The Myths of Mexico and Peru/Chapter V
CHAPTER V: MYTHS OF THE MAYA
Mythology of the Maya
OUR knowledge of the mythology of the Maya is by no means so full and comprehensive as in the case of Mexican mythology. Traditions are few and obscure, and the hieroglyphic matter is closed to us. But one great mine of Maya-Kiche mythology exists which furnishes us with much information regarding Kiche cosmogony and pseudo-history, with here and there an interesting allusion to the various deities of the Kiche pantheon. This is the Popol Vuh, a volume in which a little real history is mingled with much mythology. It was composed in the form in which we now possess it by a Christianised native of Guatemala in the seventeenth century, and copied in Kiche, in which it was originally written, by one Francisco Ximenes, a monk, who also added to it a Spanish translation.
The Lost “Popol Vuh”
For generations antiquarians interested in this wonderful compilation were aware that it existed somewhere in Guatemala, and many were the regrets expressed regarding their inability to unearth it. A certain Don Felix Cabrera had made use of it early in the nineteenth century, but the whereabouts of the copy he had seen could not be discovered. A Dr. C. Scherzer, of Austria, resolved, if possible, to discover it, and paid a visit to Guatemala in 1854 for that purpose. After a diligent search he succeeded in finding the lost manuscript in the University of San Carlos in the city of Guatemala. Ximenes, the copyist, had placed it in the library of the convent of Chichicastenango, whence it passed to the San Carlos library in 1830.
Genuine Character of the Work
Much doubt has been cast upon the genuine character of the Popol Vuh, principally by persons who were almost if not entirely ignorant of the problems of pre-Columbian history in America. Its genuine character, however, is by no means difficult to prove. It has been stated that it is a mere réchauffé of the known facts of Maya history coloured by Biblical knowledge, a native version of the Christian Bible. But such a theory will not stand when it is shown that the matter it contains squares with the accepted facts of Mexican mythology, upon which the Popol Vuh throws considerable light. Moreover, the entire work bears the stamp of being a purely native compilation, and has a flavour of great antiquity. Our knowledge of the general principles of mythology, too, prepares us for the unqualified acceptance of the material of the Popol Vuh, for we find there the stories and tales, the conceptions and ideas connected with early religion which are the property of no one people, but of all peoples and races in an early social state.
Likeness to other Pseudo-Histories
We find in this interesting book a likeness to many other works of early times. The Popol Vuh is, indeed, of the same genre and class as the Heimskringla of Snorre, the history of Saxo Grammaticus, the Chinese history in the Five Books, the Japanese Nihongi, and many other similar compilations. But it surpasses all these in pure interest because it is the only native American work that has come down to us from preColumbian times.
The name "Popol Vuh" means "The Collection of Written Leaves," which proves that the book must have contained traditional matter reduced to writing at a very early period. It is, indeed, a compilation of mythological character, interspersed with pseudo-history, which, as the account reaches modern times, shades off into pure history and tells the deeds of authentic personages. The language in which it was written, the Kiche, was a dialect of the Maya-Kiche tongue spoken at the time of the conquest in Guatemala, Honduras, and San Salvador, and still the tongue of the native populations in these districts.
The beginning of this interesting book is taken up with the Kiche story of the creation, and what occurred directly subsequent to that event. We are told that the god Hurakan, the mighty wind, a deity in whom we can discern a Kiche equivalent to Tezcatlipoca, passed over the universe, still wrapped in gloom. He called out "Earth," and the solid land appeared. Then the chief gods took counsel among themselves as to what should next be made. These were Hurakan, Gucumatz or Quetzalcoatl, and Xpiyacoc and Xmucane, the mother and father gods. They agreed that animals should be created. This was accomplished, and they next turned their attention to the framing of man. They made a number of mannikins carved out of wood. But these were irreverent and angered the gods, who resolved to bring about their downfall. Then Hurakan (The Heart of Heaven) caused the waters to be swollen, and a mighty flood came upon the mannikins. Also a thick resinous rain descended upon them. 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 powder. Then all sorts of beings, great and small, abused the mannikins. The household utensils and domestic animals jeered at them, and made game of them in their plight. The dogs and hens said: "Very badly have you treated us and you have bitten us. Now we bite you in turn."The millstones said: "Very much were we tormented by you, and daily, daily, night and day, it was squeak, screech, screech, holi, holi, huqi, huqi, for your sake. Now you shall feel our strength, and we shall grind your flesh and make meal of your bodies." And the dogs growled at the unhappy images because they had not been fed, and tore them with their teeth. The cups and platters 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. Now it is your turn, and you shall burn." The unfortunate mannikins ran hither and thither in their despair. They mounted upon the roofs of the houses, but the houses crumbled beneath their feet; they tried to climb to the tops of the trees, but the trees hurled them down; they were even repulsed by the caves, which closed before them. Thus this ill-starred race was finally destroyed and overthrown, and the only vestiges of them which remain are certain of their progeny, the little monkeys which dwell in the woods.
Vukub-Cakix, the Great Macaw
Ere the earth was quite recovered from the wrathful flood which had descended upon it there lived a being orgulous and full of pride, called Vukub-Cakix (Seven-times-the-colour-of-fire—the Kiche name for the great macaw bird). His teeth were of emerald, and other parts of him shone with the brilliance of gold and silver, in short, it is evident that he was a sun-and-moon god of prehistoric times. He boasted dreadfully, and his conduct so irritated the other gods that they resolved upon his destruction. His two sons, Zipacna and Cabrakan (Cockspur or Earth-heaper, and Earthquake), were earthquake-gods of the type of the Jötuns of Scandinavian myth or the Titans of Greek legend. These also were prideful and arrogant, and to cause their downfall the gods despatched the heavenly twins Hun-Apu and Xbalanque to earth, with instructions to chastise the trio.
Vukub-Cakix prided himself upon his possession of the wonderful nanze-tree, the tapal, bearing a fruit round, yellow, and aromatic, upon which he breakfasted every morning. One morning he mounted to its summit, whence he could best espy the choicest fruits, when he was surprised and infuriated to observe that two strangers had arrived there before him, and had almost denuded the tree of its produce. On seeing Vukub, Hun-Apu raised a blow-pipe to his mouth and blew a dart at the giant. It struck him on the mouth, and he fell from the top of the tree to the ground. Hun-Apu leapt down upon Vukub and grappled with him, but the giant in terrible anger seized the god by the arm and wrenched it from the body. He then returned to his house, where he was met by his wife, Chimalmat, who inquired for what reason he roared with pain. In reply he pointed to his mouth, and so full of anger was he against Hun-Apu that he took the arm he had wrenched from him and hung it over a blazing fire. He then threw himself down to bemoan his injuries, consoling himself, however, with the idea that he had avenged himself upon the disturbers of his peace.
