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Title: The Myths of the New World
       A Treatise on the Symbolism and Mythology of the Red Race of America

Author: Daniel G. Brinton

Release Date: September 22, 2006 [EBook #19347]

Language: English

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                   THE MYTHS
                 THE NEW WORLD

               A TREATISE ON THE
                    OF THE
              RED RACE OF AMERICA


        DANIEL G. BRINTON, A. M., M. D.
  _Memb. Hist. Soc. of Penn.; of Numismat. and
    Antiq. Soc. of Philada.; Corresp. Memb.
        Amer. Ethnolog. Soc.; author of
            "Notes on the Floridian
               Peninsula," Etc._

                   NEW YORK
                LEYPOLDT & HOLT
             LONDON: TRÜBNER & CO.

  Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by

  In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the
  Eastern District of Pennsylvania.


I have written this work more for the thoughtful general reader than the
antiquary. It is a study of an obscure portion of the intellectual
history of our species as exemplified in one of its varieties.

What are man's earliest ideas of a soul and a God, and of his own origin
and destiny? Why do we find certain myths, such as of a creation, a
flood, an after-world; certain symbols, as the bird, the serpent, the
cross; certain numbers, as the three, the four, the seven--intimately
associated with these ideas by every race? What are the laws of growth
of natural religions? How do they acquire such an influence, and is this
influence for good or evil? Such are some of the universally interesting
questions which I attempt to solve by an analysis of the simple faiths
of a savage race.

If in so doing I succeed in investing with a more general interest the
fruitful theme of American ethnology, my objects will have been

  April, 1868.



Natural religions the unaided attempts of man to find out God,
modified by peculiarities of race and nation.--The peculiarities of
the red race: 1. Its languages unfriendly to abstract ideas. Native
modes of writing by means of pictures, symbols, objects, and phonetic
signs. These various methods compared in their influence on the
intellectual faculties. 2. Its isolation, unique in the history of the
world. 3. Beyond all others, a hunting race.--Principal linguistic
subdivisions: 1. The Eskimos. 2. The Athapascas. 3. The Algonkins and
Iroquois. 4. The Apalachian tribes. 5. The Dakotas. 6. The Aztecs. 7.
The Mayas. 8. The Muyscas. 9. The Quichuas. 10. The Caribs and Tupis.
11. The Araucanians.--General course of migrations.--Age of man in
America.--Unity of type in the red race                                 1



An intuition common to the species.--Words expressing it in American
languages derived either from ideas of above in space, or of life
manifested by breath.--Examples.--No conscious monotheism, and but
little idea of immateriality discoverable.--Still less any moral
dualism of deities, the Great Good Spirit and the Great Bad Spirit
being alike terms and notions of foreign importation                   43



The number Four sacred in all American religions, and the key to their
symbolism.--Derived from the CARDINAL POINTS.--Appears constantly in
government, arts, rites, and myths.--The Cardinal Points identified
with the Four Winds, who in myths are the four ancestors of the human
race, and the four celestial rivers watering the terrestrial
Paradise.--Associations grouped around each Cardinal Point.--From the
number four was derived the symbolic value of the number _Forty_ and
the _Sign of the Cross_                                                66



Relations of man to the lower animals.--Two of these, the BIRD and the
SERPENT, chosen as symbols beyond all others.--The Bird throughout
America the symbol of the Clouds and Winds.--Meaning of certain
species.--The symbolic meaning of the Serpent derived from its mode of
locomotion, its poisonous bite, and its power of charming.--Usually
the symbol of the lightning and the Waters.--The Rattlesnake the
symbolic species in America.--The war charm.--The Cross of
Palenque.--The god of riches.--Both symbols devoid of moral
significance                                                           99



Water the oldest element.--Its use in purification.--Holy water.--The
Rite of Baptism.--The Water of Life.--Its symbols.--The Vase.--The
Moon.--The latter the goddess of love and agriculture, but also of
sickness, night, and pain.--Often represented by a dog.--Fire worship
under the form of Sun worship.--The perpetual fire.--The new
fire.--Burning the dead.--A worship of the passions, but no sexual
dualism in myths, nor any phallic worship in America.--Synthesis of
the worship of Fire, Water, and the Winds in the THUNDER-STORM,
personified as Haokah, Tupa, Catequil, Contici, Heno, Tlaloc,
Mixcoatl, and other deities, many of them triune                      122



Analysis of American culture myths.--The Manibozho or Michabo of
the Algonkins shown to be an impersonation of LIGHT, a hero of the
Dawn, and their highest deity.--The myths of Ioskeha of the
Iroquois, Viracocha of the Peruvians, and Quetzalcoatl of the
Toltecs essentially the same as that of Michabo.--Other
examples.--Ante-Columbian prophecies of the advent of a white race
from the east as conquerors.--Rise of later culture myths under
similar forms                                                         159



Cosmogonies usually portray the action of the SPIRIT on the
WATERS.--Those of the Muscogees, Athapascas, Quichés, Mixtecs,
Iroquois, Algonkins, and others.--The Flood-Myth an unconscious
attempt to reconcile a creation in time with the eternity of
matter.--Proof of this from American mythology.--Characteristics of
American Flood-Myths.--The person saved usually the first man.--The
number seven.--Their Ararats.--The rôle of birds.--The confusion of
tongues.--The Aztec, Quiché, Algonkin, Tupi, and earliest Sanscrit
flood-myths.--The belief in Epochs of Nature a further result of this
attempt at reconciliation.--Its forms among Peruvians, Mayas, and
Aztecs.--The expectation of the End of the World a corollary of this
belief.--Views of various nations                                     193



Usually man is the EARTH-BORN, both in language and
myths.--Illustrations from the legends of the Caribs, Apalachians,
Iroquois, Quichuas, Aztecs, and others.--The under-world.--Man the
product of one of the primal creative powers, the Spirit, or the
Water, in the myths of the Athapascas, Eskimos, Moxos, and
others--Never literally derived from an inferior species              222



Universality of the belief in a soul and a future state shown by the
aboriginal tongues, by expressed opinions, and by sepulchral rites.
The future world never a place of rewards and punishments.--The house
of the Son the heaven of the red man.--The terrestrial paradise and
the under-world.--Çupay.--Xibalba.--Mictlan.--Metempsychosis?--Belief
in a resurrection of the dead almost universal                        233



Their titles.--Practitioners of the healing art by supernatural
means.--Their power derived from natural magic and the exercise of the
clairvoyant and mesmeric faculties.--Examples.--Epidemic
hysteria.--Their social position.--Their duties as religious
functionaries.--Terms of admission to the Priesthood.--Inner
organization in various nations.--Their esoteric language and secret
societies                                                             263



Natural religions hitherto considered of Evil rather than of
Good.--Distinctions to be drawn.--Morality not derived from
religion.--The positive side of natural religions in incarnations of
divinity.--Examples.--Prayers as indices of religious
progress.--Religion and social advancement.--Conclusion               287




     Natural religions the unaided attempts of man to find out God,
     modified by peculiarities of race and nation.--The peculiarities of
     the red race: 1. Its languages unfriendly to abstract ideas. Native
     modes of writing by means of pictures, symbols, objects, and
     phonetic signs. These various methods compared in their influence
     on the intellectual faculties. 2. Its isolation, unique in the
     history of the world. 3. Beyond all others, a hunting
     race.--Principal linguistic subdivisions: 1. The Eskimos. 2. The
     Athapascas. 3. The Algonkins and Iroquois. 4. The Apalachian
     tribes. 5. The Dakotas. 6. The Aztecs. 7. The Mayas. 8. The
     Muyscas. 9. The Quichuas. 10. The Caribs and Tupis. 11. The
     Araucanians.--General course of migrations.--Age of man in
     America.--Unity of type in the red race.

When Paul, at the request of the philosophers of Athens, explained to
them his views on divine things, he asserted, among other startling
novelties, that "God has made of one blood all nations of the earth,
that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him and
find him, though he is not far from every one of us."

Here was an orator advocating the unity of the human species, affirming
that the chief end of man is to develop an innate idea of God, and that
all religions, except the one he preached, were examples of more or
less unsuccessful attempts to do so. No wonder the Athenians, who
acknowledged no kinship to barbarians, who looked dubiously at the
doctrine of innate ideas, and were divided in opinion as to whether
their mythology was a shrewd device of legislators to keep the populace
in subjection, a veiled natural philosophy, or the celestial reflex of
their own history, mocked at such a babbler and went their ways. The
generations of philosophers that followed them partook of their doubts
and approved their opinions, quite down to our own times. But now, after
weighing the question maturely, we are compelled to admit that the
Apostle was not so wide of the mark after all--that, in fact, the latest
and best authorities, with no bias in his favor, support his position
and may almost be said to paraphrase his words. For according to a
writer who ranks second to none in the science of ethnology, the
severest and most recent investigations show that "not only do
acknowledged facts permit the assumption of the unity of the human
species, but this opinion is attended with fewer discrepancies, and has
greater inner consistency than the opposite one of specific
diversity."[2-1] And as to the religions of heathendom, the view of
Saint Paul is but expressed with a more poetic turn by a distinguished
living author when he calls them "not fables, but truths, though clothed
in a garb woven by fancy, wherein the web is the notion of God, the
ideal of reason in the soul of man, the thought of the Infinite."[2-2]

Inspiration and science unite therefore to bid us dismiss the effete
prejudice that natural religions either arise as the ancient
philosophies taught, or that they are, as the Dark Ages imagined, subtle
nets of the devil spread to catch human souls. They are rather the
unaided attempts of man to find out God; they are the efforts of the
reason struggling to define the infinite; they are the expressions of
that "yearning after the gods" which the earliest of poets discerned in
the hearts of all men. Studied in this sense they are rich in teachings.
Would we estimate the intellectual and æsthetic culture of a people,
would we generalize the laws of progress, would we appreciate the
sublimity of Christianity, and read the seals of its authenticity: the
natural conceptions of divinity reveal them. No mythologies are so
crude, therefore, none so barbarous, but deserve the attention of the
philosophic mind, for they are never the empty fictions of an idle
fancy, but rather the utterances, however inarticulate, of an immortal
and ubiquitous intuition.

These considerations embolden me to approach with some confidence even
the aboriginal religions of America, so often stigmatized as incoherent
fetichisms, so barren, it has been said, in grand or beautiful
creations. The task bristles with difficulties. Carelessness,
prepossessions, and ignorance have disfigured them with false colors and
foreign additions without number. The first maxim, therefore, must be to
sift and scrutinize authorities, and to reject whatever betrays the
plastic hand of the European. For the religions developed by the red
race, not those mixed creeds learned from foreign invaders, are to be
the subjects of our study. Then will remain the formidable undertaking
of reducing the authentic materials thus obtained to system and order,
and this not by any preconceived theory of what they ought to conform
to, but learning from them the very laws of religious growth they
illustrate. The historian traces the birth of arts, science, and
government to man's dependence on nature and his fellows for the means
of self-preservation. Not that man receives these endowments from
without, but that the stern step-mother, Nature, forces him by threats
and stripes to develop his own inherent faculties. So with religion: The
idea of God does not, and cannot, proceed from the external world, but,
nevertheless, it finds its _historical_ origin also in the desperate
struggle for life, in the satisfaction of the animal wants and passions,
in those vulgar aims and motives which possessed the mind of the
primitive man to the exclusion of everything else.

There is an ever present embarrassment in such inquiries. In dealing
with these matters beyond the cognizance of the senses, the mind is
forced to express its meaning in terms transferred from sensuous
perceptions, or under symbols borrowed from the material world. These
transfers must be understood, these symbols explained, before the real
meaning of a myth can be reached. He who fails to guess the riddle of
the sphynx, need not hope to gain admittance to the shrine. With
delicate ear the faint whispers of thought must be apprehended which
prompt the intellect when it names the immaterial from the material;
when it chooses from the infinity of visible forms those meet to shadow
forth Divinity.

Two lights will guide us on this venturesome path. Mindful of the
watchword of inductive science, to proceed from the known to the
unknown, the inquiry will be put whether the aboriginal languages of
America employ the same tropes to express such ideas as deity, spirit,
and soul, as our own and kindred tongues. If the answer prove
affirmative, then not only have we gained a firm foothold whence to
survey the whole edifice of their mythology; but from an unexpected
quarter arises evidence of the unity of our species far weightier than
any mere anatomy can furnish, evidence from the living soul, not from
the dead body. True that the science of American linguistics is still in
its infancy, and that a proper handling of the materials it even now
offers involves a more critical acquaintance with its innumerable
dialects than I possess; but though the gleaning be sparse, it is enough
that I break the ground. Secondly, religious rites are living
commentaries on religious beliefs. At first they are rude
representations of the supposed doings of the gods. The Indian
rain-maker mounts to the roof of his hut, and rattling vigorously a dry
gourd containing pebbles, to represent the thunder, scatters water
through a reed on the ground beneath, as he imagines up above in the
clouds do the spirits of the storm. Every spring in ancient Delphi was
repeated in scenic ceremony the combat of Apollo and the Dragon, the
victory of the lord of bright summer over the demon of chilling winter.
Thus do forms and ceremonies reveal the meaning of mythology, and the
origin of its fables.

Let it not be objected that this proposed method of analysis assumes
that religions begin and develop under the operation of inflexible laws.
The soul is shackled by no fatalism. Formative influences there are,
deep seated, far reaching, escaped by few, but like those which of yore
astrologers imputed to the stars, they potently incline, they do not
coerce. Language, pursuits, habits, geographical position, and those
subtle mental traits which make up the characteristics of races and
nations, all tend to deflect from a given standard the religious life of
the individual and the mass. It is essential to give these due weight,
and a necessary preface therefore to an analysis of the myths of the red
race is an enumeration of its peculiarities, and of its chief families
as they were located when first known to the historian.

Of all such modifying circumstances none has greater importance than the
means of expressing and transmitting intellectual action. The spoken and
the written language of a nation reveal to us its prevailing, and to a
certain degree its unavoidable mode of thought. Here the red race offers
a striking phenomenon. There is no other trait that binds together its
scattered clans, and brands them as members of one great family, so
unmistakably as this of language. From the Frozen Ocean to the Land of
Fire, without a single exception, the native dialects, though varying
infinitely in words, are marked by a peculiarity in construction which
is found nowhere else on the globe,[6-1] and which is so foreign to the
genius of _our_ tongue that it is no easy matter to explain it. It is
called by philologists the _polysynthetic_ construction. What it is will
best appear by comparison. Every grammatical sentence conveys one
leading idea with its modifications and relations. Now a Chinese would
express these latter by unconnected syllables, the precise bearing of
which could only be guessed by their position; a Greek or a German would
use independent words, indicating their relations by terminations
meaningless in themselves; an Englishman gains the same end chiefly by
the use of particles and by position. Very different from all these is
the spirit of a polysynthetic language. It seeks to unite in the most
intimate manner all relations and modifications with the leading idea,
to merge one in the other by altering the forms of the words themselves
and welding them together, to express the whole in one word, and to
banish any conception except as it arises in relation to others. Thus in
many American tongues there is, in fact, no word for father, mother,
brother, but only for my, your, his father, etc. This has advantages and
defects. It offers marvellous facilities for defining the perceptions of
the senses with the utmost accuracy, but regarding everything in the
concrete, it is unfriendly to the nobler labors of the mind, to
abstraction and generalization. In the numberless changes of these
languages, their bewildering flexibility, their variable forms, and
their rapid deterioration, they seem to betray a lack of individuality,
and to resemble the vague and tumultuous history of the tribes who
employ them. They exhibit an almost incredible laxity. It is nothing
uncommon for the two sexes to use different names for the same object,
and for nobles and vulgar, priests and people, the old and the young,
nay, even the married and single, to observe what seem to the European
ear quite different modes of expression. Families and whole villages
suddenly drop words and manufacture others in their places out of mere
caprice or superstition, and a few years' separation suffices to produce
a marked dialectic difference. In their copious forms and facility of
reproduction they remind one of those anomalous animals, in whom, when a
limb is lopped, it rapidly grows again, or even if cut in pieces each
part will enter on a separate life quite unconcerned about his fellows.
But as the naturalist is far from regarding this superabundant vitality
as a characteristic of a higher type, so the philologist justly assigns
these tongues a low position in the linguistic scale. Fidelity to form,
here as everywhere, is the test of excellence. At the outset, we divine
there can be nothing very subtle in the mythologies of nations with such
languages. Much there must be that will be obscure, much that is vague,
an exhausting variety in repetition, and a strong tendency to lose the
idea in the symbol.

What definiteness of outline might be preserved must depend on the care
with which the old stories of the gods were passed from one person and
one generation to another. The fundamental myths of a race have a
surprising tenacity of life. How many centuries had elapsed between the
period the Germanic hordes left their ancient homes in Central Asia, and
when Tacitus listened to their wild songs on the banks of the Rhine? Yet
we know that through those unnumbered ages of barbarism and aimless
roving, these songs, "their only sort of history or annals," says the
historian, had preserved intact the story of Mannus, the Sanscrit Manu,
and his three sons, and of the great god Tuisco, the Indian Dyu.[9-1] So
much the more do all means invented by the red race to record and
transmit thought merit our careful attention. Few and feeble they seem
to us, mainly shifts to aid the memory. Of some such, perhaps, not a
single tribe was destitute. The tattoo marks on the warrior's breast,
his string of gristly scalps, the bear's claws around his neck, were not
only trophies of his prowess, but records of his exploits, and to the
contemplative mind contain the rudiments of the beneficent art of
letters. Did he draw in rude outline on his skin tent figures of men
transfixed with arrows as many as he had slain enemies, his education
was rapidly advancing. He had mastered the elements of _picture
writing_, beyond which hardly the wisest of his race progressed. Figures
of the natural objects connected by symbols having fixed meanings make
up the whole of this art. The relative frequency of the latter marks its
advancement from a merely figurative to an ideographic notation. On what
principle of mental association a given sign was adopted to express a
certain idea, why, for instance, on the Chipeway scrolls a circle means
_spirits_, and a horned snake _life_, it is often hard to guess. The
difficulty grows when we find that to the initiated the same sign calls
up quite different ideas, as the subject of the writer varies from war
to love, or from the chase to religion. The connection is generally
beyond the power of divination, and the key to ideographic writing once
lost can never be recovered.

The number of such arbitrary characters in the Chipeway notation is said
to be over two hundred, but if the distinction between a figure and a
symbol were rigidly applied, it would be much reduced. This kind of
writing, if it deserves the name, was common throughout the continent,
and many specimens of it, scratched on the plane surfaces of stones,
have been preserved to the present day. Such is the once celebrated
inscription on Dighton Rock, Massachusetts, long supposed to be a record
of the Northmen of Vinland; such those that mark the faces of the cliffs
which overhang the waters of the Orinoco, and those that in Oregon,
Peru, and La Plata have been the subject of much curious speculation.
They are alike the mute and meaningless epitaphs of vanished

I would it could be said that in favorable contrast to our ignorance of
these inscriptions is our comprehension of the highly wrought
pictography of the Aztecs. No nation ever reduced it more to a system.
It was in constant use in the daily transactions of life. They
manufactured for writing purposes a thick, coarse paper from the leaves
of the agave plant by a process of maceration and pressure. An Aztec
book closely resembles one of our quarto volumes. It is made of a
single sheet, twelve to fifteen inches wide, and often sixty or seventy
feet long, and is not rolled, but folded either in squares or zigzags in
such a manner that on opening it there are two pages exposed to view.
Thin wooden boards are fastened to each of the outer leaves, so that the
whole presents as neat an appearance, remarks Peter Martyr, as if it had
come from the shop of a skilful bookbinder. They also covered buildings,
tapestries, and scrolls of parchment with these devices, and for
trifling transactions were familiar with the use of _slates_ of soft
stone from which the figures could readily be erased with water.[11-1]
What is still more astonishing, there is reason to believe, in some
instances, their figures were not painted, but actually _printed_ with
movable blocks of wood on which the symbols were carved in relief,
though this was probably confined to those intended for ornament only.

In these records we discern something higher than a mere symbolic
notation. They contain the germ of a phonetic alphabet, and represent
sounds of spoken language. The symbol is often not connected with the
_idea_ but with the _word_. The mode in which this is done corresponds
precisely to that of the rebus. It is a simple method, readily
suggesting itself. In the middle ages it was much in vogue in Europe for
the same purpose for which it was chiefly employed in Mexico at the same
time--the writing of proper names. For example, the English family
Bolton was known in heraldry by a _tun_ transfixed by a _bolt_.
Precisely so the Mexican emperor Ixcoatl is mentioned in the Aztec
manuscripts under the figure of a serpent _coatl_, pierced by obsidian
knives _ixtli_, and Moquauhzoma by a mouse-trap _montli_, an eagle
_quauhtli_, a lancet _zo_, and a hand _maitl_. As a syllable could be
expressed by any object whose name commenced with it, as few words can
be given the form of a rebus without some change, as the figures
sometimes represent their full phonetic value, sometimes only that of
their initial sound, and as universally the attention of the artist was
directed less to the sound than to the idea, the didactic painting of
the Mexicans, whatever it might have been to them, is a sealed book to
us, and must remain so in great part. Moreover, it is entirely
undetermined whether it should be read from the first to the last page,
or _vice versa_, whether from right to left or from left to right, from
bottom to top or from top to bottom, around the edges of the page toward
the centre, or each line in the opposite direction from the preceding
one. There are good authorities for all these methods,[12-1] and they
may all be correct, for there is no evidence that any fixed rule had
been laid down in this respect.

Immense masses of such documents were stored in the imperial archives of
ancient Mexico. Torquemada asserts that five cities alone yielded to the
Spanish governor on one requisition no less than sixteen thousand
volumes or scrolls! Every leaf was destroyed. Indeed, so thorough and
wholesale was the destruction of these memorials now so precious in our
eyes that hardly enough remain to whet the wits of antiquaries. In the
libraries of Paris, Dresden, Pesth, and the Vatican are, however, a
sufficient number to make us despair of deciphering them had we for
comparison all which the Spaniards destroyed.

Beyond all others the Mayas, resident on the peninsula of Yucatan, would
seem to have approached nearest a true phonetic system. They had a
regular and well understood alphabet of twenty seven elementary sounds,
the letters of which are totally different from those of any other
nation, and evidently original with themselves. But besides these they
used a large number of purely conventional symbols, and moreover were
accustomed constantly to employ the ancient pictographic method in
addition as a sort of commentary on the sound represented. What is more
curious, if the obscure explanation of an ancient writer can be depended
upon, they not only aimed to employ an alphabet after the manner of
ours, but to express the sound absolutely like our phonographic signs
do.[13-1] With the aid of this alphabet, which has fortunately been
preserved, we are enabled to spell out a few words on the Yucatecan
manuscripts and façades, but thus far with no positive results. The loss
of the ancient pronunciation is especially in the way of such studies.

In South America, also, there is said to have been a nation who
cultivated the art of picture writing, the Panos, on the river Ucayale.
A missionary, Narcisso Gilbar by name, once penetrated, with great toil,
to one of their villages. As he approached he beheld a venerable man
seated under the shade of a palm tree, with a great book open before him
from which he was reading to an attentive circle of auditors the wars
and wanderings of their forefathers. With difficulty the priest got a
sight of the precious volume, and found it covered with figures and
signs in marvellous symmetry and order.[14-1] No wonder such a romantic
scene left a deep impression on his memory.

The Peruvians adopted a totally different and unique system of records,
that by means of the _quipu_. This was a base cord, the thickness of the
finger, of any required length, to which were attached numerous small
strings of different colors, lengths, and textures, variously knotted
and twisted one with another. Each of these peculiarities represented a
certain number, a quality, quantity, or other idea, but _what_, not the
most fluent _quipu_ reader could tell unless he was acquainted with the
general topic treated of. Therefore, whenever news was sent in this
manner a person accompanied the bearer to serve as verbal commentator,
and to prevent confusion the _quipus_ relating to the various
departments of knowledge were placed in separate storehouses, one for
war, another for taxes, a third for history, and so forth. On what
principle or mnemotechnics the ideas were connected with the knots and
colors we are totally in the dark; it has even been doubted whether they
had any application beyond the art of numeration.[14-2] Each combination
had, however, a fixed ideographic value in a certain branch of
knowledge, and thus the _quipu_ differed essentially from the Catholic
rosary, the Jewish phylactery, or the knotted strings of the natives of
North America and Siberia, to all of which it has at times been

The _wampum_ used by the tribes of the north Atlantic coast was, in many
respects, analogous to the quipu. In early times it was composed chiefly
of bits of wood of equal size, but different colors. These were hung on
strings which were woven into belts and bands, the hues, shapes, sizes,
and combinations of the strings hinting their general significance. Thus
the lighter shades were invariable harbingers of peaceful or pleasant
tidings, while the darker portended war and danger. The substitution of
beads or shells in place of wood, and the custom of embroidering figures
in the belts were, probably, introduced by European influence.

Besides these, various simpler mnemonic aids were employed, such as
parcels of reeds of different lengths, notched sticks, knots in cords,
strings of pebbles or fruit-stones, circular pieces of wood or slabs
pierced with different figures which the English liken to "cony holes,"
and at a victory, a treaty, or the founding of a village, sometimes a
pillar or heap of stones was erected equalling in number the persons
present at the occasion, or the number of the fallen.

This exhausts the list. All other methods of writing, the hieroglyphs of
the Micmacs of Acadia, the syllabic alphabet of the Cherokees, the
pretended traces of Greek, Hebrew, and Celtiberic letters which have
from time to time been brought to the notice of the public, have been
without exception the products of foreign civilization or simply frauds.
Not a single coin, inscription, or memorial of any kind whatever, has
been found on the American continent showing the existence, either
generally or locally, of any other means of writing than those

Poor as these substitutes for a developed phonetic system seem to us,
they were of great value to the uncultivated man. In his legends their
introduction is usually ascribed to some heaven-sent benefactor, the
antique characters were jealously adhered to, and the pictured scroll of
bark, the quipu ball, the belt of wampum, were treasured with provident
care, and their import minutely expounded to the most intelligent of the
rising generation. In all communities beyond the stage of barbarism a
class of persons was set apart for this duty and no other. Thus, for
example, in ancient Peru, one college of priests styled _amauta_,
learned, had exclusive charge over the quipus containing the
mythological and historical traditions; a second, the _haravecs_,
singers, devoted themselves to those referring to the national ballads
and dramas; while a third occupied their time solely with those
pertaining to civil affairs. Such custodians preserved and prepared the
archives, learned by heart with their aid what their fathers knew, and
in some countries, as, for instance, among the Panos mentioned above,
and the Quiches of Guatemala,[16-1] repeated portions of them at times
to the assembled populace. It has even been averred by one of their
converted chiefs, long a missionary to his fellows, that the Chipeways
of Lake Superior have a college composed of ten "of the wisest and most
venerable of their nation," who have in charge the pictured records
containing the ancient history of their tribe. These are kept in an
underground chamber, and are disinterred every fifteen years by the
assembled guardians, that they may be repaired, and their contents
explained to new members of the society.[17-1]

In spite of these precautions, the end seems to have been very
imperfectly attained. The most distinguished characters, the weightiest
events in national history faded into oblivion after a few generations.
The time and circumstances of the formation of the league of the Five
Nations, the dispersion of the mound builders of the Ohio valley in the
fifteenth century, the chronicles of Peru or Mexico beyond a century or
two anterior to the conquest, are preserved in such a vague and
contradictory manner that they have slight value as history. Their
mythology fared somewhat better, for not only was it kept fresh in the
memory by frequent repetition; but being itself founded in nature, it
was constantly nourished by the truths which gave it birth.
Nevertheless, we may profit by the warning to remember that their myths
are myths only, and not the reflections of history or heroes.

Rising from these details to a general comparison of the symbolic and
phonetic systems in their reactions on the mind, the most obvious are
their contrasted effects on the faculty of memory. Letters represent
elementary sounds, which are few in any language, while symbols stand
for ideas, and they are numerically infinite. The transmission of
knowledge by means of the latter is consequently attended with most
disproportionate labor. It is almost as if we could quote nothing from
an author unless we could recollect his exact words. We have a right to
look for excellent memories where such a mode is in vogue, and in the
present instance we are not disappointed. "These savages," exclaims La
Hontan, "have the happiest memories in the world!" It was etiquette at
their councils for each speaker to repeat verbatim all his predecessors
had said, and the whites were often astonished and confused at the
verbal fidelity with which the natives recalled the transactions of long
past treaties. Their songs were inexhaustible. An instance is on record
where an Indian sang two hundred on various subjects.[18-1] Such a fact
reminds us of a beautiful expression of the elder Humboldt: "Man," he
says, "regarded as an animal, belongs to one of the singing species; but
his notes are always associated with ideas." The youth who were educated
at the public schools of ancient Mexico--for that realm, so far from
neglecting the cause of popular education, established houses for
gratuitous instruction, and to a certain extent made the attendance upon
them obligatory--learned by rote long orations, poems, and prayers with
a facility astonishing to the conquerors, and surpassing anything they
were accustomed to see in the universities of Old Spain. A phonetic
system actually weakens the retentive powers of the mind by offering a
more facile plan for preserving thought. "_Ce que je mets sur papier, je
remets de ma mémoire_" is an expression of old Montaigne which he could
never have used had he employed ideographic characters.

Memory, however, is of far less importance than a free activity of
thought, untrammelled by forms or precedents, and ever alert to novel
combinations of ideas. Give a race this and it will guide it to
civilization as surely as the needle directs the ship to its haven. It
is here that ideographic writing reveals its fatal inferiority. It is
forever specifying, materializing, dealing in minutiæ. In the Egyptian
symbolic alphabet there is a figure for a virgin, another for a married
woman, for a widow without offspring, for a widow with one child, two
children, and I know not in how many other circumstances, but for
_woman_ there is no sign. It must be so in the nature of things, for the
symbol represents the object as it appears or is fancied to appear, and
not as it is _thought_. Furthermore, the constant learning by heart
infallibly leads to slavish repetition and mental servility.

A symbol when understood is independent of language, and is as
universally current as an Arabic numeral. But this divorce of spoken and
written language is of questionable advantage. It at once destroys all
permanent improvement in a tongue through elegance of style, sonorous
periods, or delicacy of expression, and the life of the language itself
is weakened when its forms are left to fluctuate uncontrolled. Written
poetry, grammar, rhetoric, all are impossible to the student who draws
his knowledge from such a source.

Finally, it has been justly observed by the younger Humboldt that the
painful fidelity to the antique figures transmitted from barbarous to
polished generations is injurious to the æsthetic sense, and dulls the
mind to the beautiful in art and nature.

The transmission of thought by figures and symbols would, on the whole,
therefore, foster those narrow and material tendencies which the genius
of polysynthetic languages would seem calculated to produce. Its one
redeeming trait of strengthening the memory will serve to explain the
strange tenacity with which certain myths have been preserved through
widely dispersed families, as we shall hereafter see.

Besides this of language there are two traits in the history of the red
man without parallel in that of any other variety of our species which
has achieved any notable progress in civilization.

The one is his _isolation_. Cut off time out of mind from the rest of
the world, he never underwent those crossings of blood and culture which
so modified and on the whole promoted the growth of the old world
nationalities. In his own way he worked out his own destiny, and what he
won was his with a more than ordinary right of ownership. For all those
old dreams of the advent of the Ten Lost Tribes, of Buddhist priests, of
Welsh princes, or of Phenician merchants on American soil, and there
exerting a permanent influence, have been consigned to the dustbin by
every unbiased student, and when we see such men as Mr. Schoolcraft and
the Abbé E. C. Brasseur essaying to resuscitate them, we regretfully
look upon it in the light of a literary anachronism.

The second trait is the entire absence of the herdsman's life with its
softening associations. Throughout the continent there is not a single
authentic instance of a pastoral tribe, not one of an animal raised for
its milk,[21-1] nor for the transportation of persons, and very few for
their flesh. It was essentially a hunting race. The most civilized
nations looked to the chase for their chief supply of meat, and the
courts of Cuzco and Mexico enacted stringent game and forest laws, and
at certain periods the whole population turned out for a general crusade
against the denizens of the forest. In the most densely settled
districts the conquerors found vast stretches of primitive woods.

If we consider the life of a hunter, pitting his skill and strength
against the marvellous instincts and quick perceptions of the brute,
training his senses to preternatural acuteness, but blunting his more
tender feelings, his sole aim to shed blood and take life, dependent on
luck for his food, exposed to deprivations, storms, and long
wanderings, his chief diet flesh, we may more readily comprehend that
conspicuous disregard of human suffering, those sanguinary rites, that
vindictive spirit, that inappeasable restlessness, which we so often
find in the chronicles of ancient America. The law with reason objects
to accepting a butcher as a juror on a trial for life; here is a whole
race of butchers.

The one mollifying element was agriculture. On the altar of Mixcoatl,
god of hunting, the Aztec priest tore the heart from the human victim
and smeared with the spouting blood the snake that coiled its lengths
around the idol; flowers and fruits, yellow ears of maize and clusters
of rich bananas decked the shrine of Centeotl, beneficent patroness of
agriculture, and bloodless offerings alone were her appropriate dues.
This shows how clear, even to the native mind, was the contrast between
these two modes of subsistence. By substituting a sedentary for a
wandering life, by supplying a fixed dependence for an uncertain
contingency, and by admonishing man that in preservation, not in
destruction, lies his most remunerative sphere of activity, we can
hardly estimate too highly the wide distribution of the zea mays. This
was their only cereal, and it was found in cultivation from the southern
extremity of Chili to the fiftieth parallel of north latitude, beyond
which limits the low temperature renders it an uncertain crop. In their
legends it is represented as the gift of the Great Spirit (Chipeways),
brought from the terrestrial Paradise by the sacred animals (Quiches),
and symbolically the mother of the race (Nahuas), and the material from
which was moulded the first of men (Quiches).

As the races, so the great families of man who speak dialects of the
same tongue are, in a sense, individuals, bearing each its own
physiognomy. When the whites first heard the uncouth gutturals of the
Indians, they frequently proclaimed that hundreds of radically diverse
languages, invented, it was piously suggested, by the Devil for the
annoyance of missionaries, prevailed over the continent. Earnest
students of such matters--Vater, Duponceau, Gallatin, and
Buschmann--have, however, demonstrated that nine-tenths of the area of
America, at its discovery, were occupied by tribes using dialects
traceable to ten or a dozen primitive stems. The names of these, their
geographical position in the sixteenth century, and, so far as it is
safe to do so, their individual character, I shall briefly mention.

Fringing the shores of the Northern Ocean from Mount St. Elias on the
west to the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the east, rarely seen a hundred
miles from the coast, were the Eskimos.[23-1] They are the connecting
link between the races of the Old and New Worlds, in physical appearance
and mental traits more allied to the former, but in language betraying
their near kinship to the latter. An amphibious race, born fishermen, in
their buoyant skin kayaks they brave fearlessly the tempests, make long
voyages, and merit the sobriquet bestowed upon them by Von Baer, "the
Phenicians of the north." Contrary to what one might suppose, they are,
amid their snows, a contented, light-hearted people, knowing no longing
for a sunnier clime, given to song, music, and merry tales. They are
cunning handicraftsmen to a degree, but withal wholly ingulfed in a
sensuous existence. The desperate struggle for life engrosses them, and
their mythology is barren.

South of them, extending in a broad band across the continent from
Hudson's Bay to the Pacific, and almost to the Great Lakes below, is the
Athapascan stock. Its affiliated tribes rove far north to the mouth of
the Mackenzie River, and wandering still more widely in an opposite
direction along both declivities of the Rocky Mountains, people portions
of the coast of Oregon south of the mouth of the Columbia, and spreading
over the plains of New Mexico under the names of Apaches, Navajos, and
Lipans, almost reach the tropics at the delta of the Rio Grande del
Norte, and on the shores of the Gulf of California. No wonder they
deserted their fatherland and forgot it altogether, for it is a very
_terra damnata_, whose wretched inhabitants are cut off alike from the
harvest of the sea and the harvest of the soil. The profitable culture of
maize does not extend beyond the fiftieth parallel of latitude, and less
than seven degrees farther north the mean annual temperature everywhere
east of the mountains sinks below the freezing point.[25-1] Agriculture
is impossible, and the only chance for life lies in the uncertain
fortunes of the chase and the penurious gifts of an arctic flora. The
denizens of these wilds are abject, slovenly, hopelessly savage, "at the
bottom of the scale of humanity in North America," says Dr. Richardson,
and their relatives who have wandered to the more genial climes of the
south are as savage as they, as perversely hostile to a sedentary life,
as gross and narrow in their moral notions. This wide-spread stock,
scattered over forty-five degrees of latitude, covering thousands of
square leagues, reaching from the Arctic Ocean to the confines of the
empire of the Montezumas, presents in all its subdivisions the same
mental physiognomy and linguistic peculiarities.[25-2]

Best known to us of all the Indians are the Algonkins and Iroquois, who,
at the time of the discovery, were the sole possessors of the region now
embraced by Canada and the eastern United States north of the
thirty-fifth parallel. The latter, under the names of the Five Nations,
Hurons, Tuscaroras, Susquehannocks, Nottoways and others, occupied much
of the soil from the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario to the Roanoke, and
perhaps the Cherokees, whose homes were in the secluded vales of East
Tennessee, were one of their early offshoots.[25-3] They were a race of
warriors, courageous, cruel, unimaginative, but of rare political
sagacity. They are more like ancient Romans than Indians, and are leading
figures in the colonial wars.

The Algonkins surrounded them on every side, occupying the rest of the
region mentioned and running westward to the base of the Rocky
Mountains, where one of their famous bands, the Blackfeet, still hunts
over the valley of the Saskatchewan. They were more genial than the
Iroquois, of milder manners and more vivid fancy, and were regarded by
these with a curious mixture of respect and contempt. Some writer has
connected this difference with their preference for the open prairie
country in contrast to the endless and sombre forests where were the
homes of the Iroquois. Their history abounds in great men, whose
ambitious plans were foiled by the levity of their allies and their want
of persistence. They it was who under King Philip fought the Puritan
fathers; who at the instigation of Pontiac doomed to death every white
trespasser on their soil; who led by Tecumseh and Black Hawk gathered
the clans of the forest and mountain for the last pitched battle of the
races in the Mississippi valley. To them belonged the mild mannered
Lenni Lenape, who little foreboded the hand of iron that grasped their
own so softly under the elm tree of Shackamaxon, to them the restless
Shawnee, the gypsy of the wilderness, the Chipeways of Lake Superior,
and also to them the Indian girl Pocahontas, who in the legend averted
from the head of the white man the blow which, rebounding, swept away
her father and all his tribe.[27-1]

Between their southernmost outposts and the Gulf of Mexico were a number
of clans, mostly speaking the Muscogee tongue, Creeks, Choctaws,
Chikasaws, and others, in later times summed up as Apalachian Indians,
but by early writers sometimes referred to as "The Empire of the
Natchez." For tradition says that long ago this small tribe, whose home
was in the Big Black country, was at the head of a loose confederation
embracing most of the nations from the Atlantic coast quite into Texas;
and adds that the expedition of De Soto severed its lax bonds and shook
it irremediably into fragments. Whether this is worth our credence or
not, the comparative civilization of the Natchez, and the analogy their
language bears to that of the Mayas of Yucatan, the builders of those
ruined cities which Stephens and Catherwood have made so familiar to the
world, attach to them a peculiar interest.[27-2]

North of the Arkansas River on the right bank of the Mississippi, quite
to its source, stretching over to Lake Michigan at Green Bay, and up the
valley of the Missouri west to the mountains, resided the Dakotas, an
erratic folk, averse to agriculture, but daring hunters and bold
warriors, tall and strong of body.[28-1] Their religious notions have
been carefully studied, and as they are remarkably primitive and
transparent, they will often be referred to. The Sioux and the
Winnebagoes are well-known branches of this family.

We have seen that Dr. Richardson assigned to a portion of the Athapascas
the lowest place among North American tribes, but there are some in New
Mexico who might contest the sad distinction, the Root Diggers,
Comanches and others, members of the Snake or Shoshonee family,
scattered extensively northwest of Mexico. It has been said of a part of
these that they are "nearer the brutes than probably any other portion
of the human race on the face of the globe."[28-2] Their habits in some
respects are more brutish than those of any brute, for there is no
limit to man's moral descent or ascent, and the observer might well be
excused for doubting whether such a stock ever had a history in the
past, or the possibility of one in the future. Yet these debased
creatures speak a related dialect, and are beyond a doubt largely of the
same blood as the famous Aztec race, who founded the empire of Anahuac,
and raised architectural monuments rivalling the most famous structures
of the ancient world. This great family, whose language has been traced
from Nicaragua to Vancouver's Island, and whose bold intellects colored
all the civilization of the northern continent, was composed in that
division of it found in New Spain chiefly of two bands, the Toltecs,
whose traditions point to the mountain ranges of Guatemala as their
ancient seat, and the Nahuas, who claim to have come at a later period
from the northwest coast, and together settled in and near the valley of
Mexico.[29-1] Outlying colonies on the shore of Lake Nicaragua and in
the mountains of Vera Paz rose to a civilization that rivalled that of
the Montezumas, while others remained in utter barbarism in the far

The Aztecs not only conquered a Maya colony, and founded the empire of
the Quiches in Central America, a complete body of whose mythology has
been brought to light in late years, but seem to have made a marked
imprint on the Mayas themselves. These possessed, as has already been
said, the peninsula of Yucatan. There is some reason to suppose they
came thither originally from the Greater Antilles, and none to doubt but
that the Huastecas who lived on the river Panuco and the Natchez of
Louisiana were offshoots from them. Their language is radically distinct
from that of the Aztecs, but their calendar and a portion of their
mythology are common property. They seem an ancient race of mild manners
and considerable polish. No American nation offers a more promising
field for study. Their stone temples still bear testimony to their
uncommon skill in the arts. A trustworthy tradition dates the close of
the golden age of Yucatan a century anterior to its discovery by
Europeans. Previously it had been one kingdom, under one ruler, and
prolonged peace had fostered the growth of the fine arts; but when
their capital Mayapan fell, internal dissensions ruined most of their

No connection whatever has been shown between the civilization of North
and South America. In the latter continent it was confined to two
totally foreign tribes, the Muyscas, whose empire, called that of the
Zacs, was in the neighborhood of Bogota, and the Peruvians, who in their
two related divisions of Quichuas and Aymaras extended their language
and race along the highlands of the Cordilleras from the equator to the
thirtieth degree of south latitude. Lake Titicaca seems to have been the
cradle of their civilization, offering another example how inland seas
and well-watered plains favor the change from a hunting to an
agricultural life. These four nations, the Aztecs, the Mayas, the
Muyscas and the Peruvians, developed spontaneously and independently
under the laws of human progress what civilization was found among the
red race. They owed nothing to Asiatic or European teachers. The Incas
it was long supposed spoke a language of their own, and this has been
thought evidence of foreign extraction; but Wilhelm von Humboldt has
shown conclusively that it was but a dialect of the common tongue of
their country.[31-1]

When Columbus first touched the island of Cuba, he was regaled with
horrible stories of one-eyed monsters who dwelt on the other islands,
but plundered indiscriminately on every hand. These turned out to be the
notorious Caribs, whose other name, _Cannibals_, has descended as a
common noun to our language, expressive of one of their inhuman
practices. They had at that time seized many of the Antilles, and had
gained a foothold on the coast of Honduras and Darien, but pointed for
their home to the mainland of South America. This they possessed along
the whole northern shore, inland at least as far as the south bank of
the Amazon, and west nearly to the Cordilleras. It is still an open
question whether the Tupis and Guaranis who inhabit the vast region
between the Amazon and the Pampas of Buenos Ayres are affined to them.
The traveller D'Orbigny zealously maintains the affirmative, and there
is certainly some analogy of language, but withal an inexplicable
contrast of character. The latter were, and are, in the main, a
peaceable, inoffensive, apathetic set, dull and unambitious, while the
Caribs won a terrible renown as bold warriors, daring navigators,
skilful in handicrafts; and their poisoned arrows, cruel and disgusting
habits, and enterprise, rendered them a terror and a by-word for

Our information of the natives of the Pampas, Patagonia, and the Land of
Fire, is too vague to permit their positive identification with the
Araucanians of Chili; but there is much to render the view plausible.
Certain physical peculiarities, a common unconquerable love of freedom,
and a delight in war, bring them together, and at the same time place
them both in strong contrast to their northern neighbors.[33-1]

There are many tribes whose affinities remain to be decided, especially
on the Pacific coast. The lack of inland water communication, the
difficult nature of the soil, and perhaps the greater antiquity of the
population there, seem to have isolated and split up beyond recognition
the indigenous families on that shore of the continent; while the great
river systems and broad plains of the Atlantic slope facilitated
migration and intercommunication, and thus preserved national
distinctions over thousands of square leagues.

These natural features of the continent, compared with the actual
distribution of languages, offer our only guides in forming an opinion
as to the migrations of these various families in ancient times. Their
traditions, take even the most cultivated, are confused, contradictory,
and in great part manifestly fabulous. To construct from them by means
of daring combinations and forced interpretations a connected account of
the race during the centuries preceding Columbus were with the aid of a
vivid fancy an easy matter, but would be quite unworthy the name of
history. The most that can be said with certainty is that the general
course of migrations in both Americas was from the high latitudes toward
the tropics, and from the great western chain of mountains toward the
east. No reasonable doubt exists but that the Athapascas, Algonkins,
Iroquois, Apalachians, and Aztecs all migrated from the north and west
to the regions they occupied. In South America, curiously enough, the
direction is reversed. If the Caribs belong to the Tupi-Guaranay stem,
and if the Quichuas belong to the Aymaras, as there is strong
likelihood,[34-1] then nine-tenths of the population of that vast
continent wandered forth from the steppes and valleys at the head waters
of the Rio de la Plata toward the Gulf of Mexico, where they came in
collision with that other wave of migration surging down from high
northern latitudes. For the banks of the river Paraguay and the steppes
of the Bolivian Cordilleras are unquestionably the earliest traditional
homes of both Tupis and Aymaras.

These movements took place not in large bodies under the stimulus of a
settled purpose, but step by step, family by family, as the older
hunting grounds became too thickly peopled. This fact hints unmistakably
at the gray antiquity of the race. It were idle even to guess how great
this must be, but it is possible to set limits to it in both directions.
On the one hand, not a tittle of evidence is on record to carry the age
of man in America beyond the present geological epoch. Dr. Lund examined
in Brazil more than eight hundred caverns, out of which number only six
contained human bones, and of these six only one had with the human
bones those of animals now extinct. Even in that instance the original
stratification had been disturbed, and probably the bones had been
interred there.[35-1] This is strong negative evidence. So in every
other example where an unbiased and competent geologist has made the
examination, the alleged discoveries of human remains in the older
strata have proved erroneous.

The cranial forms of the American aborigines have by some been supposed
to present anomalies distinguishing their race from all others, and even
its chief families from one another. This, too, falls to the ground
before a rigid analysis. The last word of craniology, which at one time
promised to revolutionize ethnology and even history, is that no one form
of the skull is peculiar to the natives of the New World; that in the
same linguistic family one glides into another by imperceptible degrees;
and that there is as much diversity, and the same diversity among them in
this respect as among the races of the Old Continent.[35-2] Peculiarities
of structure, though they may pass as general truths, offer no firm
foundation whereon to construct a scientific ethnology. Anatomy shows
nothing unique in the Indian, nothing demanding for its development any
special antiquity, still less an original diversity of type.

On the other hand, the remains of primeval art and the impress he made
upon nature bespeak for man a residence in the New World coeval with the
most distant events of history. By remains of art I do not so much refer
to those desolate palaces which crumble forgotten in the gloom of
tropical woods, nor even the enormous earthworks of the Mississippi
valley covered with the mould of generations of forest trees, but rather
to the humbler and less deceptive relics of his kitchens and his hunts.
On the Atlantic coast one often sees the refuse of Indian villages,
where generation after generation have passed their summers in fishing,
and left the bones, shells, and charcoal as their only epitaph. How many
such summers would it require for one or two hundred people to thus
gradually accumulate a mound of offal eight or ten feet high and a
hundred yards across, as is common enough? How many generations to heap
up that at the mouth of the Altamaha River, examined and pronounced
exclusively of this origin by Sir Charles Lyell,[36-1] which is about
this height, and covers ten acres of ground? Those who, like myself,
have tramped over many a ploughed field in search of arrow-heads must
have sometimes been amazed at the numbers which are sown over the face
of our country, betokening a most prolonged possession of the soil by
their makers. For a hunting population is always sparse, and the
collector finds only those arrow-heads which lie upon the surface.

Still more forcibly does nature herself bear witness to this antiquity
of possession. Botanists declare that a very lengthy course of
cultivation is required so to alter the form of a plant that it can no
longer be identified with the wild species; and still more protracted
must be the artificial propagation for it to lose its power of
independent life, and to rely wholly on man to preserve it from
extinction. Now this is precisely the condition of the maize, tobacco,
cotton, quinoa, and mandioca plants, and of that species of palm called
by botanists the _Gulielma speciosa_; all have been cultivated from
immemorial time by the aborigines of America, and, except cotton, by no
other race; all no longer are to be identified with any known wild
species; several are sure to perish unless fostered by human care.[37-1]
What numberless ages does this suggest? How many centuries elapsed ere
man thought of cultivating Indian corn? How many more ere it had spread
over nearly a hundred degrees of latitude, and lost all semblance to its
original form? Who has the temerity to answer these questions? The
judicious thinker will perceive in them satisfactory reasons for
dropping once for all the vexed inquiry, "how America was peopled," and
will smile at its imaginary solutions, whether they suggest Jews,
Japanese, or, as the latest theory is, Egyptians.

While these and other considerations testify forcibly to that isolation
I have already mentioned, they are almost equally positive for an
extensive intercourse in very distant ages between the great families of
the race, and for a prevalent unity of mental type, or perhaps they hint
at a still visible oneness of descent. In their stage of culture, the
maize, cotton, and tobacco could hardly have spread so widely by
commerce alone. Then there are verbal similarities running through wide
families of languages which, in the words of Professor Buschmann, are
"calculated to fill us with bewildering amazement,"[38-1] some of which
will hereafter be pointed out; and lastly, passing to the psychological
constitution of the race, we may quote the words of a sharp-sighted
naturalist, whose monograph on one of its tribes is unsurpassed for
profound reflections: "Not only do all the primitive inhabitants of
America stand on one scale of related culture, but that mental condition
of all in which humanity chiefly mirrors itself, to wit, their religious
and moral consciousness, this source of all other inner and outer
conditions, is one with all, however diverse the natural influences
under which they live."[38-2]

Penetrated with the truth of these views, all artificial divisions into
tropical or temperate, civilized or barbarous, will in the present work,
so far as possible, be avoided, and the race will be studied as a unit,
its religion as the development of ideas common to all its members, and
its myths as the garb thrown around these ideas by imaginations more or
less fertile, but seeking everywhere to embody the same notions.


     As the subject of American mythology is a new one to most readers,
     and as in its discussion everything depends on a careful selection
     of authorities, it is well at the outset to review very briefly
     what has already been written upon it, and to assign the relative
     amount of weight that in the following pages will be given to the
     works most frequently quoted. The conclusions I have arrived at are
     so different from those who have previously touched upon the topic
     that such a step seems doubly advisable.

     The first who undertook a philosophical survey of American
     religions was Dr. Samuel Farmer Jarvis, in 1819 (A Discourse on the
     Religion of the Indian Tribes of North America, Collections of the
     New York Historical Society, vol. iii., New York, 1821). He
     confined himself to the tribes north of Mexico, a difficult portion
     of the field, and at that time not very well known. The notion of a
     state of primitive civilization prevented Dr. Jarvis from forming
     any correct estimate of the native religions, as it led him to look
     upon them as deteriorations from purer faiths instead of
     developments. Thus he speaks of them as having "departed less than
     among any other nation from the form of primeval truth," and also
     mentions their "wonderful uniformity" (pp. 219, 221).

     The well-known American ethnologist, Mr. E. G. Squier, has also
     published a work on the subject, of wider scope than its title
     indicates (The Serpent Symbol in America, New York, 1851). Though
     written in a much more liberal spirit than the preceding, it is
     wholly in the interests of one school of mythology, and it the
     rather shallow physical one, so fashionable in Europe half a
     century ago. Thus, with a sweeping generalization, he says, "The
     religions or superstitions of the American nations, however
     different they may appear to the superficial glance, are
     rudimentally the same, and are only modifications of that primitive
     system which under its physical aspect has been denominated Sun or
     Fire worship" (p. 111). With this he combines the favorite and (may
     I add?) characteristic French doctrine, that the chief topic of
     mythology is the adoration of the generative power, and to rescue
     such views from their materializing tendencies, imagines to
     counterbalance them a clear, universal monotheism. "We claim to
     have shown," he says (p. 154), "that the grand conception of a
     Supreme Unity and the doctrine of the reciprocal principles existed
     in America in a well defined and clearly recognized form;" and
     elsewhere that "the monotheistic idea stands out clearly in _all_
     the religions of America" (p. 151).

     If with a hope of other views we turn to our magnificent national
     work on the Indians (History, Conditions, and Prospects of the
     Indian Tribes of the United States: Washington, 1851-9), a great
     disappointment awaits us. That work was unfortunate in its editor.
     It is a monument of American extravagance and superficiality. Mr.
     Schoolcraft was a man of deficient education and narrow prejudices,
     pompous in style, and inaccurate in statements. The information
     from original observers it contains is often of real value, but the
     general views on aboriginal history and religion are shallow and
     untrustworthy in the extreme.

     A German professor, Dr. J. G. Müller, has written quite a
     voluminous work on American Primitive Religions (_Geschichte der
     Amerikanischen Ur-religionen_, pp. 707: Basel, 1855). His theory is
     that "at the south a worship of nature with the adoration of the
     sun as its centre, at the north a fear of spirits combined with
     fetichism, made up the two fundamental divisions of the religion of
     the red race" (pp. 89, 90). This imaginary antithesis he traces out
     between the Algonkin and Apalachian tribes, and between the Toltecs
     of Guatemala and the Aztecs of Mexico. His quotations are nearly
     all at second hand, and so little does he criticize his facts as to
     confuse the Vaudoux worship of the Haitian negroes with that of
     Votan in Chiapa. His work can in no sense be considered an

     Very much better is the Anthropology of the late Dr. Theodore Waitz
     (_Anthropologie der Naturvœlker_: Leipzig, 1862-66). No more
     comprehensive, sound, and critical work on the indigenes of America
     has ever been written. But on their religions the author is
     unfortunately defective, being led astray by the hasty and
     groundless generalizations of others. His great anxiety, moreover,
     to subject all moral sciences to a realistic philosophy, was
     peculiarly fatal to any correct appreciation of religious growth,
     and his views are neither new nor tenable.

     For a different reason I must condemn in the most unqualified
     manner the attempt recently made by the enthusiastic and
     meritorious antiquary, the Abbé E. Charles Brasseur (de Bourbourg),
     to explain American mythology after the example of Euhemerus, of
     Thessaly, as the apotheosis of history. This theory, which has been
     repeatedly applied to other mythologies with invariable failure, is
     now disowned by every distinguished student of European and
     Oriental antiquity; and to seek to introduce it into American
     religions is simply to render them still more obscure and
     unattractive, and to deprive them of the only general interest they
     now have, that of illustrating the gradual development of the
     religious ideas of humanity.

     But while thus regretting the use he has made of them, all
     interested in American antiquity cannot too much thank this
     indefatigable explorer for the priceless materials he has unearthed
     in the neglected libraries of Spain and Central America, and laid
     before the public. For the present purpose the most significant of
     these is the Sacred National Book of the Quiches, a tribe of
     Guatemala. This contains their legends, written in the original
     tongue, and transcribed by Father Francisco Ximenes about 1725. The
     manuscripts of this missionary were used early in the present
     century, by Don Felix Cabrera, but were supposed to be entirely
     lost even by the Abbé Brasseur himself in 1850 (_Lettre à M. le Duc
     de Valmy_, Mexique, Oct. 15, 1850). Made aware of their importance
     by the expressions of regret used in the Abbé's letters, Dr. C.
     Sherzer, in 1854, was fortunate enough to discover them in the
     library of the University of San Carlos in the city of Guatemala.
     The legends were in Quiche with a Spanish translation and scholia.
     The Spanish was copied by Dr. Scherzer and published in Vienna, in
     1856, under the title _Las Historias del Origen de los Indios de
     Guatemala, por el R. P. F. Francisco Ximenes_. In 1855 the Abbé
     Brasseur took a copy of the original which he brought out at Paris
     in 1861, with a translation of his own, under the title _Vuh Popol:
     Le Livre Sacré des Quichés et les Mythes de l'Antiquité Américaine_.
     Internal evidence proves that these legends were written down by a
     converted native some time in the seventeenth century. They carry
     the national history back about two centuries, beyond which all is
     professedly mythical. Although both translations are colored by the
     peculiar views of their makers, this is incomparably the most
     complete and valuable work on American mythology extant.

     Another authority of inestimable value has been placed within the
     reach of scholars during the last few years. This is the _Relations
     de la Nouvelle France_, containing the annual reports of the
     Jesuit missionaries among the Iroquois and Algonkins from and
     after 1611. My references to this are always to the reprint at
     Quebec, 1858. Of not less excellence for another tribe, the Creeks,
     is the brief "Sketch of the Creek Country," by Col. Benjamin
     Hawkins, written about 1800, and first published in full by the
     Georgia Historical Society in 1848. Most of the other works to
     which I have referred are too well known to need any special
     examination here, or will be more particularly mentioned in the
     foot-notes when quoted.


