THE first of these, and the most remarkable of all, is the legend of one of the Central American nations, preserved not by tradition alone, but committed to writing at some time in the remote past.
In the "Codex Chimalpopoca," one of the sacred books of the Toltecs, the author, speaking of the destruction which took place by fire, says:
"The third sun" (or era) "is called Quia-Tonatiuh, sun of rain, because there fell a rain of fire; all which existed burned; and there fell a rain of gravel."
"They also narrate that while the sandstone, which we now see scattered about, and the tetzontli (amygdaloide poreuse--trap or basaltic rocks), 'boiled with great tumult, there also rose the rocks of vermilion color.'"
That is to say, the basaltic and red trap-rocks burst through the great cracks made, at that time, in the surface of the disturbed earth.
"Now, this was in the year Ce Tecpatl, One Flint, it was the day Nahui-Quiahuitl, Fourth Rain. Now, in this day, in which men were lost and destroyed in a rain of fire, they were transformed into goslings; the sun itself was on fire, and everything, together with the houses, was consumed."
[1. "The North Americans of Antiquity," p. 499.]
Here we have the whole story told in little: "Fire fell from heaven," the comet; "the sun itself was on fire"; the comet reached to, or appeared to reach to, the sun; or its head had fallen into the sun; or the terrible object may have been mistaken for the sun on fire. "There was a rain of gravel"--the Drift fell from the comet. There is also some allusion to the sandstones scattered about; and we have another reference to the great breaks in the earth's crust, caused either by the shock of contact with the comet, or the electrical disturbances of the time; and we are told that the trap-rocks, and rocks of vermilion color, boiled up to the surface with great tumult. Mankind was destroyed, except such as fled into the seas and lakes, and there plunged into the water, and lived like "goslings."
Can any one suppose that this primitive people invented all this? And if they did, how comes it that their invention agreed so exactly with the traditions of all the rest of mankind; and with the revelations of science as to the relations between the trap rocks and the gravel, as to time at least?
We turn now to the legends of a different race, in a different stage of cultivation--the barbarian Indians of California and Nevada. It is a curious and wonderful story:
"The natives in the vicinity of Lake Tahoe ascribe its origin to a great natural convulsion. There was a time, they say, when their tribe possessed the whole earth, and were strong numerous, and rich; but a day came in which a people rose up stronger than they, and defeated and enslaved them. Afterward the Great Spirit sent an immense wave across the continent from the sea, and this wave ingulfed both the oppressors and the oppressed, all but a very small remnant. Then the task-masters made the remaining people raise up a great temple, so that
they, of the ruling caste, should have a refuge in case of another flood, and on the top of this temple the masters worshiped a column of perpetual fire."
It would be natural to suppose that this was the great deluge to which all the legends of mankind refer, and which I have supposed, elsewhere, to refer to the destruction of "Atlantis"; but it must be remembered that both east and west of the Atlantic the traditions of mankind refer to several deluges--to a series of catastrophes--occurring at times far apart. It may be that the legend of the Tower of Babel refers to an event far anterior in time even to the deluge of Noah or Deucalion; or it may be, as often happens, that the chronology of this legend has been inverted.
The Tahoe legend continues:
"Half a moon had not elapsed, however, before the earth was again troubled, this time with strong convulsions and thunderings, upon which the masters took refuge in their great tower, closing the people out. The poor slaves fled to the Humboldt River, and, getting into canoes, paddled for life from the awful sight behind them; for the land was tossing like a troubled sea, and casting up fire, smoke, and ashes. The flames went up to the very heavens, and melted many stars, SO THAT THEY RAINED DOWN IN MOLTEN METAL UPON THE EARTH, forming the ore" [gold?] "that white men seek. The Sierra was mounded up from the bosom of the earth; while the place where the great fort stood sank, leaving only the dome on the top exposed above the waters of Lake Tahoe. The inmates of the temple-tower clung to this dome to save themselves from drowning; but the Great Spirit walked upon the waters in his wrath, and took the oppressors one by one, like pebbles, and threw them far into the recesses of a great cavern on the east side of the lake, called to this day the Spirit Lodge, where the waters shut them in. There must they remain till the last great volcanic burning, which is to overturn the
whole earth, is to again set them free. In the depths of cavern-prison they may still be heard, wailing and their cave, moaning, when the snows melt and the waters swell in the lake."
Here we have the usual mingling of fact and myth. The legend describes accurately, no doubt, the awful appearance of the tossing earth and the falling fire and débris; the people flying to rivers and taking shelter in the caves) and some of them closed up in the caves for ever.
The legend, as is usual, accommodates itself to the geography and topography of the country in which the narrators live.
In the Aztec creation-myths, as preserved by the Fray Andres de Olmos, and taken down by him from the lips of those who narrated the Aztec traditions to him, we have an account of the destruction of mankind by the sun, which reads as follows:
The sun had risen indeed, and with the glory of the cruel fire about him, that not even the eyes of the gods could endure; but he moved not. There he lay on the horizon; and when the deities sent Tlotli, their messenger, to him, with orders that he should go on upon his way, his ominous answer was that he would never leave that place till he had destroyed and put an end to them all. Then a great fear fell upon some, while others were moved only to anger; and among the others was one Citli, who immediately strung his bow and advanced against the glittering enemy. By quickly lowering his head the sun avoided the first arrow shot at him; but the second and third had attained his body in quick succession, when, filled with fury, he seized the last and launched it back upon his assailant. And the brave Citli laid shaft to string never more, for the arrow of the sun pierced his forehead. Then all was dismay in the assembly of the gods, and despair filled their hearts, for they saw that
[1. Bancroft's "Native Races," vol. iii, p. 89.]
