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American Hero-Myths by Daniel G. Brinton

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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 a 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 Itzamna, 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 Itzamna. 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."]

Sec.1. _The Culture Hero, Itzamna._

To this ancient leader, Itzamna, 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 Itzamna 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 Itzamna'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
hallo las letras de la lengua Maya e hizo el computo de los anos, meses y
edades, y lo enseno todo a los Indios de esta Provincia, fue un Indio
llamado Kinchahau, y por otro nombre Tzamna. Noticia que debemos a 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,
Merida, 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 Itzamna 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 Itzamna, 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-metun-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-Espanol 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, Itzamna 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 pie o 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-Espanol del Convento de
Motul_, MS., are as follows:--

"_Chaac_: gigante, hombre de grande estatura.

"_Chaac_: fue un hombre asi grande que enseno la agricultura, al cual
tuvieron despues por Dios de los panes, del agua, de los truenos y
relampagos. Y asi se dice, _hac chaac_, el rayo: _u lemba chaac_ el
relampago; _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
Espanol 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 Goetter der Vier Weltgegenden und
ihre Tempel in Palenque_ in the _Zeitschrift fuer Ethnologie_, 1879.
Compare also Charles Rau, _The Palenque Tablet_, p. 44 (Washington,

[Footnote 3: "Al pie 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, a la cual tenian y adoraban por dios de la
lluvia, porque quando no llovia y habia falta de agua, iban a ella en
procesion y muy devotos; ofrescianle codornices sacrificadas por aplacarle
la ira y enojo con que ellos tenia o 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 Itzamna 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 Itzamna 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
_Itzamna_, 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
_na_, 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, o sustancia cuotidiana del cielo, es el mismo nombre del fundador
(de Itzamal)." _Historia Antigua de Yucatan_, p. 145. (Merida, 1881.) This
does not explain the last syllable, _na_, which is always strongly
accented. It is said that Itzamna 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, na_, the name, could be translated, "the milk of
the mother of the morning," or of the dawn, i. e., the dew; while _i,
zamal, na_ 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
Itzamna (_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, o para poner colmenas, etc." Landa
also gives this orthography, _Relacion_, p. 216.]

Sec.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 numero de
etimologistas que tendremos necesidad de aceptarla, aunque nos parece un
poco violento," _Historia de Yucatan_, Vol. i, p. 44. The Abbe Brasseur,
in his _Vocabulaire Maya_, boldly states that _kukul_ means "emplumado o
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 o hecho," _Diccionario de Motul_, MS. _Ku_ is god, divinity.
For _can_ see chapter iv, Sec.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
o 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 demonios." 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 o poblar
alguna cosa, casa, pueblo, etc. _Diccionario de Motul_, MS.)]

As Itzamna 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
Merida 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 deg. north latitude to 20 deg. 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 o 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 Anonyma, 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 a 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 Anonima_, 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 e 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 a Viracocha por hacedor de todas las cosas, como a 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 senor, 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 supra_,) gives _paccarin_, the morning,
_paccarini_, to dawn; _tampu_, _venta o 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 meme a peu pres un vingtieme des mots
qui ont evidemment la meme origine, surtout ceux qui expriment les idees
religieuses." _L'Homme Americain, considere 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, Sec.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 Cronica 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 dijo 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 Conquete 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
Congres International des Americanistes_, 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, Senor Gavino Pacheco Zegarra, who, in the introduction to his
most excellent edition of the Drama of _Ollantai_, 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 a la llegada de los
Espanoles." 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 Conquete 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 llego a
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 a 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 e 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 Antiquites de Tiaguanaco et
l'Origine presumable 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 Hauptzuege seiner Religion durch das westliche Suedamerica, 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 glaeubigen Sinn
vermaehlt die Mythologien schuf, und gerade durch sie wird es am klarsten,
wie Sprachenschoepfung 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 Comparee_, 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 (Merida, 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 Compania de Jesus
en la Nueva Espana_, 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 Espana_, 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, Sec.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 Sacre des Quiches_, 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 Nunez de la Vega, Bishop of Chiapas, about 1690,

Book of the day: