this book is, that it will be
universal no longer.]

In many mythologies the gods of light and warmth are, by a natural
analogy, held to be also the deities which preside over plenty, fertility
and reproduction. This was quite markedly the case with Quetzalcoatl. His
land and city were the homes of abundance; his people, the Toltecs, "were
skilled in all arts, all of which they had been taught by Quetzalcoatl
himself. They were, moreover, very rich; they lacked nothing; food was
never scarce and crops never failed. They had no need to save the small
ears of corn, so all the use they made of them was to burn them in heating
their baths."[1]

[Footnote 1: Sahagun, _Historia_, Lib. iii, cap. iii.]

As thus the promoter of fertility in the vegetable world, he was also the
genius of reproduction in the human race. The ceremonies of marriage which
were in use among the Aztecs were attributed to him,[1] and when the wife
found she was with child it was to him that she was told to address her
thanks. One of her relatives recited to her a formal exhortation, which
began as follows:--

[Footnote 1: Veitia, cap. xvii, in Kingsborough.]

"My beloved little daughter, precious as sapphire and jade, tender and
generous! Our Lord, who dwells everywhere and rains his bounties on whom
he pleases, has remembered you. The God now wishes to give you the fruit
of marriage, and has placed within you a jewel, a rich feather. Perhaps
you have watched, and swept, and offered incense; for such good works the
kindness of the Lord has been made manifest, and it was decreed in Heaven
and Hell, before the beginning of the World, that this grace should be
accorded you. For these reasons our Lord, Quetzalcoatl, who is the author
and creator of things, has shown you this favor; thus has resolved He in
heaven, who is at once both man and woman, and is known under the names
Twice Master and Twice Mistress."[1]

[Footnote 1: Sahagun, _Historia_, Lib. vi, cap. xxv. The bisexual nature
of the Mexican gods, referred to in this passage, is well marked in many
features of their mythology. Quetzalcoatl is often addressed in the
prayers as "father and mother," just as, in the Egyptian ritual, Chnum was
appealed to as "father of fathers and mother of mothers" (Tiele, _Hist. of
the Egyptian Religion_, p. 134). I have endeavored to explain this
widespread belief in hermaphroditic deities in my work entitled, _The
Religious Sentiment, Its Source and Aim_, pp. 65-68, (New York, 1876).]

It is recorded in the old histories that the priests dedicated to his
service wore a peculiar head-dress, imitating a snail shell, and for that
reason were called _Quateczizque_.[1] No one has explained this curiously
shaped bonnet. But it was undoubtedly because Quetzalcoatl was the god of
reproduction, for among the Aztecs the snail was a well known symbol of
the process of parturition.[2]

[Footnote 1: Duran, in Kingsborough, vol. viii, p. 267. The word is from
_quaitl_, head or top, and _tecziztli_, a snail shell.]

[Footnote 2: "Mettevanli in testa una lumaca marina per dimostrare que
siccome il piscato esce dalle pieghe di quell'osso, o conca. cosi vá ed
esce l'uomo _ab utero matris suae_." _Codice Vaticana, Tavola XXVI._]

Quetzalcoatl was that marvelous artist who fashions in the womb of the
mother the delicate limbs and tender organs of the unborn infant.
Therefore, when a couple of high rank were blessed with a child, an
official orator visited them, and the baby being placed naked before him,
he addressed it beginning with these words:--

"My child and lord, precious gem, emerald, sapphire, beauteous feather,
product of a noble union, you have been formed far above us, in the ninth
heaven, where dwell the two highest divinities. His Divine Majesty has
fashioned you in a mould, as one fashions a ball of gold; you have been
chiseled as a precious stone, artistically dressed by your Father and
Mother, the great God and the great Goddess, assisted by their son,

[Footnote 1: Sahagun, _Historia_, Lib. vi, cap. xxxiv.]

As he was thus the god on whom depended the fertilization of the womb,
sterile women made their vows to him, and invoked his aid to be relieved
from the shame of barrenness.[1]

[Footnote 1: Torquemada, _Monarquia Indiana_, Lib. xi, cap. xxiv.]

In still another direction is this function of his godship shown. The
worship of the genesiac principle is as often characterized by an
excessive austerity as by indulgence in sexual acts. Here we have an
example. Nearly all the accounts tell us that Quetzalcoatl was never
married, and that he held himself aloof from all women, in absolute
chastity. We are told that on one occasion his subjects urged upon him the
propriety of marriage, and to their importunities he returned the dark
answer that, Yes, he had determined to take a wife; but that it would be
when the oak tree shall cast chestnuts, when the sun shall rise in the
west, when one can cross the sea dry-shod, and when nightingales grow

[Footnote 1: Duran, in Kingsborough, vol. viii, p. 267. I believe Alva
Ixtlilxochitl is the only author who specifically assigns a family to
Quetzalcoatl. This author does not mention a wife, but names two sons,
one, Xilotzin, who was killed in war, the other, Pochotl, who was educated
by his nurse, Toxcueye, and who, after the destruction of Tollan,
collected the scattered Toltecs and settled with them around the Lake of
Tezcuco (_Relaciones Historicas_, p. 394, in Kingsborough, vol. ix). All
this is in contradiction to the reports of earlier and better authorities.
For instance, Motolinia says pointedly, "no fué casado, ni se le conoció
mujer" (_Historia de los Indios, Epistola Proemial_).]

Following the example of their Master, many of the priests of his cult
refrained from sexual relations, and as a mortification of the flesh they
practiced a painful rite by transfixing the tongue and male member with
the sharp thorns of the maguey plant, an austerity which, according to
their traditions, he was the first to institute.[1] There were also in the
cities where his special worship was in vogue, houses of nuns, the inmates
of which had vowed perpetual virginity, and it was said that Quetzalcoatl
himself had founded these institutions.[2]

[Footnote 1: _Codex Vaticanus_, Tab. xxii.]

[Footnote 2: Veitia, _Historia_, cap. XVII.]

His connection with the worship of the reproductive principle seems to be
further indicated by his surname, _Ce acatl_. This means One Reed, and is
the name of a day in the calendar. But in the Nahuatl language, the word
_acatl_, reed, cornstalk, is also applied to the virile member; and it has
been suggested that this is the real signification of the word when
applied to the hero-god. The suggestion is plausible, but the word does
not seem to have been so construed by the early writers. If such an
understanding had been current, it could scarcely have escaped the
inquiries of such a close student and thorough master of the Nahuatl
tongue as Father Sahagun.

On the other hand, it must be said, in corroboration of this
identification, that the same idea appears to be conveyed by the symbol of
the serpent. One correct translation of the name Quetzalcoatl is "the
beautiful serpent;" his temple in the city of Mexico, according to
Torquemada, had a door in the form of a serpent's mouth; and in the _Codex
Vaticanus_, No. 3738, published by Lord Kingsborough, of which we have an
explanation by competent native authority, he is represented as a serpent;
while in the same Codex, in the astrological signs which were supposed to
control the different parts of the human body, the serpent is pictured as
the sign of the male member.[1] This indicates the probability that in his
function as god of reproduction Quetzalcoatl may have stood in some
relation to phallic rites.

[Footnote 1: Compare the _Codex Vaticanus_, No. 3738, plates 44 and 75,
Kingsborough, _Mexican Antiquities_, vol. ii.]

This same sign, _Ce Coatl_, One Serpent, used in their astrology, was that
of one of the gods of the merchants, and apparently for this reason, some
writers have identified the chief god of traffic, Yacatecutli (God of
Journeying), with Quetzalcoatl. This seems the more likely as another name
of this divinity was _Yacacoliuhqui_, With the End Curved, a name which
appears to refer to the curved rod or stick which was both his sign and
one of those of Quetzalcoatl.[1] The merchants also constantly associated
in their prayers this deity with Huitzilopochtli, which is another reason
for supposing their patron was one of the four primeval brothers, and but
another manifestation of Quetzalcoatl. His character, as patron of arts,
the model of orators, and the cultivator of peaceful intercourse among
men, would naturally lend itself to this position.

[Footnote 1: Compare Torquemada, _Monarquia Indiana_, Lib. vi, cap. xxviii
and Sahagun, _Historia de Nueva España_, Lib. ix, _passim_.

_Yacatecutli_, is from _tecutli_, lord, and either _yaqui_, traveler, or
else _yacana_, to conduct.

_Yacacoliuhqui_, is translated by Torquemada, "el que tiene la nariz
aquileña." It is from _yaque_, a point or end, and hence, also, the nose,
and _coliuhqui_, bent or curved. The translation in the text is quite as
allowable as that of Torquemada, and more appropriate. I have already
mentioned that this divinity was suspected, by Dr. Schultz-Sellack, to be
merely another form of Quetzalcoatl. See above, chapter iii, §2]

But Quetzalcoatl, as god of the violent wind-storms, which destroy the
houses and crops, and as one, who, in his own history, was driven from his
kingdom and lost his all, was not considered a deity of invariably good
augury. His day and sign, _ce acatl_, One Reed, was of bad omen. A person
born on it would not succeed in life.[1] His plans and possessions would
be lost, blown away, as it were, by the wind, and dissipated into thin

[Footnote 1: Sahagun. _Historia_, Lib. iv, cap. viii.]

Through the association of his person with the prying winds he came,
curiously enough, to be the patron saint of a certain class of thieves,
who stupefied their victims before robbing them. They applied to him to
exercise his maleficent power on those whom they planned to deprive of
their goods. His image was borne at the head of the gang when they made
their raids, and the preferred season was when his sign was in the
ascendant.[1] This is a singular parallelism to the Aryan Hermes myth, as
I have previously observed (Chap. I).

[Footnote 1: Ibid. Lib. IV, cap. XXXI.]

The representation of Quetzalcoatl in the Aztec manuscripts, his images
and the forms of his temples and altars, referred to his double functions
as Lord of the Light and the Winds.

He was not represented with pleasing features. On the contrary, Sahagun
tells us that his face, that is, that of his image, was "very ugly, with a
large head and a full beard."[1] The beard, in this and similar instances,
was to represent the rays of the sun. His hair at times was also shown
rising straight from his forehead, for the same reason.[2]

[Footnote 1: "La cara que tenia era muy fea y la cabeza larga y barbuda."
_Historia_, Lib. III, cap. III. On the other hand Ixtlilxochitl speaks of
him as "de bella figura." _Historia Chichimeca_, cap. viii. He was
occasionally represented with his face painted black, probably expressing
the sun in its absence.]

[Footnote 2: He is so portrayed in the Codex Vaticanus. and Ixtlilxochitl
says, "tubiese el cabello levantado desde la frente hasta la nuca como á
manera de penacho." _Historia Chichimeca_, cap. viii.]

At times he was painted with a large hat and flowing robe, and was then
called "Father of the Sons of the Clouds," that is, of the rain drops.[1]

[Footnote 1: Diego Duran, _Historia_, in Kingsborough, viii, p. 267.]

These various representations doubtless referred to him at different parts
of his chequered career, and as a god under different manifestations of
his divine nature. The religious art of the Aztecs did not demand any
uniformity in this respect.

§5. _The Return of Quetzalcoatl._

Quetzalcoatl was gone.

Whether he had removed to the palace prepared for him in Tlapallan,
whether he had floated out to sea on his wizard raft of serpent skins, or
whether his body had been burned on the sandy sea strand and his soul had
mounted to the morning star, the wise men were not agreed. But on one
point there was unanimity. Quetzalcoatl was gone; but _he would return_.

In his own good time, in the sign of his year, when the ages were ripe,
once more he would come from the east, surrounded by his fair-faced
retinue, and resume the sway of his people and their descendants.
Tezcatlipoca had conquered, but not for aye. The immutable laws which had
fixed the destruction of Tollan assigned likewise its restoration. Such
was the universal belief among the Aztec race.

For this reason Quetzalcoatl's statue, or one of them, was in a reclining
position and covered with wrappings, signifying that he was absent, "as of
one who lays him down to sleep, and that when he should awake from that
dream of absence, he should rise to rule again the land."[1]

[Footnote 1: Torquemada, _Monarquia Indiana_, Lib. vi, cap. xxiv. So in
Egyptian mythology Tum was called "the concealed or imprisoned god, in a
physical sense the Sun-god in the darkness of night, not revealing
himself, but alive, nevertheless." Tiele, _History of the Egyptian
Religion_, p. 77.]

He was not dead. He had indeed built mansions underground, to the Lord of
Mictlan, the abode of the dead, the place of darkness, but he himself did
not occupy them.[1] Where he passed his time was where the sun stays at
night. As this, too, is somewhere beneath the level of the earth, it was
occasionally spoken of as _Tlillapa_, The Murky Land,[2] and allied
therefore to Mictlan. Caverns led down to it, especially one south of
Chapultepec, called _Cincalco_, "To the Abode of Abundance," through whose
gloomy corridors one could reach the habitation of the sun and the happy
land still governed by Quetzalcoatl and his lieutenant Totec.[3]

[Footnote 1: Sahagun, _Historia_, Lib. iii. cap. ult.]

[Footnote 2: Mendieta, _Hist. Eclesiast. Indiana_, Lib. ii, cap. v. The
name is from _tlilli_, something dark, obscure.]

[Footnote 3: Sahagun, _Historia_, Lib. xii, cap. ix; Duran, _Historia_,
cap. lxviii; Tezozomoc, _Cron. Mexicana_, cap. ciii. Sahagun and Tezozomoc
give the name _Cincalco_, To the House of Maize, _i.e._, Fertility,
Abundance, the Paradise. Duran gives _Cicalco_, and translates it "casa de
la liebre," _citli_, hare, _calli_, house, _co_ locative. But this is, no
doubt, an error, mistaking _citli_ for _cintli_, maize.]

But the real and proper names of that land were Tlapallan, the Red Land,
and Tizapan, the White Land, for either of these colors is that of the

[Footnote 1: _Tizapan_ from _tizatl_, white earth or other substance, and
_pan_, in. Mendicta, Lib. ii, cap. iv.]

It was generally understood to be the same land whence he and the Toltecs
had come forth in ancient times; or if not actually the same,
nevertheless, very similar to it. While the myth refers to the latter as
Tlapallan, it speaks of the former as Huey Tlapallan, Old Tlapallan, or
the first Tlapallan. But Old Tlapallan was usually located to the West,
where the sun disappears at night;[1] while New Tlapallan, the goal of
Quetzalcoatl's journey, was in the East, where the day-orb rises in the
morning. The relationship is obvious, and is based on the similarity of
the morning and the evening skies, the heavens at sunset and at sunrise.

[Footnote 1: "Huitlapalan, que es la que al presente llaman de Cortes,
que por parecer vermeja le pusieron el nombre referido." Alva
Ixtlilxochitl, _Historia Chichimeca_, Cap. ii.]

In his capacity as master of arts, and, at the same time, ruler of the
underground realm, in other words, as representing in his absence the Sun
at night, he was supposed to preside over the schools where the youth were
shut up and severely trained in ascetic lives, previous to coming forth
into the world. In this function he was addressed as _Quetzalcoatl
Tlilpotonqui_, the Dark or Black Plumed, and the child, on admittance, was
painted this color, and blood drawn from his ears and offered to the
god.[1] Probably for the same reason, in many picture writings, both his
face and body were blackened.

[Footnote 1: Sahagun, Lib. iii, Append, cap. vii. and cf. Lib. i, cap v.
The surname is from _tlilli_, black, and _potonia_, "emplumar á otro."]

It is at first sight singular to find his character and symbols thus in a
sense reversed, but it would not be difficult to quote similar instances
from Aryan and Egyptian mythology. The sun at night was often considered
to be the ruler of the realm of the dead, and became associated with its
gloomy symbolism.

Wherever he was, Quetzalcoatl was expected to return and resume the
sceptre of sovereignty, which he had laid down at the instigation of
Tezcatlipoca. In what cycle he would appear the sages knew not, but the
year of the cycle was predicted by himself of old.

Here appears an extraordinary coincidence. The sign of the year of
Quetzalcoatl was, as I have said, One Reed, Ce Acatl. In the Mexican
calendar this recurs only once in their cycle of fifty-two years. The myth
ran that on some recurrence of this year his arrival was to take place.
The year 1519 of the Christian era was the year One Reed, and in that year
Hernan Cortes landed his army on Mexican soil!

The approach of the year had, as usual, revived the old superstition, and
possibly some vague rumors from Yucatan or the Islands had intensified the
dread with which the Mexican emperor contemplated the possible loss of his
sovereignty. Omens were reported in the sky, on earth and in the waters.
The sages and diviners were consulted, but their answers were darker than
the ignorance they were asked to dispel. Yes, they agreed, a change is to
come, the present order of things will be swept away, perhaps by
Quetzalcoatl, perhaps by hideous beings with faces of serpents, who walk
with one foot, whose heads are in their breasts, whose huge hands serve as
sun shades, and who can fold themselves in their immense ears.[1]

[Footnote 1: The names of these mysterious beings are given by Tezozomoc
as _Tezocuilyoxique, Zenteicxique_ and _Coayxaques. Cronica Mexicana_,
caps, cviii and civ.]

Little satisfied with these grotesque prophecies the monarch summoned his
dwarfs and hunchbacks--a class of dependents he maintained in imitation of
Quetzalcoatl--and ordered them to proceed to the sacred Cave of Cincalco.

"Enter its darknes," he said, "without fear. There you will find him who
ages ago lived in Tula, who calls himself Huemac, the Great Hand.[1] If
one enters, he dies indeed, but only to be born to an eternal life in a
land where food and wine are in perennial plenty. It is shady with trees,
filled with fruit, gay with flowers, and those who dwell there know nought
but joy. Huemac is king of that land, and he who lives with him is ever

[Footnote 1: Huemac, as I have already said, is stated by Sahagun to have
been the war chief of Tula, as Quetzalcoatl was the sacerdotal head (Lib.
iii, cap. v). But Duran and most writers state that it was simply another
name of Quetzalcoatl.]

The dwarfs and hunchbacks departed on their mission, under the guidance of
the priests. After a time they returned and reported that they had entered
the cave and reached a place where four roads met. They chose that which
descended most rapidly, and soon were accosted by an old man with a staff
in his hand. This was Totec, who led them to his lord Huemac, to whom they
stated the wish of Montezuma for definite information. The reply was vague
and threatening, and though twice afterwards the emperor sent other
embassies, only ominous and obscure announcements were returned by the

Clearly they preferred to be prophets of evil, and quite possibly they
themselves were the slaves of gloomy forebodings.

[Footnote 1: Tezozomoc, _Cronica Mexicana_, caps. cviii, cix; Sahagun,
_Historia_, Lib. xii, cap. ix. The four roads which met one on the journey
to the Under World are also described in the _Popol Vuh_, p. 83. Each is
of a different color, and only one is safe to follow.]

Dissatisfied with their reports, Montezuma determined to visit the
underground realm himself, and by penetrating through the cave of Cincalco
to reach the mysterious land where his attendants and priests professed to
have been. For obvious reasons such a suggestion was not palatable to
them, and they succeeded in persuading him to renounce the plan, and their
deceptions remained undiscovered.

Their idle tales brought no relief to the anxious monarch, and at length,
when his artists showed him pictures of the bearded Spaniards and strings
of glittering beads from Cortes, the emperor could doubt no longer, and
exclaimed: "Truly this is the Quetzalcoatl we expected, he who lived with
us of old in Tula. Undoubtedly it is he, _Ce Acatl Inacuil_, the god of
One Reed, who is journeying."[1]

[Footnote 1: Tezozomoc, _Cronica Mexicana_, cap. cviii.]

On his very first interview with Cortes, he addressed him through the
interpreter Marina in remarkable words which have been preserved to us by
the Spanish conqueror himself. Cortes writes:--

"Having delivered me the presents, he seated himself next to me and spoke
as follows:--

"'We have known for a long time, by the writings handed down by our
forefathers, that neither I nor any who inhabit this land are natives of
it, but foreigners who came here from remote parts. We also know that we
were led here by a ruler, whose subjects we all were, who returned to his
country, and after a long time came here again and wished to take his
people away. But they had married wives and built houses, and they would
neither go with him nor recognize him as their king; therefore he went
back. We have ever believed that those who were of his lineage would some
time come and claim this land as his, and us as his vassals. From the
direction whence you come, which is where the sun rises, and from what you
tell me of this great lord who sent you, we believe and think it certain
that he is our natural ruler, especially since you say that for a long
time he has known about us. Therefore you may feel certain that we shall
obey you, and shall respect you as holding the place of that great lord;
and in all the land I rule you may give what orders you wish, and they
shall be obeyed, and everything we have shall be put at your service. And
since you are thus in your own heritage and your own house, take your ease
and rest from the fatigue of the journey and the wars you have had on the

[Footnote 1: Cortes, _Carta Segunda_, October 30th, 1520. According to
Bernal Diaz Montezuma referred to the prediction several times. _Historia
Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva España_, cap. lxxxix, xc. The words
of Montezuma are also given by Father Sahagun, _Historia de Nueva España_,
Lib. xii, cap. xvi. The statement of Montezuma that Quetzalcoatl _had
already returned_, but had not been well received by the people, and had,
therefore, left them again, is very interesting. It is a part of the
Quetzalcoatl myth which I have not found in any other Aztec source. But it
distinctly appears in the Kiche which I shall quote on a later page, and
is also in close parallelism with the hero-myths of Yucatan, Peru and
elsewhere. It is, to my mind, a strong evidence of the accuracy of
Marina's translation of Montezuma's words, and the fidelity of Cortes'

Such was the extraordinary address with which the Spaniard, with his
handful of men, was received by the most powerful war chief of the
American continent. It confessed complete submission, without a struggle.
But it was the expression of a general sentiment. When the Spanish ships
for the first time reached the Mexican shores the natives kissed their
sides and hailed the white and bearded strangers from the east as gods,
sons and brothers of Quetzalcoatl, come back from their celestial home to
claim their own on earth and bring again the days of Paradise; [1] a hope,
dryly observes Father Mendieta, which the poor Indians soon gave up when
they came to feel the acts of their visitors.[2]

[Footnote 1: Sahagun, _Historia_, Lib. xii, cap. ii.]

[Footnote 2: "Los Indios siempre esperaron que se habia de cumplir aquella
profecia y cuando vieron venir á los cristianos luego los llamaron dioses,
hijos, y hermanos de Quetzalcoatl, aunque despues que conocieron y
experimentaron sus obras, no los tuvieron por celestiales." _Historia
Eclesiastica Indiana_, Lib. ii, cap. x.]