170 THE LEGENDS.
they could not prevail against the shining one; and they agreed to die, and to cut themselves open through the breast. . Xololt was appointed minister, and he killed his companions one by one, and last of all he slew himself also. . . . Immediately after the death of the gods, the sun began his motion in the heavens; and a man called Tecuzistecatl, or Tezcociztecatl, who, when Nanahuatzin leaped into the fire, had retired into a cave, now emerged from his concealment as the moon. Others say that instead of going into a cave, this Tecuzistecatl had leaped into the fire after Nanahuatzin, but that the heat of the fire being somewhat abated he had come out less brilliant than the sun. Still another variation is that the sun and moon came out equally bright, but this not seeming good to the gods, one of them took a rabbit by the heels and slung it into the face of the moon, dimming its luster with a blotch whose mark may be seen to this day."
Here we have the same Titanic battle between the gods, the godlike men of old--"the old ones"--and the Comet, which appears in the Norse legends, when Odin, Thor, Prey, Tyr, and Heimdal boldly march out to encounter the Comet and fall dead, like Citli, before the weapons or the poisonous breath of the monster. In the same way we see in Hesiod the great Jove, rising high on Olympus and smiting Typhaon with his lightnings. And we shall see this idea of a conflict between the gods and the great demon occurring all through the legends. And it may be that the three arrows of this American story represent the three comets spoken of in Hesiod, and the Fenris-wolf, Midgard-serpent, and Surt or Garm of the Goths: the first arrow did not strike the sun; the second and the third "attained its body," and then the enraged sun launched the last arrow back at Citli, at the earth; and thereupon despair filled the people, and they prepared to die.
[1. Bancroft's "Native Races," vol. iii, p. 62.]
The Avesta, the sacred book of the ancient Persians, written in the Zend dialect, tells the same story. I have already given one version of it:
Ahura Mazda is the good god, the kind creator of life and growth; he sent the sun, the fertilizing rain. He created for the ancestors of the Persians a beautiful land, a paradise, a warm and fertile country. But Ahriman, the genius of evil, created Azhidahaka, "the biting snake of winter." "He had triple jaws, three heads, six eyes, the strength of a thousand beings." He brings ruin and winter on the fair land. Then comes a mighty hero, Thraetaona, who kills the snake and rescues the land.
In the Persian legends we have Feridun, the hero of the Shah-Nameh. There is a serpent-king called Zohak, who has committed dreadful crimes, assisted by a demon called Iblis. As his reward, Iblis asked permission to kiss the king's shoulder, which was granted. Then from the shoulder sprang two dreadful serpents. Iblis told him that these must be fed every day with the brains of two children. So the human race was gradually being exterminated. Then Feridun, beautiful and strong, rose up and killed the serpent-king Zohak, and delivered his country. Zohak is the same as Azhidahaka in the Avesta--"the biting snake of winter." He is Python; he is Typhaon; he is the Fenris-wolf; he is the Midgard-serpent.
The Persian fire-worship is based on the primeval recognition of the value of light and fire, growing out of this Age of Darkness and winter.
In the legends of the Hindoos we read of the fight between Rama, the sun-god (Ra was the Egyptian god of the sun), and Ravana, a giant who, accompanied by the
[1. Poor, "Sanskrit Literature," p. 144.
2. Ibid., p. 158.]
Rakshasas, or demons, made terrible times in the ancient land where the ancestors of the Hindoos dwelt at that period. He carries away the wife of Rama, Sita; her name signifies "a furrow," and seems to refer to agriculture, and an agricultural race inhabiting the furrowed earth. He bears her struggling through the air. Rama and his allies pursue him. The monkey-god, Hanuman, helps Rama; a bridge of stone, sixty miles long, is built across the deep ocean to the Island of Lanka, where the great battle is fought: "The stones which crop out through Southern India are said to have been dropped by the monkey builders!" The army crosses on the bridge, as the forces of Muspelheim, in the Norse legends, marched over the bridge "Bifrost."
The battle is a terrible one. Ravana has ten heads, and as fast as Rama cuts off one another grows in its place. Finally, Rama, like Apollo, fires the terrible arrow of Brahma, the creator, and the monster falls dead.
"Gods and demons are watching the contest from the sky, and flowers fall down in showers on the victorious hero."
The body of Ravana is consumed by fire. Sita, the furrowed earth, goes through the ordeal of fire, and comes out of it purified and redeemed from all taint of the monster Ravana; and Rama, the sun, and Sita, the earth, are separated for fourteen years; Sita is hid in the dark jungle, and then they are married again, and live happily together ever after.
Here we have the battle in the air between the sun and the demon: the earth is taken possession of by the demon; the demon is finally consumed by fire, and perishes; the earth goes through an ordeal of fire, a conflagration; and for fourteen years the earth and sun do not see each other; the earth is hid in a dark jungle; but
eventually the sun returns, and the loving couple are again married, and live happily for ever after.
The Phoibos Apollo of the Greek legends was, Byron tells us--
The lord of the unerring bow,
The god of life and poetry and light,
The sun in human limbs arrayed, and brow
All radiant from his triumph in the fight.
The shaft had just been shot, the arrow bright
With an immortal's vengeance; in his eye
And nostril beautiful disdain, and might,
And majesty flash their full lightnings by,
Developing in that one glance the deity."