Whilst Vukub-Cakix moaned and howled with the dreadful pain which he felt in his jaw and teeth (for the dart which had pierced him was probably poisoned) the arm of Hun-Apu hung over the fire, and was turned round and round and basted by Vukub's spouse, Chimalmat, The sun-god rained bitter imprecations upon the interlopers who had penetrated to his paradise and had caused him such woe, and he gave vent to dire threats of what would happen if he succeeded in getting them into his power.
But Hun-Apu and Xbalanque were not minded that Vukub-Cakix should escape so easily, and the recovery of Hun-Apu's arm must be made at all hazards. So they went to consult two great and wise magicians, Xpiyacoc and Xmucane, in whom we see two of the original Kiche creative deities, who advised them to proceed with them in disguise to the dwelling of Vukub, if they wished to recover the lost arm. The old magicians resolved to disguise themselves as doctors, and dressed Hun-Apu and Xbalanque in other garments to represent their sons.
Shortly they arrived at the mansion of Vukub, and while still some way off they could hear his groans and cries. Presenting themselves at the door, they accosted him. They told him that they had heard some one crying out in pain, and that as famous doctors they considered it their duty to ask who was suffering.
Vukub appeared quite satisfied, but closely questioned the old wizards concerning the two young men who accompanied them.
"They are our sons," they replied.
"Good," said Vukub. "Do you think you will be able to cure me?"
"We have no doubt whatever upon that head," answered Xpiyacoc. "You have sustained very bad injuries to your mouth and eyes."
"The demons who shot me with an arrow from their blow-pipe are the cause of my sufferings," said Vukub.
"If you are able to cure me I shall reward you richly."
"Your Highness has many bad teeth, which must be removed," said the wily old magician. "Also the balls of your eyes appear to me to be diseased."
Vukub appeared highly alarmed, but the magicians speedily reassured him.
"It is necessary," said Xpiyacoc, "that we remove your teeth, but we will take care to replace them with grains of maize, which you will find much more agreeable in every way."
The unsuspicious giant agreed to the operation, and very quickly Xpiyacoc, with the help of Xmucane, removed his teeth of emerald, and replaced them by grains of white maize. A change quickly came over the Titan. His brilliancy speedily vanished, and when they removed the balls of his eyes he sank into insensibility and died.
All this time the wife of Vukub was turning Hun-Apu's arm over the fire, but Hun-Apu snatched the limb from above the brazier, and with the help of the magicians replaced it upon his shoulder. The discomfiture of Vukub was then complete. The party left his dwelling feeling that their mission had been accomplished.
But in reality it was only partially accomplished, because Vukub's two sons, Zipacna and Cabrakan, still remained to be dealt with. Zipacna was daily employed in heaping up mountains, while Cabrakan, his brother, shook them in earthquake. The vengeance of Hun-Apu and Xbalanque was first directed against Zipacna, and they conspired with a band of young men to bring about his death.
The young men, four hundred in number, pretended to be engaged in building a house. They cut down a large tree, which they made believe was to be the roof-tree of their dwelling, and waited in a part of the forest through which they knew Zipacna must pass. After a while they could hear the giant crashing through the trees. He came into sight, and when he saw them standing round the giant tree-trunk, which they could not lift, he seemed very much amused.
"What have you there, O little ones? "he said laughing.
"Only a tree, your Highness, which we have felled for the roof-tree of a new house we are building."
"Cannot you carry it?" asked the giant disdainfully.
"No, your Highness," they made answer; "it is much too heavy to be lifted even by our united efforts."
With a good-natured laugh the Titan stooped and lifted the great trunk upon his shoulder. Then, bidding them lead the way, he trudged through the forest, evidently not disconcerted in the least by his great burden. Now the young men, incited by Hun-Apu and Xbalanque, had dug a great ditch, which they pretended was to serve for the foundation of their new house. Into this they requested Zipacna to descend, and, scenting no mischief, the giant readily complied. On his reaching the bottom his treacherous acquaintances cast huge trunks of trees upon him, but on hearing them coming down he quickly took refuge in a small side tunnel which the youths had constructed to serve as a cellar beneath their house.Imagining the giant to be killed, they began at once to express their delight by singing and dancing, and to lend colour to his stratagem Zipacna despatched several
The Twins make an imitation Crab
friendly ants to the surface with strands of hair, which the young men concluded had been taken from his dead body. Assured by the seeming proof of his death, the youths proceeded to build their house upon the tree-trunks which they imagined covered Zipacna's body, and, producing a quantity of pulque, they began to make merry over the end of their enemy. For some hours their new dwelling rang with revelry.
All this time Zipacna, quietly hidden below, was listening to the hubbub and waiting his chance to revenge himself upon those who had entrapped him.
Suddenly arising in his giant might, he cast the house and all its inmates high in the air. The dwelling was utterly demolished, and the band of youths were hurled with such force into the sky that they remained there, and in the stars we call the Pleiades we can still discern them wearily waiting an opportunity to return to earth.
The Undoing of Zipacna
But Hun-Apu and Xbalanque, grieved that their comrades had so perished, resolved that Zipacna must not be permitted to escape so easily. He, carrying the mountains by night, sought his food by day on the shore of the river, where he wandered catching fish and crabs. The brothers made a large artificial crab, which they placed in a cavern at the bottom of a ravine. They then cunningly undermined a huge mountain, and awaited events. Very soon they saw Zipacna wandering along the side of the river, and asked him where he was going.
"Oh, I am only seeking my daily food," replied the giant.
"And what may that consist of?" asked the brothers.
"Only of fish and crabs," replied Zipacna.
"Oh, there is a crab down yonder," said the crafty brothers, pointing to the bottom of the ravine. "We espied it as we came along. Truly, it is a great crab, and will furnish you with a capital breakfast."
"Splendid!" cried Zipacna, with glistening eyes. "I must have it at once," and with one bound he leapt down to where the cunningly contrived crab lay in the cavern.
No sooner had he reached it than Hun-Apu and Xbalanque cast the mountain upon him; but so desperate were his efforts to get free that the brothers feared he might rid himself of the immense weight of earth under which he was buried, and to make sure of his fate they turned him into stone. Thus at the foot of Mount Meahŭan, near Vera Paz, perished the proud Mountain-Maker.
The Discomfiture of Cabrakan
Now only the third of this family of boasters remained, and he was the most proud of any.
"I am the Overturner of Mountains!" said he.
But Hun-Apu and Xbalanque had made up their minds that not one of the race of Vukub should be left alive.
At the moment when they were plotting the overthrow of Cabrakan he was occupied in moving mountains. He seized the mountains by their bases and, exerting his mighty strength, cast them into the air; and of the smaller mountains he took no account at all. While he was so employed he met the brothers, who greeted him cordially.
"Good day, Cabrakan," said they. "What may you be doing?"
"Bah! nothing at all," replied the giant. "Cannot you see that I am throwing the mountains about, which is my usual occupation? And who may you be that ask such stupid questions? What are your names?"
"We have no names," replied they. "We are only hunters, and here we have our blow-pipes, with which we shoot the birds that live in these mountains. So you see that we do not require names, as we meet no one."
