American Hero-Myths - A Study in the Native Religions of the Western Continent
by Daniel G. Brinton
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[Footnote 1: "Dan (los Indios), otro nombre a Dios, que es Tici Viracocha, que yo no se que signifique, ni ellos tampoco." Garcilasso de la Vega, Comentarios Reales, Lib. ii, cap. ii.]

[Footnote 2: Garcia, Origen de los Indios, Lib. iii, cap. vi; Acosta, Historia, Natural y Moral de las Indias, fol. 199 (Barcelona 1591).]

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

[Footnote 4: Melchior Hernandez, one of the earliest writers, whose works are now lost, but who is quoted in the Relacion Anonima, gives this name Tocapu; Christoval de Molina (ubi sup.) spells it Tocapo; La Vega Tocay; Molina gives its signification, "the maker." It is from the word tukupay or tucuychani, to finish, complete, perfect.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another misapprehension is that these natives worshiped directly their ancestors. Thus, Mr. Markham writes: "The Incas worshiped their ancestors, the Pacarina, or forefather of the Ayllu, or lineage, being idolized as the soul or essence of his descendants."[1] But in the Inquiry above quoted it is explained that the belief, in fact, was that the soul of the Inca went at death to the presence of the deity Viracocha, and its emblem, the actual body, carefully preserved, was paid divine honors in order that the soul might intercede with Viracocha for the fulfillment of the prayers.[2]

[Footnote 1: Clements R. Markham, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, 1871, p. 291. Pacarina is the present participle of pacarini, to dawn, to begin, to be born.]

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 1: Garcilasso de la Vega, Comentarios Reales, Lib. i, cap. xviii.]

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 2: Holguin (ubi supra,) gives paccarin, the morning, paccarini, to dawn; tampu, venta o meson.]

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

[Footnote 1: Tahuantin, all four, from tahua, four; suyu, division, section; kapac, king.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 1: "Tupa yauri; El cetro real, vara insignia real del Inca." Holguin, Vocabvlario de la Lengva Qquichua o del Inca, s.v.]

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

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

When Manco Capac's work was done, he did not die, like other mortals, but rose to heaven, and became the planet Jupiter, under the name Pirua. From this, according to some writers, the country of Peru derived its name.[2]

[Footnote 2: The identification of Manco Capac with the planet Jupiter is mentioned in the Relacion Anonima, on the authority of Melchior Hernandez.]

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

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

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

[Footnote 1: Garcia, Origen de los Indios, Lib. v, Cap. vii.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 1: Christoval de Molina, ubi supra, p. 29.]

[Footnote 2: Garcilasso de la Vega, Comentarios Reales, Lib. iv, cap. xxi.]

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

[Footnote 1: Relacion anonima, p. 148.]

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

[Footnote 1: "La principal de estas Deidades historicas era Viracocha. * * * Dos siglos contaba el culto de Viracocha a la llegada de los Espanoles." J. Diego de Tschudi, Antiguedades Peruanas, pp. 159, 160 (Vienna, 1851).]

[Footnote 2: Compare the account in Garcilasso de la Vega, Comentarios Reales, Lib. ii, cap. iv; Lib. iv, cap. xxi, xxiii, with that in Acosta, Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias, Lib. vi, cap. xxi.]

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

[Footnote 3: Comentarios Reales, Pt. i, Lib. viii, cap. viii.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 1: A whirlwind with rain was paria conchuy (paria, rain), one with clouds of dust, allpa conchuy (allpa, earth, dust); Holguin, Vocabulario Qquichua, s.v. Antay conchuy.]

[Footnote 2: Le Perou et Bolivie, p. 694. (Paris, 1880.)]

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

[Footnote 1: These remains are carefully described by Charles Wiener, Perou et Bolivie, p. 282, seq; from the notes of M. Angrand, by Desjardins, Le Perou avant la Conquete Espagnole, p. 132; and in a superficial manner by Squier, Peru, p. 555.]