This fight, so magnificently described, was the sun-god's battle with Python, the destroyer, the serpent, the dragon, the Comet. What was Python doing? He was "stealing the springs and fountains." That is to say, the great heat was drying up the water-courses of the earth.
"The arrow bright with an immortal's vengeance," was the shaft with which Apollo broke the fiend to pieces and tumbled him down to the earth, and saved the springs and the clouds and the perishing ocean.
When we turn to America, the legends tell us of the same great battle between good and evil, between light and darkness.
Manibozho, or the Great Hare Nana, is, in the Algonquin legends, the White One, the light, the sun. "His foe was the glittering prince of serpents"-the Comet.
Among the Iroquois, according to the Jesuit missionary, Father Brebeuf, who resided among the Hurons in 1626, there was a legend of two brothers, Ioskeba and Tawiscara, which mean, in the Oneida dialect, the White One, the light, the sun, and the Dark One, the night.
[1. Brinton's "Myths," p. 182.]
They were twins, born of a virgin mother, who died in giving them life. Their grandmother was the moon (the water deity), called At-aeusic, a word which signifies "she bathes herself," derived from the word for water.
"The brothers quarreled, and finally came to blows, the former using the horns of a stag, the latter the wild rose. He of the weaker weapon was very naturally discomfited and sorely wounded. Fleeing for life, the blood gushed from him at every step, and as it fell turned into flint-stones. The victor returned to his grandmother in the far east, and established his lodge on the borders of the great ocean, whence the sun comes. In time he became the father of mankind, and special guardian of the Iroquois. The earth was at first arid and sterile, but he destroyed the gigantic frog which had swallowed all the waters, and guided the torrents into smooth streams and lakes. The woods he stocked with game; and, having learned from the great tortoise who supports the world how to make fire, taught his children, the Indians, this indispensable art. . . . Sometimes they spoke of him as the sun, but this is only figuratively."
Here we have the light and darkness, the sun and the night, battling with each other; the sun fights with a younger brother, another luminary, the comet; the comet is broken up; it flies for life, the red blood (the red clay) streaming from it, and flint-stones appearing on the earth wherever the blood (the clay) falls. The victorious sun re-establishes himself in the east. And then the myth of the sun merges into the legends concerning a great people, who were the fathers of mankind who dwelt "in the east," on the borders of the great eastern ocean, the Atlantic. "The earth was at first arid and sterile," covered with débris and stones; but the returning sun, the White One, destroys the gigantic frog, emblem of cold and water, the great snows and ice-deposits; this
[1. Brinton's "Myths of the New World," p. 184.]
frog had "swallowed all the waters," that is to say, the falling rains had been congealed in these great snow-banks and glaciers; the sun melts them, and kills the frog; the waters pour forth in deluging floods; Manibozho "guides the torrents into smooth streams and lakes"; the woods return, and become once more full of animal life. Then the myth again mixes up the sun and the sun-land in the east. From this sun-land, represented as "a tortoise," always the emblem of an island, the Iroquois derive the knowledge of "how to make fire."
This coming of the monster, his attack upon and conquest of the sun, his apparent swallowing of that orb, are all found represented on both sides of the Atlantic, on the walls of temples and in great earth-mounds, in the image of a gigantic serpent holding a globe in its mouth.
This long-trailing object in the skies was probably the origin of that primeval serpent-worship found all over the world. And hence the association of the serpent in so many religions with the evil-one. In itself, the serpent should no more represent moral wrong than the lizard, the crocodile, or the frog; but the hereditary abhorrence with which he is regarded by mankind extends to no other created thing. He is the image of the great destroyer, the wronger, the enemy.
Let us turn to another legend.
An ancient authority gives the following legend of the Tupi Indians of Brazil:
"Monau, without beginning or end, author of all that is, seeing the ingratitude of men, and their contempt for him who had made them thus joyous, withdrew from them, and sent upon them tata, the divine fire, which burned all that was on the surface of the earth. He
[1. "Une Fête Brésilienne célébré à Rouen en 1550," par M. Ferdinand Denis, p. 82.]
swept about the fire in such a way that in places he raised mountains, and in others dug valleys. Of all men one alone, Irin Magé, was saved, whom Monau carried into the heaven. He, seeing all things destroyed, spoke thus to Monau: 'Wilt thou also destroy the heavens and their garniture? Alas! henceforth where will be our home? Why should I live, since there is none other of my kind? Then Monau was so filled with pity that he poured a deluging rain on the earth, which quenched the fire, and flowed on all sides, forming the ocean, which we call the parana, the great waters."
The prayer of Irin Magé, when he calls on God to save the garniture of the heavens, reminds one vividly of the prayer of the Earth in Ovid.
It might be inferred that heaven meant in the Tupi legend the heavenly land, not the skies; this is rendered the more probable because we find Irin asking where should he dwell if heaven is destroyed. This could scarcely allude to a spiritual heaven.
And here I would note a singular coincidence: The fire that fell from heaven was the divine tata. In Egypt the Dame of deity was "ta-ta," or "pta-pta," which signified father. This became in the Hebrew "ya-ya," from which we derive the root of Jah, Jehovah. And this word is found in many languages in Europe and America, and even in our own, as, "da-da," "daddy," father. The Tupi "tata" was fire from the supreme father.
Who can doubt the oneness of the human race, when millions of threads of tradition and language thus cross each other through it in all directions, like the web of a mighty fabric?
We cross from one continent to another, from the torrid part of South America to the frozen regions of North America, and the same legend meets us.
[1. Brinton's "Myths of the New World," p. 227.]