Cabrakan looked at the brothers disdainfully, and was about to depart when they said to him: "Stay; we should like to behold these mountain-throwing feats of yours."
This aroused the pride of Cabrakan.
"Well, since you wish it," said he, "I will show you how I can move a really great mountain. Now, choose the one you would like to see me destroy, and before you are aware of it I shall have reduced it to dust."
Hun-Apu looked around him, and espying a great peak pointed toward it. "Do you think you could overthrow that mountain?" he asked.
"Without the least difficulty," replied Cabrakan, with a great laugh. "Let us go toward it."
"But first you must eat," said Hun-Apu. "You have had no food since morning, and so great a feat can hardly be accomplished fasting."
The giant smacked his lips. "You are right," he said, with a hungry look. Cabrakan was one of those people who are always hungry. "But what have you to give me?"
"We have nothing with us," said Hun-Apu.
"Umph!" growled Cabrakan, "you are a pretty fellow. You ask me what I will have to eat, and then tell me you have nothing," and in his anger he seized one of the smaller mountains and threw it into the sea, so that the waves splashed up to the sky.
"Come," said Hun-Apu, "don't get angry. We have our blow-pipes with us, and will shoot a bird for your dinner."
On hearing this Cabrakan grew somewhat quieter.
"Why did you not say so at first?" he growled.
"But be quick, because I am hungry."
Just at that moment a large bird passed overhead, and Hun-Apu and Xbalanque raised their blow-pipes to their mouths. The darts sped swiftly upward, and both of them struck the bird, which came tumbling down through the air, falling at the feet of Cabrakan.
"Wonderful, wonderful!" cried the giant.
"You are clever fellows indeed," and, seizing the dead bird, he was going to eat it raw when Hun-Apu stopped him.
"Wait a moment," said he. "It will be much nicer when cooked," and, rubbing two sticks together, he ordered Xbalanque to gather some dry wood, so that a fire was soon blazing.
The bird was then suspended over the fire, and in a short time a savoury odour mounted to the nostrils of the giant, who stood watching the cooking with hungry eyes and watering lips.
Before placing the bird over the fire to cook, however, Hun-Apu had smeared its feathers with a thick coating of mud. The Indians in some parts of Central America still do this, so that when the mud dries with the heat of the fire the feathers will come off with it, leaving the flesh of the bird quite ready to eat. But Hun-Apu had done this with a purpose. The mud that he spread on the feathers was that of a poisoned earth, called tizate, the elements of which sank deeply into the flesh of the bird.
When the savoury mess was cooked, he handed it to Cabrakan, who speedily devoured it.
"Now," said Hun-Apu, "let us go toward that great mountain and see if you can lift it as you boast."
But already Cabrakan began to feel strange pangs. "What is this?" said he, passing his hand across his brow. "I do not seem to see the mountain you mean."
"Nonsense," said Hun-Apu. "Yonder it is, see, to the east there."
"My eyes seem dim this morning," replied the giant.
"No, it is not that," said Hun-Apu. "You have boasted that you could lift this mountain, and now you are afraid to try."
"I tell you," said Cabrakan," that I have difficulty in seeing. Will you lead me to the mountain?"
"Certainly," said Hun-Apu, giving him his hand, and with several strides they were at the foot of the eminence.
"Now," said Hun-Apu, "see what you can do, boaster."
Cabrakan gazed stupidly at the great mass in front of him. His knees shook together so that the sound was like the beating of a war-drum, and the sweat poured from his forehead and ran in a little stream down the side of the mountain.
"Come," cried Hun-Apu derisively, "are you going to lift the mountain or not?"
"He cannot," sneered Xbalanque. "I knew he could not."
Cabrakan shook himself into a final effort to regain his senses, but all to no purpose. The poison rushed through his blood, and with a groan he fell dead before the brothers.
Thus perished the last of the earth-giants of Guatemala, whom Hun-Apu and Xbalanque had been sent to destroy. The Second Book
The second book of the Popol Vuh outlines the history of the hero-gods Hun-Apu and Xbalanque. We are told that Xpiyacoc and Xmucane, the father and mother gods, had two sons, Hunhun-Apu and Vukub-Hunapu, the first of whom had by his wife Xbakiyalo two sons, Hunbatz and Hunchouen. The weakness of the whole family was the native game of ball, possibly the Mexican-Mayan game of tlachtli, a sort of hockey. To this pastime the natives of Central America were greatly addicted, and numerous remains of tlachtli courts are to be found in the ruined cities of Yucatan and Guatemala. The object of the game was to "putt" the ball through a small hole in a circular stone or goal, and the player who succeeded in doing this might demand from the audience all their clothes and jewels. The game, as we have said, was exceedingly popular in ancient Central America, and there is good reason to believe that inter-city matches took place between the various city-states, and were accompanied by a partisanship and rivalry as keen as that which finds expression among the crowd at our principal football matches to-day.
On one occasion Hunhun-Apu and Vukub-Hunapu played a game of ball which in its progress took them into the vicinity of the realm of Xibalba (the Kiche Hades). The rulers of that drear abode, imagining that they had a chance of capturing the brothers, extended a challenge to them to play them at ball, and this challenge Hun-Came and Vukub-Came, the sovereigns of the Kiche Hell, despatched by four messengers in the shape of owls. The brothers
A Challenge from Hades
The Princess and the Gourds
accepted the challenge, and, bidding farewell to their mother Xmucane and their respective sons and nephews, followed the feathered messengers down the long hill which led to the Underworld.
The Fooling of the Brethren
The American Indian is grave and taciturn. If there is one thing he fears and dislikes more than another it is ridicule. To his austere and haughty spirit it appears as something derogatory to his dignity, a slur upon his manhood. The hero-brothers had not been long in Xibalba when they discovered that it was the intention of the Lords of Hades to fool them and subject them to every species of indignity. After crossing a river of blood, they came to the palace of the Lords of Xibalba, where they espied two seated figures in front of them. Thinking that they recognised in them Hun-Came and Vukub-Came, they saluted them in a becoming manner, only to discover to their mortification that they were addressing figures of wood. This incident excited the ribald jeers of the Xibalbans, who scoffed at the brothers. Next they were invited to sit on the seat of honour, which they found to their dismay to be a red-hot stone, a circumstance which caused unbounded amusement to the inhabitants of the Underworld. Then they were imprisoned in the House of Gloom, where they were sacrificed and buried. The head of Hunhun-Apu was, however, suspended from a tree, upon the branches of which grew a crop of gourds so like the dreadful trophy as to be indistinguishable from it. The fiat went forth that no one in Xibalba must eat of the fruit of that tree. But the Lords of Xibalba had reckoned without feminine curiosity and its unconquerable love of the forbidden. The Princess Xquiq
One day—if day ever penetrated to that gloomy and unwholesome place—a princess of Xibalba called Xquiq (Blood), daughter of Cuchumaquiq, a notability of Xibalba, passed under the tree, and, observing the desirable fruit with which it was covered, stretched out her hand to pluck one of the gourds. Into the outstretched palm the head of Hunhun-Apu spat, and told Xquiq that she would become a mother. Before she returned home, however, the hero-god assured her that no harm would come to her, and that she must not be afraid. In a few months' time the princess's father heard of her adventure, and she was doomed to be slain, the royal messengers of Xibalba, the owls, receiving commands to despatch her and to bring back her heart in a vase. But on the way she overcame the scruples of the owls by splendid promises, and they substituted for her heart the coagulated sap of the bloodwort plant.