[2-1] Waitz, _Anthropologie der Naturvoelker_, i. p. 256.

[2-2] Carriere, _Die Kunst im Zusammenhang der Culturentwickelung_, i. p.

[6-1] It is said indeed that the Yebus, a people on the west coast of
Africa, speak a polysynthetic language, and _per contra_, that the Otomis
of Mexico have a monosyllabic one like the Chinese. Max Mueller goes
further, and asserts that what is called the process of agglutination in
the Turanian languages is the same as what has been named polysynthesis
in America. This is not to be conceded. In the former the root is
unchangeable, the formative elements follow it, and prefixes are not
used; in the latter prefixes are common, and the formative elements are
blended with the root, both undergoing changes of structure. Very
important differences.

[9-1] Grimm, _Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache_, p. 571.

[11-1] Peter Martyr, _De Insulis nuper Repertis_, p. 354: Colon. 1574.

[12-1] They may be found in Waitz, _Anthrop. der Naturvoelker_, iv. p.

[13-1] The only authority is Diego de Landa, _Relacion de las Cosas de
Yucatan_, ed. Brasseur, Paris, 1864, p. 318. The explanation is extremely
obscure in the original. I have given it in the only sense in which the
author's words seem to have any meaning.

[14-1] Humboldt, _Vues des Cordillères_, p. 72.

[14-2] Desjardins, _Le Pérou avant la Conquête Espagnole_, p. 122: Paris,

[16-1] An instance is given by Ximenes, _Origen de los Indios de
Guatemala_, p. 186: Vienna, 1856.

[17-1] George Copway, _Traditional History of the Ojibway Nation_, p.
130: London, 1850.

[18-1] Morse, _Report on the Indian Tribes_, App. p. 352.

[21-1] Gomara states that De Ayllon found tribes on the Atlantic shore
not far from Cape Hatteras keeping flocks of deer (_ciervos_) and from
their milk making cheese (_Hist. de las Indias_, cap. 43). I attach no
importance to this statement, and only mention it to connect it with some
other curious notices of the tribe now extinct who occupied that
locality. Both De Ayllon and Lawson mention their very light complexions,
and the latter saw many with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a fair skin;
they cultivated when first visited the potato (or the groundnut),
tobacco, and cotton (Humboldt); they reckoned time by disks of wood
divided into sixty segments (Lederer); and just in this latitude the most
careful determination fixes the mysterious White-man's-land, or Great
Ireland of the Icelandic Sagas (see the _American Hist. Mag._, ix. p.
364), where the Scandinavian sea rovers in the eleventh century found men
of their own color, clothed in long woven garments, and not less
civilized than themselves.

[23-1] The name Eskimo is from the Algonkin word _Eskimantick_, eaters of
raw flesh. There is reason to believe that at one time they possessed the
Atlantic coast considerably to the south. The Northmen, in the year 1000,
found the natives of Vinland, probably near Rhode Island, of the same
race as they were familiar with in Labrador. They call them _Skralingar_,
chips, and describe them as numerous and short of stature (Eric Rothens
Saga, in Mueller, _Sagænbibliothek_, p. 214). It is curious that the
traditions of the Tuscaroras, who placed their arrival on the Virginian
coast about 1300, spoke of the race they found there as eaters of raw
flesh and ignorant of maize (Lederer, _Account of North America_, in
Harris, Voyages).

[25-1] Richardson, _Arctic Expedition_, p. 374.

[25-2] The late Professor W. W. Turner of Washington, and Professor
Buschmann of Berlin, are the two scholars who have traced the boundaries
of this widely dispersed family. The name is drawn from Lake Athapasca in
British America.

[25-3] The Cherokee tongue has a limited number of words in common with
the Iroquois, and its structural similarity is close. The name is of
unknown origin. It should doubtless be spelled _Tsalakie_, a plural form,
almost the same as that of the river Tellico, properly Tsaliko (Ramsey,
_Annals of Tennessee_, p. 87), on the banks of which their principal
towns were situated. Adair's derivation from _cheera_, fire, is
worthless, as no such word exists in their language.

[27-1] The term Algonkin may be a corruption of _agomeegwin_, people of
the other shore. Algic, often used synonymously, is an adjective
manufactured by Mr. Schoolcraft "from the words Alleghany and Atlantic"
(Algic Researches, ii. p. 12). There is no occasion to accept it, as
there is no objection to employing Algonkin both as substantive and
adjective. Iroquois is a French compound of the native words _hiro_, I
have said, and _kouè_, an interjection of assent or applause, terms
constantly heard in their councils.

[27-2] Apalachian, which should be spelt with one p, is formed of two
Creek words, _apala_, the great sea, the ocean, and the suffix _chi_,
people, and means those dwelling by the ocean. That the Natchez were
offshoots of the Mayas I was the first to surmise and to prove by a
careful comparison of one hundred Natchez words with their equivalents in
the Maya dialects. Of these, _five_ have affinities more or less marked
to words peculiar to the Huastecas of the river Panuco (a Maya colony),
_thirteen_ to words common to Huasteca and Maya, and _thirty-nine_ to
words of similar meaning in the latter language. This resemblance may be
exemplified by the numerals, one, two, four, seven, eight, twenty. In
Natchez they are _hu_, _ah_, _gan_, _uk-woh_, _upku-tepish_, _oka-poo_:
in Maya, _hu_, _ca_, _can_, _uk_, _uapxæ_, _hunkal_. (See the Am. Hist.
Mag., New Series, vol. i. p. 16, Jan. 1867.)

[28-1] Dakota, a native word, means friends or allies.

[28-2] Rep. of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1854, p. 209.

[29-1] According to Professor Buschmann Aztec is probably from _iztac_,
white, and Nahuatlacatl signifies those who speak the language _Nahuatl_,
clear sounding, sonorous. The Abbé Brasseur (de Bourbourg), on the other
hand, derives the latter from the Quiche _nawal_, intelligent, and adds
the amazing information that this is identical with the English _know
all_!! (_Hist. du Mexique_, etc., i. p. 102). For in his theory several
languages of Central America are derived from the same old Indo-Germanic
stock as the English, German, and cognate tongues. Toltec, from
_Toltecatl_, means inhabitant of Tollan, which latter may be from
_tolin_, rush, and signify the place of rushes. The signification
_artificer_, often assigned to Toltecatl, is of later date, and was
derived from the famed artistic skill of this early folk (Buschmann,
_Aztek. Ortsnamen_, p. 682: Berlin, 1852). The Toltecs are usually spoken
of as anterior to the Nahuas, but the Tlascaltecs and natives of
Cholollan or Cholula were in fact Toltecs, unless we assign to this
latter name a merely mythical signification. The early migrations of the
two Aztec bands and their relationship, it may be said in passing, are as
yet extremely obscure. The Shoshonees when first known dwelt as far north
as the head waters of the Missouri, and in the country now occupied by
the Black Feet. Their language, which includes that of the Comanche,
Wihinasht, Utah, and kindred bands, was first shown to have many and
marked affinities with that of the Aztecs by Professor Buschmann in his
great work, _Ueber die Spuren der Aztekischen Sprache im nördlichen
Mexico und höheren Amerikanischen Norden_, p. 648: Berlin, 1854.

[31-1] His opinion was founded on an analysis of fifteen words of the
secret language of the Incas preserved in the Royal Commentaries of
Garcilasso de la Vega. On examination, they all proved to be modified
forms from the _lengua general_ (Meyen, _Ueber die Ureinwohner von Peru_,
p. 6). The Quichuas of Peru must not be confounded with the Quiches of
Guatemala. Quiche is the name of a place, and means "many trees;" the
derivation of Quichua is unknown. Muyscas means "men." This nation also
called themselves Chibchas.

[32-1] The significance of Carib is probably warrior. It may be the same
word as Guarani, which also has this meaning. Tupi or Tupa is the name
given the thunder, and can only be understood mythically.

[33-1] The Araucanians probably obtained their name from two Quichua
words, _ari auccan_, yes! they fight; an idiom very expressive of their
warlike character. They had had long and terrible wars with the Incas
before the arrival of Pizarro.

[34-1] Since writing the text I have received the admirable work of Dr.
von Martius, _Beiträge zur Ethnographie und Sprachenkunde Amerika's zumal
Brasilians_, Leipzig, 1867, in which I observe that that profound student
considers that there is no doubt but that the Island Caribs, and the
Galibis of the main land are descendants from the same stock as the Tupis
and Guaranis.

[35-1] _Comptes Rendus_, vol. xxi. p. 1368 sqq.

[35-2] The two best authorities are Daniel Wilson, _The American Cranial
Type_, in _Ann. Rep. of the Smithson. Inst._, 1862, p. 240, and J. A.
Meigs, _Cranial Forms of the Amer. Aborigs._: Phila. 1866. They accord in
the views expressed in the text and in the rejection of those advocated
by Dr. S. G. Morton in the Crania Americana.

[36-1] _Second Visit to the United States_, i. p. 252.

[37-1] Martius, _Von dem Rechtzustande unter den Ureinwohnern
Brasiliens_, p. 80: Muenchen, 1832; recently republished in his _Beiträge
zur Ethnographie und Sprachenkunde Amerika's_: Leipzig, 1867.

[38-1] _Athapaskische Sprachstamm_, p. 164: Berlin, 1856.

[38-2] Martius, _Von dem Rechtzustande unter den Ureinwohnern
Brasiliens_, p. 77.



     An intuition common to the species.--Words expressing it in
     American languages derived either from ideas of above in space, or
     of life manifested by breath.--Examples.--No conscious monotheism,
     and but little idea of immateriality discoverable.--Still less any
     moral dualism of deities, the Great Good Spirit and the Great Bad
     Spirit being alike terms and notions of foreign importation.

If we accept the definition that mythology is the idea of God expressed
in symbol, figure, and narrative, and always struggling toward a clearer
utterance, it is well not only to trace this idea in its very earliest
embodiment in language, but also, for the sake of comparison, to ask
what is its latest and most approved expression. The reply to this is
given us by Immanuel Kant. He has shown that our reason, dwelling on the
facts of experience, constantly seeks the principles which connect them
together, and only rests satisfied in the conviction that there is a
highest and first principle which reconciles all their discrepancies and
binds them into one. This he calls the Ideal of Reason. It must be true,
for it is evolved from the laws of reason, our only test of truth.
Furthermore, the sense of personality and the voice of conscience,
analyzed to their sources, can only be explained by the assumption of an
infinite personality and an absolute standard of right. Or, if to some
all this appears but wire-drawn metaphysical subtlety, they are welcome
to the definition of the realist, that the idea of God is the sum of
those intelligent activities which the individual, reasoning from the
analogy of his own actions, imagines to be behind and to bring about
natural phenomena.[44-1] If either of these be correct, it were hard to
conceive how any tribe or even any sane man could be without some notion
of divinity.

Certainly in America no instance of its absence has been discovered.
Obscure, grotesque, unworthy it often was, but everywhere man was
oppressed with a _sensus numinis_, a feeling that invisible, powerful
agencies were at work around him, who, as they willed, could help or
hurt him. In every heart was an altar to the Unknown God. Not that it
was customary to attach any idea of unity to these unseen powers. The
supposition that in ancient times and in very unenlightened conditions,
before mythology had grown, a monotheism prevailed, which afterwards at
various times was revived by reformers, is a belief that should have
passed away when the delights of savage life and the praises of a state
of nature ceased to be the themes of philosophers. We are speaking of a
people little capable of abstraction. The exhibitions of force in nature
seemed to them the manifestations of that mysterious power felt by their
self-consciousness; to combine these various manifestations and
recognize them as the operations of one personality, was a step not
easily taken. Yet He is not far from every one of us. "Whenever man
thinks clearly, or feels deeply, he conceives God as self-conscious
unity," says Carriere, with admirable insight; and elsewhere, "we have
monotheism, not in contrast to polytheism, not clear to the thought, but
in living intuition in the religious sentiments."[45-1]

Thus it was among the Indians. Therefore a word is usually found in
their languages analogous to none in any European tongue, a word
comprehending all manifestations of the unseen world, yet conveying no
sense of personal unity. It has been rendered spirit, demon, God, devil,
mystery, magic, but commonly and rather absurdly by the English and
French, "medicine." In the Algonkin dialects this word is _manito_ and
_oki_, in Iroquois _oki_ and _otkon_, the Dakota has _wakan_, the Aztec
_teotl_, the Quichua _huaca_, and the Maya _ku_. They all express in its
most general form the idea of the supernatural. And as in this word,
supernatural, we see a transfer of a conception of place, and that it
literally means that which is _above_ the natural world, so in such as
we can analyze of these vague and primitive terms the same trope appears
discoverable. _Wakan_ as an adverb means _above_, _oki_ is but another
orthography for _oghee_, and _otkon_ seems allied to _hetken_, both of
which have the same signification.[46-1]

The transfer is no mere figure of speech, but has its origin in the very
texture of the human mind. The heavens, the upper regions, are in every
religion the supposed abode of the divine. What is higher is always the
stronger and the nobler; a _superior_ is one who is better than we are,
and therefore a chieftain in Algonkin is called _oghee-ma_, the higher
one. There is, moreover, a naif and spontaneous instinct which leads man
in his ecstasies of joy, and in his paroxysms of fear or pain, to lift
his hands and eyes to the overhanging firmament. There the sun and
bright stars sojourn, emblems of glory and stability. Its azure vault
has a mysterious attraction which invites the eye to gaze longer and
longer into its infinite depths.[46-2] Its color brings thoughts of
serenity, peace, sunshine, and warmth. Even the rudest hunting tribes
felt these sentiments, and as a metaphor in their speeches, and as a
paint expressive of friendly design, blue was in wide use among

So it came to pass that the idea of God was linked to the heavens long
ere man asked himself, are the heavens material and God spiritual, is He
one, or is He many? Numerous languages bear trace of this. The Latin
Deus, the Greek Zeus, the Sanscrit Dyaus, the Chinese Tien, all
originally meant the sky above, and our own word heaven is often
employed synonymously with God. There is at first no personification in
these expressions. They embrace all unseen agencies, they are void of
personality, and yet to the illogical primitive man there is nothing
contradictory in making them the object of his prayers. The Mayas had
legions of gods; "_ku_," says their historian,[47-2] "does not signify
any particular god; yet their prayers are sometimes addressed to _kue_,"
which is the same word in the vocative case.

As the Latins called their united divinities _Superi_, those above, so
Captain John Smith found that the Powhatans of Virginia employed the
word _oki_, above, in the same sense, and it even had passed into a
definite personification among them in the shape of an "idol of wood
evil-favoredly carved." In purer dialects of the Algonkin it is always
indefinite, as in the terms _nipoon oki_, spirit of summer, _pipoon
oki_, spirit of winter. Perhaps the word was introduced into Iroquois
by the Hurons, neighbors and associates of the Algonkins. The Hurons
applied it to that demoniac power "who rules the seasons of the year,
who holds the winds and the waves in leash, who can give fortune to
their undertakings, and relieve all their wants."[48-1] In another and
far distant branch of the Iroquois, the Nottoways of southern Virginia,
it reappears under, the curious form _quaker_, doubtless a corruption of
the Powhatan _qui-oki_, lesser gods.[48-2] The proper Iroquois name of
him to whom they prayed was _garonhia_, which again turns out on
examination to be their common word for _sky_, and again in all
probability from the verbal root _gar_, to be above.[48-3] In the
legends of the Aztecs and Quiches such phrases as "Heart of the Sky,"
"Lord of the Sky," "Prince of the Azure Planisphere," "He above all,"
are of frequent occurrence, and by a still bolder metaphor, the
Araucanians, according to Molina, entitled their greatest god "The Soul
of the Sky."

This last expression leads to another train of thought. As the
philosopher, pondering on the workings of self-consciousness, recognizes
that various pathways lead up to God, so the primitive man, in forming
his language, sometimes trod one, sometimes another. Whatever else
sceptics have questioned, no one has yet presumed to doubt that if a God
and a soul exist at all, they are of like essence. This firm belief has
left its impress on language in the names devised to express the
supernal, the spiritual world. If we seek hints from languages more
familiar to us than the tongues of the Indians, and take for example
this word _spiritual_; we find it is from the Latin _spirare_, to blow,
to breathe. If in Latin again we look for the derivation of _animus_,
the mind, _anima_, the soul, they point to the Greek _anemos_, wind, and
_aémi_, to blow. In Greek the words for soul or spirit, _psuche_,
_pneuma_, _thumos_, all are directly from verbal roots expressing the
motion of the wind or the breath. The Hebrew word _ruah_ is translated
in the Old Testament sometimes by wind, sometimes by spirit, sometimes
by breath. Etymologically, in fact, ghosts and gusts, breaths and
breezes, the Great Spirit and the Great Wind, are one and the same. It
is easy to guess the reason of this. The soul is the life, the life is
the breath. Invisible, imponderable, quickening with vigorous motion,
slackening in rest and sleep, passing quite away in death, it is the
most obvious sign of life. All nations grasped the analogy and
identified the one with the other. But the breath is nothing but wind.
How easy, therefore, to look upon the wind that moves up and down and to
and fro upon the earth, that carries the clouds, itself unseen, that
calls forth the terrible tempests and the various seasons, as the
breath, the spirit of God, as God himself? So in the Mosaic record of
creation, it is said "a mighty wind" passed over the formless sea and
brought forth the world, and when the Almighty gave to the clay a living
soul, he is said to have breathed into it "the wind of lives."

Armed with these analogies, we turn to the primitive tongues of America,
and find them there as distinct as in the Old World. In Dakota _niya_ is
literally breath, figuratively life; in Netela _piuts_ is life, breath,
and soul; _silla_, in Eskimo, means air, it means wind, but it is also
the word that conveys the highest idea of the world as a whole, and the
reasoning faculty. The supreme existence they call _Sillam Innua_, Owner
of the Air, or of the All; or _Sillam Nelega_, Lord of the Air or Wind.
In the Yakama tongue of Oregon _wkrisha_ signifies there is wind,
_wkrishwit_, life; with the Aztecs, _ehecatl_ expressed both air, life,
and the soul, and personified in their myths it was said to have been
born of the breath of Tezcatlipoca, their highest divinity, who himself
is often called Yoalliehecatl, the Wind of Night.[50-1]

The descent is, indeed, almost imperceptible which leads to the
personification of the wind as God, which merges this manifestation of
life and power in one with its unseen, unknown cause. Thus it was a
worthy epithet which the Creeks applied to their supreme invisible
ruler, when they addressed him as ESAUGETUH EMISSEE, Master of Breath,
and doubtless it was at first but a title of equivalent purport which
the Cherokees, their neighbors, were wont to employ, OONAWLEH UNGGI,
Eldest of Winds, but rapidly leading to a complete identification of the
divine with the natural phenomena of meteorology. This seems to have
taken place in the same group of nations, for the original Choctaw word
for Deity was HUSHTOLI, the Storm Wind.[51-1] The idea, indeed, was
constantly being lost in the symbol. In the legends of the Quiches, the
mysterious creative power is HURAKAN, a name of no signification in
their language, one which their remote ancestors brought with them from
the Antilles, which finds its meaning in the ancient tongue of Haiti,
and which, under the forms of _hurricane_, _ouragan_, _orkan_, was
adopted into European marine languages as the native name of the
terrible tornado of the Caribbean Sea.[51-2] Mixcohuatl, the Cloud
Serpent, chief divinity of several tribes in ancient Mexico, is to this
day the correct term in their language for the tropical whirlwind, and
the natives of Panama worshipped the same phenomenon under the name
Tuyra.[52-1] To kiss the air was in Peru the commonest and simplest sign
of adoration to the collective divinities.[52-2]

Many writers on mythology have commented on the prominence so frequently
given to the winds. None have traced it to its true source. The facts of
meteorology have been thought all sufficient for a solution. As if man
ever did or ever could draw the idea of God from nature! In the identity
of wind with breath, of breath with life, of life with soul, of soul
with God, lies the far deeper and far truer reason, whose insensible
development I have here traced, in outline indeed, but confirmed by the
evidence of language itself.

Let none of these expressions, however, be construed to prove the
distinct recognition of One Supreme Being. Of monotheism either as
displayed in the one personal definite God of the Semitic races, or in
the dim pantheistic sense of the Brahmins, there was not a single
instance on the American continent. The missionaries found no word in
any of their languages fit to interpret _Deus_, God. How could they
expect it? The associations we attach to that name are the accumulated
fruits of nigh two thousand years of Christianity. The phrases Good
Spirit, Great Spirit, and similar ones, have occasioned endless
discrepancies in the minds of travellers. In most instances they are
entirely of modern origin, coined at the suggestion of missionaries,
applied to the white man's God. Very rarely do they bring any
conception of personality to the native mind, very rarely do they
signify any object of worship, perhaps never did in the olden times. The
Jesuit Relations state positively that there was no one immaterial god
recognized by the Algonkin tribes, and that the title, the Great Manito,
was introduced first by themselves in its personal sense.[53-1] The
supreme Iroquois Deity Neo or Hawaneu, triumphantly adduced by many
writers to show the monotheism underlying the native creeds, and upon
whose name Mr. Schoolcraft has built some philological reveries, turns
out on closer scrutiny to be the result of Christian instruction, and
the words themselves to be but corruptions of the French _Dieu_ and _le
bon Dieu_![53-2]

Innumerable mysterious forces are in activity around the child of
nature; he feels within him something that tells him they are not of his
kind, and yet not altogether different from him; he sums them up in one
word drawn from sensuous experience. Does he wish to express still more
forcibly this sentiment, he doubles the word, or prefixes an adjective,
or adds an affix, as the genius of his language may dictate. But it
still remains to him but an unapplied abstraction, a mere category of
thought, a frame for the All. It is never the object of veneration or
sacrifice, no myth brings it down to his comprehension, it is not
installed in his temples. Man cannot escape the belief that behind all
form is one essence; but the moment he would seize and define it, it
eludes his grasp, and by a sorcery more sadly ludicrous than that which
blinded Titania, he worships not the Infinite he thinks but a base idol
of his own making. As in the Zend Avesta behind the eternal struggle of
Ormuzd and Ahriman looms up the undisturbed and infinite Zeruana
Akerana, as in the pages of the Greek poets we here and there catch
glimpses of a Zeus who is not he throned on Olympus, nor he who takes
part in the wrangles of the gods, but stands far off and alone, one yet
all, "who was, who is, who will be," so the belief in an Unseen Spirit,
who asks neither supplication nor sacrifice, who, as the natives of
Texas told Joutel in 1684, "does not concern himself about things here
below,"[54-1] who has no name to call him by, and is never a figure in
mythology, was doubtless occasionally present to their minds. It was
present not more but far less distinctly and often not at all in the
more savage tribes, and no assertion can be more contrary to the laws of
religious progress than that which pretends that a purer and more
monotheistic religion exists among nations devoid of mythology. There
are only two instances on the American continent where the worship of an
immaterial God was definitely instituted, and these as the highest
conquests of American natural religions deserve especial mention.

They occurred, as we might expect, in the two most civilized nations,
the Quichuas of Peru, and the Nahuas of Tezcuco. It is related that
about the year 1440, at a grand religious council held at the
consecration of the newly-built temple of the Sun at Cuzco, the Inca
Yupanqui rose before the assembled multitude and spoke somewhat as

"Many say that the Sun is the Maker of all things. But he who makes
should abide by what he has made. Now many things happen when the Sun is
absent; therefore he cannot be the universal creator. And that he is
alive at all is doubtful, for his trips do not tire him. Were he a
living thing, he would grow weary like ourselves; were he free, he would
visit other parts of the heavens. He is like a tethered beast who makes
a daily round under the eye of a master; he is like an arrow, which must
go whither it is sent, not whither it wishes. I tell you that he, our
Father and Master the Sun, must have a lord and master more powerful
than himself, who constrains him to his daily circuit without pause or

To express this greatest of all existences, a name was proclaimed, based
upon that of the highest divinities known to the ancient Aymara race,
Illatici Viracocha Pachacamac, literally, the thunder vase, the foam of
the sea, animating the world, mysterious and symbolic names drawn from
the deepest religious instincts of the soul, whose hidden meanings will
be unravelled hereafter. A temple was constructed in a vale by the sea
near Callao, wherein his worship was to be conducted without images or
human sacrifices. The Inca was ahead of his age, however, and when the
Spaniards visited the temple of Pachacamac in 1525, they found not only
the walls adorned with hideous paintings, but an ugly idol of wood
representing a man of colossal proportions set up therein, and receiving
the prayers of the votaries.[56-1]

No better success attended the attempt of Nezahuatl, lord of Tezcuco,
which took place about the same time. He had long prayed to the gods of
his forefathers for a son to inherit his kingdom, and the altars had
smoked vainly with the blood of slaughtered victims. At length, in
indignation and despair, the prince exclaimed, "Verily, these gods that
I am adoring, what are they but idols of stone without speech or
feeling? They could not have made the beauty of the heaven, the sun, the
moon, and the stars which adorn it, and which light the earth, with its
countless streams, its fountains and waters, its trees and plants, and
its various inhabitants. There must be some god, invisible and unknown,
who is the universal creator. He alone can console me in my affliction
and take away my sorrow." Strengthened in this conviction by a timely
fulfilment of his heart's desire, he erected a temple nine stories high
to represent the nine heavens, which he dedicated "to the Unknown God,
the Cause of Causes." This temple, he ordained, should never be polluted
by blood, nor should any graven image ever be set up within its

In neither case, be it observed, was any attempt made to substitute
another and purer religion for the popular one. The Inca continued to
receive the homage of his subjects as a brother of the sun, and the
regular services to that luminary were never interrupted. Nor did the
prince of Tezcuco afterwards neglect the honors due his national gods,
nor even refrain himself from plunging the knife into the breasts of
captives on the altar of the god of war.[57-2] They were but expressions
of that monotheism which is ever present, "not in contrast to
polytheism, but in living intuition in the religious sentiments." If
this subtle but true distinction be rightly understood, it will excite
no surprise to find such epithets as "endless," "omnipotent,"
"invisible," "adorable," such appellations as "the Maker and Moulder of
All," "the Mother and Father of Life," "the One God complete in
perfection and unity," "the Creator of all that is," "the Soul of the
World," in use and of undoubted indigenous origin not only among the
civilized Aztecs, but even among the Haitians, the Araucanians, the
Lenni Lenape, and others.[57-3] It will not seem contradictory to hear
of them in a purely polytheistic worship; we shall be far from
regarding them as familiar to the popular mind, and we shall never be
led so far astray as to adduce them in evidence of a monotheism in
either technical sense of that word. In point of fact they were not
applied to any particular god even in the most enlightened nations, but
were terms of laudation and magniloquence used by the priests and
devotees of every several god to do him honor. They prove something in
regard to a consciousness of divinity hedging us about, but nothing at
all in favor of a recognition of one God; they exemplify how profound is
the conviction of a highest and first principle, but they do not offer
the least reason to surmise that this was a living reality in doctrine
or practice.

The confusion of these distinct ideas has led to much misconception of
the native creeds. But another and more fatal error was that which
distorted them into a dualistic form, ranging on one hand the good
spirit with his legions of angels, on the other the evil one with his
swarms of fiends, representing the world as the scene of their unending
conflict, man as the unlucky football who gets all the blows. This
notion, which has its historical origin among the Parsees of ancient
Iran, is unknown to savage nations. "The idea of the Devil," justly
observes Jacob Grimm, "is foreign to all primitive religions." Yet
Professor Mueller, in his voluminous work on those of America, after
approvingly quoting this saying, complacently proceeds to classify the
deities as good or bad spirits![59-1]

This view, which has obtained without question in every work on the
native religions of America, has arisen partly from habits of thought
difficult to break, partly from mistranslations of native words, partly
from the foolish axiom of the early missionaries, "The gods of the
gentiles are devils." Yet their own writings furnish conclusive proof
that no such distinction existed out of their own fancies. The same word
(_otkon_) which Father Bruyas employs to translate into Iroquois the
term "devil," in the passage "the Devil took upon himself the figure of
a serpent," he is obliged to use for "spirit" in the phrase, "at the
resurrection we shall be spirits,"[59-2] which is a rather amusing
illustration how impossible it was by any native word to convey the idea
of the spirit of evil. When, in 1570, Father Rogel commenced his labors
among the tribes near the Savannah River, he told them that the deity
they adored was a demon who loved all evil things, and they must hate
him; whereupon his auditors replied, that so far from this being the
case, whom he called a wicked being was the power that sent them all
good things, and indignantly left the missionary to preach to the

A passage often quoted in support of this mistaken view is one in
Winslow's "Good News from New England," written in 1622. The author says
that the Indians worship a good power called Kiehtan, and another "who,
as farre as wee can conceive, is the Devill," named Hobbamock, or
Hobbamoqui. The former of these names is merely the word "great," in
their dialect of Algonkin, with a final _n_, and is probably an
abbreviation of Kittanitowit, the great manito, a vague term mentioned
by Roger Williams and other early writers, not the appellation of any
personified deity.[60-2] The latter, so far from corresponding to the
power of evil, was, according to Winslow's own statement, the kindly god
who cured diseases, aided them in the chase, and appeared to them in
dreams as their protector. Therefore, with great justice, Dr. Jarvis has
explained it to mean "the _oke_ or tutelary deity which each Indian
worships," as the word itself signifies.[61-1]

So in many instances it turns out that what has been reported to be the
evil divinity of a nation, to whom they pray to the neglect of a better
one, is in reality the highest power they recognize. Thus Juripari,
worshipped by certain tribes of the Pampas of Buenos Ayres, and said to
be their wicked spirit, is in fact the only name in their language for
spiritual existence in general; and Aka-kanet, sometimes mentioned as
the father of evil in the mythology of the Araucanians, is the benign
power appealed to by their priests, who is throned in the Pleiades, who
sends fruits and flowers to the earth, and is addressed as
"grandfather."[61-2] The Çupay of the Peruvians never was, as Prescott
would have us believe, "the shadowy embodiment of evil," but simply and
solely their god of the dead, the Pluto of their pantheon, corresponding
to the Mictla of the Mexicans.

The evidence on the point is indeed conclusive. The Jesuit missionaries
very rarely distinguish between good and evil deities when speaking of
the religion of the northern tribes; and the Moravian Brethren among the
Algonkins and Iroquois place on record their unanimous testimony that
"the idea of a devil, a prince of darkness, they first received in
later times through the Europeans."[62-1] So the Cherokees, remarks an
intelligent observer, "know nothing of the Evil One and his domains,
except what they have learned from white men."[62-2] The term Great
Spirit conveys, for instance, to the Chipeway just as much the idea of a
bad as of a good spirit; he is unaware of any distinction until it is
explained to him.[62-3] "I have never been able to discover from the
Dakotas themselves," remarks the Rev. G. H. Pond, who had lived among
them as a missionary for eighteen years,[62-4] "the least degree of
evidence that they divide the gods into classes of good and evil, and am
persuaded that those persons who represent them as doing so, do it
inconsiderately, and because it is so natural to subscribe to a long
cherished popular opinion."

Very soon after coming in contact with the whites, the Indians caught
the notion of a bad and good spirit, pitted one against the other in
eternal warfare, and engrafted it on their ancient traditions. Writers
anxious to discover Jewish or Christian analogies, forcibly construed
myths to suit their pet theories, and for indolent observers it was
convenient to catalogue their gods in antithetical classes. In Mexican
and Peruvian mythology this is so plainly false that historians no
longer insist upon it, but as a popular error it still holds its ground
with reference to the more barbarous and less known tribes.

Perhaps no myth has been so often quoted in its confirmation as that of
the ancient Iroquois, which narrates the conflict between the first two
brothers of our race. It is of undoubted native origin and venerable
antiquity. The version given by the Tuscarora chief Cusic in 1825,
relates that in the beginning of things there were two brothers,
Enigorio and Enigohahetgea, names literally meaning the Good Mind and
the Bad Mind.[63-1] The former went about the world furnishing it with
gentle streams, fertile plains, and plenteous fruits, while the latter
maliciously followed him creating rapids, thorns, and deserts. At length
the Good Mind turned upon his brother in anger, and crushed him into the
earth. He sank out of sight in its depths, but not to perish, for in the
dark realms of the underworld he still lives, receiving the souls of the
dead and being the author of all evil. Now when we compare this with the
version of the same legend given by Father Brebeuf, missionary to the
Hurons in 1636, we find its whole complexion altered; the moral dualism
vanishes; the names Good Mind and Bad Mind do not appear; it is the
struggle of Ioskeha, the White one, with his brother Tawiscara, the Dark
one, and we at once perceive that Christian influence in the course of
two centuries had given the tale a meaning foreign to its original

So it is with the story the Algonkins tell of their hero Manibozho, who,
in the opinion of a well-known writer, "is always placed in antagonism
to a great serpent, a spirit of evil."[64-1] It is to the effect that
after conquering many animals, this famous magician tried his arts on
the prince of serpents. After a prolonged struggle, which brought on the
general deluge and the destruction of the world, he won the victory. The
first authority we have for this narrative is even later than Cusic; it
is Mr. Schoolcraft in our own day; the legendary cause of the deluge as
related by Father Le Jeune, in 1634, is quite dissimilar, and makes no
mention of a serpent; and as we shall hereafter see, neither among the
Algonkins nor any other Indians, was the serpent usually a type of evil,
but quite the reverse.[64-2]

The comparatively late introduction of such views into the native
legends finds a remarkable proof in the myths of the Quiches, which were
committed to writing in the seventeenth century. They narrate the
struggles between the rulers of the upper and the nether world, the
descent of the former into Xibalba, the Realm of Phantoms, and their
victory over its lords, One Death and Seven Deaths. The writer adds of
the latter, who clearly represent to his mind the Evil One and his
adjutants, "in the old times they did not have much power; they were but
annoyers and opposers of men, and in truth they were not regarded as
gods. But when they appeared it was terrible. They were of evil, they
were owls, fomenting trouble and discord." In this passage, which, be it
said, seems to have impressed the translators very differently, the
writer appears to compare the great power assigned by the Christian
religion to Satan and his allies, with the very much less potency
attributed to their analogues in heathendom, the rulers of the world of
the dead.[65-1]

A little reflection will convince the most incredulous that any such
dualism as has been fancied to exist in the native religions, could not
have been of indigenous growth. The gods of the primitive man are beings
of thoroughly human physiognomy, painted with colors furnished by
intercourse with his fellows. These are his enemies or his friends, as
he conciliates or insults them. No mere man, least of all a savage, is
kind and benevolent in spite of neglect and injury, nor is any man
causelessly and ceaselessly malicious. Personal, family, or national
feuds render some more inimical than others, but always from a desire to
guard their own interests, never out of a delight in evil for its own
sake. Thus the cruel gods of death, disease, and danger, were never of
Satanic nature, while the kindliest divinities were disposed to punish,
and that severely, any neglect of their ceremonies. Moral dualism can
only arise in minds where the ideas of good and evil are not synonymous
with those of pleasure and pain, for the conception of a wholly good or
a wholly evil nature requires the use of these terms in their higher,
ethical sense. The various deities of the Indians, it may safely be said
in conclusion, present no stronger antithesis in this respect than those
of ancient Greece and Rome.


[44-1] But there is no ground for the most positive of philosophers to
reject the doctrine of innate ideas when put in a certain way. The
instincts and habits of the lower animals by which they obtain food,
migrate, and perpetuate their kind, are in obedience to particular
congenital impressions, and correspond to definite anatomical and
morphological relations. No one pretends their knowledge is experimental.
Just so the human cerebrum has received, by descent or otherwise, various
sensory impressions peculiar to man as a species, which are just as
certain to guide his thoughts, actions, and destiny, as is the cerebrum
of the insectivorous aye-aye to lead it to hunt successfully for larvæ.

[45-1] _Die Kunst im Zusammenhang der Culturentwickelung_, i. pp. 50,

[46-1] I offer these derivations with a certain degree of reserve, for
such an extraordinary similarity in the sound of these words is
discoverable in North and portions of South America, that one might
almost be tempted to claim for them one original form. Thus in the Maya
dialects it is _ku_, vocative _â kue_, in Natchez _kue-ya_, in the Uchee
of West Florida _kauhwu_, in Otomi _okha_, in Mandan _okee_, Sioux
_ogha_, _waughon_, _wakan_, in Quichua _waka_, _huaca_, in Iroquois
_quaker_, _oki_, Algonkin _oki_, _okee_, Eskimo _aghatt_, which last has
a singular likeness in sound to the German or Norse, _O Gott_, as some of
the others have to the corresponding Finnish word _ukko_. _Ku_ in the
Carib tongue means _house_, especially a temple or house of the gods. The
early Spanish explorers adopted the word with the orthography _cue_, and
applied it to the sacred edifices of whatever nation they discovered. For
instance, they speak of the great cemetery of Teotihuacan, near Tezcuco,
as the _Llano de los Cues_.

[46-2] "As the high heavens, the far-off mountains look to us blue, so a
blue superficies seems to recede from us. As we would fain pursue an
attractive object that flees from us, so we like to gaze at the blue, not
that it urges itself upon us, but that it draws us after it." Goethe,
_Farbenlehre_, secs. 780, 781.

[47-1] Loskiel, _Geschichte der Mission der Evang. Brueder_, p. 63:
Barby, 1789.

[47-2] Cogolludo, _Historia de Yucathan_, lib. iv. cap. vii.

[48-1] _Rel. de la Nouv. France._ An 1636, p. 107.

[48-2] This word is found in Gallatin's vocabularies (_Transactions of
the Am. Antiq. Soc._, vol. ii.), and may have partially induced that
distinguished ethnologist to ascribe, as he does in more than one place,
whatever notions the eastern tribes had of a Supreme Being to the
teachings of the Quakers.

[48-3] Bruyas, _Radices Verborum Iroquæorum_, p. 84. This work is in
Shea's Library of American Linguistics, and is a most valuable
contribution to philology. The same etymology is given by Lafitau,
_Mœurs des Sauvages_, etc., Germ. trans., p. 65.

[50-1] My authorities are Riggs, _Dict. of the Dakota_, Boscana, _Account
of New California_, Richardson's and Egede's Eskimo Vocabularies,
Pandosy, _Gram. and Dict. of the Yakama_ (Shea's Lib. of Am.
Linguistics), and the Abbé Brasseur for the Aztec.

[51-1] These terms are found in Gallatin's vocabularies. The last
mentioned is not, as Adair thought, derived from _issto ulla_ or _ishto
hoollo_, great man, for in Choctaw the adjective cannot precede the noun
it qualifies. Its true sense is visible in the analogous Creek words
_ishtali_, the storm wind, and _hustolah_, the windy season.

[51-2] Webster derives hurricane from the Latin _furio_. But Oviedo tells
us in his description of Hispaniola that "Hurakan, in lingua di questa
isola vuole dire propriamente fortuna tempestuosa molto eccessiva, perche
en effetto non è altro que un grandissimo vento è pioggia insieme."
_Historia dell' Indie_, lib. vi. cap. iii. It is a coincidence--perhaps
something more--that in the Quichua language _huracan_, third person
singular present indicative of the verbal noun _huraca_, means "a stream
of water falls perpendicularly." (Markham, _Quichua Dictionary_, p. 132.)

[52-1] Oviedo, _Rel. de la Prov. de Cueba_, p. 141, ed. Ternaux-Compans.

[52-2] Garcia, _Origen de los Indios_, lib. iv. cap. xxii.

[53-1] See the _Rel. de la Nouv. France pour l'An 1637_, p. 49.

[53-2] Mr. Morgan, in his excellent work, _The League of the Iroquois_,
has been led astray by an ignorance of the etymology of these terms. For
Schoolcraft's views see his _Oneota_, p. 147. The matter is ably
discussed in the _Etudes Philologiques sur Quelques Langues Sauvages de
l'Amérique_, p. 14: Montreal, 1866; but comp. Shea, _Dict.
Français-Onontagué_, preface.

[54-1] "Qui ne prend aucun soin des choses icy bas." _Jour. Hist. d'un
Voyage de l'Amérique_, p. 225: Paris, 1713.

[55-1] In attributing this speech to the Inca Yupanqui, I have followed
Balboa, who expressly says this was the general opinion of the Indians
(_Hist. du Pérou_, p. 62, ed. Ternaux-Compans). Others assign it to other
Incas. See Garcilasso de la Vega, _Hist. des Incas_, lib. viii. chap. 8,
and Acosta, _Nat. and Morall Hist. of the New World_, chap. 5. The fact
and the approximate time are beyond question.

[56-1] Xeres, _Rel. de la Conq. du Pérou_, p. 151, ed. Ternaux-Compans.

[57-1] Prescott, _Conq. of Mexico_, i. pp. 192, 193, on the authority of

[57-2] Brasseur, _Hist. du Mexique_, iii. p. 297, note.

[57-3] Of very many authorities that I have at hand, I shall only mention
Heckewelder, _Acc. of the Inds._[TN-1] p. 422, Duponceau, _Mém. sur les
Langues de l'Amér. du Nord_, p. 310, Peter Martyr _De Rebus Oceanicis_,
Dec. i., cap. 9, Molina, _Hist. of Chili_, ii. p. 75, Ximenes, _Origen de
los Indios de Guatemala_, pp. 4, 5, Ixtlilxochitl, _Rel. des Conq. du
Mexique_, p. 2. These terms bear the severest scrutiny. The Aztec
appellation of the Supreme Being _Tloque nahuaque_ is compounded of
_tloc_, together, with, and _nahuac_, at, by, with, with possessive forms
added, giving the signification, Lord of all existence and coexistence
(alles Mitseyns und alles Beiseyns, bei welchem das Seyn aller Dinge ist.
Buschmann, _Ueber die Aztekischen Ortsnamen_, p. 642). The Algonkin term
_Kittanittowit_ is derived from _kitta_, great, _manito_, spirit, _wit_,
an adjective termination indicating a mode of existence, and means the
Great Living Spirit (Duponceau, u. s.). Both these terms are undoubtedly
of native origin. In the Quiche legends the Supreme Being is called
_Bitol_, the substantive form of _bit_, to make pottery, to form, and
_Tzakol_, substantive form of _tzak_, to build, the Creator, the
Constructor. The Arowacks of Guyana applied the term _Aluberi_ to their
highest conception of a first cause, from the verbal form _alin_, he who
makes (Martius, _Ethnographie und Sprachenkunde Amerika's_, i. p. 696).

[59-1] _Geschichte der Amerikanischen Urreligionen_, p. 403.

[59-2] Bruyas, _Rad. Verb. Iroquæorum_, p. 38.

[60-1] Alcazar, _Chrono-historia de la Prov. de Toledo_, Dec. iii., Año
viii., cap. iv: Madrid, 1710. This rare work contains the only faithful
copies of Father Rogel's letters extant. Mr. Shea, in his History of
Catholic Missions, calls him erroneously Roger.

[60-2] It is fully analyzed by Duponceau, _Langues de l'Amérique du
Nord_, p. 309.

[61-1] _Discourse on the Religion of the Ind. Tribes of N. Am._, p. 252
in the Trans. N. Y. Hist. Soc.

[61-2] Mueller, _Amer. Urreligionen_, pp. 265, 272, 274. Well may he
remark: "The dualism is not very striking among these tribes;" as a few
pages previous he says of the Caribs, "The dualism of gods is anything
but rigidly observed. The good gods do more evil than good. Fear is the
ruling religious sentiment." To such a lame conclusion do these venerable
prepossessions lead. "_Grau ist alle Theorie_."

[62-1] Loskiel, _Ges. der Miss. der evang. Brueder_, p. 46.

[62-2] Whipple, _Report on the Ind. Tribes_, p. 33: Washington, 1855.
Pacific Railroad Docs.

[62-3] Schoolcraft, _Indian Tribes_, i. p. 359.

[62-4] In Schoolcraft, _Ibid._, iv. p. 642.

[63-1] Or more exactly, the Beautiful Spirit, the Ugly Spirit. In
Onondaga the radicals are _onigonra_, spirit, _hio_ beautiful, _ahetken_
ugly. _Dictionnaire Français-Onontagué, édité par Jean-Marie Shea_: New
York, 1859.

[64-1] Squier, _The Serpent Symbol in America_.

[64-2] Both these legends will be analyzed in a subsequent chapter, and
an attempt made not only to restore them their primitive form, but to
explain their meaning.

[65-1] Compare the translation and remarks of Ximenes, _Or. de los Indios
de Guat._, p. 76, with those of Brasseur, _Le Livre Sacré des Quichés_,
p. 189.



     The number FOUR sacred in all American religions, and the key to
     their symbolism.--Derived from the CARDINAL POINTS.--Appears
     constantly in government, arts, rites, and myths.--The Cardinal
     Points identified with the Four Winds, who in myths are the four
     ancestors of the human race, and the four celestial rivers watering
     the terrestrial Paradise.--Associations grouped around each
     Cardinal Point.--From the number four was derived the symbolic
     value of the number _Forty_, and the _Sign of the Cross_.

Every one familiar with the ancient religions of the world must have
noticed the mystic power they attach to certain numbers, and how these
numbers became the measures and formative quantities, as it were, of
traditions and ceremonies, and had a symbolical meaning nowise connected
with their arithmetical value. For instance, in many eastern religions,
that of the Jews among the rest, _seven_ was the most sacred number, and
after it, _four_ and _three_. The most cursory reader must have observed
in how many connections the seven is used in the Hebrew Scriptures,
occurring, in all, something over three hundred and sixty times, it is
said. Why these numbers were chosen rather than others has not been
clearly explained. Their sacred character dates beyond the earliest
history, and must have been coeval with the first expressions of the
religious sentiment. Only one of them, the FOUR, has any prominence in
the religions of the red race, but this is so marked and so universal,
that at a very early period in my studies I felt convinced that if the
reason for its adoption could be discovered, much of the apparent
confusion which reigns among them would be dispelled.

Such a reason must take its rise from some essential relation of man to
nature, everywhere prominent, everywhere the same. It is found in the
_adoration of the cardinal points_.

The red man, as I have said, was a hunter; he was ever wandering through
pathless forests, coursing over boundless prairies. It seems to the
white race not a faculty, but an instinct that guides him so unerringly.
He is never at a loss. Says a writer who has deeply studied his
character: "The Indian ever has the points of the compass present to his
mind, and expresses himself accordingly in words, although it shall be
of matters in his own house."[67-1]

The assumption of precisely four cardinal points is not of chance; it is
recognized in every language; it is rendered essential by the anatomical
structure of the body; it is derived from the immutable laws of the
universe. Whether we gaze at the sunset or the sunrise, or whether at
night we look for guidance to the only star of the twinkling thousands
that is constant to its place, the anterior and posterior planes of our
bodies, our right hands and our left coincide with the parallels and
meridians. Very early in his history did man take note of these four
points, and recognizing in them his guides through the night and the
wilderness, call them his gods. Long afterwards, when centuries of slow
progress had taught him other secrets of nature--when he had discerned
in the motions of the sun, the elements of matter, and the radicals of
arithmetic a repetition of this number--they were to him further
warrants of its sacredness. He adopted it as a regulating quantity in
his institutions and his arts; he repeated it in its multiples and
compounds; he imagined for it novel applications; he constantly
magnified its mystic meaning; and finally, in his philosophical
reveries, he called it the key to the secrets of the universe, "the
source of ever-flowing nature."[68-1]

In primitive geography the figure of the earth is a square plain; in the
legend of the Quiché's it is "shaped as a square, divided into four
parts, marked with lines, measured with cords, and suspended from the
heavens by a cord to its four corners and its four sides."[68-2] The
earliest divisions of territory were in conformity to this view. Thus it
was with ancient Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and China;[68-3] and in the
new world, the states of Peru, Araucania, the Muyscas, the Quichés, and
Tlascala were tetrarchies divided in accordance with, and in the first
two instances named after, the cardinal points. So their chief
cities--Cuzco, Quito, Tezcuco, Mexico, Cholula--were quartered by
streets running north, south, east, and west. It was a necessary result
of such a division that the chief officers of the government were four
in number, that the inhabitants of town and country, that the whole
social organization acquired a quadruplicate form. The official title of
the Incas was "Lord of the four quarters of the earth," and the
venerable formality in taking possession of land, both in their domain
and that of the Aztecs, was to throw a stone, to shoot an arrow, or to
hurl a firebrand to each of the cardinal points.[69-1] They carried out
the idea in their architecture, building their palaces in squares with
doors opening, their tombs with their angles pointing, their great
causeways running in these directions. These architectural principles
repeat themselves all over the continent; they recur in the sacred
structures of Yucatan, in the ancient cemetery of Teo-tihuacan near
Mexico, where the tombs are arranged along avenues corresponding exactly
to the parallels and meridians of the central tumuli of the sun and
moon;[69-2] and however ignorant we are about the mound builders of the
Mississippi valley, we know that they constructed their earthworks with
a constant regard to the quarters of the compass.

Nothing can be more natural than to take into consideration the regions
of the heavens in the construction of buildings; I presume that at any
time no one plans an edifice of pretensions without doing so. Yet this
is one of those apparently trifling transactions which in their origin
and applications have exerted a controlling influence on the history of
the human race.

When we reflect how indissolubly the mind of the primitive man is welded
to his superstitions, it were incredible that his social life and his
architecture could thus be as it were in subjection to one idea, and his
rites and myths escape its sway. As one might expect, it reappears in
these latter more vividly than anywhere else. If there is one formula
more frequently mentioned by travellers than another as an indispensable
preliminary to all serious business, it is that of smoking, and the
prescribed and traditional rule was that the first puff should be to the
sky, and then one to each of the corners of the earth, or the cardinal
points.[70-1] These were the spirits who made and governed the earth,
and under whatever difference of guise the uncultivated fancy portrayed
them, they were the leading figures in the tales and ceremonies of
nearly every tribe of the red race. These were the divine powers
summoned by the Chipeway magicians when initiating neophytes into the
mysteries of the meda craft. They were asked to a lodge of four poles,
to four stones that lay before its fire, there to remain four days, and
attend four feasts. At every step of the proceeding this number or its
multiples were repeated.[71-1] With their neighbors the Dakotas the
number was also distinctly sacred; it was intimately inwoven in all
their tales concerning the wakan power and the spirits of the air, and
their religious rites. The artist Catlin has given a vivid description
of the great annual festival of the Mandans, a Dakota tribe, and brings
forward with emphasis the ceaseless reiteration of this number from
first to last.[71-2] He did not detect its origin in the veneration of
the cardinal points, but the information that has since been furnished
of the myths of this stock leaves no doubt that such was the case.[71-3]

Proximity of place had no part in this similarity of rite. In the grand
commemorative festival of the Creeks called the Busk, which wiped out
the memory of all crimes but murder, which reconciled the proscribed
criminal to his nation and atoned for his guilt, when the new fire was
kindled and the green corn served up, every dance, every invocation,
every ceremony, was shaped and ruled by the application of the number
four and its multiples in every imaginable relation. So it was at that
solemn probation which the youth must undergo to prove himself worthy of
the dignities of manhood and to ascertain his guardian spirit; here
again his fasts, his seclusions, his trials, were all laid down in
fourfold arrangement.[72-1]

Not alone among these barbarous tribes were the cardinal points thus the
foundation of the most solemn mysteries of religion. An excellent
authority relates that the Aztecs of Micla, in Guatemala, celebrated
their chief festival four times a year, and that four priests solemnized
its rites. They commenced by invoking and offering incense to the sky
and the four cardinal points; they conducted the human victim four times
around the temple, then tore out his heart, and catching the blood in
four vases scattered it in the same directions.[72-2] So also the
Peruvians had four principal festivals annually, and at every new moon
one of four days' duration. In fact the repetition of the number in all
their religious ceremonies is so prominent that it has been a subject of
comment by historians. They have attributed it to the knowledge of the
solstices and equinoxes, but assuredly it is of more ancient date than
this. The same explanation has been offered for its recurrence among the
Nahuas of Mexico, whose whole lives were subjected to its operation. At
birth the mother was held unclean for four days, a fire was kindled and
kept burning for a like length of time, at the baptism of the child an
arrow was shot to each of the cardinal points. Their prayers were
offered four times a day, the greatest festivals were every fourth year,
and their offerings of blood were to the four points of the compass. At
death food was placed on the grave, as among the Eskimos, Creeks, and
Algonkins, for four days (for all these nations supposed that the
journey to the land of souls was accomplished in that time), and
mourning for the dead was for four months or four years.[73-1]

It were fatiguing and unnecessary to extend the catalogue much further.
Yet it is not nearly exhausted. From tribes of both continents and all
stages of culture, the Muyscas of Columbia and the Natchez of Louisiana,
the Quichés of Guatemala and the Caribs of the Orinoko, instance after
instance might be marshalled to illustrate how universally a sacred
character was attached to this number, and how uniformly it is traceable
to a veneration of the cardinal points. It is sufficient that it be
displayed in some of its more unusual applications.

It is well known that the calendar common to the Aztecs and Mayas
divides the month into four weeks, each containing a like number of
secular days; that their indiction is divided into four periods; and
that they believed the world had passed through four cycles. It has not
been sufficiently emphasized that in many of the picture writings these
days of the week are placed respectively north, south, east, and west,
and that in the Maya language the quarters of the indiction still bear
the names of the cardinal points, hinting the reason of their
adoption.[74-1] This cannot be fortuitous. Again, the division of the
year into four seasons--a division as devoid of foundation in nature as
that of the ancient Aryans into three, and unknown among many tribes,
yet obtained in very early times among Algonkins, Cherokees, Choctaws,
Creeks, Aztecs, Muyscas, Peruvians, and Araucanians. They were supposed
to be produced by the unending struggles and varying fortunes of the
four aerial giants who rule the winds.

We must seek in mythology the key to the monotonous repetition and the
sanctity of this number; and furthermore, we must seek it in those
natural modes of expression of the religious sentiment which are above
the power of blood or circumstance to control. One of these modes, we
have seen, was that which led to the identification of the divinity with
the wind, and this it is that solves the enigma in the present instance.
Universally the spirits of the cardinal points were imagined to be in
the winds that blew from them. The names of these directions and of the
corresponding winds are often the same, and when not, there exists an
intimate connection between them. For example, take the languages of the
Mayas, Huastecas, and Moscos of Central America; in all of them the word
for _north_ is synonymous with _north wind_, and so on for the other
three points of the compass. Or again, that of the Dakotas, and the word
_tate-ouye-toba_, translated "the four quarters of the heavens," means
literally, "whence the four winds come."[75-1] It were not difficult to
extend the list; but illustrations are all that is required. Let it be
remembered how closely the motions of the air are associated in thought
and language with the operations of the soul and the idea of God; let it
further be considered what support this association receives from the
power of the winds on the weather, bringing as they do the lightning and
the storm, the zephyr that cools the brow, and the tornado that levels
the forest; how they summon the rain to fertilize the seed and refresh
the shrivelled leaves; how they aid the hunter to stalk the game, and
usher in the varying seasons; how, indeed, in a hundred ways, they
intimately concern his comfort and his life; and it will not seem
strange that they almost occupied the place of all other gods in the
mind of the child of nature. Especially as those who gave or withheld
the rains were they objects of his anxious solicitation. "Ye who dwell
at the four corners of the earth--at the north, at the south, at the
east, and at the west," commenced the Aztec prayer to the Tlalocs, gods
of the showers.[75-2] For they, as it were, hold the food, the life of
man in their power, garnered up on high, to grant or deny, as they see
fit. It was from them that the prophet of old was directed to call back
the spirits of the dead to the dry bones of the valley. "Prophesy unto
the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, thus saith the Lord
God, come forth from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these
slain, that they may live." (Ezek. xxxvii. 9.)

In the same spirit the priests of the Eskimos prayed to _Sillam Innua_,
the Owner of the Winds, as the highest existence; the abode of the dead
they called _Sillam Aipane_, the House of the Winds; and in their
incantations, when they would summon a new soul to the sick, or order
back to its home some troublesome spirit, their invocations were ever
addressed to the winds from the cardinal points--to Pauna the East and
Sauna the West, to Kauna the South and Auna the North.[76-1]

As the rain-bringers, as the life-givers, it were no far-fetched
metaphor to call them the fathers of our race. Hardly a nation on the
continent but seems to have had some vague tradition of an origin from
four brothers, to have at some time been led by four leaders or princes,
or in some manner to have connected the appearance and action of four
important personages with its earliest traditional history. Sometimes
the myth defines clearly these fabled characters as the spirits of the
winds, sometimes it clothes them in uncouth, grotesque metaphors,
sometimes again it so weaves them into actual history that we are at a
loss where to draw the line that divides fiction from truth.

I shall attempt to follow step by step the growth of this myth from its
simplest expression, where the transparent drapery makes no pretence to
conceal its true meaning, through the ever more elaborate narratives,
the more strongly marked personifications of more cultivated nations,
until it assumes the outlines of, and has palmed itself upon the world
as actual history.