The Tacullies of British Columbia believe that the earth was formed by a musk-rat, who, diving into the universal sea, brought up the land in his mouth and spit it out, until he had formed "quite an island, and, by degrees, the whole earth":
"In some unexplained way, this earth became afterward peopled in every part, and it remained, until a fierce fire, of several days' duration, swept over it, destroying all life, with two exceptions; one man and one woman hid themselves in a deep cave in the heart of a mountain, and from these two has the world since been repeopled."
Brief as is this narrative, it preserves the natural sequence of events: First, the world is made; then it becomes peopled in every part; then a fierce fire sweeps over it for several days, consuming all life, except two persons, who save themselves by hiding in a deep cave; and from these the world is repeopled. How wonderfully does all this resemble the Scandinavian story!
It has oftentimes been urged, by the skeptical, when legends of Noah's flood were found among rude races, that they had been derived from Christian missionaries. But these myths can not be accounted for in this way; for the missionaries did not teach that the world was once destroyed by fire, and that a remnant of mankind escaped by taking refuge in a cave; although, as we shall see, such a legend really appears in several places hidden in the leaves of the Bible itself.
We leave the remote north and pass down the Pacific coast until we encounter the Ute Indians of California and Utah. This is their legend:
"The Ute philosopher declares the sun to be a living personage, and explains his passage across the heavens along an appointed way by giving an account of a fierce
[1. Bancroft's "Native Races," vol. iii, p. 98]
personal conflict between Ta-vi, the sun-god, and Ta-wats, one of the supreme gods of his mythology.
"In that, long ago, the time to which all mythology refers, the sun roamed the earth at will. When he came too near with his fierce heat the people were scorched, and when he hid away in his cave for a long time, too idle to come forth, the night was long and the earth cold. Once upon a time Ta-wats, the hare-god, was sitting with his family by the camp-fire in the solemn woods, anxiously waiting for the return of Ta-vi, the wayward sun-god. Wearied with long watching, the hare-god fell asleep, and the sun-god came so near that he scorched the naked shoulder of Ta-wats. Foreseeing the vengeance which would be thus provoked, he fled back to his cave beneath the earth. Ta-wats awoke in great anger, and speedily determined to go and fight the sun-god. After a long journey of many adventures the hare-god came to the brink of the earth, and there watched long and patiently, till at last the sun-god coming out he shot an arrow at his face, but the fierce heat consumed the arrow ere it had finished its intended course; then another arrow was sped, but that also was consumed; and another, and still another, till only one remained in his quiver, but this was the magical arrow that had never failed its mark. Ta-wats, holding it in his hand, lifted the barb to his eye and baptized it in a divine tear; then the arrow was sped and struck the sun-god full in the face, and the sun was shivered into a thousand fragments, which fell to the earth, causing a general conflagration. Then Ta-wats, the hare-god, fled before the destruction he had wrought, and as he fled the burning earth consumed his feet, consumed his legs, consumed his body, consumed his bands and his arms--all were consumed but the head alone, which bowled across valleys and over mountains, fleeing destruction from the burning earth, until at last, swollen with heat, the eyes of the god burst and the tears gushed forth in a flood which spread over the earth and extinguished the fire. The sun-god was now conquered, and he appeared before a council of the gods to await sentence. In that long council were established the days and the nights, the seasons and the years, with the length
thereof, and the sun was condemned to travel across the firmament by the same trail day after day till the end of time."
Here we have the succession of arrows, or comets, found in the legend of the Aztecs, and here as before it is the last arrow that destroys the sun. And here, again, we have the conflagration, the fragments of something falling on the earth, the long absence of the sun, the great rains and the cold.
Let us shift the scene again.
In Peru--that ancient land of mysterious civilization, that brother of Egypt and Babylon, looking out through the twilight of time upon the silent waters of the Pacific, waiting in its isolation for the world once more to come to it-in this strange land we find the following legend:
"Ere sun and moon was made, Viracocha, the White One, rose from the bosom of Lake Titicaca, and presided over the erection of those wondrous cities whose ruins still dot its islands and western shores, and whose history is totally lost in the night of time."
He constructed the sun and moon and created the inhabitants of the earth. These latter attacked him with murderous intent (the comet assailed the sun?); but "scorning such unequal contest he manifested his power by hurling the lightning on the hill-sides and consuming the forests," whereupon the creatures he had created humbled themselves before him. One of Viracocha names was At-achuchu. He civilized the Peruvians, taught them arts and agriculture and religion; they called him "The teacher of all things." He came from the east and disappeared in the Western Ocean. Four civilizers followed him who emerged from the cave
[1. "Popular Science Monthly," October, 1879, p, 799.
2. Brinton's; "Myths of the New World," p. 192.]
Pacarin Tampu, the House of Birth. These four brothers were also called Viracochas, white men.
Here we have the White One coming from the east, hurling his lightning upon the earth and causing a conflagration; and afterward civilized men emerged from a cave. They were white men; and it is to these cave-born men that Peru owed its first civilization.
Here is another and a more amplified version of the Peruvian legend:
The Peruvians believed in a god called At-achuchu, already referred to, the creator of heaven and earth, and the maker of all things. From him came the first man, Guamansuri.
This first mortal is mixed up with events that seem to refer to the Age of Fire.
He descended to the earth, and "there seduced the sister of certain Guachemines, rayless ones, or Darklings"; that is to say, certain Powers of Darkness, "who then possessed it. For this crime they destroyed him." That is to say, the Powers of Darkness destroyed the light. But not for ever.