Xmucane, left at home, looked after the welfare of the young Hunbatz and Hunchouen, and thither, at the instigation of the head of Hunhun-Apu, went Xquiq for protection. At first Xmucane would not credit her story, but upon Xquiq appealing to the gods a miracle was performed on her behalf, and she was permitted to gather a basket of maize where no maize grew to prove the authenticity of her claim. As a princess of the Underworld, it is not surprising that she should be connected with such a phenomenon, as it is from deities of that region that we usually expect the phenomena of growth to proceed. Shortly afterwards, when she had won the good graces of the aged
The Birth of Hun-Apu and Xbalanque
The Princes who made friends of the Owls
Xmucane, her twin sons were born, the Hun-Apu and Xbalanque whom we have already met as the central figures of the first book.
The Divine Children
But the divine children were both noisy and mischievous. They tormented their venerable grandmother with their shrill uproar and tricky behaviour. At last Xmucane, unable to put up with their habits, turned them out of doors. They took to an outdoor life with surprising ease, and soon became expert hunters and skilful in the use of the serbatana (blow-pipe), with which they shot birds and small animals. They were badly treated by their half-brothers Hunbatz and Hunchouen, who, jealous of their fame as hunters, annoyed them in every possible manner. But the divine children retaliated by turning their tormentors into hideous apes. The sudden change in the appearance of her grandsons caused Xmucane the most profound grief and dismay, and she begged that they who had brightened her home with their singing and flute-playing 'might not be condemned to such a dreadful fate. She was informed by the divine brothers that if she could behold their antics unmoved by mirth her wish would be granted. But the capers they cut and their grimaces caused her such merriment that on three separate occasions she was unable to restrain her laughter, and the men-monkeys took their leave.
The Magic Tools
The childhood of Hun-Apu and Xbalanque was full of such episodes as might be expected from these beings. We find, for example, that on attempting to clear a milpa (maize plantation) they employed magic tools which could be trusted to undertake a good day's work whilst they were absent at the chase. Returning at night, they smeared soil over their hands and faces, for the purpose of deluding Xmucane into the belief that they had been toiling all day in the fields. But the wild beasts met in conclave during the night, and replaced all the roots and shrubs which the magic tools had cleared away. The twins recognised the work of the various animals, and placed a large net on the ground, so that if the creatures came to the spot on the following night they might be caught in its folds. They did come, but all made good their escape save the rat. The rabbit and deer lost their tails, however, and that is why these animals possess no caudal appendages! The rat, in gratitude for their sparing its life, told the brothers the history of their father and uncle, of their heroic efforts against the powers of Xibalba, and of the existence of a set of clubs and balls with which they might play tlachtli on the ball-ground at Ninxor-Carchah, where Hunhun-Apu and Vukub-Hunapu had played before them.
The Second Challenge
But the watchful Hun-Came and Vukub-Came soon heard that the sons and nephews of their first victims had adopted the game which had led these last into the clutches of the cunning Xibalbans, and they resolved to send a similar challenge to Hun-Apu and Xbalanque, thinking that the twins were unaware of the fate of Hunhun-Apu and Vukub-Hunapu. They therefore despatched messengers to the home of Xmucane with a challenge to play them at the ball-game, and Xmucane, alarmed by the nature of the message, sent a louse to warn her grandsons. The louse, unable to proceed as quickly as he wished, permitted himself to be swallowed by a toad, the toad by a serpent, and the serpent by the bird Voc, the messenger of Hurakan. At the end of the journey the other animals duly liberated each other, but the toad could not rid himself of the louse, who had in reality hidden himself in the toad's gums, and had not been swallowed at all. At last the message was delivered, and the twins returned to the abode of Xmucane, to bid farewell to their grandmother and mother. Before leaving they each planted a cane in the midst of the hut, saying that it would wither if any fatal accident befell them.
The Tricksters Tricked
They then proceeded to Xibalba, on the road trodden by Hunhun-Apu and Vukub-Hunapu, and passed the river of blood as the others had done. But they adopted the precaution of despatching ahead an animal called Xan as a sort of spy or scout. They commanded this animal to prick all the Xibalbans with a hair from Hun-Apu's leg, in order that they might discover which of them were made of wood, and incidentally learn the names of the others as they addressed one another when pricked by the hair. They were thus enabled to ignore the wooden images on their arrival at Xibalba, and they carefully avoided the red-hot stone. Nor did the ordeal of the House of Gloom affright them, and they passed through it scatheless. The inhabitants of the Underworld were both amazed and furious with disappointment. To add to their annoyance, they were badly beaten in the game of ball which followed. The Lords of Hell then requested the twins to bring them four bouquets of flowers from the royal garden of Xibalba, at the same time commanding the gardeners to keep good watch over the flowers so that none of them might be removed. But the brothers called to their aid a swarm of ants, who succeeded in returning with the flowers. The anger of the Xibalbans increased to a white fury, and they incarcerated Hun-Apu and Xbalanque in the House of Lances, a dread abode where demons armed with sharp spears thrust at them fiercely. But they bribed the lancers and escaped. The Xibalbans slit the beaks of the owls who guarded the royal gardens, and howled in fury.
The Houses of the Ordeals
They were next thrust into the House of Cold. Here they escaped a dreadful death from freezing by warming themselves with burning pine-cones. Into the House of Tigers and the House of Fire they were thrown for a night each, but escaped from both. But they were not so lucky in the House of Bats. As they threaded this place of terror, Camazotz, Ruler of the Bats, descended upon them with a whirring of leathern wings, and with one sweep of his sword-like claws cut off Hun-Apu's head. (See Mictlan, pp. 95, 96.) But a tortoise which chanced to pass the severed neck of the hero's prostrate body and came into contact with it was immediately turned into a head, and Hun-Apu arose from his terrible experience not a whit the worse.