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

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

[Footnote 2: Comentarios Reales, Lib. ii, cap. xxviii.]

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 1: Garcilasso de La Vega, Comentarios Reales, Lib. ix, caps. xiv, xv; Cieza de Leon, Relacion, MS. in Prescott, Conquest of Peru, Vol. i, p. 329. The latter is the second part of Cieza de Leon.]

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

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

And when was that to be?

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

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

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

[Footnote 1: E.G. Squier, Travels in Peru, p. 414.]

[Footnote 2: C. Wiener, Perou et Bolivie, p. 717.]

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

[Footnote 1: L. Angrand, Lettre sur les Antiquites de Tiaguanaco et l'Origine presumable de la plus ancienne civilisation du Haut-Perou. Extrait du 24eme vol. de la Revue Generale d'Architecture, 1866. Von Tschudi, Das Ollantadrama, p. 177-9. The latter says: "Der von dem Plateau von Anahuac ausgewanderte Stamm verpflanzte seine Gesittung und die Hauptzuege seiner Religion durch das westliche Suedamerica, etc."]






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 2: See above, chapter iv, Sec.1]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 1: Popol Vuh, le Livre Sacre des Quiches, p. 9 (Paris, 1861).]

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

I need not enter into a detailed discussion of this myth, many points in which are obscure, the less so as I have treated them at length in a monograph readily accessible to the reader who would push his inquiries further. Enough if I quote the conclusion to which I there arrive. It is as follows:—

"Suffice it to say that the hero-god, whose name is thus compounded of two signs in the calendar, who is one of twins born of a virgin, who performs many surprising feats of prowess on the earth, who descends into the world of darkness and sets free the sun, moon and stars to perform their daily and nightly journeys through the heavens, presents in these and other traits such numerous resemblances to the Divinity of Light, the Day-maker of the northern hunting tribes, reappearing in so many American legends, that I do not hesitate to identify the narrative of Xbalanque and his deeds as but another version of this wide-spread, this well-nigh universal myth."[1]

[Footnote 1: The Names of the Gods in the Kiche Myths, Central America, by Daniel G. Brinton, M.D., in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society for 1881.]

Few of our hero-myths have given occasion for wilder speculation than that of Votan. He was the culture hero of the Tzendals, a branch of the Maya race, whose home was in Chiapas and Tabasco. Even the usually cautious Humboldt suggested that his name might be a form of Odin or Buddha! As for more imaginative writers, they have made not the least difficulty in discovering that it is identical with the Odon of the Tarascos, the Oton of the Othomis, the Poudan of the East Indian Tamuls, the Vaudoux of the Louisiana negroes, etc. All this has been done without any attempt having been made to ascertain the precise meaning and derivation of the name Votan. Superficial phonetic similarities have been the only guide.

We are not well acquainted with the Votan myth. It appears to have been written down some time in the seventeenth century, by a Christianized native. His manuscript of five or six folios, in the Tzendal tongue, came into the possession of Nunez de la Vega, Bishop of Chiapas, about 1690, and later into the hands of Don Ramon Ondonez y Aguiar, where it was seen by Dr. Paul Felix Cabrera, about 1790. What has become of it is not known.

No complete translation of it was made; and the extracts or abstracts given by the authors just named are most unsatisfactory, and disfigured by ignorance and prejudice. None of them, probably, was familiar with the Tzendal tongue, especially in its ancient form. What they tell us runs as follows:—

At some indefinitely remote epoch, Votan came from the far East. He was sent by God to divide out and assign to the different races of men the earth on which they dwell, and to give to each its own language. The land whence he came was vaguely called ualum uotan, the land of Votan.

His message was especially to the Tzendals. Previous to his arrival they were ignorant, barbarous, and without fixed habitations. He collected them into villages, taught them how to cultivate the maize and cotton, and invented the hieroglyphic signs, which they learned to carve on the walls of their temples. It is even said that he wrote his own history in them.