This simplest form is that which alone appears among the Algonkins and
Dakotas. They both traced their lives back to four ancestors, personages
concerned in various ways with the first things of time, not rightly
distinguished as men or gods, but very positively identified with the
four winds. Whether from one or all of these the world was peopled,
whether by process of generation or some other more obscure way, the old
people had not said, or saying, had not agreed.[77-1]

It is a shade more complex when we come to the Creeks. They told of four
men who came from the four corners of the earth, who brought them the
sacred fire, and pointed out the seven sacred plants. They were called
the Hi-you-yul-gee. Having rendered them this service, the kindly
visitors disappeared in a cloud, returning whence they came. When
another and more ancient legend informs us that the Creeks were at first
divided into four clans, and alleged a descent from four female
ancestors, it will hardly be venturing too far to recognize in these
four ancestors the four friendly patrons from the cardinal points.[78-1]

The ancient inhabitants of Haiti, when first discovered by the
Spaniards, had a similar genealogical story, which Peter Martyr relates
with various excuses for its silliness and exclamations at its
absurdity. Perhaps the fault lay less in its lack of meaning than in his
want of insight. It was to the effect that men lived in caves, and were
destroyed by the parching rays of the sun, and were destitute of means
to prolong their race, until they caught and subjected to their use four
women who were swift of foot and slippery as eels. These were the
mothers of the race of men. Or again, it was said that a certain king
had a huge gourd which contained all the waters of the earth; four
brothers, who coming into the world at one birth had cost their mother
her life, ventured to the gourd to fish, picked it up, but frightened by
the old king's approach, dropped it on the ground, broke it into
fragments, and scattered the waters over the earth, forming the seas,
lakes, and rivers, as they now are. These brothers in time became the
fathers of a nation, and to them they traced their lineage.[78-2] With
the previous examples before our eyes, it asks no vivid fancy to see in
these quaternions once more the four winds, the bringers of rain, so
swift and so slippery.

The Navajos are a rude tribe north of Mexico. Yet even they have an
allegory to the effect that when the first man came up from the ground
under the figure of the moth-worm, the four spirits of the cardinal
points were already there, and hailed him with the exclamation, "Lo, he
is of our race."[79-1] It is a poor and feeble effort to tell the same
old story.

The Haitians were probably relatives of the Mayas of Yucatan. Certainly
the latter shared their ancestral legends, for in an ancient manuscript
found by Mr. Stephens during his travels, it appears they looked back to
four parents or leaders called the Tutul Xiu. But, indeed, this was a
trait of all the civilized nations of Central America and Mexico. An
author who would be very unwilling to admit any mythical interpretation
of the coincidence, has adverted to it in tones of astonishment: "In all
the Aztec and Toltec histories there are four characters who constantly
reappear; either as priests or envoys of the gods, or of hidden and
disguised majesty; or as guides and chieftains of tribes during their
migrations; or as kings and rulers of monarchies after their foundation;
and even to the time of the conquest, there are always four princes who
compose the supreme government, whether in Guatemala, or in
Mexico."[79-2] This fourfold division points not to a common history,
but to a common nature. The ancient heroes and demigods, who, four in
number, figure in all these antique traditions, were not men of flesh
and blood, but the invisible currents of air who brought the fertilizing

They corresponded to the four gods Bacab, who in the Yucatecan mythology
were supposed to stand one at each corner of the world, supporting, like
gigantic caryatides, the overhanging firmament. When at the general
deluge all other gods and men were swallowed by the waters they alone
escaped to people it anew. These four, known by the names of Kan, Muluc,
Ix, and Cauac, represented respectively the east, north, west, and
south, and as in Oriental symbolism, so here each quarter of the compass
was distinguished by a color, the east by yellow, the south by red, the
west by black, and the north by white. The names of these mysterious
personages, employed somewhat as we do the Dominical letters, adjusted
the calendar of the Mayas, and by their propitious or portentous
combinations was arranged their system of judicial astrology. They were
the gods of rain, and under the title Chac, the Red Ones, were the chief
ministers of the highest power. As such they were represented in the
religious ceremonies by four old men, constant attendants on the high
priest in his official functions.[80-1] In this most civilized branch
of the red race, as everywhere else, we thus find four mythological
characters prominent beyond all others, giving a peculiar physiognomy to
the national legends, arts, and sciences, and in them once more we
recognize by signs infallible, personifications of the four cardinal
points and the four winds.

They rarely lose altogether their true character. The Quiché legends
tell us that the four men who were first created by the Heart of Heaven,
Hurakan, the Air in Motion, were infinitely keen of eye and swift of
foot, that "they measured and saw all that exists at the four corners
and the four angles of the sky and the earth;" that they did not fulfil
the design of their maker "to bring forth and produce when the season of
harvest was near," until he blew into their eyes a cloud, "until their
faces were obscured as when one breathes on a mirror." Then he gave them
as wives the four mothers of our species, whose names were Falling
Water, Beautiful Water, Water of Serpents, and Water of Birds.[81-1]
Truly he who can see aught but a transparent myth in this recital, is a
realist that would astonish Euhemerus himself.

There is in these Aztec legends a quaternion besides this of the first
men, one that bears marks of a profound contemplation on the course of
nature, one that answers to the former as the heavenly phase of the
earthly conception. It is seen in the four personages, or perhaps we
should say modes of action, that make up the one Supreme Cause of All,
Hurakan, the breath, the wind, the Divine Spirit. They are He who
creates, He who gives Form, He who gives Life, and He who
reproduces.[82-1] This acute and extraordinary analysis of the origin
and laws of organic life, clothed under the ancient belief in the action
of the winds, reveals a depth of thought for which we were hardly
prepared, and is perhaps the single instance of anything like
metaphysics among the red race. It is clearly visible in the earlier
portions of the legends of the Quichés, and is the more surely of native
origin as it has been quite lost on both their translators.

Go where we will, the same story meets us. The empire of the Incas was
attributed in the sacred chants of the Amautas, the priests assigned to
take charge of the records, to four brothers and their wives. These
mythical civilizers are said to have emerged from a cave called _Pacari
tampu_, which may mean "the House of Subsistence," reminding us of the
four heroes who in Aztec legend set forth to people the world from
Tonacatepec, the mountain of our subsistence; or again it may mean--for
like many of these mythical names it seems to have been designedly
chosen to bear a double construction--the Lodgings of the Dawn,
recalling another Aztec legend which points for the birthplace of the
race to Tula in the distant orient. The cave itself suggests to the
classical reader that of Eolus, or may be paralleled with that in which
the Iroquois fabled the winds were imprisoned by their lord.[83-1] These
brothers were of no common kin. Their voices could shake the earth and
their hands heap up mountains. Like the thunder god, they stood on the
hills and hurled their sling-stones to the four corners of the earth.
When one was overpowered he fled upward to the heaven or was turned into
stone, and it was by their aid and counsel that the savages who
possessed the land renounced their barbarous habits and commenced to
till the soil. There can be no doubt but that this in turn is but
another transformation of the Protean myth we have so long

There are traces of the same legend among many other tribes of the
continent, but the trustworthy reports we have of them are too scanty to
permit analysis. Enough that they are mentioned in a note, for it is
every way likely that could we resolve their meaning they too would
carry us back to the four winds.[83-3]

Let no one suppose, however, that this was the only myth of the origin
of man. Far from it. It was but one of many, for, as I shall hereafter
attempt to show, the laws that governed the formations of such myths not
only allowed but enjoined great divergence of form. Equally far was it
from being the only image which the inventive fancy hit upon to express
the action of the winds as the rain bringers. They too were many, but
may all be included in a twofold division, either as the winds were
supposed to flow in from the corners of the earth or outward from its
central point. Thus they are spoken of under such figures as four
tortoises at the angles of the earthly plane who vomit forth the
rains,[85-1] or four gigantic caryatides who sustain the heavens and
blow the winds from their capacious lungs,[85-2] or more frequently as
four rivers flowing from the broken calabash on high, as the Haitians,
draining the waters of the primitive world,[85-3] as four animals who
bring from heaven the maize,[85-4] as four messengers whom the god of
air sends forth, or under a coarser trope as the spittle he ejects
toward the cardinal points which is straightway transformed into wild
rice, tobacco, and maize.[85-5]

Constantly from the palace of the lord of the world, seated on the high
hill of heaven, blow four winds, pour four streams, refreshing and
fecundating the earth. Therefore, in the myths of ancient Iran there is
mention of a celestial fountain, Arduisur, the virgin daughter of
Ormuzd, whence four all nourishing rivers roll their waves toward the
cardinal points; therefore the Thibetans believe that on the sacred
mountain Himavata grows the tree of life Zampu, from whose foot once
more flow the waters of life in four streams to the four quarters of the
world; and therefore it is that the same tale is told by the Chinese of
the mountain Kouantun, by the Brahmins of Mount Meru, and by the Parsees
of Mount Albors in the Caucasus.[85-6] Each nation called their sacred
mountain "the navel of the earth;" for not only was it the supposed
centre of the habitable world, but through it, as the fœtus through
the umbilical cord, the earth drew her increase. Beyond all other spots
were they accounted fertile, scenes of joyous plaisance, of repose, and
eternal youth; there rippled the waters of health, there blossomed the
tree of life; they were fit trysting spots of gods and men. Hence came
the tales of the terrestrial paradise, the rose garden of Feridun, the
Eden gardens of the world. The name shows the origin, for paradise (in
Sanscrit, _para desa_) means literally _high land_. There, in the
unanimous opinion of the Orient, dwelt once in unalloyed delight the
first of men; thence driven by untoward fate, no more anywhere could
they find the path thither. Some thought that in the north among the
fortunate Hyperboreans, others that in the mountains of the moon where
dwelt the long lived Ethiopians, and others again that in the furthest
east, underneath the dawn, was situate the seat of pristine happiness;
but many were of opinion that somewhere in the western sea, beyond the
pillars of Hercules and the waters of the Outer Ocean, lay the garden of
the Hesperides, the Islands of the Blessed, the earthly Elysion.

It is not without design that I recall this early dream of the religious
fancy. When Christopher Columbus, fired by the hope of discovering this
terrestrial paradise, broke the enchantment of the cloudy sea and found
a new world, it was but to light upon the same race of men, deluding
themselves with the same hope of earthly joys, the same fiction of a
long lost garden of their youth. They told him that still to the west,
amid the mountains of Paria, was a spot whence flowed mighty streams
over all lands, and which in sooth was the spot he sought;[87-1] and
when that baseless fabric had vanished, there still remained the fabled
island of Boiuca, or Bimini, hundreds of leagues north of Hispaniola,
whose glebe was watered by a fountain of such noble virtue as to restore
youth and vigor to the worn out and the aged.[87-2] This was no fiction
of the natives to rid themselves of burdensome guests. Long before the
white man approached their shores, families had started from Cuba,
Yucatan, and Honduras in search of these renovating waters, and not
returning, were supposed by their kindred to have been detained by the
delights of that enchanted land, and to be revelling in its seductive
joys, forgetful of former ties.[87-3]

Perhaps it was but another rendering of the same belief that pointed to
the impenetrable forests of the Orinoko, the ancient homes of the Caribs
and Arowacks, and there located the famous realm of El Dorado with its
imperial capital Manoa, abounding in precious metals and all manner of
gems, peopled by a happy race, and governed by an equitable ruler.

The Aztec priests never chanted more regretful dirges than when they
sang of Tulan, the cradle of their race, where once it dwelt in peaceful
indolent happiness, whose groves were filled with birds of sweet voices
and gay plumage, whose generous soil brought forth spontaneously maize,
cocoa, aromatic gums, and fragrant flowers. "Land of riches and plenty,
where the gourds grow an arm's length across, where an ear of corn is a
load for a stout man, and its stalks are as high as trees; land where
the cotton ripens of its own accord of all rich tints; land abounding
with limpid emeralds, turquoises, gold, and silver."[88-1] This land was
also called Tlalocan, from Tlaloc, the god of rain, who there had his
dwelling place, and Tlapallan, the land of colors, or the red land, for
the hues of the sky at sunrise floated over it. Its inhabitants were
surnamed children of the air, or of Quetzalcoatl, and from its centre
rose the holy mountain Tonacatepec, the mountain of our life or
subsistence. Its supposed location was in the east, whence in that
country blow the winds that bring mild rains, says Sahagun, and that
missionary was himself asked, as coming from the east, whether his home
was in Tlapallan; more definitely by some it was situated among the
lofty peaks on the frontiers of Guatemala, and all the great rivers that
water the earth were supposed to have their sources there.[88-2] But
here, as elsewhere, its site was not determined. "There is a Tulan,"
says an ancient authority, "where the sun rises, and there is another in
the land of shades, and another where the sun reposes, and thence came
we; and still another where the sun reposes, and there dwells

The myth of the Quichés but changes the name of this pleasant land. With
them it was _Pan-paxil-pa-cayala_, where the waters divide in falling,
or between the waters parcelled out and mucky. This was "an excellent
land, full of pleasant things, where was store of white corn and yellow
corn, where one could not count the fruits, nor estimate the quantity of
honey and food." Over it ruled the lord of the air, and from it the
four sacred animals carried the corn to make the flesh of men.[90-1]

Once again, in the legends of the Mixtecas, we hear the old story
repeated of the garden where the first two brothers dwelt. It lay
between a meadow and that lofty peak which supports the heavens and the
palaces of the gods. "Many trees were there, such as yield flowers and
roses, very luscious fruits, divers herbs, and aromatic spices." The
names of the brothers were the Wind of Nine Serpents and the Wind of
Nine Caverns. The first was as an eagle, and flew aloft over the waters
that poured around their enchanted garden; the second was as a serpent
with wings, who proceeded with such velocity that he pierced rocks and
walls. They were too swift to be seen by the sharpest eye, and were one
near as they passed, he was only aware of a whisper and a rustling like
that of the wind in the leaves.[90-2]

Wherever, in short, the lust of gold lured the early adventurers, they
were told of some nation a little further on, some wealthy and
prosperous land, abundant and fertile, satisfying the desire of the
heart. It was sometimes deceit, and it was sometimes the credited
fiction of the earthly paradise, that in all ages has with a promise of
perfect joy consoled the aching heart of man.

It is instructive to study the associations that naturally group
themselves around each of the cardinal points, and watch how these are
mirrored on the surface of language, and have directed the current of
thought. Jacob Grimm has performed this task with fidelity and beauty as
regards the Aryan race, but the means are wanting to apply his searching
method to the indigenous tongues of America. Enough if in general terms
their mythological value be determined.

When the day begins, man wakes from his slumbers, faces the rising sun,
and prays. The east is before him; by it he learns all other directions;
it is to him what the north is to the needle; with reference to it he
assigns in his mind the position of the three other cardinal
points.[91-1] There is the starting place of the celestial fires, the
home of the sun, the womb of the morning. It represents in space the
beginning of things in time, and as the bright and glorious creatures of
the sky come forth thence, man conceits that his ancestors also in
remote ages wandered from the orient; there in the opinion of many in
both the old and new world was the cradle of the race; there in Aztec
legend was the fabled land of Tlapallan, and the wind from the east was
called the wind of Paradise, Tlalocavitl.

From this direction came, according to the almost unanimous opinion of
the Indian tribes, those hero gods who taught them arts and religion,
thither they returned, and from thence they would again appear to resume
their ancient sway. As the dawn brings light, and with light is
associated in every human mind the ideas of knowledge, safety,
protection, majesty, divinity, as it dispels the spectres of night, as
it defines the cardinal points, and brings forth the sun and the day,
it occupied the primitive mind to an extent that can hardly be magnified
beyond the truth. It is in fact the central figure in most natural

The west, as the grave of the heavenly luminaries, or rather as their
goal and place of repose, brings with it thoughts of sleep, of death, of
tranquillity, of rest from labor. When the evening of his days was come,
when his course was run, and man had sunk from sight, he was supposed to
follow the sun and find some spot of repose for his tired soul in the
distant west. There, with general consent, the tribes north of the Gulf
of Mexico supposed the happy hunting grounds; there, taught by the same
analogy, the ancient Aryans placed the Nerriti, the exodus, the land of
the dead. "The old notion among us," said on one occasion a
distinguished chief of the Creek nation, "is that when we die, the
spirit goes the way the sun goes, to the west, and there joins its
family and friends who went before it."[92-1]

In the northern hemisphere the shadows fall to the north, thence blow
cold and furious winds, thence come the snow and early thunder. Perhaps
all its primitive inhabitants, of whatever race, thought it the seat of
the mighty gods.[92-2] A floe of ice in the Arctic Sea was the home of
the guardian spirit of the Algonkins;[92-3] on a mountain near the north
star the Dakotas thought Heyoka dwelt who rules the seasons; and the
realm of Mictla, the Aztec god of death, lay where the shadows pointed.
From that cheerless abode his sceptre reached over all creatures, even
the gods themselves, for sooner or later all must fall before him. The
great spirit of the dead, said the Ottawas, lives in the dark
north,[93-1] and there, in the opinion of the Monquis of California,
resided their chief god, Gumongo.[93-2]

Unfortunately the makers of vocabularies have rarely included the words
north, south, east, and west, in their lists, and the methods of
expressing these ideas adopted by the Indians can only be partially
discovered. The east and west were usually called from the rising and
setting of the sun as in our words orient and occident, but occasionally
from traditional notions. The Mayas named the west the greater, the east
the lesser debarkation; believing that while their culture hero Zamna
came from the east with a few attendants, the mass of the population
arrived from the opposite direction.[93-3] The Aztecs spoke of the east
as "the direction of Tlalocan," the terrestrial paradise. But for north
and south there were no such natural appellations, and consequently the
greatest diversity is exhibited in the plans adopted to express them.
The north in the Caddo tongue is "the place of cold," in Dakota "the
situation of the pines," in Creek "the abode of the (north) star," in
Algonkin "the home of the soul," in Aztec "the direction of Mictla" the
realm of death, in Quiché and Quichua, "to the right hand;"[93-4] while
for the south we find such terms as in Dakota "the downward direction,"
in Algonkin "the place of warmth," in Quiché "to the left hand," while
among the Eskimos, who look in this direction for the sun, its name
implies "before one," just as does the Hebrew word _kedem_, which,
however, this more southern tribe applied to the east.

We can trace the sacredness of the number four in other curious and
unlooked-for developments. Multiplied into the number of the
fingers--the arithmetic of every child and ignorant man--or by adding
together the first four members of its arithmetical series (4 + 8 + 12 +
16), it gives the number forty. This was taken as a limit to the sacred
dances of some Indian tribes, and by others as the highest number of
chants to be employed in exorcising diseases. Consequently it came to be
fixed as a limit in exercises of preparation or purification. The
females of the Orinoko tribes fasted forty days before marriage, and
those of the upper Mississippi were held unclean the same length of time
after childbirth; such was the term of the Prince of Tezcuco's fast when
he wished an heir to his throne, and such the number of days the Mandans
supposed it required to wash clean the world at the deluge.[94-1]

No one is ignorant how widely this belief was prevalent in the old
world, nor how the quadrigesimal is still a sacred term with some
denominations of Christianity. But a more striking parallelism awaits
us. The symbol that beyond all others has fascinated the human mind, THE
CROSS, finds here its source and meaning. Scholars have pointed out its
sacredness in many natural religions, and have reverently accepted it as
a mystery, or offered scores of conflicting and often debasing
interpretations. It is but another symbol of the four cardinal points,
the four winds of heaven. This will luminously appear by a study of its
use and meaning in America.

The Catholic missionaries found it was no new object of adoration to the
red race, and were in doubt whether to ascribe the fact to the pious
labors of Saint Thomas or the sacrilegious subtlety of Satan. It was the
central object in the great temple of Cozumel, and is still preserved on
the bas-reliefs of the ruined city of Palenque. From time immemorial it
had received the prayers and sacrifices of the Aztecs and Toltecs, and
was suspended as an august emblem from the walls of temples in Popoyan
and Cundinamarca. In the Mexican tongue it bore the significant and
worthy name "Tree of Our Life," or "Tree of our Flesh" (Tonacaquahuitl).
It represented the god of rains and of health, and this was everywhere
its simple meaning. "Those of Yucatan," say the chroniclers, "prayed to
the cross as the god of rains when they needed water." The Aztec goddess
of rains bore one in her hand, and at the feast celebrated to her honor
in the early spring victims were nailed to a cross and shot with arrows.
Quetzalcoatl, god of the winds, bore as his sign of office "a mace like
the cross of a bishop;" his robe was covered with them strown like
flowers, and its adoration was throughout connected with his
worship.[96-1] When the Muyscas would sacrifice to the goddess of waters
they extended cords across the tranquil depths of some lake, thus
forming a gigantic cross, and at their point of intersection threw in
their offerings of gold, emeralds, and precious oils.[96-2] The arms of
the cross were designed to point to the cardinal points and represent
the four winds, the rain bringers. To confirm this explanation, let us
have recourse to the simpler ceremonies of the less cultivated tribes,
and see the transparent meaning of the symbol as they employed it.

When the rain maker of the Lenni Lenape would exert his power, he
retired to some secluded spot and drew upon the earth the figure of a
cross (its arms toward the cardinal points?), placed upon it a piece of
tobacco, a gourd, a bit of some red stuff, and commenced to cry aloud to
the spirits of the rains.[96-3] The Creeks at the festival of the Busk,
celebrated, as we have seen, to the four winds, and according to their
legends instituted by them, commenced with making the new fire. The
manner of this was "to place four logs in the centre of the square, end
to end, forming a cross, the outer ends pointing to the cardinal points;
in the centre of the cross the new fire is made."[97-1]

As the emblem of the winds who dispense the fertilizing showers it is
emphatically the tree of our life, our subsistence, and our health. It
never had any other meaning in America, and if, as has been said,[97-2]
the tombs of the Mexicans were cruciform, it was perhaps with reference
to a resurrection and a future life as portrayed under this symbol,
indicating that the buried body would rise by the action of the four
spirits of the world, as the buried seed takes on a new existence when
watered by the vernal showers. It frequently recurs in the ancient
Egyptian writings, where it is interpreted _life_; doubtless, could we
trace the hieroglyph to its source, it would likewise prove to be
derived from the four winds.

While thus recognizing the natural origin of this consecrated symbol,
while discovering that it is based on the sacredness of numbers, and
this in turn on the structure and necessary relations of the human
body, thus disowning the meaningless mysticism that Joseph de Maistre
and his disciples have advocated, let us on the other hand be equally on
our guard against accepting the material facts which underlie these
beliefs as their deepest foundation and their exhaustive explanation.
That were but withered fruit for our labors, and it might well be asked,
where is here the divine idea said to be dimly prefigured in mythology?
The universal belief in the sacredness of numbers is an instinctive
faith in an immortal truth; it is a direct perception of the soul, akin
to that which recognizes a God. The laws of chemical combination, of the
various modes of motion, of all organic growth, show that simple
numerical relations govern all the properties and are inherent to the
very constitution of matter; more marvellous still, the most recent and
severe inductions of physicists show that precisely those two numbers on
whose symbolical value much of the edifice of ancient mythology was
erected, the _four_ and the _three_, regulate the molecular distribution
of matter and preside over the symmetrical development of organic forms.
This asks no faith, but only knowledge; it is science, not revelation.
In view of such facts is it presumptuous to predict that experiment
itself will prove the truth of Kepler's beautiful saying: "The universe
is a harmonious whole, the soul of which is God; numbers, figures, the
stars, all nature, indeed, are in unison with the mysteries of


[67-1] Buckingham Smith, _Gram. Notices of the Heve Language_, p. 26
(Shea's Lib. Am. Linguistics).

[68-1] I refer to thefour "ultimate elementary particles" of Empedocles. The number was
sacred to Hermes, and lay at the root of the physical philosophy of
Pythagoras. The quotation in the text is from the "Golden Verses," given
in Passow's lexicon under the word τετρακτὺς: ναι μα τον ἁμετερᾳ ψυχᾳ
παραδοντα τετρακτυν, παγαν αεναου φυσεως. "The most sacred of all
things," said this famous teacher, "is Number; and next to it, that
which gives Names;" a truth that the lapse of three thousand years is
just enabling us to appreciate.

[68-2] Ximenes, _Or. de los Indios_, etc., p. 5.

[68-3] See Sepp, _Heidenthum und dessen Bedeutung für das Christenthum_,
i. p. 464 sqq., a work full of learning, but written in the wildest vein
of Joseph de Maistre's school of Romanizing mythology.

[69-1] Brasseur, _Hist. du Mexique_, ii. p. 227, _Le Livre Sacré des
Quichés_, introd. p. ccxlii. The four provinces of Peru were Anti, Cunti,
Chincha, and Colla. The meaning of these names has been lost, but to
repeat them, says La Vega, was the same as to use our words, east, west,
north, and south (_Hist. des Incas_, lib. ii. cap. 11).

[69-2] Humboldt, _Polit. Essay on New Spain_, ii. p. 44.

[70-1] This custom has been often mentioned among the Iroquois.
Algonkins, Dakotas, Creeks, Natchez, Araucanians, and other tribes.
Nuttall points out its recurrence among the Tartars of Siberia also.
(_Travels_, p. 175.)

[71-1] Schoolcraft, _Indian Tribes_, v. pp. 424 et seq.

[71-2] _Letters on the North American Indians_, vol. i., Letter 22.

[71-3] Schoolcraft, _Indian Tribes_, iv. p. 643 sq. "Four is their sacred
number," says Mr. Pond (p. 646). Their neighbors, the Pawnees, though not
the most remote affinity can be detected between their languages,
coincide with them in this sacred number, and distinctly identified it
with the cardinal points. See De Smet, _Oregon Missions_, pp. 360, 361.

[72-1] Benj. Hawkins, _Sketch of the Creek Country_, pp. 75, 78:
Savannah, 1848. The description he gives of the ceremonies of the Creeks
was transcribed word for word and published in the first volume of the
American Antiquarian Society's Transactions as of the Shawnees of Ohio.
This literary theft has not before been noticed.

[72-2] Palacios, _Des. de la Prov. de Guatemala_, pp. 31, 32, ed.

[73-1] All familiar with Mexican antiquity will recall many such
examples. I may particularly refer to Kingsborough, _Antiqs. of Mexico_,
v. p. 480, Ternaux-Compans' _Recueil de pièces rel. à la Conq. du
Mexique_, pp. 307, 310, and Gama, _Des. de las dos Piedras que se
hallaron en la plaza principal de Mexico_, ii. sec. 126 (Mexico, 1832),
who gives numerous instances beyond those I have cited, and directs with
emphasis the attention of the reader to this constant repetition.

[74-1] Albert Gallatin, _Trans. Am. Ethnol. Soc._, ii. p. 316, from the
Codex Vaticanus, No. 3738.

[75-1] Riggs, _Gram. and Dict. of the Dakota Lang._, s. v.

[75-2] Sahagun, _Hist. de la Nueva España_, in Kingsborough, v. p. 375.

[76-1] Egede, _Nachrichten von Grönland_, pp. 137, 173, 285. (Kopenhagen,

[77-1] Schoolcraft, _Algic Researches_, i. p. 139, and _Indian Tribes_,
iv. p. 229.

[78-1] Hawkins, _Sketch of the Creek Country_, pp. 81, 82, and Blomes,
_Acc. of his Majesty's Colonies_, p. 156, London, 1687, in Castiglioni,
_Viaggi nelle Stati Uniti_, i. p. 294.

[78-2] Peter Martyr, _De Reb. Ocean._, Dec. i. lib. ix. The story is also
told more at length by the Brother Romain Pane, in the essay on the
ancient histories of the natives he drew up by the order of Columbus. It
has been reprinted with notes by the Abbé Brasseur, Paris, 1864, p. 438

[79-1] Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, iv. p. 89.

[79-2] Brasseur, _Le Liv. Sac._, Introd., p. cxvii.

[80-1] Diego de Landa, _Rel. de las Cosas de Yucatan_, pp. 160, 206, 208,
ed. Brasseur. The learned editor, in a note to p. 208, states erroneously
the disposition of the colors, as may be seen by comparing the document
on p. 395. This dedication of colors to the cardinal points is universal
in Central Asia. The geographical names of the Red Sea, the Black Sea,
the Yellow Sea or Persian Gulf, and the White Sea or the Mediterranean,
are derived from this association. The cities of China, many of them at
least, have their gates which open toward the cardinal points painted of
certain colors, and precisely these four, the white, the black, the red,
and the yellow, are those which in Oriental myth the mountain in the
centre of Paradise shows to the different cardinal points. (Sepp,
_Heidenthum und Christenthum_, i. p. 177.) The coincidence furnishes food
for reflection.

[81-1] _Le Livre Sacré des Quichés_, pp. 203-5, note.

[82-1] The analogy is remarkable between these and the "quatre actes de
la puissance generatrice jusqu'à l'entier developpément des corps
organisés," portrayed by four globes in the Mycenean bas-reliefs. See
Guigniaut, _Religions de l'Antiquité_, i. p. 374. It were easy to
multiply the instances of such parallelism in the growth of religious
thought in the Old and New World, but I designedly refrain from doing so.
They have already given rise to false theories enough, and moreover my
purpose in this work is not "comparative mythology."

[83-1] Müller, _Amer. Urreligionen_, p. 105, after Strahlheim, who is,
however, no authority.

[83-2] Müller, _ubi supra_, pp. 308 sqq., gives a good résumé of the
different versions of the myth of the four brothers in Peru.

[83-3] The Tupis of Brazil claim a descent from four brothers, three of
whose names are given by Hans Staden, a prisoner among them about 1550,
as Krimen, Hermittan, and Coem; the latter he explains to mean the
morning, the east (_le matin_, printed by mistake _le mutin_, _Relation
de Hans Staden de Homberg_, p. 274, ed. Ternaux-Compans, compare Dias,
_Dicc. da Lingua Tupy_, p. 47). Their southern relatives, the Guaranis of
Paraguay, also spoke of the four brothers and gave two of their names as
Tupi and Guarani, respectively parents of the tribes called after them
(Guevara, _Hist. del Paraguay_, lib. i. cap. ii., in Waitz). The fourfold
division of the Muyscas of Bogota was traced back to four chieftains
created by their hero god Nemqueteba (A. von Humboldt, _Vues des
Cordillères_, p. 246). The Nahuas of Mexico much more frequently spoke of
themselves as descendants of four or eight original families than of
seven (Humboldt, _ibid._, p. 317, and others in Waitz, _Anthropologie_,
iv. pp. 36, 37). The Sacs or Sauks of the Upper Mississippi supposed that
two men and two women were first created, and from these four sprang all
men (Morse, _Rep. on Ind. Affairs_, App. p. 138). The Ottoes, Pawnees,
"and other Indians," had a tradition that from eight ancestors all
nations and races were descended (Id., p. 249). This duplication of the
number probably arose from assigning the first four men four women as
wives. The division into clans or totems which prevails in most northern
tribes rests theoretically on descent from different ancestors. The
Shawnees and Natchez were divided into four such clans, the Choctaws,
Navajos, and Iroquois into eight, thus proving that in those tribes also
the myth I have been discussing was recognized.

[85-1] Mandans in Catlin, _Letts. and Notes_, i. p. 181.

[85-2] The Mayas, Cogolludo, _Hist. de Yucathan_, lib. iv. cap. 8.

[85-3] The Navajos, Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, iv. p. 89.

[85-4] The Quichés, Ximenes, _Or. de los Indios_, p. 79.

[85-5] The Iroquois, Müller, _Amer. Urreligionen_, p. 109.

[85-6] For these myths see Sepp, _Das Heidenthum und dessen Bedeutung für
das Christenthum_, i. p. 111 sqq. The interpretation is of course my own.

[87-1] Peter Martyr, _De Reb. Ocean._, Dec. iii., lib. ix. p. 195; Colon,

[87-2] Ibid., Dec. iii., lib. x. p. 202.

[87-3] Florida was also long supposed to be the site of this wondrous
spring, and it is notorious that both Juan Ponce de Leon and De Soto had
some lurking hope of discovering it in their expeditions thither. I have
examined the myth somewhat at length in _Notes on the Floridian
Peninsula, its Literary History, Indian Tribes, and Antiquities_, pp. 99,
100: Philadelphia, 1859.

[88-1] Sahagun, _Hist. de la Nueva España_, lib. iii. cap. iii.

[88-2] _Le Livre Sacré des Quichés_, Introd., p. clviii.

[89-1] Memorial de Tecpan Atitlan, in Brasseur, _Hist. du Mexique_, i. p.
167. The derivation of Tulan, or Tula, is extremely uncertain. The Abbé
Brasseur sees in it the _ultima Thule_ of the ancient geographers, which
suits his idea of early American history. Hernando De Soto found a
village of this name on the Mississippi, or near it. But on looking into
Gallatin's vocabularies, _tulla_ turns out to be the Choctaw word for
_stone_, and as De Soto was then in the Choctaw country, the coincidence
is explained at once. Buschmann, who spells it _Tollan_, takes it from
_tolin_, a rush, and translates, _juncetum_, _Ort der Binsen. Ueber die
Aztekischen Orstnamen_,[TN-2] p. 682. Those who have attempted to make
history from these mythological fables have been much puzzled about the
location of this mystic land. Humboldt has placed it on the northwest
coast, Cabrera at Palenque, Clavigero north of Anahuac, etc. etc. Aztlan,
literally, the White Land, is another name of wholly mythical purport,
which it would be equally vain to seek on the terrestrial globe. In the
extract in the text, the word translated God is _Qabavil_, an old word
for the highest god, either from a root meaning to open, to disclose, or
from one of similar form signifying to wonder, to marvel; literally,
therefore, the Revealer, or the Wondrous One (_Vocab. de la Lengua
Quiché_, p. 209: Paris, 1862).

[90-1] Ximenes, _Or. de los Indios_, p. 80, _Le Livre Sacré_, p. 195.

[90-2] Garcia, _Origen de los Indios_, lib. iv. cap. 4.

[91-1] Compare the German expression _sich orientiren_, to right oneself
by the east, to understand one's surroundings.

[92-1] Hawkins, _Sketch of the Creek Country_, p. 80.

[92-2] See Jacob Grimm, _Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache_, p. 681

[92-3] De Smet, Oregon Missions, p. 352.

[93-1] Bressani, _Relation Abrégé_, p. 93.

[93-2] Venegas, _Hist. of California_, i. p. 91: London, 1759.

[93-3] Cogolludo, _Hist. de Yucathan_, lib. iv. cap. iii.

[93-4] Alexander von Humboldt has asserted that the Quichuas had other
and very circumstantial terms to express the cardinal points drawn from
the positions of the son (_Ansichten der Natur_, ii. p. 368). But the
distinguished naturalist overlooked the literal meaning of the phrases he
quotes for north and south, _intip chaututa chayananpata_ and _intip
chaupunchau chayananpata_, literally, the sun arriving toward the
midnight, the sun arriving toward the midday. These are evidently
translations of the Spanish _hacia la media noche_, _hacia el medio dia_,
for they could not have originated among a people under or south of the
equatorial line.

[94-1] Catlin, _Letters and Notes_, i., Letter 22; La Hontan, _Mémoires_,
ii. p. 151; Gumilla, _Hist. del Orinoco_, p. 159

[96-1] On the worship of the cross in Mexico and Yucatan and its
invariable meaning as representing the gods of rain, consult
Ixtlilxochitl, _Hist. des Chichimeques_, p. 5; Sahagun, _Hist. de la
Nueva España_, lib. i. cap. ii.; Garcia, _Or. de los Indios_, lib. iii.
cap. vi. p. 109; Palacios, _Des. de la Prov. de Guatemala_, p. 29;
Cogolludo, _Hist. de Yucathan_, lib. iv. cap. ix.; Villagutierre
Sotomayor, _Hist. de el Itza y de el Lacandon_, lib. iii. cap. 8; and
many others might be mentioned.

[96-2] Rivero and Tschudi, _Peruvian Antiquities_, p. 162, after J.

[96-3] Loskiel, _Ges. der Miss. der evang. Brüder_, p. 60.

[97-1] Hawkins, _Sketch of the Creek Country_, p. 75. Lapham and Pidgeon
mention that in the State of Wisconsin many low mounds are found in the
form of a cross with the arms directed to the cardinal points. They
contain no remains. Were they not altars built to the Four Winds? In the
mythology of the Dakotas, who inhabited that region, the winds were
always conceived as birds, and for the cross they have a native name
literally signifying "the musquito hawk spread out" (Riggs, _Dict. of the
Dakota_, s. v.). Its Maya name is _vahom che_, the tree erected or set
up, the adjective being drawn from the military language and implying as
a defence or protection, as the warrior lifts his lance or shield (Landa,
_Rel. de las Cosas de Yucatan_, p. 65).

[97-2] Squier, _The Serpent Symbol in America_, p. 98.



     Relations of man to the lower animals.--Two of these, the BIRD and
     the SERPENT, chosen as symbols beyond all others.--The Bird
     throughout America the symbol of the Clouds and Winds.--Meaning of
     certain species.--The symbolic meaning of the Serpent derived from
     its mode of locomotion, its poisonous bite, and its power of
     charming.--Usually the symbol of the Lightning and the Waters.--The
     Rattlesnake the symbolic species in America.--The war charm.--The
     Cross of Palenque.--The god of riches.--Both symbols devoid of
     moral significance.

Those stories which the Germans call _Thierfabeln_, wherein the actors
are different kinds of brutes, seem to have a particular relish for
children and uncultivated nations. Who cannot recall with what delight
he nourished his childish fancy on the pranks of Reynard the Fox, or the
tragic adventures of Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf? Every nation
has a congeries of such tales, and it is curious to mark how the same
animal reappears with the same imputed physiognomy in all of them. The
fox is always cunning, the wolf ravenous, the owl wise, and the ass
foolish. The question has been raised whether such traits were at first
actually ascribed to animals, or whether their introduction in story was
intended merely as an agreeable figure of speech for classes of men. We
cannot doubt but that the former was the case. Going back to the dawn of
civilization, we find these relations not as amusing fictions, but as
myths, embodying religious tenets, and the brute heroes held up as the
ancestors of mankind, even as rightful claimants of man's prayers and

Man, the paragon of animals, praying to the beast, is a spectacle so
humiliating that, for the sake of our common humanity, we may seek the
explanation of it least degrading to the dignity of our race. We must
remember that as a hunter the primitive man was always matched against
the wild creatures of the woods, so superior to him in their dumb
certainty of instinct, their swift motion, their muscular force, their
permanent and sufficient clothing. Their ways were guided by a wit
beyond his divination, and they gained a living with little toil or
trouble. They did not mind the darkness so terrible to him, but through
the night called one to the other in a tongue whose meaning he could not
fathom, but which, he doubted not, was as full of purport as his own. He
did not recognize in himself those god-like qualities destined to endow
him with the royalty of the world, while far more clearly than we do he
saw the sly and strange faculties of his antagonists. They were to him,
therefore, not inferiors, but equals--even superiors. He doubted not
that once upon a time he had possessed their instinct, they his
language, but that some necromantic spell had been flung on them both to
keep them asunder. None but a potent sorcerer could break this charm,
but such an one could understand the chants of birds and the howls of
savage beasts, and on occasion transform himself into one or another
animal, and course the forest, the air, or the waters, as he saw fit.
Therefore, it was not the beast that he worshipped, but that share of
the omnipresent deity which he thought he perceived under its

Beyond all others, two subdivisions of the animal kingdom have so
riveted the attention of men by their unusual powers, and enter so
frequently into the myths of every nation of the globe, that a right
understanding of their symbolic value is an essential preliminary to the
discussion of the divine legends. They are the BIRD and the SERPENT. We
shall not go amiss if we seek the reasons of their pre-eminence in the
facility with which their peculiarities offered sensuous images under
which to convey the idea of divinity, ever present in the soul of man,
ever striving at articulate expression.

The bird has the incomprehensible power of flight; it floats in the
atmosphere, it rides on the winds, it soars toward heaven where dwell
the gods; its plumage is stained with the hues of the rainbow and the
sunset; its song was man's first hint of music; it spurns the clouds
that impede his footsteps, and flies proudly over the mountains and
moors where he toils wearily along. He sees no more enviable creature;
he conceives the gods and angels must also have wings; and pleases
himself with the fancy that he, too, some day will shake off this coil
of clay, and rise on pinions to the heavenly mansions. All living
beings, say the Eskimos, have the faculty of soul (_tarrak_), but
especially the birds.[101-2] As messengers from the upper world and
interpreters of its decrees, the flight and the note of birds have ever
been anxiously observed as omens of grave import. "There is one bird
especially," remarks the traveller Coreal, of the natives of Brazil,
"which they regard as of good augury. Its mournful chant is heard rather
by night than day. The savages say it is sent by their deceased friends
to bring them news from the other world, and to encourage them against
their enemies."[102-1] In Peru and in Mexico there was a College of
Augurs, corresponding in purpose to the auspices of ancient Rome, who
practised no other means of divination than watching the course and
professing to interpret the songs of fowls. So natural and so general is
such a superstition, and so wide-spread is the respect it still obtains
in civilized and Christian lands, that it is not worth while to summon
witnesses to show that it prevailed universally among the red race also.
What imprinted it with redoubled force on their imagination was the
common belief that birds were not only divine nuncios, but the visible
spirits of their departed friends. The Powhatans held that a certain
small wood bird received the souls of their princes at death, and they
refrained religiously from doing it harm;[102-2] while the Aztecs and
various other nations thought that all good people, as a reward of
merit, were metamorphosed at the close of life into feathered songsters
of the grove, and in this form passed a certain term in the umbrageous
bowers of Paradise.

But the usual meaning of the bird as a symbol looks to a different
analogy--to that which appears in such familiar expressions as "the
wings of the wind," "the flying clouds." Like the wind, the bird sweeps
through the aerial spaces, sings in the forests, and rustles on its
course; like the cloud, it floats in mid-air and casts its shadow on the
earth; like the lightning, it darts from heaven to earth to strike its
unsuspecting prey. These tropes were truths to savage nations, and led
on by that law of language which forced them to conceive everything as
animate or inanimate, itself the product of a deeper law of thought
which urges us to ascribe life to whatever has motion, they found no
animal so appropriate for their purpose here as the bird. Therefore the
Algonkins say that birds always make the winds, that they create the
water spouts, and that the clouds are the spreading and agitation of
their wings;[103-1] the Navajos, that at each cardinal point stands a
white swan, who is the spirit of the blasts which blow from its
dwelling; and the Dakotas, that in the west is the house of the
Wakinyan, the Flyers, the breezes that send the storms. So, also, they
frequently explain the thunder as the sound of the cloud-bird flapping
his wings, and the lightning as the fire that flashes from his tracks,
like the sparks which the buffalo scatters when he scours over a stony
plain.[103-2] The thunder cloud was also a bird to the Caribs, and they
imagined it produced the lightning in true Carib fashion by blowing it
through a hollow reed, just as they to this day hurl their poisoned
darts.[104-1] Tupis, Iroquois, Athapascas, for certain, perhaps all the
families of the red race, were the subject pursued, partook of this
persuasion; among them all it would probably be found that the same
figures of speech were used in comparing clouds and winds with the
feathered species as among us, with however this most significant
difference, that whereas among us they are figures and nothing more, to
them they expressed literal facts.

How important a symbol did they thus become! For the winds, the clouds,
producing the thunder and the changes that take place in the
ever-shifting panorama of the sky, the rain bringers, lords of the
seasons, and not this only, but the primary type of the soul, the life,
the breath of man and the world, these in their role in mythology are
second to nothing. Therefore as the symbol of these august powers, as
messenger of the gods, and as the embodiment of departed spirits, no one
will be surprised if they find the bird figure most prominently in the
myths of the red race.

Sometimes some particular species seems to have been chosen as most
befitting these dignified attributes. No citizen of the United States
will be apt to assert that their instinct led the indigenes of our
territory astray when they chose with nigh unanimous consent the great
American eagle as that fowl beyond all others proper to typify the
supreme control and the most admirable qualities. Its feathers composed
the war flag of the Creeks, and its images carved in wood or its stuffed
skin surmounted their council lodges (Bartram); none but an approved
warrior dare wear it among the Cherokees (Timberlake); and the Dakotas
allowed such an honor only to him who had first touched the corpse of
the common foe (De Smet). The Natchez and Akanzas seem to have paid it
even religious honors, and to have installed it in their most sacred
shrines (Sieur de Tonty, Du Pratz); and very clearly it was not so much
for ornament as for a mark of dignity and a recognized sign of worth
that its plumes were so highly prized. The natives of Zuñi, in New
Mexico, employed four of its feathers to represent the four winds in
their invocations for rain (Whipple), and probably it was the eagle
which a tribe in Upper California (the Acagchemem) worshipped under the
name Panes. Father Geronimo Boscana describes it as a species of
vulture, and relates that one of them was immolated yearly, with solemn
ceremony, in the temple of each village. Not a drop of blood was
spilled, and the body burned. Yet with an amount of faith that staggered
even the Romanist, the natives maintained and believed that it was the
same individual bird they sacrificed each year; more than this, that the
same bird was slain by each of the villages![105-1]

The owl was regarded by Aztecs, Quichés, Mayas, Peruvians, Araucanians,
and Algonkins as sacred to the lord of the dead. "The Owl" was one of
the names of the Mexican Pluto, whose realm was in the north,[106-1] and
the wind from that quarter was supposed by the Chipeways to be made by
the owl as the south by the butterfly.[106-2] As the bird of night, it
was the fit emissary of him who rules the darkness of the grave.
Something in the looks of the creature as it sapiently stares and blinks
in the light, or perhaps that it works while others sleep, got for it
the character of wisdom. So the Creek priests carried with them as the
badge of their learned profession the stuffed skin of one of these
birds, thus modestly hinting their erudite turn of mind,[106-3] and the
culture hero of the Monquis of California was represented, like Pallas
Athene, having one as his inseparable companion (Venegas).

As the associate of the god of light and air, and as the antithesis
therefore of the owl, the Aztecs reverenced a bird called _quetzal_,
which I believe is a species of parroquet. Its plumage is of a bright
green hue, and was prized extravagantly as a decoration. It was one of
the symbols and part of the name of Quetzalcoatl, their mythical
civilizer, and the prince of all sorts of singing birds, myriads of whom
were fabled to accompany him on his journeys.

The tender and hallowed associations that have so widely shielded the
dove from harm, which for instance Xenophon mentions among the ancient
Persians, were not altogether unknown to the tribes of the New World.
Neither the Hurons nor Mandans would kill them, for they believed they
were inhabited by the souls of the departed,[107-1] and it is said, but
on less satisfactory authority, that they enjoyed similar immunity among
the Mexicans. Their soft and plaintive note and sober russet hue widely
enlisted the sympathy of man, and linked them with his more tender

"As wise as the serpent, as harmless as the dove," is an antithesis that
might pass current in any human language. They are the emblems of
complementary, often contrasted qualities. Of all animals, the serpent
is the most mysterious. No wonder it possessed the fancy of the
observant child of nature. Alone of creatures it swiftly progresses
without feet, fins, or wings. "There be three things which are too
wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not," said wise King Solomon;
and the chief of them were, "the way of an eagle in the air, the way of
a serpent upon a rock."

Its sinuous course is like to nothing so much as that of a winding
river, which therefore we often call serpentine. So did the Indians.
Kennebec, a stream in Maine, in the Algonkin means snake, and Antietam,
the creek in Maryland of tragic celebrity, in an Iroquois dialect has
the same significance. How easily would savages, construing the figure
literally, make the serpent a river or water god! Many species being
amphibious would confirm the idea. A lake watered by innumerable
tortuous rills wriggling into it, is well calculated for the fabled
abode of the king of the snakes. Thus doubtless it happened that both
Algonkins and Iroquois had a myth that in the great lakes dwelt a
monster serpent, of irascible temper, who unless appeased by meet
offerings raised a tempest or broke the ice beneath the feet of those
venturing on his domain, and swallowed them down.[108-1]

The rattlesnake was the species almost exclusively honored by the red
race. It is slow to attack, but venomous in the extreme, and possesses
the power of the basilisk to attract within reach of its spring small
birds and squirrels. Probably this much talked of fascination is nothing
more than by its presence near their nests to incite them to attack, and
to hazard near and nearer approaches to their enemy in hope to force him
to retreat, until once within the compass of his fell swoop they fall
victims to their temerity. I have often watched a cat act thus. Whatever
explanation may be received, the fact cannot be questioned, and is ever
attributed by the unreflecting, to some diabolic spell cast upon them by
the animal. They have the same strange susceptibility to the influence
of certain sounds as the vipers, in which lies the secret of snake
charming. Most of the Indian magicians were familiar with this
singularity. They employed it with telling effect to put beyond question
their intercourse with the unseen powers, and to vindicate the potency
of their own guardian spirits who thus enabled them to handle with
impunity the most venomous of reptiles.[109-1] The well-known antipathy
of these serpents to certain plants, for instance the hazel, which bound
around the ankles is an efficient protection against their attacks, and
perhaps some antidote to their poison used by the magicians, led to
their frequent introduction in religious ceremonies. Such exhibitions
must have made a profound impression on the spectators, and redounded in
a corresponding degree to the glory of the performer. "Who is a manito?"
asks the mystic meda chant of the Algonkins. "He," is the reply, "he who
walketh with a serpent, walking on the ground, he is a manito."[109-2]
And the intimate alliance of this symbol with the most sacred mysteries
of religion, the darkest riddles of the Unknown, is reflected in their
language, and also in that of their neighbors the Dakotas, in both of
which the same words _manito_, _wakan_, which express divinity in its
broadest sense, are also used as generic terms signifying this species
of animals! This strange fact is not without a parallel, for in both
Arabic and Hebrew, the word for serpent has many derivatives, meaning to
have intercourse with demoniac powers, to practise magic, and to consult
familiar spirits.[110-1]

The pious founder of the Moravian brotherhood, the Count of Zinzendorf,
owed his life on one occasion to this deeply rooted superstition. He was
visiting a missionary station among the Shawnees, in the Wyoming valley.
Recent quarrels with the whites had unusually irritated this unruly
folk, and they resolved to make him their first victim. After he had
retired to his secluded hut, several of their braves crept upon him, and
cautiously lifting the corner of the lodge, peered in. The venerable man
was seated before a little fire, a volume of the Scriptures on his
knees, lost in the perusal of the sacred words. While they gazed, a huge
rattlesnake, unnoticed by him, trailed across his feet, and rolled
itself into a coil in the comfortable warmth of the fire. Immediately
the would-be murderers forsook their purpose and noiselessly retired,
convinced that this was indeed a man of God.

A more unique trait than any of these is its habit of casting its skin
every spring, thus as it were renewing its life. In temperate latitudes
the rattlesnake, like the leaves and flowers, retires from sight during
the cold season, and at the return of kindly warmth puts on a new and
brilliant coat. Its cast-off skin was carefully collected by the savages
and stored in the medicine bag as possessing remedial powers of high
excellence. Itself thus immortal, they thought it could impart its
vitality to them. So when the mother was travailing in sore pain, and
the danger neared that the child would be born silent, the attending
women hastened to catch some serpent and give her its blood to

It is well known that in ancient art this animal was the symbol of
Æsculapius, and to this day, Professor Agassiz found that the Maues
Indians, who live between the upper Tapajos and Madeira Rivers in
Brazil, whenever they assign a form to any "remedio," give it that of a

Probably this notion that it was annually rejuvenated led to its
adoption as a symbol of Time among the Aztecs; or, perchance, as they
reckoned by suns, and the figure of the sun, a circle, corresponds to
nothing animate but a serpent with its tail in its mouth, eating itself,
as it were, this may have been its origin. Either of them is more likely
than that the symbol arose from the recondite reflection that time is
"never ending, still beginning, still creating, still destroying," as
has been suggested.

Only, however, within the last few years has the significance of the
serpent symbol in its length and breadth been satisfactorily explained,
and its frequent recurrence accounted for. By a searching analysis of
Greek and German mythology, Dr. Schwarz, of Berlin, has shown that the
meaning which is paramount to all others in this emblem is _the
lightning_; a meaning drawn from the close analogy which the serpent in
its motion, its quick spring, and mortal bite, has to the zigzag course,
the rapid flash, and sudden stroke of the electric discharge. He even
goes so far as to imagine that by this resemblance the serpent first
acquired the veneration of men. But this is an extravagance not
supported by more thorough research. He has further shown with great
aptness of illustration how, by its dread effects, the lightning, the
heavenly serpent, became the god of terror and the opponent of such
heroes as Beowulf, St. George, Thor, Perseus, and others, mythical
representations of the fearful war of the elements in the thunder storm;
how from its connection with the advancing summer and fertilizing
showers it bore the opposite character of the deity of fruitfulness,
riches, and plenty; how, as occasionally kindling the woods where it
strikes, it was associated with the myths of the descent of fire from
heaven, and as in popular imagination where it falls it scatters the
thunderbolts in all directions, the flint-stones which flash when struck
were supposed to be these fragments, and gave rise to the stone worship
so frequent in the old world; and how, finally, the prevalent myth of a
king of serpents crowned with a glittering stone or wearing a horn is
but another type of the lightning.[113-1] Without accepting unreservedly
all these conclusions, I shall show how correct they are in the main
when applied to the myths of the New World, and thereby illustrate how
the red race is of one blood and one faith with our own remote ancestors
in heathen Europe and Central Asia.

It asks no elaborate effort of the imagination to liken the lightning to
a serpent. It does not require any remarkable acuteness to guess the
conundrum of Schiller:--

   "Unter allen Schlangen ist eine
      Auf Erden nicht gezeugt,
    Mit der an Schnelle keine,
      An Wuth sich keine vergleicht."

When Father Buteux was a missionary among the Algonkins, in 1637, he
asked them their opinion of the nature of lightning. "It is an immense
serpent," they replied, "which the Manito is vomiting forth; you can see
the twists and folds that he leaves on the trees which he strikes; and
underneath such trees we have often found huge snakes." "Here is a novel
philosophy for you!" exclaims the Father.[113-2] So the Shawnees called
the thunder "the hissing of the great snake;"[113-3] and Tlaloc, the
Toltec thunder god, held in his hand a serpent of gold to represent the
lightning.[114-1] For this reason the Caribs spoke of the god of the
thunder storm as a great serpent dwelling in the fruit forests,[114-2]
and in the Quiché legends other names for Hurakan, the hurricane or
thunder-storm, are the Strong Serpent, He who hurls below, referring to
the lightning.[114-3]

Among the Hurons, in 1648, the Jesuits found a legend current that there
existed somewhere a monster serpent called Onniont, who wore on his head
a horn that pierced rocks, trees, hills, in short everything he
encountered. Whoever could get a piece of this horn was a fortunate man,
for it was a sovereign charm and bringer of good luck. The Hurons
confessed that none of them had had the good hap to find the monster and
break his horn, nor indeed had they any idea of his whereabouts; but
their neighbors, the Algonkins, furnished them at times small fragments
for a large consideration.[114-4] Clearly the myth had been taught them
for venal purposes by their trafficking visitors. Now among the
Algonkins, the Shawnee tribe did more than all others combined to
introduce and carry about religious legends and ceremonies. From the
earliest times they seem to have had peculiar aptitude for the
ecstasies, deceits, and fancies that made up the spiritual life of their
associates. Their constantly roving life brought them in contact with
the myths of many nations. And it is extremely probable that they first
brought the tale of the horned serpent from the Creeks and Cherokees. It
figured extensively in the legends of both these tribes.

The latter related that once upon a time among the glens of their
mountains dwelt the prince of rattlesnakes. Obedient subjects guarded
his palace, and on his head glittered in place of a crown a gem of
marvellous magic virtues. Many warriors and magicians tried to get
possession of this precious talisman, but were destroyed by the poisoned
fangs of its defenders. Finally, one more inventive than the rest hit
upon the bright idea of encasing himself in leather, and by this device
marched unharmed through the hissing and snapping court, tore off the
shining jewel, and bore it in triumph to his nation. They preserved it
with religious care, brought it forth on state occasions with solemn
ceremony, and about the middle of the last century, when Captain
Timberlake penetrated to their towns, told him its origin.[115-1]

The charm which the Creeks presented their young men when they set out
on the war path was of very similar character. It was composed of the
bones of the panther and the horn of the fabulous horned snake.
According to a legend taken down by an unimpeachable authority toward
the close of the last century, the great snake dwelt in the waters; the
old people went to the brink and sang the sacred songs. The monster rose
to the surface. The sages recommenced the mystic chants. He rose a
little out o[TN-3] the water. Again they repeated the songs. This time
he showed his horns and they cut one off. Still a fourth time did they
sing, and as he rose to listen cut off the remaining horn. A fragment of
these in the "war physic" protected from inimical arrows and gave
success in the conflict.[116-1]

In these myths, which attribute good fortune to the horn of the snake,
that horn which pierces trees and rocks, which rises from the waters,
which glitters as a gem, which descends from the ravines of the
mountains, we shall not overstep the bounds of prudent reasoning if we
see the thunderbolt, sign of the fructifying rain, symbol of the
strength of the lightning, horn of the heavenly serpent. They are
strictly meteorological in their meaning. And when in later Algonkin
tradition the hero Michabo appears in conflict with the shining prince
of serpents who lives in the lake and floods the earth with its waters,
and destroys the reptile with a dart, and further when the conqueror
clothes himself with the skin of his foe and drives the rest of the
serpents to the south where in that latitude the lightnings are last
seen in the autumn;[116-2] or when in the traditional history of the
Iroquois we hear of another great horned serpent rising out of the lake
and preying upon the people until a similar hero-god destroys it with a
thunderbolt,[116-3] we cannot be wrong in rejecting any historical or
ethical interpretation, and in construing them as allegories which at
first represented the atmospheric changes which accompany the advancing
seasons and the ripening harvests. They are narratives conveying under
agreeable personifications the tidings of that unending combat which the
Dakotas said was being waged with varying fortunes by Unktahe against
Wauhkeon, the God of Waters against the Thunder Bird.[117-1] They are
the same stories which in the old world have been elaborated into the
struggles of Ormuzd and Ahriman, of Thor and Midgard, of St. George and
the Dragon, and a thousand others.

Yet it were but a narrow theory of natural religion that allowed no
other meaning to these myths. Many another elemental warfare is being
waged around us, and applications as various as nature herself lie in
these primitive creations of the human fancy. Let it only be remembered
that there was never any moral, never any historical purport in them in
the infancy of religious life.