These various houses in which the brothers were forced to pass a certain time forcibly recall to our minds the several circles of Dante's Hell. Xibalba was to the Kiche not a place of punishment, but a dark place of horror and myriad dangers. No wonder the Maya had what Landa calls "an immoderate fear of death" if they believed that after it they would be transported to such a dread abode!With the object of proving their immortal nature to their adversaries, Hun-Apu and Xbalanque, first
In the House of Bats
arranging for their resurrection with two sorcerers, Xulu and Pacaw, stretched themselves upon a bier and died. Their bones were ground to powder and thrown into the river. They then went through a kind of evolutionary process, appearing on the fifth day after their deaths as men-fishes and on the sixth as old men, ragged and tatterdemalion in appearance, killing and restoring each other to life. At the request of the princes of Xibalba, they burned the royal palace and restored it to its pristine splendour, killed and resuscitated the king's dog, and cut a man in pieces, bringing him to life again. The Lords of Hell were curious about the sensation of death, and asked to be killed and resuscitated. The first portion of their request the hero-brothers speedily granted, but did not deem it necessary to pay any regard to the second.
Throwing off all disguise, the brothers assembled the now thoroughly cowed princes of Xibalba, and announced their intention of punishing them for their animosity against themselves, their father and uncle. They were forbidden to partake in the noble and classic game of ball—a great indignity in the eyes of Maya of the higher caste—they were condemned to menial tasks, and they were to have sway over the beasts of the forest alone. After this their power rapidly waned. These princes of the Underworld are described as being owl-like, with faces painted black and white, as symbolical of their duplicity and faithless disposition.
As some reward for the dreadful indignities they had undergone, the souls of Hunhun-Apu and Vukub-Hunapu, the first adventurers into the darksome region of Xibalba, were translated to the skies, and became the sun and moon, and with this apotheosis the second book ends.
We can have no difficulty, in the light of comparative mythology, in seeing in the matter of this book a version of "the harrying of hell" common to many mythologies. In many primitive faiths a hero or heroes dares the countless dangers of Hades in order to prove to the savage mind that the terrors of death can be overcome. In Algonquian mythology Blue-Jay makes game of the Dead Folk whom his sister Ioi has married, and Balder passes through the Scandinavian Helheim. The god must first descend into the abyss and must emerge triumphant if humble folk are to possess assurance of immortality.
The Reality of Myth
It is from such matter as that found in the second book of the Popol Vuh that we are enabled to discern how real myth can be on occasion. It is obvious, as has been pointed out, that the dread of death in the savage mind may give rise to such a conception of its vanquishment as appears in the Popol Vuh. But there is reason to suspect that other elements have also entered into the composition of the myth. It is well known that an invading race, driving before them the remnants of a conquered people, are prone to regard these in the course of a few generations as almost supernatural and as denizens of a sphere more or less infernal. Their reasons for this are not difficult of comprehension. To begin with, a difference in ceremonial ritual gives rise to the belief that the inimical race practises magic. The enemy is seldom seen, and, if perceived, quickly takes cover or "vanishes." The majority of aboriginal races were often earth- or cave-dwellers, like the Picts of Scotland, and such the originals of the Xibalbans probably were.
The invading Maya-Kiche, encountering such a folk in the cavernous recesses of the hill-slopes of Guatemala, would naturally refer them to the Underworld. The cliff-dwellings of Mexico and Colorado exhibit manifest signs of the existence of such a cave-dwelling race. In the latter state is the Cliff Palace Canon, a huge natural recess, within which a small city was actually built, which still remains in excellent preservation. In some such semi-subterranean recess, then, may the city of "Xibalba" have stood.
We can see, too, that the Xibalbans were not merely a plutonic race. Xibalba is not a Hell, a place of punishment for sin, but a place of the dead, and its inhabitants were scarcely "devils," nor evil gods. The transcriber of the Popol Vuh says of them: "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." The word Xibalba is derived from a root meaning "to fear," from which comes the name for a ghost or phantom. Xibalba was thus the "Place of Phantoms."
The Third Book
The opening of the third book finds the gods once more deliberating as to the creation of man. Four men are evolved as the result of these deliberations. These beings were moulded from a paste of yellow and white maize, and were named Balam-Quitze (Tiger with the Sweet Smile), Balam-Agab (Tiger of the Night), Mahacutah (The Distinguished Name), and Iqi-Balam (Tiger of the Moon).
But the god Hurakan who had formed them was not overpleased with his handiwork, for these beings were too much like the gods themselves. The gods once more took counsel, and agreed that man must be less perfect
These eight persons were the ancestors of the Kiche only, after which were created the forerunners of the other peoples. At this time there was no sun, and comparative darkness lay over the face of the earth. Men knew not the art of worship, but blindly lifted their eyes to heaven and prayed the Creator to send them quiet lives and the light of day. But no sun came, and dispeace entered their hearts. So they journeyed to a place called Tulan-Zuiva (The Seven Caves)—practically the same as Chicomoztoc in the Aztec myth—and there gods were vouchsafed to them. The names of these were Tohil, whom Balam-Quitze received; Avilix, whom Balam-Agab received; and Hacavitz, granted to Mahacutah. Iqi-Balam received a god, but as he had no family his worship and knowledge died out.
Grievously did the Kiche feel the want of fire in the sunless world they inhabited, but this the god Tohil (The Rumbler, the Fire-god) quickly provided them with. However, a mighty rain descended and extinguished all the fires in the land. These, however,
The Granting of Fire
How the Sun appeared like the Moon
were always supplied again by Tohil, who had only to strike his feet together to produce fire. In this figure there is no difficulty in seeing a fully developed thunder-god.
The Kiche Babel
Tulan-Zuiva was a place or great misfortune to the Kiche, for here the race suffered alienation in its different branches by reason of a confounding of their speech, which recalls the story of Babel. Owing to this the first four men were no longer able to comprehend each other, and determined to leave the place of their mischance and to seek the leadership of the god Tohil into another and more fortunate sphere. In this journey they met with innumerable hardships. They had to cross many lofty mountains, and on one occasion had to make a long détour across the bed of the ocean, the waters of which were miraculously divided to permit of their passage. At last they arrived at a mountain which they called Hacavitz, after one of their deities, and here they remained, for it had been foretold that here they should see the sun. At last the luminary appeared. Men and beasts went wild with delight, although his beams were by no means strong, and he appeared more like a reflection in a mirror than the strong sun of later days whose fiery beams speedily sucked up the blood of victims on the altar. As he showed his face the three tribal gods of the Kiche were turned into stone, as were the gods or totems connected with the wild animals. Then arose the first Kiche town, or permanent dwelling-place.
The Last Days of the First Men
Time passed, and the first men of the Kiche race grew old. Visions came to them, in which they were exhorted by the gods to render human sacrifices, and in order to obey the divine injunctions they raided the neighbouring lands, the folk of which made a spirited resistance. But in a great battle the Kiche were miraculously assisted by a horde of wasps and hornets, which flew in the faces of their foes, stinging and blinding them, so that they could not wield weapon nor see to make any effective resistance. After this battle the surrounding races became tributary to them.
Death of the First Men
Now the first men felt that their death-day was nigh, and they called their kin and dependents around them to hear their dying words. In the grief of their souls they chanted the song "Kamucu," the song "We see," that they had sung so joyfully when they had first seen the light of day. Then they parted from their wives and sons one by one. And of a sudden they were not, and in their place was a great bundle, which was never opened. It was called the "Majesty Enveloped." So died the first men of the Kiche.