Such presentiments were found scattered through America. They have excited
the suspicion of historians and puzzled antiquaries to explain. But their
interpretation is simple enough. The primitive myth of the sun which had
sunk but should rise again, had in the lapse of time lost its peculiarly
religious sense, and had been in part taken to refer to past historical
events. The Light-God had become merged in the divine culture hero. He it
was who was believed to have gone away, not to die, for he was immortal,
but to dwell in the distant east, whence in the fullness of time he would

This was why Montezuma and his subjects received the whites as expected
guests, and quoted to them prophecies of their coming. The Mayas of
Yucatan, the Muyscas of Bogota, the Qquichuas of Peru, all did the same,
and all on the same grounds--the confident hope of the return of the
Light-God from the under world.

This hope is an integral part of this great Myth of Light, in whatever
part of the world we find it. Osiris, though murdered, and his body cast
into "the unclean sea," will come again from the eastern shores. Balder,
slain by the wiles of Loki, is not dead forever, but at the appointed time
will appear again in nobler majesty. So in her divine fury sings the
prophetess of the Völuspa:--

"Shall arise a second time,
Earth from ocean, green and fair,
The waters ebb, the eagles fly,
Snatch the fish from out the flood.

"Once again the wondrous runes,
Golden tablets, shall be found;
Mystic runes by Aesir carved,
Gods who ruled Fiolnir's line.

"Then shall fields unseeded bear,
Ill shall flee, and Balder come,
Dwell in Odin's highest hall,
He and all the happy gods.

"Outshines the sun that mighty hall,
Glitters gold on heaven's hill;
There shall god-like princes dwell,
And rule for aye a happy world."




§1. _The Culture Hero Itzamna._


§2. _The Culture Hero Kukulcan_.


The high-water mark of ancient American civilization was touched by the
Mayas, the race who inhabited the peninsula of Yucatan and vicinity. Its
members extended to the Pacific coast and included the tribes of Vera Paz,
Guatemala, and parts of Chiapas and Honduras, and had an outlying branch
in the hot lowlands watered by the River Panuco, north of Vera Cruz. In
all, it has been estimated that they numbered at the time of the Conquest
perhaps two million souls. To them are due the vast structures of Copan,
Palenque and Uxmal, and they alone possessed a mode of writing which
rested distinctly on a phonetic basis.

The zenith of their prosperity had, however, been passed a century before
the Spanish conquerors invaded their soil. A large part of the peninsula
of Yucatan had been for generations ruled in peace by a confederation of
several tribes, whose capital city was Mayapan, ten leagues south of where
Mérida now stands, and whose ruins still cover many hundred acres of the
plain. Somewhere about the year 1440 there was a general revolt of the
eastern provinces; Mayapan itself was assaulted and destroyed, and the
Peninsula was divided among a number of petty chieftains.

Such was its political condition at the time of the discovery. There were
numerous populous cities, well built of stone and mortar, but their
inhabitants were at war with each other and devoid of unity of purpose.[1]
Hence they fell a comparatively easy prey to the conquistadors.

[Footnote 1: Francisco de Montejo, who was the first to explore Yucatan
(1528), has left strong testimony to the majesty of its cities and the
agricultural industry of its inhabitants. He writes to the King, in the
report of his expedition: "La tierra es muy poblada y de muy grandes
ciudades y villas muy frescas. Todos los pueblos son una huerta de
frutales." _Carta á su Magestad, 13 Abril, 1529_, in the _Coleccion de
Documentos Ineditos del Archivo de Indias_, Tom. xiii.]

Whence came this civilization? Was it an offshoot of that of the Aztecs?
Or did it produce the latter?

These interesting questions I cannot discuss in full at this time. All
that concerns my present purpose is to treat of them so far as they are
connected with the mythology of the race. Incidentally, however, this will
throw some light on these obscure points, and at any rate enable us to
dismiss certain prevalent assumptions as erroneous.

One of these is the notion that the Toltecs were the originators of
Yucatan culture. I hope I have said enough in the previous chapter to
exorcise permanently from ancient American history these purely imaginary
beings. They have served long enough as the last refuge of ignorance.

Let us rather ask what accounts the Mayas themselves gave of the origin of
their arts and their ancestors.

Most unfortunately very meagre sources of information are open to us. We
have no Sahagun to report to us the traditions and prayers of this strange
people. Only fragments of their legends and hints of their history have
been saved, almost by accident, from the general wreck of their
civilization. From these, however, it is possible to piece together enough
to give us a glimpse of their original form, and we shall find it not
unlike those we have already reviewed.

There appear to have been two distinct cycles of myths in Yucatan, the
most ancient and general that relating to Itzamná, the second, of later
date and different origin, referring to Kukulcan. It is barely possible
that these may be different versions of the same; but certainly they were
regarded as distinct by the natives at and long before the time of the

This is seen in the account they gave of their origin. They did not
pretend to be autochthonous, but claimed that their ancestors came from
distant regions, in two bands. The largest and most ancient immigration
was from the East, across, or rather through, the ocean--for the gods had
opened twelve paths through it--and this was conducted by the mythical
civilizer Itzamná. The second band, less in number and later in time, came
in from the West, and with them was Kukulcan. The former was called the
Great Arrival; the latter, the Less Arrival[1].

[Footnote 1: Cogolludo contradicts himself in describing these events;
saying first that the greater band came from the West, but later in the
same chapter corrects himself, and criticizes Father Lizana for having
committed the same error. Cogolludo's authority was the original MSS. of
Gaspar Antonio, an educated native, of royal lineage, who wrote in 1582.
_Historia de Yucatan_, Lib. iv, caps, iii, iv. Lizana gives the names of
these arrivals as _Nohnial_ and _Cenial_. These words are badly mutilated.
They should read _noh emel_ (_noh_, great, _emel_, descent, arrival) and
_cec, emel_ (_cec_, small). Landa supports the position of Cogolludo.
_Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan_, p. 28. It is he who speaks of the
"doce caminos por el mar."]

§1. _The Culture Hero, Itzamná._

To this ancient leader, Itzamná, the nation alluded as their guide,
instructor and civilizer. It was he who gave names to all the rivers and
divisions of land; he was their first priest, and taught them the proper
rites wherewith to please the gods and appease their ill-will; he was the
patron of the healers and diviners, and had disclosed to them the
mysterious virtues of plants; in the month _Uo_ they assembled and made
new fire and burned to him incense, and having cleansed their books with
water drawn from a fountain from which no woman had ever drunk, the most
learned of the sages opened the volumes to forecast the character of the
coming year.

It was Itzamná who first invented the characters or letters in which the
Mayas wrote their numerous books, and which they carved in such profusion
on the stone and wood of their edifices. He also devised their calendar,
one more perfect even than that of the Mexicans, though in a general way
similar to it[1].

[Footnote 1: The authorities on this phase of Itzamná's character are
Cogolludo, _Historia de Yucatan_, Lib. iv, cap. iii; Landa, _Cosas de
Yucatan_, pp. 285, 289, and Beltran de Santa Rosa Maria, _Arte del Idioma
Maya_, p. 16. The latter has a particularly valuable extract from the now
lost Maya Dictionary of F. Gabriel de San Buenaventura. "El primero que
halló las letras de la lengua Maya é hizo el computo de los años, meses y
edades, y lo enseño todo á los Indios de esta Provincia, fué un Indio
llamado Kinchahau, y por otro nombre Tzamná. Noticia que debemos á dicho
R.F. Gabriel, y trae en su Calepino, lit. K. verb. Kinchahau, fol. 390,

As city-builder and king, his history is intimately associated with the
noble edifices of Itzamal, which he laid out and constructed, and over
which he ruled, enacting wise laws and extending the power and happiness
of his people for an indefinite period.

Thus Itzamna, regarded as ruler, priest and teacher, was, no doubt, spoken
of as an historical personage, and is so put down by various historians,
even to the most recent[1]. But another form in which he appears proves
him to have been an incarnation of deity, and carries his history from
earth to heaven. This is shown in the very earliest account we have of the
Maya mythology.

[Footnote 1: Crescencio Carrillo, _Historia Antigua de Yucatan_, p. 144,
Mérida, 1881. Though obliged to differ on many points with this
indefatigable archaeologist, I must not omit to state my appreciation and
respect for his earnest interest in the language and antiquities of his
country. I know of no other Yucatecan who has equal enthusiasm or so just
an estimate of the antiquarian riches of his native land.]

For this account we are indebted to the celebrated Las Casas, the "Apostle
of the Indians." In 1545 he sent a certain priest, Francisco Hernandez by
name, into the peninsula as a missionary. Hernandez had already traversed
it as chaplain to Montejo's expedition, in 1528, and was to some degree
familiar with the Maya tongue. After nearly a year spent among the natives
he forwarded a report to Las Casas, in which, among other matters, he
noted a resemblance which seemed to exist between the myths recounted by
the Maya priests and the Christian dogmas. They told him that the highest
deity they worshiped was Izona, who had made men and all things. To him
was born a son, named Bacab or Bacabab, by a virgin, Chibilias, whose
mother was Ixchel. Bacab was slain by a certain Eopuco, on the day called
_hemix_, but after three days rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.
The Holy Ghost was represented by Echuac, who furnished the world with all
things necessary to man's life and comfort. Asked what Bacab meant, they
replied, "the Son of the Great Father," and Echuac they translated by "the

[Footnote 1: Las Casas, _Historia Apologetica de las Indias Occidentales_,
cap. cxxiii.]

This is the story that a modern writer says, "ought to be repudiated
without question."[1] But I think not. It is not difficult to restore
these names to their correct forms, and then the fancied resemblance to
Christian theology disappears, while the character of the original myth
becomes apparent.

[Footnote 1: John T. Short, _The North Americans of Antiquity_, p. 231.]

Cogolludo long since justly construed _Izona_ as a misreading for
_Izamna_. _Bacabab_ is the plural form of _Bacab_, and shows that the sons
were several. We are well acquainted with the Bacabab. Bishop Landa tells
us all about them. They were four in number, four gigantic brothers, who
supported the four corners of the heavens, who blew the four winds from
the four cardinal points, and who presided over the four Dominical signs
of the Calendar. As each year in the Calendar was supposed to be under the
influence of one or the other of these brothers, one Bacab was said to die
at the close of the year; and after the "nameless" or intercalary days had
passed the next Bacab would live; and as each computation of the year
began on the day _Imix_, which was the third before the close of the Maya
week, this was said figuratively to be the day of death of the Bacab of
that year. And whereas three (or four) days later a new year began, with
another Bacab, the one was said to have died and risen again.

The myth further relates that the Bacabs were sons of Ix-chel. She was the
Goddess of the Rainbow, which her name signifies. She was likewise
believed to be the guardian of women in childbirth, and one of the patrons
of the art of medicine. The early historians, Roman and Landa, also
associate her with Itzamna[1], thus verifying the legend recorded by

[Footnote 1: Fray Hieronimo Roman, _De la Republica de las Indias
Occidentales_, Lib. ii, cap. xv; Diego de Landa, _Relacion de las Cosas de
Yucatan_, p. 288. Cogolludo also mentions _Ix chel_, _Historia de
Yucatan_, Lib. iv, cap. vi. The word in Maya for rainbow is _chel_ or
_cheel_; _ix_ is the feminine prefix, which also changes the noun from the
inanimate to the animate sense.]

That the Rainbow should be personified as wife of the Light-God and mother
of the rain-gods, is an idea strictly in accordance with the course of
mythological thought in the red race, and is founded on natural relations
too evident to be misconstrued. The rainbow is never seen but during a
shower, and while the sun is shining; hence it is always associated with
these two meteorological phenomena.

I may quote in comparison the rainbow myth of the Moxos of South America.
They held it to be the wife of Arama, their god of light, and her duty was
to pour the refreshing rains on the soil parched by the glaring eye of her
mighty spouse. Hence they looked upon her as goddess of waters, of trees
and plants, and of fertility in general.[1]

[Footnote 1: "Fabula, ridicula adspersam superstitione, habebant de iride.
Ajebant illam esse Aramam feminam, solis conjugem, cujus officium sit
terras a viro exustas imbrium beneficio recreare. Cum enim viderent arcum
illum non nisi pluvio tempore in conspectu venire, et tunc arborum
cacuminibus velut insidere, persuadebant sibi aquarum illum esse
Praesidem, arboresque proceras omnes sua in tutela habere." Franc. Xav.,
Eder, _Descriptio Provinciae Moxitarum in Regno Peruano_ p. 249 (Budae,

Or we may take the Muyscas, a cultivated and interesting nation who dwelt
on the lofty plateau where Bogota is situated. They worshiped the Rainbow
under the name _Cuchaviva_ and personified it as a goddess, who took
particular care of those sick with fevers and of women in childbirth. She
was also closely associated in their myth with their culture-hero Bochica,
the story being that on one occasion, when an ill-natured divinity had
inundated the plain of Bogota, Bochica appeared to the distressed
inhabitants in company with Cuchaviva, and cleaving the mountains with a
blow of his golden sceptre, opened a passage for the waters into the
valley below.[1]

[Footnote 1: E. Uricoechea, _Gramatica de la Lengua Chibcha_, Introd., p.
xx. The similarity of these to the Biblical account is not to be
attributed to borrowing from the latter, but simply that it, as they, are
both the mythological expressions of the same natural phenomenon. In Norse
mythology, Freya is the rainbow goddess. She wears the bow as a necklace
or girdle. It was hammered out for her by four dwarfs, the four winds from
the cardinal points, and Odin seeks to get it from her. Schwartz,
_Ursprung der Mythologie_, S. 117.]

As goddess of the fertilizing showers, of growth and life, it is easily
seen how Ixchel came to be the deity both of women in childbirth and of
the medical art, a Juno Sospita as well as a Juno Lucina.

The statement is also significant, that the Bacabs were supposed to be the
victims of Ah-puchah, the Despoiler or Destroyer,[1] though the precise
import of that character in the mythical drama is left uncertain.[2]

[Footnote 1: _Eopuco_ I take to be from the verb _puch_ or _puk_, to melt,
to dissolve, to shell corn from the cob, to spoil; hence _puk_, spoiled,
rotten, _podrida_, and possibly _ppuch_, to flog, to beat. The prefix
_ah_, signifies one who practices or is skilled in the action which the
verb denotes.]

[Footnote 2: The mother of the Bacabs is given in the myth as _Chibilias_
(or _Chibirias_, but there is no _r_ in the Maya alphabet). Cogolludo
mentions a goddess _Ix chebel yax_, one of whose functions was to preside
over drawing and painting. The name is from _chebel_, the brush used in
these arts. But the connection is obscure.]

The supposed Holy Ghost, Echuac, properly Ah-Kiuic, Master of the Market,
was the god of the merchants and the cacao plantations. He formed a triad
with two other gods, Chac, one of the rain gods, and Hobnel, also a god of
the food supply. To this triad travelers, on stopping for the night, set
on end three stones and placed in front of them three flat stones, on
which incense was burned. At their festival in the month _Muan_ precisely
three cups of native wine (mead) were drained by each person present.[1]

[Footnote 1: Landa, _Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan_, pp. 156, 260.]

The description of some such rites as these is, no doubt, what led the
worthy Hernandez to suppose that the Mayas had Trinitarian doctrines.
When they said that the god of the merchants and planters supplied the
wants of men and furnished the world with desirable things, it was but a
slightly figurative way of stating a simple truth.

The four Bacabs are called by Cogolludo "the gods of the winds." Each was
identified with a particular color and a certain cardinal point. The first
was that of the South. He was called Hobnil, the Belly; his color was
yellow, which, as that of the ripe ears, was regarded as a favorable and
promising hue; the augury of his year was propitious, and it was said of
him, referring to some myth now lost, that he had never sinned as had his
brothers. He answered to the day _Kan_. which was the first of the Maya
week of thirteen days.[1] The remaining Bacabs were the Red, assigned to
the East, the White, to the North, and the Black, to the West, and the
winds and rains from those directions were believed to be under the charge
of these giant caryatides.

[Footnote 1: Landa, _Relacion_, pp. 208,-211, etc. _Hobnil_ is the
ordinary word for belly, stomach, from _hobol_, hollow. Figuratively, in
these dialects it meant subsistence, life, as we use in both these senses
the word "vitals." Among the Kiches of Guatemala, a tribe of Maya stock,
we find, as terms applied to their highest divinity, _u pam uleu, u pam
cah_, literally Belly of the Earth, Belly of the Sky, meaning that by
which earth and sky exist. _Popol Vuh_, p. 332.]

Their close relation with Itzamná is evidenced, not only in the
fragmentary myth preserved by Hernandez, but quite amply in the
descriptions of the rites at the close of each year and in the various
festivals during the year, as narrated by Bishop Landa. Thus at the
termination of the year, along with the sacrifices to the Bacab of the
year were others to Itzamná, either under his surname _Canil_, which has
various meanings,[1] or as _Kinich-ahau_, Lord of the Eye of the Day,[2]
or _Yax-coc-ahmut_, the first to know and hear of events,[3] or finally as
_Uac-mètun-ahau_, Lord of the Wheel of the Months.[4]

[Footnote 1: _Can_, of which the "determinative" form is _canil_, may
mean a serpent, or the yellow one, or the strong one, or he who gives
gifts, or the converser.]

[Footnote 2: _Kin_, the day; _ich_, eye; _ahau_, lord.]

[Footnote 3: _Yax_, first; _coc_, which means literally deaf, and hence
to listen attentively (whence the name Cocomes, for the ancient royal
family of Chichen Itza, an appellation correctly translated
"escuchadores") and _ah-mut_, master of the news, _mut_ meaning news, good
or bad.]

[Footnote 4: _Uac_, the months, is a rare and now obsolete form of the
plural of _u_, month, "_Uac_, i.e. _u_, por meses y habla de tiempo
pasado." _Diccionario Maya-Español del Convento de Motul_, MS. _Metun_
(Landa, _mitun_) is from _met_, a wheel. The calendars, both in Yucatan
and Mexico, were represented as a wheel.]

The word _bacab_ means "erected," "set up."[1] It was applied to the
Bacabs because they were imagined to be enormous giants, standing like
pillars at the four corners of the earth, supporting the heavens. In this
sense they were also called _chac_, the giants, as the rain senders. They
were also the gods of fertility and abundance, who watered the crops, and
on whose favor depended the return of the harvests. They presided over the
streams and wells, and were the divinities whose might is manifested in
the thunder and lightning, gods of the storms, as well as of the gentle
showers.[2] The festival to these gods of the harvest was in the month
_Mac_, which occurred in the early spring. In this ceremony, Itzamná was
also worshiped as the leader of the Bacabs, and an important rite called
"the extinction of the fire" was performed. "The object of these
sacrifices and this festival," writes Bishop Landa, "was to secure an
abundance of water for their crops."[3]

[Footnote 1: The _Diccionario Maya del Convento de Motul_, MS., the only
dictionary in which I find the exact word, translates _bacab_ by
"representante, juglar, bufon." This is no doubt a late meaning taken from
the scenic representations of the supposed doings of the gods in the
ritual ceremonies. The proper form of the word is _uacab_ or _vacab_,
which the dictionary mentioned renders "cosa que esta en pié ó enhiesta
delante de otra." The change from the initial _v_ to _b_ is quite common,
as may be seen by comparing the two letters in Pio Perez's _Diccionario de
la Lengua Maya_, e.g. _balak_, the revolution of a wheel, from _ualak_, to
turn, to revolve.]

[Footnote 2: The entries in the _Diccionario Maya-Español del Convento de
Motul_, MS., are as follows:--

"_Chaac_: gigante, hombre de grande estatura.

"_Chaac_: fué un hombre asi grande que enseño la agricultura, al cual
tuvieron despues por Dios de los panes, del agua, de los truenos y
relámpagos. Y asi se dice, _hac chaac_, el rayo: _u lemba chaac_ el
relámpago; _u pec chaac_, el trueno," etc.]

[Footnote 3: _Relacion, etc._, p. 255.]

These four Chac or Bacabab were worshiped under the symbol of the cross,
the four arms of which represented the four cardinal points. Both in
language and religious art, this was regarded as a tree. In the Maya
tongue it was called "the tree of bread," or "the tree of life."[1] The
celebrated cross of Palenque is one of its representations, as I believe I
was the first to point out, and has now been generally acknowledged to be
correct.[2] There was another such cross, about eight feet high, in a
temple on the island of Cozumel. This was worshiped as "the god of rain,"
or more correctly, as the symbol of the four rain gods, the Bacabs. In
periods of drought offerings were made to it of birds (symbols of the
winds) and it was sprinkled with water. "When this had been done," adds
the historian, "they felt certain that the rains would promptly fall."[3]

[Footnote 1: The Maya word is _uahomche_, from _uah_, originally the
tortilla or maize cake, now used for bread generally. It is also current
in the sense of _life_ ("la vida en cierta manera," _Diccionario Maya
Español del Convento de Motul_, MS.). _Che_ is the generic word for tree.
I cannot find any particular tree called _Homche_. _Hom_ was the name
applied to a wind instrument, a sort of trumpet. In the _Codex Troano_,
Plates xxv, xxvii, xxxiv, it is represented in use. The four Bacabs were
probably imagined to blow the winds from the four corners of the earth
through such instruments. A similar representation is given in the _Codex
Borgianus_, Plate xiii, in Kingsborough. As the Chac was the god of bread,
_Dios de los panes_, so the cross was the tree of bread.]

[Footnote 2: See the _Myths of the New World_, p. 95 (1st ed., New York,
1868). This explanation has since been adopted by Dr. Carl
Schultz-Sellack, although he omits to state whence he derived it. His
article is entitled _Die Amerikanischen Götter der Vier Weltgegenden und
ihre Tempel in Palenque_ in the _Zeitschrift für Ethnologie_, 1879.
Compare also Charles Rau, _The Palenque Tablet_, p. 44 (Washington,

[Footnote 3: "Al pié de aquella misma torre estaba un cercado de piedra y
cal, muy bien lucido y almenado, en medio del cual habia una cruz de cal
tan alta como diez palmos, á la cual tenian y adoraban por dios de la
lluvia, porque quando no llovia y habia falta de agua, iban á ella en
procesion y muy devotos; ofrescianle codornices sacrificadas por aplacarle
la ira y enojo con que ellos tenia ô mostraba tener, con la sangre de
aquella simple avezica." Francisco Lopez de Gomara, _Conquista de Mejico_,
p. 305 (Ed. Paris, 1852).]