"Their sister proved pregnant, and died in her labor, giving birth to two eggs," the sun and moon. "From these emerged the two brothers, Apocatequil and Piguerao."
Then followed the same great battle, to which we have so many references in the legends, and which always ends, as in the case of Cain and Abel, in one brother slaughtering the other. In this case, Apocatequil "was the more powerful. By touching the corpse of his mother (the sun?) he brought her to life, he drove off and slew the Guachemines (the Powers of Darkness), and, directed by
[1. Brinton's "Myths of the New World," p. 193.]
At-achuchu, released the race of Indians from the soil by turning it up with a golden spade."
That is to say, he dug them out from the cave in which they were buried.
"For this reason they adored him as their maker. He it was, they thought, who produced the thunder and the lightning by hurling stones with his sling; and the thunder-bolts that fall, said they, are his children. Few villages were willing to be without one or more of these. They were in appearance small, round, smooth stones, but had the admirable properties of securing fertility to the fields, protecting from lightning," etc.
I shift the scene again; or, rather, group together the legends of three different localities. I quote:
"The Takahlis" (the Tacullies already referred to) "of the North Pacific coast, the Yurucares of the Bolivian Cordilleras, and the Mbocobi of Paraguay, each and all attribute the destruction of the world to a general conflagration, which swept over the earth, consuming everything living except a few who took refuge in a deep cave."
The Botocudos of Brazil believed that the world was once destroyed by the moon falling upon it.
Let us shift the scene again northward:
There was once, according to the Ojibway legends, a boy; the sun burned and spoiled his bird-skin coat; and he swore that he would have vengeance. He persuaded his sister to make him a noose of her own hair. He fixed it just where the sun would strike the land as it rose above the earth's disk; and, sure enough, he caught the sun, and held it fast, so that it did not rise.
"The animals who ruled the earth were immediately put into great commotion. They had no light. They called a council to debate upon the matter, and to appoint
[1. Brinton's "Myths of the New World," p. 165.
2. Ibid., p. 217.]
some one to go and cut the cord, for this was a very hazardous enterprise, as the rays of the sun would burn up whoever came so near. At last the dormouse undertook it, for at this time the dormouse was the largest animal in the world" (the mastodon?); "when it stood up it looked like a mountain. When it got to the place where the sun was snared, its back began to smoke and burn with the intensity of the heat, and the top of its carcass was reduced to enormous heaps of ashes. It succeeded, however, in cutting the cord with its teeth and freeing the sun, but it was reduced to very small size, and has remained so ever since."
This seems to be a reminiscence of the destruction of the great mammalia. The "enormous heaps of ashes" may represent the vast deposits of clay-dust.
Among the Wyandots a story was told, in the seventeenth century, of a boy whose father was killed and eaten by a bear, and his mother by the Great Hare. He was small, but of prodigious strength. He climbed a tree, like Jack of the Bean-Stalk, until he reached heaven.
"He set his snares for game, but when he got up at night to look at them he found everything on fire. His sister told him he had caught the sun unawares, and when the boy, Chakabech, went to see, so it was. But he dared not go near enough to let him out. But by chance he found a little mouse, and blew upon her until she grew so big" (again the mastodon) "that she could set the sun free, and he went on his way. But while he was held in the snare, day failed down here on earth."
It was the age of darkness
The Dog-Rib Indians, far in the northwest of America, near the Esquimaux, have a similar story: Chakabech becomes Chapewee. He too climbs a tree, but it is in pursuit
[1. Tylor's "Early History of Mankind," p. 848.
2. Le Jeune (1637), in "Rélations des Jesuits dans la Nouvelle France," vol. i, p. 54.]
of a squirrel, until he reaches heaven. He set a snare made of his sister's hair and caught the sun. "The sky was instantly darkened. Chapewee's family said to him, 'You must have done something wrong when you were aloft, for we no longer enjoy the light of day.' 'I have,' replied he, 'but it was unintentionally.' Chapewee sent a number of animals to cut the snare, but the intense heat reduced them all to ashes." At last the ground-mole working in the earth cut the snare but lost its sight, "and its nose and teeth have ever since been brown as if burnt."
The natives of Siberia represented the mastodon as a great mole burrowing in the earth and casting up ridges of earth--the sight of the sun killed him.
These sun-catching legends date back to a time when the races of the earth had not yet separated. Hence we find the same story, in almost the same words, in Polynesia and America.
Maui is the Polynesian god of the ancient days. He concluded, as did Ta-wats, that the days were too short. He wanted the sun to slow-up, but it would not. So he proceeded to catch it in a noose like the Ojibway boy and the Wyandot youth. The manufacture of the noose, we are told, led to the discovery of the art of rope-making. He took his brothers with him; he armed himself, like Samson, with a jaw-bone, but instead of the jaw-bone of an ass, he, with much better taste, selected the jawbone of his mistress. She may have been a lady of fine conversational powers. They traveled far, like Ta-wats, even to the very edge of the place where the sun rises. There he set his noose. The sun came and put his head and fore-paws into it; then the brothers pulled the ropes
[1. Richardson's "Narrative of Franklin's Second Expedition," p. 291.]
tight and Maui gave him a great whipping with the jawbone; he screamed and roared; they held him there for a long time, (the Age of Darkness,) and at last they let him go; and weak from his wounds, (obscured by clouds,) he crawls slowly along his path. Here the jaw of the wolf Fenris, which reached from earth to heaven, in the Scandinavian legends, becomes a veritable jaw-bone which beats and ruins the sun.
