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phers when they painted with red Ganesha, god of prudence, of letters and science. By this they perhaps wished to indicate that men of that color, coming from Pátâla, the antipodes, imported to India, with civilization, the knowledge of letters, arts, and sciences.
In Polynesia, red is still regarded by the natives of the islands as a favorite color with the gods. William Ellis says "that the ordinary means of communicating or extending supernatural powers was, and still is, the red feather of a small bird found in many of the islands, and the beautiful long feathers of the Tropic or man-of-war bird.” 2
We are told that when kings, chiefs, and nobles died they were deified, became the minor gods, watching over the destinies of mankind, and the mediators between man and the Godhead. The red color seems to have continued to be symbolical of their new powers, as it had been of their authority on earth. This may possibly account for the custom, prevalent in Mayach, Polynesia, and India, of devotees stamping the impression of their hands, dipped in red liquid, on the walls of the temples, of the sacred caves, and other hallowed places, when imploring some benefaction from the Deity.
1 Mahabharata-Adiparva, Slokas 7788, 7789; also Bhagavata-Purána, ix., XX. 33. See Appendix, note xi.
2 William Ellis, Polynesian Researches, vol. ii., chap. ix., p. 260. Although there is much to be said in connection with this interesting fact, which is one of the many vestiges of the Mayas' presence among the Polynesians, I will simply remark, at present, that in Egypt the feather was the distinctive adornment of the gods and kings, as in Mayach it was of the kings, pontiffs, nobles, and warriors, differing in color according to their rank and their more or less exalted position; as is yet in China the button and the peacock feather; that the Maya name for feather is Kukum, the radical of which, Ku, is the word for the Supreme Intelligence; and that Khu in Egyptian means "Intelligence,' "Spirit," "Light,"
This most ancient and universal belief, that the inferior gods-that is to say, the glorified spirits of eminent men and women-are mediators between the Divinity and earth's inhabitants, has survived to our day, and is still prevalent with millions of human beings. The Church of Rome teaches this doctrine to her followers. Her Fathers and Doctors received it from the Greek philosophers, several of whom held that “each demon is a mediator between God and man." Many festivals have therefore been instituted by the Church in honor of the saints, who, the faithful are taught to believe, convey their prayer to the Almighty.
True, these do not, as the devotees in some temples in India still do, stamp the red imprint of their hands on the walls, to remind the god of their vow and prayer; but they fasten votive offerings made of gold, silver, copper, or wax, according to the worshipper's means, to the image and to the altar of the saint invoked.
Such votive offerings, made of clay, are found scattered most abundantly round the altars in the temples of the ancient Mayas, or buried in the ground at the foot of the statues of their great men.
It is well known that no two individuals have hands of exactly the same size or shape; that the lines in the palms differ in every person. The red impress of the hand, on that account,
Plato, Simpos, vol. iii., pp. 202-203 (edit. Serrain). St. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, v., lib. c., p. 260 (edit. Potter), in admitting that the good demons were the angels, stated the opinion of many Christians of his time; and Dionysius Areopagite, in his Celestial Hierarchy, chap. x., § 11, says: "All the angels are interpreters and messengers of their superiors; the most advanced, of God who moves them, and the others as they are moved by God."
2 Account of General Grant's visit to the Maharajah of Jeypoor, New York Herald, edition of April 12, 1879.
came to be regarded as a private seal, a mark of ownership.1 As such it was used from time immemorial by the Mayas, in whose temples and palaces can yet be seen numerous red imprints of hands of various shapes and sizes. Such impressions being met with in all places in Polynesia and in India where other vestiges of the Mayas are found, may serve as compass to guide us in following their migrations over the vast expanse of land and sea, and to indicate the ancient roads of travel. In time the red color, used in thus recording invocations to the gods and registering the rights of ownership, came to be accepted as legal color for seals in public and private documents. The Egyptians made use of a red mixture to stamp the imprint of their personal seals on the doors of tombs, of houses, and of granaries, to secure them.2
Red seals are used by the Mongol kings on all official documents. This custom of using materials of a red color to seal all important and legal documents has reached our times; it still obtains among all civilized nations.
The foregoing facts tell us, it is true, of the adoption of the red color, among all civilized nations of antiquity, as symbol of nobility of race and of invocation-devotees using it in recording their vow or prayer when imploring the benison of the gods on themselves or their homes; also of its being employed in seals as mark of ownership, hence of dominion over the objects thus sealed; but nowhere is any mention made of the people among whom the custom originated, nor why it came to be the symbol
Henry R. Schoolcraft, "On the Red Hand," apud J. L. Stephens, Incidents of Travels in Yucatan, vol. ii., p. 476, Appendix.
Sir Gardner Wilkinson, Manners and Customs, vol. iii., chap. xvi., p. 437.
M. Huc, Recollections of a Journey through Tartary, Thibet, and China, vol. i., chap. viii., p. 182.
of acts so dissimilar as the assertion of power, might, and dominion, and the recording of a prayer and a supplication. It is again from the Mayas that we may learn the cause of this seeming antithesis; the various meanings of the single Maya word chac afford a complete explanation.
Chac is the Maya word for "red." Chaac is the rain-storm, and the thunder, that powerful and terrible genius that produces the rain which brings fertility to the earth. This giant, this Chac, was held as the "god of rain," "the god of plenty," "the keeper of the fields," in whose honor the great festival, called Tupp-Kak, "the extinguishment of fire," was celebrated in the month of Mac,' when the priests, assisted by the Chacs, their aids, implored his blessing in the shape of abundant rains, to bring forth the crops and produce plenteous harvests, hence joy and happiness to the people.
Here, then, we find the reason why the color red was at the same time the symbol for violence and for supplication or prayer. It typified the violence of the thunder, the god of rain, and the supplications of his priests that he should grant a bountiful harvest that would insure happiness to his worshippers.
The cross was his emblem.?
'Landa, Las Cosas de Yucatan, ¿ xl., p. 252.
This month of Mac began on the 13th of our month of March, and ended on the 2d of April.
Aug. Le Plongeon, Sacred Mysteries, etc., p. 128, et passim.
THE following invocation to the god of rain was made known for the first time to students of American antiquities by the learned Abbé Brasseur in his Chrestomathy.' He tells us he had it from a native, while at the hacienda of X-Canchakan. It is one of the many ancient prayers yet extant among the natives, who still repeat them when, in the obscure recesses of the forests, or in the depths of the dark, mysterious subterranean caves with which the country is honeycombed, they perform some of the antique rites of the religion of their forefathers.2
As published, the invocation, adulterated by the interpolation of Christian words taught the natives by the Catholic priests, despoiled of its archaic form, loses much of its interest. The individual who translated it for the Abbé, either did it. very carelessly, or purposely did not interpret all the words, or was very illiterate. As presented it is stripped of its most
'Abbé Brasseur, "Chrestomathie," in his Eléments de la Langue Maya, Troano MS., vol. ii., p. 101.
2 Alice D. Le Plongeon, Here and There in Yucatan, pp. 88–89.