Each of the four Bacabs was also called _Acantun_, which means "a stone
set up," such a stone being erected and painted of the color sacred to the
cardinal point that the Bacab represented[1]. Some of these stones are
still found among the ruins of Yucatecan cities, and are to this day
connected by the natives with reproductive signs[2]. It is probable,
however, that actual phallic worship was not customary in Yucatan. The
Bacabs and Itzamná were closely related to ideas of fertility and
reproduction, indeed, but it appears to have been especially as gods of
the rains, the harvests, and the food supply generally. The Spanish
writers were eager to discover all the depravity possible in the religion
of the natives, and they certainly would not have missed such an
opportunity for their tirades, had it existed. As it is, the references to
it are not many, and not clear.

[Footnote 1: The feasts of the Bacabs Acantun are described in Landa's
work. The name he does not explain. I take it to be _acaan_, past
participle of _actal_, to erect, and _tun_, stone. But it may have another
meaning. The word _acan_ meant wine, or rather, mead, the intoxicating
hydromel the natives manufactured. The god of this drink also bore the
name Acan ("ACAN; el Dios del vino que es Baco," _Diccionario del Convento
de Motul_, MS.). It would be quite appropriate for the Bacabs to be gods
of wine.]

[Footnote 2: Stephens, _Travels in Yucatan_, Vol. i, p. 434.]

From what I have now presented we see that Itzamná came from the distant
east, beyond the ocean marge; that he was the teacher of arts and
agriculture; that he, moreover, as a divinity, ruled the winds and rains,
and sent at his will harvests and prosperity. Can we identify him further
with that personification of Light which, as we have already seen, was the
dominant figure in other American mythologies?

This seems indicated by his names and titles. They were many, some of
which I have already analyzed. That by which he was best known was
_Itzamná_, a word of contested meaning but which contains the same
radicals as the words for the morning and the dawn[1], and points to his
identification with the grand central fact at the basis of all these
mythologies, the welcome advent of the light in the eastern horizon after
the gloom of the night.

[Footnote 1: Some have derived Itzamua from _i_, grandson by a son, used
only by a female; _zamal_, morning, morrow, from _zam_, before, early,
related to _yam_, first, whence also _zamalzam_, the dawn, the aurora; and
_ná_, mother. Without the accent _na_, means house. Crescencio Carrillo
prefers the derivation from _itz_, anything that trickles in drops, as gum
from a tree, rain or dew from the sky, milk from teats, and semen ("leche
de amor," _Dicc. de Motul_, MS.). He says: "_Itzamna_, esto es, rocio
diario, ó sustancia cuotidiana del cielo, es el mismo nombre del fundador
(de Itzamal)." _Historia Antigua de Yucatan_, p. 145. (Mérida, 1881.) This
does not explain the last syllable, _ná_, which is always strongly
accented. It is said that Itzamná spoke of himself only in the words _Itz
en caan_, "I am that which trickles from the sky;" _Itz en muyal_, "I am
that which trickles from the clouds." This plainly refers to his character
as a rain god. Lizana, _Historia de Yucatan_, Lib. i, cap. 4. If a
compound of _itz, amal, ná_, the name, could be translated, "the milk of
the mother of the morning," or of the dawn, i. e., the dew; while _i,
zamal, ná_ would be "son of the mother of the morning."]

His next most frequent title was _Kin-ich-ahau_, which may be translated
either, "Lord of the Sun's Face," or, "The Lord, the Eye of the Day."[1]
As such he was the deity who presided in the Sun's disk and shot forth his
scorching rays. There was a temple at Itzamal consecrated to him as
_Kin-ich-kak-mo_, "the Eye of the Day, the Bird of Fire."[2] In a time of
pestilence the people resorted to this temple, and at high noon a
sacrifice was spread upon the altar. The moment the sun reached the
zenith, a bird of brilliant plumage, but which, in fact, was nothing else
than a fiery flame shot from the sun, descended and consumed the offering
in the sight of all. At Campeche he had a temple, as _Kin-ich-ahau-haban_,
"the Lord of the Sun's face, the _Hunter_," where the rites were

[Footnote 1: Cogolludo, who makes a distinction between Kinich-ahau and
Itzamná (_Hist. de Yucatan_, Lib. iv, cap. viii), may be corrected by
Landa and Buenaventura, whom I have already quoted.]

[Footnote 2: _Kin_, the sun, the day; _ich_, the face, but generally the
eye or eyes; _kak_, fire; _mo_, the brilliant plumaged, sacred bird, the
ara or guacamaya, the red macaw. This was adopted as the title of the
ruler of Itzamal, as we learn from the Chronicle of Chichen Itza--"Ho ahau
paxci u cah yahau ah Itzmal Kinich Kakmo"--"In the fifth Age the town (of
Chichen Itza) was destroyed by King Kinich Kakmo, of Itzamal." _El Libro
de Chilan Balam de Chumayel_, MS.]

[Footnote 3: Cogolludo, _Historia de Yucatan_, Lib. iv, cap. viii.]

Another temple at Itzamal was consecrated to him, under one of his names,
_Kabil_, He of the Lucky Hand,[1] and the sick were brought there, as it
was said that he had cured many by merely touching them. This fane was
extremely popular, and to it pilgrimages were made from even such remote
regions as Tabasco, Guatemala and Chiapas. To accommodate the pilgrims
four paved roads had been constructed, to the North, South, East and West,
straight toward the quarters of the four winds.

[Footnote 1: Lizana says: "Se llama y nombra _Kab-ul_ que quiere decir
mano obradora," and all writers have followed him, although no such
meaning can be made out of the name thus written. The proper word is
_kabil_, which is defined in the _Diccionario del Convento de Motul_, MS.,
"el que tiene buena mano para sembrar, ó para poner colmenas, etc." Landa
also gives this orthography, _Relacion_, p. 216.]

§2. _The Culture Hero, Kukulcan._

The second important hero-myth of the Mayas was that about Kukulcan. This
is in no way connected with that of Itzamna, and is probably later in
date, and less national in character. The first reference to it we also
owe to Father Francisco Hernandez, whom I have already quoted, and who
reported it to Bishop Las Casas in 1545. His words clearly indicate that
we have here to do with a myth relating to the formation of the calendar,
an opinion which can likewise be supported from other sources.

The natives affirmed, says Las Casas, that in ancient times there came to
that land twenty men, the chief of whom was called "Cocolcan," and him
they spoke of as the god of fevers or agues, two of the others as gods of
fishing, another two as the gods of farms and fields, another was the
thunder god, etc. They wore flowing robes and sandals on their feet, they
had long beards, and their heads were bare. They ordered that the people
should confess and fast, and some of the natives fasted on Fridays,
because on that day the god Bacab died; and the name of that day in their
language is _himix_, which they especially honor and hold in reverence as
the day of the death of Bacab.[1]

[Footnote 1: Las Casas, _Historia Apologetica de las Indias
Occidentales_, cap. cxxii.]

In the manuscript of Hernandez, which Las Casas had before him when he was
writing his _Apologetical History_, the names of all the twenty were
given; but unfortunately for antiquarian research, the good bishop excuses
himself from quoting them, on account of their barbarous appearance. I
have little doubt, however, that had he done so, we should find them to be
the names of the twenty days of the native calendar month. These are the
visitors who come, one every morning, with flowing robes, full beard and
hair, and bring with them our good or bad luck--whatever the day brings
forth. Hernandez made the same mistake as did Father Francisco de
Bobadilla, when he inquired of the Nicaraguans the names of their gods,
and they gave him those of the twenty days of the month.[1] Each day was,
indeed, personified by these nations, and supposed to be at once a deity
and a date, favorable or unfavorable to fishing or hunting, planting or
fighting, as the case might be.

[Footnote 1: Oviedo, _Historia General de las Indias_, Lib. xlii, cap.

Kukulcan seems, therefore, to have stood in the same relation in Yucatan
to the other divinities of the days as did Votan in Chiapa and
Quetzalcoatl Ce Acatl in Cholula.

His name has usually been supposed to be a compound, meaning "a serpent
adorned with feathers," but there are no words in the Maya language to
justify such a rendering. There is some variation in its orthography, and
its original pronunciation may possibly be lost; but if we adopt as
correct the spelling which I have given above, of which, however, I have
some doubts, then it means, "The God of the Mighty Speech."[1]

[Footnote 1: Eligio Ancona, after giving the rendering, "serpiente
adornada de plumas," adds, "ha sido repetido por tal número de
etimologistas que tendremos necesidad de aceptarla, aunque nos parece un
poco violento," _Historia de Yucatan_, Vol. i, p. 44. The Abbé Brasseur,
in his _Vocabulaire Maya_, boldly states that _kukul_ means "emplumado ó
adornado con plumas." This rendering is absolutely without authority,
either modern or ancient. The word for feathers in Maya is _kukum_; _kul_,
in composition, means "very" or "much," as "_kulvinic_, muy hombre, hombre
de respeto ó hecho," _Diccionario de Motul_, MS. _Ku_ is god, divinity.
For _can_ see chapter iv, §1. _Can_ was and still is a common surname in
Yucatan. (Berendt, _Nombres Proprios en Lengua Maya_, MS.)

I should prefer to spell the name _Kukulkan_, and have it refer to the
first day of the Maya week, _Kan_.]

The reference probably was to the fame of this divinity as an oracle, as
connected with the calendar. But it is true that the name could with equal
correctness be translated "The God, the Mighty Serpent," for can is a
homonym with these and other meanings, and we are without positive proof
which was intended.

To bring Kukulcan into closer relations with other American hero-gods we
must turn to the locality where he was especially worshiped, to the
traditions of the ancient and opulent city of Chichen Itza, whose ruins
still rank among the most imposing on the peninsula. The fragments of its
chronicles, as preserved to us in the Books of Chilan Balam and by Bishop
Landa, tell us that its site was first settled by four bands who came from
the four cardinal points and were ruled over by four brothers. These
brothers chose no wives, but lived chastely and ruled righteously, until
at a certain time one died or departed, and two began to act unjustly and
were put to death. The one remaining was Kukulcan. He appeased the strife
which his brothers' acts had aroused, directed the minds of the people to
the arts of peace, and caused to be built various important structures.
After he had completed his work in Chichen Itza, he founded and named the
great city of Mayapan, destined to be the capital of the confederacy of
the Mayas. In it was built a temple in his honor, and named for him, as
there was one in Chichen Itza. These were unlike others in Yucatan, having
circular walls and four doors, directed, presumably, toward the four
cardinal points[1].

[Footnote 1: _El Libro de Chilan Balam de Chumayel_, MS.; Landa,
_Relacion_, pp. 34-38. and 299; Herrera, _Historia de las Indias_, Dec.
iv, Lib. x, cap ii.]

In gratifying confirmation of the legend, travelers do actually find in
Mayapan and Chichen Itza, and nowhere else in Yucatan, the ruins of two
circular temples with doors opening toward the cardinal points[1].

[Footnote 1: Stephens, _Incidents of Travel in Yucatan_, Vol. ii, p. 298.]

Under the beneficent rule of Kukulcan, the nation enjoyed its halcyon days
of peace and prosperity. The harvests were abundant and the people turned
cheerfully to their daily duties, to their families and their lords. They
forgot the use of arms, even for the chase, and contented themselves with
snares and traps.

At length the time drew near for Kukulcan to depart. He gathered the
chiefs together and expounded to them his laws. From among them he chose
as his successor a member of the ancient and wealthy family of the Cocoms.
His arrangements completed, he is said, by some, to have journeyed
westward, to Mexico, or to some other spot toward the sun-setting. But by
the people at large he was confidently believed to have ascended into the
heavens, and there, from his lofty house, he was supposed to watch over
the interests of his faithful adherents.

Such was the tradition of their mythical hero told by the Itzas. No wonder
that the early missionaries, many of whom, like Landa, had lived in Mexico
and had become familiar with the story of Quetzalcoatl and his alleged
departure toward the east, identified him with Kukulcan, and that,
following the notion of this assumed identity, numerous later writers have
framed theories to account for the civilization of ancient Yucatan through
colonies of "Toltec" immigrants.

It can, indeed, be shown beyond doubt that there were various points of
contact between the Aztec and Maya civilizations. The complex and
artificial method of reckoning time was one of these; certain
architectural devices were others; a small number of words, probably a
hundred all told, have been borrowed by the one tongue from the other.
Mexican merchants traded with Yucatan, and bands of Aztec warriors with
their families, from Tabasco, dwelt in Mayapan by invitation of its
rulers, and after its destruction, settled in the province of Canul, on
the western coast, where they lived strictly separate from the
Maya-speaking population at the time the Spaniards conquered the

[Footnote 1: _El Libro de Chilan Balam de Chumayel_, MS.; Landa,
_Relacion_, p. 54.]

But all this is very far from showing that at any time a race speaking the
Aztec tongue ruled the Peninsula. There are very strong grounds to deny
this. The traditions which point to a migration from the west or southwest
may well have referred to the depopulation of Palenque, a city which
undoubtedly was a product of Maya architects. The language of Yucatan is
too absolutely dissimilar from the Nahuatl for it ever to have been
moulded by leaders of that race. The details of Maya civilization are
markedly its own, and show an evolution peculiar to the people and their

How far they borrowed from the fertile mythology of their Nahuatl visitors
is not easily answered. That the circular temple in Mayapan, with four
doors, specified by Landa as different from any other in Yucatan, was
erected to Quetzalcoatl, by or because of the Aztec colony there, may
plausibly be supposed when we recall how peculiarly this form was devoted
to his worship. Again, one of the Maya chronicles--that translated by Pio
Perez and published by Stephens in his _Travels in Yucatan_--opens with a
distinct reference to Tula and Nonoal, names inseparable from the
Quetzalcoatl myth. A statue of a sleeping god holding a vase was
disinterred by Dr. Le Plongeon at Chichen Itza, and it is too entirely
similar to others found at Tlaxcala and near the city of Mexico, for us to
doubt but that they represented the same divinity, and that the god of
rains, fertility and the harvests.[1]

[Footnote 1: I refer to the statue which Dr. LePlongeon was pleased to
name "Chac Mool." See the _Estudio acerca de la Estatua llamada Chac-Mool
ó rey tigre_, by Sr. Jesus Sanchez, in the _Anales del Museo Nacional de
Mexico_, Tom. i. p. 270. There was a divinity worshiped in Yucatan, called
Cum-ahau, lord of the vase, whom the _Diccionario de Motul_, MS. terms,
"Lucifer, principal de los demónios." The name is also given by Pio Perez
in his manuscript dictionary in my possession, but is omitted in the
printed copy. As Lucifer, the morning star, was identified with
Quetzalcoatl in Mexican mythology, and as the word _cum_, vase, Aztec
_comitl_, is the same in both tongues, there is good ground to suppose that
this lord of the vase, the "prince of devils," was the god of fertility,
common to both cults.]

The version of the tradition which made Kukulcan arrive from the West, and
at his disappearance return to the West--a version quoted by Landa, and
which evidently originally referred to the westward course of the sun,
easily led to an identification of him with the Aztec Quetzalcoatl, by
those acquainted with both myths.

The probability seems to be that Kukulcan was an original Maya divinity,
one of their hero-gods, whose myth had in it so many similarities to that
of Quetzalcoatl that the priests of the two nations came to regard the one
as the same as the other. After the destruction of Mayapan, about the
middle of the fifteenth century, when the Aztec mercenaries were banished
to Canul, and the reigning family (the Xiu) who supported them became
reduced in power, the worship of Kukulcan fell, to some extent, into
disfavor. Of this we are informed by Landa, in an interesting passage.

He tells us that many of the natives believed that Kukulcan, after his
earthly labors, had ascended into Heaven and become one of their gods.
Previous to the destruction of Mayapan temples were built to him, and he
was worshiped throughout the land, but after that event he was paid such
honor only in the province of Mani (governed by the Xiu). Nevertheless, in
gratitude for what all recognized they owed to him, the kings of the
neighboring provinces sent yearly to Mani, on the occasion of his annual
festival, which took place on the 16th of the month Xul (November 8th),
either four or five magnificent feather banners. These were placed in his
temple, with appropriate ceremonies, such as fasting, the burning of
incense, dancing, and with simple offerings of food cooked without salt or
pepper, and drink from beans and gourd seeds. This lasted five nights and
five days; and, adds Bishop Landa, they said, and held it for certain,
that on the last day of the festival Kukulcan himself descended from
Heaven and personally received the sacrifices and offerings which were
made in his honor. The celebration itself was called the Festival of the
Founder[1], with reference, I suppose, to the alleged founding of the
cities of Mayapan and Chichen Itza by this hero-god. The five days and
five sacred banners again bring to mind the close relation of this with
the Quetzalcoatl symbolism.

[Footnote 1: "Llamaban a esta fiesta _Chic Kaban_;" Landa, _Relacion_, p.
302. I take it this should read _Chiic u Kaba_ (_Chiic_; fundar ó poblar
alguna cosa, casa, pueblo, etc. _Diccionario de Motul_, MS.)]

As Itzamná had disappeared without undergoing the pains of death, as
Kukulcan had risen into the heavens and thence returned annually, though
but for a moment, on the last day of the festival in his honor, so it was
devoutly believed by the Mayas that the time would come when the worship
of other gods should be done away with, and these mighty deities alone
demand the adoration of their race. None of the American nations seems to
have been more given than they to prognostics and prophecies, and of none
other have we so large an amount of this kind of literature remaining.
Some of it has been preserved by the Spanish missionaries, who used it
with good effect for their own purposes of proselyting; but that it was
not manufactured by them for this purpose, as some late writers have
thought, is proved by the existence of copies of these prophecies, made by
native writers themselves, at the time of the Conquest and at dates
shortly subsequent.

These prophecies were as obscure and ambiguous as all successful prophets
are accustomed to make their predictions; but the one point that is clear
in them is, that they distinctly referred to the arrival of white and
bearded strangers from the East, who should control the land and alter the
prevailing religion.[1]

[Footnote 1: Nakuk Pech, _Concixta yetel mapa_, 1562. MS.; _El Libro de
Chilan Balam de Mani_, 1595, MS. The former is a history of the Conquest
written in Maya, by a native noble, who was an adult at the time that
Mérida was founded (1542).]

Even that portion of the Itzas who had separated from the rest of their
nation at the time of the destruction of Mayapan (about 1440-50) and
wandered off to the far south, to establish a powerful nation around Lake
Peten, carried with them a forewarning that at the "eighth age" they
should be subjected to a white race and have to embrace their religion;
and, sure enough, when that time came, and not till then, that is, at the
close of the seventeenth century of our reckoning, they were driven from
their island homes by Governor Ursua, and their numerous temples, filled
with idols, leveled to the soil.[1]

[Footnote 1: Juan de Villagutierre Sotomayor, _Historia de la Provincia
de el Itza_, passim (Madrid, 1701).]

The ground of all such prophecies was, I have no doubt, the expected
return of the hero-gods, whose myths I have been recording. Both of them
represented in their original forms the light of day, which disappears at
nightfall but returns at dawn with unfailing certainty. When the natural
phenomenon had become lost in its personification, this expectation of a
return remained and led the priests, who more than others retained the
recollection of the ancient forms of the myth, to embrace this expectation
in the prognostics which it was their custom and duty to pronounce with
reference to the future.






The most majestic empire on this continent at the time of its discovery
was that of the Incas. It extended along the Pacific, from the parallel of
2° north latitude to 20° south, and may be roughly said to have been 1500
miles in length, with an average width of 400 miles. The official and
principal tongue was the Qquichua, the two other languages of importance
being the Yunca, spoken by the coast tribes, and the Aymara, around Lake
Titicaca and south of it. The latter, in phonetics and in many root-words,
betrays a relationship to the Qquichua, but a remote one.

The Qquichuas were a race of considerable cultivation. They had a
developed metrical system, and were especially fond of the drama. Several
specimens of their poetical and dramatic compositions have been preserved,
and indicate a correct taste. Although they did not possess a method of
writing, they had various mnemonic aids, by which they were enabled to
recall their verses and their historical traditions.

In the mythology of the Qquichuas, and apparently also of the Aymaras, the
leading figure is _Viracocha_. His august presence is in one cycle of
legends that of Infinite Creator, the Primal Cause; in another he is the
beneficent teacher and wise ruler; in other words, he too, like
Quetzalcoatl and the others whom I have told about, is at one time God, at
others the incarnation of God.

As the first cause and ground of all things, Viracocha's distinctive
epithet was _Ticci_, the Cause, the Beginning, or _Illa ticci_, the
Ancient Cause[1], the First Beginning, an endeavor in words to express the
absolute priority of his essence and existence. He it was who had made and
moulded the Sun and endowed it with a portion of his own divinity, to wit,
the glory of its far-shining rays; he had formed the Moon and given her
light, and set her in the heavens to rule over the waters and the winds,
over the queens of the earth and the parturition of women; and it was
still he, the great Viracocha, who had created the beautiful Chasca, the
Aurora, the Dawn, goddess of all unspotted maidens like herself, her who
in turn decked the fields and woods with flowers, whose time was the
gloaming and the twilight, whose messengers were the fleecy clouds which
sail through the sky, and who, when she shakes her clustering hair, drops
noiselessly pearls of dew on the green grass fields.[2]

[Footnote 1: "_Ticci_, origen, principio, fundamento, cimiento, causa.
_Ylla_; todo lo que es antiguo." Holguin, _Vocabulario de la Lengua
Qquichua ó del Inga_ (Ciudad de los Reyes, 1608). _Ticci_ is not to be
confounded with _aticsi_, he conquers, from _atini_, I conquer, a term
also occasionally applied to Viracocha.]

[Footnote 2: _Relacion Anónyma, de los Costumbres Antiguos de los
Naturales del Piru_, p. 138. 1615. (Published, Madrid, 1879).]

Invisible and incorporeal himself, so, also, were his messengers (the
light-rays), called _huaminca_, the faithful soldiers, and _hayhuaypanti_,
the shining ones, who conveyed his decrees to every part.[1] He himself
was omnipresent, imparting motion and life, form and existence, to all
that is. Therefore it was, says an old writer, with more than usual
insight into man's moral nature, with more than usual charity for a
persecuted race, that when these natives worshiped some swift river or
pellucid spring, some mountain or grove, "it was not that they believed
that some particular divinity was there, or that it was a living thing,
but because they believed that the great God, Illa Ticci, had created and
placed it there and impressed upon it some mark of distinction, beyond
other objects of its class, that it might thus be designated as an
appropriate spot whereat to worship the maker of all things; and this is
manifest from the prayers they uttered when engaged in adoration, because
they are not addressed to that mountain, or river, or cave, but to the
great Illa Ticci Viracocha, who, they believed, lived in the heavens, and
yet was invisibly present in that sacred object."[2]

[Footnote 1: Ibid., p. 140.]