In snake charming as a proof of proficiency in magic, and in the symbol
of the lightning, which brings both fire and water, which in its might
controls victory in war, and in its frequency, plenteous crops at home,
lies the secret of the serpent symbol. As the "war physic" among the
tribes of the United States was a fragment of a serpent, and as thus
signifying his incomparable skill in war, the Iroquois represent their
mythical king Atatarho clothed in nothing but black snakes; so that when
he wished to don a new suit he simply drove away one set and ordered
another to take their places,[118-1] so, by a precisely similar mental
process, the myth of the Nahuas assigns as a mother to their war god
Huitzilapochtli, Coatlicue, the robe of serpents; her dwelling place
Coatepec, the hill of serpents; and at her lying-in say that she brought
forth a serpent. Her son's image was surrounded by serpents, his sceptre
was in the shape of one, his great drum was of serpents' skins, and his
statue rested on four vermiform caryatides.

As the symbol of the fertilizing summer showers the lightning serpent
was the god of fruitfulness. Born in the atmospheric waters, it was an
appropriate attribute of the ruler of the winds. But we have already
seen that the winds were often spoken of as great birds. Hence the union
of these two emblems in such names as Quetzalcoatl, Gucumatz, Kukulkan,
all titles of the god of the air in the languages of Central America,
all signifying the "Bird-serpent." Here also we see the solution of that
monument which has so puzzled American antiquaries, the cross at
Palenque. It is a tablet on the wall of an altar representing a cross
surmounted by a bird and supported by the head of a serpent. The latter
is not well defined in the plate in Mr. Stephens' Travels, but is very
distinct in the photographs taken by M. Charnay, which that gentleman
was kind enough to show me. The cross I have previously shown was the
symbol of the four winds, and the bird and serpent are simply the rebus
of the air god, their ruler.[119-1] Quetzalcoatl, called also Yolcuat,
the rattlesnake, was no less intimately associated with serpents than
with birds. The entrance to his temple at Mexico represented the jaws of
one of these reptiles, and he finally disappeared in the province of
Coatzacoalco, the hiding place of the serpent, sailing towards the east
in a bark of serpents' skins. All this refers to his power over the
lightning serpent.

He was also said to be the god of riches and the patron consequently of
merchants. For with the summer lightning come the harvest and the
ripening fruits, come riches and traffic. Moreover "the golden color of
the liquid fire," as Lucretius expresses it, naturally led where this
metal was known, to its being deemed the product of the lightning. Thus
originated many of those tales of a dragon who watches a treasure in the
earth, and of a serpent who is the dispenser of riches, such as were
found among the Greeks and ancient Germans.[119-2] So it was in Peru
where the god of riches was worshipped under the image of a rattlesnake
horned and hairy, with a tail of gold. It was said to have descended
from the heavens in the sight of all the people, and to have been seen
by the whole army of the Inca.[119-3] Whether it was in reference to
it, or as emblems of their prowess, that the Incas themselves chose as
their arms two serpents with their tails interlaced, is uncertain;
possibly one for each of these significations.

Because the rattlesnake, the lightning serpent, is thus connected with
the food of man, and itself seems never to die but annually to renew its
youth, the Algonkins called it "grandfather" and "king of snakes;" they
feared to injure it; they believed it could grant prosperous breezes, or
raise disastrous tempests; crowned with the lunar crescent it was the
constant symbol of life in their picture writing; and in the meda signs
the mythical grandmother of mankind _me suk kum me go kwa_ was
indifferently represented by an old woman or a serpent.[120-1] For like
reasons Cihuacoatl, the Serpent Woman, in the myths of the Nahuas was
also called Tonantzin, our mother.[120-2]

The serpent symbol in America has, however, been brought into undue
prominence. It had such an ominous significance in Christian art, and
one which chimed so well with the favorite proverb of the early
missionaries--"the gods of the heathens are devils"--that wherever they
saw a carving or picture of a serpent they at once recognized the sign
manual of the Prince of Darkness, and inscribed the fact in their
note-books as proof positive of their cherished theory. After going
over the whole ground, I am convinced that none of the tribes of the red
race attached to this symbol any ethical significance whatever, and that
as employed to express atmospheric phenomena, and the recognition of
divinity in natural occurrences, it far more frequently typified what
was favorable and agreeable than the reverse.


[101-1] That these were the real views entertained by the Indians in
regard to the brute creation, see Heckewelder, _Acc. of the Ind.
Nations_, p. 247; Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, iii. p. 520.

[101-2] Egede, _Nachrichten von Grönland_, p. 156.

[102-1] _Voiages aux Indes Occidentales_, pt. ii. p. 203: Amst. 1722.

[102-2] Beverly, _Hist. de la Virginie_, liv. iii. chap. viii.

[103-1] Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, v. p. 420.

[103-2] Mrs. Eastman, _Legends of the Sioux_, p. 191: New York, 1849.
This is a trustworthy and meritorious book, which can be said of very few
collections of Indian traditions. They were collected during a residence
of seven years in our northwestern territories, and are usually verbally
faithful to the native narrations.

[104-1] Müller, _Amer. Urreligionen_, p. 222, after De la Borde.

[105-1] _Acc. of the Inds. of California_, ch. ix. Eng. trans. by
Robinson: New York, 1847. The Acagchemem were a branch of the Netela
tribe, who dwelt near the mission San Juan Capistrano (see Buschmann,
_Spuren der Aztek. Sprache_, etc., p. 548).

[106-1] Called in the Aztec tongue _Tecolotl_, night owl; literally, the
stone scorpion. The transfer was mythological. The Christians prefixed to
this word _tlaca_, man, and thus formed a name for Satan, which Prescott
and others have translated "rational owl." No such deity existed in
ancient Anahuac (see Buschmann, _Die Voelker und Sprachen Neu Mexico's_,
p. 262).

[106-2] Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, v. p. 420.

[106-3] William Bartram, Travels, p. 504. Columbus found the natives of
the Antilles wearing tunics with figures of these birds embroidered upon
them. Prescott, _Conq. of Mexico_, i. p. 58, note.

[107-1] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, An 1636, ch. ix. Catlin, _Letters and
notes_, Lett. 22.

[108-1] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, An 1648, p. 75; Cusic, _Trad. Hist. of
the Six Nations_, pt. iii. The latter is the work of a native Tuscarora
chief. It is republished in Schoolcraft's Indian Tribes, but is of little

[109-1] For example, in Brazil, Müller, _Amer. Urrelig._, p. 277; in
Yucatan, Cogolludo, _Hist. de Yucathan_, lib. iv. cap. 4; among the
western Algonkins, _Hennepin, Decouverte dans l'Amer. Septen_. chap. 33.
Dr. Hammond has expressed the opinion that the North American Indians
enjoy the same immunity from the virus of the rattlesnake, that certain
African tribes do from some vegetable poisons (_Hygiene_, p. 73). But his
observation must be at fault, for many travellers mention the dread these
serpents inspired, and the frequency of death from their bites, e. g.
_Rel. Nouv. France_. 1667, p. 22.

[109-2] _Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner_, p.

[110-1] See Gallatin's vocabularies in the second volume of the _Trans.
Am. Antiq. Soc._ under the word _Snake_. In Arabic _dzann_ is serpent;
_dzanan_ a spirit, a soul, or the heart. So in Hebrew _nachas_, serpent,
has many derivatives signifying to hold intercourse with demons, to
conjure, a magician, etc. See Noldeke in the _Zeitschrift für
Voelkerpsychologie und Sprachwissenschaft_, i. p. 413.

[111-1] Alexander Henry, _Travels_, p. 117.

[111-2] _Bost. Med. and Surg. Journal_, vol. 76, p. 21.

[113-1] Schwarz, _Der Ursprung der Mythologie dargelegt an Griechischer
und Deutscher Sage_: Berlin, 1860, _passim_.

[113-2] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_: An 1637, p. 53.

[113-3] _Sagen der Nord-Amer. Indianer_, p. 21. This is a German
translation of part of Jones's _Legends of the N. Am. Inds._: London,
1820. Their value as mythological material is very small.

[114-1] Torquemada, _Monarquia Indiana_, lib. vi. cap. 37.

[114-2] Müller, _Amer. Urrelig._, 221, after De la Borde.

[114-3] _Le Livre Sacré des Quichés_, p. 3.

[114-4] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, 1648, p. 75.

[115-1] _Memoirs of Lieut. Henry Timberlake_, p. 48: London, 1765. This
little book gives an account of the Cherokees at an earlier date than is
elsewhere found.

[116-1] Hawkins, _Sketch of the Creek Country_, p. 80.

[116-2] Schoolcraft, _Algic Researches_, i. p. 179 sq.; compare ii. p.

[116-3] Morgan, _League of the Iroquois_, p. 159; Cusic, _Trad. Hist. of
the Six Nations_, pt. ii.

[117-1] Mrs. Eastman, _Legends of the Sioux_, pp. 161, 212. In this
explanation I depart from Prof. Schwarz, who has collected various
legends almost identical with these of the Indians (with which he was not
acquainted), and interpreted the precious crown or horn to be the summer
sun, brought forth by the early vernal lightning. _Ursprung der
Mythologie_, p. 27, note.

[118-1] Cusic, u. s., pt. ii.

[119-1] This remarkable relic has been the subject of a long and able
article in the _Revue Américaine_ (tom. ii. p. 69), by the venerable
traveller De Waldeck. Like myself--and I had not seen his opinion until
after the above was written--he explains the cruciform design as
indicating the four cardinal points, but offers the explanation merely as
a suggestion, and without referring to these symbols as they appear in so
many other connections.

[119-2] Schwarz, _Ursprung der Mythologie_, pp. 62 sqq.

[119-3] "I have examined many Indians in reference to these details,"
says the narrator, an Augustin monk writing in 1554, "and they have all
confirmed them as eye-witnesses" (_Lettre sur les Superstitions du
Pérou_, p. 106, ed. Ternaux-Compans. This document is very valuable).

[120-1] _Narrative of John Tanner_, p. 355; Henry, _Travels_, p. 176.

[120-2] Torquemada, _Monarquia Indiana_, lib. vi. cap. 31.



     Water the oldest element.--Its use in purification.--Holy
     water.--The Rite of Baptism.--The Water of Life.--Its symbols.--The
     Vase.--The Moon.--The latter the goddess of love and agriculture,
     but also of sickness, night, and pain.--Often represented by a
     dog.--Fire worship under the form of Sun worship.--The perpetual
     fire.--The new fire--Burning the dead.--A worship of the passions,
     but no sexual dualism in myths, nor any phallic worship in
     America.--Synthesis of the worship of Fire, Water, and the Winds in
     the THUNDER-STORM, personified as Haokah, Tupa, Catequil, Contici,
     Heno, Tlaloc, Mixcoatl, and other deities, many of them triune.

The primitive man was a brute in everything but the susceptibility to
culture; the chief market of his time was to sleep, fight, and feed; his
bodily comfort alone had any importance in his eyes; and his gods were
nothing, unless they touched him here. Cold, hunger, thirst, these were
the hounds that were ever on his track; these were the fell powers he
saw constantly snatching away his fellows, constantly aiming their
invisible shafts at himself. Fire, food, and water were the gods that
fought on his side; they were the chief figures in his pantheon, his
kindliest, perhaps his earliest, divinities.

With a nearly unanimous voice mythologies assign the priority to water.
It was the first of all things, the parent of all things. Even the gods
themselves were born of water, said the Greeks and the Aztecs.
Cosmogonies reach no further than the primeval ocean that rolled its
shoreless waves through a timeless night.

"Omnia pontus erant, deerant quoque litora ponto."

Earth, sun, stars, lay concealed in its fathomless abysses. "All of us,"
ran the Mexican baptismal formula, "are children of Chalchihuitlycue,
Goddess of Water," and the like was said by the Peruvians of Mama Cocha,
by the Botocudos of Taru, by the natives of Darien of Dobayba, by the
Iroquois of Ataensic--all of them mothers of mankind, all
personifications of water.

How account for such unanimity? Not by supposing some ancient
intercourse between remote tribes, but by the uses of water as the
originator and supporter, the essential prerequisite of life. Leaving
aside the analogy presented by the motherly waters which nourish the
unborn child, nor emphasizing how indispensable it is as a beverage, the
many offices this element performs in nature lead easily to the
supposition that it must have preceded all else. By quenching thirst, it
quickens life; as the dew and the rain it feeds the plant, and when
withheld the seed perishes in the ground and forests and flowers alike
wither away; as the fountain, the river, and the lake, it enriches the
valley, offers safe retreats, and provides store of fishes; as the
ocean, it presents the most fitting type of the infinite. It cleanses,
it purifies; it produces, it preserves. "Bodies, unless dissolved,
cannot act," is a maxim of the earliest chemistry. Very plausibly,
therefore, was it assumed as the source of all things.

The adoration of streams, springs, and lakes, or rather of the spirits
their rulers, prevailed everywhere; sometimes avowedly because they
provided food, as was the case with the Moxos, who called themselves
children of the lake or river on which their village was, and were
afraid to migrate lest their parent should be vexed;[124-1] sometimes
because they were the means of irrigation, as in Peru, or on more
general mythical grounds. A grove by a fountain is in all nature worship
the ready-made shrine of the sylphs who live in its limpid waves and
chatter mysteriously in its shallows. On such a spot in our Gulf States
one rarely fails to find the sacrificial mound of the ancient
inhabitants, and on such the natives of Central America were wont to
erect their altars (Ximenes). Lakes are the natural centres of
civilization. Like the lacustrine villages which the Swiss erected in
ante-historic times, like ancient Venice, the city of Mexico was first
built on piles in a lake, and for the same reason--protection from
attack. Security once obtained, growth and power followed. Thus we can
trace the earliest rays of Aztec civilization rising from lake Tezcuco,
of the Peruvian from Lake Titicaca, of the Muyscas from Lake Guatavita.
These are the centres of legendary cycles. Their waters were hallowed by
venerable reminiscences. From the depths of Titicaca rose Viracocha,
mythical civilizer of Peru. Guatavita was the bourne of many a foot-sore
pilgrim in the ancient empire of the Zac. Once a year the high priest
poured the collective offerings of the multitude into its waves, and
anointed with oils and glittering with gold dust, dived deep in its
midst, professing to hold communion with the goddess who there had her

Not only does the life of man but his well-being depends on water. As an
ablution it invigorates him bodily and mentally. No institution was in
higher honor among the North American Indians than the sweat-bath
followed by the cold douche. It was popular not only as a remedy in
every and any disease, but as a preliminary to a council or an important
transaction. Its real value in cold climates is proven by the sustained
fondness for the Russian bath in the north of Europe. The Indians,
however, with their usual superstition attributed its good effects to
some mysterious healing power in water itself. Therefore, when the
patient was not able to undergo the usual process, or when his medical
attendant was above the vulgar and routine practice of his profession,
it was administered on the infinitesimal system. The quack muttered a
formula over a gourd filled from a neighboring spring and sprinkled it
on his patient, or washed the diseased part, or sucked out the evil
spirit and blew it into a bowl of water, and then scattered the liquid
on the fire or earth.[125-2]

The use of such "holy water" astonished the Romanist missionaries, and
they at once detected Satan parodying the Scriptures. But their
astonishment rose to horror when they discovered among various nations a
rite of baptism of appalling similarity to their own, connected with
the imposing of a name, done avowedly for the purpose of freeing from
inherent sin, believed to produce a regeneration of the spiritual
nature, nay, in more than one instance called by an indigenous word
signifying "to be born again."[126-1] Such a rite was of immemorial
antiquity among the Cherokees, Aztecs, Mayas, and Peruvians. Had the
missionaries remembered that it was practised in Asia with all these
meanings long before it was chosen as the sign of the new covenant, they
need have invoked neither Satan nor Saint Thomas to explain its presence
in America.

As corporeal is near akin to spiritual pollution, and cleanliness to
godliness, ablution preparatory to engaging in religious acts came early
to have an emblematic as well as a real significance. The water freed
the soul from sin as it did the skin from stain. We should come to God
with clean hands and a clean heart. As Pilate washed his hands before
the multitude to indicate that he would not accept the moral
responsibility of their acts, so from a similar motive a Natchez chief,
who had been persuaded against his sense of duty not to sacrifice
himself on the pyre of his ruler, took clean water, washed his hands,
and threw it upon live coals.[126-2] When an ancient Peruvian had laid
bare his guilt by confession, he bathed himself in a neighboring river
and repeated this formula:--

"O thou River, receive the sins I have this day confessed unto the Sun,
carry them down to the sea, and let them never more appear."[127-1]

The Navajo who has been deputed to carry a dead body to burial, holds
himself unclean until he has thoroughly washed himself in water prepared
for the purpose by certain ceremonies.[127-2] A bath was an
indispensable step in the mysteries of Mithras, the initiation at
Eleusis, the meda worship of the Algonkins, the Busk of the Creeks, the
ceremonials of religion everywhere. Baptism was at first always
immersion. It was a bath meant to solemnize the reception of the child
into the guild of mankind, drawn from the prior custom of ablution at
any solemn occasion. In both the object is greater purity, bodily and
spiritual. As certainly as there is a law of conscience, as certainly as
our actions fall short of our volitions, so certainly is man painfully
aware of various imperfections and shortcomings. What he feels he
attributes to the infant. Avowedly to free themselves from this sense of
guilt the Delawares used an emetic (Loskiel), the Cherokees a potion
cooked up by an order of female warriors (Timberlake), the Takahlies of
Washington Territory, the Aztecs, Mayas, and Peruvians, auricular
confession. Formulize these feelings and we have the dogmas of "original
sin," and of "spiritual regeneration." The order of baptism among the
Aztecs commenced, "O child, receive the water of the Lord of the world,
which is our life; it is to wash and to purify; may these drops remove
the sin which was given to thee before the creation of the world, since
all of us are under its power;" and concluded, "Now he liveth anew and
is born anew, now is he purified and cleansed, now our mother the Water
again bringeth him into the world."[128-1]

A name was then assigned to the child, usually that of some ancestor,
who it was supposed would thus be induced to exercise a kindly
supervision over the little one's future. In after life should the
person desire admittance to a superior class of the population and had
the wealth to purchase it--for here as in more enlightened lands
nobility was a matter of money--he underwent a second baptism and
received another name, but still ostensibly from the goddess of

In Peru the child was immersed in the fluid, the priest exorcised the
evil and bade it enter the water, which was then buried in the
ground.[128-3] In either country sprinkling could take the place of
immersion. The Cherokees believe that unless the rite is punctually
performed when the child is three days old, it will inevitably

As thus curative and preservative, it was imagined that there was water
of which whoever should drink would not die, but live forever. I have
already alluded to the Fountain of Youth, supposed long before Columbus
saw the surf of San Salvador to exist in the Bahama Islands or Florida.
It seems to have lingered long on that peninsula. Not many years ago,
Coacooche, a Seminole chieftain, related a vision which had nerved him
to a desperate escape from the Castle of St. Augustine. "In my dream,"
said he, "I visited the happy hunting grounds and saw my twin sister,
long since gone. She offered me a cup of pure water, which she said came
from the spring of the Great Spirit, and if I should drink of it, I
should return and live with her forever."[129-1] Some such mystical
respect for the element, rather than as a mere outfit for his spirit
home, probably induced the earlier tribes of the same territory to place
the conch-shell which the deceased had used for a cup conspicuously on
his grave,[129-2] and the Mexicans and Peruvians to inter a vase filled
with water with the corpse, or to sprinkle it with the liquid, baptizing
it, as it were, into its new associations.[130-1] It was an emblem of
the hope that should cheer the dwellings of the dead, a symbol of the
resurrection which is in store for those who have gone down to the

The vase or the gourd as a symbol of water, the source and preserver of
life, is a conspicuous figure in the myths of ancient America. As Akbal
or Huecomitl, the great or original vase, in Aztec and Maya legends it
plays important parts in the drama of creation; as Tici (Ticcu) in Peru
it is the symbol of the rains, and as a gourd it is often mentioned by
the Caribs and Tupis as the parent of the atmospheric waters.

As the MOON is associated with the dampness and dews of night, an
ancient and wide-spread myth identified her with the Goddess of Water.
Moreover, in spite of the expostulations of the learned, the common
people the world over persist in attributing to her a marked influence
on the rains. Whether false or true, this familiar opinion is of great
antiquity, and was decidedly approved by the Indians, who were all, in
the words of an old author, "great observers of the weather by the
moon."[130-2] They looked upon her not only as forewarning them by her
appearance of the approach of rains and fogs, but as being their actual

Isis, her Egyptian title, literally means moisture; Ataensic, whom the
Hurons said was the moon, is derived from the word for water; and
Citatli and Atl, moon and water, are constantly confounded in Aztec
theology. Their attributes were strikingly alike. They were both the
mythical mothers of the race, and both protect women in child-birth, the
babe in the cradle, the husbandman in the field, and the youth and
maiden in their tender affections. As the transfer of legends was nearly
always from the water to its lunar goddess, by bringing them in at this
point their true meaning will not fail to be apparent.

We must ever bear in mind that the course of mythology is from many gods
toward one, that it is a synthesis not an analysis, and that in this
process the tendency is to blend in one the traits and stories of
originally separate divinities. As has justly been observed by the
Mexican antiquarian Gama: "It was a common trait among the Indians to
worship many gods under the figure of one, principally those whose
activities lay in the same direction, or those in some way related among

The time of full moon was chosen both in Mexico and Peru to celebrate
the festival of the deities of water, the patrons of agriculture,[131-2]
and very generally the ceremonies connected with the crops were
regulated by her phases. The Nicaraguans said that the god of rains,
Quiateot, rose in the east,[131-3] thus hinting how this connection
originated. At a lunar eclipse the Orinoko Indians seized their hoes and
labored with exemplary vigor on their growing corn, saying the moon was
veiling herself in anger at their habitual laziness;[132-1] and a
description of the New Netherlands, written about 1650, remarks that the
savages of that land "ascribe great influence to the moon over
crops."[132-2] This venerable superstition, common to all races, still
lingers among our own farmers, many of whom continue to observe "the
signs of the moon" in sowing grain, setting out trees, cutting timber,
and other rural avocations.

As representing water, the universal mother, the moon was the
protectress of women in child-birth, the goddess of love and babes, the
patroness of marriage. To her the mother called in travail, whether by
the name of "Diana, diva triformis" in pagan Rome, by that of Mama
Quilla in Peru, or of Meztli in Anahuac. Under the title of
Yohualticitl, the Lady of Night, she was also in this latter country the
guardian of babes, and as Teczistecatl, the cause of generation.[132-3]

Very different is another aspect of the moon goddess, and well might the
Mexicans paint her with two colors. The beneficent dispenser of harvests
and offspring, she nevertheless has a portentous and terrific phase. She
is also the goddess of the night, the dampness, and the cold; she
engenders the miasmatic poisons that rack our bones; she conceals in her
mantle the foe who takes us unawares; she rules those vague shapes which
fright us in the dim light; the causeless sounds of night or its more
oppressive silence are familiar to her; she it is who sends dreams
wherein gods and devils have their sport with man, and slumber, the twin
brother of the grave. In the occult philosophy of the middle ages she
was "Chief over the Night, Darkness, Rest, Death, and the
Waters;"[133-1] in the language of the Algonkins, her name is identical
with the words for night, death, cold, sleep, and water.[133-2]

She is the evil minded woman who thus brings diseases upon men, who at
the outset introduced pain and death in the world--our common mother,
yet the cruel cause of our present woes. Sometimes it is the moon,
sometimes water, of whom this is said: "We are all of us under the power
of evil and sin, _because_ we are children of the Water," says the
Mexican baptismal formula. That Unktahe, spirit of water, is the master
of dreams and witchcraft, is the belief of the Dakotas.[133-3] A female
spirit, wife of the great manito whose heart is the sun, the ancient
Algonkins believed brought death and disease to the race; "it is she
who kills men, otherwise they would never die; she eats their flesh and
knaws[TN-4] their vitals, till they fall away and miserably
perish."[134-1] Who is this woman? In the legend of the Muyscas it is
Chia, the moon, who was also goddess of water and flooded the earth out
of spite.[134-2] Her reputation was notoriously bad. The Brazilian
mother carefully shielded her infant from the lunar rays, believing that
they would produce sickness;[134-3] the hunting tribes of our own
country will not sleep in its light, nor leave their game exposed to its
action. We ourselves have not outgrown such words as lunatic,
moon-struck, and the like. Where did we get these ideas? The
philosophical historian of medicine, Kurt Sprengel, traces them to the
primitive and popular medical theories of ancient Egypt, in accordance
with which all maladies were the effects of the anger of the goddess
Isis, the Moisture, the Moon.[134-4]

We have here the key to many myths. Take that of Centeotl, the Aztec
goddess of Maize. She was said at times to appear as a woman of
surpassing beauty, and allure some unfortunate to her embraces, destined
to pay with his life for his brief moments of pleasure. Even to see her
in this shape was a fatal omen. She was also said to belong to a class
of gods whose home was in the west, and who produced sickness and
pains.[134-5] Here we see the evil aspect of the moon reflected on
another goddess, who was at first solely the patroness of agriculture.

As the goddess of sickness, it was supposed that persons afflicted with
certain diseases had been set apart by the moon for her peculiar
service. These diseases were those of a humoral type, especially such as
are characterized by issues and ulcers. As in Hebrew the word _accursed_
is derived from a root meaning _consecrated to God_, so in the Aztec,
Quiché, and other tongues, the word for _leprous_, _eczematous_, or
_syphilitic_, means also _divine_. This bizarre change of meaning is
illustrated in a very ancient myth of their family. It is said that in
the absence of the sun all mankind lingered in darkness. Nothing but a
human sacrifice could hasten his arrival. Then Metzli, the moon, led
forth one Nanahuatl, the leprous, and building a pyre, the victim threw
himself in its midst. Straightway Metzli followed his example, and as
she disappeared in the bright flames the sun rose over the
horizon.[135-1] Is not this a reference to the kindling rays of the
aurora, in which the dark and baleful night is sacrificed, and in whose
light the moon presently fades away, and the sun comes forth?

Another reaction in the mythological laboratory is here disclosed. As
the good qualities of water were attributed to the goddess of night,
sleep, and death, so her malevolent traits were in turn reflected back
on this element. Other thoughts aided the transfer. In primitive
geography the Ocean Stream coils its infinite folds around the speck of
land we inhabit, biding its time to swallow it wholly. Unwillingly did
it yield the earth from its bosom, daily does it steal it away piece by
piece. Every evening it hides the light in its depths, and Night and the
Waters resume their ancient sway. The word for ocean (_mare_) in the
Latin tongue means by derivation a desert, and the Greeks spoke of it as
"the barren brine." Water is a treacherous element. Man treads boldly on
the solid earth, but the rivers and lakes constantly strive to swallow
those who venture within their reach. As streams run in tortuous
channels, and as rains accompany the lightning serpent, this animal was
occasionally the symbol of the waters in their dangerous manifestations.
The Huron magicians fabled that in the lakes and rivers dwelt one of
vast size called _Angont_, who sent sickness, death, and other mishaps,
and the least mite of whose flesh was a deadly poison. They added--and
this was the point of the tale--that they always kept on hand portions
of the monster for the benefit of any who opposed their designs.[136-1]
The legends of the Algonkins mention a rivalry between Michabo, creator
of the earth, and the Spirit of the Waters, who was unfriendly to the
project.[136-2] In later tales this antagonism becomes more and more
pronounced, and borrows an ethical significance which it did not have at
first. Taking, however, American religions as a whole, water is far more
frequently represented as producing beneficent effects than the reverse.

Dogs were supposed to stand in some peculiar relation to the moon,
probably because they howl at it and run at night, uncanny practices
which have cost them dear in reputation. The custom prevailed among
tribes so widely asunder as Peruvians, Tupis, Creeks, Iroquois,
Algonkins, and Greenland Eskimos to thrash the curs most soundly during
an eclipse.[137-1] The Creeks explained this by saying that the big dog
was swallowing the sun, and that by whipping the little ones they could
make him desist. What the big dog was they were not prepared to say. We
know. It was the night goddess, represented by the dog, who was thus
shrouding the world at midday. The ancient Romans sacrificed dogs to
Hecate and Diana, in Egypt they were sacred to Isis, and thus as
traditionally connected with night and its terrors, the Prince of
Darkness, in the superstition of the middle ages, preferably appeared
under the form of a cur, as that famous poodle which accompanied
Cornelius Agrippa, or that which grew to such enormous size behind the
stove of Dr. Faustus. In a better sense, they represented the more
agreeable characteristics of the lunar goddess. Xochiquetzal, most
fecund of Aztec divinities, patroness of love, of sexual pleasure, and
of childbirth, was likewise called _Itzcuinan_, which, literally
translated, is _bitch-mother_. This strange and to us so repugnant title
for a goddess was not without parallel elsewhere. When in his wars the
Inca Pachacutec carried his arms into the province of Huanca, he found
its inhabitants had installed in their temples the figure of a dog as
their highest deity. They were accustomed also to select one as his
living representative, to pray to it and offer it sacrifice, and when
well fattened, to serve it up with solemn ceremonies at a great feast,
eating their god _substantialiter_. The priests in this province
summoned their attendants to the temples by blowing through an
instrument fashioned from a dog's skull.[138-1] This canine canonization
explains why in some parts of Peru a priest was called by way of honor
_allco_, dog![138-2] And why in many tombs both there and in Mexico
their skeletons are found carefully interred with the human remains.
Wherever the Aztec race extended they seem to have carried the adoration
of a wild species, the coyote, the _canis latrans_ of naturalists. The
Shoshonees of New Mexico call it their progenitor,[138-3] and with the
Nahuas it was in such high honor that it had a temple of its own, a
congregation of priests devoted to its service, statues carved in stone,
an elaborate tomb at death, and is said to be meant by the god Chantico,
whose audacity caused the destruction of the world. The story was that
he made a sacrifice to the gods without observing a preparatory fast,
for which he was punished by being changed into a dog. He then invoked
the god of death to deliver him, which attempt to evade a just
punishment so enraged the divinities that they immersed the world in

During a storm on our northern lakes the Indians think no offering so
likely to appease the angry water god who is raising the tempest as a
dog. Therefore they hasten to tie the feet of one and toss him
overboard.[139-2] One meets constantly in their tales and superstitions
the mysterious powers of the animals, and the distinguished actions he
has at times performed bear usually a close parallelism to those
attributed to water and the moon.

Hunger and thirst were thus alleviated by water. Cold remained, and
against this _fire_ was the shield. It gives man light in darkness and
warmth in winter; it shows him his friends and warns him of his foes;
the flames point toward heaven and the smoke makes the clouds. Around it
social life begins. For his home and his hearth the savage has but one
word, and what of tender emotion his breast can feel, is linked to the
circle that gathers around his fire. The council fire, the camp fire,
and the war fire, are so many epochs in his history. By its aid many
arts become possible, and it is a civilizer in more ways than one. In
the figurative language of the red race, it is constantly used as "an
emblem of peace, happiness, and abundance."[140-1] To extingish[TN-5] an
enemy's fire is to slay him; to light a visitor's fire is to bid him
welcome. Fire worship was closely related to that of the sun, and so
much has been said of sun worship among the aborigines of America that
it is well at once to assign it its true position.

A generation ago it was a fashion very much approved to explain all
symbols and myths by the action of this orb on nature. This short and
easy method with mythology has, in Carlylian phrase, had its bottom
pulled from under it in these later times. Nowhere has it manifested its
inefficiency more palpably than in America. One writer, while thus
explaining the religions of the tribes of colder regions and higher
latitudes, denies sun worship among the natives of hot climates; another
asserts that only among the latter did it exist at all; while a third
lays down the maxim that the religion of the red race everywhere "was
but a modification of Sun or Fire worship."[141-1] All such sweeping
generalizations are untrue, and must be so. No one key can open all the
arcana of symbolism. Man devised means as varied as nature herself to
express the idea of God within him. The sun was but one of these, and
not the first nor the most important. Fear, said the wise Epicurean,
first made the gods. The sun with its regular course, its kindly warmth,
its beneficent action, no wise inspires that sentiment. It conjures no
phantasms to appal the superstitious fancy, and its place in primitive
mythology is conformably inferior. The myths of the Eskimos and
northern Athapascas omit its action altogether. The Algonkins by no
means imagined it the highest god, and at most but one of his
emblems.[142-1] That it often appears in their prayers is true, but this
arose from the fact that in many of their dialects, as well as in the
language of the Mayas and others, the word for heaven or sky was
identical with that for sun, and the former, as I have shown, was the
supposed abode of deity, "the wigwam of the Great Spirit."[142-2] The
alleged sun worship of the Cherokees rests on testimony modern,
doubtful, and unsupported.[142-3] In North America the Natchez alone
were avowed worshippers of this luminary. Yet they adored it under the
name Great Fire (_wah sil_), clearly pointing to a prior adoration of
that element. The heliolatry organized principally for political ends by
the Incas of Peru, stands alone in the religions of the red race. Those
shrewd legislators at an early date officially announced that Inti, the
sun, their own elder brother, was ruler of the cohorts of heaven by like
divine right that they were of the four corners of the earth. This
scheme ignominiously failed, as every attempt to fetter the liberty of
conscience must and should. The later Incas finally indulged publicly in
heterodox remarks, and compromised the matter by acknowledging a
divinity superior even to their brother, the sun, as we have seen in a
previous chapter.

The myths of creation never represent the sun as anterior to the world,
but as manufactured by the "old people" (Navajos), as kindled and set
going by the first of men (Algonkins), or as freed from some cave by a
kindly deity (Haitians). It is always spoken of as a fire; only in Peru
and Mexico had the precession of the equinoxes been observed, and
without danger of error we can merge the consideration of its worship
almost altogether in that of this element.[143-1]

The institutions of a perpetual fire, of obtaining new fire, and of
burning the dead, prevailed extensively in the New World. In the present
discussion the origin of such practices, rather than the ceremonies with
which they were attended, have an interest. The savage knew that fire
was necessary to his life. Were it lost, he justly foreboded dire
calamities and the ruin of his race. Therefore at stated times with due
solemnity he produced it anew by friction or the flint, or else was
careful to keep one fire constantly alive. These not unwise precautions
soon fell to mere superstitions. If the Aztec priest at the stated time
failed to obtain a spark from his pieces of wood, if the sacred fire by
chance became extinguished, the end of the world or the destruction of
mankind was apprehended. "You know it was a saying among our
ancestors," said an Iroquois chief in 1753, "that when the fire at
Onondaga goes out, we shall no longer be a people."[144-1] So deeply
rooted was this notion, that the Catholic missionaries in New Mexico
were fain to wink at it, and perform the sacrifice of the mass in the
same building where the flames were perpetually burning, that were not
to be allowed to die until Montezuma and the fabled glories of ancient
Anahuac with its heathenism should return.[144-2] Thus fire became the
type of life. "Know that the life in your body and the fire on your
hearth are one and the same thing, and that both proceed from one
source," said a Shawnee prophet.[144-3] Such an expression was wholly in
the spirit of his race. The greatest feast of the Delawares was that to
their "grandfather, the fire."[144-4] "Their fire burns forever," was
the Algonkin figure of speech to express the immortality of their
gods.[144-5] "The ancient God, the Father and Mother of all Gods," says
an Aztec prayer, "is the God of the Fire which is in the centre of the
court with four walls, and which is covered with gleaming feathers like
unto wings;"[144-6] dark sayings of the priests, referring to the
glittering lightning fire borne from the four sides of the earth.

As the path to a higher life hereafter, the burning of the dead was
first instituted. It was a privilege usually confined to a select few.
Among the Algonkin-Ottawas, only, those of the distinguished totem of
the Great Hare, among the Nicaraguans none but the caciques, among the
Caribs exclusively the priestly caste, were entitled to this peculiar
honor.[145-1] The first gave as the reason for such an exceptional
custom, that the members of such an illustrious clan as that of Michabo,
the Great Hare, should not rot in the ground as common folks, but rise
to the heavens on the flames and smoke. Those of Nicaragua seemed to
think it the sole path to immortality, holding that only such as offered
themselves on the pyre of their chieftain would escape annihilation at
death;[145-2] and the tribes of upper California were persuaded that
such as were not burned at death were liable to be transformed into the
lower orders of brutes.[145-3] Strangely, enough, we thus find a sort of
baptism by fire deemed essential to a higher life beyond the grave.

Another analogy strengthened the symbolic force of fire as life. This is
that which exists between the sensation of warmth and those passions
whose physiological end is the perpetuation of the species. We see how
native it is to the mind from such coarse expressions as "hot lust," "to
burn," "to be in heat," "stews," and the like, figures not of the
poetic, but the vulgar tongue. They occur in all languages, and hint how
readily the worship of fire glided into that of the reproductive
principle, into extravagances of chastity and lewdness, into the
shocking orgies of the so-called phallic worship.

Some have supposed that a sexual dualism pervades all natural religions
and this too has been assumed as the solution of all their myths. It has
been said that the action of heat upon moisture, of the sun on the
waters, the mysteries of reproduction, and the satisfaction of the
sexual instincts, are the unvarying themes of primitive mythology. So
far as the red race is concerned, this is a most gratuitous assumption.
The facts that have been eagerly collated by Dulaure and others to
bolster such a detestable theory lend themselves fairly to no such

There existed, indeed, a worship of the passions. Apparently it was
grafted upon or rose out of that of fire by the analogy I have pointed
out. Thus the Mexican god of fire was supposed to govern the generative
proclivities,[146-1] and there is good reason to believe that the sacred
fire watched by unspotted virgins among the Mayas had decidedly such a
signification. Certainly it was so, if we can depend upon the authority
of a ballad translated from the original immediately after the conquest,
cited by the venerable traveller and artist Count de Waldeck. It
purports to be from the lover of one of these vestals, and referring to
her occupation asks with a fine allusion to its mystic meaning--

   "O vièrge, quand pourrai-je te posséder pour ma compagne cherie?
    Combien de temps faut-il encore que tes vœux soient accomplis?
    Dis-moi le jour qui doit devancer la belle nuit où tous deux,
    Alimenterons le feu qui nous fit naitre et que nous devons

There is a bright as well as a dark side even to such a worship. In
Mexico, Peru, and Yucatan, the women who watched the flames must be
undoubted virgins; they were usually of noble blood, and must vow
eternal chastity, or at least were free to none but the ruler of the
realm. As long as they were consecrated to the fire, so long any carnal
ardor was degrading to their lofty duties. The sentiment of shame, one
of the first we find developed, led to the belief that to forego fleshly
pleasures was a meritorious sacrifice in the eyes of the gods. In this
persuasion certain of the Aztec priests practised complete abscission or
entire discerption of the virile parts, and a mutilation of females was
not unknown similar to that immemorially a custom in Egypt.[147-2] Such
enforced celibacy was, however, neither common nor popular.
Circumcision, if it can be proven to have existed among the red
race--and though there are plenty of assertions to that effect, they are
not satisfactory to an anatomist--was probably a symbolic renunciation
of the lusts of the flesh. The same cannot be said of the very common
custom with the Aztec race of anointing their idols with blood drawn
from the genitals, the tongue, and the ears. This was simply a form of
those voluntary scarifications, universally employed to mark contrition
or grief by savage tribes, and nowhere more in vogue than with the red

There was an ancient Christian heresy which taught that the true way to
conquer the passions was to satiate them, and therefore preached
unbounded licentiousness. Whether this agreeable doctrine was known to
the Indians I cannot say, but it is certainly the most creditable
explanation that can be suggested for the miscellaneous congress which
very often terminated their dances and ceremonies. Such orgies were of
common occurrence among the Algonkins and Iroquois at a very early date,
and are often mentioned in the Jesuit Relations; Venegas describes them
as frequent among the tribes of Lower California; and Oviedo refers to
certain festivals of the Nicaraguans, during which the women of all rank
extended to whosoever wished just such privileges as the matrons of
ancient Babylon, that mother of harlots and all abominations, used to
grant even to slaves and strangers in the temple of Melitta, as one of
the duties of religion. But in fact there is no ground whatever to
invest these debauches with any recondite meaning. They are simply
indications of the thorough and utter immorality which prevailed
throughout the race. And a still more disgusting proof of it is seen in
the frequent appearance among diverse tribes of men dressed as women and
yielding themselves to indescribable vices.[149-1] There was at first
nothing of a religious nature in such exhibitions. Lascivious priests
chose at times to invest them with some such meaning for their own
sensual gratification, just as in Brazil they still claim the _jus primæ
noctis_.[149-2] The pretended phallic worship of the Natchez and of
Culhuacan, cited by the Abbé Brasseur, rests on no good authority, and
if true, is like that of the Huastecas of Panuco, nothing but an
unrestrained and boundless profligacy which it were an absurdity to call
a religion.[149-3] That which Mr. Stephens attempts to show existed once
in Yucatan,[149-4] rests entirely by his own statement on a fancied
resemblance of no value whatever, and the arguments of Lafitau to the
same effect are quite insufficient. There is a decided indecency in the
remains of ancient American art, especially in Peru (Meyen), and great
lubricity in many ceremonies, but the proof is altogether wanting to
bind these with the recognition of a fecundating principle throughout
nature, or, indeed, to suppose for them any other origin than the
promptings of an impure fancy. I even doubt whether they often referred
to fire as the deity of sexual love.

By a flight of fancy inspired by a study of oriental mythology, the
worship of the reciprocal principle in America has been connected with
that of the sun and moon, as the primitive pair from whose fecund union
all creatures proceeded. It is sufficient to say if such a myth exists
among the Indians--which is questionable--it justifies no such
deduction; that the moon is often mentioned in their languages merely as
the "night sun;" and that in such important stocks as the Iroquois,
Athapascas, Cherokees, and Tupis, the sun is said to be a feminine noun;
while the myths represent them more frequently as brother and sister
than as man and wife; nor did at least the northern tribes regard the
sun as the cause of fecundity in nature at all, but solely as giving
light and warmth.[150-1]

In contrast to this, so much the more positive was their association of
the THUNDER-STORM as that which brings both warmth and rain with the
renewed vernal life of vegetation. The impressive phenomena which
characterize it, the prodigious noise, the awful flash, the portentous
gloom, the blast, the rain, have left a profound impression on the myths
of every land. Fire from water, warmth and moisture from the destructive
breath of the tempest, this was the riddle of riddles to the untutored
mind. "Out of the eater came forth meat, out of the strong came forth
sweetness." It was the visible synthesis of all the divine
manifestations, the winds, the waters, and the flames.

The Dakotas conceived it as a struggle between the god of waters and the
thunder bird for the command of their nation,[150-2] and as a bird, one
of those which make a whirring sound with their wings, the turkey, the
pheasant, or the nighthawk, it was very generally depicted by their
neighbors, the Athapascas, Iroquois, and Algonkins.[151-1] As the
herald of the summer it was to them a good omen and a friendly power. It
was the voice of the Great Spirit of the four winds speaking from the
clouds and admonishing them that the time of corn planting was at
hand.[151-2] The flames kindled by the lightning were of a sacred
nature, proper to be employed in lighting the fires of the religious
rites, but on no account to be profaned by the base uses of daily life.
When the flash entered the ground it scattered in all directions those
stones, such as the flint, which betray their supernal origin by a gleam
of fire when struck. These were the thunderbolts, and from such an one,
significantly painted red, the Dakotas averred their race had
proceeded.[151-3] For are we not all in a sense indebted for our lives
to fire? "There is no end to the fancies entertained by the Sioux
concerning thunder," observes Mrs. Eastman. They typified the
paradoxical nature of the storm under the character of the giant Haokah.
To him cold was heat, and heat cold; when sad he laughed, when merry
groaned; the sides of his face and his eyes were of different colors and
expressions; he wore horns or a forked headdress to represent the
lightning, and with his hands he hurled the meteors. His manifestations
were fourfold, and one of the four winds was the drum-stick he used to
produce the thunder.[152-1]

Omitting many others, enough that the sameness of this conception is
illustrated by the myth of Tupa, highest god and first man of the Tupis
of Brazil. During his incarnation, he taught them agriculture, gave them
fire, the cane, and the pisang, and now in the form of a huge bird
sweeps over the heavens, watching his children and watering their crops,
admonishing them of his presence by the mighty sound of his voice, the
rustling of his wings, and the flash of his eye. These are the thunder,
the lightning, and the roar of the tempest. He is depicted with horns;
he was one of four brothers, and only after a desperate struggle did he
drive his fraternal rivals from the field. In his worship, the priests
place pebbles in a dry gourd, deck it with feathers and arrows, and
rattling it vigorously, reproduce in miniature the tremendous drama of
the storm.[152-2]

As nations rose in civilization these fancies put on a more complex form
and a more poetic fulness. Throughout the realm of the Incas the
Peruvians venerated as creator of all things, maker of heaven and earth,
and ruler of the firmament, the god Ataguju. The legend was that from
him proceeded the first of mortals, the man Guamansuri, who descended to
the earth and there seduced the sister of certain Guachemines, rayless
ones, or Darklings, who then possessed it. For this crime they destroyed
him, but their sister proved pregnant, and died in her labor, giving
birth to two eggs. From these emerged the twin brothers, Apocatequil
and Piguerao. The former was the more powerful. By touching the corpse
of his mother he brought her to life, he drove off and slew the
Guachemines, and, directed by Ataguju, released the race of Indians from
the soil by turning it up with a spade of gold. For this reason they
adored him as their maker. He it was, they thought, who produced the
thunder and the lightning by hurling stones with his sling; and the
thunderbolts that fall, said they, are his children. Few villages were
willing to be without one or more of these. They were in appearance
small, round, smooth stones, but had the admirable properties of
securing fertility to the fields, protecting from lightning, and, by a
transition easy to understand, were also adored as gods of the Fire, as
well material as of the passions, and were capable of kindling the
dangerous flames of desire in the most frigid bosom. Therefore they were
in great esteem as love charms.

Apocatequil's statue was erected on the mountains, with that of his
mother on one hand, and his brother on the other. "He was Prince of Evil
and the most respected god of the Peruvians. From Quito to Cuzco not an
Indian but would give all he possessed to conciliate him. Five priests,
two stewards, and a crowd of slaves served his image. And his chief
temple was surrounded by a very considerable village whose inhabitants
had no other occupation than to wait on him." In memory of these
brothers, twins in Peru were deemed always sacred to the lightning, and
when a woman or even a llama brought them forth, a fast was held and
sacrifices offered to the two pristine brothers, with a chant
commencing: _A chuchu cachiqui_, O Thou who causest twins, words
mistaken by the Spaniards for the name of a deity.[154-1]

Garcilasso de la Vega, a descendant of the Incas, has preserved an
ancient indigenous poem of his nation, presenting the storm myth in a
different form, which as undoubtedly authentic and not devoid of poetic
beauty I translate, preserving as much as possible the trochaic
tetrasyllabic verse of the original Quichua:--

   "Beauteous princess,
    Lo, thy brother
    Breaks thy vessel
    Now in fragments.
    From the blow come
    Thunder, lightning,
    Strokes of lightning.
    And thou, princess,
    Tak'st the water,
    With it rainest,
    And the hail, or
    Snow dispensest.
    World constructor,
    World enliv'ner,
    To this office
    Thee appointed,
    Thee created."[155-1]

In this pretty waif that has floated down to us from the wreck of a
literature now forever lost, there is more than one point to attract the
notice of the antiquary. He may find in it a hint to decipher those
names of divinities so common in Peruvian legends, Contici and Illatici.
Both mean "the Thunder Vase," and both doubtless refer to the conception
here displayed of the phenomena of the thunder-storm.[155-2]

Again, twice in this poem is the triple nature of the storm adverted to.
This is observable in many of the religions of America. It constitutes a
sort of Trinity, not in any point resembling that of Christianity, nor
yet the Trimurti of India, but the only one in the New World the least
degree authenticated, and which, as half seen by ignorant monks, has
caused its due amount of sterile astonishment. Thus, in the Quiché
legends we read: "The first of Hurakan is the lightning, the second the
track of the lightning, and the third the stroke of the lightning; and
these three are Hurakan, the Heart of the Sky."[156-1] It reappears with
characteristic uniformity of outline in Iroquois mythology. Heno, the
thunder, gathers the clouds and pours out the warm rains. Therefore he
was the patron of husbandry. He was invoked at seed time and harvest;
and as purveyor of nourishment he was addressed as grandfather, and his
worshippers styled themselves his grandchildren. He rode through the
heavens on the clouds, and the thunderbolts which split the forest trees
were the stones he hurled at his enemies. _Three_ assistants were
assigned him, whose names have unfortunately not been recorded, and
whose offices were apparently similar to those of the three companions
of Hurakan.[156-2]

So also the Aztecs supposed that Tlaloc, god of rains and the waters,
ruler of the terrestrial paradise and the season of summer, manifested
himself under the three attributes of the flash, the thunderbolt, and
the thunder.[157-1]

But this conception of three in one was above the comprehension of the
masses, and consequently these deities were also spoken of as fourfold
in nature, three _and_ one. Moreover, as has already been pointed out,
the thunder god was usually ruler of the winds, and thus another reason
for his quadruplicate nature was suggested. Hurakan, Haokah, Tlaloc, and
probably Heno, are plural as well as singular nouns, and are used as
nominatives to verbs in both numbers. Tlaloc was appealed to as
inhabiting each of the cardinal points and every mountain top. His
statue rested on a square stone pedestal, facing the east, and had in
one hand a serpent of gold. Ribbons of silver, crossing to form squares,
covered the robe, and the shield was composed of feathers of four
colors, yellow, green, red, and blue. Before it was a vase containing
all sorts of grain; and the clouds were called his companions, the winds
his messengers.[157-2] As elsewhere, the thunderbolts were believed to
be flints, and thus, as the emblem of fire and the storm, this stone
figures conspicuously in their myths. Tohil, the god who gave the
Quichés fire by shaking his sandals, was represented by a flint-stone.
He is distinctly said to be the same as Quetzalcoatl, one of whose
commonest symbols was a flint (tecpatl). Such a stone, in the beginning
of things, fell from heaven to earth, and broke into 1600 pieces, each
of which sprang up a god;[158-1] an ancient legend, which shadows forth
the subjection of all things to him who gathers the clouds from the four
corners of the earth, who thunders with his voice, who satisfies with
his rain "the desolate and waste ground, and causes the tender herb to
spring forth." This is the germ of the adoration of stones as emblems of
the fecundating rains. This is why, for example, the Navajos use as
their charm for rain certain long round stones, which they think fall
from the cloud when it thunders.[158-2]

Mixcoatl, the Cloud Serpent, or Iztac-Mixcoatl, the White or Gleaming
Cloud Serpent, said to have been the only divinity of the ancient
Chichimecs, held in high honor by the Nahuas, Nicaraguans, and Otomis,
and identical with Taras, supreme god of the Tarascos and Camaxtli, god
of the Teo-Chichimecs, is another personification of the thunder-storm.
To this day this is the familiar name of the tropical tornado in the
Mexican language.[158-3] He was represented, like Jove, with a bundle of
arrows in his hand, the thunderbolts. Both the Nahuas and Tarascos
related legends in which he figured as father of the race of man. Like
other lords of the lightning he was worshipped as the dispenser of
riches and the patron of traffic; and in Nicaragua his image is
described as being "engraved stones,"[158-4] probably the supposed
products of the thunder.


[124-1] A. D'Orbigny, _L'Homme Américain_, i. p. 240.

[125-1] Rivero and Tschudi, _Peruvian Antiquities_, 162, after J. Acosta.

[125-2] Narrative of _Oceola Nikkanoche, Prince of Econchatti_, p. 141;
Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, iv. p. 650.

[126-1] The term in Maya is _caput zihil_, corresponding exactly to the
Latin _renasci_, to be re-born, Landa, _Rel. de Yucatan_, p. 144.

[126-2] Dumont, _Mems. Hist. sur la Louisiane_, i. p. 233.

[127-1] Acosta, _Hist. of the New World_, lib. v. cap. 25.

[127-2] _Senate Report on Condition of Indian Tribes_, p. 358:
Washington, 1867.

[128-1] Sahagun, _Hist. de la Nueva España_, lib. vi. cap. 37.

[128-2] Ternaux-Compans, _Pièces rel. à la Conq. du Mexique_, p. 233.

[128-3] Velasco, _Hist. de la Royaume de Quito_, p. 106, and others.

[128-4] Whipple, _Rep. on the Indian Tribes_, p. 35. I am not sure that
this practice was of native growth to the Cherokees. This people have
many customs and traditions strangely similar to those of Christians and
Jews. Their cosmogony is a paraphrase of that of Genesis (Squier, _Serp.
Symbol_, from Payne's MSS.); the number seven is as sacred with them as
it was with the Chaldeans (Whipple, u. s.); and they have improved and
increased by contact with the whites. Significant in this connection is
the remark of Bartram, who visited them in 1773, that some of their
females were "nearly as fair and blooming as European women," and
generally that their complexion was lighter than their neighbors
(_Travels_, p. 485). Two explanations of these facts may be suggested.
They may be descendants in part of the ancient white race near Cape
Hatteras, to whom I have referred in a previous note. More probably they
derived their peculiarities from the Spaniards of Florida. Mr. Shea is of
opinion that missions were established among them as early as 1566 and
1643 (_Hist. of Catholic Missions in the U. S._, pp. 58, 73). Certainly
in the latter half of the seventeenth century the Spaniards were
prosecuting mining operations in their territory (See _Am. Hist. Mag._,
x. p. 137).

[129-1] Sprague, _Hist. of the Florida War_, p. 328.

[129-2] Basanier, _Histoire Notable de la Floride_, p. 10.

[130-1] Sahagun, _Hist. de la Nueva España_, lib. iii. app. cap. i.;
Meyen, _Ueber die Ureinwohner von Peru_, p. 29.

[130-2] Gabriel Thomas, _Hist. of West New Jersey_, p. 6: London, 1698.

[131-1] Gama, _Des. de las dos Piedras_, etc., i. p. 36.

[131-2] Garcia, _Or. de los Indios_, p. 109.

[131-3] Oviedo, _Rel. de la Prov. de Nicaragua_, p. 41. The name is a
corruption of the Aztec _Quiauhteotl_, Rain-God.

[132-1] Gumilla, _Hist. del Orinoco_, ii. cap. 23.

[132-2] _Doc. Hist. of New York_, iv. p. 130.

[132-3] Gama, _Des. de las dos Piedras_, ii. p. 41; Gallatin, _Trans. Am.
Ethnol. Soc._, i. p. 343.

[133-1] Adrian Van Helmont, _Workes_, p. 142, fol.: London, 1662.

[133-2] The moon is _nipa_ or _nipaz_; _nipa_, I sleep; _nipawi_, night;
_nip_, I die; _nepua_, dead; _nipanoue_, cold. This odd relationship was
first pointed out by Volney (Duponceau, _Langues de l'Amérique du Nord_,
p. 317). But the kinship of these words to that for water, _nip_, _nipi_,
_nepi_, has not before been noticed. This proves the association of ideas
on which I lay so much stress in mythology. A somewhat similar
relationship exists in the Aztec and cognate languages, _miqui_, to die,
_micqui_, dead, _mictlan_, the realm of death, _te-miqui_, to dream,
_cec-miqui_, to freeze. Would it be going too far to connect these with
_metzli_, moon? (See Buschmann, _Spuren der Aztekischen Sprache im
Nördlichen Mexico_, p. 80.)

[133-3] Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, vol. iii. p. 485.

[134-1] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, 1634, p. 16.

[134-2] Humboldt, _Vues des Cordillères_, p. 21.

[134-3] Spix and Martius, _Travels in Brazil_, ii. p. 247.

[134-4] _Hist. de la Médecine_, i. p. 34.

[134-5] Gama, _Des. de las dos Piedras_, etc., ii. pp. 100-102. Compare
Sahagun, _Hist. de la Nueva España_, lib. i. cap. vi.

[135-1] Codex Chimalpopoca, in Brasseur, _Hist. du Mexique_, i. p. 183.
Gama and others translate Nanahuatl by _el buboso_, Brasseur by _le
syphilitique_, and the latter founds certain medical speculations on the
word. It is entirely unnecessary to say to a surgeon that it could not
possibly have had the latter meaning, inasmuch as the diagnosis between
secondary or tertiary syphilis and other similar diseases was unknown.
That it is so employed now is nothing to the purpose. The same or a
similar myth was found in Central America and on the Island of Haiti.

[136-1] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, 1648, p. 75.

[136-2] Charlevoix is in error when he identifies Michabo with the Spirit
of the Waters, and may be corrected from his own statements elsewhere.
Compare his _Journal Historique_, pp. 281 and 344: ed. Paris, 1740.

[137-1] Bradford, _American Antiquities_, p. 833; Martius, _Von dem
Rechtszustande unter den Ureinwohnern Brasiliens_, p. 32; Schoolcraft,
_Ind. Tribes_, i. p. 271.

[138-1] La Vega, _Hist. des Incas_, liv. vi. cap. 9.

[138-2] _Lett. sur les Superstitions du Pérou_, p. 111.

[138-3] Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, iv. p. 224.

[139-1] Chantico, according to Gama, means "Wolf's Head," though I cannot
verify this from the vocabularies within my reach. He is sometimes called
Cohuaxolotl Chantico, the snake-servant Chantico, considered by Gama as
one, by Torquemada as two deities (see Gama, _Des. de las dos Piedras_,
etc., i. p. 12; ii. p. 66). The English word _cantico_ in the phrase, for
instance, "to cut a cantico," though an Indian word, is not from this,
but from the Algonkin Delaware _gentkehn_, to dance a sacred dance. The
Dutch describe it as "a religious custom observed among them before
death" (_Doc. Hist. of New York_, iv. p. 63). William Penn says of the
Lenape, "their worship consists of two parts, sacrifice and cantico," the
latter "performed by round dances, sometimes words, sometimes songs, then
shouts; their postures very antic and differing." (_Letter to the Free
Society of Traders_, 1683, sec. 21.)