It is a curious fact that the sun in this Polynesian legend is Ra, precisely the same as the name of the god of the sun in Egypt, while in Hindostan the sun-god is Ra-ma.
In another Polynesian legend we read of a character who was satisfied with nothing, "even pudding would not content him," and this unconscionable fellow worried his family out of all heart with his new ways and ideas. He represents a progressive, inventive race. He was building a great house, but the days were too short; so, like Maui, he determined to catch the sun in nets and ropes; but the sun went on. At last he succeeded; he caught him. The good man then had time to finish his house, but the sun cried and cried "until the island of Savai was nearly drowned."
And these myths of the sun being tied by a cord are, strange to say, found even in Europe. The legends tell us:
"In North Germany the townsmen of Bösum sit up in their church-tower and hold the sun by a cable all day long; taking care of it at night, and letting it up again in the morning. In 'Reynard the Fox,' the day is bound with a rope, and its bonds only allow it to come slowly on. The Peruvian Inca said the sun is like a tied beast, who goes ever round and round, in the same track."
That is to say, they recognized that he is not a god, but the servant of God.
[1. Tyler's "Early Mankind," p. 347.
2. Ibid., p. 352.]
Verily the bands that knit the races of the earth together are wonderful indeed, and they radiate, as I shall try to show, from one spot of the earth's surface, alike to Polynesia, Europe, and America.
Let us change the scene again to the neighborhood of the Aztecs:
We are told of two youths, the ancestors of the Miztec chiefs, who separated, each going his own way to conquer lands for himself:
"The braver of the two, coming to the vicinity of Tilantongo, armed with buckler and bow, was much vexed and oppressed by the ardent rays of the sun, which he took to be the lord of that district, striving to prevent his entrance therein. Then the young man strung his bow, and advanced his buckler before him, and drew shafts from his quiver. He shot these against the great light even till the going down of the same; then he took possession of all that land, seeing that he had grievously wounded the sun and forced him to hide behind the mountains. Upon this story is founded the lordship of all the caciques of Mizteca, and upon their descent from this mighty archer, their ancestor. Even to this day, the chiefs of the Miztecs blazon as their arms a plumed chief with bow and arrows and shield, and the sun in front of him setting behind gray clouds."
Are these two young men, one of whom attacks and injures the sun, the two wolves of the Gothic legends, the two comets, who devoured the sun and moon? And did the Miztec barbarians, in their vanity, claim descent from these monstrous creatures of the sky? Why not, when the historical heroes of antiquity traced their pedigree back to the gods; and the rulers of Peru, Egypt, and China pretended to be the lineal offspring of the sun? And there are not wanting those, even in Europe, who
[1. Bancroft's "Native Races," vol. iii, p. 73.]
yet believe that the blood-royal differs in some of its constituents from the blood of the common people
"What, will the aspiring blood of Lancaster
Sink in the ground? "
In the Aztec legends there were four ages, or suns, as they were termed. The first terminated, according to Gama, in a destruction of the people of the world by hunger; the second ended in a destruction by winds; in the third, the human race was swept away by fire, and the fourth destruction was by water. And in the Hindoo legends we find the same series of great cycles, or ages: one of the Shastas teaches that the human race has been destroyed four times--first by water, secondly by winds, thirdly the earth swallowed them, and lastly fire consumed them.
I come now to a most extraordinary record:
In the prayer of the Aztecs to the great god Tezcatlipoca, "the supreme, invisible god," a prayer offered up in time of pestilence, we have the most remarkable references to the destruction of the people by stones and fire. It would almost seem as if this great prayer, noble and sublime in its language, was first poured out in the very midst of the Age of Fire, wrung from the human heart by the most appalling calamity that ever overtook the race; and that it was transmitted from age to age, as the hymns of the Vedas and the prayers of the Hebrews have been preserved, for thousands of years, down to our own times, when it was carefully transcribed by a missionary priest. It is as follows:
"O mighty Lord, under whose wing we find defense and shelter, thou art invisible and impalpable, even as night and the air. How can I, that am so mean and worthless, dare to appear before thy majesty? Stuttering
[1. Brinton's "Myths of the New World," p. 232.]
and with rude lips I speak, ungainly is the manner of my speech as one leaping among furrows, as one advancing unevenly; for all this I fear to raise thine anger, and to provoke instead of appeasing thee; nevertheless, thou wilt do unto me as may please thee. O Lord, thou hast held it good to forsake us in these days, according to the counsel that thou hast as well in heaven as in hades,--alas for us, in that thine anger and indignation has descended upon us in these days; alas in that the many and grievous afflictions of thy wrath have overgone, and swallowed us up, coming down even as stones, spears, and arrows upon the wretches that inhabit the earth!--this is the sore pestilence with which we are afflicted and almost destroyed. O valiant and all-powerful Lord, the common people are almost made an end of and destroyed; a great destruction the ruin and pestilence already make in this nation; and, what is most pitiful of all, the little children, that are innocent and understand nothing, only to play with pebbles and to heap up little mounds of earth, they too die, broken and dashed to pieces as against stones and a wall--a thing very pitiful and grievous to be seen, for there remain of them not even those in the cradles, nor those that could not walk or speak. Ah, Lord, how all things become confounded! of young and old and of men and women there remains neither branch nor root; thy nation, and thy people, and thy wealth, are leveled down and destroyed.
"O our Lord, protector of all, most valiant and most kind, what is this?