[Footnote 2: Ibid., p. 147.]

In the prayers for the dead, Illa Ticci was appealed to, to protect the
body, that it should not see corruption nor become lost in the earth, and
that he should not allow the soul to wander aimlessly in the infinite
spaces, but that it should be conducted to some secure haven of
contentment, where it might receive the sacrifices and offerings which
loving hands laid upon the tomb.[1] Were other gods also called upon, it
was that they might intercede with the Supreme Divinity in favor of these
petitions of mortals.

[Footnote 1: Ibid., p. 154.]

To him, likewise, the chief priest at certain times offered a child of six
years, with a prayer for the prosperity of the Inca, in such terms as

"Oh, Lord, we offer thee this child, in order that thou wilt maintain us
in comfort, and give us victory in war, and keep to our Lord, the Inca,
his greatness and his state, and grant him wisdom that he may govern us

[Footnote 1: Herrera, _Historia de las Indias_, Dec. v, Lib. iv, cap. i.]

Or such a prayer as this was offered up by the assembled multitude:--

"Oh, Viracocha ever present, Viracocha Cause of All, Viracocha the Helper,
the Ceaseless Worker, Viracocha who gives the beginnings, Viracocha who
encourages, Viracocha the always fortunate, Viracocha ever near, listen to
this our prayer, send health, send prosperity to us thy people."[1]

[Footnote 1: Christoval de Molina, _The Fables and Rites of the Incas_, p.
29. Molina gives the original Qquichua, the translation of which is
obviously incomplete, and I have extended it.]

Thus Viracocha was placed above and beyond all other gods, the essential
First Cause, infinite, incorporeal, invisible, above the sun, older than
the beginning, but omnipresent, accessible, beneficent.

Does this seem too abstract, too elevated a notion of God for a race whom
we are accustomed to deem gross and barbaric? I cannot help it. The
testimony of the earliest observers, and the living proof of language, are
too strong to allow of doubt. The adjectives which were applied to this
divinity by the native priests are still on record, and that they were not
a loan from Christian theology is conclusively shown by the fact that the
very writers who preserved them often did not know their meaning, and
translated them incorrectly.

Thus even Garcilasso de la Vega, himself of the blood of the Incas, tells
us that neither he nor the natives of that day could translate _Ticci_.[1]
Thus, also, Garcia and Acosta inform us that Viracocha was surnamed
_Usapu_, which they translate "admirable,"[2] but really it means "he who
accomplishes all that he undertakes, he who is successful in all things;"
Molina has preserved the term _Ymamana_, which means "he who controls or
owns all things;"[3] the title _Pachayachachi_, which the Spanish writers
render "Creator," really means the "Teacher of the World;" that of
_Caylla_ signifies "the Ever-present one;" _Taripaca_, which has been
guessed to be the same as _tarapaca_, an eagle, is really a derivative of
_taripani_, to sit in judgment, and was applied to Viracocha as the final
arbiter of the actions and destinies of man. Another of his frequent
appellations for which no explanation has been offered, was _Tokay_ or
_Tocapo_, properly _Tukupay_.[4] It means "he who finishes," who completes
and perfects, and is antithetical to _Ticci_, he who begins. These two
terms express the eternity of divinity; they convey the same idea of
mastery over time and the things of time, as do those words heard by the
Evangelist in his vision in the isle called Patmos, "I am Alpha and Omega;
I am the Beginning and the End."

[Footnote 1: "Dan (los Indios), otro nombre á Dios, que es Tici Viracocha,
que yo no se que signifique, ni ellos tampoco." Garcilasso de la Vega,
_Comentarios Reales_, Lib. ii, cap. ii.]

[Footnote 2: Garcia, _Origen de los Indios_, Lib. iii, cap. vi; Acosta,
_Historia, Natural y Moral de las Indias_, fol. 199 (Barcelona 1591).]

[Footnote 3: Christoval de Molina, _The Fables and Rites of the Incas_,
Eng. Trans., p. 6.]

[Footnote 4: Melchior Hernandez, one of the earliest writers, whose works
are now lost, but who is quoted in the _Relacion Anónima_, gives this name
_Tocapu_; Christoval de Molina (ubi sup.) spells it _Tocapo_; La Vega
_Tocay_; Molina gives its signification, "the maker." It is from the word
_tukupay_ or _tucuychani_, to finish, complete, perfect.]

Yet another epithet of Viracocha was _Zapala_.[1] It conveys strongly and
positively the monotheistic idea. It means "The One," or, more strongly,
"The Only One."

[Footnote 1: Gomara, _Historia de las Indias_, p. 232 (ed. Paris, 1852).]

Nor must it be supposed that this monotheism was unconscious; that it was,
for example, a form of "henotheism," where the devotion of the adorer
filled his soul, merely to the forgetfulness of other deities; or that it
was simply the logical law of unity asserting itself, as was the case with
many of the apparently monotheistic utterances of the Greek and Roman

No; the evidence is such that we are obliged to acknowledge that the
religion of Peru was a consciously monotheistic cult, every whit as much
so as the Greek or Roman Catholic Churches of Christendom.

Those writers who have called the Inca religion a "sun worship" have been
led astray by superficial resemblances. One of the best early authorities,
Christoval de Molina, repeats with emphasis the statement, "They did not
recognize the Sun as their Creator, but as created by the Creator," and
this creator was "not born of woman, but was unchangeable and eternal."[1]
For conclusive testimony on this point, however, we may turn to an
_Informacion_ or Inquiry as to the ancient belief, instituted in 1571, by
order of the viceroy Don Francisco de Toledo. The oldest Indians,
especially those of noble birth, including many descendants of the Incas,
were assembled at different times and in different parts of the country,
and carefully questioned, through the official interpreter, as to just
what the old religion was. The questions were not leading ones, and the
replies have great uniformity. They all agreed that Viracocha was
worshiped as creator, and as the ever-present active divinity; he alone
answered prayers, and aided in time of need; he was the sole efficient
god. All prayers to the Sun or to the deceased Incas, or to idols, were
directed to them as intercessors only. On this point the statements were
most positive[2]. The Sun was but one of Viracocha's creations, not itself
the Creator.

[Footnote 1: Christoval de Molina, _The Fables and Rites of the Incas_,
pp. 8, 17. Eng. Trans. ]

[Footnote 2: "Ellos solo Viracocha tenian por hacedor de todas las cosas,
y que el solo los podia socorrer, y que de todos los demas los tenian por
sus intercesores, y que ansi los decian ellos en sus oraciones antiguas,
antes que fuesen cristianos, y que ansi lo dicen y declaran por cosa muy
cierta y verdadera." _Information de las Idolatras de los Incas é Indios_,
in the _Coleccion de Documentos Ineditos del Archivo de Indias_, vol. xxi,
p. 198. Other witnesses said: "Los dichos Ingas y sus antepasados tenian
por criador al solo Viracocha, y que solo los podia socorrer," id. p. 184.
"Adoraban á Viracocha por hacedor de todas las cosas, como á el sol y a
Hachaccuna los adoraban porque los tenia por hijos de Viracocha y por cosa
muy allegada suya," p. 133.]

It is singular that historians have continued to repeat that the Qquichuas
adored the Sun as their principal divinity, in the face of such evidence
to the contrary. If this Inquiry and its important statements had not been
accessible to them, at any rate they could readily have learned the same
lesson from the well known History of Father Joseph de Acosta. That author
says, and repeats with great positiveness, that the Sun was in Peru a
secondary divinity, and that the supreme deity, the Creator and ruler of
the world, was Viracocha.[1]

[Footnote 1: "Sientan y confiessan un supremo señor, y hazedor de todo, al
qual los del Piru llamavan Viracocha. * * Despues del Viracocha, o supremo
Dios, fui, y es en los infieles, el que mas comunmente veneran y adoran el
sol." Acosta, _De la Historia Moral de las Indias_, Lib, v. cap. iii, iv,
(Barcelona, 1591).]

Another misapprehension is that these natives worshiped directly their
ancestors. Thus, Mr. Markham writes: "The Incas worshiped their ancestors,
the _Pacarina_, or forefather of the _Ayllu_, or lineage, being idolized
as the soul or essence of his descendants."[1] But in the _Inquiry_ above
quoted it is explained that the belief, in fact, was that the soul of the
Inca went at death to the presence of the deity Viracocha, and its emblem,
the actual body, carefully preserved, was paid divine honors in order that
the soul might intercede with Viracocha for the fulfillment of the

[Footnote 1: Clements R. Markham, _Journal of the Royal Geographical
Society_, 1871, p. 291. _Pacarina_ is the present participle of
_pacarini_, to dawn, to begin, to be born.]

[Footnote 2: _Informacion_, etc., p. 209.]

We are compelled, therefore, by the best evidence now attainable, to adopt
the conclusion that the Inca religion, in its purity, deserved the name of
monotheism. The statements of the natives and the terms of their religious
language unite in confirming this opinion.

It is not right to depreciate the force of these facts simply because we
have made up our minds that a people in the intellectual stage of the
Peruvians could not have mounted to such a pure air of religion. A
prejudgment of this kind is unworthy of a scientific mind. The evidence is
complete that the terms I have quoted did belong to the religious language
of ancient Peru. They express the conception of divinity which the
thinkers of that people had formed. And whether it is thought to be in
keeping or not with the rest of their development, it is our bounden duty
to accept it, and explain it as best we can. Other instances might be
quoted, from the religious history of the old world, where a nation's
insight into the attributes of deity was singularly in advance of their
general state of cultivation. The best thinkers of the Semitic race, for
example, from Moses to Spinoza, have been in this respect far ahead of
their often more generally enlightened Aryan contemporaries.

The more interesting, in view of this lofty ideal of divinity they had
attained, become the Peruvian myths of the incarnation of Viracocha, his
life and doings as a man among men.

These myths present themselves in different, but to the reader who has
accompanied me thus far, now familiar forms. Once more we meet the story
of the four brothers, the first of men. They appeared on the earth after
it had been rescued from the primeval waters, and the face of the land was
divided between them. Manco Capac took the North, Colla the South, Pinahua
the West, and the East, the region whence come the sun and the light, was
given to Tokay or Tocapa, to Viracocha, under his name of the Finisher, he
who completes and perfects.[1]

[Footnote 1: Garcilasso de la Vega, _Comentarios Reales_, Lib. i, cap.

The outlines of this legend are identical with another, where Viracocha
appears under the name of Ayar Cachi. This was, in its broad outlines, the
most general myth, that which has been handed down by the most numerous
authorities, and which they tell us was taken directly from the ancient
songs of the Indians, as repeated by those who could recall the days of
the Incas Huascar and Atahualpa.[1]

[Footnote 1: "Parece por los cantares de los Indios; * * * afirmaron los
Orejones que quedaron de los tiempos de Guascar i de Atahualpa; * * *
cuentan los Indios del Cuzco mas viejos, etc.," repeats the historian
Herrera, _Historia de las Indias Occidentals_, Dec. v, Lib. iii, cap. vii,

It ran in this wise: In the beginning of things there appeared on the
earth four brothers, whose names were, of the oldest, Ayar Cachi, which
means he who gives Being, or who Causes;[1] of the youngest, Ayar Manco,
and of the others, Ayar Aucca (the enemy), and Ayar Uchu. Their father was
the Sun, and the place of their birth, or rather of their appearance on
earth, was Paccari-tampu, which means _The House of the Morning_ or the
_Mansion of the Dawn_.[2] In after days a certain cave near Cuzco was so
called, and pointed out as the scene of this momentous event, but we may
well believe that a nobler site than any the earth affords could be
correctly designated.

[Footnote 1: "_Cachini_; dar el ser y hazer que sea; _cachi chiuachic_, el
autor y causa de algo." Holguin, _Vocabvlario de la Lengva Qquichua, sub
voce, cachipuni_. The names differ little in Herrera (who, however, omits
Uchu), Montesinos, Balboa, Oliva, La Vega and Pachacuti; I have followed
the orthography of the two latter, as both were native Qquichuas.]

[Footnote 2: Holguin (_ubi suprá_,) gives _paccarin_, the morning,
_paccarini_, to dawn; _tampu_, _venta ó meson_.]

These brothers were clothed in long and flowing robes, with short upper
garments without sleeves or collar, and this raiment was worked with
marvelous skill, and glittered and shone like light. They were powerful
and proud, and determined to rule the whole earth, and for this purpose
divided it into four parts, the North, the South, the East, and the West.
Hence they were called by the people, _Tahuantin Suyu Kapac_, Lords of all
four Quarters of the Earth.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Tahuantin_, all four, from _tahua_, four; _suyu_, division,
section; _kapac_, king.]

The most powerful of these was Ayar Cachi. He possessed a sling of gold,
and in it a stone with which he could demolish lofty mountains and hurl
aloft to the clouds themselves. He gathered together the natives of the
country at Pacari tampu, and accumulated at the House of the Dawn a great
treasure of yellow gold. Like the glittering hoard which we read of in the
lay of the Nibelung, the treasure brought with it the destruction of its
owner, for his brothers, envious of the wondrous pile, persuaded Ayar
Cachi to enter the cave where he kept his hoard, in order to bring out a
certain vase, and also to pray to their father, the Sun, to aid them to
rule their domains. As soon as he had entered, they stopped the mouth of
the cave with huge stones; and thus rid of him, they set about collecting
the people and making a settlement at a certain place called _Tampu quiru_
(the Teeth of the House).

But they did not know the magical power of their brother. While they were
busy with their plans, what was their dismay to see Ayar Cachi, freed from
the cave, and with great wings of brilliantly colored feathers, hovering
like a bird in the air over their heads. They expected swift retribution
for their intended fratricide, but instead of this they heard reassuring
words from his lips.

"Have no fear," he said, "I left you in order that the great empire of the
Incas might be known to men. Leave, therefore, this settlement of Tampu
quiru, and descend into the Valley of Cuzco, where you shall found a
famous city, and in it build a sumptuous temple to the Sun. As for me, I
shall remain in the form in which you see me, and shall dwell in the
mountain peak Guanacaure, ready to help you, and on that mountain you must
build me an altar and make to me sacrifices. And the sign that you shall
wear, whereby you shall be feared and respected of your subjects, is that
you shall have your ears pierced, as are mine," saying which he showed
them his ears pierced and carrying large, round plates of gold.

They promised him obedience in all things, and forthwith built an altar on
the mountain Guanacaure, which ever after was esteemed a most holy place.
Here again Ayar Cachi appeared to them, and bestowed on Ayar Manco the
scarlet fillet which became the perpetual insignia of the reigning Inca.
The remaining brothers were turned into stone, and Manco, assuming the
title of _Kapac_, King, and the metaphorical surname of _Pirhua_, the
Granary or Treasure house, founded the City of Cuzco, married his four
sisters, and became the first of the dynasty of the Incas. He lived to a
great age, and during the whole of his life never omitted to pay divine
honors to his brothers, and especially to Ayar Cachi.

In another myth of the incarnation the infinite Creator Ticci Viracocha
duplicates himself in the twin incarnation of _Ymamana Viracocha_ and
_Tocapu Viracocha_, names which we have already seen mean "he who has all
things," and "he who perfects all things." The legend was that these
brothers started in the distant East and journeyed toward the West. The
one went by way of the mountains, the other by the paths of the lowlands,
and each on his journey, like Itzamna in Yucatecan story, gave names to
the places he passed, and also to all trees and herbs of the field, and to
all fruits, and taught the people which were good for food, which of
virtue as medicines, and which were poisonous and to be shunned. Thus they
journeyed westward, imparting knowledge and doing good works, until they
reached the western ocean, the great Pacific, whose waves seem to stretch
westward into infinity. There, "having accomplished all they had to do in
this world, they ascended into Heaven," once more to form part of the
Infinite Being; for the venerable authority whom I am following is careful
to add, most explicitly, that "these Indians believed for a certainty that
neither the Creator nor his sons were born of woman, but that they all
were unchangeable and eternal."[1]

[Footnote 1: Christoval de Molina, _Fables and Rites of the Incas_, p. 6.]

Still more human does Viracocha become in the myth where he appears under
the surnames _Tunapa_ and _Taripaca_. The latter I have already explained
to mean He who Judges, and the former is a synonym of Tocapu, as it is
from the verb _ttaniy_ or _ttanini_, and means He who Finishes completes
or perfects, although, like several other of his names, the significance
of this one has up to the present remained unexplained and lost. The myth
has been preserved to us by a native Indian writer, Joan de Santa Cruz
Pachacuti, who wrote it out somewhere about the year 1600.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Relacion de Antiguedades deste Reyno del Piru_, por Don Joan
de Santacruz Pachacuti Yamqui, passim. Pachacuti relates the story of
Tunapa as being distinctly the hero-myth of the Qquichuas. He was also the
hero-god of the Aymaras, and about him, says Father Ludovico Bertonio,
"they to this day relate many fables and follies." _Vocabulario de la
Lengua Aymara_, s.v. Another name he bore in Aymara was _Ecaco_, which in
that language means, as a common noun, an ingenious, shifty man of many
plans (_Bertonio, Vocabulario_, s.v.). "Thunnupa," as Bertonio spells it,
does not lend itself to any obvious etymology in Aymara, which is further
evidence that the name was introduced from the Qquichua. This is by no
means a singular example of the identity of religious thought and terms
between these nations. In comparing the two tongues, M. Alcide D'Orbigny
long since observed: "On retrouve même à peu prés un vingtième des mots
qui ont evidemment la même origine, surtout ceux qui expriment les idées
religieuses." _L'Homme Américain, considéré sous ses Rapports
Physiologiques et Moraux_, Tome i, p. 322 (Paris, 1839). This author
endeavors to prove that the Qquichua religion was mainly borrowed from the
Aymaras, and of the two he regards the latter as the senior in
civilization. But so far as I have been able to study the mythology of the
Aymaras, which is but very superficially, on account of the lack of
sources, it does not seem to be entitled to this credit.]

He tells us that at a very remote period, shortly after the country of
Peru had been populated, there came from Lake Titicaca to the tribes an
elderly man with flowing beard and abundant white hair, supporting himself
on a staff and dressed in wide-spreading robes. He went among the people,
calling them his sons and daughters, relieving their infirmities and
teaching them the precepts of wisdom.

Often, however, he met the fate of so many other wise teachers, and was
rejected and scornfully entreated by those whom he was striving to
instruct. Swift retribution sometimes fell upon such stiff-necked
listeners. Thus he once entered the town of Yamquesupa, the principal
place in the province of the South, and began teaching the inhabitants;
but they heeded him not, and seized him, and with insult and blows drove
him from the town, so that he had to sleep in the open fields. Thereupon
he cursed their town, and straightway it sank into the earth with all its
inhabitants, and the depression was filled with water, and all were
drowned. To this day it is known as the lake of Yamquesupa, and all the
people about there well know that what is now a sheet of water was once
the site of a flourishing city.

At another time he visited Tiahuanaco, where may yet be seen the colossal
ruins of some ancient city, and massive figures in stone of men and women.
In his time this was a populous mart, its people rich and proud, given to
revelry, to drunkenness and dances. Little they cared for the words of the
preacher, and they treated him with disdain. Then he turned upon them his
anger, and in an instant the dancers were changed into stone, just as they
stood, and there they remain to this day, as any one can see, perpetual
warnings not to scorn the words of the wise.

On another occasion he was seized by the people who dwelt by the great
lake of Carapaco, and tied hands and feet with stout cords, it being their
intention to put him to a cruel death the next day. But very early in the
morning, just at the time of the dawn, a beautiful youth entered and said,
"Fear not, I have come to call you in the name of the lady who is awaiting
you, that you may go with her to the place of joys." With that he touched
the fetters on Tunapa's limbs, and the ropes snapped asunder, and they
went forth untouched by the guards, who stood around. They descended to
the lake shore, and just as the dawn appeared, Tunapa spread his mantle on
the waves, and he and his companion stepping upon it, as upon a raft, were
wafted rapidly away into the rays of the morning light.

The cautious Pachacuti does not let us into the secret of this mysterious
assignation, either because he did not know or because he would not
disclose the mysteries of his ancestral faith. But I am not so discreet,
and I vehemently suspect that the lady who was awaiting the virtuous
Tunapa, was Chasca, the Dawn Maiden, she of the beautiful hair which
distills the dew, and that the place of joys whither she invited him was
the Mansion of the Sky, into which, daily, the Light-God, at the hour of
the morning twilight, is ushered by the chaste maiden Aurora.

As the anger of Tunapa was dreadful, so his favors were more than regal.
At the close of a day he once reached the town of the chief Apotampo,
otherwise Pacari tampu, which means the House or Lodgings of the Dawn,
where the festivities of a wedding were in progress. The guests, intent
upon the pleasures of the hour, listened with small patience to the words
of the old man, but the chief himself heard them with profound attention
and delight. Therefore, as Tunapa was leaving he presented to the chief,
as a reward for his hospitality and respect, the staff which had assisted
his feeble limbs in many a journey. It was of no great seemliness, but
upon it were inscribed characters of magic power, and the chief wisely
cherished it among his treasures. It was well he did, for on the day of
the birth of his next child the staff turned into fine gold, and that
child was none other than the far-famed Manco Capac, destined to become
the ancestor of the illustrious line of the Incas, Sons of the Sun, and
famous in all countries that it shines upon; and as for the golden staff,
it became, through all after time until the Spanish conquest, the sceptre
of the Incas and the sign of their sovereignty, the famous and sacred
_tupa yauri_, the royal wand.[1]

[Footnote 1: "_Tupa yauri_; El cetro real, vara insignia real del Inca."
Holguin, _Vocabvlario de la Lengva Qquichua o del Inca_, s.v.]

It became, indeed, to Manco Capac a mentor and guide. His father and
mother having died, he started out with his brothers and sisters, seven
brothers and seven sisters of them, to seek new lands, taking this staff
in his hand. Like the seven brothers who, in Mexican legend, left Aztlan,
the White Land, to found nations and cities, so the brothers of Manco
Capac, leaving Pacari tampu, the Lodgings of the Dawn, became the
_sinchi_, or heads of various noble houses and chiefs of tribes in the
empire of the Incas. As for Manco, it is well known that with his golden
wand he journeyed on, overcoming demons and destroying his enemies, until
he reached the mountain over against the spot where the city of Cuzco now
stands. Here the sacred wand sunk of its own motion into the earth, and
Manco Capac, recognizing the divine monition, named the mountain
_Huanacauri_, the Place of Repose. In the valley at the base he founded
the great city which he called _Cuzco_, the Navel. Its inhabitants ever
afterwards classed Huanacauri as one of their principal deities.[1]

[Footnote 1: Don Gavino Pacheco Zegarra derives Huanacauri from _huanaya_,
to rest oneself, and _cayri_, here; "c'est ici qu'il faut se reposer."
_Ollantai_, Introd., p. xxv. It was distinctly the _huzca_, or sacred
fetish of the Incas, and they were figuratively said to have descended
from it. Its worship was very prominent in ancient Peru. See the
_Information de las Idolatras de los Incas y Indios_, 1671, previously

When Manco Capac's work was done, he did not die, like other mortals, but
rose to heaven, and became the planet Jupiter, under the name _Pirua_.
From this, according to some writers, the country of Peru derived its

[Footnote 2: The identification of Manco Capac with the planet Jupiter is
mentioned in the _Relacion Anonima_, on the authority of Melchior

It may fairly be supposed that this founder of the Inca dynasty was an
actual historical personage. But it is evident that much that is told
about him is imagery drawn from the legend of the Light-God.