[139-2] Charlevoix, _Hist. Gén. de la Nouv. France_, i. p. 394: Paris,
1740. On the different species of dogs indigenous to America, see a note
of Alex. von Humboldt, _Ansichten der Natur._, i. p. 134. It may be
noticed that Chichimec, properly Chichimecatl, the name of the Aztec
tribe who succeeded the ancient Toltecs in Mexico, means literally
"people of the dog," and was probably derived from some mythological
fable connected with that animal.

[140-1] _Narr. of the Captiv. of John Tanner_, p. 362. From the word for
fire in many American tongues is formed the adjective _red_. Thus,
Algonkin, _skoda_, fire, _miskoda_, red; Kolosch, _kan_, fire, _kan_,
red; Ugalentz, _takak_, fire, _takak-uete_, red; Tahkali, _cūn_, fire,
_tenil-cūn_, red; Quiche, _cak_, fire, _cak_, red, etc. From the
adjective _red_ comes often the word for _blood_, and in symbolism the
color red may refer to either of these ideas. It was the royal color of
the Incas, brothers of the sun, and a llama swathed in a red garment was
the Peruvian sacrifice to fire (Garcia, _Or. de los Indios_, lib. iv.
caps. 16, 19). On the other hand the war quipus, the war wampum, and the
war paint were all of this hue, boding their sanguinary significance. The
word for fire in the language of the Delawares, Nanticokes, and
neighboring tribes puzzles me. It is _taenda_ or _tinda_. This is the
Swedish word _taenda_, from whose root comes our _tinder_. Yet it is
found in vocabularies as early as 1650, and is universally current
to-day. It has no resemblance to the word for fire in pure Algonkin. Was
it adopted from the Swedes? Was it introduced by wandering Vikings in
remote centuries? Or is it only a coincidence?

[141-1] Compare D'Orbigny, _L'Homme Américain_, i. p. 243, Müller,
_Amer. Urreligionen_, p. 51, and Squier, _Serpent Symbol in America_, p.
111. This is a striking instance of the confusion of ideas introduced by
false systems of study, and also of the considerable misapprehension of
American mythology which has hitherto prevailed.

[142-1] La Hontan, _Voy. dans l'Amér. Sept._, p. ii. 127; _Rel. Nouv.
France_, 1637, p. 54.

[142-2] Copway, _Trad. Hist. of the Ojibway Nation_, p. 165. _Kesuch_ in
Algonkin signifies both sky and sun (Duponceau, _Langues de l'Amér. du
Nord_, p. 312). So apparently does _kin_ in the Maya.

[142-3] Payne's manuscripts quoted by Mr. Squier in his Serpent Symbol in
America were compiled within this century, and from the extracts given
can be of no great value.

[143-1] The words for fire and sun in American languages are usually from
distinct roots, but besides the example of the Natchez I may instance to
the contrary the Kolosch of British America, in whose tongue fire is
_kan_, sun, _kakan_ (_gake_, great), and the Tezuque of New Mexico, who
use _tah_ for both sun and fire.

[144-1] _Doc. Hist. of New York_, ii. p. 634.

[144-2] Emory, _Milt'y Reconnoissance[TN-6] of New Mexico_, p. 30.

[144-3] _Narrative of John Tanner_, p. 161.

[144-4] Loskiel, _Ges. der Miss. der evang. Brüder_, p. 55.

[144-5] _Nar. of John Tanner_, p. 351.

[144-6] Sahagun, _Hist. Nueva España_, lib. vi. cap. 4.

[145-1] _Letts. Edifiantes et Curieuses_, iv. p. 104, Oviedo; _Hist. du
Nicaragua_, p. 49; Gomara, _Hist. del Orinoco_, ii. cap. 2.

[145-2] Oviedo, _Hist. Gen. de las Indias_, p. 16, in Barcia's _Hist.

[145-3] _Presdt's Message and Docs._ for 1851, pt. iii. p. 506.

[146-1] Sahagun, _Hist. de la Nueva España_, i. cap. 13.

[147-1] _Voyage Pittoresque dans le Yucatan_, p. 49.

[147-2] Davila Padilla, _Hist. de la Prov. de Santiago de Mexico_, lib.
ii. cap. 88 (Brusselas, 1625); Palacios, _Des. de Guatemala_, p. 40;
Garcia, _Or. de los Indios_, p. 124. To such an extent did the priests of
the Algonkin tribes who lived near Manhattan Island carry their
austerity, such uncompromising celibates were they, that it is said on
authority as old as 1624, that they never so much as partook of food
prepared by a married woman. (_Doc. Hist. New York_, iv. p. 28.)

[149-1] Martius, _Von dem Rechtzustande unter den Ureinwohnern
Brasiliens_, p. 28, gives many references.

[149-2] Id. _ibid._, p. 61.

[149-3] _Le Livre Sacré des Quichés_, Introd., pp. clxi., clxix.

[149-4] _Travels in Yucatan_, i. p. 434.

[150-1] Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, v. pp. 416, 417.

[150-2] Mrs. Eastman, _Legends of the Sioux_, p. 161.

[151-1] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, 1634, p. 27; Schoolcraft, _Algic
Researches_, ii. p. 116; _Ind. Tribes_, v. p. 420.

[151-2] De Smet, _Western Missions_, p. 135; Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_,
i. p. 319.

[151-3] Mrs. Eastman, _Legends of the Sioux_, p. 72. By another legend
they claimed that their first ancestor obtained his fire from the sparks
which a friendly panther struck from the rocks as he scampered up a stony
hill (McCoy, _Hist. of Baptist Indian Missions_, p. 364).

[152-1] Mrs. Eastman, ubi sup., p. 158; Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, iv.
p. 645.

[152-2] Waitz, _Anthropologie_, iii. p. 417; Müller, _Am. Urrelig._, p.

[154-1] On the myth of Catequil see particularly the _Lettre sur les
Superstitions du Pérou_, p. 95 sqq., and compare Montesinos, _Ancien
Pérou_, chaps. ii., xx. The letters g and j do not exist in Quichua,
therefore Ataguju should doubtless read _Ata-chuchu_, which means lord,
or ruler of the twins, from _ati_ root of _atini_, I am able, I control,
and _chuchu_, twins. The change of the root _ati_ to _ata_, though
uncommon in Quichua, occurs also in _ata-hualpa_, cock, from _ati_ and
_hualpa_, fowl. Apo-Catequil, or as given by Arriaga, another old writer
on Peruvian idolatry, Apocatequilla, I take to be properly
_apu-ccatec-quilla_, which literally means _chief of the followers of the
moon_. Acosta mentions that the native name for various constellations
was _catachillay_ or _catuchillay_, doubtless corruptions of _ccatec
quilla_, literally "following the moon." Catequil, therefore, the dark
spirit of the storm rack, was also appropriately enough, and perhaps
primarily, lord of the night and stars. Piguerao, where the g appears
again, is probably a compound of _piscu_, bird, and _uira_, white.
Guachemines seems clearly the word _huachi_, a ray of light or an arrow,
with the negative suffix _ymana_, thus meaning rayless, as in the text,
or _ymana_ may mean an excess as well as a want of anything beyond what
is natural, which would give the signification "very bright shining."
(Holguin, _Arte de la Lengua Quichua_, p. 106: Cuzco, 1607.) Is this
sister of theirs the Dawn, who, as in the Rig Veda, brings forth at the
cost of her own life the white and dark twins, the Day and the Night, the
latter of whom drives from the heavens the far-shooting arrows of light,
in order that he may restore his mother again to life? The answer may for
the present be deferred. It is a coincidence perhaps worth mentioning
that the Augustin monk who is our principal authority for this legend
mentions two other twin deities, Yamo and Yama, whose names are almost
identical with the twins Yama and Yami of the Veda.

[155-1] _Hist. des Incas_, liv. ii. cap. 28, and corrected in Markham's
_Quichua Grammar_.

[155-2] The latter is a compound of _tici_ or _ticcu_, a vase, and
_ylla_, the root of _yllani_, to shine, _yllapantac_, it thunders and
lightens. The former is from _tici_ and _cun_ or _con_, whence by
reduplication _cun-un-un-an_, it thunders. From _cun_ and _tura_,
brother, is probably derived _cuntur_, the condor, the flying
thunder-cloud being looked upon as a great bird also. Dr. Waitz has
pointed out that the Araucanians call by the title _con_, the messenger
who summons their chieftains to a general council.

[156-1] _Le Livre Sacré_, p. 9. The name of the lightning in Quiché is
_cak ul ha_, literally, "fire coming from water."

[156-2] Morgan, _League of the Iroquois_, p. 158.

[157-1] "El rayo, el relámpago, y el trueno." Gama, _Des. de las dos
Piedras_, etc., ii. p. 76: Mexico, 1832.

[157-2] Torquemada, _Monarquia Indiana_, lib. vi. cap. 23. Gama, ubi sup.
ii. 76, 77.

[158-1] Torquemada, ibid., lib. vi. cap. 41.

[158-2] _Senate Report on the Indian Tribes_, p. 358: Washington, 1867.

[158-3] Brasseur, _Hist[TN-7] du Mexique_, i. p. 201, and on the extent
of his worship Waitz, _Anthropol._, iv. p. 144.

[158-4] Oviedo, _Hist. du Nicaragua_, p. 47.



     Analysis of American culture myths.--The Manibozho or Michabo of
     the Algonkins shown to be an impersonation of LIGHT, a hero of the
     Dawn, and their highest deity.--The myths of Ioskeha of the
     Iroquois, Viracocha of the Peruvians, and Quetzalcoatl of the
     Toltecs essentially the same as that of Michabo.--Other
     examples.--Ante-Columbian prophecies of the advent of a white race
     from the east as conquerors.--Rise of later culture myths under
     similar forms.

The philosopher Machiavelli, commenting on the books of Livy, lays it
down as a general truth that every form and reform has been brought
about by a single individual. Since a remorseless criticism has shorn so
many heroes of their laurels, our faith in the maxim of the great
Florentine wavers, and the suspicion is created that the popular fancy
which personifies under one figure every social revolution is an
illusion. It springs from that tendency to hero worship, ineradicable in
the heart of the race, which leads every nation to have an ideal, the
imagined author of its prosperity, the father of his country, and the
focus of its legends. As has been hinted, history is not friendly to
their renown, and dissipates them altogether into phantoms of the brain,
or sadly dims the lustre of their fame. Arthur, bright star of chivalry,
dwindles into a Welsh subaltern; the Cid Campeador, defender of the
faith, sells his sword as often to Moslem as to Christian, and _sells_
it ever; while Siegfried and Feridun vanish into nothings.

As elsewhere the world over, so in America many tribes had to tell of
such a personage, some such august character, who taught them what they
knew, the tillage of the soil, the properties of plants, the art of
picture writing, the secrets of magic; who founded their institutions
and established their religions, who governed them long with glory
abroad and peace at home; and finally, did not die, but like Frederick
Barbarossa, Charlemagne, King Arthur, and all great heroes, vanished
mysteriously, and still lives somewhere, ready at the right moment to
return to his beloved people and lead them to victory and happiness.
Such to the Algonkins was Michabo or Manibozho, to the Iroquois Ioskeha,
Wasi to the Cherokees, Tamoi to the Caribs; so the Mayas had Zamna, the
Toltecs Quetzalcoatl, the Muyscas Nemqueteba; such among the Aymaras was
Viracocha, among the Mandans Numock-muckenah, and among the natives of
the Orinoko Amalivaca; and the catalogue could be extended indefinitely.

It is not always easy to pronounce upon these heroes, whether they
belong to history or mythology, their nation's poetry or its prose. In
arriving at a conclusion we must remember that a fiction built on an
idea is infinitely more tenacious of life than a story founded on fact.
Further, that if a striking similarity in the legends of two such heroes
be discovered under circumstances which forbid the thought that one was
derived from the other, then both are probably mythical. If this is the
case in not two but in half a dozen instances, then the probability
amounts to a certainty, and the only task remaining is to explain such
narratives on consistent mythological principles. If after sifting out
all foreign and later traits, it appears that when first known to
Europeans, these heroes were assigned all the attributes of highest
divinity, were the imagined creators and rulers of the world, and
mightiest of spiritual powers, then their position must be set far
higher than that of deified men. They must be accepted as the supreme
gods of the red race, the analogues in the western continent of Jupiter,
Osiris, and Odin in the eastern, and whatever opinions contrary to this
may have been advanced by writers and travellers must be set down to the
account of that prevailing ignorance of American mythology which has
fathered so many other blunders. To solve these knotty points I shall
choose for analysis the culture myths of the Algonkins, the Iroquois,
the Toltecs of Mexico, and the Aymaras or Peruvians, guided in my choice
by the fact that these four families are the best known, and, in many
points of view, the most important on the continent.

From the remotest wilds of the northwest to the coast of the Atlantic,
from the southern boundaries of Carolina to the cheerless swamps of
Hudson's Bay, the Algonkins were never tired of gathering around the
winter fire and repeating the story of Manibozho or Michabo, the Great
Hare. With entire unanimity their various branches, the Powhatans of
Virginia, the Lenni Lenape of the Delaware, the warlike hordes of New
England, the Ottawas of the far north, and the western tribes perhaps
without exception, spoke of "this chimerical beast," as one of the old
missionaries calls it, as their common ancestor. The totem or clan
which bore his name was looked up to with peculiar respect. In many of
the tales which the whites have preserved of Michabo he seems half a
wizzard[TN-8], half a simpleton. He is full of pranks and wiles, but
often at a loss for a meal of victuals; ever itching to try his arts
magic on great beasts and often meeting ludicrous failures therein;
envious of the powers of others, and constantly striving to outdo them
in what they do best; in short, little more than a malicious buffoon
delighting in practical jokes, and abusing his superhuman powers for
selfish and ignoble ends. But this is a low, modern, and corrupt version
of the character of Michabo, bearing no more resemblance to his real and
ancient one than the language and acts of our Saviour and the apostles
in the coarse Mystery Plays of the Middle Ages do to those recorded by
the Evangelists.

What he really was we must seek in the accounts of older travellers, in
the invocations of the jossakeeds or prophets, and in the part assigned
to him in the solemn mysteries of religion. In these we find him
portrayed as the patron and founder of the meda worship,[162-1] the
inventor of picture writing, the father and guardian of their nation,
the ruler of the winds, even the maker and preserver of the world and
creator of the sun and moon. From a grain of sand brought from the
bottom of the primeval ocean, he fashioned the habitable land and set
it floating on the waters, till it grew to such a size that a strong
young wolf, running constantly, died of old age ere he reached its
limits. Under the name Michabo Ovisaketchak, the Great Hare who created
the Earth, he was originally the highest divinity recognized by them,
"powerful and beneficent beyond all others, maker of the heavens and the
world." He was founder of the medicine hunt in which after appropriate
ceremonies and incantations the Indian sleeps, and Michabo appears to
him in a dream, and tells him where he may readily kill game. He himself
was a mighty hunter of old; one of his footsteps measured eight leagues,
the Great Lakes were the beaver dams he built, and when the cataracts
impeded his progress he tore them away with his hands. Attentively
watching the spider spread its web to trap unwary flies, he devised the
art of knitting nets to catch fish, and the signs and charms he tested
and handed down to his descendants are of marvellous efficacy in the
chase. In the autumn, in "the moon of the falling leaf," ere he composes
himself to his winter's sleep, he fills his great pipe and takes a
god-like smoke. The balmy clouds float over the hills and woodlands,
filling the air with the haze of the "Indian summer."

Sometimes he was said to dwell in the skies with his brother the snow,
or, like many great spirits, to have built his wigwam in the far north
on some floe of ice in the Arctic Ocean, while the Chipeways localized
his birthplace and former home to the Island Michilimakinac at the
outlet of Lake Superior. But in the oldest accounts of the missionaries
he was alleged to reside toward the east, and in the holy formulæ of
the meda craft, when the winds are invoked to the medicine lodge, the
east is summoned in his name, the door opens in that direction, and
there, at the edge of the earth, where the sun rises, on the shore of
the infinite ocean that surrounds the land, he has his house and sends
the luminaries forth on their daily journies.[164-1]

It is passing strange that such an insignificant creature as the rabbit
should have received this apotheosis. No explanation of it in the least
satisfactory has ever been offered. Some have pointed it out as a
senseless, meaningless brute worship. It leads to the suspicion that
there may lurk here one of those confusions of words which have so often
led to confusion of ideas in mythology. Manibozho, Nanibojou, Missibizi,
Michabo, Messou, all variations of the same name in different dialects
rendered according to different orthographies, scrutinize them closely
as we may, they all seem compounded according to well ascertained laws
of Algonkin euphony from the words corresponding to _great_ and _hare_
or _rabbit_, or the first two perhaps from _spirit_ and _hare_ (_michi_,
great, _wabos_, hare, _manito wabos_, spirit hare, Chipeway dialect),
and so they have invariably been translated even by the Indians
themselves. But looking more narrowly at the second member of the word,
it is clearly capable of another and very different interpretation, of
an interpretation which discloses at once the origin and the secret
meaning of the whole story of Michabo, in the light of which it appears
no longer the incoherent fable of savages, but a true myth, instinct
with nature, pregnant with matter, nowise inferior to those which
fascinate in the chants of the Rig Veda, or the weird pages of the Edda.

On a previous page I have emphasized with what might have seemed
superfluous force, how prominent in primitive mythology is the east, the
source of the morning, the day-spring on high, the cardinal point which
determines and controls all others. But I did not lay as much stress on
it as others have. "The whole theogony and philosophy of the ancient
world," says Max Müller, "centred in the Dawn, the mother of the bright
gods, of the Sun in his various aspects, of the morn, the day, the
spring; herself the brilliant image and visage of immortality."[165-1]
Now it appears on attentively examining the Algonkin root _wab_, that it
gives rise to words of very diverse meaning, that like many others in
all languages while presenting but one form it represents ideas of
wholly unlike origin and application, that in fact there are two
distinct roots having this sound. One is the initial syllable of the
word translated hare or rabbit, but the other means _white_, and from it
is derived the words for the east, the dawn, the light, the day and the
morning.[165-2] Beyond a doubt this is the compound in the names
Michabo and Manibozho which therefore mean the Great Light, the Spirit
of Light, of the Dawn, or the East, and in the literal sense of the word
the Great White One, as indeed he has sometimes been called.

In this sense all the ancient and authentic myths concerning him are
plain and full of meaning. They divide themselves into two distinct
cycles. In the one Michabo is the spirit of light who dispels the
darkness; in the other as chief of the cardinal points he is lord of the
winds, prince of the powers of the air, whose voice is the thunder,
whose weapon the lightning, the supreme figure in the encounter of the
air currents, in the unending conflict which the Dakotas described as
waged by the waters and the winds.

In the first he is grandson of the moon, his father is the West Wind,
and his mother, a maiden, dies in giving him birth at the moment of
conception. For the moon is the goddess of night, the Dawn is her
daughter, who brings forth the morning and perishes herself in the act,
and the West, the spirit of darkness as the East is of light, precedes
and as it were begets the latter as the evening does the morning.
Straightway, however, continues the legend, the son sought the unnatural
father to revenge the death of his mother, and then commenced a long and
desperate struggle. "It began on the mountains. The West was forced to
give ground. Manabozho drove him across rivers and over mountains and
lakes, and at last he came to the brink of this world. 'Hold,' cried he,
'my son, you know my power and that it is impossible to kill
me.'"[167-1] What is this but the diurnal combat of light and darkness,
carried on from what time "the jocund morn stands tiptoe on the misty
mountain tops," across the wide world to the sunset, the struggle that
knows no end, for both the opponents are immortal?

In the second, and evidently to the native mind more important cycle of
legends, he was represented as one of four brothers, the North, the
South, the East, and the West, all born at a birth, whose mother died in
ushering them into the world;[167-2] for hardly has the kindling orient
served to fix the cardinal points than it is lost and dies in the
advancing day. Yet it is clear that he was something more than a
personification of the east or the east wind, for it is repeatedly said
that it was he who assigned their duties to all the winds, to that of
the east as well as the others. This is a blending of his two
characters. Here too his life is a battle. No longer with his father,
indeed, but with his brother Chakekenapok, the flint-stone, whom he
broke in pieces and scattered over the land, and changed his entrails
into fruitful vines. The conflict was long and terrible. The face of
nature was desolated as by a tornado, and the gigantic boulders and
loose rocks found on the prairies are the missiles hurled by the mighty
combatants. Or else his foe was the glittering prince of serpents whose
abode was the lake; or was the shining Manito whose home was guarded by
fiery serpents and a deep sea; or was the great king of fishes; all
symbols of the atmospheric waters, all figurative descriptions of the
wars of the elements. In these affrays the thunder and lightning are at
his command, and with them he destroys his enemies. For this reason the
Chipeway pictography represents him brandishing a rattlesnake, the
symbol of the electric flash,[168-1] and sometimes they called him the
Northwest Wind, which in the region they inhabit usually brings the

As ruler of the winds he was, like Quetzalcoatl, father and protector of
all species of birds, their symbols.[168-2] He was patron of hunters,
for their course is guided by the cardinal points. Therefore, when the
medicine hunt had been successful, the prescribed sign of gratitude to
him was to scatter a handful of the animal's blood toward each of
these.[168-3] As daylight brings vision, and to see is to know, it was
no fable that gave him as the author of their arts, their wisdom, and
their institutions.

In effect, his story is a world-wide truth, veiled under a thin garb of
fancy. It is but a variation of that narrative which every race has to
tell, out of gratitude to that beneficent Father who everywhere has
cared for His children. Michabo, giver of life and light, creator and
preserver, is no apotheosis of a prudent chieftain, still less the
fabrication of an idle fancy or a designing priestcraft, but in origin,
deeds, and name the not unworthy personification of the purest
conceptions they possessed concerning the Father of All. To Him at early
dawn the Indian stretched forth his hands in prayer; and to the sky or
the sun as his homes, he first pointed the pipe in his ceremonies, rites
often misinterpreted by travellers as indicative of sun worship. As
later observers tell us to this day the Algonkin prophet builds the
medicine lodge to face the sunrise, and in the name of Michabo, who
there has his home, summons the spirits of the four quarters of the
world and Gizhigooke, the day maker, to come to his fire and disclose
the hidden things of the distant and the future: so the earliest
explorers relate that when they asked the native priests who it was they
invoked, what demons or familiars, the invariable reply was, "the
Kichigouai, the genii of light, those who make the day."[169-1]

Our authorities on Iroquois traditions, though numerous enough, are not
so satisfactory. The best, perhaps, is Father Brebeuf, a Jesuit
missionary, who resided among the Hurons in 1626. Their culture myth,
which he has recorded, is strikingly similar to that of the Algonkins.
Two brothers appear in it, Ioskeha and Tawiscara, names which find their
meaning in the Oneida dialect as the White one and the Dark one.[170-1]
They are twins, born of a virgin mother, who died in giving them life.
Their grandmother was the moon, called by the Hurons Ataensic, a word
which signifies literally _she bathes herself_, and which, in the
opinion of Father Bruyas, a most competent authority, is derived from
the word for water.[170-2]

The brothers quarrelled, and finally came to blows; the former using the
horns of a stag, the latter the wild rose. He of the weaker weapon was
very naturally discomfited and sorely wounded. Fleeing for life, the
blood gushed from him at every step, and as it fell turned into
flint-stones. The victor returned to his grandmother, and established
his lodge in the far east, on the borders of the great ocean, whence
the sun comes. In time he became the father of mankind, and special
guardian of the Iroquois. The earth was at first arid and sterile, but
he destroyed the gigantic frog which had swallowed all the waters, and
guided the torrents into smooth streams and lakes.[171-1] The woods he
stocked with game; and having learned from the great tortoise, who
supports the world, how to make fire, taught his children, the Indians,
this indispensable art. He it was who watched and watered their crops;
and, indeed, without his aid, says the old missionary, quite out of
patience with such puerilities, "they think they could not boil a pot."
Sometimes they spoke of him as the sun, but this only figuratively.[171-2]

From other writers of early date we learn that the essential outlines of
this myth were received by the Tuscaroras and the Mohawks, and as the
proper names of the two brothers are in the Oneida dialect, we cannot
err in considering this the national legend of the Iroquois stock. There
is strong likelihood that the Taronhiawagon, he who comes from the Sky,
of the Onondagas, who was their supreme God, who spoke to them in
dreams, and in whose honor the chief festival of their calendar was
celebrated about the winter solstice, was, in fact, Ioskeha under
another name.[172-1] As to the legend of the Good and Bad Minds given
by Cusic, to which I have referred in a previous chapter, and the later
and wholly spurious myth of Hiawatha, first made public by Mr. Clark in
his History of Onondaga (1849), and which, in the graceful poem of
Longfellow, is now familiar to the world, they are but pale and
incorrect reflections of the early native traditions.

So strong is the resemblance Ioskeha bears to Michabo, that what has
been said in explanation of the latter will be sufficient for both. Yet
I do not imagine that the one was copied or borrowed from the other. We
cannot be too cautious in adopting such a conclusion. The two nations
were remote in everything but geographical position. I call to mind
another similar myth. In it a mother is also said to have brought forth
twins, or a pair of twins, and to have paid for them with her life.
Again the one is described as the bright, the other as the dark twin;
again it is said that they struggled one with the other for the mastery.
Scholars, likewise, have interpreted the mother to mean the Dawn, the
twins either Light and Darkness, or the Four Winds. Yet this is not
Algonkin theology; nor is it at all related to that of the Iroquois. It
is the story of Sarama in the Rig Veda, and was written in Sanscrit,
under the shadow of the Himalayas, centuries before Homer.

Such uniformity points not to a common source in history, but in
psychology. Man, chiefly cognizant of his soul through his senses,
thought with an awful horror of the night which deprived him of the use
of one and foreshadowed the loss of all. Therefore _light_ and _life_
were to him synonymous; therefore all religions promise to lead

   "From night to light,
    From night to heavenly light;"

therefore He who rescues is ever the Light of the World; therefore it is
said "to the upright ariseth light in darkness;" therefore everywhere
the kindling East, the pale Dawn, is the embodiment of his hopes and the
centre of his reminiscences. Who shall say that his instinct led him
here astray? For is not, in fact, all life dependent on light? Do not
all those marvellous and subtle forces known to the older chemists as
the imponderable elements, without which not even the inorganic crystal
is possible, proceed from the rays of light? Let us beware of that
shallow science so ready to shout Eureka, and reverently acknowledge a
mysterious intuition here displayed which joins with the latest
conquests of the human mind to repeat and emphasize that message which
the Evangelist heard of the Spirit and declared unto men, that "God is

Both these heroes, let it be observed, live in the uttermost east; both
are the mythical fathers of the race. To the east, therefore, should
these nations have pointed as their original dwelling place. This they
did in spite of history. Cusic, who takes up the story of the Iroquois a
thousand years before the Christian era, locates them first in the most
eastern region they ever possessed. While the Algonkins with one voice
called those of their tribes living nearest the rising sun _Abnakis_,
our ancestors at the east, or at the dawn; literally our _white_
ancestors.[174-1] I designedly emphasize this literal rendering. It
reminds one of the white twin of Iroquois legend, and illustrates how
the color white came to be intimately associated with the morning light
and its beneficent effects. Moreover color has a specific effect on the
mind; there is a music to the eye as well as to the ear; and white,
which holds all hues in itself, disposes the soul to all pleasant and
elevating emotions.[174-2] Not fashion alone bids the bride wreathe her
brow with orange flowers, nor was it a mere figure of speech that led
the inspired poet to call his love "fairest among women," and to
prophecy a Messiah "fairer than the children of men," fulfilled in that
day when He appeared "in garments so white as no fuller on earth could
white them." No nation is free from the power of this law. "White,"
observes Adair of the southern Indians, "is their fixed emblem of peace,
friendship, happiness, prosperity, purity, and holiness."[175-1] Their
priests dressed in white robes, as did those of Peru and Mexico; the
kings of the various species of animals were all supposed to be
white;[175-2] the cities of refuge established as asylums for alleged
criminals by the Cherokees in the manner of the Israelites were called
"white towns," and for sacrifices animals of this color were ever most
highly esteemed. All these sentiments were linked to the dawn. Language
itself is proof of it. Many Algonkin words for east, morning, dawn, day,
light, as we have already seen, are derived from a radical signifying
_white_. Or we can take a tongue nowise related, the Quiché, and find
its words for east, dawn, morning, light, bright, glorious, happy,
noble, all derived from _zak_, white. We read in their legends of the
earliest men that they were "white children," "white sons," leading "a
white life beyond the dawn," and the creation itself is attributed to
the Dawn, the White One, the White Sacrificer of Blood.[175-3] But why
insist upon the point when in European tongues we find the daybreak
called _l'aube_, _alva_, from _albus_, white? Enough for the purpose if
the error of those is manifest, who, in such expressions, would seek
support for any theory of ancient European immigration; enough if it
displays the true meaning of those traditions of the advent of
benevolent visitors of fair complexion in ante-Columbian times, which
both Algonkins and Iroquois[176-1] had in common with many other tribes
of the western continent. Their explanation will not be found in the
annals of Japan, the triads of the Cymric bards, nor the sagas of
Icelandic skalds, but in the propensity of the human mind to attribute
its own origin and culture to that white-shining orient where sun, moon,
and stars, are daily born in renovated glory, to that fair mother, who,
at the cost of her own life, gives light and joy to the world, to the
brilliant womb of Aurora, the glowing bosom of the Dawn.

Even the complicated mythology of Peru yields to the judicious
application of these principles of interpretation. Its peculiar
obscurity arises from the policy of the Incas to blend the religions of
conquered provinces with their own. Thus about 1350 the Inca Pachacutec
subdued the country about Lima where the worship of Con and Pachacamà
prevailed.[176-2] The local myth represented these as father and son,
or brothers, children of the sun. They were without flesh or blood,
impalpable, invisible, and incredibly swift of foot. Con first possessed
the land, but Pachacamà attacked and drove him to the north. Irritated
at his defeat he took with him the rain, and consequently to this day
the sea-coast of Peru is largely an arid desert. Now when we are
informed that the south wind, that in other words which blows to the
north, is the actual cause of the aridity of the low-lands,[177-1] and
consider the light and airy character of these antagonists, we cannot
hesitate to accept this as a myth of the winds. The name of _Con tici_,
the Thunder Vase, was indeed applied to Viracocha in later times, but
they were never identical. Viracocha was the culture hero of the ancient
Aymara-Quichua stock. He was more than that, for in their creed he was
creator and possessor of all things. Lands and herds were assigned to
other gods to support their temples, and offerings were heaped on their
altars, but to him none. For, asked the Incas: "Shall the Lord and
Master of the whole world need these things from us?" To him, says
Acosta, "they did attribute the chief power and commandement over all
things;" and elsewhere "in all this realm the chief idoll they did
worship was Viracocha, and _after him_ the Sunne."[178-1]

Ere sun or moon was made, he rose from the bosom of Lake Titicaca, and
presided over the erection of those wondrous cities whose ruins still
dot its islands and western shores, and whose history is totally lost in
the night of time. He himself constructed these luminaries and placed
them in the sky, and then peopled the earth with its present
inhabitants. From the lake he journeyed westward, not without
adventures, for he was attacked with murderous intent by the beings whom
he had created. When, however, scorning such unequal combat, he had
manifested his power by hurling the lightning on the hill-sides and
consuming the forests, they recognized their maker, and humbled
themselves before him. He was reconciled, and taught them arts and
agriculture, institutions and religion, meriting the title they gave him
of _Pachayachachic_, teacher of all things. At last he disappeared in
the western ocean. Four personages, companions or sons, were closely
connected with him. They rose together with him from the lake, or else
were his first creations. These are the four mythical civilizers of
Peru, who another legend asserts emerged from the cave Pacarin tampu the
Lodgings of the Dawn.[179-1] To these Viracocha gave the earth, to one
the north, to another the south, to a third the east, to a fourth the
west. Their names are very variously given, but as they have already
been identified with the four winds, we can omit their consideration
here.[179-2] Tradition, as has rightly been observed by the Inca
Garcilasso de la Vega,[179-3] transferred a portion of the story of
Viracocha to Manco Capac, first of the historical Incas. King Manco,
however, was a real character, the Rudolph of Hapsburg of their reigning
family, and flourished about the eleventh century.

There is a general resemblance between this story and that of Michabo.
Both precede and create the sun, both journey to the west, overcoming
opposition with the thunderbolt, both divide the world between the four
winds, both were the fathers, gods, and teachers of their nations. Nor
does it cease here. Michabo, I have shown, is the white spirit of the
Dawn. Viracocha, all authorities translate "the fat or foam of the sea."
The idea conveyed is of whiteness, foam being called fat from its
color.[180-1] So true is this that to-day in Peru white men are called
_viracochas_, and the early explorers constantly received the same
epithet.[180-2] The name is a metaphor. The dawn rises above the horizon
as the snowy foam on the surface of a lake. As the Algonkins spoke of
the Abnakis, their white ancestors, as in Mexican legends the early
Toltecs were of fair complexion, so the Aymaras sometimes called the
first four brothers, _viracochas_, white men.[180-3] It is the ancient
story how

    Sprang from the deep, and from her native east
    To journey through the airy gloom began."

The central figure of Toltec mythology is Quetzalcoatl. Not an author on
ancient Mexico but has something to say about the glorious days when he
ruled over the land. No one denies him to have been a god, the god of
the air, highest deity of the Toltecs, in whose honor was erected the
pyramid of Cholula, grandest monument of their race. But many insist
that he was at first a man, some deified king. There were in truth many
Quetzalcoatls, for his high priest always bore his name, but he himself
is a pure creation of the fancy, and all his alleged history is nothing
but a myth.

His emblematic name, the Bird-Serpent, and his rebus and cross at
Palenque, I have already explained. Others of his titles were, Ehecatl,
the air; Yolcuat, the rattlesnake; Tohil, the rumbler; Huemac, the
strong hand; Nani he hecatle, lord of the four winds. The same dualism
reappears in him that has been noted in his analogues elsewhere; He is
both lord of the eastern light and the winds.

As the former, he was born of a virgin in the land of Tula or Tlapallan,
in the distant Orient, and was high priest of that happy realm. The
morning star was his symbol, and the temple of Cholula was dedicated to
him expressly as the author of light.[181-1] As by days we measure time,
he was the alleged inventor of the calendar. Like all the dawn heroes,
he too was represented as of white complexion, clothed in long white
robes, and, as most of the Aztec gods, with a full and flowing
beard.[181-2] When his earthly-work was done he too returned to the
east, assigning as a reason that the sun, the ruler of Tlapallan,
demanded his presence. But the real motive was that he had been
overcome by Tezcatlipoca, otherwise called Yoalliehecatl, the wind or
spirit of night, who had descended from heaven by a spider's web and
presented his rival with a draught pretended to confer immortality, but,
in fact, producing uncontrollable longing for home. For the wind and the
light both depart when the gloaming draws near, or when the clouds
spread their dark and shadowy webs along the mountains, and pour the
vivifying rain upon the fields.

In his other character, he was begot of the breath of Tonacateotl, god
of our flesh or subsistence,[182-1] or (according to Gomara) was the son
of Iztac Mixcoatl, the white cloud serpent, the spirit of the tornado.
Messenger of Tlaloc, god of rains, he was figuratively said to sweep the
road for him, since in that country violent winds are the precursors of
the wet seasons. Wherever he went all manner of singing birds bore him
company, emblems of the whistling breezes. When he finally disappeared
in the far east, he sent back four trusty youths who had ever shared his
fortunes, "incomparably swift and light of foot," with directions to
divide the earth between them and rule it till he should return and
resume his power. When he would promulgate his decrees, his herald
proclaimed them from Tzatzitepec, the hill of shouting, with such a
mighty voice that it could be heard a hundred leagues around. The arrows
which he shot transfixed great trees, the stones he threw levelled
forests, and when he laid his hands on the rocks the mark was indelible.
Yet as thus emblematic of the thunder-storm, he possessed in full
measure its better attributes. By shaking his sandals he gave fire to
men, and peace, plenty, and riches blessed his subjects. Tradition says
he built many temples to Mictlanteuctli, the Aztec Pluto, and at the
creation of the sun that he slew all the other gods, for the advancing
dawn disperses the spectral shapes of night, and yet all its vivifying
power does but result in increasing the number doomed to fell before the
remorseless stroke of death.[183-1]

His symbols were the bird, the serpent, the cross, and the flint,
representing the clouds, the lightning, the four winds, and the
thunderbolt. Perhaps, as Huemac, the Strong Hand, he was god of the
earthquakes. The Zapotecs worshipped such a deity under the image of
this member carved from a precious stone,[183-2] calling to mind the
"Kab ul," the Working Hand, adored by the Mayas,[183-3] and said to be
one of the images of Zamna, their hero god. The human hand, "that divine
tool," as it has been called, might well be regarded by the reflective
mind as the teacher of the arts and the amulet whose magic power has won
for man what vantage he has gained in his long combat with nature and
his fellows.

I might next discuss the culture myth of the Muyscas, whose hero Bochica
or Nemqueteba bore the other name SUA, the White One, the Day, the
East, an appellation they likewise gave the Europeans on their arrival.
He had taught them in remotest times how to manufacture their clothing,
build their houses, cultivate the soil, and reckon time. When he
disappeared, he divided the land between four chiefs, and laid down many
minute rules of government which ever after were religiously
observed.[184-1] Or I might choose that of the Caribs, whose patron Tamu
called Grandfather, and Old Man of the Sky, was a man of light
complexion, who in the old times came from the east, instructed them in
agriculture and arts, and disappeared in the same direction, promising
them assistance in the future, and that at death he would receive their
souls on the summit of the sacred tree, and transport them safely to his
home in the sky.[184-2] Or from the more fragmentary mythology of ruder
nations, proof might be brought of the well nigh universal reception of
these fundamental views. As, for instance, when the Mandans of the Upper
Missouri speak of their first ancestor as a son of the West, who
preserved them at the flood, and whose garb was always of four
milk-white wolf skins;[185-1] and when the Pimos, a people of the valley
of the Rio Gila, relate that their birthplace was where the sun rises,
that there for generations they led a joyous life, until their
beneficent first parent disappeared in the heavens. From that time, say
they, God lost sight of them, and they wandered west, and further west
till they reached their present seats.[185-2] Or I might instance the
Tupis of Brazil, who were named after the first of men, Tupa, he who
alone survived the flood, who was one of four brothers, who is described
as an old man of fair complexion, _un vieillard blanc_,[185-3] and who
is now their highest divinity, ruler of the lightning and the storm,
whose voice is the thunder, and who is the guardian of their nation. But
is it not evident that these and all such legends are but variations of
those already analyzed?

In thus removing one by one the wrappings of symbolism, and displaying
at the centre and summit of these various creeds, He who is throned in
the sky, who comes with the dawn, who manifests himself in the light and
the storm, and whose ministers are the four winds, I set up no new god.
The ancient Israelites prayed to him who was seated above the firmament,
who commanded the morning and caused the day-spring to know its place,
who answered out of the whirlwind, and whose envoys were the four winds,
the four cherubim described with such wealth of imagery in the
introduction to the book of Ezekiel. The Mahometan adores "the clement
and merciful Lord of the Daybreak," whose star is in the east, who rides
on the storm, and whose breath is the wind. The primitive man in the New
World also associated these physical phenomena as products of an
invisible power, conceived under human form, called by name, worshipped
as one, and of whom all related the same myth differing but in
unimportant passages. This was the primeval religion. It was not
monotheism, for there were many other gods; it was not pantheism, for
there was no blending of the cause with the effects; still less was it
fetichism, an adoration of sensuous objects, for these were recognized
as effects. It teaches us that the idea of God neither arose from the
phenomenal world nor was sunk in it, as is the shallow theory of the
day, but is as Kant long ago defined it, a conviction of a highest and
first principle which binds all phenomena into one.

One point of these legends deserves closer attention for the influence
it exerted on the historical fortunes of the race. The dawn heroes were
conceived as of fair complexion, mighty in war, and though absent for a
season, destined to return and claim their ancient power. Here was one
of those unconscious prophecies, pointing to the advent of a white race
from the east, that wrote the doom of the red man in letters of fire.
Historians have marvelled at the instantaneous collapse of the empires
of Mexico, Peru, the Mayas, and the Natchez, before a handful of Spanish
filibusters. The fact was, wherever the whites appeared they were
connected with these ancient predictions of the spirit of the dawn
returning to claim his own. Obscure and ominous prophecies, "texts of
bodeful song," rose in the memory of the natives, and paralyzed their

"For a very long time," said Montezuma, at his first interview with
Cortes, "has it been handed down that we are not the original possessors
of this land, but came hither from a distant region under the guidance
of a ruler who afterwards left us and returned. We have ever believed
that some day his descendants would come and resume dominion over us.
Inasmuch as you are from that direction, which is toward the rising of
the sun, and serve so great a king as you describe, we believe that he
is also our natural lord, and are ready to submit ourselves to

The gloomy words of Nezahualcoyotl, a former prince of Tezcuco,
foretelling the arrival of white and bearded men from the east, who
would wrest the power from the hands of the rightful rulers and destroy
in a day the edifice of centuries, were ringing in his ears. But they
were not so gloomy to the minds of his down-trodden subjects, for that
day was to liberate them from the thralls of servitude. Therefore when
they first beheld the fair complexioned Spaniards, they rushed into the
water to embrace the prows of their vessels, and despatched messengers
throughout the land to proclaim the return of Quetzalcoatl.[188-1]

The noble Mexican was not alone in his presentiments. When Hernando de
Soto on landing in Peru first met the Inca Huascar, the latter related
an ancient prophecy which his father Huayna Capac had repeated on his
dying bed, to the effect that in the reign of the thirteenth Inca, white
men (_viracochas_) of surpassing strength and valor would come from
their father the Sun and subject to their rule the nations of the world.
"I command you," said the dying monarch, "to yield them homage and
obedience, for they will be of a nature superior to ours."[188-2]

The natives of Haiti told Columbus of similar predictions long anterior
to his arrival.[188-3] And Father Lizana has preserved in the original
Maya tongue several such foreboding chants. Doubtless he has adapted
them somewhat to proselytizing purposes, but they seem very likely to be
close copies of authentic aboriginal songs, referring to the return of
Zamna or Kukulcan, lord of the dawn and the four winds, worshipped at
Cozumel and Palenque under the sign of the cross. An extract will show
their character:--

   "At the close of the thirteenth Age of the world,
    While the cities of Itza and Tancah still flourish,
    The sign of the Lord of the Sky will appear,
    The light of the dawn will illumine the land,
    And the cross will be seen by the nations of men.
    A father to you, will He be, Itzalanos,
    A brother to you, ye natives of Tancah;
    Receive well the bearded guests who are coming,
    Bringing the sign of the Lord from the daybreak,
    Of the Lord of the Sky, so clement yet powerful."[189-1]

The older writers, Gomara, Cogolludo, Villagutierre, have taken pains to
collect other instances of this presentiment of the arrival and
domination of a white race. Later historians, fashionably incredulous of
what they cannot explain, have passed them over in silence. That they
existed there can be no doubt, and that they arose in the way I have
stated, is almost proven by the fact that in Mexico, Bogota, and Peru,
the whites were at once called from the proper names of the heroes of
the Dawn, _Suas_, _Viracochas_, and _Quetzalcoatls_.

When the church of Rome had crushed remorselessly the religions of
Mexico and Peru, all hope of the return of Quetzalcoatl and Viracocha
perished with the institutions of which they were the mythical founders.
But it was only to arise under new incarnations and later names. As well
forbid the heart of youth to bud forth in tender love, as that of
oppressed nationalities to cherish the faith that some ideal hero, some
royal man, will yet arise, and break in fragments their fetters, and
lead them to glory and honor.

When the name of Quetzalcoatl was no longer heard from the teocalli of
Cholula, that of Montezuma took its place. From ocean to ocean, and from
the river Gila to the Nicaraguan lake, nearly every aboriginal nation
still cherishes the memory of Montezuma, not as the last unfortunate
ruler of a vanished state, but as the prince of their golden era, their
Saturnian age, lord of the winds and waters, and founder of their
institutions. When, in the depth of the tropical forests, the antiquary
disinters some statue of earnest mien, the natives whisper one to the
other, "Montezuma! Montezuma!"[190-1] In the legends of New Mexico he is
the founder of the pueblos, and intrusted to their guardianship the
sacred fire. Departing, he planted a tree, and bade them watch it well,
for when that tree should fall and the fire die out, then he would
return from the far East, and lead his loyal people to victory and
power. When the present generation saw their land glide, mile by mile,
into the rapacious hands of the Yankees--when new and strange diseases
desolated their homes--finally, when in 1846 the sacred tree was
prostrated, and the guardian of the holy fire was found dead on its cold
ashes, then they thought the hour of deliverance had come, and every
morning at earliest dawn a watcher mounted to the house-tops, and gazed
long and anxiously in the lightening east, hoping to descry the noble
form of Montezuma advancing through the morning beams at the head of a
conquering army.[191-1]

Groaning under the iron rule of the Spaniards, the Peruvians would not
believe that the last of the Incas had perished an outcast and a
wanderer in the forests of the Cordilleras. For centuries they clung to
the persuasion that he had but retired to another mighty kingdom beyond
the mountains, and in due time would return and sweep the haughty
Castilian back into the ocean. In 1781, a mestizo, Jose Gabriel
Condorcanqui, of the province of Tinta, took advantage of this strong
delusion, and binding around his forehead the scarlet fillet of the
Incas, proclaimed himself the long lost Inca Tupac Amaru, and a true
child of the sun. Thousands of Indians flocked to his standard, and at
their head he took the field, vowing the extermination of every soul of
the hated race. Seized at last by the Spaniards, and condemned to a
public execution, so profound was the reverence with which he had
inspired his followers, so full their faith in his claims, that,
undeterred by the threats of the soldiery, they prostrated themselves on
their faces before this last of the children of the sun, as he passed on
to a felon's death.[191-2]

These fancied reminiscences, these unfounded hopes, so vague, so
child-like, let no one dismiss them as the babblings of ignorance.
Contemplated in their broadest meaning as characteristics of the race of
man, they have an interest higher than any history, beyond that of any
poetry. They point to the recognized discrepancy between what man is,
and what he feels he should be, must be; they are the indignant protests
of the race against acquiescence in the world's evil as the world's law;
they are the incoherent utterances of those yearnings for nobler
conditions of existence, which no savagery, no ignorance, nothing but a
false and lying enlightenment can wholly extinguish.


[162-1] The _meda_ worship is the ordinary religious ritual of the
Algonkins. It consists chiefly in exhibitions of legerdemain, and in
conjuring and exorcising demons. A _jossakeed_ is an inspired prophet who
derives his power directly from the higher spirits, and not as the
_medawin_, by instruction and practice.

[164-1] For these particulars see the _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, 1667, p.
12, 1670, p. 93; Charlevoix, _Journal Historique_, p. 344; Schoolcraft,
_Indian Tribes_, v. pp. 420 sqq., and Alex. Henry, _Travs. in Canada and
the Ind. Territories_, pp. 212 sqq. These are decidedly the best
references of the many that could be furnished. Peter Jones' _History of
the Ojibway Indians_, p. 35, may also be consulted.

[165-1] _Science of Language_, Second Series, p. 518.

[165-2] Dialectic forms in Algonkin for white, are _wabi_, _wape_,
_wompi_, _waubish_, _oppai_; for morning, _wapan_, _wapaneh_, _opah_; for
east, _wapa_, _waubun_, _waubamo_; for dawn, _wapa_, _waubun_; for day,
_wompan_, _oppan_; for light, _oppung_; and many others similar. In the
Abnaki dialect, _wanbighen_, it is white, is the customary idiom to
express the breaking of the day (Vetromile, _The Abnakis and their
History_, p. 27: New York, 1866). The loss in composition of the vowel
sound represented by the English w, and in the French writers by the
figure 8, is supported by frequent analogy.

[167-1] Schoolcraft, _Algic Researches_, i. pp. 135-142.

[167-2] The names of the four brothers, Wabun, Kabun, Kabibonokka, and
Shawano, express in Algonkin both the cardinal points and the winds which
blow from them. In another version of the legend, first reported by
Father De Smet and quoted by Schoolcraft without acknowledgment, they are
Nanaboojoo, Chipiapoos, Wabosso, and Chakekenapok. See for the support of
the text, Schoolcraft, _Algic Res._, ii. p. 214; De Smet, _Oregon
Missions_, p. 347.

[168-1] _Narrative of John Tanner_, p. 351.

[168-2] Schoolcraft, _Algic Res._, i. p. 216.

[168-3] _Narrative of John Tanner_, p. 354.

[169-1] Compare the _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, 1634 p. 14, 1637, p. 46,
with Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, v. p. 419. _Kichigouai_ is the same word
as _Gizhigooke_, according to a different orthography.

[170-1] The names _I8skeha_ and _Ta8iscara_ I venture to identify with
the Oneida _owisske_ or _owiska_, white, and _tetiucalas_ (_tyokaras_,
_tewhgarlars_, Mohawk), dark or darkness. The prefix i to _owisske_ is
the impersonal third person singular; the suffix _ha_ gives a future
sense, so that _i-owisske-ha_ or _iouskeha_ means "it is going to become
white." Brebeuf gives a similar example of _gaon_, old; _a-gaon-ha_, _il
va devenir vieux_ (_Rel. Nouv. France_, 1636, p. 99). But "it is going to
become white," meant to the Iroquois that the dawn was about to appear,
just as _wanbighen_, it is white, did to the Abnakis (see note on page
166), and as the Eskimos say, _kau ma wok_, it is white, to express that
it is daylight (Richardson's Vocab. of Labrador Eskimo in his _Arctic
Expedition_). Therefore, that Ioskeha is an impersonation of the light of
the dawn admits of no dispute.

[170-2] The orthography of Brebeuf is _aataentsic_. This may be analyzed
as follows: root _aouen_, water; prefix _at_, _il y a quelque chose là
dedans_; _ataouen_, _se baigner_; from which comes the form
_ataouensere_. (See Bruyas, _Rad. Verb. Iroquæor._, pp. 30, 31.) Here
again the mythological role of the moon as the goddess of water comes
distinctly to light.

[171-1] This offers an instance of the uniformity which prevailed in
symbolism in the New World. The Aztecs adored the goddess of water under
the figure of a frog carved from a single emerald; or of human form, but
holding in her hand the leaf of a water lily ornamented with frogs.
(Brasseur, _Hist. du Mexique_, i. p. 324.)

[171-2] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, 1636, p. 101.

[172-1] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, 1671, p. 17. Cusic spells it
_Tarenyawagon_, and translates it Holder of the Heavens. But the name is
evidently a compound of _garonhia_, sky, softened in the Onondaga dialect
to _taronhia_ (see Gallatin's Vocabs. under the word sky), and _wagin_, I

[173-1] Ὁ Θεος φως εστι, The First Epistle General of John, i. 5. In
curious analogy to these myths is that of the Eskimos of Greenland. In
the beginning, they relate, were two brothers, one of whom said: "There
shall be night and there shall be day, and men shall die, one after
another." But the second said, "There shall be no day, but only night
all the time, and men shall live forever." They had a long struggle, but
here once more he who loved darkness rather than light was worsted, and
the day triumphed. (_Nachrichten von Grönland aus einem Tagebuche vom
Bischof Paul Egede_, p. 157: Kopenhagen, 1790. The date of the entry is

[174-1] I accept without hesitation the derivation of this word, proposed
and defended by that accomplished Algonkin scholar, the Rev. Eugene
Vetromile, from _wanb_, white or east, and _naghi_ ancestors (_The
Abnakis and their History_, p. 29: New York, 1866).

[174-2] White light, remarks Goethe, has in it something cheerful and
ennobling; it possesses "eine heitere, muntere, sanft reizende
Eigenschaft." _Farbenlehre_, sec's 766, 770.

[175-1] _Hist. of the N. Am. Indians_, p. 159.

[175-2] La Hontan, _Voy. dans l'Amér. Sept._, ii. p. 42.

[175-3] "Blanco pizote," Ximenes, p. 4, _Vocabulario Quiché_, s. v.
_zak_. In the far north the Eskimo tongue presents the same analogy. Day,
morning, bright, light, lightning, all are from the same root (_kau_),
signifying white (Richardson, Vocab. of Labrador Eskimo).

[176-1] Some fragments of them may be found in Campanius, _Acc. of New
Sweden_, 1650, book iii. chap. 11, and in Byrd, _The Westover
Manuscripts_, 1733, p. 82. They were in both instances alleged to have
been white and bearded men, the latter probably a later trait in the

[176-2] _Con_ or _Cun_ I have already explained to mean thunder, _Con
tici_, the mythical thunder vase. Pachacamà is doubtless, as M. Leonce
Angrand has suggested, from _ppacha_, source, and _camà_, all, the Source
of All things (Desjardins, _Le Pérou avant la Conq. Espagnole_, p. 23,
note). But he and all other writers have been in error in considering
this identical with _Pachacámac_, nor can the latter mean _creator of the
world_, as it has constantly been translated. It is a participial
adjective from _pacha_, place, especially the world, and _camac_, present
participle of _camani_, I animate, from which also comes _camakenc_, the
soul, and means _animating the world_. It was never used as a proper
name. The following trochaic lines from the Quichua poem translated in
the previous chapter, show its true meaning and correct accent:--

  Pāchă rūrăc,      World creating,
  Pāchă cāmăc,      World animating,
  Viracocha,        Viracocha,
  Camasunqui,       He animates thee.

The last word is the second transition, present tense, of _camani_, while
_camac_ is its present participle.

[177-1] Ulloa, _Mémoires Philosophiques sur l'Amérique_, i. p. 105.

[178-1] Acosta, _Hist. of the New World_, bk. v. chap. 4, bk. vi. chap.
19, Eng. trans., 1704.

[179-1] The name is derived from _tampu_, corrupted by the Spaniards to
_tambo_, an inn, and _paccari_ morning, or _paccarin_, it dawns, which
also has the figurative signification, it is born. It may therefore mean
either Lodgings of the Dawn, or as the Spaniards usually translated it,
House of Birth, or Production, _Casa de Producimiento_.

[179-2] The names given by Balboa (_Hist. du Pérou_, p. 4) and Montesinos
(_Ancien Pérou_, p. 5) are Manco, Cacha, Auca, Uchu. The meaning of Manco
is unknown. The others signify, in their order, messenger, enemy or
traitor, and the little one. The myth of Viracocha is given in its most
antique form by Juan de Betanzos, in the _Historia de los Ingas_,
compiled in the first years of the conquest from the original songs and
legends. It is quoted in Garcia, _Origen de los Indios_, lib. v. cap. 7.
Balboa, Montesinos, Acosta, and others have also furnished me some
incidents. Whether Atachuchu mentioned in the last chapter was not
another name of Viracocha may well be questioned. It is every way

[179-3] _Hist. des Incas_, liv. iii. chap. 25.

[180-1] It is compounded of _vira_, fat, foam (which perhaps is akin to
_yurac_, _white_), and _cocha_, a pond or lake.

[180-2] See Desjardins, _Le Pérou avant la Conq. Espagnole_, p. 67.

[180-3] Gomara, _Hist. de las Indias_, cap. 119, in Müller.

[181-1] Brasseur, _Hist. du Mexique_, i. p. 302.

[181-2] There is no reason to lay any stress upon this feature. Beard was
nothing uncommon among the Aztecs and many other nations of the New
World. It was held to add dignity to the appearance, and therefore
Sahagun, in his description of the Mexican idols, repeatedly alludes to
their beards, and Müller quotes various authorities to show that the
priests wore them long and full (_Amer. Urreligionen_, p. 429). Not only
was Quetzalcoatl himself reported to have been of fair complexion--white
indeed--but the Creole historian Ixtlilxochitl says the old legends
asserted that all the Toltecs, natives of Tollan, or Tula, as their name
signifies, were so likewise. Still more, Aztlan, the traditional home of
the Nahuas, or Aztecs proper, means literally the white land, according
to one of our best authorities (Buschmann, _Ueber die Aztekischen
Ortsnamen_, 612: Berlin, 1852).

[182-1] Kingsborough, _Antiquities of Mexico_, v. p. 109.

[183-1] The myth of Quetzalcoatl I have taken chiefly from Sahagun,
_Hist. de la Nueva España_, lib. i. cap. 5; lib. iii. caps. 3, 13, 14;
lib. x. cap. 29; and Torquemada, _Monarquia Indiana_, lib. vi. cap. 24.
It must be remembered that the Quiché legends identify him positively
with the Tohil of Central America (_Le Livre Sacré_, p. 247).

[183-2] Padilla Davila, _Hist. de la Prov. de Santiago de Mexico_, lib.
ii. cap. 89.

[183-3] Cogolludo, _Hist. de Yucathan_, lib. iv. cap. 8.

[184-1] He is also called Idacanzas and Nemterequetaba. Some have
maintained a distinction between Bochica and Sua, which, however, has not
been shown. The best authorities on the mythology of the Muyscas are
Piedrahita, _Hist. de las Conq. del Nuevo Reyno de Granada_, 1668 (who is
copied by Humboldt, _Vues des Cordillères_, pp. 246 sqq.), and Simon,
_Noticias de Tierra Firme_, Parte ii., in Kingsborough's _Mexico_.

[184-2] D'Orbigny, _L'Homme Américain_, ii. p. 319, and Rochefort,
_Hist. des Isles Antilles_, p. 482 (Waitz). The name has various
orthographies, Tamu, Tamöi, Tamou, Itamoulou, etc. Perhaps the Ama-livaca
of the Orinoko Indians is another form. This personage corresponds even
minutely in many points with the Tamu of the island Caribs.

[185-1] Catlin, _Letters and Notes_, Letter 22.