He instituted civil laws for their government, and imparted to them the proper ceremonials of religious worship. For this reason he was also called "Master of the Sacred Drum," the instrument with which they summoned the votaries to the ritual dances.

They especially remembered him as the inventor of their calendar. His name stood third in the week of twenty days, and was the first Dominical sign, according to which they counted their year, corresponding to the Kan of the Mayas.

As a city-builder, he was spoken of as the founder of Palenque, Nachan, Huehuetlan—in fact, of any ancient place the origin of which had been forgotten. Near the last mentioned locality, Huehuetlan in Soconusco, he was reported to have constructed an underground temple by merely blowing with his breath. In this gloomy mansion he deposited his treasures, and appointed a priestess to guard it, for whose assistance he created the tapirs.

Votan brought with him, according to one statement, or, according to another, was followed from his native land by, certain attendants or subordinates, called in the myth tzequil, petticoated, from the long and flowing robes they wore. These aided him in the work of civilization. On four occasions he returned to his former home, dividing the country, when he was about to leave, into four districts, over which he placed these attendants.

When at last the time came for his final departure, he did not pass through the valley of death, as must all mortals, but he penetrated through a cave into the under-earth, and found his way to "the root of heaven." With this mysterious expression, the native myth closes its account of him.[1]

[Footnote 1: The references to the Votan myth are Nunez de la Vega, Constituciones Diocesanas, Prologo (Romae, 1702); Boturini, Idea de una Nueva Historia de la America septentrional, pp. 114, et seq., who discusses the former; Dr. Paul Felix Cabrera, Teatro Critico Americano, translated, London, 1822; Brasseur de Bourbourg, Hist. des Nations Civilisees de Mexique, vol. i, chap, ii, who gives some additional points from Ordonez; and H. de Charencey, Le Mythe de Votan; Etude sur les Origines Asiatiques de la Civilization Americaine. (Alencon, 1871).]

He was worshiped by the Tzendals as their principal deity and their beneficent patron. But he had a rival in their religious observances, the feared Yalahau Lord of Blackness, or Lord of the Waters. He was represented as a terrible warrior, cruel to the people, and one of the first of men.[1]

[Footnote 1: Yalahau is referred to by Bishop Nunez de la Vega as venerated in Occhuc and other Tzendal towns of Chiapas. He translates it "Senor de los Negros." The terminal ahau is pure Maya, meaning king, ruler, lord; Yal is also Maya, and means water. The god of the waters, of darkness, night and blackness, is often one and the same in mythology, and probably had we the myth complete, he would prove to be Votan's brother and antagonist.]

According to an unpublished work by Fuentes, Votan was one of four brothers, the common ancestors of the southwestern branches of the Maya family.[1]

[Footnote 1: Quoted in Emeterio Pineda, Descripcion Geografica de Chiapas y Soconusco, p. 9 (Mexico, 1845).]

All these traits of this popular hero are too exactly similar to those of the other representatives of this myth, for them to leave any doubt as to what we are to make of Votan. Like the rest of them, he and his long-robed attendants are personifications of the eastern light and its rays. Though but uncritical epitomes of a fragmentary myth about him remain, they are enough to stamp it as that which meets us so constantly, no matter where we turn in the New World.[1]

[Footnote 1: The title of the Tzendal MSS., is said by Cabrera to be "Proof that I am a Chan." The author writes in the person of Votan himself, and proves his claim that he is a Chan, "because he is a Chivim." Chan has been translated serpent; on chivim the commentators have almost given up. Supposing that the serpent was a totem of one of the Tzendal clans, then the effort would be to show that their hero-god was of that totem; but how this is shown by his being proved a chivim is not obvious. The term ualum chivim, the land of the chivim. appears to be that applied, in the MS., to the country of the Tzendals, or a part of it. The words chi uinic would mean, "men of the shore," and might be a local name applied to a clan on the coast. But in default of the original text we can but surmise as to the precise meaning of the writer.]