And what became of Tunapa? We left him sailing on his outspread mantle,
into the light of the morning, over Lake Carapace. But the legend does not
stop there. Whereever he went that day, he returned to his toil, and
pursued his way down the river Chacamarca till he reached the sea. There
his fate becomes obscure; but, adds Pachacuti, "I understand that he
passed by the strait (of Panama) into the other sea (back toward the
East). This is what is averred by the most ancient sages of the Inca line,
(_por aquellos ingas antiquissimos_)." We may well believe he did; for
the light of day, which is quenched in the western ocean, passes back
again, by the straits or in some other way, and appears again the next
morning, not in the West, where we watched its dying rays, but in the
East, where again it is born to pursue its daily and ever recurring

According to another, and also very early account, Viracocha was preceded
by a host of attendants, who were his messengers and soldiers. When he
reached the sea, he and these his followers marched out upon the waves as
if it had been dry land, and disappeared in the West.[1]

[Footnote 1: Garcia, _Origen de los Indios_, Lib. v, Cap. vii.]

These followers were, like himself, white and bearded. Just as, in Mexico,
the natives attributed the erection of buildings, the history of which had
been lost, to the white Toltecs, the subjects of Quetzalcoatl (see above,
chapter iii, §2), so in Peru various ancient ruins, whose builders had been
lost to memory, were pointed out to the Spaniards as the work of a white and
bearded race who held the country in possession long before the Incas had
founded their dynasty.[1] The explanation in both cases is the same. In
both the early works of art of unknown origin were supposed to be the
productions of the personified light rays, which are the source of skill,
because they supply the means indispensable to the acquisition of

[Footnote 2: Speaking of certain "grandes y muy antiquissimos edificios"
on the river Vinaque, Cieza de Leon says: "Preguntando a los Indios
comarcanos quien hizo aquella antigualla, responden que otras gentes
barbadas y blancas como nosotros: los cuales, muchos tiempos antes que los
Ingas reinasen, dicen que vinieron a estas partes y hicieron alli su
morada." _La Crónica del Peru_, cap. lxxxvi.]

The versions of these myths which have been preserved to us by Juan de
Betanzos, and the documents on which the historian Herrera founded his
narrative, are in the main identical with that which I have quoted from
the narrative of Pachacuti. I shall, however, give that of Herrera, as it
has some interesting features.

He tells us that the traditions and songs which the Indians had received
from their remote ancestors related that in very early times there was a
period when there was no sun, and men lived in darkness. At length, in
answer to their urgent prayers, the sun emerged from Lake Titicaca, and
soon afterwards there came a man from the south, of fair complexion, large
in stature, and of venerable presence, whose power was boundless. He
removed mountains, filled up valleys, caused fountains to burst from the
solid rocks, and gave life to men and animals. Hence the people called him
the "Beginning of all Created Things," and "Father of the Sun." Many good
works he performed, bringing order among the people, giving them wise
counsel, working miracles and teaching. He went on his journey toward the
north, but until the latest times they bore his deeds and person in
memory, under the names of Tici Viracocha and Tuapaca, and elsewhere as
Arnava. They erected many temples to him, in which they placed his figure
and image as described.

They also said that after a certain length of time there re-appeared
another like this first one, or else he was the same, who also gave wise
counsel and cured the sick. He met disfavor, and at one spot the people
set about to slay him, but he called down upon them fire from heaven,
which burned their village and scorched the mountains into cinders. Then
they threw away their weapons and begged of him to deliver them from the
danger, which he did[1]. He passed on toward the West until he reached the
shore of the sea. There he spread out his mantle, and seating himself upon
it, sailed away and was never seen again. For this reason, adds the
chronicler, "the name was given to him, _Viracocha_, which means Foam of
the Sea, though afterwards it changed in signification."[2]

[Footnote 1: This incident is also related by Pachacuti and Betanzos. All
three locate the scene of the event at Carcha, eighteen leagues from
Cuzco, where the Canas tribe lived at the Conquest. Pachacuti states that
the cause of the anger of Viracocha was that upon the Sierra there was the
statue of a woman to whom human victims were sacrificed. If this was the
tradition, it would offer another point of identity with that of
Quetzalcoatl, who was also said to have forbidden human sacrifices.]

[Footnote 2: Herrera, _Historia de las Indias Occidentales_, Dec. v, Lib.
iii, cap. vi.]

This leads me to the etymology of the name. It is confessedly obscure. The
translation which Herrera gives, is that generally offered by the Spanish
writers, but it is not literal. The word _uira_ means fat, and _cocha_,
lake, sea, or other large body of water; therefore, as the genitive must
be prefixed in the Qquichua tongue, the translation must be "Lake or Sea
of Fat." This was shown by Garcilasso de la Vega, in his _Royal
Commentaries_, and as he could see no sense or propriety in applying such
a term as "Lake of Grease" to the Supreme Divinity, he rejected this
derivation, and contented himself by saying that the meaning of the name
was totally unknown.[1] In this Mr. Clements R. Markham, who is an
authority on Peruvian matters, coincides, though acknowledging that no
other meaning suggests itself.[2] I shall not say anything about the
derivations of this name from the Sanskrit,[3] or the ancient Egyptian;[4]
these are etymological amusements with which serious studies have nothing
to do.

[Footnote 1: "Donde consta claro no ser nombre compuesto, sino proprio de
aquella fantasma que dijó llamarse Viracocha y que era hijo del Sol."
_Com, Reales_, Lib. v, cap. xxi.]

[Footnote 2: Introduction to _Narratives of the Rites and Laws of the
Incas_, p. xi.]

[Footnote 3: "Le nom de Viracocha dont la physionomie sanskrite est si
frappante," etc. Desjardins, _Le Perou avant la Conquête Espagnole_, p.
180 (Paris 1858).]

[Footnote 4: Viracocha "is the Il or Ra of the Babylonian monuments, and
thus the Ra of Egypt," etc. Professor John Campbell, _Compte-Rendu du
Congrés International des Américanistes_, Vol. i, p. 362 (1875).]

The first and accepted derivation has been ably and to my mind
successfully defended by probably the most accomplished Qquichua scholar
of our age, Señor Gavino Pacheco Zegarra, who, in the introduction to his
most excellent edition of the Drama of _Ollantaï_, maintains that
Viracocha, literally "Lake of Fat," was a simile applied to the frothing,
foaming sea, and adds that as a personal name in this signification it is
in entire conformity with the genius of the Qquichua tongue[1].

[Footnote 1: _Ollantai, Drame en vers Quechuas_, Introd., p. xxxvi (Paris,
1878). There was a class of diviners in Peru who foretold the future by
inspecting the fat of animals; they were called Vira-piricuc. Molina,
_Fables and Rites_, p. 13.]

To quote his words:--"The tradition was that Viracocha's face was
extremely white and bearded. From this his name was derived, which means,
taken literally, 'Lake of Fat;' by extension, however, the word means
'Sea-Foam,' as in the Qquichua language the foam is called _fat_, no doubt
on account of its whiteness."

It had a double appropriateness in its application to the hero-god. Not
only was he supposed in the one myth to have risen from the waves of Lake
Titicaca, and in another to have appeared when the primeval ocean left the
land dry, but he was universally described as of fair complexion, _a white
man_. Strange, indeed, it is that these people who had never seen a member
of the white race, should so persistently have represented their highest
gods as of this hue, and what is more, with the flowing beard and abundant
light hair which is their characteristic.

There is no denying, however, that such is the fact. Did it depend on
legend alone we might, however strong the consensus of testimony, harbor
some doubt about it. But it does not. The monuments themselves attest it.
There is, indeed, a singular uniformity of statement in the myths.
Viracocha, under any and all his surnames, is always described as white
and bearded, dressed in flowing robes and of imposing mien. His robes were
also white, and thus he was figured at the entrance of one of his most
celebrated temples, that of Urcos. His image at that place was of a man
with a white robe falling to his waist, and thence to his feet; by him,
cut in stone, were his birds, the eagle and the falcon.[1] So, also, on a
certain occasion when he was said to have appeared in a dream to one of
the Incas who afterwards adopted his name, he was said to have come with
beard more than a span in length, and clothed in a large and loose mantle,
which fell to his feet, while with his hand he held, by a cord to its
neck, some unknown animal. And thus in after times he was represented in
painting and statue, by order of that Inca.[2]

[Footnote 1: Christoval de Molina, _ubi supra_, p. 29.]

[Footnote 2: Garcilasso de la Vega, _Comentarios Reales_, Lib. iv, cap.

An early writer tells us that the great temple of Cuzco, which was
afterwards chosen for the Cathedral, was originally that of Illa Ticci
Viracocha. It contained only one altar, and upon it a marble statue of the
god. This is described as being, "both as to the hair, complexion,
features, raiment and sandals, just as painters represent the Apostle,
Saint Bartholomew."[1]

[Footnote 1: _Relacion anonima_, p. 148.]

Misled by the statements of the historian Garcilasso de la Vega, some
later writers, among whom I may note the eminent German traveler Von
Tschudi, have supposed that Viracocha belonged to the historical deities
of Peru, and that his worship was of comparatively recent origin.[1] La
Vega, who could not understand the name of the divinity, and, moreover,
either knew little about the ancient religion, or else concealed his
knowledge (as is shown by his reiterated statement that human sacrifices
were unknown), pretended that Viracocha first came to be honored through a
dream of the Inca who assumed his name. But the narrative of the
occurrence that he himself gives shows that even at that time the myth was
well known and of great antiquity.[2]

[Footnote 1: "La principal de estas Deidades historicas era _Viracocha_.
* * * Dos siglos contaba el culto de Viracocha á la llegada de los
Españoles." J. Diego de Tschudi, _Antiguedades Peruanas_, pp. 159, 160
(Vienna, 1851).]

[Footnote 2: Compare the account in Garcilasso de la Vega, _Comentarios
Reales_, Lib. ii, cap. iv; Lib. iv, cap. xxi, xxiii, with that in Acosta,
_Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias_, Lib. vi, cap. xxi.]

The statements which he makes on the authority of Father Blas Valera, that
the Inca Tupac Yupanqui sought to purify the religion of his day by
leading it toward the contemplation of an incorporeal God,[3] is probably,
in the main, correct. It is supported by a similar account given by
Acosta, of the famous Huayna Capac. Indeed, they read so much alike that
they are probably repetitions of teachings familiar to the nobles and
higher priests. Both Incas maintained that the Sun could not be the chief
god, because he ran daily his accustomed course, like a slave, or an
animal that is led. He must therefore be the subject of a mightier power
than himself.

[Footnote 3: _Comentarios Reales_, Pt. i, Lib. viii, cap. viii.]

We may reasonably suppose that these expressions are proof of a growing
sense of the attributes of divinity. They are indications of the evolution
of religious thought, and go to show that the monotheistic ideas which I
have pointed out in the titles and names of the highest God, were clearly
recognized and publicly announced.

Viracocha was also worshiped under the title _Con-ticci-Viracocha_.
Various explanations of the name _Con_ have been offered. It is not
positively certain that it belongs to the Qquichua tongue. A myth
preserved by Gomara treats Con as a distinct deity. He is said to have
come from the north, to have been without bones, muscles or members, to
have the power of running with infinite swiftness, and to have leveled
mountains, filled up valleys, and deprived the coast plains of rain. At
the same time he is called a son of the Sun and the Moon, and it was owing
to his good will and creative power that men and women were formed, and
maize and fruits given them upon which to subsist.

Another more powerful god, however, by name Pachacamac, also a son of the
Sun and Moon, and hence brother to Con, rose up against him and drove him
from the land. The men and women whom Con had formed were changed by
Pachacamac into brutes, and others created who were the ancestors of the
present race. These he supplied with what was necessary for their support,
and taught them the arts of war and peace. For these reasons they
venerated him as a god, and constructed for his worship a sumptuous
temple, a league and a half from the present city of Lima.[1]

[Footnote 1: Francisco Lopez de Gomara, _Historia de las Indias_, p. 233
(Ed. Paris, 1852).]

This myth of the conflict of the two brothers is too similar to others I
have quoted for its significance to be mistaken. Unfortunately it has been
handed down in so fragmentary a condition that it does not seem possible
to assign it its proper relations to the cycle of Viracocha legends.

As I have hinted, we are not sure of the meaning of the name Con, nor
whether it is of Qquichua origin. If it is, as is indeed likely, then we
may suppose that it is a transcription of the word _ccun_, which in
Qquichua is the third person singular, present indicative, of _ccuni_, I
give. "He Gives;" the Giver, would seem an appropriate name for the first
creator of things. But the myth itself, and the description of the deity,
incorporeal and swift, bringer at one time of the fertilizing rains, at
another of the drought, seems to point unmistakably to a god of the winds.
Linguistic analogy bears this out, for the name given to a whirlwind or
violent wind storm was _Conchuy_, with an additional word to signify
whether it was one of rain or merely a dust storm.[1] For this reason I
think M. Wiener's attempt to make of Con (or _Qquonn_, as he prefers to
spell it) merely a deity of the rains, is too narrow.[2]

[Footnote 1: A whirlwind with rain was _paria conchuy_ (_paria_, rain),
one with clouds of dust, _allpa conchuy_ (_allpa_, earth, dust); Holguin,
_Vocabulario Qquichua_, s.v. _Antay conchuy_.]

[Footnote 2: _Le Perou et Bolivie_, p. 694. (Paris, 1880.)]

The legend would seem to indicate that he was supposed to have been
defeated and quite driven away. But the study of the monuments indicates
that this was not the case. One of the most remarkable antiquities in Peru
is at a place called _Concacha_, three leagues south of Abancay, on the
road from Cuzco to Lima. M. Leonce Angrand has observed that this "was
evidently one of the great religious centres of the primitive peoples of
Peru." Here is found an enormous block of granite, very curiously carved
to facilitate the dispersion of a liquid poured on its summit into varied
streams and to quaint receptacles. Whether the liquid was the blood of
victims, the intoxicating beverage of the country, or pure water, all of
which have been suggested, we do not positively know, but I am inclined to
believe, with M. Wiener, that it was the last mentioned, and that it was
as the beneficent deity of the rains that Con was worshiped at this sacred
spot. Its name _con cacha_, "the Messenger of Con," points to this.[1]

[Footnote 1: These remains are carefully described by Charles Wiener,
_Perou et Bolivie_, p. 282, seq; from the notes of M. Angrand, by
Desjardins, _Le Perou avant la Conquête Espagnole_, p. 132; and in a
superficial manner by Squier, _Peru_, p. 555.]

The words _Pacha camac_ mean "animating" or "giving life to the world." It
is said by Father Acosta to have been one of the names of Viracocha,[1]
and in a sacred song preserved by Garcilasso de la Vega he is appealed to
by this title.[2] The identity of these two divinities seems, therefore,
sufficiently established.

[Footnote 1: _Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias_, Lib. v, cap. iii.]

[Footnote 2: _Comentarios Reales_, Lib. ii, cap. xxviii.]

The worship of Pachacamac is asserted by competent antiquarian students to
have been more extended in ancient Peru than the older historians
supposed. This is indicated by the many remains of temples which local
tradition attribute to his worship, and by the customs of the natives.[1]
For instance, at the birth of a child it was formally offered to him and
his protection solicited. On reaching some arduous height the toiling
Indian would address a few words of thanks to Pachacamac; and the piles of
stones, which were the simple signs of their gratitude, are still visible
in all parts of the country.

[Footnote 1: Von Tschudi, who in one part of his work maintains that
sun-worship was the prevalent religion of Peru, modifies the assertion
considerably in the following passage: "El culto de Pachacamac se hallaba
mucho mas extendido de lo que suponen los historiadores; y se puede sin
error aventurar la opinion de que era la Deidad popular y acatada por las
masas peruanas; mientras que la religion del Sol era la de la corte, culto
que, por mas adoptado que fuese entre los Indios, nunca llegó á
desarraigar la fe y la devocion al Numen primitivo. En effecto, en todas
las relaciones de la vida de los Indios, resalta la profunda veneracion
que tributavan á Pachacamac." _Antiguedades Peruanas_, p. 149. Inasmuch as
elsewhere this author takes pains to show that the Incas discarded the
worship of the Sun, and instituted in place of it that of Viracocha, the
above would seem to diminish the sphere of Sun-worship very much.]

This variation of the story of Viracocha aids to an understanding of his
mythical purport. The oft-recurring epithet "Contice Viracocha" shows a
close relationship between his character and that of the divinity Con, in
fact, an identity which deserves close attention. It is explained, I
believe, by the supposition that Viracocha was the Lord of the Wind as
well as of the Light. Like all the other light gods, and deities of the
cardinal points, he was at the same time the wind from them. What has been
saved from the ancient mythology is enough to show this, but not enough to
allow us to reconcile the seeming contradictions which it suggests.
Moreover, it must be ever remembered that all religions repose on
contradictions, contradictions of fact, of logic, and of statement, so
that we must not seek to force any one of them into consistent unity of
form, even with itself.

I have yet to add another point of similarity between the myth of
Viracocha and those of Quetzalcoatl, Itzamna and the others, which I have
already narrated. As in Mexico, Yucatan and elsewhere, so in the realms of
the Incas, the Spaniards found themselves not unexpected guests. Here,
too, texts of ancient prophecies were called to mind, words of warning
from solemn and antique songs, foretelling that other Viracochas, men of
fair complexion and flowing beards, would some day come from the Sun, the
father of existent nature, and subject the empire to their rule. When the
great Inca, Huayna Capac, was on his death-bed, he recalled these
prophecies, and impressed them upon the mind of his successor, so that
when De Soto, the lieutenant of Pizarro, had his first interview with the
envoy of Atahuallpa, the latter humbly addressed him as Viracocha, the
great God, son of the Sun, and told him that it was Huayna Capac's last
command to pay homage to the white men when they should arrive.[1]

[Footnote 1: Garcilasso de La Vega, _Comentarios Reales_, Lib. ix, caps.
xiv, xv; Cieza de Leon, _Relacion_, MS. in Prescott, _Conquest of Peru_,
Vol. i, p. 329. The latter is the second part of Cieza de Leon.]

We need no longer entertain about such statements that suspicion or
incredulity which so many historians have thought it necessary to indulge
in. They are too generally paralleled in other American hero-myths to
leave the slightest doubt as to their reality, or as to their
significance. They are again the expression of the expected return of the
Light-God, after his departure and disappearance in the western horizon.
Modifications of what was originally a statement of a simple occurrence of
daily routine, they became transmitted in the limbeck of mythology to the
story of the beneficent god of the past, and the promise of golden days
when again he should return to the people whom erstwhile he ruled and

The Qquichuas expected the return of Viracocha, not merely as an earthly
ruler to govern their nation, but as a god who, by his divine power, would
call the dead to life. Precisely as in ancient Egypt the literal belief in
the resurrection of the body led to the custom of preserving the corpses
with the most sedulous care, so in Peru the cadaver was mummied and
deposited in the most secret and inaccessible spots, so that it should
remain undisturbed to the great day of resurrection.

And when was that to be?

We are not left in doubt on this point. It was to be when Viracocha should
return to earth in his bodily form. Then he would restore the dead to
life, and they should enjoy the good things of a land far more glorious
than this work-a-day world of ours.[1]

[Footnote 1: "Dijeron quellos oyeron decir a sus padres y pasados que un
Viracocha habia de revolver la tierra, y habia de resucitar esos muertos,
y que estos habian de bibir en esta tierra.". _Information de las
Idolatras de los Incas é Indios_, in the _Coll. de Docs. ineditos del
Archivo de Indias_, vol. xxi, p. 152.]

As at the first meeting between the races the name of the hero-god was
applied to the conquering strangers, so to this day the custom has
continued. A recent traveler tells us, "Among _Los Indios del Campo_, or
Indians of the fields, the llama herdsmen of the _punas_, and the
fishermen of the lakes, the common salutation to strangers of a fair skin
and blue eyes is '_Tai-tai Viracocha_.'"[1] Even if this is used now, as
M. Wiener seems to think,[2] merely as a servile flattery, there is no
doubt but that at the beginning it was applied because the white strangers
were identified with the white and bearded hero and his followers of their
culture myth, whose return had been foretold by their priests.

[Footnote 1: E.G. Squier, _Travels in Peru_, p. 414.]

[Footnote 2: C. Wiener, _Perou et Bolivie_, p. 717.]

Are we obliged to explain these similarities to the Mexican tradition by
supposing some ancient intercourse between these peoples, the arrival, for
instance, and settlement on the highlands around Lake Titicaca, of some
"Toltec" colony, as has been maintained by such able writers on Peruvian
antiquities as Leonce Angrand and J.J. von Tschudi?[1] I think not. The
great events of nature, day and night, storm and sunshine, are everywhere
the same, and the impressions they produced on the minds of this race were
the same, whether the scene was in the forests of the north temperate
zone, amid the palms of the tropics, or on the lofty and barren plateaux
of the Andes. These impressions found utterance in similar myths, and were
represented in art under similar forms. It is, therefore, to the oneness
of cause and of racial psychology, not to ancient migrations, that we must
look to explain the identities of myth and representation that we find
between such widely sundered nations.

[Footnote 1: L. Angrand, _Lettre sur les Antiquités de Tiaguanaco et
l'Origine présumable de la plus ancienne civilisation du Haut-Perou_.
Extrait du 24eme vol. de la _Revue Generale d'Architecture_, 1866. Von
Tschudi, _Das Ollantadrama_, p. 177-9. The latter says: "Der von dem
Plateau von Anahuac ausgewanderte Stamm verpflanzte seine Gesittung und
die Hauptzüge seiner Religion durch das westliche Südamerica, etc."]