[185-2] Journal of Capt. Johnson, in Emory, _Reconnoissance of New
Mexico_, p. 601.

[185-3] M. De Charency, in the _Revue Américaine_, ii. p. 317. _Tupa_ it
may be observed means in Quichua, lord, or royal. Father Holguin gives as
an example _â tupa Dios_, O Lord God (_Vocabulario Quichua_, p. 348:
Ciudad de los Reyes, 1608). In the Quiché dialects _tepeu_ is one of the
common appellations of divinity and is also translated lord or ruler. We
are not yet sufficiently advanced in the study of American philology to
draw any inference from these resemblances, but they should not be

[187-1] Cortes, _Carta Primera_, pp. 113, 114.

[188-1] Sahagun, _Hist. de la Nueva España_, lib. xii. caps. 2, 3.

[188-2] La Vega, _Hist. des Incas_, lib. ix. cap. 15.

[188-3] Peter Martyr, _De Reb. Oceanicis_, Dec. iii. lib. vii.

[189-1] Lizana, _Hist. de Nuestra Señora de Itzamal_, lib. ii. cap. i. in
Brasseur, _Hist. du Mexique_, ii. p. 605. The prophecies are of the
priest who bore the title--not name--_chilan balam_, and whose offices
were those of divination and astrology. The verse claims to date from
about 1450, and was very well known throughout Yucatan, so it is said.
The number thirteen which in many of these prophecies is the supposed
limit of the present order of things, is doubtless derived from the
observation that thirteen moons complete one solar year.

[190-1] Squier, _Travels in Nicaragua_, ii. p. 35.

[191-1] Whipple, _Report on the Ind. Tribes_, p. 36. Emory, _Recon. of
New Mexico_, p. 64. The latter adds that among the Pueblo Indians, the
Apaches, and Navajos, the name of Montezuma is "as familiar as Washington
to us." This is the more curious, as neither the Pueblo Indians nor
either of the other tribes are in any way related to the Aztec race by
language, as has been shown by Dr. Buschman, _Die Voelker und Sprachen
Neu Mexico's_, p. 262.

[191-2] Humboldt, _Essay on New Spain_, bk. ii. chap. vi, Eng. trans.;
_Ansichten der Natur_, ii. pp. 357, 386.



     Cosmogonies usually portray the action of the SPIRIT on the
     WATERS.--Those of the Muscogees, Athapascas, Quichés, Mixtecs,
     Iroquois, Algonkins, and others.--The Flood-Myth an unconscious
     attempt to reconcile a creation in time with the eternity of
     matter.--Proof of this from American mythology.--Characteristics of
     American Flood-Myths.--The person saved usually the first man.--The
     number seven.--Their Ararats.--The rôle of birds.--The confusion of
     tongues.--The Aztec, Quiché, Algonkin, Tupi, and earliest Sanscrit
     flood-myths.--The belief in Epochs of Nature a further result of
     this attempt at reconciliation.--Its forms among Peruvians, Mayas,
     and Aztecs.--The expectation of the End of the World a corollary of
     this belief.--Views of various nations.

Could the reason rest content with the belief that the universe always
was as it now is, it would save much beating of brains. Such is the
comfortable condition of the Eskimos, the Rootdiggers of California, the
most brutish specimens of humanity everywhere. Vain to inquire their
story of creation, for, like the knife-grinder of anti-Jacobin renown,
they have no story to tell. It never occurred to them that the earth had
a beginning, or underwent any greater changes than those of the
seasons.[193-1] But no sooner does the mind begin to reflect, the
intellect to employ itself on higher themes than the needs of the body,
than the law of causality exerts its power, and the man, out of such
materials as he has at hand, manufactures for himself a Theory of

What these materials were has been shown in the last few chapters. A
simple primitive substance, a divinity to mould it--these are the
requirements of every cosmogony. Concerning the first no nation ever
hesitated. All agree that before time began _water_ held all else in
solution, covered and concealed everything. The reasons for this assumed
priority of water have been already touched upon. Did a tribe dwell near
some great sea others can be imagined. The land is limited, peopled,
stable; the ocean fluctuating, waste, boundless. It insatiably swallows
all rains and rivers, quenches sun and moon in its dark chambers, and
raves against its bounds as a beast of prey. Awe and fear are the
sentiments it inspires; in Aryan tongues its synonyms are the _desert_
and the _night_.[194-1] It produces an impression of immensity,
infinity, formlessness, and barren changeableness, well suited to a
notion of chaos. It is sterile, receiving all things, producing nothing.
Hence the necessity of a creative power to act upon it, as it were to
impregnate its barren germs. Some cosmogonies find this in one, some in
another personification of divinity. Commonest of all is that of the
wind, or its emblem the bird, types of the breath of life.

Thus the venerable record in Genesis, translated in the authorized
version "and the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters," may
with equal correctness be rendered "and a mighty wind brooded on the
surface of the waters," presenting the picture of a primeval ocean
fecundated by the wind as a bird.[195-1] The eagle that in the Finnish
epic of Kalewala floated over the waves and hatched the land, the egg
that in Chinese legend swam hither and thither until it grew to a
continent, the giant Ymir, the rustler (as wind in trees), from whose
flesh, says the Edda, our globe was made and set to float like a speck
in the vast sea between Muspel and Niflheim, all are the same tale
repeated by different nations in different ages. But why take
illustrations from the old world when they are so plenty in the new?

Before the creation, said the Muscogees, a great body of water was alone
visible. Two pigeons flew to and fro over its waves, and at last spied a
blade of grass rising above the surface. Dry land gradually followed,
and the islands and continents took their present shapes.[195-2] Whether
this is an authentic aboriginal myth, is not beyond question. No such
doubt attaches to that of the Athapascas. With singular unanimity, most
of the northwest branches of this stock trace their descent from a
raven, "a mighty bird, whose eyes were fire, whose glances were
lightning, and the clapping of whose wings was thunder. On his descent
to the ocean, the earth instantly rose, and remained on the surface of
the water. This omnipotent bird then called forth all the variety of

Very similar, but with more of poetic finish, is the legend of the

"This is the first word and the first speech. There were neither men nor
brutes; neither birds, fish, nor crabs, stick nor stone, valley nor
mountain, stubble nor forest, nothing but the sky. The face of the land
was hidden. There was naught but the silent sea and the sky. There was
nothing joined, nor any sound, nor thing that stirred; neither any to do
evil, nor to rumble in the heavens, nor a walker on foot; only the
silent waters, only the pacified ocean, only it in its calm. Nothing was
but stillness, and rest, and darkness, and the night; nothing but the
Maker and Moulder, the Hurler, the Bird-Serpent. In the waters, in a
limpid twilight, covered with green feathers, slept the mothers and the

Over this passed Hurakan, the mighty wind, and called out Earth! and
straightway the solid land was there.

The picture writings of the Mixtecs preserved a similar cosmogony: "In
the year and in the day of clouds, before ever were either years or
days, the world lay in darkness; all things were orderless, and a water
covered the slime and the ooze that the earth then was." By the efforts
of two winds, called, from astrological associations, that of Nine
Serpents and that of Nine Caverns, personified one as a bird and one as
a winged serpent, the waters subsided and the land dried.[197-1]

In the birds that here play such conspicuous parts, we cannot fail to
recognize the winds and the clouds; but more especially the dark thunder
cloud, soaring in space at the beginning of things, most forcible emblem
of the aerial powers. They are the symbols of that divinity which acted
on the passive and sterile waters, the fitting result being the
production of a universe. Other symbols of the divine could also be
employed, and the meaning remain the same. Or were the fancy too
helpless to suggest any, they could be dispensed with, and purely
natural agencies take their place. Thus the unimaginative Iroquois
narrated that when their primitive female ancestor was kicked from the
sky by her irate spouse, there was as yet no land to receive her, but
that it "suddenly bubbled up under her feet, and waxed bigger, so that
ere long a whole country was perceptible."[197-2] Or that certain
amphibious animals, the beaver, the otter, and the muskrat, seeing her
descent, hastened to dive and bring up sufficient mud to construct an
island for her residence.[197-3] The muskrat is also the simple
machinery in the cosmogony of the Takahlis of the northwest coast, the
Osages and some Algonkin tribes.

These latter were, indeed, keen enough to perceive that there was really
no _creation_ in such an account. Dry land was wanting, but earth was
there, though hidden by boundless waters. Consequently, they spoke
distinctly of the action of the muskrat in bringing it to the surface as
a formation only. Michabo directed him, and from the mud formed islands
and main land. But when the subject of creation was pressed, they
replied they knew nothing of that, or roundly answered the questioner
that he was talking nonsense.[198-1] Their myth, almost identical with
that of their neighbors, was recognized by them to be not of a
construction, but a reconstruction only; a very judicious distinction,
but one which has a most important corollary. A reconstruction supposes
a previous existence. This they felt, and had something to say about an
earth anterior to this of ours, but one without light or human
inhabitants. A lake burst its bounds and submerged it wholly. This is
obviously nothing but a mere and meagre fiction, invented to explain the
origin of the primeval ocean. But mark it well, for this is the germ of
those marvellous myths of the Epochs of Nature, the catastrophes of the
universe, the deluges of water and of fire, which have laid such strong
hold on the human fancy in every land and in every age.

The purpose for which this addition was made to the simpler legend is
clear enough. It was to avoid the dilemma of a creation from nothing on
the one hand, and the eternity of matter on the other. _Ex nihilo nihil_
is an apothegm indorsed alike by the profoundest metaphysicians and the
rudest savages. But the other horn was no easier. To escape accepting
the theory that the world had ever been as it now is, was the only
object of a legend of its formation. As either lemma conflicts with
fundamental laws of thought, this escape was eagerly adopted, and in the
suggestive words of Prescott, men "sought relief from the oppressive
idea of eternity by breaking it up into distinct cycles or periods of
time."[199-1] Vain but characteristic attempt of the ambitious mind of
man! The Hindoo philosopher reconciles to his mind the suspension of the
world in space by imagining it supported by an elephant, the elephant by
a tortoise, and the tortoise by a serpent. We laugh at the Hindoo, and
fancy we diminish the difficulty by explaining that it revolves around
the sun, and the sun around some far-off star. Just so the general mind
of humanity finds some satisfaction in supposing a world or a series of
worlds anterior to the present, thus escaping the insoluble enigma of
creation by removing it indefinitely in time.

The support lent to these views by the presence of marine shells on high
lands, or by faint reminiscences of local geologic convulsions, I
estimate very low. Savages are not inductive philosophers, and by
nothing short of a miracle could they preserve the remembrance of even
the most terrible catastrophe beyond a few generations. Nor has any such
occurred within the ken of history of sufficient magnitude to make a
very permanent or wide-spread impression. Not physics, but metaphysics,
is the exciting cause of these beliefs in periodical convulsions of the
globe. The idea of matter cannot be separated from that of time, and
time and eternity are contradictory terms. Common words show this
connection. World, for example, in the old language _waereld_, from the
root to wear, by derivation means an age or cycle (Grimm).

In effect a myth of creation is nowhere found among primitive nations.
It seems repugnant to their reason. Dry land and animate life had a
beginning, but not matter. A series of constructions and demolitions may
conveniently be supposed for these. The analogy of nature, as seen in
the vernal flowers springing up after the desolation of winter, of the
sapling sprouting from the fallen trunk, of life everywhere rising from
death, suggests such a view. Hence arose the belief in Epochs of Nature,
elaborated by ancient philosophers into the Cycles of the Stoics, the
Great Days of Brahm, long periods of time rounded off by sweeping
destructions, the Cataclysms and Ekpyrauses of the universe. Some
thought in these all beings perished; others that a few survived.[200-1]
This latter and more common view is the origin of the myth of the
deluge. How familiar such speculations were to the aborigines of America
there is abundant evidence to show.

The early Algonkin legends do not speak of an antediluvian race, nor of
any family who escaped the waters. Michabo, the spirit of the dawn,
their supreme deity, alone existed, and by his power formed and peopled
it. Nor did their neighbors, the Dakotas, though firm in the belief that
the globe had once been destroyed by the waters, suppose that any had
escaped.[201-1] The same view was entertained by the Nicaraguans[201-2]
and the Botocudos of Brazil. The latter attributed its destruction to
the moon falling to the earth from time to time.[201-3]

Much the most general opinion, however, was that some few escaped the
desolating element by one of those means most familiar to the narrator,
by ascending some mountain, on a raft or canoe, in a cave, or even by
climbing a tree. No doubt some of these legends have been modified by
Christian teachings; but many of them are so connected with local
peculiarities and ancient religious ceremonies, that no unbiased student
can assign them wholly to that source, as Professor Vater has done, even
if the authorities for many of them were less trustworthy than they are.
There are no more common heirlooms in the traditional lore of the red
race. Nearly every old author quotes one or more of them. They present
great uniformity of outline, and rather than engage in repetitions of
little interest, they can be more profitably studied in the aggregate
than in detail.

By far the greater number represent the last destruction of the world to
have been by water. A few, however, the Takahlis of the North Pacific
coast, the Yurucares of the Bolivian Cordilleras, and the Mbocobi of
Paraguay, attribute it to a general conflagration which swept over the
earth, consuming every living thing except a few who took refuge in a
deep cave.[202-1] The more common opinion of a submersion gave rise to
those traditions of a universal flood so frequently recorded by
travellers, and supposed by many to be reminiscences of that of Noah.

There are, indeed, some points of striking similarity between the deluge
myths of Asia and America. It has been called a peculiarity of the
latter that in them the person saved is always the first man. This,
though not without exception, is certainly the general rule. But these
first men were usually the highest deities known to their nations, the
only creators of the world, and the guardians of the race.[202-2]

Moreover, in the oldest Sanscrit legend of the flood in the Zatapatha
Brahmana, Manu is also the first man, and by his own efforts creates

A later Sanscrit work assigns to Manu the seven Richis or shining ones
as companions. Seven was also the number of persons in the ark of Noah.
Curiously enough one Mexican and one early Peruvian myth give out
exactly seven individuals as saved in their floods.[203-1] This
coincidence arises from the mystic powers attached to the number seven,
derived from its frequent occurrence in astrology. Proof of this appears
by comparing the later and the older versions of this myth, either in
the book of Genesis, where the latter is distinguished by the use of the
word Elohim for Jehovah,[203-2] or the Sanscrit account in the Zatapatha
Brahmana with those in the later Puranas.[203-3] In both instances the
number seven hardly or at all occurs in the oldest version, while it is
constantly repeated in those of later dates.

As the mountain or rather mountain chain of Ararat was regarded with
veneration wherever the Semitic accounts were known, so in America
heights were pointed out with becoming reverence as those on which the
few survivors of the dreadful scenes of the deluge were preserved. On
the Red River near the village of the Caddoes was one of these, a small
natural eminence, "to which all the Indian tribes for a great distance
around pay devout homage," according to Dr. Sibley.[203-4] The Cerro
Naztarny on the Rio Grande, the peak of Old Zuñi in New Mexico, that of
Colhuacan on the Pacific Coast, Mount Apoala in Upper Mixteca, and
Mount Neba in the province of Guaymi, are some of many elevations
asserted by the neighboring nations to have been places of refuge for
their ancestors when the fountains of the great deep broke forth.

One of the Mexican traditions related by Torquemada identified this with
the mountain of Tlaloc in the terrestrial paradise, and added that one
of the seven demigods who escaped commenced the pyramid of Cholula in
its memory. He intended that its summit should reach the clouds, but the
gods, angry at his presumption, drove away the builders with lightning.
This has a suspicious resemblance to Bible stories. Equally fabulous was
the retreat of the Araucanians. It was a three-peaked mountain which had
the property of floating on water, called Theg-Theg, the Thunderer. This
they believed would preserve them in the next as it did in the last
cataclysm, and as its only inconvenience was that it approached too near
the sun, they always kept on hand wooden bowls to use as

The intimate connection that once existed between the myths of the
deluge and those of the creation is illustrated by the part assigned to
birds in so many of them. They fly to and fro over the waves ere any
land appears, though they lose in great measure the significance of
bringing it forth, attached to them in the cosmogonies as emblems of the
divine spirit. The dove in the Hebrew account appears in that of the
Algonkins as a raven, which Michabo sent out to search for land before
the muskrat brought it to him from the bottom. A raven also in the
Athapascan myth saved their ancestors from the general flood, and in
this instance it is distinctly identified with the mighty thunder bird,
who at the beginning ordered the earth from the depths. Prometheus-like,
it brought fire from heaven, and saved them from a second death by
cold.[205-1] Precisely the same beneficent actions were attributed by
the Natchez to the small red cardinal bird,[205-2] and by the Mandans
and Cherokees an active participation in the event was assigned to wild
pigeons. The Navajos and Aztecs thought that instead of being drowned by
the waters the human race were transformed into birds and thus escaped.
In all these and similar legends, the bird is a relic of the cosmogonal
myth which explained the origin of the world from the action of the
winds, under the image of the bird, on the primeval ocean.

The Mexican Codex Vaticanus No. 3738 represents after the picture of the
deluge a bird perched on the summit of a tree, and at its foot men in
the act of marching. This has been interpreted to mean that after the
deluge men were dumb until a dove distributed to them the gift of
speech. The New Mexican tribes related that all except the leader of
those who escaped to the mountains lost the power of utterance by
terror,[205-3] and the Quichés that the antediluvian race were "puppets,
men of wood, without intelligence or language." These stories, so
closely resembling that of the confusion of tongues at the tower of
Babel or Borsippa, are of doubtful authenticity. The first is an
entirely erroneous interpretation, as has been shown by Señor Ramirez,
director of the Museum of Antiquities at Mexico. The name of the bird in
the Aztec tongue was identical with the word _departure_, and this is
its signification in the painting.[206-1]

Stories of giants in the days of old, figures of mighty proportions
looming up through the mist of ages, are common property to every
nation. The Mexicans and Peruvians had them as well as others, but their
connection with the legends of the flood and the creation is incidental
and secondary. Were the case otherwise, it would offer no additional
point of similarity to the Hebrew myth, for the word rendered _giants_
in the phrase, "and there were giants in those days," has no such
meaning in the original. It is a blunder which crept into the
Septuagint, and has been cherished ever since, along with so many others
in the received text.

A few specimens will serve as examples of all these American flood
myths. The Abbé Brasseur has translated one from the Codex Chimalpopoca,
a work in the Nahuatl language of Ancient Mexico, written about half a
century after the conquest. It is as follows:--

"And this year was that of Ce-calli, and on the first day all was lost.
The mountain itself was submerged in the water, and the water remained
tranquil for fifty-two springs.

"Now towards the close of the year, Titlahuan had forewarned the man
named Nata and his wife named Nena, saying, 'Make no more pulque, but
straightway hollow out a large cypress, and enter it when in the month
Tozoztli the water shall approach the sky.' They entered it, and when
Titlacahuan had closed the door he said, 'Thou shalt eat but a single
ear of maize, and thy wife but one also.'

"As soon as they had finished [eating], they went forth and the water
was tranquil; for the log did not move any more; and opening it they saw
many fish.

"Then they built a fire, rubbing together pieces of wood, and they
roasted the fish. The gods Citlallinicue and Citlallatonac looking below
exclaimed, 'Divine Lord, what means that fire below? Why do they thus
smoke the heavens?'

"Straightway descended Titlacahuan Tezcatlipoca, and commenced to scold,
saying, 'What is this fire doing here?' And seizing the fishes he
moulded their hinder parts and changed their heads, and they were at
once transformed into dogs."[207-1]

That found in the oft quoted legends of the Quichés is to this effect:--

"Then by the will of the Heart of Heaven the waters were swollen and a
great flood came upon the mannikins of wood. For they did not think nor
speak of the Creator who had created them, and who had caused their
birth. They were drowned, and a thick resin fell from heaven.

"The bird Xecotcovach tore out their eyes; the bird Camulatz cut off
their heads; the bird Cotzbalam devoured their flesh; the bird
Tecumbalam broke their bones and sinews, and ground them into

"Because they had not thought of their Mother and Father, the Heart of
Heaven, whose name is Hurakan, therefore the face of the earth grew dark
and a pouring rain commenced, raining by day, raining by night.

"Then all sorts of beings, little and great, gathered together to abuse
the men to their faces; and all spoke, their mill-stones, their plates,
their cups, their dogs, their hens.

"Said the dogs and hens, 'Very badly have you treated us, and you have
bitten us. Now we bite you in turn.'

"Said the mill-stones, 'Very much were we tormented by you, and daily,
daily, night and day, it was _squeak, squeak, screech, screech_, for
your sake. Now yourselves shall feel our strength, and we will grind
your flesh, and make meal of your bodies,' said the mill-stones.[208-1]

"And this is what the dogs said, 'Why did you not give us our food? No
sooner did we come near than you drove us away, and the stick was always
within reach when you were eating, because, forsooth, we were not able
to talk. Now we will use our teeth and eat you,' said the dogs, tearing
their faces.

"And the cups and dishes said, 'Pain and misery you gave us, smoking our
tops and sides, cooking us over the fire, burning and hurting us as if
we had no feeling.[209-1] Now it is your turn, and you shall burn,' said
the cups insultingly.

"Then ran the men hither and thither in despair. They climbed to the
roofs of the houses, but the houses crumbled under their feet; they
tried to mount to the tops of the trees, but the trees hurled them far
from them; they sought refuge in the caverns, but the caverns shut
before them.

"Thus was accomplished the ruin of this race, destined to be destroyed
and overthrown; thus were they given over to destruction and contempt.
And it is said that their posterity are those little monkeys who live in
the woods."[209-2]

The Algonkin tradition has often been referred to. Many versions of it
are extant, the oldest and most authentic of which is that translated
from the Montagnais dialect by Father le Jeune, in 1634.

"One day as Messou was hunting, the wolves which he used as dogs entered
a great lake and were detained there.

"Messou looking for them everywhere, a bird said to him, 'I see them in
the middle of this lake.'

"He entered the lake to rescue them, but the lake overflowing its banks
covered the land and destroyed the world.

"Messou, very much astonished at this, sent out the raven to find a
piece of earth wherewith to rebuild the land, but the bird could find
none; then he ordered the otter to dive for some, but the animal
returned empty; at last he sent down the muskrat, who came back with
ever so small a piece, which, however, was enough for Messou to form the
land on which we are.

"The trees having lost their branches, he shot arrows at their naked
trunks which became their limbs, revenged himself on those who had
detained his wolves, and having married the muskrat, by it peopled the

Finally may be given the meagre legend of the Tupis of Brazil, as heard
by Hans Staden, a prisoner among them about 1550, and Coreal, a later
voyager. Their ancient songs relate that a long time ago a certain very
powerful Mair, that is to say, a stranger, who bitterly hated their
ancestors, compassed their destruction by a violent inundation. Only a
very few succeeded in escaping--some by climbing trees, others in caves.
When the waters subsided the remnant came together, and by gradual
increase populated the world.[210-1]

Or, it is given by an equally ancient authority as follows:--

"Monan, without beginning or end, author of all that is, seeing the
ingratitude of men, and their contempt for him who had made them thus
joyous, withdrew from them, and sent upon them _tata_, the divine fire,
which burned all that was on the surface of the earth. He swept about
the fire in such a way that in places he raised mountains, and in others
dug valleys. Of all men one alone, Irin Monge, was saved, whom Monan
carried into the heaven. He, seeing all things destroyed, spoke thus to
Monan: 'Wilt thou also destroy the heavens and their garniture? Alas!
henceforth where will be our home? Why should I live, since there is
none other of my kind?' Then Monan was so filled with pity that he
poured a deluging rain on the earth, which quenched the fire, and,
flowing from all sides, formed the ocean, which we call _parana_, the
bitter waters."[211-1]

In these narratives I have not attempted to soften the asperities nor
conceal the childishness which run through them. But there is no
occasion to be astonished at these peculiarities, nor to found upon them
any disadvantageous opinion of the mental powers of their authors and
believers. We can go back to the cradle of our own race in Central
Asia, and find traditions every whit as infantile. I cannot refrain from
adding the earliest Aryan myth of the same great occurrence, as it is
handed down to us in ancient Sanscrit literature. It will be seen that
it is little, if at all, superior to those just rehearsed.

"Early in the morning they brought to Manu water to wash himself; when
he had well washed, a fish came into his hands.

"It said to him these, words: 'Take care of me; I will save thee.' 'What
wilt thou save me from?' 'A deluge will sweep away all creatures; I wish
thee to escape.' 'But how shall I take care of thee?'

"The fish said: 'While we are small there is more than one danger of
death, for one fish swallows another. Thou must, in the first place, put
me in a vase. Then, when I shall exceed it in size, thou must dig a deep
ditch, and place me in it. When I grow too large for it, throw me in the
sea, for I shall then be beyond the danger of death.'

"Soon it became a great fish; it grew, in fact, astonishingly. Then it
said to Manu, 'In such a year the Deluge will come. Thou must build a
vessel, and then pay me homage. When the waters of the Deluge mount up,
enter the vessel. I will save thee.'

"When Manu had thus taken care of the fish, he put it in the sea. The
same year that the fish had said, in this very year, having built the
vessel, he paid the fish homage. Then the Deluge mounting, he entered
the vessel. The fish swam near him. To its horn Manu fastened the ship's
rope, with which the fish passed the Mountain of the North.

"The fish said, 'See! I have saved thee. Fasten the vessel to a tree, so
that the water does not float thee onward when thou art on the mountain
top. As the water decreases, thou wilt descend little by little.' Thus
Manu descended gradually. Therefore to the mountain of the north remains
the name, Descent of Manu. The Deluge had destroyed all creatures; Manu
survived alone."[213-1]

Hitherto I have spoken only of the last convulsion which swept over the
face of the globe, and of but one cycle which preceded the present. Most
of the more savage tribes contented themselves with this, but it is
instructive to observe how, as they advanced in culture, and the mind
dwelt more intently on the great problems of Life and Time, they were
impelled to remove further and further the dim and mysterious Beginning.
The Peruvians imagined that _two_ destructions had taken place, the
first by a famine, the second by a flood--according to some a few only
escaping--but, after the more widely accepted opinion, accompanied by
the absolute extirpation of the race. Three eggs, which dropped from
heaven, hatched out the present race; one of gold, from which came the
priests; one of silver, which produced the warriors; and the last of
copper, source of the common people.[213-2]

The Mayas of Yucatan increased the previous worlds by one, making the
present the _fourth_. Two cycles had terminated by devastating plagues.
They were called "the sudden deaths," for it was said so swift and
mortal was the pest, that the buzzards and other foul birds dwelt in the
houses of the cities, and ate the bodies of their former owners. The
third closed either by a hurricane, which blew from all four of the
cardinal points at once, or else, as others said, by an inundation,
which swept across the world, swallowing all things in its mountainous

As might be expected, the vigorous intellects of the Aztecs impressed
upon this myth a fixity of outline nowhere else met with on the
continent, and wove it intimately into their astrological reveries and
religious theories. Unaware of its prevalence under more rudimentary
forms throughout the continent, Alexander von Humboldt observed that,
"of all the traits of analogy which can be pointed out between the
monuments, manners, and traditions of Asia and America, the most
striking is that offered by the Mexican mythology in the cosmogonical
fiction of the periodical destructions and regenerations of the
universe."[215-1] Yet it is but the same fiction that existed elsewhere,
somewhat more definitely outlined. There exists great discrepancy
between the different authorities, both as to the number of Aztec ages
or Suns, as they were called, their durations, their terminations, and
their names. The preponderance of testimony is in favor of _four_
antecedent cycles, the present being the _fifth_. The interval from the
first creation to the commencement of the present epoch, owing to the
equivocal meaning of the numeral signs expressing it in the picture
writings, may have been either 15228, 2316, or 1404 solar years. Why
these numbers should have been chosen, no one has guessed. It has been
looked for in combinations of numbers connected with the calendar, but
so far in vain.

While most authorities agree as to the character of the destructions
which terminated the suns, they vary much as to their sequence. Water,
winds, fire, and hunger, are the agencies, and in one Codex (Vaticanus)
occur in this order. Gama gives the sequence, hunger, winds, fire, and
water; Humboldt hunger, fire, winds, and water; Boturini water, hunger,
winds, fire. As the cycle ending by a famine, is called the Age of
Earth, Ternaux-Compans, the distinguished French _Américaniste_, has
imagined that the four Suns correspond mystically to the domination
exercised in turn over the world by its four constituent elements. But
proof is wanting that Aztec philosophers knew the theory on which this
explanation reposes.

Baron Humboldt suggested that the suns were "fictions of mythological
astronomy, modified either by obscure reminiscences of some great
revolution suffered by our planet, or by physical hypotheses, suggested
by the sight of marine petrifactions and fossil remains,"[216-1] while
the Abbé Brasseur, in his late works on ancient Mexico, interprets them
as exaggerated references to historical events. As no solution can be
accepted not equally applicable to the same myth as it appears in
Yucatan, Peru, and the hunting tribes, and to the exactly parallel
teachings of the Edda,[216-2] the Stoics, the Celts, and the Brahmans,
both of these must be rejected. And although the Hindoo legend is so
close to the Aztec, that it, too, defines four ages, each terminating by
a general catastrophe, and each catastrophe exactly the same in
both,[216-3] yet this is not at all indicative of a derivation from one
original, but simply an illustration how the human mind, under the
stimulus of the same intellectual cravings, produces like results. What
these cravings are has already been shown.

The reason for adopting four ages, thus making the present the fifth,
probably arose from the sacredness of that number in general; but
directly, because this was the number of secular days in the Mexican
week. A parallel is offered by the Hebrew narrative. In it six epochs or
days precede the seventh or present cycle, in which the creative power
rests. This latter corresponded to the Jewish Sabbath, the day of
repose; and in the Mexican calendar each fifth day was also a day of
repose, employed in marketing and pleasure.

Doubtless the theory of the Ages of the world was long in vogue among
the Aztecs before it received the definite form in which we now have it;
and as this was acquired long after the calendar was fixed, it is every
way probable that the latter was used as a guide to the former.
Echevarria, a good authority on such matters, says the number of the
Suns was agreed upon at a congress of astrologists, within the memory of
tradition.[217-1] Now in the calendar, these signs occur in the order,
earth, air, water, fire, corresponding to the days distinguished by the
symbols house, rabbit, reed, and flint. This sequence, commencing with
Tochtli (rabbit, air), is that given as that of the Suns in the Codex
Chimalpopoca, translated by Brasseur, though it seems a taint of
European teaching, when it is added that on the _seventh_ day of the
creation man was formed.[217-2]

Neither Jews nor Aztecs, nor indeed any American nation, appear to have
supposed, with some of the old philosophers, that the present was an
exact repetition of previous cycles,[218-1] but rather that each was an
improvement on the preceding, a step in endless progress. Nor did either
connect these beliefs with astronomical reveries of a great year,
defined by the return of the heavenly bodies to one relative position in
the heavens. The latter seems characteristic of the realism of Europe,
the former of the idealism of the Orient; both inconsistent with the
meagre astronomy and more scanty metaphysics of the red race.

The expectation of the end of the world is a natural complement to the
belief in periodical destructions of our globe. As at certain times past
the equipoise of nature was lost, and the elements breaking the chain of
laws that bound them ran riot over the universe, involving all life in
one mad havoc and desolation, so in the future we have to expect that
day of doom, when the ocean tides shall obey no shore, but overwhelm the
continents with their mountainous billows, or the fire, now chafing in
volcanic craters and smoking springs, will leap forth on the forests and
grassy meadows, wrapping all things in a winding sheet of flame, and
melting the very elements with fervid heat. Then, in the language of the
Norse prophetess, "shall the sun grow dark, the land sink in the waters,
the bright stars be quenched, and high flames climb heaven
itself."[218-2] These fearful foreboding shave[TN-9] cast their dark
shadow on every literature. The seeress of the north does but paint in
wilder colors the terrible pictures of Seneca,[219-1] and the sibyl of
the capitol only re-echoes the inspired predictions of Malachi. Well has
the Christian poet said:--

    Dies iræ, dies illa,
    Solvet sæclum in favillâ,
    _Testis David cum Sibylâ_.

Savage races, isolated in the impenetrable forests of another continent,
could not escape this fearful looking for of destruction to come. It
oppressed their souls like a weight of lead. On the last night of each
cycle of fifty-two years, the Aztecs extinguished every fire, and
proceeded, in solemn procession, to some sacred spot. Then the priests,
with awe and trembling, sought to kindle a new fire by friction.
Momentous was the endeavor, for did it fail, their fathers had taught
them on the morrow no sun would rise, and darkness, death, and the
waters would descend forever on this beautiful world.

The same terror inspired the Peruvians at every eclipse, for some day,
taught the Amautas, the shadow will veil the sun forever, and land,
moon, and stars will be wrapt in the vortex of a devouring conflagration
to know no regeneration; or a drought will wither every herb of the
field, suck up the waters, and leave the race to perish to the last
creature; or the moon will fall from her place in the heavens and
involve all things in her own ruin, a figure of speech meaning that the
waters would submerge the land.[220-1] In that dreadful day, thought
the Algonkins, when in anger Michabo will send a mortal pestilence to
destroy the nations, or, stamping his foot on the ground, flames will
burst forth to consume the habitable land, only a pair, or only, at
most, those who have maintained inviolate the institutions he ordained,
will he protect and preserve to inhabit the new world he will then
fabricate. Therefore they do not speak of this catastrophe as the end of
the world, but use one of those nice grammatical distinctions so
frequent in American aboriginal languages and which can only be
imitated, not interpreted, in ours, signifying "when it will be near its
end," "when it will no longer be available for man."[220-2]

An ancient prophecy handed down from their ancestors warns the
Winnebagoes that their nation shall be annihilated at the close of the
thirteenth generation. Ten have already passed, and that now living has
appointed ceremonies to propitiate the powers of heaven, and mitigate
its stern decree.[220-3] Well may they be about it, for there is a
gloomy probability that the warning came from no false prophet. Few
tribes were destitute of such presentiments. The Chikasaw, the Mandans
of the Missouri, the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, the Muyscas of
Bogota, the Botocudos of Brazil, the Araucanians of Chili, have been
asserted on testimony that leaves no room for scepticism, to have
entertained such forebodings from immemorial time. Enough for the
purpose if the list is closed with the prediction of a Maya priest,
cherished by the inhabitants of Yucatan long before the Spaniard
desolated their stately cities. It is one of those preserved by Father
Lizana, curé of Itzamal, and of which he gives the original. Other
witnesses inform us that this nation "had a tradition that the world
would end,"[221-1] and probably, like the Greeks and Aztecs, they
supposed the gods would perish with it.

   "At the close of the ages, it hath been decreed,
    Shall perish and vanish each weak god of men,
    And the world shall be purged with a ravening fire.
    Happy the man in that terrible day,
    Who bewails with contrition the sins of his life,[221-2]
    And meets without flinching the fiery ordeal."


[193-1] So far as this applies to the Eskimos, it might be questioned on
the authority of Paul Egede, whose valuable _Nachrichten von Grönland_
contains several flood-myths, &c. But these Eskimos had had for
generations intercourse with European missionaries and sailors, and as
the other tribes of their stock were singularly devoid of corresponding
traditions, it is likely that in Greenland they were of foreign origin.

[194-1] Pictet, _Origines Indo-Européennes_ in Michelet, _La Mer_. The
latter has many eloquent and striking remarks on the impressions left by
the great ocean.

[195-1] "Spiritus Dei incubuit superficei aquarum" is the translation of
one writer. The word for spirit in Hebrew, as in Latin, originally meant
wind, as I have before remarked.

[195-2] Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, i. p. 266.

[196-1] Mackenzie, _Hist. of the Fur Trade_, p. 83; Richardson, _Arctic
Expedition_, p. 239.

[196-2] Ximenes, _Or. de los Ind. de Guat._, pp. 5-7. I translate freely,
following Ximenes rather than Brasseur.

[197-1] Garcia, _Or. de los Indios_, lib. v. cap. 4.

[197-2] _Doc. Hist. of New York_, iv. p. 130 (circ. 1650).

[197-3] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, An 1636, p. 101.

[198-1] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, An 1634, p. 13.

[199-1] _Conquest of Mexico_, i. p. 61.

[200-1] For instance, Epictetus favors the opinion that at the solstices
of the great year not only all human beings, but even the gods, are
annihilated; and speculates whether at such times Jove feels lonely
(_Discourses_, bk. iii. chap. 13). Macrobius, so far from coinciding with
him, explains the great antiquity of Egyptian civilization by the
hypothesis that that country is so happily situated between the pole and
equator, as to escape both the deluge and conflagration of the great
cycle (_Somnium Scipionis_, lib. ii. cap. 10).

[201-1] Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, iii. p. 263, iv. p. 230.

[201-2] Oviedo, _Hist. du Nicaragua_, pp. 22, 27.

[201-3] Müller, _Amer. Urrelig._, p. 254, from Max and Denis.

[202-1] Morse, _Rep. on the Ind. Tribes_, App. p. 346; D'Orbigny, _Frag.
d'un Voyage dans l'Amér. Mérid._, p. 512.

[202-2] When, as in the case of one of the Mexican Noahs, Coxcox, this
does not seem to hold good, it is probably owing to a loss of the real
form of the myth. Coxcox is also known by the name of Cipactli, Fish-god,
and Huehue tonaca cipactli, Old Fish-god of Our Flesh.

[202-3] My knowledge of the Sanscrit form of the flood-myth is drawn
principally from the dissertation of Professor Felix Nève, entitled _La
Tradition Indienne du Deluge dans sa Forme la plus ancienne_, Paris,
1851. There is in the oldest versions no distinct reference to an
antediluvian race, and in India Manu is by common consent the Adam as
well as the Noah of their legends.

[203-1] Prescott, _Conquest of Peru_, i. p. 88; _Codex Vaticanus_, No.
3776, in Kingsborough.

[203-2] And also various peculiarities of style and language lost in
translation. The two accounts of the Deluge are given side by side in Dr.
Smith's _Dictionary of the Bible_ under the word Pentateuch.

[203-3] See the dissertation of Prof. Nève referred to above.

[203-4] _American State Papers_, Indian Affairs, i. p. 729. Date of
legend, 1801.

[204-1] Molina, _Hist. of Chili_, ii. p. 82.

[205-1] Richardson, _Arctic Expedition_, p. 239.

[205-2] Dumont, _Mems. Hist. sur la Louisiane_, i. p. 163.

[205-3] Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, v. p. 686.

[206-1] Desjardins, _Le Pérou avant la Conq. Espagn._, p. 27.

[207-1] Cod. Chimalpopoca, in Brasseur, _Hist. du Mexique_, Pièces

[207-2] These four birds, whose names have lost their signification,
represent doubtless the four winds, or the four rivers, which, as in so
many legends, are the active agents in overwhelming the world in its
great crises.

[208-1] The word rendered mill-stone, in the original means those large
hollowed stones on which the women were accustomed to bruise the maize.
The imitative sounds for which I have substituted others in English, are
in Quiché, _holi, holi, huqui, huqui_.

[209-1] Brasseur translates "quoique nous ne sentissions rien," but
Ximenes, "nos quemasteis, y sentimos el dolor." As far as I can make out
the original, it is the negative conditional as I have given it in the

[209-2] _Le Livre Sacré_, p. 27; Ximenes, _Or. de los Indios_, p. 13.

[210-1] The American nations among whom a distinct and well-authenticated
myth of the deluge was found are as follows: Athapascas, Algonkins,
Iroquois, Cherokees, Chikasaws, Caddos, Natchez, Dakotas, Apaches,
Navajos, Mandans, Pueblo Indians, Aztecs, Mixtecs, Zapotecs, Tlascalans,
Mechoacans, Toltecs, Nahuas, Mayas, Quiches, Haitians, natives of Darien
and Popoyan, Muyscas, Quichuas, Tuppinambas, Achaguas, Araucanians, and
doubtless others. The article by M. de Charency in the _Revue Américaine,
Le Deluge, d'après les Traditions Indiennes de l'Amérique du Nord_,
contains some valuable extracts, but is marred by a lack of criticism of
sources, and makes no attempt at analysis, nor offers for their existence
a rational explanation.

[211-1] _Une Fête Brésilienne célébré à Rouen en 1550, par M. Ferdinand
Denis_, p. 82 (quoted in the _Revue Américaine_, ii. p. 317). The native
words in this account guarantee its authenticity. In the Tupi language,
_tata_ means fire; _parana_, ocean; Monan, perhaps from _monáne_, to
mingle, to temper, as the potter the clay (_Dias, Diccionario da Lingua
Tupy_: Lipsia, 1858). Irin monge may be an old form from _mongat-iron_,
to set in order, to restore, to improve (_Martius, Beiträge zur
Ethnographie und Sprachenkunde Amerika's_, ii. p. 70).

[213-1] Professor Nève, _ubi supra_, from the Zatapatha Brahmana.

[213-2] Avendano, _Sermones_, Lima, 1648, in Rivero and Tschudi, _Peruv.
Antiqs._, p. 114. In the year 1600, Oñate found on the coast of
California a tribe whose idol held in one hand a shell containing three
eggs, in the other an ear of maize, while before it was placed a cup of
water. Vizcaino, who visited the same people a few years afterwards,
mentions that they kept in their temples tame ravens, and looked upon
them as sacred birds (Torquemada, _Mon. Ind._, lib. v. cap. 40 in Waitz).
Thus, in all parts of the continent do we find the bird, as a symbol of
the clouds, associated with the rains and the harvests.

[214-1] The deluge was called _hun yecil_, which, according to Cogolludo,
means _the inundation of the trees_, for all the forests were swept away
(_Hist. de Yucathan_, lib. iv. cap. 5). Bishop Landa adds, to
substantiate the legend, that all the woods of the peninsula appear as if
they had been planted at one time, and that to look at them one would say
they had been trimmed with scissors (_Rel. de las Cosas de Yucatan_, 58,

[215-1] _Vues des Cordillères_, p. 202.

[216-1] Ubi sup., p. 207.

[216-2] The Scandinavians believed the universe had been destroyed nine

    Ni Verdener yeg husker,
    Og ni Himle,

says the Voluspa (i. 2, in Klee, _Le Deluge_, p. 220). I observe some
English writers have supposed from these lines that the Northmen believed
in the existence of nine abodes for the blessed. Such is not the sense of
the original.

[216-3] At least this is the doctrine of one of the Shastas. The race, it
teaches, has been destroyed four times; first by water, secondly by
winds, thirdly the earth swallowed them, and lastly fire consumed them
(Sepp., _Heidenthum und Christenthum_, i. p. 191).

[217-1] Echevarria y Veitia, _Hist. de la Nueva España_, lib. i. cap. 4,
in Waitz.

[217-2] Brasseur, _Hist. du Mexique_, iii. p. 495.

[218-1] The contrary has indeed been inferred from such expressions of
the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes as, "that which hath been, is now,
and that which is to be, hath already been" (chap. iii. 15), and the
like, but they are susceptible of an application entirely subjective.

[218-2] Voluspa, xiv. 51, in Klee, _Le Deluge_.

[219-1] _Natur. Quæstiones_, iii. cap. 27.

[220-1] Velasco, _Hist. du Royaume du Quito_, p. 105; Navarrete,
_Viages_, iii. p. 444.

[220-2] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, An 1637, p. 54; Schoolcraft, _Ind.
Tribes_, i. p. 319, iv. p. 420.

[220-3] Schoolcraft, ibid., iv. p. 240.

[221-1] Cogolludo, _Hist. de Yucathan_, lib. iv. cap. 7.

[221-2] The Spanish of Lizana is--

   "En la ultima edad, segun esta determinado,
    Avra fin el culto de dioses vanos;
    Y el mundo sera purificado con fuego.
    El que esto viere sera llamado dichoso
    Si con dolor lloraré sus pecados."

(_Hist. de Nuestra Señora de Itzamal_, in Brasseur, _Hist. du Mexique_,
ii. p. 603). I have attempted to obtain a more literal rendering from the
original Maya, but have not been successful.



     Usually man is the EARTH-BORN, both in language and
     myths.--Illustrations from the legends of the Caribs, Apalachians,
     Iroquois, Quichuas, Aztecs, and others.--The underworld.--Man the
     product of one of the primal creative powers, the Spirit, or the
     Water, in the myths of the Athapascas, Eskimos, Moxos, and
     others.--Never literally derived from an inferior species.

No man can escape the importunate question, whence am I? The first
replies framed to meet it possess an interest to the thoughtful mind,
beyond that of mere fables. They illustrate the position in creation
claimed by our race, and the early workings of self-consciousness. Often
the oldest terms for man are synopses of these replies, and merit a more
than passing contemplation.

The seed is hidden in the earth. Warmed by the sun, watered by the rain,
presently it bursts its dark prison-house, unfolds its delicate leaves,
blossoms, and matures its fruit. Its work done, the earth draws it to
itself again, resolves the various structures into their original mould,
and the unending round recommences.

This is the marvellous process that struck the primitive mind. Out of
the Earth rises life, to it it returns. She it is who guards all germs,
nourishes all beings. The Aztecs painted her as a woman with countless
breasts, the Peruvians called her Mama Allpa, _mother_ Earth. _Homo_,
_Adam_, _chamaigenēs_, what do all these words mean but the
earth-born, the son of the soil, repeated in the poetic language of
Attica in _anthropos_, he who springs up as a flower?

The word that corresponds to the Latin _homo_ in American languages has
such singular uniformity in so many of them, that we might be tempted to
regard it as a fragment of some ancient and common tongue, their parent
stem. In the Eskimo it is _inuk_, _innuk_, plural _innuit_; in Athapasca
it is _dinni_, _tenné_; in Algonkin, _inini_, _lenni_, _inwi_; in
Iroquois, _onwi_, _eniha_; in the Otomi of Mexico _n-aniehe_; in the
Maya, _inic_, _winic_, _winak_; all in North America, and the number
might be extended. Of these only the last mentioned can plausibly be
traced to a radical (unless the Iroquois _onwi_ is from _onnha_ life,
_onnhe_ to live). This Father Ximenes derives from _win_, meaning to
grow, to gain, to increase,[223-1] in which the analogy to vegetable
life is not far off, an analogy strengthened by the myth of that stock,
which relates that the first of men were formed of the flour of

In many other instances religious legend carries out this idea. The
mythical ancestor of the Caribs created his offspring by sowing the soil
with stones or with the fruit of the Mauritius palm, which sprouted
forth into men and women,[224-1] while the Yurucares, much of whose
mythology was perhaps borrowed from the Peruvians, clothed this crude
tenet in a somewhat more poetic form, fabling that at the beginning the
first of men were pegged, Ariel-like, in the knotty entrails of an
enormous hole, until the god Tiri--a second Prospero--released them by
cleaving it in twain.[224-2]

As in oriental legends the origin of man from the earth was veiled under
the story that he was the progeny of some mountain fecundated by the
embrace of Mithras or Jupiter, so the Indians often pointed to some
height or some cavern, as the spot whence the first of men issued, adult
and armed, from the womb of the All-mother Earth. The oldest name of the
Alleghany Mountains is Paemotinck or Pemolnick, an Algonkin word, the
meaning of which is said to be "the origin of the Indians."[224-3]

The Witchitas, who dwelt on the Red River among the mountains named
after them, have a tradition that their progenitors issued from the
rocks about their homes,[225-1] and many other tribes the Tahkalis,
Navajos, Coyoteras, and the Haitians, for instance, set up this claim to
be autochthones. Most writers have interpreted this simply to mean that
they knew nothing at all about their origin, or that they coined these
fables merely to strengthen the title to the territory they inhabited
when they saw the whites eagerly snatching it away on every pretext. No
doubt there is some truth in this, but if they be carefully sifted,
there is sometimes a deep historical significance in these myths, which
has hitherto escaped the observation of students. An instance presents
itself in our own country.

All those tribes, the Creeks, Seminoles, Choctaws, Chicasaws, and
Natchez, who, according to tradition, were in remote times banded into
one common confederacy under the headship of the last mentioned,
unanimously located their earliest ancestry near an artificial eminence
in the valley of the Big Black River, in the Natchez country, whence
they pretended to have emerged. Fortunately we have a description,
though a brief one, of this interesting monument from the pen of an
intelligent traveller. It is described as "an elevation of earth about
half a mile square and fifteen or twenty feet high. From its northeast
corner a wall of equal height extends for near half a mile to the high
land." This was the Nunne Chaha or Nunne Hamgeh, the High Hill, or the
Bending Hill, famous in Choctaw stories, and which Captain Gregg found
they have not yet forgotten in their western home. The legend was that
in its centre was a cave, the house of the Master of Breath. Here he
made the first men from the clay around him, and as at that time the
waters covered the earth, he raised the wall to dry them on. When the
soft mud had hardened into elastic flesh and firm bone, he banished the
waters to their channels and beds, and gave the dry land to his
creatures.[226-1] When in 1826 Albert Gallatin obtained from some
Natchez chiefs a vocabulary of their language, they gave to him as their
word for _hill_ precisely the same word that a century and a quarter
before the French had found among them as their highest term for
God;[226-2] reversing the example of the ancient Greeks who came in time
to speak of Olympus, at first the proper name of a peak in Thessaly, as
synonymous with heaven and Jove.

A parallel to this southern legend occurs among the Six Nations of the
north. They with one consent, if we may credit the account of Cusic,
looked to a mountain near the falls of the Oswego River in the State of
New York, as the locality where their forefathers first saw the light of
day, and that they had some such legend the name Oneida, people of the
Stone, would seem to testify.

The cave of Pacari Tampu, the Lodgings of the Dawn, was five leagues
distant from Cuzco, surrounded by a sacred grove and inclosed with
temples of great antiquity. From its hallowed recesses the mythical
civilizers of Peru, the first of men, emerged, and in it during the time
of the flood, the remnants of the race escaped the fury of the
waves.[227-1] Viracocha himself is said to have dwelt there, though it
hardly needed this evidence to render it certain that this consecrated
cavern is but a localization of the general myth of the dawn rising from
the deep. It refers us for its prototype to the Aymara allegory of the
morning light flinging its beams like snow-white foam athwart the waves
of Lake Titicaca.

An ancient legend of the Aztecs derived their nation from a place called
Chicomoztoc, the Seven Caverns, located north of Mexico. Antiquaries
have indulged in all sorts of speculations as to what this means.
Sahagun explains it as a valley so named; Clavigero supposes it to have
been a city; Hamilton Smith, and after him Schoolcraft, construed
caverns to be a figure of speech for the _boats_ in which the early
Americans paddled across from Asia(!); the Abbé Brasseur confounds it
with Aztlan, and very many have discovered in it a distinct reference
to the fabulous "seven cities of Cibola" and the Casas Grandes, ruins of
large buildings of unburnt brick in the valley of the River Gila. From
this story arose the supposed sevenfold division of the Nahuas, a
division which never existed except in the imagination of Europeans.
When Torquemada adds that _seven_ hero gods ruled in Chicomoztoc and
were the progenitors of all its inhabitants, when one of them turns out
to be Xelhua, the giant who with six others escaped the flood by
ascending the mountain of Tlaloc in the terrestrial paradise and
afterwards built the pyramid of Cholula, and when we remember that in
one of the flood-myths _seven_ persons were said to have escaped the
waters, the whole narrative acquires a fabulous aspect that shuts it out
from history, and brands it as one of those fictions of the origin of
man from the earth so common to the race. Fictions yet truths; for
caverns and hollow trees were in fact the houses and temples of our
first parents, and from them they went forth to conquer and adorn the
world; and from the inorganic constituents of the soil acted on by
Light, touched by Divine Force, vivified by the Spirit, did in reality
the first of men proceed.

This cavern, which thus dimly lingered in the memories of nations,
occasionally expanded to a nether world, imagined to underlie this of
ours, and still inhabited by beings of our kind, who have never been
lucky enough to discover its exit. The Mandans and Minnetarees on the
Missouri River supposed this exit was near a certain hill in their
territory, and as it had been, as it were, the womb of the earth, the
same power was attributed to it that in ancient times endowed certain
shrines with such charms; and thither the barren wives of their nation
made frequent pilgrimages when they would become mothers.[229-1] The
Mandans added the somewhat puerile fable that the means of ascent had
been a grapevine, by which many ascended and descended, until one day an
immoderately fat old lady, anxious to get a look at the upper earth,
broke it with her weight, and prevented any further communication.

Such tales of an under-world are very frequent among the Indians, and
are a very natural outgrowth of the literal belief that the race is

Man is indeed like the grass that springs up and soon withers away; but
he is also more than this. The quintessence of dust, he is a son of the
gods as well as a son of the soil. He is the direct product of the great
creative power; therefore all the Athapascan tribes west of the Rocky
Mountains--the Kenai, the Kolushes, and the Atnai--claim descent from a
raven--from that same mighty cloud-bird, who in the beginning of things
seized the elements and brought the world from the abyss of the
primitive ocean. Those of the same stock situate more eastwardly, the
Dogribs, the Chepewyans, the Hare Indians, and also the west coast
Eskimos, and the natives of the Aleutian Isles, all believe that they
have sprung from a dog.[229-2] The latter animal, we have already seen,
both in the old and new world was the fixed symbol of the water goddess.
Therefore in these myths, which are found over so many thousand square
leagues, we cannot be in error in perceiving a reflex of their
cosmogonical traditions already discussed, in which from the winds and
the waters, represented here under their emblems of the bird and the
dog, all animate life proceeded.

Without this symbolic coloring, a tribe to the south of them, a band of
the Minnetarees, had the crude tradition that their first progenitor
emerged from the waters, bearing in his hand an ear of maize,[230-1]
very much as Viracocha and his companions rose from the sacred waves of
Lake Titicaca, or as the Moxos imagined that they were descended from
the lakes and rivers on whose banks their villages were situated.

These myths, and many others, hint of general conceptions of life and
the world, wide-spread theories of ancient date, such as we are not
accustomed to expect among savage nations, such as may very excusably
excite a doubt as to their native origin, but a doubt infallibly
dispelled by a careful comparison of the best authorities. Is it that
hitherto, in the pride of intellectual culture, we have never done
justice to the thinking faculty of those whom we call barbarians? Or
shall we accept the only other alternative, that these are the
unappreciated heirlooms bequeathed a rude race by a period of higher
civilization, long since extinguished by constant wars and ceaseless
fear? We are not yet ready to answer these questions. With almost
unanimous consent the latter has been accepted as the true solution, but
rather from the preconceived theory of a state of primitive
civilization from which man fell, than from ascertained facts.

It would, perhaps, be pushing symbolism too far to explain as an emblem
of the primitive waters the coyote, which, according to the Root-Diggers
of California, brought their ancestors into the world; or the wolf,
which the Lenni Lenape pretended released mankind from the dark bowels
of the earth by scratching away the soil. They should rather be
interpreted by the curious custom of the Toukaways, a wild people in
Texas, of predatory and unruly disposition. They celebrate their origin
by a grand annual dance. One of them, naked as he was born, is buried in
the earth. The others, clothed in wolf-skins, walk over him, snuff
around him, howl in lupine style, and finally dig him up with their
nails. The leading wolf then solemnly places a bow and arrow in his
hands, and to his inquiry as to what he must do for a living, paternally
advises him "to do as the wolves do--rob, kill, and murder, rove from
place to place, and never cultivate the soil."[231-1] Most wise and
fatherly counsel! But what is there new under the sun? Three thousand
years ago the Hirpini, or Wolves, an ancient Sabine tribe, were wont to
collect on Mount Soracte, and there go through certain rites in memory
of an oracle which predicted their extinction when they ceased to gain
their living as wolves by violence and plunder. Therefore they dressed
in wolf-skins, ran with barks and howls over burning coals, and gnawed
wolfishly whatever they could seize.[231-2]

Though hasty writers have often said that the Indian tribes claim
literal descent from different wild beasts, probably in all other
instances, as in these, this will prove, on examination, to be an error
resting on a misapprehension arising from the habit of the natives of
adopting as their totem or clan-mark the figure and name of some animal,
or else, in an ignorance of the animate symbols employed with such
marked preference by the red race to express abstract ideas. In some
cases, doubtless, the natives themselves came, in time, to confound the
symbol with the idea, by that familiar process of personification and
consequent debasement exemplified in the history of every religion; but
I do not believe that a single example could be found where an Indian
tribe had a tradition whose real purport was that man came by natural
process of descent from an ancestor, a brute.

The reflecting mind will not be offended at the contradictions in these
different myths, for a myth is, in one sense, a theory of natural
phenomena expressed in the form of a narrative. Often several
explanations seem equally satisfactory for the same fact, and the mind
hesitates to choose, and rather accepts them all than rejects any. Then,
again, an expression current as a metaphor by-and-by crystallizes into a
dogma, and becomes the nucleus of a new mythological growth. These are
familiar processes to one versed in such studies, and involve no logical
contradiction, because they are never required to be reconciled.


[223-1] _Vocabulario Quiche_, s. v., ed. Brasseur, Paris, 1862.

[223-2] The Eskimo _innuk_, man, means also a possessor or owner; the
yelk[TN-10] of an egg; and the pus of an abscess (Egede, _Nachrichten von
Grönland_, p. 106). From it is derived _innuwok_, to live, life. Probably
_innuk_ also means the _semen masculinum_, and in its identification with
pus, may not there be the solution of that strange riddle which in so
many myths of the West Indies and Central America makes the first of men
to be "the purulent one?" (See ante, p. 135.)

[224-1] Müller, _Amer. Urrelig._, pp. 109, 229.

[224-2] D'Orbigny, _Frag. d'une Voy. dans l'Amér. Mérid._, p. 512. It is
still a mooted point whence Shakspeare drew the plot of The Tempest. The
coincidence mentioned in the text between some parts of it and South
American mythology does not stand alone. Caliban, the savage and brutish
native of the island, is undoubtedly the word Carib, often spelt
Caribani, and Calibani in older writers; and his "dam's god Setebos" was
the supreme divinity of the Patagonians when first visited by Magellan.
(Pigafetta, _Viaggio intorno al Globo_, Germ. Trans.: Gotha, 1801, p.