In this book it is clear that we have to deal with the problem which the origin and creation of man presented to the Maya-Kiche mind. The several myths connected with it bear a close resemblance to those of other American peoples. In the mythology of the American Indian it is rare to find an Adam, a single figure set solitary in a world without companionship of some sort. Man is almost invariably the child of Mother Earth, and emerges from some cavern or subterranean country fully grown and fully equipped for the upper earth-life. We find this type of myth in the mythologies of the Aztecs, Peruvians, Choctaws, Blackfeet Indians, and those of many other American tribes.
We also find in the story of the Kiche migration a striking similarity to the migration myths of other American races. But in the Kiche myth we can trace a definite racial movement from the cold north to the warm south. The sun is not at first born. There is darkness. When he does appear he is weak and his beams are dull and watery like those of the luminary in a northern clime. Again, there are allusions to the crossing of rivers by means of "shining sand" which covered them, which might reasonably be held to imply the presence upon them of ice. In this connection we may quote from an Aztec migration myth which appears almost a parallel to the Kiche story.
"This is the beginning of the record of the coming of the Mexicans from the place called Aztlan. It is by means of the water that they came this way, being four tribes, and in coming they rowed in boats. They built their huts on piles at the place called the grotto of Quineveyan. It is there from which the eight tribes issued. The first tribe is that of the Huexotzincos, the second the Chalcas, the third the Xochimilcos, the fourth the Cuitlavacas, the fifth the Mallinalcas, the sixth the Chichimecas, the seventh the Tepanecas, the eighth the Matlatzincas. It is there where they were founded in Colhuacan. They were the colonists of it since they landed there, coming from Aztlan. . . . It is there that they soon afterwards went away from, carrying with them their god Vitzillopochtli. . . . There the eight tribes opened up our road by water."
The "Wallum Olum," or painted calendar records, of the Leni-Lenape Indians contain a similar myth.
"After the flood," says the story, "the Lenape with the manly turtle beings dwelt close together at the cave house and dwelling of Talli. . . . They saw that the snake-land was bright and wealthy. Having all agreed, they went over the water of the frozen sea to possess the land. It was wonderful when they all went over the smooth deep water of the frozen sea at the gap of the snake sea in the great ocean."
Do these myths contain any essence of the truth? Do they refer to an actual migration when the ancestors of certain American tribes crossed the frozen ocean of the Kamchatka Strait and descended from the sunless north and the boreal night of these sub-Arctic regions to a more genial clime? Can such a tradition have been preserved throughout the countless ages which must have passed between the arrival of proto-Mongolian man in America and the writing or composition of the several legends cited? Surely not. But may there not have been later migrations from the north? May not hordes of folk distantly akin to the first Americans have swept across the frozen strait, and within a few generations have made their way into the warmer regions, as we know the Nahua did? The Scandinavian vikings who reached north-eastern America in the tenth century found there a race totally distinct from the Red Man, and more approaching the Esquimaux, whom they designated Skrellingr, or "Chips," so small and misshapen were they. Such a description could hardly have been applied to the North American Indian as we know him. From the legends of the Red race of North America we may infer that they remained for a number of generations in the Far West of the North American continent before they migrated eastward. And a guess might be hazarded to the effect that, arriving in America somewhere about the dawn of the Christian era, they spread slowly in a south-easterly direction, arriving in the eastern parts of North America about the end of the eleventh century, or even a little later. This would mean that such a legend as that which we have just perused would only require to have survived a thousand years, provided the Popol Vuh was first composed about the eleventh century, as appears probable. But such speculations are somewhat dangerous in the face of an almost complete lack of evidence, and must be met with the utmost caution and treated as surmises only.
Cosmogony of the "Popol Vuh"
We have now completed our brief survey of the mythological portion of the Popol Vuh, and it will be well at this point to make some inquiries into the origin and nature of the various gods, heroes, and similar personages who fill its pages. Before doing so, however, let us glance at the creation-myth which we find detailed in the first book. We can see by internal evidence that this must be the result of the fusion of more than one creation-story. We find in the myth that mention is made of a number of beings each of whom appears to exercise in some manner the functions of a creator or "moulder." These beings also appear to have similar attributes. There is evidently here the reconciliation of early rival faiths. We know that this occurred in Peruvian cosmogony, which is notoriously composite, and many another mythology, European and Asiatic, exhibits a like phenomenon. Even in the creation-story as given in Genesis we can discover the fusion of two separate accounts from the allusion to the creative power as both "Jahveh" and "Elohim," the plural ending of the second name proving the presence of polytheistic as well as monotheistic conceptions.
Antiquity of the "Popol Vuh"
These considerations lead to the assumption that the Popol Vuh is a mythological collection of very considerable antiquity, as the fusion of religious beliefs is a comparatively slow process. It is, of course, in the absence of other data, impossible to fix the date of its origin, even approximately. We possess only the one version of this interesting work, so that we are compelled to confine ourselves to the consideration of that alone, and are without the assistance which philology would lend us by a comparison of two versions of different dates.
The Father-Mother Gods
We discover a pair of dual beings concerned in the Kiche creation. These are Xpiyacoc and Xmucane, the Father-Mother deities, and are obviously Kiche equivalents to the Mexican Ometecutli-Omeciuatl, whom we have already noticed (pp. 103-4). The former is the male fructifier, whilst the name of the latter signifies "Female Vigour." These deities were probably regarded as hermaphroditic, as numerous North American Indian gods appear to be, and may be analogous to the "Father Sky" and "Mother Earth" of so many mythologies.
We also find Gucumatz concerned in the Kiche scheme of creation. He was a Maya-Kiche form of the Mexican Quetzalcoatl, or perhaps the converse was the case. The name signifies, like its Nahua equivalent, "Serpent with Green Feathers."
Hurakan, the wind-god, "He who hurls below," whose name perhaps signifies "The One-legged," is probably the same as the Nahua Tezcatlipoca. It has been suggested that the word "hurricane" has been evolved from the name of this god, but the derivation seems rather too fortuitous to be real. Hurakan had the assistance of three sub-gods, Cakulha-Hurakan (Lightning), Chipi-Cakulha (Lightning-flash), and Raxa-Cakulha (Track of the Lightning).
Hun-Apu and Xbalanque
Hun-Apu and Xbalanque, the hero-gods, appear to have the attributes of demi-gods in general. The name Hun-Apu means "Master" or "Magician," and Xbalanque "Little Tiger." We find many such figures in American myth, which is rich in hero-gods.
Vukub-Cakix and his Sons
Vukub-Cakix and his progeny are, of course, earth-giants like the Titans of Greek mythology or the Jötuns of Scandinavian story. The removal of the emerald teeth of Vukub-Cakix and their replacement by grains of maize would seem to be a mythical interpretation or allegory of the removal of the virgin turf of the earth and its replacement by maize-seed. Therefore it is possible that Vukub-Cakix is an earth-god, and not a prehistoric sun-and-moon god, as stated by Dr. Seler.