"Thine anger and thine indignation, does it glory or delight in hurling the stone, and arrow, and spear? The FIRE of the pestilence, made exceeding hot, is upon thy nation, as a fire in a hut, burning and smoking, leaving nothing upright or sound. The grinders of thy teeth," (the falling stones), "are employed, and thy bitter whips upon the miserable of thy people, who have become lean, and of little substance, even as a hollow green cane.
Yea, what doest thou now, O Lord, most strong, compassionate, invisible, and impalpable, whose will all things obey, upon whose disposal depends the rule of the world, to whom all are subject,--what in thy divine breast
hast thou decreed? Peradventure, hast thou altogether forsaken thy nation and thy people? Hast thou verily determined that it utterly perish, and that there be no more memory of it in the world, that the peopled place become a wooded hill, and A WILDERNESS OF STONES? Peradventure, wilt thou permit that the temples, and the places of prayer, and the altars, built for thy service, be razed and destroyed, and no memory of them left?
"Is it, indeed, possible that thy wrath and punishment and vexed indignation are altogether implacable, and will go on to the end to our destruction? Is it already fixed in thy divine counsel that there is to be no mercy nor pity for us, until the arrows of thy fury are spent to our utter perdition and destruction? Is it possible that this lash and chastisement is not given for our correction and amendment, but only for our total destruction and obliteration; that THE SUN SHALL NEVER MORE SHINE UPON US, but that we must remain in PERPETUAL DARKNESS and silence; that never more wilt thou look upon us with eyes of mercy, neither little nor much?
"Wilt thou after this fashion destroy the wretched sick that can not find rest, nor turn from side to side, whose mouth and teeth are filled with earth and scurf? It is a sore thing to tell how we are all in darkness, having none understanding nor sense to watch for or aid one another. We are all as drunken, and without understanding: without hope of any aid, already the little children perish of hunger, for there is none to give them food, nor drink, nor consolation, nor caress; none to give the breast to them that suck, for their fathers and mothers have died and left them orphans, suffering for the sins of their fathers."
What a graphic picture is all this of the remnant of a civilized religious race hiding in some deep cavern, in darkness, their friends slaughtered by the million by the falling stones, coming like arrows and spears, and the pestilence of poisonous gases; their food-supplies scanty; they themselves horrified, awe-struck, despairing, fearing that they would never again see the light; that this dreadful day was the end of the human race
and of the world itself! And one of them, perhaps a priest, certainly a great man, wrought up to eloquence, through the darkness and the terror, puts up this pitiful and pathetic cry to the supreme God for mercy, for protection, for deliverance from the awful visitation.
How wonderful to think that the priesthood of the Aztecs have through ages preserved to us, down to this day, this cavern-hymn--one of the most ancient of the utterances of the heart of man extant on the earth--and have preserved it long after the real meaning of its words was lost to them!
The prayer continues
"O our Lord, all-powerful, full of mercy, our refuge, though indeed thine anger and indignation, thine arrows and stones, have sorely hurt this poor people, let it be as a father or a mother that rebukes children, pulling their ears, pinching their arms, whipping them with nettles, pouring chill water upon them, all being done that they may amend their puerility and childishness. Thy chastisement and indignation have lorded and prevailed over these thy servants, over this poor people, even as rain falling upon the trees and the green canes, being touched of the wind, drops also upon those that are below.
"O most compassionate Lord, thou knowest that the common folk are as children, that being whipped they cry and sob and repent of what they have done. Peradventure, already these poor people by reason of their chastisement weep, sigh, blame, and murmur against themselves; in thy presence they blame and bear witness against their bad deeds, and punish themselves therefor. Our Lord, most compassionate, pitiful, noble, and precious, let a time be given the people to repent; let the past chastisement suffice; let it end here, to begin again if the reform endure not. Pardon and overlook the sins of the people; cause thine anger and thy resentment to cease; repress it again within thy breast that it destroy no further; let it rest there; let it cease, for of a surety none can avoid death nor escape to anyplace."
"We owe tribute to death; and all that live in the world are vassals thereof; this tribute shall every man pay with his life. None shall avoid from following death, for it is thy messenger what hour soever it may be sent, hungering and thirsting always to devour all that are in the world and so powerful that none shall escape; then, indeed, shall every man be judged according to his deeds. O most pitiful Lord, at least take pity and have mercy upon the children that are in the cradles, upon those that can not walk Have mercy also, O Lord, upon the poor and very miserable, who have nothing to eat, nor to cover themselves withal, nor a place to sleep, who do not know what thing a happy day is, whose days pass altogether in pain, affliction, and sadness. Than this, were it not better, O Lord, if thou shouldst forget to have mercy upon the soldiers and upon the men of war whom thou wilt have need of some time? Behold, it is better to die in war and go to serve food and drink in the house of the Sun, than to die in this pestilence and descend to hades. O most strong Lord, protector of all, lord of the earth, governor of the world and universal master, let the sport and satisfaction thou hast already taken in this past punishment suffice; make an end of this smoke and fog of thy resentment; quench also the burning and destroying fire of thine anger; let serenity come and clearness; let the small birds of thy people begin to sing and" (to) "approach the sun; give them QUIET WEATHER; so that they may cause their voices to reach thy highness, and thou mayest know them."
Now it may be doubted by some whether this most extraordinary supplication could have come down from the Glacial Age; but it must be remembered that it may have been many times repeated in the deep cavern before the terror fled from the souls of the desolate fragment of the race; and, once established as a religious prayer, associated with such dreadful events, who would dare to change a word of it?
[1. Bancroft's "Native Races," vol. iii, p. 200.]
