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to mind the twenty-one prajapati, or creators, mentioned in the “Mahabharata;" and the twenty-one words constituting the most sacred prayer of the followers of Zoroaster, still in use by the Parsis.
On each side of the Creator, outside of the lower line of the border of the tableau, is the figure of a monkey in a sitting posture and in the act of adoration. We learn from the "Popol-Vuh" that in his attempts to produce a perfect man, an intellectual creature, the Creator failed repeatedly, and each time, disgusted with his work, he destroyed the results of his early experiments; that at last he succeeded in making a human being nearly perfect, but yet wanting. This primitive race of man having grown proud and wicked, forgetful of their Creator, to whom they ceased to pay due homage, the majority of them were destroyed by floods and earthquakes. The few that escaped by taking refuge on the mountains were changed into monkeys. This is perhaps the reason why simians were held in great veneration by the Mayas. (Plate XXIV.)
It is indeed worthy of notice, although it may be a mere coincidence, that, wherever Maya civilization has penetrated, there also ape worship has existed from the remotest antiquity, and does still exist where ancient religious rites and customs are observed.
In Hindostan, some nations hold the same belief concerning monkeys that we read of in the sacred book of the Quichés, to wit: "That formerly men were changed into apes as a punishment for their iniquities." The ape god Hanuman, who rendered such valuable assistance to Rama in the recovery of his wife Sita when she was abducted by Ravana,' is still held in
Popol Vuh, Brasseur translation, part i., chap. iii., p. 31.
* Valmiki, Ramayana, part i., p. 342, et passim. French translation by Hippolyte Fauché.
great veneration in the Asiatic peninsula and the island of Ceylon. Pompous homage is paid to him. The pagodas in which he is worshipped are adorned with the utmost magnificence. When in 1554 the Portuguese made a descent upon that island, they plundered the temple of the ape god Thoth, and made themselves masters of immense riches. I beg to call the attention of the reader to the name of this ape god, for whose ransom an Indian prince offered the viceroy of Goa seven hundred thousand ducats. It was likewise that of the "god of letters and wisdom," represented as a cynocephalus monkey, among the Egyptians. Is this also a coincidence? The Maya word Thoth means to "scatter" flowers or grain. Might it not mean, metaphorically, to scatter letters-knowledge? As symbol of the "god of letters" the cynocephalus ape was treated with great respect in many cities of Egypt; but at Hermopolis it was particularly worshipped, whilst in the Necropolis of Thebes a spot was reserved as cemetery for the sacred monkeys, whose mummies were always placed in a sitting posture, as the bodies of deceased persons in Mayach, Peru, and many other countries in the Western Continent.
In the ancient city of Copan, in Guatemala, the cynocephalus was frequently represented in the sculptures of the temples, in an attitude of prayer. There, as at Thebes, those monkeys were buried in stone tombs, in which their skeletons have been found in perfect preservation.
Fray Geronimo Roman, a writer of the sixteenth century,2 and other chroniclers, inform us that monkeys received divine worship in Yucatan under the names of Baaɔ and Chuen,
Strabo, XVII., p. 559.
Fray Geronimo Roman, Republica de las Indias Occidentales, lib. ii., cap. xv.
whose images are often found in the temples of the Mayas, in a kneeling posture (as in Plate XXIV.).
The ape was also held sacred in Babylonia. In Japan there is a sumptuous temple dedicated to monkey worship. It is said that the Japanese believe that the bodies of apes are inhabited by the souls of deceased grandees and princes of the empire. Is not this great veneration for monkeys a form of ancestor worship? The Darwinian theory of evolution does not seem to be so very modern, after all. The study of the first chapters of the "Popol-Vuh" will convince any one that some of the ancient Maya scientists had reached the same conclusions as some of the learned philosophers of our day regarding the unfolding of animated beings—of man, consequently. It would seem that Solomon had some reason in saying, and that we may repeat after him, "There is nothing new under the
There are many other interesting facts to be learned from the study of the sculptures that embellish the eastern façade of the palace at Chichen. But as they have no direct bearing on the object of our present investigation, we shall turn away from that edifice, and, taking a northern direction, indulge in an agreeable walk of half a mile, under secular trees, through the forest, to return to Prince Coh's memorial hall, whence we started; for we have yet to glean much information from its contents.
During our promenade, protected from the fiery rays of the tropical sun by the thick foliage overhead, enjoying the delightful coolness that perpetually prevails in the Yucatan forests, we let our thoughts wander. But they naturally revert to the tableau of creation and the strange facts it has revealed to us, 'Ecclesiastes, chapter i., verse 9.
and we ask ourselves: Did the Mayas receive all these teachings from the Egyptians, or the Chaldeans, or the Hindoos, as some want us to believe? If so, when and how? Or did Maya missionaries, abandoning their country as apostles of religion, civilization, and science, carry their knowledge among these various nations and impart it to them?