It scarcely seems necessary for me to point out that his name Votan is in no way akin to Othomi or Tarasco roots, still less to the Norse Wodan or the Indian Buddha, but is derived from a radical in pure Maya. Yet I will do so, in order, if possible, to put a stop to such visionary etymologies.

As we are informed by Bishop Nunez de la Vega, uotan in Tzendal means heart. Votan was spoken of as "the heart or soul of his people." This derivation has been questioned, because the word for the heart in the other Maya dialects is different, and it has been suggested that this was but an example of "otosis," where a foreign proper name was turned into a familiar common noun. But these objections do not hold good.

In regard to derivation, uotan is from the pure Maya root-word tan, which means primarily "the breast," or that which is in front or in the middle of the body; with the possessive prefix it becomes utan. In Tzendal this word means both breast and heart. This is well illustrated by an ancient manuscript, dating from 1707, in my possession. It is a guide to priests for administering the sacraments in Spanish and Tzendal. I quote the passage in point[1]:—

[Footnote 1: Modo de Administrar los Sacramentos en Castellano y Tzendal, 1707. 4to MS., p. 13.]

"Con todo tu corazon, hiriendote en los pechos, di, conmigo."

Ta zpizil auotan, xatigh zny auotan, zghoyoc, alagh ghoyoc.—

Here, a is the possessive of the second person, and uotan is used both for heart and breast. Thus the derivation of the word from the Maya radical is clear.

The figure of speech by which the chief divinity is called "the heart of the earth," "the heart of the sky," is common in these dialects, and occurs repeatedly in the Popol Vuh, the sacred legend of the Kiches of Guatemala.[2]

[Footnote 2: Thus we have (Popol Vuh, Part i, p. 2) u qux cho, Heart of the Lakes, and u qux palo, Heart of the Ocean, as names of the highest divinity; later, we find u qux cah, Heart of the Sky (p. 8), u qux uleu, Heart of the Earth, p. 12, 14, etc.

I may here repeat what I have elsewhere written on this figurative expression in the Maya languages: "The literal or physical sense of the word heart is not that which is here intended. In these dialects this word has a richer metaphorical meaning than in our tongue. It stands for all the psychical powers, the memory, will and reasoning faculties, the life, the spirit, the soul. It would be more correct to render these names the 'Spirit' or 'Soul' of the lake, etc., than the 'Heart.' They indicate a dimly understood sense of the unity of spirit or energy in all the various manifestations of organic and inorganic existence." The Names of the Gods in the Kiche Myths, Central America, by Daniel G. Brinton, in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. xix, 1881, p. 623.]

The immediate neighbors of the Tzendals were the Mixes and Zoques, the former resident in the central mountains of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the latter rather in the lowlands and toward the eastern coast. The Mixes nowadays number but a few villages, whose inhabitants are reported as drunken and worthless, but the time was when they were a powerful and warlike nation. They are in nowise akin to the Maya stock, although they are so classed in Mr. H.H. Bancroft's excellent work.[1] They have, however, a distinct relationship with the Zoques, about thirty per cent of the words in the two languages being similar.[2] The Zoques, whose mythology we unfortunately know little or nothing about, adjoined the Tzendals, and were in constant intercourse with them.

[Footnote 1: "Mijes, Maya nation," The Native Races of the Pacific States, Vol. v, p. 712.]

[Footnote 2: Apuntes sobre la Lengua Mije, por C.H. Berendt, M.D., MS., in my hands. The comparison is made of 158 words in the two languages, of which 44 have marked affinity, besides the numerals, eight out of ten of which are the same. Many of the remaining words are related to the Zapotec, and there are very few and faint resemblances to Maya dialects. One of them may possibly be in this name, Votan (uotan), heart, however. In Mixe the word for heart is hot. I note this merely to complete my observations on the Votan myth.]