Metrical Origin of the "Popol Vuh"
There is reason to [believe that the Popol Vuh was originally a metrical composition. This would assist the hypothesis of its antiquity, on the ground that it was for generations recited before being reduced to writing. Passages here and there exhibit a decided metrical tendency, and one undoubtedly applies to a descriptive dance symbolical of sunrise. It is as follows:
"'Ama x-u ch'ux ri Vuch?'
'Ve,' x-cha ri mama.
Ta chi xaquinic.
Quate ta chi gecumarchic.
Cahmul xaquin ri mama.
'Ca xaquin-Vuch,' ca cha vinak vacamic."
This may be rendered freely:
"'Is the dawn about to be?'
'Yes,' answered the old man.
Then he spread apart his legs.
Again the darkness appeared.
Four times the old man spread his legs.
'Now the opossum spreads his legs,'
Say the people."
It is obvious that many of these lines possess the well-known quality of savage dance-poetry, which displays itself in a rhythm of one long foot followed by two short ones. We know that the Kiche were very fond of ceremonial dances, and of repeating long chants which they called nugum izih, or "garlands of words," and the Popol Vuh, along with other matter, probably contained many of these.
Pseudo-History of the Kiche
The fourth book of the Popol Vuh contains the pseudo-history of the Kiche kings. It is obviously greatly confused, and it would be difficult to say how much of it originally belonged to the Popol Vuh and how much had been added or invented by its latest compiler. One cannot discriminate between saga and history, or between monarchs and gods, the real and the fabulous. Interminable conflicts are the theme of most of the book, and many migrations are recounted.
Whilst dealing with Maya pseudo-history it will be well to glance for a moment at the theories of the late Augustus Le Plongeon, who lived and carried on excavations in Yucatan for many years. Dr. Le Plongeon was obsessed with the idea that the ancient Maya spread their civilisation all over the habitable globe, and that they were the originators of the Egyptian, Palestinian, and Hindu civilisations, besides many others. He furthermore believed himself to be the true elucidator of the Maya system of hieroglyphs, which in his estimation were practically identical with the Egyptian. We will not attempt to refute his theories, as they are based on ignorance of the laws which govern philology, anthropology, and mythology. But he possessed a thorough knowledge of the Maya tongue, and his acquaintance with Maya customs was extensive and peculiar. One of his ideas was that a certain hall among the ruins of Chichen-Itza had been built by a Queen Móo, a Maya princess who after the tragic fate of her brother-husband and the catastrophe which ended in the sinking of the continent of Atlantis fled to Egypt, where she founded the ancient Egyptian civilisation. It would be easy to refute this theory. But the tale as told by Dr. Le Plongeon possesses a sufficiency of romantic interest to warrant its being rescued from the little-known volume in which he published it.
We do not learn from Dr. Le Plongeon's book by what course of reasoning he came to discover that the name of his heroine was the rather uneuphonious one of Móo. Probably he arrived at it by the same process as that by which he discovered that certain Mayan architectural ornaments were in reality Egyptian letters. But it will be better to let him tell his story in his own words. It is as follows:
The Funeral Chamber
"As we are about to enter the funeral chamber hallowed by the love of the sister-wife, Queen Móo, the beauty of the carvings on the zapote beam that forms the lintel of the doorway calls our attention. Here is represented the antagonism of the brothers Aac and Coh, that led to the murder or the latter by the former. Carved on the lintel are the names of these personages, represented by their totems—a leopard head for Coh, and a boar head as well as a turtle for Aac, this word meaning both boar and turtle in Maya. Aac is pictured within the disk of the sun, his protective deity which he worshipped, according to mural inscriptions at Uxmal. Full of anger he faces his brother. In his right hand there is a badge ornamented with feathers and flowers. The threatening way in which this is held suggests a concealed weapon. . . . The face of Coh also expresses anger. With him is the feathered serpent, emblematic of royalty, thence of the country, more often represented as a winged serpent protecting Coh. In his left hand he holds his weapon down, whilst his right hand clasps his badge of authority, with which he covers his breasts as for protection, and demanding the respect due to his rank. . . ."Passing between the figures of armed chieftains sculptured on the jambs of the doorway, and seeming like sentinels guarding the entrance of the funeral chamber, we notice one wearing a headdress similar to
Queen Móo has her Destiny Foretold
the crown of Lower Egypt, which formed part of the pshent of the Egyptian monarchs.
"The frescoes in the funeral chamber of Prince Coh's Memorial Hall, painted in water-colours taken from the vegetable kingdom, are divided into a series of tableaux separated by blue lines. The plinths, the angles of the room, and the edges of the ceiling, being likewise painted blue, indicate that this was intended for a funeral chamber. . . . The first scene represents Queen Móo while yet a child. She is seated on the back of a peccary, or American wild boar, under the royal umbrella of feathers, emblem of royalty in Mayach, as it was in India, Chaldea, and other places. She is consulting a h-men, or wise man; listening with profound attention to the decrees of fate as revealed by the cracking of the shell of an armadillo exposed to a slow fire on a brazier, the condensing on it of the vapour, and the various tints it assumes. This mode of divination is one of the customs of the Mayas. . . .
"In front of the young Queen Móo, and facing her, is seated the soothsayer, evidently a priest of high rank, judging from the colours, blue and yellow, of the feathers of his ceremonial mantle. He reads the decrees of fate on the shell of the armadillo, and the scroll issuing from his throat says what they are. By him stands the winged serpent, emblem and protective genius of the Maya Empire. His head is turned towards the royal banner, which he seems to caress. His satisfaction Is reflected in the mild and pleased expression of his face. Behind the priest, the position of whose hand is the same as that of Catholic priests in blessing their congregation, and the significance of which is well known to occultists, are the ladies-in-waiting of the young Queen.
The Royal Bride
"In another tableau we again see Queen Móo, no longer a child, but a comely young woman. She is not seated under the royal umbrella or banner, but she is once more in the presence of the h-men, whose face is concealed by a mask representing an owl's head. She, pretty and coquettish, has many admirers, who vie with each other for the honour of her hand. In company with one of her wooers she comes to consult the priest, accompanied by an old lady, her grandmother probably, and her female attendants. According to custom the old lady is the spokeswoman. She states to the priest that the young man, he who sits on a low stool between two female attendants, desires to marry the Queen. The priest's attendant, seated also on a stool, back of all, acts as crier, and repeats in a loud voice the speech of the old lady.