Who would dare, among ourselves, to alter a syllable of the "Lord's Prayer"? Even though Christianity should endure for ten thousand years upon the face of the earth; even though the art of writing were lost, and civilization itself had perished, it would pass unchanged from mouth to mouth and from generation to generation, crystallized into imperishable diamonds of thought, by the conservative power of the religious instinct.
There can be no doubt of the authenticity of this and the other ancient prayers to Tezcatlipoca, which I shall quote hereafter. I repeat what H. H. Bancroft says, in a foot-note, in his great work:
"Father Bernardino de Sahagun, a Spanish Franciscan, was one of the first preachers sent to Mexico, where he was much employed in the instruction of the native youth, working for the most part in the province of Tezcuco. While there, in the city of Tepeopulco, in the latter part of the sixteenth century, he began the work, best known to us as the 'Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España,' from which the above prayers have been taken. It would be hard to imagine a work of such a character constructed after a better fashion of working than his. Gathering the principal natives of the town in which he carried on his labors, he induced them to appoint him a number of persons, the most learned and experienced in the things of which he proposed to write. These learned Mexicans being collected, Father Sahagun was accustomed to get them to paint down in their native fashion the various legends, details of history and mythology, and so on, that he wanted; at the foot of the said. pictures these learned Mexicans wrote out the explanations of the same in the Mexican tongue; and this explanation the Father Sahagun translated into Spanish. That translation purports to be what we now read as the 'Historia General.'"
[1. "The Native Races of the Pacific States," vol. iii, p. 231.]
Sahagun was a good and holy man, who was doubtless inspired of God, in the face of much opposition and many doubts, to perpetuate, for the benefit of the race, these wonderful testimonials of man's existence, condition, opinions, and feelings in the last great cataclysm which shook the whole world and nearly destroyed it.
Religions may perish; the name of the Deity may change with race and time and tongue; but He can never despise such noble, exalted, eloquent appeals from the hearts of millions of men, repeated through thousands of generations, as these Aztec prayers have been. Whether addressed to Tezcatlipoca, Zeus, Jove, Jehovah, or God, they pass alike direct from the heart of the creature to the heart of the Creator; they are of the threads that tie together matter and spirit.
In conclusion, let me recapitulate
1. The original surface-rocks, underneath the Drift, are, we have seen, decomposed and changed, for varying depths of from one to one hundred feet, by fire; they are metamorphosed, and their metallic constituents vaporized out of them by heat.
2. Only tremendous heat could have lifted the water of the seas into clouds, and formed the age of snow and floods evidenced by the secondary Drift.
3. The traditions of the following races tell us that the earth was once swept by a great conflagration:
a. The ancient Britons, as narrated in the mythology of the Druids.
b. The ancient Greeks, as told by Hesiod.
c. The ancient Scandinavians, as appears in the Elder Edda and Younger Edda.
d. The ancient Romans, as narrated by Ovid.
e. The ancient Toltecs of Central America, as told in their sacred books.
f. The ancient Aztecs of Mexico, as transcribed by Fray de Olmos.
g. The ancient Persians, as recorded in the Zend-Avesta.
h. The ancient Hindoos, as told in their sacred books.
i. The Tahoe Indians of California, as appears by their living traditions.
Also by the legends of--
j. The Tupi Indians of Brazil.
k. The Tacullies of British America.
1. The Ute Indians of California and Utah.
m. The Peruvians.
n. The Yurucares of the Bolivian Cordilleras.
o. The Mbocobi of Paraguay.
p. The Botocudos of Brazil.
q. The Ojibway Indians of the United States.
r. The Wyandot Indians of the United States.
s. Lastly, the Dog-rib Indians of British Columbia.
We must concede that these legends of a world-embracing conflagration represent a race-remembrance of a great fact, or that they are a colossal falsehood--an invention of man.
If the latter, then that invention and falsehood must have been concocted at a time when the ancestors of the Greeks, Romans, Hindoos, Persians, Goths, Toltecs, Aztecs, Peruvians, and the Indians of Brazil, the United States, the west coast of South America, and the northwestern extremity of North America, and the Polynesians, (who have kindred traditions,) all dwelt together, as one people, alike in language and alike in color of their hair, eyes, and skin. At that time, therefore, all the widely separated regions, now inhabited by these races, must have been without human inhabitants; the race must have been a mere handful, and dwelling in one spot.
What vast lapses of time must have been required before mankind slowly overflowed to these remote regions of the earth, and changed into these various races speaking such diverse tongues!
And if we take the ground that this universal tradition of a world-conflagration was an invention, a falsehood, then we must conclude that this handful of men, before they dispersed, in the very infancy of the world, shared in the propagation of a prodigious lie, and religiously perpetuated it for tens of thousands of years.
And then the question arises, How did they hit upon a lie that accords so completely with the revelations of science? They possessed no great public works, in that infant age, which would penetrate through hundreds of feet of débris, and lay bare the decomposed rocks beneath; therefore they did not make a theory to suit an observed fact.
And how did mankind come to be reduced to a handful? If men grew, in the first instance, out of bestial forms, mindless and speechless, they would have propagated and covered the world as did the bear and the wolf. But after they had passed this stage, and had so far developed as to be human in speech and brain, some cause reduced them again to a handful. What was it? Something, say these legends, some fiery object, some blazing beast or serpent, which appeared in the heavens, which filled the world with conflagrations, and which destroyed the human race, except a remnant, who saved themselves in caverns or in the water; and from this seed, this handful, mankind again replenished the earth, and spread gradually to all the continents and the islands of the sea.