In the foregoing chapters I have passed in review the hero-myths of five
nations widely asunder in location, in culture and in language. I have
shown the strange similarity in their accounts of their mysterious early
benefactor and teacher, and their still more strange, because true,
presentiments of the arrival of pale-faced conquerors from the East.

I have selected these nations because their myths have been most fully
recorded, not that they alone possessed this striking legend. It is, I
repeat, the fundamental myth in the religious lore of American nations.
Not, indeed, that it can be discovered in all tribes, especially in the
amplitude of incident which it possesses among some. But there are
comparatively few of the native mythologies that do not betray some of its
elements, some fragments of it, and, often enough to justify us in the
supposition that had we the complete body of their sacred stories, we
should find this one in quite as defined a form as I have given it.

The student of American mythology, unfortunately, labors under peculiar
disadvantages. When he seeks for his material, he finds an extraordinary
dearth of it. The missionaries usually refused to preserve the native
myths, because they believed them harmful, or at least foolish; while men
of science, who have had such opportunities, rejected all those that
seemed the least like a Biblical story, as they suspected them to be
modern and valueless compositions, and thus lost the very life of the
genuine ancient faiths.

A further disadvantage is the slight attention which has been paid to the
aboriginal American tongues, and the sad deficiency of material for their
study. It is now recognized on all hands that the key of a mythology is to
be found in the language of its believers. As a German writer remarks,
"the formation of the language and the evolution of the myth go hand in
hand."[1] We must know the language of a tribe, at least we must
understand the grammatical construction and have facilities to trace out
the meaning and derivation of names, before we can obtain any accurate
notion of the foundation in nature of its religious beliefs. No convenient
generality will help us.

[Footnote 1: "In der Sprache herrscht immer und erneut sich stets die
sinnliche Anschauung, die vor Jahrtausenden mit dem gläubigen Sinn
vermählt die Mythologien schuf, und gerade durch sie wird es am klarsten,
wie Sprachenschöpfung und mythologische Entwicklung, der Ausdruck des
Denkens und Glaubens, einst Hand in Hand gegangen." Dr. F.L.W. Schwartz,
_Der Ursprung der Mythologie dargelegt an Griechischer und Deutscher
Sage_, p. 23 (Berlin, 1860).]

I make these remarks as a sort of apology for the shortcomings of the
present study, and especially for the imperfections of the fragments I
have still to present. They are, however, sufficiently defined to make it
certain that they belonged to cycles of myths closely akin to those
already given. They will serve to support my thesis that the seemingly
confused and puerile fables of the native Americans are fully as worthy
the attention of the student of human nature as the more poetic narratives
of the Veda or the Edda. The red man felt out after God with like childish
gropings as his white brother in Central Asia. When his course was
interrupted, he was pursuing the same path toward the discovery of truth.
In the words of a thoughtful writer: "In a world wholly separated from
that which it is customary to call the Old World, the religious evolution
of man took place precisely in the same manner as in those surroundings
which produced the civilization of western Europe."[1]

[Footnote 1: Girard de Rialle, _La Mythologie Comparée_, vol. I, p. 363
(Paris, 1878).]

But this religious development of the red man was violently broken by the
forcible imposition of a creed which he could not understand, and which
was not suited to his wants, and by the heavy yoke of a priesthood totally
out of sympathy with his line of progress. What has been the result? "Has
Christianity," asks the writer I have just quoted, "exerted a progressive
action on these peoples? Has it brought them forward, has it aided their
natural evolution? We are obliged to answer, No."[1] This sad reply is
repeated by careful observers who have studied dispassionately the natives
in their homes.[2] The only difference in the results of the two great
divisions of the Christian world seems to be that on Catholic missions has
followed the debasement, on Protestant missions the destruction of the

[Footnote 1: Girard de Rialle, _ibid_, p. 862.]

[Footnote 2: Those who would convince themselves of this may read the work
of Don Francisco Pimentel, _Memoria sobre las Causas que han originado la
Situation Actual de la Raza Indigena de Mexico_ (Mexico, 1864), and that
of the Licentiate Apolinar Garcia y Garcia, _Historia de la Guerra de
Castas de Yucatan_, Prologo (Mérida, 1865). That the Indians of the United
States have directly and positively degenerated in moral sense as a race,
since the introduction of Christianity, was also very decidedly the
opinion of the late Prof. Theodor Waitz, a most competent ethnologist. See
_Die Indianer Nordamerica's. Eine Studie_, von Theodor Waitz, p. 39, etc.
(Leipzig, 1865). This opinion was also that of the visiting committee of
the Society of Friends who reported on the Indian Tribes in 1842; see the
_Report of a Visit to Some of the Tribes of Indians West of the
Mississippi River_, by John D. Lang and Samuel Taylor, Jr. (New York,
1843). The language of this Report is calm, but positive as to the
increased moral degradation of the tribes, as the, direct result of
contact with the whites.]

It may be objected to this that it was not Christianity, but its
accompaniments, the greedy horde of adventurers, the profligate traders,
the selfish priests, and the unscrupulous officials, that wrought the
degradation of the native race. Be it so. Then I merely modify my
assertion, by saying that Christianity has shown itself incapable of
controlling its inevitable adjuncts, and that it would have been better,
morally and socially, for the American race never to have known
Christianity at all, than to have received it on the only terms on which
it has been possible to offer it.

With the more earnestness, therefore, in view of this acknowledged failure
of Christian effort, do I turn to the native beliefs, and desire to
vindicate for them a dignified position among the faiths which have helped
to raise man above the level of the brute, and inspired him with hope and
ambition for betterment.

For this purpose I shall offer some additional evidence of the extension
of the myth I have set forth, and then proceed to discuss its influence on
the minds of its believers.

The Tarascos were an interesting nation who lived in the province of
Michoacan, due west of the valley of Mexico. They were a polished race,
speaking a sonorous, vocalic language, so bold in war that their boast was
that they had never been defeated, and yet their religious rites were
almost bloodless, and their preference was for peace. The hardy Aztecs had
been driven back at every attempt they made to conquer Michoacan, but its
ruler submitted himself without a murmur to Cortes, recognizing in him an
opponent of the common enemy, and a warrior of more than human powers.

Among these Tarascos we find the same legend of a hero-god who brought
them out of barbarism, gave them laws, arranged their calendar, which, in
principles, was the same as that of the Aztecs and Mayas, and decided on
the form of their government. His name was _Surites_ or _Curicaberis_,
words which, from my limited resources in that tongue, I am not able to
analyze. He dwelt in the town Cromuscuaro, which name means the
Watch-tower or Look-out, and the hour in which he gave his instructions
was always at sunrise, just as the orb of light appeared on the eastern
horizon. One of the feasts which he appointed to be celebrated in his
honor was called _Zitacuarencuaro_, which melodious word is said by the
Spanish missionaries to mean "the resurrection from death." When to this
it is added that he distinctly predicted that a white race of men should
arrive in the country, and that he himself should return,[1] his identity
with the light-gods of similar American myths is too manifest to require

[Footnote 1: P. Francisco Xavier Alegre, _Historia de la Compañia de Jesus
en la Nueva España_, Tomo i, pp. 91, 92 (Mexico, 1841). The authorities
whom Alegre quotes are P.P. Alonso de la Rea, _Cronica de Mechoacan_
(Mexico, 1648), and D. Basalenque, _Cronica de San Augustin de Mechoacan_
(Mexico, 1673). I regret that I have been unable to find either of these
books in any library in the United States. It is a great pity that the
student of American history is so often limited in his investigations in
this country, by the lack of material. It is sad to think that such an
opulent and intelligent land does not possess a single complete library of
its own history.]

The king of the Tarascos was considered merely the vicegerent of the
absent hero-god, and ready to lay down the sceptre when Curicaberis should
return to earth.

We do not know whether the myth of the Four Brothers prevailed among the
Tarascos; but there is hardly a nation on the continent among whom the
number Four was more distinctly sacred. The kingdom was divided into four
parts (as also among the Itzas, Qquichuas and numerous other tribes), the
four rulers of which constituted, with the king, the sacred council of
five, in imitation, I can hardly doubt, of the hero-god, and the four
deities of the winds.

The goddess of water and the rains, the female counterpart of Curicaberis,
was the goddess _Cueravaperi_. "She is named," says the authority I quote,
"in all their fables and speeches. They say that she is the mother of all
the gods of the earth, and that it is she who bestows the harvests and the
germination of seeds." With her ever went four attendant goddesses, the
personifications of the rains from the four cardinal points. At the sacred
dances, which were also dramatizations of her supposed action, these
attendants were represented by four priests clad respectively in white,
yellow, red and black, to represent the four colors of the clouds.[1] In
other words, she doubtless bore the same relation to Curicaberis that
Ixchel did to Itzamna in the mythology of the Mayas, or the rainbow
goddess to Arama in the religious legends of the Moxos.[2] She was the
divinity that presided over the rains, and hence over fertility and the
harvests, standing in intimate relation to the god of the sun's rays and
the four winds.

[Footnote 1: _Relacion de las Ceremonias y Ritos, etc., de Mechoacan_, in
the _Coleccion de Documentos para la Historia de España_, vol. liii, pp.
13, 19, 20. This account is anonymous, but was written in the sixteenth
century, by some one familiar with the subject. A handsome MS. of it, with
colored illustrations (these of no great value, however), is in the
Library of Congress, obtained from the collection of the late Col. Peter

[Footnote 2: See above, chapter iv, §1]

The Kiches of Guatemala were not distant relatives of the Mayas of
Yucatan, and their mythology has been preserved to us in a rescript of
their national book, the _Popol Vuh_. Evidently they had borrowed
something from Aztec sources, and a flavor of Christian teaching is
occasionally noticeable in this record; but for all that it is one of the
most valuable we possess on the subject.

It begins by connecting the creation of men and things with the appearance
of light. In other words, as in so many mythologies, the history of the
world is that of the day; each begins with a dawn. Thus the _Popol Vuh_

"This is how the heaven exists, how the Heart of Heaven exists, he, the
god, whose name is Qabauil."

"His word came in the darkness to the Lord, to Gucumatz, and it spoke with
the Lord, with Gucumatz."

"They spoke together; they consulted and planned; they understood; they
united in words and plans."

"As they consulted, the day appeared, the white light came forth, mankind
was produced, while thus they held counsel about the growth of trees and
vines, about life and mankind, in the darkness, in the night (the creation
was brought about), by the Heart of Heaven, whose name is Hurakan."[1]

[Footnote 1: _Popol Vuh, le Livre Sacré des Quichés_, p. 9 (Paris, 1861).]

But the national culture-hero of the Kiches seems to have been
_Xbalanque_, a name which has the literal meaning, "Little Tiger Deer,"
and is a symbolical appellation referring to days in their calendar.
Although many of his deeds are recounted in the _Popol Vuh_, that work
does not furnish us his complete mythical history. From it and other
sources we learn that he was one of the twins supposed to have been born
of a virgin mother in Utatlan, the central province of the Kiches, to have
been the guide and protector of their nation, and in its interest to have
made a journey to the Underworld, in order to revenge himself on his
powerful enemies, its rulers. He was successful, and having overcome them,
he set free the Sun, which they had seized, and restored to life four
hundred youths whom they had slain, and who, in fact, were the stars of
heaven. On his return, he emerged from the bowels of the earth and the
place of darkness, at a point far to the east of Utatlan, at some place
located by the Kiches near Coban, in Vera Paz, and came again to his
people, looking to be received with fitting honors. But like Viracocha,
Quetzalcoatl, and others of these worthies, the story goes that they
treated him with scant courtesy, and in anger at their ingratitude, he
left them forever, in order to seek a nobler people.

I need not enter into a detailed discussion of this myth, many points in
which are obscure, the less so as I have treated them at length in a
monograph readily accessible to the reader who would push his inquiries
further. Enough if I quote the conclusion to which I there arrive. It is
as follows:--

"Suffice it to say that the hero-god, whose name is thus compounded of two
signs in the calendar, who is one of twins born of a virgin, who performs
many surprising feats of prowess on the earth, who descends into the world
of darkness and sets free the sun, moon and stars to perform their daily
and nightly journeys through the heavens, presents in these and other
traits such numerous resemblances to the Divinity of Light, the Day-maker
of the northern hunting tribes, reappearing in so many American legends,
that I do not hesitate to identify the narrative of Xbalanque and his
deeds as but another version of this wide-spread, this well-nigh universal

[Footnote 1: _The Names of the Gods in the Kiche Myths, Central America_,
by Daniel G. Brinton, M.D., in the _Proceedings of the American
Philosophical Society_ for 1881.]

Few of our hero-myths have given occasion for wilder speculation than that
of Votan. He was the culture hero of the Tzendals, a branch of the Maya
race, whose home was in Chiapas and Tabasco. Even the usually cautious
Humboldt suggested that his name might be a form of Odin or Buddha! As for
more imaginative writers, they have made not the least difficulty in
discovering that it is identical with the Odon of the Tarascos, the Oton
of the Othomis, the Poudan of the East Indian Tamuls, the Vaudoux of the
Louisiana negroes, etc. All this has been done without any attempt having
been made to ascertain the precise meaning and derivation of the name
Votan. Superficial phonetic similarities have been the only guide.

We are not well acquainted with the Votan myth. It appears to have been
written down some time in the seventeenth century, by a Christianized
native. His manuscript of five or six folios, in the Tzendal tongue, came
into the possession of Nuñez de la Vega, Bishop of Chiapas, about 1690,
and later into the hands of Don Ramon Ondonez y Aguiar, where it was seen
by Dr. Paul Felix Cabrera, about 1790. What has become of it is not known.

No complete translation of it was made; and the extracts or abstracts
given by the authors just named are most unsatisfactory, and disfigured by
ignorance and prejudice. None of them, probably, was familiar with the
Tzendal tongue, especially in its ancient form. What they tell us runs as

At some indefinitely remote epoch, Votan came from the far East. He was
sent by God to divide out and assign to the different races of men the
earth on which they dwell, and to give to each its own language. The land
whence he came was vaguely called _ualum uotan_, the land of Votan.

His message was especially to the Tzendals. Previous to his arrival they
were ignorant, barbarous, and without fixed habitations. He collected them
into villages, taught them how to cultivate the maize and cotton, and
invented the hieroglyphic signs, which they learned to carve on the walls
of their temples. It is even said that he wrote his own history in them.

He instituted civil laws for their government, and imparted to them the
proper ceremonials of religious worship. For this reason he was also
called "Master of the Sacred Drum," the instrument with which they
summoned the votaries to the ritual dances.

They especially remembered him as the inventor of their calendar. His name
stood third in the week of twenty days, and was the first Dominical sign,
according to which they counted their year, corresponding to the _Kan_ of
the Mayas.

As a city-builder, he was spoken of as the founder of Palenque, Nachan,
Huehuetlan--in fact, of any ancient place the origin of which had been
forgotten. Near the last mentioned locality, Huehuetlan in Soconusco, he
was reported to have constructed an underground temple by merely blowing
with his breath. In this gloomy mansion he deposited his treasures, and
appointed a priestess to guard it, for whose assistance he created the

Votan brought with him, according to one statement, or, according to
another, was followed from his native land by, certain attendants or
subordinates, called in the myth _tzequil_, petticoated, from the long and
flowing robes they wore. These aided him in the work of civilization. On
four occasions he returned to his former home, dividing the country, when
he was about to leave, into four districts, over which he placed these

When at last the time came for his final departure, he did not pass
through the valley of death, as must all mortals, but he penetrated
through a cave into the under-earth, and found his way to "the root of
heaven." With this mysterious expression, the native myth closes its
account of him.[1]

[Footnote 1: The references to the Votan myth are Nuñez de la Vega,
_Constituciones Diocesanas, Prologo_ (Romae, 1702); Boturini, _Idea de una
Nueva Historia de la America septentrional_, pp. 114, et seq., who
discusses the former; Dr. Paul Felix Cabrera, _Teatro Critico Americano_,
translated, London, 1822; Brasseur de Bourbourg, _Hist. des Nations
Civilisées de Mexique_, vol. i, chap, ii, who gives some additional points
from Ordoñez; and H. de Charencey, _Le Mythe de Votan; Etude sur les
Origines Asiatiques de la Civilization Américaine_. (Alencon, 1871).]

He was worshiped by the Tzendals as their principal deity and their
beneficent patron. But he had a rival in their religious observances, the
feared _Yalahau_ Lord of Blackness, or Lord of the Waters. He was
represented as a terrible warrior, cruel to the people, and one of the
first of men.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Yalahau_ is referred to by Bishop Nuñez de la Vega as
venerated in Occhuc and other Tzendal towns of Chiapas. He translates it
"Señor de los Negros." The terminal _ahau_ is pure Maya, meaning king,
ruler, lord; _Yal_ is also Maya, and means water. The god of the waters,
of darkness, night and blackness, is often one and the same in mythology,
and probably had we the myth complete, he would prove to be Votan's
brother and antagonist.]

According to an unpublished work by Fuentes, Votan was one of four
brothers, the common ancestors of the southwestern branches of the Maya

[Footnote 1: Quoted in Emeterio Pineda, _Descripcion Geografica de Chiapas
y Soconusco_, p. 9 (Mexico, 1845).]

All these traits of this popular hero are too exactly similar to those of
the other representatives of this myth, for them to leave any doubt as to
what we are to make of Votan. Like the rest of them, he and his long-robed
attendants are personifications of the eastern light and its rays. Though
but uncritical epitomes of a fragmentary myth about him remain, they are
enough to stamp it as that which meets us so constantly, no matter where
we turn in the New World.[1]

[Footnote 1: The title of the Tzendal MSS., is said by Cabrera to be
"Proof that I am a Chan." The author writes in the person of Votan
himself, and proves his claim that he is a Chan, "because he is a Chivim."
Chan has been translated _serpent_; on _chivim_ the commentators have
almost given up. Supposing that the serpent was a totem of one of the
Tzendal clans, then the effort would be to show that their hero-god was of
that totem; but how this is shown by his being proved a _chivim_ is not
obvious. The term _ualum chivim_, the land of the _chivim_. appears to be
that applied, in the MS., to the country of the Tzendals, or a part of it.
The words _chi uinic_ would mean, "men of the shore," and might be a local
name applied to a clan on the coast. But in default of the original text
we can but surmise as to the precise meaning of the writer.]

It scarcely seems necessary for me to point out that his name Votan is in
no way akin to Othomi or Tarasco roots, still less to the Norse Wodan or
the Indian Buddha, but is derived from a radical in pure Maya. Yet I will
do so, in order, if possible, to put a stop to such visionary etymologies.

As we are informed by Bishop Nuñez de la Vega, _uotan_ in Tzendal means
_heart_. Votan was spoken of as "the heart or soul of his people." This
derivation has been questioned, because the word for the heart in the
other Maya dialects is different, and it has been suggested that this was
but an example of "otosis," where a foreign proper name was turned into a
familiar common noun. But these objections do not hold good.

In regard to derivation, _uotan_ is from the pure Maya root-word _tan_,
which means primarily "the breast," or that which is in front or in the
middle of the body; with the possessive prefix it becomes _utan_. In
Tzendal this word means both _breast_ and _heart_. This is well
illustrated by an ancient manuscript, dating from 1707, in my possession.
It is a guide to priests for administering the sacraments in Spanish and
Tzendal. I quote the passage in point[1]:--

[Footnote 1: _Modo de Administrar los Sacramentos en Castellano y
Tzendal_, 1707. 4to MS., p. 13.]

"Con todo tu corazón, hiriendote
en los pechos, di, conmigo."

_Ta zpizil auotan, xatigh zny
auotan, zghoyoc, alagh ghoyoc_.--

Here, _a_ is the possessive of the second person, and _uotan_ is used both
for heart and breast. Thus the derivation of the word from the Maya
radical is clear.

The figure of speech by which the chief divinity is called "the heart of
the earth," "the heart of the sky," is common in these dialects, and
occurs repeatedly in the _Popol Vuh_, the sacred legend of the Kiches of

[Footnote 2: Thus we have (_Popol Vuh_, Part i, p. 2) _u qux cho_, Heart
of the Lakes, and _u qux palo_, Heart of the Ocean, as names of the
highest divinity; later, we find _u qux cah_, Heart of the Sky (p. 8), _u
qux uleu_, Heart of the Earth, p. 12, 14, etc.

I may here repeat what I have elsewhere written on this figurative
expression in the Maya languages: "The literal or physical sense of the
word heart is not that which is here intended. In these dialects this word
has a richer metaphorical meaning than in our tongue. It stands for all
the psychical powers, the memory, will and reasoning faculties, the life,
the spirit, the soul. It would be more correct to render these names the
'Spirit' or 'Soul' of the lake, etc., than the 'Heart.' They indicate a
dimly understood sense of the unity of spirit or energy in all the various
manifestations of organic and inorganic existence." _The Names of the Gods
in the Kiche Myths, Central America_, by Daniel G. Brinton, in
_Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society_, vol. xix, 1881, p.

The immediate neighbors of the Tzendals were the Mixes and Zoques, the
former resident in the central mountains of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec,
the latter rather in the lowlands and toward the eastern coast. The Mixes
nowadays number but a few villages, whose inhabitants are reported as
drunken and worthless, but the time was when they were a powerful and
warlike nation. They are in nowise akin to the Maya stock, although they
are so classed in Mr. H.H. Bancroft's excellent work.[1] They have,
however, a distinct relationship with the Zoques, about thirty per cent of
the words in the two languages being similar.[2] The Zoques, whose
mythology we unfortunately know little or nothing about, adjoined the
Tzendals, and were in constant intercourse with them.

[Footnote 1: "Mijes, Maya nation," _The Native Races of the Pacific
States_, Vol. v, p. 712.]

[Footnote 2: _Apuntes sobre la Lengua Mije_, por C.H. Berendt, M.D., MS.,
in my hands. The comparison is made of 158 words in the two languages, of
which 44 have marked affinity, besides the numerals, eight out of ten of
which are the same. Many of the remaining words are related to the
Zapotec, and there are very few and faint resemblances to Maya dialects.
One of them may possibly be in this name, Votan (_uotan_), heart, however.
In Mixe the word for heart is _hot_. I note this merely to complete my
observations on the Votan myth.]

We have but faint traces of the early mythology of these tribes; but they
preserved some legends which show that they also partook of the belief, so
general among their neighbors, of a beneficent culture-god.

This myth relates that their first father, who was also their Supreme God,
came forth from a cave in a lofty mountain in their country, to govern and
direct them. He covered the soil with forests, located the springs and
streams, peopled them with fish and the woods with game and birds, and
taught the tribe how to catch them. They did not believe that he had died,
but that after a certain length of time, he, with his servants and
captives, all laden with bright gleaming gold, retired into the cave and
closed its mouth, not to remain there, but to reappear at some other part
of the world and confer similar favors on other nations.