[224-3] Both Lederer and John Bartram assign it this meaning. Gallatin
gives in the Powhatan dialect the word for mountain as _pomottinke_,
doubtless another form of the same.

[225-1] Marcy, _Exploration of the Red River_, p. 69.

[226-1] Compare Romans, _Hist. of Florida_, pp. 58, 71; Adair, _Hist. of
the North Am. Indians_, p. 195; and Gregg, _Commerce of the Prairies_,
ii. p. 235. The description of the mound is by Major Heart, in the
_Trans. of the Am. Philos. Soc._, iii. p. 216. (1st series.)

[226-2] The French writers give for Great Spirit _coyocopchill_; Gallatin
for hill, _kweya koopsel_. The blending of these two ideas, at first
sight so remote, is easily enough explained when we remember that on "the
hill of heaven" in all religions is placed the throne of the mightiest of
existences. The Natchez word can be analyzed as follows: _sel_, _sil_, or
_chill_, great; _cop_, a termination very frequent in their language,
apparently signifying existence; _kweya_, _coyo_, for _kue ya_, from the
Maya _kue_, god; the great living God. The Tarahumara language of Sonora
offers an almost parallel instance. In it _regui_, is _above_[TN-11], up,
over, _reguiki_, heaven, _reguiguiki_, a hill or mountain (Buschmann,
_Spuren der Aztek. Sprache im nörd. Mexico_, p. 244). In the Quiché
dialects _tepeu_ is lord, ruler, and is often applied to the Supreme
Being. With some probability Brasseur derives it from the Aztec _tepetl_,
mountain (_Hist. du Mexique_, i. p. 106).

[227-1] Balboa, _Hist. du Pérou_, p. 4.

[229-1] Long's _Expedition to the Rocky Mountains_, i. p. 274; Catlin's
_Letters_, i. p. 178.

[229-2] Richardson, _Arctic Expedition_, pp. 239, 247; Klemm,
_Culturgeschichte der Menschheit_, ii. p. 316.

[230-1] Long, _Exped. to the Rocky Mountains_, i. p. 326.

[231-1] Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, v. p. 683.

[231-2] Schwarz, _Ursprung der Mythologie_, p. 121.



     Universality of the belief in a soul and a future state
     shown by the aboriginal tongues, by expressed opinions,
     and by sepulchral rites.--The future world never a place
     of rewards and punishments.--The house of the Sun the
     heaven of the red man.--The terrestrial paradise and the
     in a resurrection of the dead almost universal.

The missionary Charlevoix wrote several excellent works on America
toward the beginning of the last century, and he is often quoted by
later authors; but probably no one of his sayings has been thus honored
more frequently than this: "The belief the best established among our
Americans is that of the immortality of the soul."[233-1] The tremendous
stake that every one of us has on the truth of this dogma makes it quite
a satisfaction to be persuaded that no man is willing to live wholly
without it. Certainly exceptions are very rare, and most of those which
materialistic philosophers have taken such pains to collect, rest on
misunderstandings or superficial observation.

In the new world I know of only one well authenticated instance where
all notion of a future state appears to have been entirely wanting, and
this in quite a small clan, the Lower Pend d'Oreilles, of Oregon. This
people had no burial ceremonies, no notion of a life hereafter, no word
for soul, spiritual existence, or vital principle. They thought that
when they died, that was the last of them. The Catholic missionaries who
undertook the unpromising task of converting them to Christianity, were
at first obliged to depend upon the imperfect translations of half-breed
interpreters. These "made the idea of soul intelligible to their hearers
by telling them they had a gut which never rotted, and that this was
their living principle!" Yet even they were not destitute of religious
notions. No tribe was more addicted to the observance of charms, omens,
dreams, and guardian spirits, and they believed that illness and bad
luck generally were the effects of the anger of a fabulous old
woman.[234-1] The aborigines of the Californian peninsula were as near
beasts as men ever become. The missionaries likened them to "herds of
swine, who neither worshipped the true and only God, nor adored false
deities." Yet they must have had some vague notion of an[TN-12], for the writer who paints the darkest picture of
their condition remarks, "I saw them frequently putting shoes on the
feet of the dead, which seems to indicate that they entertain the idea
of a journey after death."[234-2]

Proof of Charlevoix's opinion may be derived from three independent
sources. The aboriginal languages may be examined for terms
corresponding to the word soul, the opinions of the Indians themselves
may be quoted, and the significance of sepulchral rites as indicative of
a belief in life after death may be determined.

The most satisfactory is the first of these. _We_ call the soul a ghost
or spirit, and often a shade. In these words, the _breath_ and the
_shadow_ are the sensuous perceptions transferred to represent the
immaterial object of our thought. Why the former was chosen, I have
already explained; and for the latter, that it is man's intangible
image, his constant companion, and is of a nature akin to darkness,
earth, and night, are sufficiently obvious reasons.

These same tropes recur in American languages in the same connection.
The New England tribes called the soul _chemung_, the shadow, and in
Quiché _natub_, in Eskimo _tarnak_, express both these ideas. In Mohawk
_atonritz_, the soul, is from _atonrion_, to breathe, and other examples
to the same purpose have already been given.[235-1]

Of course no one need demand that a strict immateriality be attached to
these words. Such a colorless negative abstraction never existed for
them, neither does it for us, though we delude ourselves into believing
that it does. The soul was to them the invisible man, material as ever,
but lost to the appreciation of the senses.

Nor let any one be astonished if its unity was doubted, and several
supposed to reside in one body. This is nothing more than a somewhat
gross form of a doctrine upheld by most creeds and most philosophies. It
seems the readiest solution of certain psychological enigmas, and may,
for aught we know, be an instinct of fact. The Rabbis taught a threefold
division--_nephesh_, the animal, _ruah_, the human, and _neshamah_, the
divine soul, which corresponds to that of Plato into _thumos_,
_epithumia_, and _nous_. And even Saint Paul seems to have recognized
such inherent plurality when he distinguishes between the bodily soul,
the intellectual soul, and the spiritual gift, in his Epistle to the
Romans. No such refinements of course as these are to be expected among
the red men; but it may be looked upon either as the rudiments of these
teachings, or as a gradual debasement of them to gross and material
expression, that an old and wide-spread notion was found among both
Iroquois and Algonkins, that man has two souls, one of a vegetative
character, which gives bodily life, and remains with the corpse after
death, until it is called to enter another body; another of more
ethereal texture, which in life can depart from the body in sleep or
trance, and wander over the world, and at death goes directly to the
land of Spirits.[236-1]

The Sioux extended it to Plato's number, and are said to have looked
forward to one going to a cold place, another to a warm and comfortable
country, while the third was to watch the body. Certainly a most
impartial distribution of rewards and punishments.[237-1] Some other
Dakota tribes shared their views on this point, but more commonly,
doubtless owing to the sacredness of the number, imagined _four_ souls,
with separate destinies, one to wander about the world, one to watch the
body, the third to hover around the village, and the highest to go to
the spirit land.[237-2] Even this number is multiplied by certain Oregon
tribes, who imagine one in every member; and by the Caribs of
Martinique, who, wherever they could detect a pulsation, located a
spirit, all subordinate, however, to a supreme one throned in the heart,
which alone would be transported to the skies at death.[237-3] For the
heart that so constantly sympathizes with our emotions and actions, is,
in most languages and most nations, regarded as the seat of life; and
when the priests of bloody religions tore out the heart of the victim
and offered it to the idol, it was an emblem of the life that was thus
torn from the field of this world and consecrated to the rulers of the

Various motives impel the living to treat with respect the body from
which life has departed. Lowest of them is a superstitious dread of
death and the dead. The stoicism of the Indian, especially the northern
tribes, in the face of death, has often been the topic of poets, and has
often been interpreted to be a fearlessness of that event. This is by
no means true. Savages have an awful horror of death; it is to them the
worst of ills; and for this very reason was it that they thought to meet
it without flinching was the highest proof of courage. Everything
connected with the deceased was, in many tribes, shunned with
superstitious terror. His name was not mentioned, his property left
untouched, all reference to him was sedulously avoided. A Tupi tribe
used to hurry the body at once to the nearest water, and toss it in; the
Akanzas left it in the lodge and burned over it the dwelling and
contents; and the Algonkins carried it forth by a hole cut opposite the
door, and beat the walls with sticks to fright away the lingering ghost.
Burying places were always avoided, and every means taken to prevent the
departed spirits exercising a malicious influence on those remaining

These craven fears do but reveal the natural repugnance of the animal to
a cessation of existence, and arise from the instinct of
self-preservation essential to organic life. Other rites, undertaken
avowedly for the behoof of the soul, prove and illustrate a simple but
unshaken faith in its continued existence after the decay of the body.

None of these is more common or more natural than that which attributes
to the emancipated spirit the same wants that it felt while on earth,
and with loving foresight provides for their satisfaction. Clothing and
utensils of war and the chase were, in ancient times, uniformly placed
by the body, under the impression that they would be of service to the
departed in his new home. Some few tribes in the far west still retain
the custom, but most were soon ridiculed into its neglect, or were
forced to omit it by the violation of tombs practised by depraved whites
in hope of gain. To these harmless offerings the northern tribes often
added a dog slain on the grave; and doubtless the skeletons of these
animals in so many tombs in Mexico and Peru point to similar customs
there. It had no deeper meaning than to give a companion to the spirit
in its long and lonesome journey to the far off land of shades. The
peculiar appropriateness of the dog arose not only from the guardianship
it exerts during life, but further from the symbolic signification it so
often had as representative of the goddess of night and the grave.

Where a despotic form of government reduced the subject almost to the
level of a slave and elevated the ruler almost to that of a superior
being, not animals only, but men, women, and children were frequently
immolated at the tomb of the cacique. The territory embraced in our own
country was not without examples of this horrid custom. On the lower
Mississippi, the Natchez Indians brought it with them from Central
America in all its ghastliness. When a sun or chief died, one or several
of his wives and his highest officers were knocked on the head and
buried with him, and at such times the barbarous privilege was allowed
to any of the lowest caste to at once gain admittance to the highest by
the deliberate murder of their own children on the funeral pyre--a
privilege which respectable writers tell us human beings were found base
enough to take advantage of.[239-1]

Oviedo relates that in the province of Guataro, in Guatemala, an actual
rivalry prevailed among the people to be slain at the death of their
cacique, for they had been taught that only such as went with him would
ever find their way to the paradise of the departed.[240-1] Theirs was
therefore somewhat of a selfish motive, and only in certain parts of
Peru, where polygamy prevailed, and the rule was that only one wife was
to be sacrificed, does the deportment of husbands seem to have been so
creditable that their widows actually disputed one with another for the
pleasure of being buried alive with the dead body, and bearing their
spouse company to the other world.[240-2] Wives who have found few
parallels since the famous matron of Ephesus!

The fire built nightly on the grave was to light the spirit on his
journey. By a coincidence to be explained by the universal sacredness of
the number, both Algonkins and Mexicans maintained it for _four_ nights
consecutively. The former related the tradition that one of their
ancestors returned from the spirit land and informed their nation that
the journey thither consumed just _four_ days, and that collecting fuel
every night added much to the toil and fatigue the soul encountered, all
of which could be spared it by the relatives kindling nightly a fire on
the grave. Or as Longfellow has told it:--

   "Four days is the spirit's journey
    To the land of ghosts and shadows,
    Four its lonely night encampments.
    Therefore when the dead are buried,
    Let a fire as night approaches
    Four times on the grave be kindled,
    That the soul upon its journey
    May not grope about in darkness."

The same length of time, say the Navajos, does the departed soul wander
over a gloomy marsh ere it can discover the ladder leading to the world
below, where are the homes of the setting and the rising sun, a land of
luxuriant plenty, stocked with game and covered with corn. To that land,
say they, sink all lost seeds and germs which fall on the earth and do
not sprout. There below they take root, bud, and ripen their

After four days, once more, in the superstitions of the Greenland
Eskimos, does the soul, for that term after death confined in the body,
at last break from its prison-house and either rise in the sky to dance
in the aurora borealis or descend into the pleasant land beneath the
earth, according to the manner of death.[241-2]

That there are logical contradictions in this belief and these
ceremonies, that the fire is always in the same spot, that the weapons
and utensils are not carried away by the departed, and that the food
placed for his sustenance remains untouched, is very true. But those who
would therefore argue that they were not intended for the benefit of the
soul, and seek some more recondite meaning in them as "unconscious
emblems of struggling faith or expressions of inward emotions,"[242-1]
are led astray by the very simplicity of their real intention. Where is
the faith, where the science, that does not involve logical
contradictions just as gross as these? They are tolerable to us merely
because we are used to them. What value has the evidence of the senses
anywhere against a religious faith? None whatever. A stumbling block
though this be to the materialist, it is the universal truth, and as
such it is well to accept it as an experimental fact.

The preconceived opinions that saw in the meteorological myths of the
Indian, a conflict between the Spirit of Good and the Spirit of Evil,
have with like unconscious error falsified his doctrine of a future
life, and almost without an exception drawn it more or less in the
likeness of the Christian heaven, hell, and purgatory. Very faint traces
of any such belief except where derived from the missionaries are
visible in the New World. Nowhere was any well-defined doctrine that
moral turpitude was judged and punished in the next-world. No contrast
is discoverable between a place of torments and a realm of joy; at the
worst but a negative castigation awaited the liar, the coward, or the
niggard. The typical belief of the tribes of the United States was well
expressed in the reply of Esau Hajo, great medal chief and speaker for
the Creek nation in the National Council, to the question, Do the red
people believe in a future state of rewards and punishments? "We have an
opinion that those who have behaved well are taken under the care of
Esaugetuh Emissee, and assisted; and that those who have behaved ill
are left to shift for themselves; and that there is no other

Neither the delights of a heaven on the one hand, nor the terrors of a
hell on the other, were ever held out by priests or sages as an
incentive to well-doing, or a warning to the evil-disposed. Different
fates, indeed, awaited the departed souls, but these rarely, if ever,
were decided by their conduct while in the flesh, but by the manner of
death, the punctuality with which certain sepulchral rites were
fulfilled by relatives, or other similar arbitrary circumstance beyond
the power of the individual to control. This view, which I am well aware
is directly at variance with that of all previous writers, may be shown
to be that natural to the uncultivated intellect everywhere, and the
real interpretation of the creeds of America. Whether these arbitrary
circumstances were not construed to signify the decision of the Divine
Mind on the life of the man, is a deeper question, which there is no
means at hand to solve.

Those who have complained of the hopeless confusion of American
religions have but proven the insufficiency of their own means of
analyzing them. The uniformity which they display in so many points is
nowhere more fully illustrated than in the unanimity with which they all
point to the _sun_ as the land of the happy souls, the realm of the
blessed, the scene of the joyous hunting-grounds of the hereafter. Its
perennial glory, its comfortable warmth, its daily analogy to the life
of man, marked its abode as the pleasantest spot in the universe. It
matters not whether the eastern Algonkins pointed to the south, others
of their nation, with the Iroquois and Creeks, to the west, or many
tribes to the east, as the direction taken by the spirit; all these
myths but mean that its bourn is the home of the sun, which is perhaps
in the Orient whence he comes forth, in the Occident where he makes his
bed, or in the South whither he retires in the chilling winter. Where
the sun lives, they informed the earliest foreign visitors, were the
villages of the deceased, and the milky way which nightly spans the arch
of heaven, was, in their opinion, the road that led thither, and was
called the path of the souls (_le chemin des ames_).[244-1] To _hueyu
ku_, the mansion of the sun, said the Caribs, the soul passes when death
overtakes the body.[244-2] Our knowledge is scanty of the doctrines
taught by the Incas concerning the soul, but this much we do know, that
they looked to the sun, their recognized lord and protector, as he who
would care for them at death, and admit them to his palaces. There--not,
indeed, exquisite joys--but a life of unruffled placidity, void of
labor, vacant of strong emotions, a sort of material Nirvana, awaited
them.[244-3] For these reasons, they, with most other American nations,
interred the corpse lying east and west, and not as the traveller Meyen
has suggested,[244-4] from the reminiscences of some ancient migration.
Beyond the Cordilleras, quite to the coast of Brazil, the innumerable
hordes who wandered through the sombre tropical forests of that immense
territory, also pointed to the west, to the region beyond the mountains,
as the land where the souls of their ancestors lived in undisturbed
serenity; or, in the more brilliant imaginations of the later
generations, in a state of perennial inebriety, surrounded by infinite
casks of rum, and with no white man to dole it out to them.[245-1] The
natives of the extreme south, of the Pampas and Patagonia, suppose the
stars are the souls of the departed. At night they wander about the sky,
but the moment the sun rises they hasten to the cheerful light, and are
seen no more until it disappears in the west. So the Eskimo of the
distant north, in the long winter nights when the aurora bridges the sky
with its changing hues and arrowy shafts of light, believes he sees the
spirits of his ancestors clothed in celestial raiment, disporting
themselves in the absence of the sun, and calls the phenomenon _the
dance of the dead_.

The home of the sun was the heaven of the red man; but to this joyous
abode not every one without distinction, no miscellaneous crowd, could
gain admittance. The conditions were as various as the national
temperaments. As the fierce gods of the Northmen would admit no soul to
the banquets of Walhalla but such as had met the "spear-death" in the
bloody play of war, and shut out pitilessly all those who feebly
breathed their last in the "straw death" on the couch of sickness, so
the warlike Aztec race in Nicaragua held that the shades of those who
died in their beds went downward and to naught; but of those who fell
in battle for their country to the east, "to the place whence comes the
sun."[246-1] In ancient Mexico not only the warriors who were thus
sacrificed on the altar of their country, but with a delicate and
poetical sense of justice that speaks well for the refinement of the
race, also those women who perished in child-birth, were admitted to the
home of the sun. For are not they also heroines in the battle of life?
Are they not also its victims? And do they not lay down their lives for
country and kindred? Every morning, it was imagined, the heroes came
forth in battle array, and with shout and song and the ring of weapons,
accompanied the sun to the zenith, where at every noon the souls of the
mothers, the Cihuapipilti, received him with dances, music, and flowers,
and bore him company to his western couch.[246-2] Except these,
none--without, it may be, the victims sacrificed to the gods, and this
is doubtful--were deemed worthy of the highest heaven.

A mild and unwarlike tribe of Guatemala, on the other hand, were
persuaded that to die by any other than a natural death was to forfeit
all hope of life hereafter, and therefore left the bodies of the slain
to the beasts and vultures.

The Mexicans had another place of happiness for departed souls, not
promising perpetual life as the home of the sun, but unalloyed pleasure
for a certain term of years. This was Tlalocan, the realm of the god of
rains and waters, the terrestrial paradise, whence flowed all the
rivers of the earth, and all the nourishment of the race. The diseases
of which persons died marked this destination. Such as were drowned, or
struck by lightning, or succumbed to humoral complaints, as dropsies and
leprosy, were by these tokens known to be chosen as the subjects of
Tlaloc. To such, said the natives, "death is the commencement of another
life, it is as waking from a dream, and the soul is no more human but
divine (_teot_)." Therefore they addressed their dying in terms like
these: "Sir, or lady, awake, awake; already does the dawn appear; even
now is the light approaching; already do the birds of yellow plumage
begin their songs to greet thee; already are the gayly-tinted
butterflies flitting around thee."[247-1]

Before proceeding to the more gloomy portion of the subject, to the
destiny of those souls who were not chosen for the better part, I must
advert to a curious coincidence in the religious reveries of many
nations which finds its explanation in the belief that the house of the
sun is the home of the blessed, and proves that this was the first
conception of most natural religions. It is seen in the events and
obstacles of the journey to the happy land. We everywhere hear of a
water which the soul must cross, and an opponent, either a dog or an
evil spirit, which it has to contend with. We are all familiar with the
dog Cerberus (called by Homer simply "the dog"), which disputed the
passage of the river Styx over which the souls must cross; and with the
custom of the vikings, to be buried in a boat so that they might cross
the waters of Ginunga-gap to the inviting strands of Godheim. Relics of
this belief are found in the Koran which describes the bridge _el
Sirat_, thin as a hair and sharp as a scimetar,[TN-13] stretched in a
single span from heaven to earth; in the Persian legend, where the
rainbow arch Chinevad is flung across the gloomy depths between this
world and the home of the happy; and even in the current Christian
allegory which represents the waters of the mythical Jordan rolling
between us and the Celestial City.

How strange at first sight does it seem that the Hurons and Iroquois
should have told the earliest missionaries that after death the soul
must cross a deep and swift river on a bridge formed by a single slender
tree most lightly supported, where it had to defend itself against the
attacks of a dog?[248-1] If only they had expressed this belief, it
might have passed for a coincidence merely. But the Athapascas
(Chepewyans) also told of a great water, which the soul must cross in a
stone canoe; the Algonkins and Dakotas, of a stream bridged by an
enormous snake, or a narrow and precipitous rock, and the Araucanians of
Chili of a sea in the west, in crossing which the soul was required to
pay toll to a malicious old woman. Were it unluckily impecunious, she
deprived it of an eye.[248-2] With the Aztecs this water was called
Chicunoapa, the Nine Rivers. It was guarded by a dog and a green dragon,
to conciliate which the dead were furnished with slips of paper by way
of toll. The Greenland Eskimos thought that the waters roared through
an unfathomable abyss over which there was no other bridge than a wheel
slippery with ice, forever revolving with fearful rapidity, or a path
narrow as a cord with nothing to hold on by. On the other side sits a
horrid old woman gnashing her teeth and tearing her hair with rage. As
each soul approaches she burns a feather under its nose; if it faints
she seizes it for her prisoner, but if the soul's guardian spirit can
overcome her, it passes through in safety.[249-1]

The similarity to the passage of the soul across the Styx, and the toll
of the obolus to Charon is in the Aztec legend still more striking, when
we remember that the Styx was the ninth head of Oceanus (omitting the
Cocytus, often a branch of the Styx). The Nine Rivers probably refer to
the nine Lords of the Night, ancient Aztec deities guarding the
nocturnal hours, and introduced into their calendar. The Tupis and
Caribs, the Mayas and Creeks, entertained very similar expectations.

We are to seek the explanation of these wide-spread theories of the
soul's journey in the equally prevalent tenet that the sun is its
destination, and that that luminary has his abode beyond the ocean
stream, which in all primitive geographies rolls its waves around the
habitable land. This ocean stream is the water which all have to attempt
to pass, and woe to him whom the spirit of the waters, represented
either as the old woman, the dragon, or the dog of Hecate, seizes and
overcomes. In the lush fancy of the Orient, the spirit of the waters
becomes the spirit of evil, the ocean stream the abyss of hell, and
those who fail in the passage the damned, who are foredoomed to evil
deeds and endless torture.

No such ethical bearing as this was ever assigned the myth by the red
race before they were taught by Europeans. Father Brebeuf could only
find that the souls of suicides and those killed in war were supposed to
live apart from the others; "but as to the souls of scoundrels," he
adds, "so far from being shut out, they are the welcome guests, though
for that matter if it were not so, their paradise would be a total
desert, as Huron and scoundrel (_Huron et larron_) are one and the
same."[250-1] When the Minnetarees told Major Long and the Mannicicas of
the La Plata the Jesuits,[250-2] that the souls of the bad fell into the
waters and were swept away, these are, beyond doubt, attributable either
to a false interpretation, or to Christian instruction. No such
distinction is probable among savages. The Brazilian natives divided the
dead into classes, supposing that the drowned, those killed by violence,
and those yielding to disease, lived in separate regions; but no ethical
reason whatever seems to have been connected with this.[250-3] If the
conception of a place of moral retribution was known at all to the race,
it should be found easily recognizable in Mexico, Yucatan, or Peru. But
the so-called "hells" of their religions have no such significance, and
the spirits of evil, who were identified by early writers with Satan, no
more deserve the name than does the Greek Pluto.

Çupay or Supay, the Shadow, in Peru was supposed to rule the land of
shades in the centre of the earth. To him went all souls not destined to
be the companions of the Sun. This is all we know of his attributes; and
the assertion of Garcilasso de la Vega, that he was the analogue of the
Christian Devil, and that his name was never pronounced without spitting
and muttering a curse on his head, may be invalidated by the testimony
of an earlier and better authority on the religion of Peru, who calls
him the god of rains, and adds that the famous Inca, Huayna Capac, was
his high priest.[251-1]

"The devil," says Cogolludo of the Mayas, "is called by them
Xibilha,[TN-14] which means he who disappears or vanishes."[251-2] In the
legends of the Quichés, the name Xibalba is given as that of the
under-world ruled by the grim lords One Death and Seven Deaths. The
derivation of the name is from a root meaning to fear, from which comes
the term in Maya dialects for a ghost or phantom.[251-3] Under the
influence of a century of Christian catechizing, the Quiché legends
portray this really as a place of torment, and its rulers as malignant
and powerful; but as I have before pointed out, they do so, protesting
that such was not the ancient belief, and they let fall no word that
shows that it was regarded as the destination of the morally bad. The
original meaning of the name given by Cogolludo points unmistakably to
the simple fact of disappearance from among men, and corresponds in
harmlessness to the true sense of those words of fear, Scheol, Hades,
Hell, all signifying hidden from sight, and only endowed with more grim
associations by the imaginations of later generations.[252-1]

Mictlanteuctli, Lord of Mictlan, from a word meaning to die, was the
Mexican Pluto. Like Çupay, he dwelt in the subterranean regions, and his
palace was named Tlalxicco, the navel of the earth. Yet he was also
located in the far north, and that point of the compass and the north
wind were named after him. Those who descended to him were oppressed by
the darkness of his abode, but were subjected to no other trials; nor
were they sent thither as a punishment, but merely from having died of
diseases unfitting them for Tlalocan. Mictlanteuctli was said to be the
most powerful of the gods. For who is stronger than Death? And who dare
defy the Grave? As the skald lets Odin say to Bragi: "Our lot is
uncertain; even on the hosts of the gods gazes the gray Fenris

These various abodes to which the incorporeal man took flight were not
always his everlasting home. It will be remembered that where a
plurality of souls was believed, one of these, soon after death,
entered another body to recommence life on earth. Acting under this
persuasion, the Algonkin women who desired to become mothers, flocked to
the couch of those about to die, in hope that the vital principle, as it
passed from the body, would enter theirs, and fertilize their sterile
wombs; and when, among the Seminoles of Florida, a mother died in
childbirth, the infant was held over her face to receive her parting
spirit, and thus acquire strength and knowledge for its future
use.[253-1] So among the Tahkalis, the priest is accustomed to lay his
hand on the head of the nearest relative of the deceased, and to blow
into him the soul of the departed, which is supposed to come to life in
his next child.[253-2] Probably, with a reference to the current
tradition that ascribes the origin of man to the earth, and likens his
life to that of the plant, the Mexicans were accustomed to say that at
one time all men have been stones, and that at last they would all
return to stones;[253-3] and, acting literally on this conviction, they
interred with the bones of the dead a small green stone, which was
called the principle of life.

Whether any nations accepted the doctrine of metempsychosis, and thought
that "the souls of their grandams might haply inhabit a partridge," we
are without the means of knowing. La Hontan denies it positively of the
Algonkins; but the natives of Popoyan refused to kill doves, says
Coreal,[254-1] because they believe them inspired by the souls of the
departed. And Father Ignatius Chomé relates that he heard a woman of the
Chiriquanes in Buenos Ayres say of a fox: "May that not be the spirit of
my dead daughter?"[254-2] But before accepting such testimony as
decisive, we must first inquire whether these tribes believed in a
multiplicity of souls, whether these animals had a symbolical value, and
if not, whether the soul was not simply presumed to put on this shape in
its journey to the land of the hereafter: inquiries which are
unanswered. Leaving, therefore, the question open, whether the sage of
Samos had any disciples in the new world, another and more fruitful
topic is presented by their well-ascertained notions of the resurrection
of the dead.

This seemingly extraordinary doctrine, which some have asserted was
entirely unknown and impossible to the American Indians,[254-3] was in
fact one of their most deeply-rooted and wide-spread convictions,
especially among the tribes of the eastern United States. It is
indissolubly connected with their highest theories of a future life,
their burial ceremonies, and their modes of expression. The Moravian
Brethren give the grounds of this belief with great clearness: "That
they hold the soul to be immortal, and perhaps think the body will rise
again, they give not unclearly to understand when they say, 'We Indians
shall not for ever die; even the grains of corn we put under the earth,
grow up and become living things.' They conceive that when the soul has
been a while with God, it can, if it chooses, return to earth and be
born again."[255-1] This is the highest and typical creed of the
aborigines. But instead of simply being born again in the ordinary sense
of the word, they thought the soul would return to the bones, that these
would clothe themselves with flesh, and that the man would rejoin his
tribe. That this was the real, though often doubtless the dimly
understood reason of the custom of preserving the bones of the deceased,
can be shown by various arguments.

This practice was almost universal. East of the Mississippi nearly every
nation was accustomed, at stated periods--usually once in eight or ten
years--to collect and clean the osseous remains of those of its number
who had died in the intervening time, and inter them in one common
sepulchre, lined with choice furs, and marked with a mound of wood,
stone, and earth. Such is the origin of those immense tumuli filled with
the mortal remains of nations and generations which the antiquary, with
irreverent curiosity, so frequently chances upon in all portions of our
territory. Throughout Central America the same usage obtained in various
localities, as early writers and existing monuments abundantly testify.
Instead of interring the bones, were they those of some distinguished
chieftain, they were deposited in the temples or the council-houses,
usually in small chests of canes or splints. Such were the
charnel-houses which the historians of De Soto's expedition so often
mention, and these are the "arks" which Adair and other authors, who
have sought to trace the descent of the Indians from the Jews, have
likened to that which the ancient Israelites bore with them on their
migrations. A widow among the Tahkalis was obliged to carry the bones of
her deceased husband wherever she went for four years, preserving them
in such a casket handsomely decorated with feathers.[256-1] The Caribs
of the mainland adopted the custom for all without exception. About a
year after death the bones were cleaned, bleached, painted, wrapped in
odorous balsams, placed in a wicker basket, and kept suspended from the
door of their dwellings.[256-2] When the quantity of these heirlooms
became burdensome, they were removed to some inaccessible cavern, and
stowed away with reverential care. Such was the cave Ataruipe, a visit
to which has been so eloquently described by Alexander von Humboldt in
his "Views of Nature."

So great was the filial respect for these remains by the Indians, that
on the Mississippi, in Peru, and elsewhere, no tyranny, no cruelty, so
embittered the indigenes against the white explorers as the sacrilegious
search for treasures perpetrated among the sepulchres of past
generations. Unable to understand the meaning of such deep feeling, so
foreign to the European who, without a second thought, turns a cemetery
into a public square, or seeds it down in wheat, the Jesuit missionaries
in Paraguay accuse the natives of worshipping the skeletons of their
forefathers,[257-1] and the English in Virginia repeated it of the

The question has been debated and variously answered, whether the art of
mummification was known and practised in America. Without entering into
the discussion, it is certain that preservation of the corpse by a long
and thorough process of exsiccation over a slow fire was nothing
unusual, not only in Peru, Popoyan, the Carib countries, and Nicaragua,
but among many of the tribes north of the Gulf of Mexico, as I have
elsewhere shown.[257-2] The object was essentially the same as when the
bones alone were preserved; and in the case of rulers, the same homage
was often paid to their corpses as had been the just due of their living

The opinion underlying all these customs was, that a part of the soul,
or one of the souls, dwelt in the bones; that these were the seeds
which, planted in the earth, or preserved unbroken in safe places,
would, in time, put on once again a garb of flesh, and germinate into
living human beings. Language illustrates this not unusual theory. The
Iroquois word for bone is _esken_--for soul, _atisken_, literally that
which is within the bone.[257-3] In an Athapascan dialect bone is
_yani_, soul _i-yune_.[257-4] The Hebrew Rabbis taught that in the bone
_lutz_, the coccyx, remained at death the germ of a second life, which,
at the proper time, would develop into the purified body, as the plant
from the seed.

But mythology and supersitions[TN-15] add more decisive testimony. One of
the Aztec legends of the origin of man was, that after one of the
destructions of the world the gods took counsel together how to renew
the species. It was decided that one of their number, Xolotl, should
descend to Mictlan, the realm of the dead, and bring thence a bone of
the perished race. The fragments of this they sprinkled with blood, and
on the fourth day it grew into a youth, the father of the present
race.[258-1] The profound mystical significance of this legend is
reflected in one told by the Quichés, in which the hero gods Hunahpu and
Xblanque succumb to the rulers of Xibalba, the darksome powers of death.
Their bodies are burned, but their bones are ground in a mill and thrown
in the waters, lest they should come to life. Even this precaution is
insufficient--"for these ashes did not go far; they sank to the bottom
of the stream, where, in the twinkling of an eye, they were changed into
handsome youths, and their very same features appeared anew. On the
fifth day they displayed themselves anew, and were seen in the water by
the people,"[258-2] whence they emerged to overcome and destroy the
powers of death and hell (Xibalba).

The strongest analogies to these myths are offered by the superstitious
rites of distant tribes. Some of the Tupis of Brazil were wont on the
death of a relative to dry and pulverize his bones and then mix them
with their food, a nauseous practice they defended by asserting that the
soul of the dead remained in the bones and lived again in the
living.[259-1] Even the lower animals were supposed to follow the same
law. Hardly any of the hunting tribes, before their original manners
were vitiated by foreign influence, permitted the bones of game slain in
the chase to be broken, or left carelessly about the encampment. They
were collected in heaps, or thrown into the water. Mrs. Eastman observes
that even yet the Dakotas deem it an omen of ill luck in the hunt, if
the dogs gnaw the bones or a woman inadvertently steps over them; and
the Chipeway interpreter, John Tanner, speaks of the same fear among
that tribe. The Yurucares of Bolivia carried it to such an inconvenient
extent, that they carefully put by even small fish bones, saying that
unless this was done the fish and game would disappear from the
country.[259-2] The traveller on our western prairies often notices the
buffalo skulls, countless numbers of which bleach on those vast plains,
arranged in circles and symmetrical piles by the careful hands of the
native hunters. The explanation they offer for this custom gives the key
to the whole theory and practice of preserving the osseous relics of the
dead, as well human as brute. They say that, "the bones contain the
spirits of the slain animals, and that some time in the future they will
rise from the earth, re-clothe themselves with flesh, and stock the
prairies anew."[259-3] This explanation, which comes to us from
indisputable authority, sets forth in its true light the belief of the
red race in a resurrection. It is not possible to trace it out in the
subtleties with which theologians have surrounded it as a dogma. The
very attempt would be absurd. They never occurred to the Indian. He
thought that the soul now enjoying the delights of the happy hunting
grounds would some time return to the bones, take on flesh, and live
again. Such is precisely the much discussed statement that Garcilasso de
la Vega says he often heard from the native Peruvians. He adds that so
careful were they lest any of the body should be lost that they
preserved even the parings of their nails and clippings of the
hair.[260-1] In contradiction to this the writer Acosta has been quoted,
who says that the Peruvians embalmed their dead because they "had no
knowledge that the bodies should rise with the soul."[260-2] But,
rightly understood, this is a confirmation of La Vega's account. Acosta
means that the Christian doctrine of the body rising from the dust being
unknown to the Peruvians (which is perfectly true), they preserved the
body just as it was, so that the soul when it returned to earth, as all
expected, might not be at a loss for a house of flesh.

The notions thus entertained by the red race on the resurrection are
peculiar to it, and stand apart from those of any other. They did not
look for the second life to be either better or worse than the present
one; they regarded it neither as a reward nor a punishment to be sent
back to the world of the living; nor is there satisfactory evidence that
it was ever distinctly connected with a moral or physical theory of the
destiny of the universe, or even with their prevalent expectation of
recurrent epochs in the course of nature. It is true that a writer whose
personal veracity is above all doubt, Mr. Adam Hodgson, relates an
ancient tradition of the Choctaws, to the effect that the present world
will be consumed by a general conflagration, after which it will be
reformed pleasanter than it now is, and that then the spirits of the
dead will return to the bones in the bone mounds, flesh will knit
together their loose joints, and they shall again inhabit their ancient

There was also a similar belief among the Eskimos. They said that in the
course of time the waters would overwhelm the land, purify it of the
blood of the dead, melt the icebergs, and wash away the steep rocks. A
wind would then drive off the waters, and the new land would be peopled
by reindeers and young seals. Then would He above blow once on the bones
of the men and twice on those of the women, whereupon they would at once
start into life, and lead thereafter a joyous existence.[261-2]

But though there is nothing in these narratives alien to the course of
thought in the native mind, yet as the date of the first is recent
(1820), as they are not supported (so far as I know) by similar
traditions elsewhere, and as they may have arisen from Christian
doctrines of a millennium, I leave them for future investigation.

What strikes us the most in this analysis of the opinions entertained by
the red race on a future life is the clear and positive hope of a
hereafter, in such strong contrast to the feeble and vague notions of
the ancient Israelites, Greeks, and Romans, and yet the entire inertness
of this hope in leading them to a purer moral life. It offers another
proof that the fulfilment of duty is in its nature nowise connected with
or derived from a consideration of ultimate personal consequences. It is
another evidence that the religious is wholly distinct from the moral
sentiment, and that the origin of ethics is not to be sought in
connection with the ideas of divinity and responsibility.


[233-1] _Journal Historique_, p. 351: Paris, 1740.

[234-1] _Rep. of the Commissioner of Ind. Affairs_, 1854, pp. 211, 212.
The old woman is once more a personification of the water and the moon.

[234-2] Bægert, _Acc. of the Aborig. Tribes of the Californian
Peninsula_, translated by Chas. Rau, in Ann. Rep. Smithson. Inst., 1866,
p. 387.

[235-1] Of the Nicaraguans Oviedo says: "Ce n'est pas leur cœur qui va
en haut, mais ce qui les faisait vivre; c'est-à-dire, le souffle qui leur
sort par la bouche, et que l'on nomme _Julio_" (_Hist. du Nicaragua_, p.
36). The word should be _yulia_, kindred with _yoli_, to live.
(Buschmann, _Uber die Aztekischen Ortsnamen_, p. 765.) In the Aztec and
cognate languages we have already seen that _ehecatl_ means both _wind_,
_soul_, and _shadow_ (Buschmann, _Spuren der Aztek. Spr. in Nördlichen
Mexico_, p. 74).

[236-1] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, An 1636, p. 104; "Keating's
_Narrative_," i. pp. 232, 410.

[237-1] French, _Hist. Colls. of Louisiana_, iii. p. 26.

[237-2] Mrs. Eastman, _Legends of the Sioux_, p. 129.

[237-3] _Voy. à la Louisiane fait en 1720_, p. 155: Paris, 1768.

[239-1] Dupratz, _Hist. of Louisiana_, ii. p. 219; Dumont, _Mems. Hist.
sur la Louisiane_, i. chap. 26.

[240-1] _Rel. de la Prov. de Cueba_, p. 140.

[240-2] Coreal, _Voiages aux Indes Occidentales_, ii. p. 94: Amsterdam,

[241-1] _Senate Rep. on the Ind. Tribes_, p. 358: Wash. 1867.

[241-2] Egede, _Nachrichten von Grönland_, p. 145.

[242-1] Alger, _Hist. of the Doctrine of a Future Life_, p. 76.

[243-1] Hawkins, _Sketch of the Creek Country_, p. 80.

[244-1] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, 1634, pp. 17, 18.

[244-2] Müller, _Amer. Urreligionen_, p. 229.

[244-3] La Vega, _Hist. des Incas._, lib. ii. cap. 7.

[244-4] _Ueber die Ureinwohner von Peru_, p. 41.

[245-1] Coreal, _Voy. aux Indes Occident._, i. p. 224; Müller, _Amer.
Urrelig._, p. 289.

[246-1] Oviedo, _Hist. du Nicaragua_, p. 22.

[246-2] Torquemada, _Monarquia Indiana_, lib. vi. cap. 27.

[247-1] Sahagun, _Hist. de la Nueva España_, lib. x. cap. 29.

[248-1] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, 1636, p. 105.

[248-2] Molina, _Hist. of Chili_, ii. p. 81, and others in Waitz,
_Anthropologie_, iii. p. 197.

[249-1] _Nachrichten von Grönland aus dem Tagebuche vom Bischof Paul
Egede_, p. 104: Kopenhagen, 1790.

[250-1] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, 1636, p. 105.

[250-2] Long's _Expedition_, i. p. 280; Waitz, _Anthropologie_, iii. p.

[250-3] Müller, _Amer. Urreligionen_, p. 287.

[251-1] Compare Garcilasso de la Vega, _Hist. des Incas._, liv. ii. chap.
ii., with _Lett. sur les Superstitions du Pérou_, p. 104. Çupay is
undoubtedly a personal form from _Çupan_, a shadow. (See Holguin, _Vocab.
de la Lengua Quichua_, p. 80: Cuzco, 1608.)

[251-2] "El que desparece ô desvanece," _Hist. de Yucathan_, lib. iv.
cap. 7.

[251-3] Ximenes, _Vocab. Quiché_, p. 224. The attempt of the Abbé
Brasseur to make of Xibalba an ancient kingdom of renown with Palenque as
its capital, is so utterly unsupported and wildly hypothetical, as to
justify the humorous flings which have so often been cast at antiquaries.

[252-1] Scheol is from a Hebrew word, signifying to dig, to hide in the
earth. Hades signifies the _unseen_ world. Hell Jacob Grimm derives from
_hilan_, to conceal in the earth, and it is cognate with _hole_ and

[252-2] Pennock, _Religion of the Northmen_, p. 148.

[253-1] La Hontan, _Voy. dans l'Am. Sept._, i. p. 232; _Narrative of
Oceola Nikkanoche_, p. 75.

[253-2] Morse, _Rep. on the Ind. Tribes_, App. p. 345.

[253-3] Garcia, _Or. de los Indios_, lib. iv. cap. 26, p. 310.

[254-1] _Voiages aux Indes Oc._, ii. p. 132.

[254-2] _Lettres Edif. et Cur._, v. p. 203.

[254-3] Alger, _Hist. of the Doctrine of a Future Life_, p. 72.

[255-1] Loskiel, _Ges. der Miss. der evang. Brüder_, p. 49.

[256-1] Richardson, _Arctic Expedition_, p. 260.

[256-2] Gumilla, _Hist. del Orinoco_, i. pp. 199, 202, 204.

[257-1] Ruis, _Conquista Espiritual del Paraguay_, p. 48, in Lafitau.

[257-2] _Notes on the Floridian Peninsula_, pp. 191 sqq.

[257-3] Bruyas, _Rad. Verborum Iroquæorum_.

[257-4] Buschmann, _Athapask. Sprachstamm_, pp. 182, 188.

[258-1] Torquemada, _Monarquia Indiana_, lib. vi. cap. 41.

[258-2] _Le Livre Sacré des Quichés_, pp. 175-177.

[259-1] Müller, _Amer. Urrelig._, p. 290, after Spix.

[259-2] D'Orbigny, _Annuaire des Voyages_, 1845, p. 77.

[259-3] Long's _Expedition_, i. p. 278.

[260-1] _Hist. des Incas_, lib. iii. chap. 7.

[260-2] _Hist. of the New World_, bk. v. chap. 7.

[261-1] _Travels in North America_, p. 280.

[261-2] Egede, _Nachrichten von Grönland_, p. 156.



     Their titles.--Practitioners of the healing art by supernatural
     means.--Their power derived from natural magic and the exercise of
     the clairvoyant and mesmeric faculties.--Examples.--Epidemic
     hysteria.--Their social position.--Their duties as religious
     functionaries.--Terms of admission to the Priesthood.--Inner
     organization in various nations.--Their esoteric languages and
     secret societies.

Thus picking painfully amid the ruins of a race gone to wreck centuries
ago, thus rejecting much foreign rubbish and scrutinizing each stone
that lies around, if we still are unable to rebuild the edifice in its
pristine symmetry and beauty, yet we can at least discern and trace the
ground plan and outlines of the fane it raised to God. Before leaving
the field to the richer returns of more fortunate workmen, it will not
be inappropriate to add a sketch of the ministers of these religions,
the servants in this temple.

Shamans, conjurers, sorcerers, medicine men, wizards, and many another
hard name have been given them, but I shall call them _priests_, for in
their poor way, as well as any other priesthood, they set up to be the
agents of the gods, and the interpreters of divinity. No tribe was so
devoid of religious sentiment as to be without them. Their power was
terrible, and their use of it unscrupulous. Neither men nor gods, death
nor life, the winds nor the waves, were beyond their control. Like Old
Men of the Sea, they have clung to the neck of their nations, throttling
all attempts at progress, binding them to the thraldom of superstition
and profligacy, dragging them down to wretchedness and death.
Christianity and civilization meet in them their most determined, most
implacable foes. But what is this but the story of priestcraft and
intolerance everywhere, which Old Spain can repeat as well as New Spain,
the white race as well as the red? Blind leaders of the blind, dupers
and duped fall into the ditch.

In their own languages they are variously called; by the Algonkins and
Dakotas, "those knowing divine things" and "dreamers of the gods"
(_manitousiou_, _wakanwacipi_); in Mexico, "masters or guardians of the
divine things" (_teopixqui_, _teotecuhtli_); in Cherokee, their title
means, "possessed of the divine fire" (_atsilung kelawhi_); in Iroquois,
"keepers of the faith" (_honundeunt_); in Quichua, "the learned"
(_amauta_); in Maya, "the listeners" (_cocome_). The popular term in
French and English of "medicine men" is not such a misnomer as might be
supposed. The noble science of medicine is connected with divinity not
only by the rudest savage but the profoundest philosopher, as has been
already adverted to. When sickness is looked upon as the effect of the
anger of a god, or as the malicious infliction of a sorcerer, it is
natural to seek help from those who assume to control the unseen world,
and influence the fiats of the Almighty. The recovery from disease is
the kindliest exhibition of divine power. Therefore the earliest canons
of medicine in India and Egypt are attributed to no less distinguished
authors than the gods Brahma and Thoth;[265-1] therefore the earliest
practitioners of the healing art are universally the ministers of

But, however creditable this origin is to medicine, its partnership with
theology was no particular advantage to it. These mystical doctors
shared the contempt still so prevalent among ourselves for a treatment
based on experiment and reason, and regarded the administration of
emetics and purgatives, baths and diuretics, with a contempt quite equal
to that of the disciples of Hahnemann. The practitioners of the rational
school formed a separate class among the Indians, and had nothing to do
with amulets, powwows, or spirits.[265-2] They were of different name
and standing, and though held in less estimation, such valuable
additions to the pharmacopœia as guaiacum, cinchona, and ipecacuanha,
were learned from them. The priesthood scorned such ignoble means. Were
they summoned to a patient, they drowned his groans in a barbarous
clangor of instruments in order to fright away the demon that possessed
him; they sucked and blew upon the diseased organ, they sprinkled him
with water, and catching it again threw it on the ground, thus drowning
out the disease; they rubbed the part with their hands, and exhibiting a
bone or splinter asserted that they drew it from the body, and that it
had been the cause of the malady, they manufactured a little image to
represent the spirit of sickness, and spitefully knocked it to pieces,
thus vicariously destroying its prototype; they sang doleful and
monotonous chants at the top of their voices, screwed their
countenances into hideous grimaces, twisted their bodies into unheard of
contortions, and by all accounts did their utmost to merit the
honorarium they demanded for their services. A double motive spurred
them to spare no pains. For if they failed, not only was their
reputation gone, but the next expert called in was likely enough to
hint, with that urbanity so traditional in the profession, that the
illness was in fact caused or much increased by the antagonistic nature
of the remedies previously employed, whereupon the chances were that the
doctor's life fell into greater jeopardy than that of his quondam

Considering the probable result of this treatment, we may be allowed to
doubt whether it redounded on the whole very much to the honor of the
fraternity. Their strong points are rather to be looked for in the real
knowledge gained by a solitary and reflective life, by an earnest study
of the appearances of nature, and of those hints and forest signs which
are wholly lost on the white man and beyond the ordinary insight of a
native. Travellers often tell of changes of the weather predicted by
them with astonishing foresight, and of information of singular accuracy
and extent gleaned from most meagre materials. There is nothing in this
to shock our sense of probability--much to elevate our opinion of the
native sagacity. They were also adepts in tricks of sleight of hand, and
had no mean acquaintance with what is called natural magic. They would
allow themselves to be tied hand and foot with knots innumerable, and at
a sign would shake them loose as so many wisps of straw; they would spit
fire and swallow hot coals, pick glowing stones from the flames, walk
naked through a fire, and plunge their arms to the shoulder in kettles
of boiling water with apparent impunity.[267-1] Nor was this all. With a
skill not inferior to that of the jugglers of India, they could plunge
knives into vital parts, vomit blood, or kill one another out and out to
all appearances, and yet in a few minutes be as well as ever; they could
set fire to articles of clothing and even houses, and by a touch of
their magic restore them instantly as perfect as before.[267-2] If it
were not within our power to see most of these miracles performed any
night in one of our great cities by a well dressed professional, we
would at once deny their possibility. As it is, they astonish us only
too little.

One of the most peculiar and characteristic exhibitions of their power,
was to summon a spirit to answer inquiries concerning the future and the
absent. A great similarity marked this proceeding in all northern tribes
from the Eskimos to the Mexicans. A circular or conical lodge of stout
poles four or eight in number planted firmly in the ground, was covered
with skins or mats, a small aperture only being left for the seer to
enter. Once in, he carefully closed the hole and commenced his
incantations. Soon the lodge trembles, the strong poles shake and bend
as with the united strength of a dozen men, and strange, unearthly
sounds, now far aloft in the air, now deep in the ground, anon
approaching near and nearer, reach the ears of the spectators. At length
the priest announces that the spirit is present, and is prepared to
answer questions. An indispensable preliminary to any inquiry is to
insert a handful of tobacco, or a string of beads, or some such douceur
under the skins, ostensibly for the behoof of the celestial visitor, who
would seem not to be above earthly wants and vanities. The replies
received, though occasionally singularly clear and correct, are usually
of that profoundly ambiguous purport which leaves the anxious inquirer
little wiser than he was before. For all this, ventriloquism, trickery,
and shrewd knavery are sufficient explanations. Nor does it materially
interfere with this view, that converted Indians, on whose veracity we
can implicitly rely, have repeatedly averred that in performing this
rite they themselves did not move the medicine lodge; for nothing is
easier than in the state of nervous excitement they were then in to be
self-deceived, as the now familiar phenomenon of table-turning

But there is something more than these vulgar arts now and then to be
perceived. There are statements supported by unquestionable testimony,
which ought not to be passed over in silence, and yet I cannot but
approach them with hesitation. They are so revolting to the laws of
exact science, so alien, I had almost said, to the experience of our
lives. Yet is this true, or are such experiences only ignored and put
aside without serious consideration? Are there not in the history of
each of us passages which strike our retrospective thought with awe,
almost with terror? Are there not in nearly every community individuals
who possess a mysterious power, concerning whose origin, mode of action,
and limits, we and they are alike in the dark? I refer to such organic
forces as are popularly summed up under the words clairvoyance,
mesmerism, rhabdomancy, animal magnetism, physical spiritualism.
Civilized thousands stake their faith and hope here and hereafter, on
the truths of these manifestations; rational medicine recognizes their
existence, and while it attributes them to morbid and exceptional
influences, confesses its want of more exact knowledge, and refrains
from barren theorizing. Let us follow her example, and hold it enough to
show that such powers, whatever they are, were known to the native
priesthood as well as the modern spiritualists, and the miracle mongers
of the Middle Ages.

Their highest development is what our ancestors called "second sight."
That under certain conditions knowledge can pass from one mind to
another otherwise than through the ordinary channels of the senses, is
familiarly shown by the examples of persons _en rapport_. The limit to
this we do not know, but it is not unlikely that clairvoyance or second
sight is based upon it. In his autobiography, the celebrated Sac chief
Black Hawk, relates that his great grandfather "was inspired by a belief
that at the end of four years, he should see a white man, who would be
to him a father." Under the direction of this vision he travelled
eastward to a certain spot, and there, as he was forewarned, met a
Frenchman, through whom the nation was brought into alliance with
France.[269-1] No one at all versed in the Indian character will doubt
the implicit faith with which this legend was told and heard. But we may
be pardoned our scepticism, seeing there are so many chances of error.
It is not so with an anecdote related by Captain Jonathan Carver, a
cool-headed English trader, whose little book of travels is an
unquestioned authority. In 1767, he was among the Killistenoes at a time
when they were in great straits for food, and depending upon the arrival
of the traders to rescue them from starvation. They persuaded the chief
priest to consult the divinities as to when the relief would arrive.
After the usual preliminaries, this magnate announced that next day,
precisely when the sun reached the zenith, a canoe would arrive with
further tidings. At the appointed hour the whole village, together with
the incredulous Englishman, was on the beach, and sure enough, at the
minute specified, a canoe swung round a distant point of land, and
rapidly approaching the shore brought the expected news.[270-1]

Charlevoix is nearly as trustworthy a writer as Carver. Yet he
deliberately relates an equally singular instance.[270-2]

But these examples are surpassed by one described in the _Atlantic
Monthly_ of July, 1866, the author of which, John Mason Brown, Esq., has
assured me of its accuracy in every particular. Some years since, at the
head of a party of voyageurs, he set forth in search of a band of
Indians somewhere on the vast plains along the tributaries of the
Copper-mine and Mackenzie rivers. Danger, disappointment, and the
fatigues of the road, induced one after another to turn back, until of
the original ten only three remained. They also were on the point of
giving up the apparently hopeless quest, when they were met by some
warriors of the very band they were seeking. These had been sent out by
one of their medicine men to find three whites, whose horses, arms,
attire, and personal appearance he minutely described, which description
was repeated to Mr. Brown by the warriors before they saw his two
companions. When afterwards, the priest, a frank and simple-minded man,
was asked to explain this extraordinary occurrence, he could offer no
other explanation than that "he saw them coming, and heard them talk on
their journey."[271-1]

Many tales such as these have been recorded by travellers, and however
much they may shock our sense of probability, as well-authenticated
exhibitions of a power which sways the Indian mind, and which has ever
prejudiced it so unchangeably against Christianity and civilization,
they cannot be disregarded. Whether they too are but specimens of
refined knavery, whether they are instigations of the Devil, or whether
they must be classed with other facts as illustrating certain obscure
and curious mental faculties, each may decide as the bent of his mind
inclines him, for science makes no decision.

Those nervous conditions associated with the name of Mesmer were nothing
new to the Indian magicians. Rubbing and stroking the sick, and the
laying on of hands, were very common parts of their clinical procedures,
and at the initiations to their societies they were frequently
exhibited. Observers have related that among the Nez Percés of Oregon,
the novice was put to sleep by songs, incantations, and "certain passes
of the hand," and that with the Dakotas he would be struck lightly on
the breast at a preconcerted moment, and instantly "would drop prostrate
on his face, his muscles rigid and quivering in every fibre."[272-1]

There is no occasion to suppose deceit in this. It finds its parallel in
every race and every age, and rests on a characteristic trait of certain
epochs and certain men, which leads them to seek the divine, not in
thoughtful contemplation on the laws of the universe and the facts of
self-consciousness, but in an entire immolation of the latter, a sinking
of their own individuality in that of the spirits whose alliance they
seek. This is an outgrowth of that ignoring of the universality of Law,
which belongs to the lower stages of enlightenment.[273-1] And as this
is never done with impunity, but with iron certainty brings its
punishment with it, the study of the mental conditions thus evoked, and
the results which follow them, offers a salutary subject of reflection
to the theologian as well as the physician. For these examples of
nervous pathology are identical in kind, and alike in consequences,
whether witnessed in the primitive forests of the New World, among the
convulsionists of St. Medard, or in the excited scenes of a religious
revival in one of our own churches.