We have but faint traces of the early mythology of these tribes; but they preserved some legends which show that they also partook of the belief, so general among their neighbors, of a beneficent culture-god.

This myth relates that their first father, who was also their Supreme God, came forth from a cave in a lofty mountain in their country, to govern and direct them. He covered the soil with forests, located the springs and streams, peopled them with fish and the woods with game and birds, and taught the tribe how to catch them. They did not believe that he had died, but that after a certain length of time, he, with his servants and captives, all laden with bright gleaming gold, retired into the cave and closed its mouth, not to remain there, but to reappear at some other part of the world and confer similar favors on other nations.

The name, or one of the names, of this benefactor was Condoy, the meaning of which my facilities do not enable me to ascertain.[1]

[Footnote 1: Juan B. Carriedo, Estudios Historicos y Estadisticos del Estado Libre de Oaxaca, p. 3 (Oaxaca, 1847).]

There is scarcely enough of this to reveal the exact lineaments of their hero; but if we may judge from these fragments as given by Carriedo, it appears to be of precisely the same class as the other hero-myths I have collected in this volume. Historians of authority assure us that the Mixes, Zoques and Zapotecs united in the expectation, founded on their ancient myths and prophecies, of the arrival, some time, of men from the East, fair of hue and mighty in power, masters of the lightning, who would occupy the land.[1]

[Footnote 1: Ibid., p. 94, note, quoting from the works of Las Casas and Francisco Burgoa.]

On the lofty plateau of the Andes, in New Granada, where, though nearly under the equator, the temperature is that of a perpetual spring, was the fortunate home of the Muyscas. It is the true El Dorado of America; every mountain stream a Pactolus, and every hill a mine of gold. The natives were peaceful in disposition, skilled in smelting and beating the precious metal that was everywhere at hand, lovers of agriculture, and versed in the arts of spinning, weaving and dying cotton. Their remaining sculptures prove them to have been of no mean ability in designing, and it is asserted that they had a form of writing, of which their signs for the numerals have alone been preserved.

The knowledge of these various arts they attributed to the instructions of a wise stranger who dwelt among them many cycles before the arrival of the Spaniards. He came from the East, from the llanos of Venezuela or beyond them, and it was said that the path he made was broad and long, a hundred leagues in length, and led directly to the holy temple at his shrine at Sogamoso. In the province of Ubaque his footprints on the solid rock were reverently pointed out long after the Conquest. His hair was abundant, his beard fell to his waist, and he dressed in long and flowing robes. He went among the nations of the plateaux, addressing each in its own dialect, taught them to live in villages and to observe just laws. Near the village of Coto was a high hill held in special veneration, for from its prominent summit he was wont to address the people who gathered round its base. Therefore it was esteemed a sanctuary, holy to the living and the dead. Princely families from a distance carried their dead there to be interred, because this teacher had said that man does not perish when he dies, but shall rise again. It was held that this would be more certain to occur in the very spot where he announced this doctrine. Every sunset, when he had finished his discourse, he retired into a cave in the mountain, not to reappear again until the next morning.

For many years, some said for two thousand years, did he rule the people with equity, and then he departed, going back to the East whence he came, said some authorities, but others averred that he rose up to heaven. At any rate, before he left, he appointed a successor in the sovereignty, and recommended him to pursue the paths of justice.[1]

[Footnote 1: "Afirman que fue trasladado al cielo, y que al tiempo de su partida dexo al Cacique de aquella Provincia por heredero de su santidad i poderio." Lucas Fernaudez Piedrahita, Historia General de las Conquistas del Nueoo Reyno de Granada, Lib. i, cap. iii (Amberes, 1688).]

What led the Spanish missionaries to suspect that this was one of the twelve apostles, was not only these doctrines, but the undoubted fact that they found the symbol of the cross already a religious emblem among this people. It appeared in their sacred paintings, and especially, they erected one over the grave of a person who had died from the bite of a serpent.

A little careful investigation will permit us to accept these statements as quite true, and yet give them a very different interpretation.

That this culture-hero arrives from the East and returns to the East are points that at once excite the suspicion that he was the personification of the Light. But when we come to his names, no doubt can remain. These were various, but one of the most usual was Chimizapagua, which, we are told, means "a messenger from Chiminigagua." In the cosmogonical myths of the Muyscas this was the home or source of Light, and was a name applied to the demiurgic force. In that mysterious dwelling, so their account ran, light was shut up, and the world lay in primeval gloom. At a certain time the light manifested itself, and the dawn of the first morning appeared, the light being carried to the four quarters of the earth by great black birds, who blew the air and winds from their beaks. Modern grammarians profess themselves unable to explain the exact meaning of the name Chiminigagua, but it is a compound, in which, evidently, appear the words chie, light, and gagua, Sun.[1]

[Footnote 1: Uricoechea says, "al principio del mundo la luz estaba encerrada en una cosa que no podian describir i que llamaban Chiminigague, o El Criador." Gramatica de la Lengua Chibcha, Introd., p. xix. Chie in this tongue means light, moon, month, honor, and is also the first person plural of the personal pronoun. Ibid., p. 94. Father Simon says gagua is "el nombre del mismo sol," though ordinarily Sun is Sua.]

Other names applied to this hero-god were Nemterequeteba, Bochica, and Zuhe, or Sua, the last mentioned being also the ordinary word for the Sun. He was reported to have been of light complexion, and when the Spaniards first arrived they were supposed to be his envoys, and were called sua or gagua, just as from the memory of a similar myth in Peru they were addressed as Viracochas.

In his form as Bochica, he is represented as the supreme male divinity, whose female associate is the Rainbow, Cuchaviva, goddess of rains and waters, of the fertility of the fields, of medicine, and of child-bearing in women, a relationship which I have already explained.[1]

[Footnote 1: The principal authority for the mythology of the Mayscas, or Chibchas, is Padre Pedro Simon, Noticias Historiales de las Conquistas de Tierra Firme en el Nuevo Reyno de Granada, Pt. iv, caps. ii, iii, iv, printed in Kingsborough, Mexican Antiquities, vol. viii, and Piedrahita as above quoted.]

Wherever the widespread Tupi-Guaranay race extended—from the mouth of the Rio de la Plata and the boundless plains of the Pampas, north to the northernmost islands of the West Indian Archipelago—the early explorers found the natives piously attributing their knowledge of the arts of life to a venerable and benevolent old man whom they called "Our Ancestor," Tamu, or Tume, or Zume.

The early Jesuit missionaries to the Guaranis and affiliated tribes of Paraguay and southern Brazil, have much to say of this personage, and some of them were convinced that he could have been no other than the Apostle St. Thomas on his proselytizing journey around the world.

The legend was that Pay Zume, as he was called in Paraguay (Pay = magician, diviner, priest), came from the East, from the Sun-rising, in years long gone by. He instructed the people in the arts of hunting and agriculture, especially in the culture and preparation of the manioca plant, their chief source of vegetable food. Near the city of Assumption is situated a lofty rock, around which, says the myth, he was accustomed to gather the people, while he stood above them on its summit, and delivered his instructions and his laws, just as did Quetzalcoatl from the top of the mountain Tzatzitepec, the Hill of Shouting. The spot where he stood is still marked by the impress of his feet, which the pious natives of a later day took pride in pointing out as a convincing proof that their ancestors received and remembered the preachings of St. Thomas.[1] This was not a suggestion of their later learning, but merely a christianized term given to their authentic ancient legend. As early as 1552, when Father Emanuel Nobrega was visiting the missions of Brazil, he heard the legend, and learned of a locality where not only the marks of the feet, but also of the hands of the hero-god had been indelibly impressed upon the hard rock. Not satisfied with the mere report, he visited the spot and saw them with his own eyes, but indulged in some skepticism as to their origin.[2]

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