"The young Queen refuses the offer. The refusal is indicated by the direction of the scroll issuing from her mouth. It is turned backward, instead of forward towards the priest, as would be the case if she assented to the marriage. The h-men explains that Móo, being a daughter of the royal family, by law and custom must marry one of her brothers. The youth listens to the decision with due respect to the priest, as shown by his arm being placed across his breast, the left hand resting on the right shoulder. He does not accept the
The Rejected Suitor
From Queen Móo and the Egyptian Sphinx, by Agustus Le Plongeon, M.D.
refusal in a meek spirit, however. His clenched fist, his foot raised as in the act of stamping, betoken anger and disappointment, while the attendant behind him expostulates, counselling patience and resignation, judging by the position and expression of her left-hand palm upward.
The Rejected Suitor
"In another tableau we see the same individual whose offer of marriage was rejected by the young Queen in consultation with a nubchi, or prophet, a priest whose exalted rank is indicated by his head-dress, and the triple breastplate he wears over his mantle of feathers. The consulter, evidently a person of importance, has come attended by his hachetail, or confidential friend, who sits behind him on a cushion. The expression on the face of the said consulter shows that he does not accept patiently the decrees of fate, although conveyed by the interpreter in as conciliatory a manner as possible. The adverse decision of the gods is manifested by the sharp projecting centre part of the scroll, but it is wrapped in words as persuasive and consoling, preceded by as smooth a preamble as the rich and beautiful Maya language permits and makes easy. His friend is addressing the prophet's assistant. Reflecting the thoughts of his lord, he declares that the nubchi's fine discourse and his pretended reading of the will of the gods are all nonsense, and exclaims 'Pshaw!' which contemptuous exclamation is pictured by the yellow scroll, pointed at both ends, escaping from his nose like a sneeze. The answer of the priest's assistant, evidenced by the gravity of his features, the assertive position of his hand, and the bluntness of his speech, is evidently 'It is so!'
Aac's Fierce Wooing
"Her brother Aac is madly in love with Móo. He is portrayed approaching the interpreter of the will of the gods, divested of his garments in token of humility in presence of their majesty and of submission to their decrees. He comes full of arrogance, arrayed in gorgeous attire, and with regal pomp. He comes not as a suppliant to ask and accept counsel, but haughty, he makes bold to dictate. He is angered at the refusal of the priest to accede to his demand for his sister Móo's hand, to whose totem, an armadillo on this occasion, he points imperiously. It was on an armadillo's shell that the fates wrote her destiny when consulted by the performance of the Pou ceremony. The yellow flames of wrath darting from all over his person, the sharp yellow scroll issuing from his mouth, symbolise Aac's feelings. The pontiff, however, is unmoved by them. In the name of the gods with serene mien he denies the request of the proud nobleman, as his speech indicates. The winged serpent, genius of the country, that stands erect and ireful by Aac, is also wroth at his pretensions, and shows in its features and by sending its dart through Aac's royal banner a decided opposition to them, expressed by the ends of his speech being turned backwards, some of them terminating abruptly, others in sharp points.
"Prince Coh sits behind the priest as one of his attendants. He witnesses the scene, hears the calm negative answer, sees the anger of his brother and rival, smiles at his impotence, is happy at his discomfiture. Behind him, however, sits a spy who will repeat his words, report his actions to his enemy. He listens, he watches. The high-priest himself, Cay, their elder brother, sees the storm that is brewing behind the dissensions of Coh and Aac. He trembles at the thought of the misfortunes that will surely befall the dynasty of the Cans, of the ruin and misery of the country that will certainly follow. Divested of his priestly raiment, he comes nude and humble as it is proper for men in the presence of the gods, to ask their advice how best to avoid the impending calamities. The chief of the auspices is in the act of reading their decrees on the palpitating entrails of a fish. The sad expression on his face, that of humble resignation on that of the pontiff, of deferential astonishment on that of the assistant, speak of the inevitable misfortunes which are to come in the near future.
"We pass over interesting battle scenes . . . in which the defenders have been defeated by the Mayas. Coh will return to his queen loaded with spoils that he will lay at her feet with his glory, which is also hers.
The Murder of Coh
"We next see him in a terrible altercation with his brother Aac. The figures in that scene are nearly life-size, but so much disfigured and broken as to make it impossible to obtain good tracings. Coh is portrayed without weapons, his fists clenched, looking menacingly at his foe, who holds three spears, typical of the three wounds he inflicted in his brother's back when he killed him treacherously. Coh is now laid out, being prepared for cremation. His body has been opened at the ribs to extract the viscera and heart, which, after being charred, are to be preserved in a stone urn with cinnabar, where the writer found them in 1875. His sister-wife, Queen Móo, in sad contemplation of the remains of the beloved, . . . kneels at his feet. . . . The winged serpent, protective genius of the country, is pictured without a head. The ruler of the country has been slain. He is dead. The people are without a chief."
The Widowhood of Móo
The widowhood of Móo is then said to be portrayed in subsequent pictures. Other suitors, among them Aac, make their proposals to her, but she refuses them all. "Aac's pride being humiliated, his love turned to hatred. His only wish henceforth was to usurp the supreme power, to wage war against the friend of his childhood. He made religious disagreement the pretext. He proclaimed that the worship of the sun was to be superior to that of the winged serpent, the genius of the country; also to that of the worship of ancestors, typified by the feathered serpent, with horns and a flame or halo on the head. . . . Prompted by such evil passions, he put himself at the head of his own vassals, and attacked those who had remained faithful to Queen Móo and to Prince Coh's memory. At first Móo's adherents successfully opposed her foes. The contending parties, forgetting in the strife that they were children of the same soil, blinded by their prejudices, let their passions have the better of their reason. At last Queen Móo fell a prisoner in the hands of her enemy."
The Manuscript Troano
Dr. Le Plongeon here assumes that the story is taken up by the Manuscript Troano. As no one is able to decipher this manuscript completely, he is pretty safe in his assertion. Here is what the pintura alluded to says regarding Queen Móo, according to our author:
"The people of Mayach having been whipped into submission and cowed, no longer opposing much resistance, the lord seized her by the hair, and, in common with others, caused her to suffer from blows. This happened on the ninth day of the tenth month of the year Kan. Being completely routed, she passed to the opposite sea-coast in the southern parts of the country, which had already suffered much injury."
Here we shall leave the Queen, and those who have been sufficiently credulous to create and believe in her and her companions. We do not aver that the illustrations on the walls of the temple at Chichen do not allude to some such incident, or series of incidents, as Dr. Le Plongeon describes, but to bestow names upon the dramatis personæ in the face of almost complete inability to read the Maya script and a total dearth of accompanying historical manuscripts is merely futile, and we must regard Dr. Le Plongeon's narrative as a quite fanciful rendering of probability. At the same time, the light which he throws—if some obviously unscientific remarks be deducted—on the customs of the Maya renders his account of considerable interest, and that must be our excuse for presenting it here at some length.
Piece of Pottery representing
Tapir (from Guatemala)
- These words are obviously onomatopoetic, and are evidently intended to imitate the sound made by a millstone.
- See my remarks on this subject in The Popol Vuh, pp. 41, 52 (London, 1908).
- Queen Móo and the Egyptian Sphinx (London, 1896).