Sleeplessness and abstemiousness, carried to the utmost verge of human
endurance--seclusion, and the pertinacious fixing of the mind on one
subject--obstinate gloating on some morbid fancy, rarely failed to bring
about hallucinations with all the garb of reality. Physicians are well
aware that the more frequently these diseased conditions of the mind are
sought, the more readily they are found. Then, again, they were often
induced by intoxicating and narcotic herbs. Tobacco, the maguey, coca;
in California the chucuaco; among the Mexicans the snake plant,
ollinhiqui or coaxihuitl; and among the southern tribes of our own
country the cassine yupon and iris versicolor,[273-2] were used; and, it
is even said, were cultivated for this purpose. The seer must work
himself up to a prophetic fury, or speechless lie in apparent death
before the mind of the gods would be opened to him. Trance and ecstasy
were the two avenues he knew to divinity; fasting and seclusion the
means employed to discover them. His ideal was of a prophet who dwelt
far from men, without need of food, in constant communion with divinity.
Such an one, in the legends of the Tupis, resided on a mountain
glittering with gold and silver, near the river Uaupe, his only
companion a dog, his only occupation dreaming of the gods. When,
however, an eclipse was near, his dog would bark; and then, taking the
form of a bird, he would fly over the villages, and learn the changes
that had taken place.[274-1]

But man cannot trample with impunity on the laws of his physical life,
and the consequences of these deprivations and morbid excitements of the
brain show themselves in terrible pictures. Not unfrequently they were
carried to the pitch of raving mania, reminding one of the worst forms
of the Berserker fury of the Scandinavians, or the Bacchic rage of
Greece. The enthusiast, maddened with the fancies of a disordered
intellect, would start forth from his seclusion in an access of demoniac
frenzy. Then woe to the dog, the child, the slave, or the woman who
crossed his path; for nothing but blood could satisfy his inappeasable
craving, and they fell instant victims to his madness. But were it a
strong man, he bared his arm, and let the frenzied hermit bury his teeth
in the quivering flesh. Such is a scene at this day not uncommon on the
northwest coast, and few of the natives around Milbank Sound are without
the scars the result of this horrid custom.[275-1]

This frenzy, terrible enough in individuals, had its most disastrous
effects when with that peculiar facility of contagion which marks
hysterical maladies, it swept through whole villages, transforming them
into bedlams filled with unrestrained madmen. Those who have studied the
strange and terrible mental epidemics that visited Europe in the middle
ages, such as the tarantula dance of Apulia, the chorea Germanorum, and
the great St. Vitus' dance, will be prepared to appreciate the nature of
a scene at a Huron village, described by Father le Jeune in 1639. A
festival of three days and three nights had been in progress to relieve
a woman who, from the description, seems to have been suffering from
some obscure nervous complaint. Toward the close of this vigil, which
throughout was marked by all sorts of debaucheries and excesses, all the
participants seemed suddenly seized by ten thousand devils. They ran
howling and shrieking through the town, breaking everything destructible
in the cabins, killing dogs, beating the women and children, tearing
their garments, and scattering the fires in every direction with bare
hands and feet. Some of them dropped senseless, to remain long or
permanently insane, but the others continued until worn out with
exhaustion. The Father learned that during these orgies not unfrequently
whole villages were consumed, and the total extirpation of some families
had resulted. No wonder that he saw in them the diabolical workings of
the prince of evil, but the physician is rather inclined to class them
with those cases of epidemic hysteria, the common products of violent
and ill-directed mental stimuli.[276-1]

These various considerations prove beyond a doubt that the power of the
priesthood did by no means rest exclusively on deception. They indorse
and explain the assertions of converted natives, that their power as
prophets was something real, and entirely inexplicable to themselves.
And they make it easily understood how those missionaries failed who
attempted to persuade them that all this boasted power was false. More
correct views than these ought to have been suggested by the facts
themselves, for it is indisputable that these magicians did not
hesitate at times to test their strength on each other. In these strange
duels _à l'outrance_, one would be seated opposite his antagonist,
surrounded with the mysterious emblems of his craft, and call upon his
gods one after another to strike his enemy dead. Sometimes one,
"gathering his medicine," as it was termed, feeling within himself that
hidden force of will which makes itself acknowledged even without words,
would rise in his might, and in a loud and severe voice command his
opponent to die! Straightway the latter would drop dead, or yielding in
craven fear to a superior volition, forsake the implements of his art,
and with an awful terror at his heart, creep to his lodge, refuse all
nourishment, and presently perish. Still more terrible was the tyranny
they exerted on the superstitious minds of the masses. Let an Indian
once be possessed of the idea that he is bewitched, and he will probably
reject all food, and sink under the phantoms of his own fancy.

How deep the superstitious veneration of these men has struck its roots
in the soul of the Indian, it is difficult for civilized minds to
conceive. Their power is currently supposed to be without any bounds,
"extending to the raising of the dead and the control of all laws of
nature."[277-1] The grave offers no escape from their omnipotent arms.
The Sacs and Foxes, Algonkin tribes, think that the soul cannot leave
the corpse until set free by the medicine men at their great annual
feast;[277-2] and the Puelches of Buenos Ayres guard a profound silence
as they pass by the tomb of some redoubted necromancer, lest they should
disturb his repose, and suffer from his malignant skill.[278-1]

While thus investigating their real and supposed power over the physical
and mental world, their strictly priestly functions, as performers of
the rites of religion, have not been touched upon. Among the ruder
tribes these, indeed, were of the most rudimentary character.
Sacrifices, chiefly in the form of feasts, where every one crammed to
his utmost, dances, often winding up with the wildest scenes of
licentiousness, the repetition of long and monotonous chants, the making
of the new fire, these are the ceremonies that satisfy the religious
wants of savages. The priest finds a further sphere for his activity in
manufacturing and consecrating amulets to keep off ill luck, in
interpreting dreams, and especially in lifting the veil of the future.
In Peru, for example, they were divided into classes, who made the
various means of divination specialties. Some caused the idols to speak,
others derived their foreknowledge from words spoken by the dead, others
predicted by leaves of tobacco or the grains and juice of cocoa, while
to still other classes, the shapes of grains of maize taken at random,
the appearance of animal excrement, the forms assumed by the smoke
rising from burning victims, the entrails and viscera of animals, the
course taken by a certain species of spider, the visions seen in
drunkeness,[TN-16] the flights of birds, and the directions in which
fruits would fall, all offered so many separate fields of
prognostication, the professors of which were distinguished by different
ranks and titles.[279-1]

As the intellectual force of the nation was chiefly centred in this
class, they became the acknowledged depositaries of its sacred legends,
the instructors in the art of preserving thought; and from their duty to
regulate festivals, sprang the observation of the motions of the
heavenly bodies, the adjustment of the calendars, and the pseudo-science
of judicial astrology. The latter was carried to as subtle a pitch of
refinement in Mexico as in the old world; and large portions of the
ancient writers are taken up with explaining the method adopted by the
native astrologers to cast the horoscope, and reckon the nativity of the
newly-born infant.

How was this superior power obtained? What were the terms of admission
to this privileged class? In the ruder communities the power was
strictly personal. It was revealed to its possessor by the character of
the visions he perceived at the ordeal he passed through on arriving at
puberty; and by the northern nations was said to be the manifestation of
a more potent personal spirit than ordinary. It was not a faculty, but
an inspiration; not an inborn strength, but a spiritual gift. The
curious theory of the Dakotas, as recorded by the Rev. Mr. Pond, was
that the necromant first wakes to consciousness as a winged seed, wafted
hither and thither by the intelligent action of the Four Winds. In this
form he visits the homes of the different classes of divinities, and
learns the chants, feasts, and dances, which it is proper for the human
race to observe, the art of omnipresence or clairvoyance, the means of
inflicting and healing diseases, and the occult secrets of nature, man,
and divinity. This is called "dreaming of the gods." When this
instruction is completed, the seed enters one about to become a mother,
assumes human form, and in due time manifests his powers. _Four_ such
incarnations await it, each of increasing might, and then the spirit
returns to its original nothingness. The same necessity of death and
resurrection was entertained by the Eskimos. To become of the highest
order of priests, it was supposed requisite, says Bishop Egede, that one
of the lower order should be drowned and eaten by sea monsters. Then,
when his bones, one after another, were all washed ashore, his spirit,
which meanwhile had been learning the secrets of the invisible world,
would return to them, and, clothed in flesh, he would go back to his
tribe. At other times a vague and indescribable longing seizes a young
person, a morbid appetite possesses them, or they fall a prey to an
inappeasable and aimless restlessness, or a causeless melancholy. These
signs the old priests recognize as the expression of a personal spirit
of the higher order. They take charge of the youth, and educate him to
the mysteries of their craft. For months or years he is condemned to
entire seclusion, receiving no visits but from the brethren of his
order. At length he is initiated with ceremonies of more or less pomp
into the brotherhood, and from that time assumes that gravity of
demeanor, sententious style of expression, and general air of mystery
and importance, everywhere deemed so eminently becoming in a doctor and
a priest. A peculiarity of the Moxos was, that they thought none
designated for the office but such as had escaped from the claws of the
South American tiger, which, indeed, it is said they worshipped as a

Occasionally, in very uncultivated tribes, some family or totem claimed
a monopoly of the priesthood. Thus, among the Nez Percès of Oregon, it
was transmitted in one family from father to son and daughter, but
always with the proviso that the children at the proper age reported
dreams of a satisfactory character.[281-2] Perhaps alone of the Algonkin
tribes the Shawnees confined it to one totem, but it is remarkable that
the greatest of their prophets, Elskataway, brother of Tecumseh, was not
a member of this clan. From the most remote times, the Cherokees have
had one family set apart for the priestly office. This was when first
known to the whites that of the Nicotani, but its members, puffed up
with pride and insolence, abused their birthright so shamefully, and
prostituted it so flagrantly to their own advantage, that with savage
justice they were massacred to the last man. Another was appointed in
their place who to this day officiates in all religious rites. They
have, however, the superstition, possibly borrowed from Europeans, that
the _seventh_ son is a natural born prophet, with the gift of healing by
touch.[281-3] Adair states that their former neighbors, the Choctaws,
permitted the office of high priest, or Great Beloved Man, to remain in
one family, passing from father to eldest son, and the very influential
_piaches_ of the Carib tribes very generally transmitted their rank and
position to their children.

In ancient Anahuac the prelacy was as systematic and its rules as well
defined, as in the Church of Rome. Except those in the service of
Huitzilopochtli, and perhaps a few other gods, none obtained the
priestly office by right of descent, but were dedicated to it from early
childhood. Their education was completed at the _Calmecac_, a sort of
ecclesiastical college, where instruction was given in all the wisdom of
the ancients, and the esoteric lore of their craft. The art of mixing
colors and tracing designs, the ideographic writing and phonetic
hieroglyphs, the songs and prayers used in public worship, the national
traditions and the principles of astrology, the hidden meaning of
symbols and the use of musical instruments, all formed parts of the
really extensive course of instruction they there received. When they
manifested a satisfactory acquaintance with this curriculum, they were
appointed by their superiors to such positions as their natural talents
and the use they had made of them qualified them for, some to instruct
children, others to the service of the temples, and others again to take
charge of what we may call country parishes. Implicit subordination of
all to the high priest of Huitzilopochtli, hereditary _pontifex
maximus_, chastity, or at least temperate indulgence in pleasure,
gravity of carriage, and strict attention to duty, were laws laid upon

The state religion of Peru was conducted under the supervision of a
high priest of the Inca family, and its ministers, as in Mexico, could
be of either sex, and hold office either by inheritance, education, or
election. For political reasons, the most important posts were usually
enjoyed by relatives of the ruler, but this was usage, not law. It is
stated by Garcilasso de la Vega[283-1] that they served in the temples
by turns, each being on duty the fourth of a lunar month at a time. Were
this substantiated it would offer the only example of the regulation of
public life by a week of seven days to be found in the New World.

In every country there is perceptible a desire in this class of men to
surround themselves with mystery, and to concentrate and increase their
power by forming an intimate alliance among themselves. They affected
singularity in dress and a professional costume. Bartram describes the
junior priests of the Creeks as dressed in white robes and carrying on
their head or arm "a great owlskin, stuffed very ingeniously, as an
insignia of wisdom and divination. These bachelors are also
distinguishable from the other people by their taciturnity, grave and
solemn countenance, dignified step, and singing to themselves songs or
hymns, in a low sweet voice, as they stroll about the towns."[283-2] The
priests of the civilized nations adopted various modes of dress to
typify the divinity which they served, and their appearance was often in
the highest degree unprepossessing.

To add to their self-importance they pretended to converse in a tongue
different from that used in ordinary life, and the chants containing
the prayers and legends were often in this esoteric dialect. Fragments
of one or two of these have floated down to us from the Aztec
priesthood. The travellers Balboa and Coreal, mention that the temple
services of Peru were conducted in a language not understood by the
masses,[284-1] and the incantations of the priests of Powhatan were not
in ordinary Algonkin, but some obscure jargon.[284-2] The same
peculiarity has been observed among the Dakotas and Eskimos, and in
these nations, fortunately, it fell under the notice of competent
linguistic scholars, who have submitted it to a searching examination.
The results of their labors prove that certainly in these two instances
the supposed foreign tongues were nothing more than the ordinary
dialects of the country modified by an affected accentuation, by the
introduction of a few cabalistic terms, and by the use of descriptive
circumlocutions and figurative words in place of ordinary expressions, a
slang, in short, such as rascals and pedants invariably coin whenever
they associate.[285-1]

All these stratagems were intended to shroud with impenetrable secrecy
the mysteries of the brotherhood. With the same motive, the priests
formed societies of different grades of illumination, only to be entered
by those willing to undergo trying ordeals, whose secrets were not to be
revealed under the severest penalties. The Algonkins had three such
grades, the _waubeno_, the _meda_, and the _jossakeed_, the last being
the highest. To this no white man was ever admitted. All tribes appear
to have been controlled by these secret societies. Alexander von
Humboldt mentions one, called that of the Botuto or Holy Trumpet, among
the Indians of the Orinoko, whose members must vow celibacy and submit
to severe scourgings and fasts. The Collahuayas of Peru were a guild of
itinerant quacks and magicians, who never remained permanently in one

Withal, there was no class of persons who so widely and deeply
influenced the culture and shaped the destiny of the Indian tribes, as
their priests. In attempting to gain a true conception of the race's
capacities and history, there is no one element of their social life
which demands closer attention than the power of these teachers.
Hitherto, they have been spoken of with a contempt which I hope this
chapter shows is unjustifiable. However much we may deplore the use they
made of their skill, we must estimate it fairly, and grant it its due
weight in measuring the influence of the religious sentiment on the
history of man.


[265-1] Haeser, _Geschichte der Medicin_, pp. 4, 7: Jena, 1845.

[265-2] Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, v. p. 440.

[267-1] Carver, _Travels in North America_, p. 73: Boston, 1802;
_Narrative of John Tanner_, p. 135.

[267-2] Sahagun, _Hist. de la Nueva España_, lib. x. cap. 20; _Le Livre
Sacré des Quichés_, p. 177; _Lett. sur les Superstit. du Pérou_, pp. 89,

[269-1] _Life of Black Hawk_, p. 13.

[270-1] _Travs. in North America_, p. 74.

[270-2] _Journal Historique_, p. 362.

[271-1] Sometimes facts like this can be explained by the quickness of
perception acquired by constant exposure to danger. The mind takes
cognizance unconsciously of trifling incidents, the sum of which leads it
to a conviction which the individual regards almost as an inspiration.
This is the explanation of _presentiments_. But this does not apply to
cases like that of Swedenborg, who described a conflagration going on at
Stockholm, when he was at Gottenberg, three hundred miles away.
Psychologists who scorn any method of studying the mind but through
physiology, are at a loss in such cases, and take refuge in refusing them
credence. Theologians call them inspirations either of devils or angels,
as they happen to agree or disagree in religious views with the person
experiencing them. True science reserves its opinion until further
observation enlightens it.

[272-1] Schoolcraft, _Indian Tribes_, iii. p. 287; v. p. 652.

[273-1] "The progress from deepest ignorance to highest enlightenment,"
remarks Herbert Spencer in his _Social Statics_, "is a progress from
entire unconsciousness of law, to the conviction that law is universal
and inevitable."

[273-2] The Creeks had, according to Hawkins, not less than seven sacred
plants; chief of them were the cassine yupon, called by botanists _Ilex
vomitoria_, or _Ilex cassina_, of the natural order Aquifoliaceæ; and the
blue flag, _Iris versicolor_, natural order Iridaceæ. The former is a
powerful diuretic and mild emetic, and grows only near the sea. The
latter is an active emeto-cathartic, and is abundant on swampy grounds
throughout the Southern States. From it was formed the celebrated "black
drink," with which they opened their councils, and which served them in
place of spirits.

[274-1] Martius, _Von dem Rechtzustande unter den Ureinwohnern
Brasiliens_, p. 32.

[275-1] Mr. Anderson, in the _Am. Hist. Mag._, vii. p. 79.

[276-1] Such spectacles were nothing uncommon. They are frequently
mentioned in the Jesuit Relations, and they were the chief obstacles to
missionary labor. In the debauches and excesses that excited these
temporary manias, in the recklessness of life and property they fostered,
and in their disastrous effects on mind and body, are depicted more than
in any other one trait the thorough depravity of the race and its
tendency to ruin. In the quaint words of one of the Catholic fathers, "If
the old proverb is true that every man has a grain of madness in his
composition, it must be confessed that this is a people where each has at
least half an ounce" (De Quen, _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, 1656, p. 27).
For the instance in the text see _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, An 1639, pp.

[277-1] Schoolcraft, _Indian Tribes_, v. p. 423.

[277-2] J. M. Stanley, in the _Smithsonian Miscellaneous Contributions_,
ii. p. 38.

[278-1] D'Orbigny, _L'Homme Américain_, ii. p. 81.

[279-1] See Balboa, _Hist. du Pérou_, pp. 28-30.

[281-1] D'Orbigny, _L'Homme Américain_, ii. p. 235.

[281-2] Schoolcraft, _Ind. Tribes_, v. p. 652.

[281-3] Dr. Mac Gowan, in the _Amer. Hist. Mag._, x. p. 139; Whipple,
_Rep. on the Ind. Tribes_, p. 35.

[283-1] _Hist. des Incas_, lib. iii. ch. 22.

[283-2] _Travels in the Carolinas_, p. 504.

[284-1] _Hist. du Pérou_, p. 128; _Voiages aux Indes Occidentales_, ii.
p. 97.

[284-2] Beverly, _Hist. de la Virginie_, p. 266. The dialect he specifies
is "celle d'Occaniches," and on page 252 he says, "On dit que la langue
universelle des Indiens de ces Quartiers est celle des _Occaniches_,
quoiqu'ils ne soient qu'une petite Nation, depuis que les Anglois
connoissent ce Pais; mais je ne sais pas la difference qui'l y a entre
cette langue et celle des Algonkins." (French trans., Orleans, 1707.)
This is undoubtedly the same people that Johannes Lederer, a German
traveller, visited in 1670, and calls _Akenatzi_. They dwelt on an
island, in a branch of the Chowan River, the Sapona, or Deep River
(Lederer's _Discovery of North America_, in Harris, Voyages, p. 20).
Thirty years later the English surveyor, Lawson, found them in the same
spot, and speaks of them as the _Acanechos_ (see _Am. Hist. Mag._, i. p.
163). Their totem was that of the serpent, and their name is not
altogether unlike the Tuscarora name of this animal _usquauhne_. As the
serpent was so widely a sacred animal, this gives Beverly's remarks an
unusual significance. It by no means follows from this name that they
were of Iroquois descent. Lederer travelled with a Tuscarora (Iroquois)
interpreter, who gave them their name in his own tongue. On the contrary,
it is extremely probable that they were an Algonkin totem, which had the
exclusive right to the priesthood.

[285-1] Riggs, _Gram. and Dict. of the Dakota_, p. ix; Kane, _Second
Grinnell Expedition_, ii. p. 127. Paul Egede gives a number of words and
expressions in the dialect of the sorcerers, _Nachrichten von Grönland_,
p. 122.



     Natural religions hitherto considered of Evil rather than of
     Good.--Distinctions to be drawn.--Morality not derived from
     religion.--The positive side of natural religions in incarnations
     of divinity.--Examples.--Prayers as indices of religious
     progress.--Religion and social advancement.--Conclusion.

Drawing toward the conclusion of my essay, I I am sensible that the vast
field of American mythology remains for most part untouched--that I have
but proved that it is not an absolute wilderness, pathless as the
tropical jungles which now conceal the temples of the race; but that, go
where we will, certain landmarks and guide-posts are visible, revealing
uniformity of design and purpose, and refuting, by their presence, the
oft-repeated charge of entire incoherence and aimlessness. It remains to
examine the subjective power of the native religions, their influence on
those who held them, and the place they deserve in the history of the
race. What are their merits, if merits they have? what their demerits?
Did they purify the life and enlighten the mind, or the contrary? Are
they in short of evil or of good? The problem is complex--its solution
most difficult. The author who of late years has studied most profoundly
the savage races of the globe, expresses the discouraging conviction:
"Their religions have not acted as levers to raise them to
civilization; they have rather worked, and that powerfully, to impede
every step in advance, in the first place by ascribing everything
unintelligible in nature to spiritual agency, and then by making the
fate of man dependent on mysterious and capricious forces, not on his
own skill and foresight."[288-1]

It would ill accord with the theory of mythology which I have all along
maintained if this verdict were final. But in fact these false doctrines
brought with them their own antidotes, at least to some extent, and
while we give full weight to their evil, let us also acknowledge their
good. By substituting direct divine interference for law, belief for
knowledge, a dogma for a fact, the highest stimulus to mental endeavor
was taken away. Nature, to the heathen, is no harmonious whole swayed by
eternal principles, but a chaos of causeless effects, the meaningless
play of capricious ghosts. He investigates not, because he doubts not.
All events are to him miracles. Therefore his faith knows no bounds, and
those who teach that doubt is sinful must contemplate him with
admiration. The damsels of Nicaragua destined to be thrown into the
seething craters of volcanoes, went to their fate, says Pascual de
Andagoya, "happy as if they were going to be saved,"[288-2] and
doubtless believing so. The subjects of a Central American chieftain,
remarks Oviedo, "look upon it as the crown of favors to be permitted to
die with their cacique, and thus to acquire immortality."[288-3] The
terrible power exerted by the priests rested, as they themselves often
saw, largely on the implicit and literal acceptance of their dicta.

In some respects the contrast here offered to enlightened nations is not
always in favor of the latter. Borrowing the pointed antithesis of the
poet, the mind is often tempted to exclaim--

                                  "This is all
    The gain we reap from all the wisdom sown
    Through ages: Nothing doubted those first sons
    Of Time, while we, the schooled of centuries,
    Nothing believe."

But the complaint is unfounded. Faith is dearly bought at the cost of
knowledge; nor in a better sense has it yet gone from among us. Far more
sublime than any known to the barbarian is the faith of the astronomer,
who spends the nights in marking the seemingly wayward motions of the
stars, or of the anatomist, who studies with unwearied zeal the minute
fibres of the organism, each upheld by the unshaken conviction that from
least to greatest throughout this universe, purpose and order everywhere

Natural religions rarely offer more than this negative opposition to
reason. They are tolerant to a degree. The savage, void of any clear
conception of a supreme deity, sets up no claim that his is the only
true church. If he is conquered in battle, he imagines that it is owing
to the inferiority of his own gods to those of his victor, and he rarely
therefore requires any other reasons to make him a convert. Acting on
this principle, the Incas, when they overcame a strange province, sent
its most venerated idol for a time to the temple of the Sun at Cuzco,
thus proving its inferiority to their own divinity, but took no more
violent steps to propagate their creeds.[290-1] So in the city of Mexico
there was a temple appropriated to the idols of conquered nations in
which they were shut up, both to prove their weakness and prevent them
from doing mischief. A nation, like an individual, was not inclined to
patronize a deity who had manifested his incompetence by allowing his
charge to be gradually worn away by constant disaster. As far as can now
be seen, in matters intellectual, the religions of ancient Mexico and
Peru were far more liberal than that introduced by the Spanish
conquerors, which, claiming the monopoly of truth, sought to enforce its
claim by inquisitions and censorships.

In this view of the relative powers of deities lay a potent corrective
to the doctrine that the fate of man was dependent on the caprices of
the gods. For no belief was more universal than that which assigned to
each individual a guardian spirit. This invisible monitor was an ever
present help in trouble. He suggested expedients, gave advice and
warning in dreams, protected in danger, and stood ready to foil the
machinations of enemies, divine or human. With unlimited faith in this
protector, attributing to him the devices suggested by his own quick
wits and the fortunate chances of life, the savage escaped the
oppressive thought that he was the slave of demoniac forces, and dared
the dangers of the forest and the war path without anxiety.

By far the darkest side of such a religion is that which it presents to
morality. The religious sense is by no means the voice of conscience.
The Takahli Indian when sick makes a full and free confession of sins,
but a murder, however unnatural and unprovoked, he does not mention, not
counting it crime.[291-1] Scenes of brutal licentiousness were approved
and sustained throughout the continent as acts of worship; maidenhood
was in many parts freely offered up or claimed by the priests as a
right; in Central America twins were slain for religious motives; human
sacrifice was common throughout the tropics, and was not unusual in
higher latitudes; cannibalism was often enjoined; and in Peru, Florida,
and Central America it was not uncommon for parents to slay their own
children at the behest of a priest.[291-2] The philosophical moralist,
contemplating such spectacles, has thought to recognize in them one
consoling trait. All history, it has been said, shows man living under
an irritated God, and seeking to appease him by sacrifice of blood; the
essence of all religion, it has been added, lies in that of which
sacrifice is the symbol, namely, in the offering up of self, in the
rendering up of our will to the will of God.[291-3] But sacrifice, when
not a token of gratitude, cannot be thus explained. It is not a
rendering up, but a _substitution_ of our will for God's will. A deity
is angered by neglect of his dues; he will revenge, certainly, terribly,
we know not how or when. But as punishment is all he desires, if we
punish ourselves he will be satisfied; and far better is such
self-inflicted torture than a fearful looking for of judgment to come.
Craven fear, not without some dim sense of the implacability of nature's
laws, is at its root. Looking only at this side of religion, the ancient
philosopher averred that the gods existed solely in the apprehensions of
their votaries, and the moderns have asserted that "fear is the father
of religion, love her late-born daughter;"[292-1] that "the first form
of religious belief is nothing else but a horror of the unknown," and
that "no natural religion appears to have been able to develop from a
germ within itself anything whatever of real advantage to

Far be it from me to excuse the enormities thus committed under the garb
of religion, or to ignore their disastrous consequences on human
progress. Yet this question is a fair one--If the natural religious
belief has in it no germ of anything better, whence comes the manifest
and undeniable improvement occasionally witnessed--as, for example,
among the Toltecs, the Peruvians, and the Mayas? The reply is, by the
influence of great men, who cultivated within themselves a purer faith,
lived it in their lives, preached it successfully to their fellows, and,
at their death, still survived in the memory of their nation,
unforgotten models of noble qualities.[293-1] Where, in America, is any
record of such men? We are pointed, in answer, to Quetzalcoatl,
Viracocha, Zamna, and their congeners. But these august figures I have
shown to be wholly mythical, creations of the religious fancy, parts and
parcels of the earliest religion itself. The entire theory falls to
nothing, therefore, and we discover a positive side to natural
religions--one that conceals a germ of endless progress, which
vindicates their lofty origin, and proves that He "is not far from every
one of us."

I have already analyzed these figures under their physical aspect. Let
it be observed in what antithesis they stand to most other mythological
creations. Let it be remembered that they primarily correspond to the
stable, the regular, the cosmical phenomena, that they are always
conceived under human form, not as giants, fairies, or strange beasts;
that they were said at one time to have been visible leaders of their
nations, that they did not suffer death, and that, though absent, they
are ever present, favoring those who remain mindful of their precepts. I
touched but incidentally on their moral aspects. This was likewise in
contrast to the majority of inferior deities. The worship of the latter
was a tribute extorted by fear. The Indian deposits tobacco on the rocks
of a rapid, that the spirit of the swift waters may not swallow his
canoe; in a storm he throws overboard a dog to appease the siren of the
angry waves. He used to tear the hearts from his captives to gain the
favor of the god of war. He provides himself with talismans to bind
hostile deities. He fees[TN-17] the conjurer to exorcise the demon of
disease. He loves none of them, he respects none of them; he only fears
their wayward tempers. They are to him mysterious, invisible, capricious
goblins. But, in his highest divinity, he recognized a Father and a
Preserver, a benign Intelligence, who provided for him the comforts of
life--man, like himself, yet a god--God of All. "Go and do good," was
the parting injunction of his father to Michabo in Algonkin
legend;[294-1] and in their ancient and uncorrupted stories such is ever
his object. "The worship of Tamu," the culture hero of the Guaranis,
says the traveller D'Orbigny, "is one of reverence, not of fear."[294-2]
They were ideals, summing up in themselves the best traits, the most
approved virtues of whole nations, and were adored in a very different
spirit from other divinities.

None of them has more humane and elevated traits than Quetzalcoatl. He
was represented of majestic stature and dignified demeanor. In his train
came skilled artificers and men of learning. He was chaste and temperate
in life, wise in council, generous of gifts, conquering rather by arts
of peace than of war; delighting in music, flowers, and brilliant
colors, and so averse to human sacrifices that he shut his ears with
both hands when they were even mentioned.[295-1] Such was the ideal man
and supreme god of a people who even a Spanish monk of the sixteenth
century felt constrained to confess were "a good people, attached to
virtue, urbane and simple in social intercourse, shunning lies, skilful
in arts, pious toward their gods."[295-2] Is it likely, is it possible,
that with such a model as this before their minds, they received no
benefit from it? Was not this a lever, and a mighty one, lifting the
race toward civilization and a purer faith?

Transfer the field of observation to Yucatan, and we find in Zamna, to
New Granada and in Nemqueteba, to Peru and in Viracocha, or his reflex
Manco Capac, the lineaments of Quetzalcoatl--modified, indeed, by
difference of blood and temperament, but each combining in himself all
the qualities most esteemed by their several nations. Were one or all of
these proved to be historical personages, still the fact remains that
the primitive religious sentiment, investing them with the best
attributes of humanity, dwelling on them as its models, worshipping them
as gods, contained a kernel of truth potent to encourage moral
excellence. But if they were mythical, then this truth was of
spontaneous growth, self-developed by the growing distinctness of the
idea of God, a living witness that the religious sense, like every
other faculty, has within itself a power of endless evolution.

If we inquire the secret of the happier influence of this element in
natural worship, it is all contained in one word--its _humanity_. "The
Ideal of Morality," says the contemplative Novalis, "has no more
dangerous rival than the Ideal of the Greatest Strength, of the most
vigorous life, the Brute Ideal" (_das Thier-Ideal_).[296-1] Culture
advances in proportion as man recognizes what faculties are peculiar to
him _as man_, and devotes himself to their education. The moral value of
religions can be very precisely estimated by the human or the brutal
character of their gods. The worship of Quetzalcoatl in the city of
Mexico was subordinate to that of lower conceptions, and consequently
the more sanguinary and immoral were the rites there practised. The
Algonkins, who knew no other meaning for Michabo than the Great Hare,
had lost, by a false etymology, the best part of their religion.

Looking around for other standards wherewith to measure the progress of
the knowledge of divinity in the New World, _prayer_ suggests itself as
one of the least deceptive. "Prayer," to quote again the words of
Novalis,[296-2] "is in religion what thought is in philosophy. The
religious sense prays, as the reason thinks." Guizot, carrying the
analysis farther, thinks that it is prompted by a painful conviction of
the inability of our will to conform to the dictates of reason.[296-3]
Originally it was connected with the belief that divine caprice, not
divine law, governs the universe, and that material benefits rather than
spiritual gifts are to be desired. The gradual recognition of its
limitations and proper objects marks religious advancement. The Lord's
Prayer contains seven petitions, only one of which is for a temporal
advantage, and it the least that can be asked for. What immeasurable
interval between it and the prayer of the Nootka Indian on preparing for

"Great Quahootze, let me live, not be sick, find the enemy, not fear
him, find him asleep, and kill a great many of him."[297-1]

Or again, between it and the petition of a Huron to a local god, heard
by Father Brebeuf:--

"Oki, thou who livest in this spot, I offer thee tobacco. Help us, save
us from shipwreck, defend us from our enemies, give us a good trade, and
bring us back safe and sound to our villages."[297-2]

This is a fair specimen of the supplications of the lowest religion.
Another equally authentic is given by Father Allouez.[297-3] In 1670 he
penetrated to an outlying Algonkin village, never before visited by a
white man. The inhabitants, startled by his pale face and long black
gown, took him for a divinity. They invited him to the council lodge, a
circle of old men gathered around him, and one of them, approaching him
with a double handful of tobacco, thus addressed him, the others
grunting approval:--

"This, indeed, is well, Blackrobe, that thou dost visit us. Have mercy
upon us. Thou art a Manito. We give thee to smoke.

"The Naudowessies and Iroquois are devouring us. Have mercy upon us.

"We are often sick; our children die; we are hungry. Have mercy upon us.
Hear me, O Manito, I give thee to smoke.

"Let the earth yield us corn; the rivers give us fish; sickness not slay
us; nor hunger so torment us. Hear us, O Manito, we give thee to smoke."

In this rude but touching petition, wrung from the heart of a miserable
people, nothing but their wretchedness is visible. Not the faintest
trace of an aspiration for spiritual enlightenment cheers the eye of the
philanthropist, not the remotest conception that through suffering we
are purified can be detected.

By the side of these examples we may place the prayers of Peru and
Mexico, forms composed by the priests, written out, committed to memory,
and repeated at certain seasons. They are not less authentic, having
been collected and translated in the first generation after the
conquest. One to Viracocha Pachacamac, was as follows:--

"O Pachacamac, thou who hast existed from the beginning and shalt exist
unto the end, powerful and pitiful; who createdst man by saying, let man
be; who defendest us from evil and preservest our life and health; art
thou in the sky or in the earth, in the clouds or in the depths? Hear
the voice of him who implores thee, and grant him his petitions. Give
us life everlasting, preserve us, and accept this our sacrifice."[299-1]

In the voluminous specimens of Aztec prayers preserved by Sahagun, moral
improvement, the "spiritual gift," is very rarely if at all the object
desired. Health, harvests, propitious rains, release from pain,
preservation from dangers, illness, and defeat, these are the almost
unvarying themes. But here and there we catch a glimpse of something
better, some dim sense of the divine beauty of suffering, some feeble
glimmering of the grand truth so nobly expressed by the poet:--

                 aus des Busens Tiefe strömt Gedeihn
    Der festen Duldung und entschlossner That.
    Nicht Schmerz ist Unglück, Glück nicht immer Freude;
    Wer sein Geschick erfüllt, dem lächeln beide.

"Is it possible," says one of them, "that this scourge, this affliction,
is sent to us not for our correction and improvement, but for our
destruction and annihilation? O Merciful Lord, let this chastisement
with which thou hast visited us, thy people, be as those which a father
or mother inflicts on their children, not out of anger, but to the end
that they may be free from follies and vices." Another formula, used
when a chief was elected to some important position, reads: "O Lord,
open his eyes and give him light, sharpen his ears and give him
understanding, not that he may use them to his own advantage, but for
the good of the people he rules. Lead him to know and to do thy will,
let him be as a trumpet which sounds thy words. Keep him from the
commission of injustice and oppression."[300-1]

At first, good and evil are identical with pleasure and pain, luck and
ill-luck. "The good are good warriors and hunters," said a Pawnee
chief,[300-2] which would also be the opinion of a wolf, if he could
express it. Gradually the eyes of the mind are opened, and it is
perceived that "whom He loveth, He chastiseth," and physical give[TN-18]
place to moral ideas of good and evil. Finally, as the idea of God rises
more distinctly before the soul, as "the One by whom, in whom, and
through whom all things are," evil is seen to be the negation, not the
opposite of good, and itself "a porch oft opening on the sun."

The influence of these religions on art, science, and social life, must
also be weighed in estimating their value.

Nearly all the remains of American plastic art, sculpture, and painting,
were obviously designed for religious purposes. Idols of stone, wood, or
baked clay, were found in every Indian tribe, without exception, so far
as I can judge; and in only a few directions do these arts seem to have
been applied to secular purposes. The most ambitious attempts of
architecture, it is plain, were inspired by religious fervor. The great
pyramid of Cholula, the enormous mounds of the Mississippi valley, the
elaborate edifices on artificial hills in Yucatan, were miniature
representations of the mountains hallowed by tradition, the "Hill of
Heaven," the peak on which their ancestors escaped in the flood, or that
in the terrestrial paradise from which flow the rains. Their
construction took men away from war and the chase, encouraged
agriculture, peace, and a settled disposition, and fostered the love of
property, of country, and of the gods. The priests were also close
observers of nature, and were the first to discover its simpler laws.
The Aztec sages were as devoted star-gazers as the Chaldeans, and their
calendar bears unmistakable marks of native growth, and of its original
purpose to fix the annual festivals. Writing by means of pictures and
symbols was cultivated chiefly for religious ends, and the word
_hieroglyph_ is a witness that the phonetic alphabet was discovered
under the stimulus of the religious sentiment. Most of the aboriginal
literature was composed and taught by the priests, and most of it refers
to matters connected with their superstitions. As the gifts of votaries
and the erection of temples enriched the sacerdotal order individually
and collectively, the terrors of religion were lent to the secular arm
to enforce the rights of property. Music, poetic, scenic, and historical
recitations, formed parts of the ceremonies of the more civilized
nations, and national unity was strengthened by a common shrine. An
active barter in amulets, lucky stones, and charms, existed all over the
continent, to a much greater extent than we might think. As experience
demonstrates that nothing so efficiently promotes civilization as the
free and peaceful intercourse of man with man, I lay particular stress
on the common custom of making pilgrimages.

The temple on the island of Cozumel in Yucatan was visited every year by
such multitudes from all parts of the peninsula, that roads, paved with
cut stones, had been constructed from the neighboring shore to the
principal cities of the interior.[302-1] Each village of the Muyscas is
said to have had a beaten path to Lake Guatavita, so numerous were the
devotees who journeyed to the shrine there located.[302-2] In Peru the
temples of Pachacamà, Rimac, and other famous gods, were repaired to by
countless numbers from all parts of the realm, and from other provinces
within a radius of three hundred leagues around. Houses of entertainment
were established on all the principal roads, and near the temples, for
their accommodation; and when they made known the object of their
journey, they were allowed a safe passage even through an enemy's

       *       *       *       *       *

The more carefully we study history, the more important in our eyes will
become the religious sense. It is almost the only faculty peculiar to
man. It concerns him nearer than aught else. It is the key to his origin
and destiny. As such it merits in all its developments the most earnest
attention, an attention we shall find well repaid in the clearer
conceptions we thus obtain of the forces which control the actions and
fates of individuals and nations.


[288-1] Waitz, _Anthropologie der Naturvoelker_, i. p. 459.

[288-2] Navarrete, _Viages_, iii. p. 415.

[288-3] _Relation de Cueba_, p. 140. Ed. Ternaux-Compans.

[290-1] La Vega, _Hist. des Incas_, liv. v. cap. 12.

[291-1] Morse, _Rep. on the Ind. Tribes_, App. p. 345.

[291-2] Ximenes, _Origen de los Indios de Guatemala_, p. 192; Acosta,
_Hist. of the New World_, lib. v. chap. 18.

[291-3] Joseph de Maistre, _Eclaircissement sur les Sacrifices_; Trench,
_Hulsean Lectures_, p. 180. The famed Abbé Lammenaais and Professor Sepp,
of Munich, with these two writers, may be taken as the chief exponents of
a school of mythologists, all of whom start from the theories first laid
down by Count de Maistre in his _Soirées de St. Petersbourg_. To them the
strongest proof of Christianity lies in the traditions and observances of
heathendom. For these show the wants of the religious sense, and
Christianity, they maintain, purifies and satisfies them all. The rites,
symbols, and legends of every natural religion, they say, are true and
not false; all that is required is to assign them their proper places and
their real meaning. Therefore the strange resemblances in heathen myths
to what is revealed in the Scriptures, as well as the ethical
anticipations which have been found in ancient philosophies, all, so far
from proving that Christianity is a natural product of the human mind, in
fact, are confirmations of it, unconscious prophecies, and presentiments
of the truth.

[292-1] Alfred Maury, _La Magie et l'Astrologie dans l'Antiquité et au
Moyen Age_, p. 8: Paris, 1860.

[292-2] Waitz, _Anthropologie_, i. pp. 325, 465.

[293-1] So says Dr. Waitz, _ibid._, p. 465.

[294-1] Schoolcraft, _Algic Researches_, i. p. 143.

[294-2] _L'Homme Américain_, ii. p. 319.

[295-1] Brasseur, _Hist. du Mexique_, liv. iii. chaps. 1 and 2.

[295-2] Sahagun, _Hist. de la Nueva España_, lib. x. cap. 29.

[296-1] Novalis, _Schriften_, i. p. 244: Berlin, 1837.

[296-2] Ibid., p. 267.

[296-3] _Hist. de la Civilisation en France_, i. pp. 122, 130.

[297-1] _Narrative of J. R. Jewett among the Savages of Nootka Sound_, p.

[297-2] _Rel. de la Nouv. France_, An 1636, p. 109.

[297-3] Ibid., An 1670, p. 99.

[299-1] Geronimo de Ore, _Symbolo Catholico Indiano_, chap, ix., quoted
by Ternaux-Compans. De Ore was a native of Peru and held the position of
Professor of Theology in Cuzco in the latter half of the sixteenth
century. He was a man of great erudition, and there need be no hesitation
in accepting this extraordinary prayer as genuine. For his life and
writings see Nic. Antonio, _Bib. Hisp. Nova_, tom. ii. p. 43.

[300-1] Sahagun, _Hist. de la Nueva España_, lib. vi. caps. 1, 4.

[300-2] Morse, _Rep. on the Ind. Tribes_, App. p. 250.

[302-1] Cogolludo, _Hist. de Yucathan_, lib. iv. cap. 9. Compare
Stephens, _Travs. in Yucatan_, ii. p. 122, who describes the remains of
these roads as they now exist.

[302-2] Rivero and Tschudi, _Antiqs. of Peru_, p. 162.

[302-3] La Vega, _Hist. des Incas_, lib. vi. chap. 30; Xeres, _Rel de la
Conq. du Pérou_, p. 151; _Let. sur les Superstit. du Pérou_, p. 98, and


Abnakis, 174

Acagchemem, a Californian tribe, 105

Age of man in America, 35-37

Ages of the world, 213 sq.

Akakanet, 61

Akanzas, 238

Akenatzi, 284

Algonkins, location, 26
  name of God, 58 n.[TN-19]
  mythical ancestors, 77
  veneration of birds, 103
    of serpents, 108, 109, 113, 116
  myths and rites, 133, 136, 144, 147, 151, 161, 174, 198, 209, 220,
    224, 236, 240, 244, 248, 277, 297

Aluberi, a name of God, 58 n.[TN-19]

Anahuac, 29, 282

Angont, a mythical serpent, 136

Apalachian tribes, 27, 225

Apocatequil, a Peruvian deity, 153

Ararats, of America, 203

Araucanians, 33
  name of God, 48, 61
  myths, 204, 248

Arks, 255

Arowacks, 58 n.[TN-19]

Ataensic, an Iroquois deity, 123, 131, 170

Ataguju, or Atachuchu, 152

Atatarho, mythical Iroquois chief, 118

Athapascan tribes, 24
  myths, 104, 150, 195, 205, 229, 248, 257

Atl, an Aztec deity, 131

Aurora borealis, 245

Aymaras, 31, 34, 177

Aztecs, their books and characters, 10
  divisions, 29
  names of God, 48, 50, 58 n.[TN-19]
  government, 69
  rites, 72, 126, 127, 147
  calendar, 74
  worship of cross, 95
  names of cardinal points, 93
  worship of birds, 102, 106, 107
  of serpents, 111
  myths, 132, 133, 134, 138, 144, 156, 171, 181, 205, 214 sq., 227,
    240, 246, 248, 252, 258
  priests, 282
  prayers, 292

Aztlan, 181

Bacab, Maya gods, 80

Baptism, 125 seq.

Bimini, 87

Bird, symbol of, 101 sq., 195 sq., 229, 254

Blue, symbolic meaning of, 47

Bochica, 183

Boiuca, a mythical isle, 87

Bones, preservation of, 255
  soul in the, 257

Botocudos, 123, 201

Brasseur, Abbé, his works, 41

Brazilian tribes, 102, 134, 250
  (See _Tupis_, _Botocudos_.)

Busk, a Creek festival, 71, 96

Caddoes, 93, 203

Camaxtli, 158

Cardinal points, adoration of, 67 sq.
  names of, 93 sq.

Caribs, 32
  theory of lightning, 104, 114
  myths and rites, 145, 184, 223, 237, 244, 256
  priests, 282

Catequil. (See _Apocatequil_.)

Centeotl, goddess of maize, 22, 134

Chac, Maya gods, 80

Chalchihuitlycue, an Aztec god, 123

Chantico, an Aztec god, 138

Cherokees, location, 25
  name of God, 51
  serpent myth, 115
  baptism, 128
  deluge, 205
  priests, 281

Chia, goddess of Muyscas, 134

Chichimec, 139 n., 158

Chicomoztoc, the Seven Caves, 227

Chicunoapa, the Aztec Styx, 249

Chipeways, picture-writing, 10
  records, 17
  magicians, 71
  myths, 163, 168

Choctaws, location, 27
  name of God, 51
  myths, 84 n.,[TN-20] 225, 261
  priests, 281

Cholula, 180, 181, 204, 228

Cihuacoatl, the Serpent Woman, 120

Cihuapipilti, 246

Circumcision, 147

Citatli, 131

Clairvoyance, 269

Coatlicue, 118

Colors, symbolism of, 47, 80, 140, 165

Con or Contici, 155, 176

Coxcox, 202

Craniology, American, 35

Creation, myths of, 193 seq.

Creeks, location, 27
  name of God, 50
  rites, 71, 96
  mythical ancestors, 77
  serpent myth, 115
  other myths, 137, 225, 242, 244
  priests, 273, 283

Cross, symbolic meaning of, 95-7, 183, 188
  of Palenque, 118

Cupay,[TN-21] the Quichua Pluto, 61, 251

Cusic, his Iroquois legends, 63, 108 n.

Dakotas, location, 28
  rites, 71
  language, 75
  mythical ancestors, 77
  myths, 62, 103, 133, 150, 237, 259, 279

Dawn, myths of, 166, 167, 175, 227

Delawares, 140 n., 144
  (See _Lenni Lenape_.)

Deluge, myth, origin, etc., 198-212

Devil, idea of unknown to red race, 59, 251

Divination, 278

Dobayba, 123

Dog, as a symbol, 137, 229, 247-9

Dove, as a a[TN-22] symbol, 107

Dualism, moral, not found in America, 59
  sexual not found, 146

Eagle, as a symbol, 104

East, myths, concerning, 91, 165, 174, 180
  (See _Dawn_.)

Eastman, Mrs., her _Legends of the Sioux_, 103

Eldorado,[TN-23] 87

Enigorio and Enigohahetgea, 63

Epochs of nature, 200 seq.

Esaugetuh Emissee, 50

Eskimos, location, 23
  name of chief god, 50, 76
  term for south, 94
  veneration of birds, 101
  myths, 173 n., 193, 226, 229, 241, 245, 261, 280

Fear in religion, 141, 292

Fire-worship, 140 seq.

Flood-myth. (See _Deluge_.)

Florida, 87

Forty, a sacred number, 94

Fountain of youth, 129

Four, the sacred number of red race, 66 sq., 105, 157, 167, 178, 182,
  184, 240

Four brothers, the myth of, 76-83, 152, 167, 178, 182

Garhonia, Iroquois deity, 48

Gizhigooke, the day-maker, 169

Guaranis, 32, 84 n.[TN-20]

Guatavita Lake, 124

Gucumatz, the bird-serpent, 118

Gumongo, god of the Monquis, 93

Haitians, myths of, 78, 85, 135, 188

Hand, symbol of the, 183

Haokah, Dakota thunder god, 151

Hawaneu. (See _Neo_.)

Heaven, the, of the red race, 243

Hell, the hidden world, 252

Heno, Iroquois thunder-god, 156

Hiawatha, myth of, 172

Hobbamock, 60

Huemac, the Strong-hand, 181, 183

Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, 118, 282

Hunting, its effect on the mind, 21, 67, 100

Hurakan or hurricane, meaning of, 51
  a Maya god, 81, 82, 114, 156, 196

Hurons, 25, 48, 114, 136, 169, 248, 250, 275

Hushtoli, Choctaw name of God, 51

Illatici, Quichua name of God, 55, 155

Incas, secret language, 31
  official title, 69
  ancestors, 82, 153
  arms, 120
  sun-worship, 142
  myths, 188, 191, 244

Ioskeha, supreme god of Iroquois, 63, 170-2

Iroquois, location, 25
  name of God, 48, 53
  myths of, 83, 85, 169-72, 196, 227, 236
  veneration of serpents, 108, 116, 118
  of fire, 148

Isolation of the red race, 20, 34

Itzcuinan, the Bitch-Mother, 138

Jarvis, Dr., his Discourse on American Religions, 39

Juripari, 61

Killistenoes, 270

Kittanitowit, 58, 60

Ku, a name of divinity, 46, 47

Kukulcan, god of air, 118

Languages of America, 7
  esoteric of priests, 284

Lenni Lenape, 26, 96, 161, 231

Light, universal symbol of divinity, 173

Lightning, the, 112 seq., 151 seq., 168

Madness, as inspiration, 274 seq.

Magic, natural, 266

Maistre, Joseph de, his theory of mythology, 291, n.[TN-24]

Maize, distribution of, 22, 37

Man, origin of, 222 sq., 258
  word for, 223

Mandans, 71, 85, 107, 184, 205, 228

Manibozho. (See _Michabo_.)

Mannacicas, 250

Manoa, 87

Manes, 111

Mayas, alphabet, 13
  location, 30
  calendar, 74, 80
  mythical ancestors, 79, 80, 85
  myths and rites, 93, 146, 183, 188, 214, 221
  name of cross, 97

Mbocobi, 201

Meda worship, 162 n.

Medicine, 45
  lodge, 267
  men, 264, 277 seq.

Memory, cultivated by picture-writing, 18

Mesmerism, 272

Messou, 209
  (See _Michabo_.)

Metempsychosis, 253

Mexicans, (See _Aztecs_.)

Meztli, 132, 135

Michabo, supreme Algonkin god, 63, 116, 136, 161-9, 198, 220, 294

Mictlan, god of the dead, 92, 252

Migrations, coarse of, 34

Milky-way, 244

Millennium, 261

Minnetarees, 228, 230, 250

Mixcoatl, or Mixcohuatl, 22, 51, 158

Mixtecas, 90, 196

Monan, 211

Monquis, 93, 106

Montezuma, 187, 190

Moon, worship of, 130 seq.

Moxos, 124, 230

Müller, J. G., his work on American religions, 40, 59, 61

Mummies, 257-60

Muscogees, 195
  (See _Creeks_.)

Muyscas, 31
  myths, 84 n.,[TN-20] 183-4

Nahuas, 29, 73
  myths, 84 n.,[TN-20] 118, 138, 158, 206
  (See _Aztecs_.)

Nanahuatl, 135

Natchez, 27, 28 n.[TN-25]
  myths, 126, 142, 149, 205, 225, 239

Natural religions, 3

Navajos, 79, 84 n.,[TN-20] 103, 127, 205, 241

Neo, Iroquois corruption of _Dieu_, 53

Nemqueteba, 183

Netelas, 50, 105 n.

Nez Percés[TN-26] 272, 281

Nicaraguans, 145, 158, 201, 245, 288

Nine Rivers, the, 248

Nootka Indians, 297

North, myths concerning, 82

Nottoways, 25, 84

Numbers, sacred, 66, 98
  (See _Four_, _Three_, _Seven_.)

Occaniches, 284

Oki, name of God, 46-8

Onniont, a mythical serpent, 114

Onondagas, 171

Oonawleh unggi, 51

Otomis, 6, 158

Ottawas, 93, 145, 161

Ottoes, 84 n.[TN-20]

Pacari Tampu, 82, 179, 227

Pachacamac, 56, 176-7, 298

Panos, 13

Paradise, myth of, 86 seq.

Paria, 87

Passions, worship of, 146, 149

Pawnees, 71 n., 84 n.[TN-20]

Pend d'Oreilles, 233

Peru, 69
  rites and myths, 82, 102, 106, 131, 132, 137, 138, 142, 149,
    152 sq,[TN-27] 176-9, 188, 213, 219, 227, 240, 251, 260
  priests, 278, 282, 284
    (See _Aymaras_, _Incas_.)

Phallic worship, 146, 149

Picture writing, 9

Pilgrimages, custom of, 301

Pimos, 185

Prayers, specimens of, 296-300

Priesthood, native, 263 sq.

Puelches, 277

Quetzalcoatl, the supreme Aztec god, 106, 118, 157, 180-3, 188, 294-6

Quiateot, a rain god, 131

Quichés, 30
  Sacred Book, 41
  names for God, 51, 58 n.[TN-19]
  evil deities, 64
  myth of first four brothers, 81
  of paradise, 89
  of creation, 196
  of flood, 207
  of hell, 251, 258

Quichuas, 31
  religion, 55
  ancestors, 82, 153
  names of cardinal points, 93 n.
  myths, 155
    (_See_ Peru, Incas.)[TN-28]

Quipus, 14

Rattlesnake, as a symbol, 108 sq.

Raven, as a symbol, 195, 204, 213, 229

Red, symbolic meaning, 80, 88, 140

Sacrifice, its meaning, 291

Sacs, 84, 277

Sanscrit flood-myth, 212

Schwarz, Dr., his views of mythology, 112

Seminoles, 129

Serpent, as a symbol, 107 sq., 136, 158

Seven, a sacred number, 66, 128 n., 202, 204, 273 n., 281, 283

Shawnees, 26, 84 n.,[TN-20] 110, 113, 114, 144, 281

Shoshonees, 28, 138

Sillam Innua, 50, 76

Sioux, 28, 151, 236

Soul, notions concerning, 235 sq., 277

Sua, the Muysca God, 184

Sun-worship, 141 sq., 149, 243-9

Suns, Aztec, 215 sq.

Takahlis, 127, 197, 201, 253, 256

Tamu, 184, 294

Taras, 158

Taronhiawagon, 171

Tawiscara, 170

Teczistecatl, 132

Teatihuacan,[TN-29] 46, 69

Three, a sacred number, 66, 98, 156

Thunder-storm, in myths, 150 sq.

Tici, the vase, 130

Timberlake, Lt., his _Memoirs_, 115

Titicaca, Lake, 124, 178

Tlacatecolotl, supposed Aztec Satan, 106

Tlaloc, god of rain, 75, 88, 156-7

Tlalocan, 88, 246

Tlapallan, 88, 91, 181

Tloque nahuaque, 58 n.[TN-19]

Tohil, 157

Toltecs, 29, 180

Tonacatepec, 88

Toukaways, 231

Trinity, in American religions, 156

Tulan, 88, 89, 181

Tupa, 32, 84, 152, 185

Tupis, 32
  myths, 83 n., 152, 185, 210, 258, 274

Twins, sacred to lightning, 153-4

Unktahe, a Dakota god, 133

Vase, symbol of, 130, 155

Viracocha, supreme god in Peru, 124, 155, 177-80

Waitz, Dr., his _Anthropology_, 40, 288

Wampum, 15

Water, myths of, 122 seq., 194

West, myths of, 92, 93, 166

White, as a symbol, 165, 174-6

Whiteman's land, 21 n.

Winds, myths of, 49-52, 74 sq., 96, 103, 166, 182

Winnebagoes, 220

Witchitas, 224

Writing, modes of, 9-13

Xelhua, 228

Xibalba, 64, 251

Xochiquetzal, 137

Xolotl, 258

Yakama language, 50

Yamo and Yama, twin deities, 154 n.

Yoalli-ehecatl, 50

Yohualticitl, 132

Yupanqui, Inca, 55

Yurucares, 201, 224, 259

Zac, empire of, 31, 124

Zamna, culture hero of Mayas, 93, 183, 188

Zapotecs, 183


  Page   31, note, for "_Ureinbewohner_" read "_Ureinwohner_."[TN-30]
    "   101, line 10 from bottom, _for_ "clouds" _read_ "clods."
    "   145, note 1, _for_ "Gomara" _read_ "Gumilla."

Transcriber's Note

The following typographical errors were noted in the original text.

        Page  Error
  TN-1    57  the Inds. p. should read the Inds., p.
  TN-2    89  Orstnamen should read Ortsnamen
  TN-3   115  o should read of
  TN-4   134  knaws should read gnaws
  TN-5   140  extingish should read extinguish
  TN-6   144 fn. 2  Reconnoissance was spelled this way in the title of
                    original publication, quoted correctly
  TN-7   158 fn. 3  Hist du Mexique should read Hist. du Mexique
  TN-8   162  wizzard should read wizard
  TN-9   218  foreboding shave should read forebodings have
  TN-10  223 fn. 2  yelk should read yolk
  TN-11  226 fn. 2  _above_ should read above
  TN-12  234 should read after world
  TN-13  248  scimetar should read scimitar
  TN-14  251  Xibilha should read Xibalba
  TN-15  258  supersitions should read superstitions
  TN-16  278  drunkeness should read drunkenness
  TN-17  294  fees should read frees or feeds?
  TN-18  300  give should read gives
  TN-19  303 (and elsewhere)  58 n. refers to footnote 57-3, the
              continued text of this footnote was printed on p. 58 in
              the original book
  TN-20  304 (and elsewhere)  84 n. refers to footnote 83-3, the
              continued text of this footnote was printed on p. 84 in
              the original book
  TN-21  304  Cupay should read Çupay
  TN-22  304  a a symbol should read a symbol
  TN-23  304  Eldorado should read El Dorado
  TN-24  305  291, n. should read 291 n.
  TN-25  305  28 n. refers to footnote 27-2, the continued text of this
              footnote was printed on p. 28 in the original book
  TN-26  306  Nez Percés should read Nez Percés,
  TN-27  306  152 sq, should read 152 sq.,
  TN-28  306  _See_ Peru, Incas should read See _Peru_, _Incas_
  TN-29  306  Teatihuacan should read Teotihuacan
  TN-30  307  Ureinbewohner was not found in the text

The following words were inconsistently spelled:

  Mannacicas / Mannicicas
  Percès / Percés
  Quiché / Quiche
  rôle / role
  Tamöi / Tamoi

The following words were inconsistently hyphenated:

  Aka-kanet / Akakanet
  Ama-livaca / Amalivaca
  child-birth / childbirth
  Teo-tihuacan / Teotihuacan
  under-world / underworld
  Ur-religionen / Urreligionen
  Yoalli-ehecatl / Yoalliehecatl

Other inconsistencies

Titles of works referred to in the footnotes are occasionally not
italicized. Author names of the works referred to in the footnotes are
occasionally italicized.

End of Project Gutenberg's The Myths of the New World, by Daniel G. Brinton


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