The name, or one of the names, of this benefactor was Condoy, the meaning
of which my facilities do not enable me to ascertain.[1]

[Footnote 1: Juan B. Carriedo, _Estudios Historicos y Estadisticos del
Estado Libre de Oaxaca_, p. 3 (Oaxaca, 1847).]

There is scarcely enough of this to reveal the exact lineaments of their
hero; but if we may judge from these fragments as given by Carriedo, it
appears to be of precisely the same class as the other hero-myths I have
collected in this volume. Historians of authority assure us that the
Mixes, Zoques and Zapotecs united in the expectation, founded on their
ancient myths and prophecies, of the arrival, some time, of men from the
East, fair of hue and mighty in power, masters of the lightning, who would
occupy the land.[1]

[Footnote 1: Ibid., p. 94, _note_, quoting from the works of Las Casas and
Francisco Burgoa.]

On the lofty plateau of the Andes, in New Granada, where, though nearly
under the equator, the temperature is that of a perpetual spring, was the
fortunate home of the Muyscas. It is the true El Dorado of America; every
mountain stream a Pactolus, and every hill a mine of gold. The natives
were peaceful in disposition, skilled in smelting and beating the precious
metal that was everywhere at hand, lovers of agriculture, and versed in
the arts of spinning, weaving and dying cotton. Their remaining sculptures
prove them to have been of no mean ability in designing, and it is
asserted that they had a form of writing, of which their signs for the
numerals have alone been preserved.

The knowledge of these various arts they attributed to the instructions of
a wise stranger who dwelt among them many cycles before the arrival of the
Spaniards. He came from the East, from the llanos of Venezuela or beyond
them, and it was said that the path he made was broad and long, a hundred
leagues in length, and led directly to the holy temple at his shrine at
Sogamoso. In the province of Ubaque his footprints on the solid rock were
reverently pointed out long after the Conquest. His hair was abundant, his
beard fell to his waist, and he dressed in long and flowing robes. He went
among the nations of the plateaux, addressing each in its own dialect,
taught them to live in villages and to observe just laws. Near the village
of Coto was a high hill held in special veneration, for from its prominent
summit he was wont to address the people who gathered round its base.
Therefore it was esteemed a sanctuary, holy to the living and the dead.
Princely families from a distance carried their dead there to be interred,
because this teacher had said that man does not perish when he dies, but
shall rise again. It was held that this would be more certain to occur in
the very spot where he announced this doctrine. Every sunset, when he had
finished his discourse, he retired into a cave in the mountain, not to
reappear again until the next morning.

For many years, some said for two thousand years, did he rule the people
with equity, and then he departed, going back to the East whence he came,
said some authorities, but others averred that he rose up to heaven. At
any rate, before he left, he appointed a successor in the sovereignty, and
recommended him to pursue the paths of justice.[1]

[Footnote 1: "Afirman que fue trasladado al cielo, y que al tiempo de su
partida dexó al Cacique de aquella Provincia por heredero de su santidad i
poderio." Lucas Fernaudez Piedrahita, _Historia General de las Conquistas
del Nueoo Reyno de Granada_, Lib. i, cap. iii (Amberes, 1688).]

What led the Spanish missionaries to suspect that this was one of the
twelve apostles, was not only these doctrines, but the undoubted fact that
they found the symbol of the cross already a religious emblem among this
people. It appeared in their sacred paintings, and especially, they
erected one over the grave of a person who had died from the bite of a

A little careful investigation will permit us to accept these statements
as quite true, and yet give them a very different interpretation.

That this culture-hero arrives from the East and returns to the East are
points that at once excite the suspicion that he was the personification
of the Light. But when we come to his names, no doubt can remain. These
were various, but one of the most usual was _Chimizapagua_, which, we are
told, means "a messenger from _Chiminigagua_." In the cosmogonical myths
of the Muyscas this was the home or source of Light, and was a name
applied to the demiurgic force. In that mysterious dwelling, so their
account ran, light was shut up, and the world lay in primeval gloom. At a
certain time the light manifested itself, and the dawn of the first
morning appeared, the light being carried to the four quarters of the
earth by great black birds, who blew the air and winds from their beaks.
Modern grammarians profess themselves unable to explain the exact meaning
of the name _Chiminigagua_, but it is a compound, in which, evidently,
appear the words _chie_, light, and _gagua_, Sun.[1]

[Footnote 1: Uricoechea says, "al principio del mundo la luz estaba
encerrada en una cosa que no podian describir i que llamaban
_Chiminigague_, ó El Criador." _Gramatica de la Lengua Chibcha_, Introd.,
p. xix. _Chie_ in this tongue means light, moon, month, honor, and is also
the first person plural of the personal pronoun. _Ibid_., p. 94. Father
Simon says _gagua_ is "el nombre del mismo sol," though ordinarily Sun is

Other names applied to this hero-god were Nemterequeteba, Bóchica, and
Zuhe, or Sua, the last mentioned being also the ordinary word for the Sun.
He was reported to have been of light complexion, and when the Spaniards
first arrived they were supposed to be his envoys, and were called _sua_
or _gagua_, just as from the memory of a similar myth in Peru they were
addressed as Viracochas.

In his form as Bóchica, he is represented as the supreme male divinity,
whose female associate is the Rainbow, Cuchaviva, goddess of rains and
waters, of the fertility of the fields, of medicine, and of child-bearing
in women, a relationship which I have already explained.[1]

[Footnote 1: The principal authority for the mythology of the Mayscas, or
Chibchas, is Padre Pedro Simon, _Noticias Historiales de las Conquistas de
Tierra Firme en el Nuevo Reyno de Granada_, Pt. iv, caps. ii, iii, iv,
printed in Kingsborough, _Mexican Antiquities_, vol. viii, and Piedrahita
as above quoted.]

Wherever the widespread Tupi-Guaranay race extended--from the mouth of the
Rio de la Plata and the boundless plains of the Pampas, north to the
northernmost islands of the West Indian Archipelago--the early explorers
found the natives piously attributing their knowledge of the arts of life
to a venerable and benevolent old man whom they called "Our Ancestor,"
_Tamu_, or _Tume_, or _Zume_.

The early Jesuit missionaries to the Guaranis and affiliated tribes of
Paraguay and southern Brazil, have much to say of this personage, and some
of them were convinced that he could have been no other than the Apostle
St. Thomas on his proselytizing journey around the world.

The legend was that Pay Zume, as he was called in Paraguay (_Pay_ =
magician, diviner, priest), came from the East, from the Sun-rising, in
years long gone by. He instructed the people in the arts of hunting and
agriculture, especially in the culture and preparation of the manioca
plant, their chief source of vegetable food. Near the city of Assumption
is situated a lofty rock, around which, says the myth, he was accustomed
to gather the people, while he stood above them on its summit, and
delivered his instructions and his laws, just as did Quetzalcoatl from the
top of the mountain Tzatzitepec, the Hill of Shouting. The spot where he
stood is still marked by the impress of his feet, which the pious natives
of a later day took pride in pointing out as a convincing proof that their
ancestors received and remembered the preachings of St. Thomas.[1] This
was not a suggestion of their later learning, but merely a christianized
term given to their authentic ancient legend. As early as 1552, when
Father Emanuel Nobrega was visiting the missions of Brazil, he heard the
legend, and learned of a locality where not only the marks of the feet,
but also of the hands of the hero-god had been indelibly impressed upon
the hard rock. Not satisfied with the mere report, he visited the spot and
saw them with his own eyes, but indulged in some skepticism as to their

[Footnote 1: "Juxta Paraquariae metropolim rupes utcumque cuspidata, sed
in modicam planitiem desinens cernitur, in cujus summitate vestigia pedum
humanorum saxo impressa adhuc manent, affirmantibus constanter indigenis,
ex eo loco Apostolum Thomam multitudini undequaque ad eum audiendum
confluenti solitum fuisse legem divinam tradere: et addunt mandiocae, ex
qua farinam suam ligneam conficiunt, plantandae rationem ab eodem
accepisse." P. Nicolao del Techo, _Historia Provincial Paraquariae
Societatis Jesu_, Lib. vi, cap. iv (folio, Leodii, 1673).]

[Footnote 2: "Ipse abii," he writes in his well known Letter, "et propriis
oculis inspexi, quatuor pedum et digitorum satis alté impressa vestigia,
quae nonnunquam aqua excrescens cooperit." The reader will remember the
similar event in the history of Quetzalcoatl (see above, chapter iii, §3)]

The story was that wherever this hero-god walked, he left behind him a
well-marked path, which was permanent, and as the Muyscas of New Granada
pointed out the path of Bochica, so did the Guaranays that of Zume, which
the missionaries regarded "not without astonishment."[1] He lived a
certain length of time with his people and then left them, going back over
the ocean toward the East, according to some accounts. But according to
others, he was driven away by his stiff-necked and unwilling auditors, who
had become tired of his advice. They pursued him to the bank of a river,
and there, thinking that the quickest riddance of him was to kill him,
they discharged their arrows at him. But he caught the arrows in his hand
and hurled them back, and dividing the waters of the river by his divine
power he walked between them to the other bank, dry-shod, and disappeared
from their view in the distance.

[Footnote 1: "E Brasiliâ in Guairaniam euntibus spectabilis adhuc semita
viditur, quam ab Sancto Thoma ideo incolae vocant, quod per eam Apostolus
iter fecisse credatur; quae semita quovis anni tempore eumdem statum
conservat, modicé in ea crescendibus herbis, ab adjacenti campo multum
herbescenti prorsus dissimilibus, praebetque speciem viae artificiosé
ductae; quam Socii nostri Guairaniam excolentes persaepe non sine stupore
perspexisse se testantur." Nicolao del Techo, _ubi suprá_, Lib. vi, cap.

The connection of this myth with the course of the sun in the sky, "the
path of the bright God," as it is called in the Veda, appears obvious. So
also in later legend we read of the wonderful slot or trail of the dragon
Fafnir across the Glittering Heath, and many cognate instances, which
mythologists now explain by the same reference.]

Like all the hero-gods, he left behind him the well-remembered promise
that at some future day he should return to them, and that a race of men
should come in time, to gather them into towns and rule them in peace.[1]
These predictions were carefully noted by the missionaries, and regarded
as the "unconscious prophecies of heathendom" of the advent of
Christianity; but to me they bear too unmistakably the stamp of the
light-myth I have been following up in so many localities of the New World
for me to entertain a doubt about their origin and meaning.

[Footnote 1: "Ilium quoque pollicitum fuisse, se aliquando has regiones
revisurum." Father Nobrega, _ubi suprá_. For the other particulars I have
given see Nicolao del Techo, _Historia Provinciae Paraquariae_, Lib. vi,
cap. iv, "De D. Thomae Apostoli itineribus;" and P. Antonio Ruiz,
_Conquista Espiritual hecha por los Religiosos de la Compañia de Jesus en
las Provincias del Paraguay, Parana, Uruguay y Tape_, fol. 29, 30 (4to.,
Madrid, 1639). The remarkable identity of the words relating to their
religious beliefs and observances throughout this widespread group of
tribes has been demonstrated and forcibly commented on by Alcide
D'Orbigny, _L'Homme Americain_, vol. ii, p. 277. The Vicomte de Porto
Seguro identifies Zume with the _Cemi_ of the Antilles, and this etymology
is at any rate not so fanciful as most of those he gives in his
imaginative work, _L'Origine Touranienne des Americaines Tupis-Caribes_,
p. 62 (Vienna, 1876).]

I have not yet exhausted the sources from which I could bring evidence of
the widespread presence of the elements of this mythical creation in
America. But probably I have said enough to satisfy the reader on this
point. At any rate it will be sufficient if I close the list with some
manifest fragments of the myth, picked out from the confused and generally
modern reports we have of the religions of the Athabascan race. This stem
is one of the most widely distributed in North America, extending across
the whole continent south of the Eskimos, and scattered toward the warmer
latitudes quite into Mexico. It is low down in the intellectual scale, its
component tribes are usually migratory savages, and its dialects are
extremely synthetic and of difficult phonetics, requiring as many as
sixty-five letters for their proper orthography. No wonder, therefore,
that we have but limited knowledge of their mental life.

Conspicuous in their myths is the tale of the Two Brothers. These
mysterious beings are upon the earth before man appears. Though alone,
they do not agree, and the one attacks and slays the other. Another
brother appears on the scene, who seems to be the one slain, who has come
to life, and the two are given wives by the Being who was the Creator of
things. These two women were perfectly beautiful, but invisible to the
eyes of mortals. The one was named, The Woman of the Light or The Woman of
the Morning; the other was the Woman of Darkness or the Woman of Evening.
The brothers lived together in one tent with these women, who each in turn
went out to work. When the Woman of Light was at work, it was daytime;
when the Woman of Darkness was at her labors, it was night.

In the course of time one of the brothers disappeared and the other
determined to select a wife from one of the two women, as it seems he had
not yet chosen. He watched what the Woman of Darkness did in her absence,
and discovered that she descended into the waters and enjoyed the embraces
of a monster, while the Woman of Light passed her time in feeding white
birds. In course of time the former brought forth black man-serpents,
while the Woman of Light was delivered of beautiful boys with white skins.
The master of the house killed the former with his arrows, but preserved
the latter, and marrying the Woman of Light, became the father of the
human race, and especially of the Dènè Dindjié, who have preserved the
memory of him.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Monographie des Dènè Dindjié, par_ C.R.P.E. Petitot, pp.
84-87 (Paris, 1876). Elsewhere the writer says: "Tout d'abord je dois
rappeler mon observation que presque toujours, dans les traditions Dènè,
le couple primitif se compose de _deux frères_." Ibid., p. 62.]

In another myth of this stock, clearly a version of the former, this
father of the race is represented as a mighty bird, called _Yêl_, or
_Yale_, or _Orelbale_, from the root _ell_, a term they apply to
everything supernatural. He took to wife the daughter of the Sun (the
Woman of Light), and by her begat the race of man. He formed the dry land
for a place for them to live upon, and stocked the rivers with salmon,
that they might have food. When he enters his nest it is day, but when he
leaves it it is night; or, according to another myth, he has the two women
for wives, the one of whom makes the day, the other the night.

In the beginning Yêl was white in plumage, but he had an enemy, by name
_Cannook_, with whom he had various contests, and by whose machinations he
was turned black. Yêl is further represented as the god of the winds and
storms, and of the thunder and lightning.[1]

[Footnote 1: For the extent and particulars of this myth, many of the
details of which I omit, see Petitot, _ubi suprá_, pp. 68, 87, note;
Matthew Macfie. _Travels in Vancouver Island and British Columbia_, pp.
452-455 (London, 1865); and J.K. Lord, _The Naturalist in Vancouver Island
and British Columbia_ (London, 1866). It is referred to by Mackenzie and
other early writers.]

Thus we find, even in this extremely low specimen of the native race, the
same basis for their mythology as in the most cultivated nations of
Central America. Not only this; it is the same basis upon which is built
the major part of the sacred stories of all early religions, in both
continents; and the excellent Father Petitot, who is so much impressed by
these resemblances that he founds upon them a learned argument to prove
that the Dènè are of oriental extraction,[1] would have written more to
the purpose had his acquaintance with American religions been as extensive
as it was with those of Asiatic origin.

[Footnote 1: See his "Essai sur l'Origine des Dènè-Dindjié," in his
_Monographie_, above quoted.]

There is one point in all these myths which I wish to bring out forcibly.
That is, the distinction which is everywhere drawn between the God of
Light and the Sun. Unless this distinction is fully comprehended, American
mythology loses most of its meaning.

The assertion has been so often repeated, even down to the latest writers,
that the American Indians were nearly all sun-worshipers, that I take
pains formally to contradict it. Neither the Sun nor the Spirit of the Sun
was their chief divinity.

Of course, the daily history of the appearance and disappearance of light
is intimately connected with the apparent motion of the sun. Hence, in the
myths there is often a seeming identification of the two, which I have
been at no pains to avoid. But the identity is superficial only; it
entirely disappears in other parts of the myth, and the conceptions, as
fundamentally distinct, must be studied separately, to reach accurate
results. It is an easy, but by no means a profound method of treating
these religions, to dismiss them all by the facile explanations of
"animism," and "sun and moon worship."

I have said, and quoted strong authority to confirm the opinion, that the
native tribes of America have lost ground in morals and have retrograded
in their religious life since the introduction of Christianity. Their own
faiths, though lower in form, had in them the germs of a religious and
moral evolution, more likely, with proper regulation, to lead these people
to a higher plane of thought than the Aryan doctrines which were forced
upon them.

This may seem a daring, even a heterodox assertion, but I think that most
modern ethnologists will agree that it is no more possible for races in
all stages of culture and of widely different faculties to receive with
benefit any one religion, than it is for them to thrive under one form of
government, or to adopt with advantage one uniform plan of building
houses. The moral and religious life is a growth, and the brash wood of
ancient date cannot be grafted on the green stem. It is well to remember
that the heathendoms of America were very far from wanting living seeds of
sound morality and healthy mental education. I shall endeavor to point
this out in a few brief paragraphs.

In their origin in the human mind, religion and morality have nothing in
common. They are even antagonistic. At the root of all religions is the
passionate desire for the widest possible life, for the most unlimited
exercise of all the powers. The basis of all morality is self-sacrifice,
the willingness to give up our wishes to the will of another. The
criterion of the power of a religion is its ability to command this
sacrifice; the criterion of the excellence of a religion is the extent to
which its commands coincide with the good of the race, with the lofty
standard of the "categorical imperative."

With these axioms well in mind, we can advance with confidence to examine
the claims of a religion. It will rise in the scale just in proportion as
its behests, were they universally adopted, would permanently increase the
happiness of the human race.

In their origin, as I have said, morality and religion are opposites; but
they are opposites which inevitably attract and unite. The first lesson of
all religions is that we gain by giving, that to secure any end we must
sacrifice something. This, too, is taught by all social intercourse, and,
therefore, an acute German psychologist has set up the formula," All
manners are moral,"[1] because they all imply a subjection of the personal
will of the individual to the general will of those who surround him, as
expressed in usage and custom.

[Footnote 1: "Alle Sitten sind sittlich." Lazarus, _Ursprung der Sitte_,
S. 5, quoted by Roskoff. I hardly need mention that our word _morality_,
from _mos_, means by etymology, simply what is customary and of current
usage. The moral man is he who conforms himself to the opinions of the
majority. This is also at the basis of Robert Browning's definition of a
people: "A people is but the attempt of many to rise to the completer life
of one" (_A Soul's Tragedy_).]

Even the religion which demands bloody sacrifices, which forces its
votaries to futile and abhorrent rites, is at least training its adherents
in the virtues of obedience and renunciation, in endurance and confidence.

But concerning American religions I need not have recourse to such a
questionable vindication. They held in them far nobler elements, as is
proved beyond cavil by the words of many of the earliest missionaries
themselves. Bigoted and bitter haters of the native faiths, as they were,
they discovered in them so much that was good, so much that approximated
to the purer doctrines that they themselves came to teach, that they have
left on record many an attempt to prove that there must, in some remote
and unknown epoch, have come Christian teachers to the New World, St.
Thomas, St. Bartholomew, monks from Ireland, or Asiatic disciples, to
acquaint the natives with such salutary doctrines. It is precisely in
connection with the myths which I have been relating in this volume that
these theories were put forth, and I have referred to them in various

The facts are as stated, but the credit of developing these elevated moral
conceptions must not be refused to the red race. They are its own
property, the legitimate growth of its own religious sense.

The hero-god, the embodiment of the Light of Day, is essentially a moral
and beneficent creation. Whether his name be Michabo, Ioskeha, or
Quetzalcoatl, Itzamna, Viracocha or Tamu, he is always the giver of laws,
the instructor in the arts of social life, the founder of commonwealths,
the patron of agriculture. He casts his influence in favor of peace, and
against wars and deeds of violence. He punishes those who pursue iniquity,
and he favors those who work for the good of the community.

In many instances he sets an example of chaste living, of strict
temperance, of complete subjection of the lusts and appetites. I have but
to refer to what I have already said of the Maya Kukulcan and the Aztec
Quetzalcoatl, to show this. Both are particularly noted as characters free
from the taint of indulgence.

Thus it occurred that the early monks often express surprise that these,
whom they chose to call savages and heathens, had developed a moral law of
undeniable purity. "The matters that Bochica taught," says the chronicler
Piedrahita, "were certainly excellent, inasmuch as these natives hold as
right to do just the same that we do." "The priests of these Muyscas," he
goes on to say, "lived most chastely and with great purity of life,
insomuch that even in eating, their food was simple and of small quantity,
and they refrained altogether from women and marriage. Did one transgress
in this respect, he was dismissed from the priesthood."[1]

[Footnote 1: "Las cosas que el Bochica les enseñaba eran buenas, siendo
assi, que tenian por malo lo mismo que nosotros tenemos por tal."
Piedrahita, _Historia General de las Conquistas del Nuevo Reyno de
Granada_, Lib. i, Cap. iii.]

The prayers addressed to these deities breathe as pure a spirit of
devotion as many now heard in Christian lands. Change the names, and some
of the formulas preserved by Christobal de Molina and Sahagun would not
jar on the ears of a congregation in one of our own churches.

Although sanguinary rites were common, they were not usual in the worship
of these highest divinities, but rather as propitiations to the demons of
the darkness, or the spirits of the terrible phenomena of nature. The mild
god of light did not demand them.

To appreciate the effect of all this on the mind of the race, let it be
remembered that these culture-heroes were also the creators, the primal
and most potent of divinities, and that usually many temples and a large
corps of priests were devoted to their worship, at least in the nations of
higher civilization. These votaries were engaged in keeping alive the
myth, in impressing the supposed commands of the deity on the people, and
in imitating him in example and precept. Thus they had formed a lofty
ideal of man, and were publishing this ideal to their fellows. Certainly
this could not fail of working to the good of the nation, and of elevating
and purifying its moral conceptions.

That it did so we have ample evidence in the authentic accounts of the
ancient society as it existed before the Europeans destroyed and corrupted
it, and in the collections of laws, all distinctly stamped with the seal
of religion, which have been preserved, as they were in vogue in Anahuac,
Utatlan, Peru and other localities.[1] Any one who peruses these will see
that the great moral principles, the radical doctrines of individual
virtue, were clearly recognized and deliberately enforced as divine and
civil precepts in these communities. Moreover, they were generally and
cheerfully obeyed, and the people of many of these lands were industrious,
peaceable, moral, and happy, far more so than they have ever been since.

[Footnote 1: The reader willing to pursue the argument further can find
these collections of ancient American laws in Sahagun, _Historia de Nueva
España_, for Mexico; in Geronimo Roman, _Republica de las Indias
Occidentales_, for Utatlan and other nations; for Peru in the _Relacion
del Origen, Descendencia, Politica, y Gobierno de los Incas, por el
licenciado Fernando de Santillan_ (published at Madrid. 1879); and for the
Muyscas, in Piedrahita, _Hist. Gen. del Nuevo Reyno de Granada_, Lib. ii,
cap. v.]

There was also a manifest progress in the definition of the idea of God,
that is, of a single infinite intelligence as the source and controlling
power of phenomena. We have it on record that in Peru this was the direct
fruit of the myth of Viracocha. It is related that the Inca Yupangui
published to his people that to him had appeared Viracocha, with
admonition that he alone was lord of the world, and creator of all things;
that he had made the heavens, the sun, and man; and that it was not right
that these, his works, should receive equal homage with himself.
Therefore, the Inca decreed that the image of Viracocha should thereafter
be assigned supremacy to those of all other divinities, and that no
tribute nor sacrifice should be paid to him, for He was master of all the
earth, and could take from it as he chose.[1] This was evidently a direct
attempt on the part of an enlightened ruler to lift his people from a
lower to a higher form of religion, from idolatry to theism. The Inca even
went so far as to banish all images of Viracocha from his temples, so that
this, the greatest of gods, should be worshiped as an immaterial spirit

[Footnote 1: P. Joseph de Acosta, _Historia Natural y Moral de las
Indias_, Lib. vi, cap. 31 (Barcelona, 1591).]

A parallel instance is presented in Aztec annals. Nezahualcoyotzin, an
enlightened ruler of Tezcuco, about 1450, was both a philosopher and a
poet, and the songs which he left, seventy in number, some of which are
still preserved, breathe a spirit of emancipation from the idolatrous
superstition of his day. He announced that there was one only god, who
sustained and created all things, and who dwelt above the ninth heaven,
out of sight of man. No image was fitting for this divinity, nor did he
ever appear bodily to the eyes of men. But he listened to their prayers
and received their souls.[1]

[Footnote 1: See Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, _Historica Chichimeca_,
cap. xlix; and Joseph Joaquin Granados y Galvez, _Tardes Americanas_, p.
90 (Mexico, 1778).]

These traditions have been doubted, for no other reason than because it
was assumed that such thoughts were above the level of the red race. But
the proper names and titles, unquestionably ancient and genuine, which I
have analyzed in the preceding pages refute this supposition.

We may safely affirm that other and stronger instances of the kind could
be quoted, had the early missionaries preserved more extensively the
sacred chants and prayers of the natives. In the Maya tongue of Yucatan a
certain number of them have escaped destruction, and although they are
open to some suspicion of having been colored for proselytizing purposes,
there is direct evidence from natives who were adults at the time of the
Conquest that some of their priests had predicted the time should come
when the worship of one only God should prevail. This was nothing more
than another instance of the monotheistic idea finding its expression, and
its apparition is not more extraordinary in Yucatan or Peru than in
ancient Egypt or Greece.

The actual religious and moral progress of the natives was designedly
ignored and belittled by the early missionaries and conquerors. Bishop Las
Casas directly charges those of his day with magnifying the vices of the
Indians and the cruelties of their worship; and even such a liberal
thinker as Roger Williams tells us that he would not be present at their
ceremonies, "Lest I should have been partaker of Satan's Inventions and
Worships."[1] This same prejudice completely blinded the first visitors to
the New World, and it was only the extravagant notion that Christianity
had at some former time been preached here that saved us most of the
little that we have on record.

[Footnote 1: Roger Williams, _A Key Into the Language of America_, p.

Yet now and then the truth breaks through even this dense veil of
prejudice. For instance, I have quoted in this chapter the evidence of the
Spanish chroniclers to the purity of the teaching attributed to Bochica.
The effect of such doctrines could not be lost on a people who looked upon
him at once as an exemplar and a deity. Nor was it. The Spaniards have
left strong testimony to the pacific and virtuous character of that
nation, and its freedom from the vices so prevalent in lower races.[1]

[Footnote 1: See especially the _Noticias sobre el Nuevo Reino de
Granada_, in the _Colleccion de Documentos ineditos del Archivo de
Indias_, vol. v, p. 529.]

Now, as I dismiss from the domain of actual fact all these legendary
instructors, the question remains, whence did these secluded tribes obtain
the sentiments of justice and morality which they loved to attribute to
their divine founders, and, in a measure, to practice themselves?

The question is pertinent, and with its answer I may fitly close this
study in American native religions.

If the theory that I have advocated is correct, these myths had to do at
first with merely natural occurrences, the advent and departure of the
daylight, the winds, the storm and the rains. The beneficent and injurious
results of these phenomena were attributed to their personifications.
Especially was the dispersal of darkness by the light regarded as the
transaction of all most favorable to man. The facilities that it gave him
were imputed to the goodness of the personified Spirit of Light, and by a
natural association of ideas, the benevolent emotions and affections
developed by improving social intercourse were also brought into relation
to this kindly Being. They came to be regarded as his behests, and, in the
national mind, he grew into a teacher of the friendly relations of man to
man, and an ideal of those powers which "make for righteousness." Priests
and chieftains favored the acceptance of these views, because they felt
their intrinsic wisdom, and hence the moral evolution of the nation
proceeded steadily from its mythology. That the results achieved were
similar to those taught by the best religions of the eastern world should
not excite any surprise, for the basic principles of ethics are the same
everywhere and in all time.




Acosta, J. de
Alegre, F.X.
Anales del Museo Nacional de Mejico
Ancona, Eligio
Angrand, L.
Annals of Cuauhtitlan
Antonio, G.
Argoll, Capt
Avila, Francisco de

Bancroft, H.H.
Baraga, Frederick
Basalenque, D.
Beltran, de Santa Rosa
Berendt, C.H.
Bernal Diaz
Bertonio, L.
Betanzos, Juan de
Bobadilla, F. de
Boturini, L.
Bourbourg, Brasseur de, see Brasseur.
Brasseur (de Bourbourg), C.
Buschmann, J.C.E.
Buteux, Father

Cabrera, P.F.
Campanius, Thomas
Campbell, John
Carriedo, J.B.
Carrillo, Crescencio
Charency, H. de
Charlevoix, Pére
Chavero, Alfredo
Chaves, Gabriel de
Chilan Balam, Books of
Clavigero, Francesco S.
Codex Borgianus
Codex Telleriano-Remensis
Codex Troano
Codex Vaticanus
Cogolludo, D.L. de
Comte, Auguste
Cortes, Hernan
Cox, Sir George W.
Cuoq, J.A.
Cusic, David

Desjardins, E.
D'Orbigny, A.
Duran, Diego

Elder, F.X.

Fischer, Heinrich
Franco, P.
Fuen-Leal, Ramirez de

Gabriel de San Buenaventura
Garcia, G.
Garcia y Garcia, A.
Gatschet, A.S.
Gomara, F.L.
Granados y Galvez, J.J.

Hale, Horatio
Haupt, Paul
Hernandez, Francisco
Hernandez, M.
Herrera, Antonio de
Holguin, D.G.
Humbolt, A.V.

Ixtlilxochitl, F.A. de

Jourdanet, M.

Keary, Charles F.
Kingsborough, Lord

Lalemant, Father
Landa, D. de
Lang, J.D.
Las Casas, B. de
Lazarus, Prof.
Leon, Cieza de
Le Plongeon, Dr.
Lizana, B.
Lord, J.K.
Lubbock, Sir John

Macfie, M.
Mangan, Clarence
Markham, C.R.
Melgar, J.M.
Mendieta, Geronimo de
Mendoza, G.
Molina, Alonso de
Molina, C. de
Montejo, Francisco de
Motolinia, Padre
Motul, Diccionario de
Müller, Max

Nieremberg, E. de
Nobrega, E.

Ollanta, drama of
Olmos, Andre de
Orozco y Berra, Señor
Oviedo, G.F. de

Pachacuti, J. de
Pech, Nakuk
Perrot, Nicholas
Petitot, P.E.
Piedrahita, L.T.
Pimentel, F.
Pinart, A.L.
Pineda, E.
Pio Perez, J.
Popol Vuh, the
Porto Seguro, V. de
Prescott, W.H.

Rau, Charles
Rea, A. de la
Rialle, G. de
Roman, H.
Roskoff, Gustav
Ruiz, A.

Sagard Pére
Sahagun, B. de
Sanchez, Jesus
Santillan, F. de
Schoolcraft, H. R.
Schultz-Sellack, Dr. C.
Schwartz, F.L.W.
Short, J.T.
Simeon, Remi
Simon, P.
Sotomayor, J. de V.
Squier, B. G.
Stephens, J.L.
Strachey, William

Tanner, John
Taylor, S.
Techo, N. de
Ternaux-Compans, M
Tezozomoc, A.
Tiele, C.P.
Tobar, Juan de
Toledo, F. de
Torquemada, Juan de
Trumbull, J.H.
Tschudi, J.J. von

Uricoechea, E.

Valera, Blas
Vega, Garcillaso, de la
Vega, Nuñez de la

Waitz, Th.
Wiener, C.
Williams, Roger

Xahila, F.E.A.

Zegarra, G.P.


Abancay, in Peru
Abstract expressions
Acan, Maya god of wine
Acantun, Maya deities
Ages of the world
Ah-kiuic, deity of the Mayas
Ah-puchah, deity of the Mayas
Air, gods of; see Wind
Algonkins, their location
    "      their hero-myth
Amun, Egyptian deity
Animiki, the thunder god
Arawack language
Ares, the Greek
Arnava, name of Viracocha
Arama, deity of the Moxos
Arrival, the Great and Less
Ataensic, an Iroquois deity
Atahualpa Inca
Atecpanamochco, the bath of Quetzalcoatl
Athabascan myths and languages
Aticsi, epithet of Viracocha
Aurora, myths of; see Dawn
Ayar, Ancca
Ayar Cachi, a name of Viracocha
Ayar Manco
Ayar Uchu
Aymaras, myths of
   "     language of
Aztecs, location of
Aztecs in Yucatan
Aztlan, meaning of

Bacabs, the four
Baldur, the Norse
Ball, the game of
Bearded hero-god
Belly, the, in symbolism
Bird, symbol of
Bisexual deities
Bochica, hero-god of the Muyscas
Borrowing in myths
Butterfly, the, as a symbol of the wind

Cadmus, the myth of
Cakchiquels, myths of
Camaxtli, a name of Tezcatlipoca
Canas tribe
Canil, a name of Itzamna
Cannook, deity of Dènè
Carapaco, lake of
Carcha, town of
Cardinal points, worship of
Caylla, epithet of Viracocha
Ce Acatl, One Reed, a name of Quetzalcoatl
Ce Acatl Inacuil
Cemi, deity of Arawacks
Chac, deity of the Mayas
Chacamarca, river of
Chac Mool, supposed idol
Chalchiuitlicue, Aztec goddess
Chalchihuitzli, Aztec deity
Chalchiuhapan, the bath of Quetzalcoatl
Chasca, Qquichua deity
Chem, Egyptian deity
Chibchas, see Muyscas
Chibilias, a Maya goddess
Chichen Itza
Chichimees, the
Chickaban, a festival
Chicomecoatl, an Aztec deity
Chimizapagua, name of Bochica
Chivim, land of
Chnum, Egyptian deity
Choctaws, myth of
Christianity, effects of
Cincalco, Cave of
Cipactli, in Aztec myth
Cipactonal, in Aztec myth
Citlatonac, an Aztec deity
Citlallicue, an Aztec deity
Coatl, in Nahuatl
Coatecalli, the Aztec Pantheon
Coatlicue, Aztec goddess
Cocoms, the
Colla, a Peruvian deity
Colors, symbolism of
Con, Peruvian deity
Condorcoto, the mountain
Condoy, hero-god of Mixes
Coto, village
Coyote, sacred to Tezcatlipoca
Cozcapan, fountain of
Cozumel, cross of
Cross, the, symbol of
Cuchaviva, goddess of Muyscas
Cueravaperi, goddess of Tarascos
Cuernava, cave of
Cum-ahau, a Maya deity
Curicaberis, deity of Tarascos
Cuzco, founding of
  "    temple of

Darkness, powers of
Dawn, the mansion of the
  "   myths of
Dènè, myths of
Drum, the sacred
Dyaus, the Aryan god
Dyonisiac worship, the

East, sacredness of
Echuac, a Maya deity
Egyptian mythology
Europe, carried off by Zeus

Fafnir, the dragon
Fatal children, the myth of
Fire, origin of
Five eggs, the
Flint stone, myths of
Flood myth, the
Four brothers, the myths of
  "  sacred numbers
  "  roads to the underworld
Freya, Norse goddess
Frog, as symbol of water

Genesiac principle, worship of
Gijigonai, the day makers
Glittering heath, the
Golden locks of the hero-god
Great Bear, constellation of
Guanacaure, mountain of
Guaranis tribe
Guaymis, tribe of Darien
Gucumatz, god of Kiches

Hanmachis, the sun-god
Heart, symbol of
Henotheism in religions
Hermaphrodite deities
Hermes, Greek myth of
Hill of Heaven, the
Hobnel, deity of the Mayas
Huastecs, the
Huarachiri Indians, myth of
Huayna Capac, Inca
Huehuetlan, town of
Huemac, a name of Quetzalcoatl
Hueytecpatl, an Aztec deity
Hue Tlapallan
Hueytonantzin, an Aztec deity
Huitzilopochtli, Aztec deity
  birth of
Huitznahna, Aztec deity
Hunchbacks, attendant on Quetzalcoatl
Hunhunahpu, a Kiche deity
Hunpictok, a Maya deity
Hurons, myth of
Hurukan, god of Kiches

Idea of God, evolution of
Illa, name of Viracocha
Incas, empire of
Ioskeha, the myth of
   "     derivation of
Iroquois, their location
   "      hero myth of
Itzamal, city of
Itzamna, the Maya hero god
   "     his names
Itzas, a Maya tribe
Itztlacoliuhqui, Aztec deity
Ix-chebel-yax, Maya goddess
Ixchel, the rainbow goddess
Ixcuin, an Aztec deity
Izona, error for Itzamna
Iztac Mixcoatl

Jupiter, the planet

Kabironokka, the North
Kabil, a name of Itzamna
Kabun, the West
Kiches, myths of
Kinich ahau, a name of Itzamna
Kinich ahau haban
Kinich kakmo, a name of Itzamna
Kukulcan, myth of
     "    meaning of name

Languages, sacred, of priests
     "     American
Laws, native American
Lif, the Teutonic
Light, its place in mythology
Light-god, the
     "     color of
Light, woman of
Lucifer, worshiped by Mayas

Maize, origin of
Manco Capac
Mani, province of
Marriage ceremonies
Master of life, the
Mat, the virgin goddess
Ma Tlapallan
Mayapan, destruction of
   "     foundation of
Mayas, myths of
  "    language
  "    ancestors of
  "    prophecies of
Meconetzin, a name of Quetzalcoatl
Meztitlan, province of
Michabo, myth of
   "     derivation of
Mirror, the magic
Mirrors, of Aztecs
Mixcoatl, a name of Tezcatlipoca
Mixes, tribe
Monenequi, a name of Tezcatlipoca
Monotheism in Peru
Moon, in Algonkin myths
  "   in Aztec myths
Moquequeloa, a name of Tezcatlipoca
Morals and religion
Morning, house of the
Moxos, myths of
Moyocoyatzin, a name of Tezcatlipoca
Muskrat, in Algonkin mythology
Muyscas, myths of
   "     laws of

Nahuatl, the language
Nanacatltzatzi, an Aztec deity
Nanih Wayeh
Nanihehecatle, name of Quetzalcoatl
Narcissus, the myth of
Nemterequeteba, name of Bochica
Nezahualcoyotzin, Aztec ruler
Nezaualpilli, a name of Tezcatlipoca
Nicaraguans, myths of
Nuns, houses of

Oaxaca, province of
Occhuc, town
Ocelotl, the
Odin, the Norse
Ojibway dialect, the
   "    myth

Ometochtli, an Aztec deity
Orelbale, Athabascan, deity
Osiris, the myth of
Otosis, in myth building
Ottawas, an Algonkin tribe
Owl, as a symbol of the wind
Oxomuco, in Aztec myth

Pacarina, the, in Peru
Pacari tampu
Pachayachachi, epithet of Viracocha
Palenque, the cross of
   "      building of
Pantecatl, Aztec deity
Panuco, province of
Papachtic, a name of Quetzalcoatl
Pariacaca, a Peruvian deity
Parturition, symbol of
Paths of the gods
Pay zume, a hero-god
Peten, lake
Phallic emblems
Pinahua, a Peruvian deity
Pochotl son of Quetzalcoatl
Polyonomy in myth building
Prayers, purpose of
  "      to Quetzalcoatl
  "      to Viraoocha
Proper names in American languages
Prophecies of Mayas
Pulque, myths concerning

QABAUIL, god of Kiches
Qquichua language
Qquonn, Peruvian deity
Quateczizque, priests so-called
  identified with the East
  meaning of the name
  as god
  contest with Tezcatlipoca
  the hero of Tula
  worshiped in Cholula
  born of a virgin
  his bath
  as the planet Venus
  as lord of the winds
  god of thieves

Ra, the Sun-god
Rabbit, the giant
  "     in Algonkin myths
  "     in Aztec myths
Rainbow, as a deity
Rains, gods of
Red Land, the, see Tlapallan
Religions, classifications of
  "        the essence of
  "        and morals
Repose, the place of
Reproduction, myths concerning
Resurrection, belief in
Romulus and Remus

Sand, place of
Sarama and Sarameyas, a Sanscrit myth
Serpent symbol, the
Serpents, the king of
Seven brothers, the
  "   caves or tribes, the
Shawano, the south
Shu, Egyptian deity
Skunk, sacred to Tezcatlipoca
Snailshell symbol
Sogamoso, town
Soma, the intoxicating
Sons of the clouds
Sterility, relief from
Sua, name of Bochica
Sun worship in Peru
    "       in America
Sun, the city of
Suns, the Aztec
Surites, deity of Tarascos

Tahuantin Suyu kapac
Tamu, a hero-god
Taripaca, epithet of Viracocha
Tawiscara, in Iroquois myth
Tecpancaltzin, a Toltec king
Tecpatl, an Aztec deity
Tehotennhiaron, Iroquois deity
Tehunatepec tribes
Teimatini, a name of Tezcatlipoca
Telephassa, mother of Cadmus
Telpochtli, a name of Tezctlipoca
Tentetemic, an Aztec deity
Teometl, the
Teyocoyani, a name of Tezcatlipoca
Tezcatlipoca, Aztec deity
  his names
  derivation of name
  as twins
  contests with Quetzalcoatl
  slays Ometochli
  dressed in the tiger skin
Tharonhiawakon, in Iroquois
Thomas, Saint, in America
Thunder, myth of
Tiahuanaco, myth concerning
Ticci, name of Viracocha
Tiger, as a symbol
Titicaca lake
Titlacauan, a name of Tezcatlipoca
Tizapan, the White Land
Tlaloc, Aztec deity
Tlamatzincatl, a name of Tezcatlipoca
Tlanqua-cemilhuique, a name of the Toltecs
Tlatlallan, the fire land
Tlillan, the dark land
Thllapa, the murky land
Thlpotonqui, a name of Quetzalcoatl
Tocapo, epithet of Viracocha
Toh, a Kiche deity
Tokay, epithet of Viracocha
Tollan, see Tula
Tollan Tlapallan
Toltecs, the
Tonaca cihuatl, an Aztec deity
Tonaca tecutli, Aztec deity
Topiltzin, a name of Quetzalcoatl
Toltec, an Aztec deity
Totems, origin of
Toveyo, the
Tree of life, the
Tree of the Mirror
Tualati, myth of
Tukupay, epithet of Viracocha
Tula, the mythical city of
Tum, Egyptian deity
Tume, a hero-god
Tunapa, name of Viracocha
Tupac Yupanqui, Inca
Tupi-Guaranay tribes
Twins, in mythology
Two brothers, myths of
Tzatzitepec, the hill of shouting
Tzendals, hero-myth of
Tzinteotl, Aztec deity
Ttzitzimime, Aztec deities

Uac metun ahau, a name of Itzamna
Ualum chivim
Ualum uotan
Urcos, temple of
Usapu, epithet of Viracocha
Utatlan, province of

Vase, lord of the
Venus, the planet, in myths
Viracocha, myth of
    "      meaning of
    "      statues of
    "      worship of
Virgin cow, the, in Egypt
Virgin-mother, myth of
Virgins of the sun, in Peru
Votan, hero-god of Tzendals

Wabawang, the morning star
Wabun, or the East
Water, in mythology
  "    gods of
West, in mythology
West wind, the
Wheel of the months
  "   of the winds
White hero-god, the
  "   land
  "   serpent
Winds, gods of
World-stream, the

Xbalanque, hero-god of Kiches
Xicapoyan, the bath of Quetzalcoatl
Xilotzin, son of Quetzalcoatl
Xiu, Maya family of
Xmukane, in Kiche myth
Xochitl, the maiden
Xochitlycacan, the rose garden
Xochiquetzal, an Aztec deity

Yacacoliuhqui, Aztec deity
Yacatecutli, Aztec deity
Yahualli ehecatl, a name of Quetzalcoatl
Yalahau, deity of Tzendals
Yale, deity of the Dènè
Yamquesupa, lake of
Yaotlnecoc, a name of Tezcatlipoca
Yaotzin, a name of Tezcatlipoca
Yaqui, derivation of
Yax-coc-ahmut, a name of Itzamna
Yêl, deity of Dènè
Ymamana Viracocha
Yoalli ehecatl, a name of Tezcatlipoca
Yoamaxtli, a name of Tezcatlipoca
Yoel of the winds
Yolcuat Quetzalcoat
Yunca language
Yupanqui, Inca

Zapala, epithet of Viracocha
Zapotecs, tribe
Zeus, the Greek
Zipacna, a Kiche diety
Zitacuarencuaro, a festival
Zivena vitzcatl
Zoques, tribe
Zuhe, name of Bochica
Zume, a hero-god
Zuyva, Tollan in

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "American Hero-Myths - A Study in the Native Religions of the Western Continent" ***

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