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lessons that the Maya philosophers in remote ages have intrusted to stone in this tableau, for the benefit and instruction of the generations that were to follow after them?
No one has ever ventured an explanation of it. And yet it contains no mystery. Its teaching is easily read; the explanatory legends being written in Egyptian characters, that, however, are likewise Maya.
If we ask the Brahmins to explain it, they will tell us: At the beginning of the first chapter of the "Manava-DharmaSastra"-a book compiled, according to Mr. Chézy,' from very ancient works of the Brahmins, about thirteen hundred years before the Christian era-we read: "The Supreme Spirit having resolved to cause to come forth from its own corporeal substance the divers creatures, first produced the waters, and in them deposited a productive seed. This germ became an egg, brilliant as gold, resplendent as a star with thousands of rays; and in this egg was reproduced the Supreme Being, under the form of Brahma, the ancestor of all beings.” 2
An analysis of the tableau shows this quotation from the Brahministic book to be an explanation of it, although not quite complete. But we find the balance of the description in Eusebius's "Evangelical Preparations."
We are told that the Supreme Intelligence first produced the waters. The watery element is represented in the sculptures in Mayach, Egypt, Babylonia, India, etc., by superposed wavy or broken lines These lines form the rim,
or frame, of the tableau, surrounding it nearly, as the water encircles the land. It is well to notice that the upper line of water is opened in the middle, and that each part ter
1 Chézy, Journal des Savants, 1831; also H. T. Colebrooke.
minates in a serpent head; also, that the distance between said serpent heads is two-fifths of the whole line. Is this without significance? Certainly not. Everything has its meaning in the Maya sculptures. Did the learned men of Mayach know that the waters cover about three-fifths of the earth, the land only two-fifths? And why not? Do we not know it? Were not their people navigators? It may be asked, What is the meaning of the serpent heads at the extremity of the lines, symbol of water? Are they merely ornamental? By no means. They indicate that said lines represent the ocean, kanah in Maya, the "great, the mighty serpent; image, among the Mayas, Quichés, and other tribes allied to them, as among the Egyptians, of the Creator, whose emblem (says Horapollo) was a serpent of a blue color with yellow scales. Can, we know, means "serpent," but kan is Maya for "yellow." Kanah, the ocean, might therefore be interpreted metaphorically "the powerful yellow serpent." We read in the "Popol-Vuh," sacred book of the Quichés, regarding Gucumatz, the principle of all things, manifesting at the dawn of creation: "All was immobility and silence in the darkness, in the night; only the Creator, the Maker, the Dominator, the Serpent covered with feathers, they who engender, they who create, were on the waters as an ever-increasing light. They are surrounded by green and azure; their name is Gucumatz." Compare this conception of chaos and the dawn of creation among the Quichés, with that of the Hindoos as we read of it in the "Aitarêya-A'ran'ya: "3" Originally this universe was only a soul. Nothing active or inactive existed. The
'H. T. Colebrooke, Notice on the Sacred Books of the Hindoos, AitareyaA'ran'ya, lib. ii., ? iv.
thought came to Him, I wish to create worlds.
And so He
created these worlds, the water, the light, the mortal beings, and the waters. That water is the region above; the sky that supports it; the atmosphere that contains the light; the earth that is perishable; and the lower regions that of the waters."
On the first of the tablets inscribed with the cosmogony of the Chaldeans, found in the library of the palace of King Assurbanipal, at Nineveh, we read the following lines, translated by the late Mr. George Smith: "At a time when neither the heavens above nor the earth below existed, there was the watery abyss; the first of seed, the mistress of the depths, the mother of the universe. The waters clung together (covered everything). No product had ever been gathered, nor was any sprout seen. Ay, the very gods had not yet come into being." On the third tablet it is related how
"the gods are preparing for a grand contest against a monster known as Tiamat, the depths,' and how the god BelMarduk overthrows Tiamat."
My readers will forgive me for indulging here in a short digression that may seem unnecessary, but it is well to add to the proofs already adduced to show that, at some remote epoch, the primitive Chaldeans must have had intimate relations with Maya colonists; and that these were a great factor in the development of the civilization of the Babylonians, to whom they seem to have imparted their religious and cosmogonic notions. The names Tiamat and Bel-Marduk add corroborative evidence to confirm this historical truth, since no language except the Maya offers such a natural etymon and simple explanation of their meaning.
Tiamat, "the depths," is a Maya word composed of the four primitives, ti, ha, ma, ti (that is, ti, “there;” ha,
99 water; ma, "without; " ti, "land"), Tihamati; by elision, Tihamat, or be it Tiamat, "everywhere water, nowhere land," the "deep."
As to the name Bel-Marduk (in Maya) it would read BelMaltuuc; that is, Bel, "occupation," "business; " mal is a particle that, united to a noun, indicates "the act of multiplying," of "doing many things;" tuucul is a "mass of things placed in order." Bel-Maltuuc or Bel-Marduk would be a most appropriate name for one whose business seems to have been to put in order all the things that existed confusedly in chaos.
Mr. Morris Jastrow, Jr., in an article in the Century Magazine for January, 1894,' says that the word tehom occurs both in the cuneiform tablets and in Genesis with the meaning of "the deep," which is precisely its import in the Maya language-te or ti, "where; "hom, "abyss without bottom."
Returning to the comparison of the cosmogonic notions of the various civilized nations of antiquity, we find that Thales, like all the ancient philosophers, regarded water as the primordial substance, in the midst of which the "Great Soul" deposited a germ that became an egg, brilliant as gold and resplendent as a star with a thousand rays, as we read in the first book of the "Manava-Dharma-Sastra," and we see represented in the tableau over the door of the east façade of the palace at Chichen. (Plate XXIII.) In this egg was reproduced the Supreme Being under the form of Brahma, through whose union with the goddess Maya, the good mother of all gods and other beings, all things were created, says the "Rig-veda." 2
1 Morris Jastrow, Jr., "The Bible and the Assyrian Monuments," New York, Century Magazine, January, 1894.
Rig-veda, Langlois' translation, sect. viii., lect. 3, h. ii., v. i., vol. iv., pp. 316-317.
The inhabitants of the islands of the Pacific entertained similar notions regarding creation. Ellis in his "Polynesian Researches" says: "In the Sandwich Islands there is a tradition that in the beginning there was nothing but water, when a big bird descended from on high and laid an egg in the sea. That egg burst, and Hawaii came forth." They believe that the bird is an emblem of deity; a medium through which the gods often communicate with men.
It is well not to forget that the Egyptians also caused Ptah, the Creator, to be born from an egg issued from the mouth of Kneph, the ruling spirit of the universe, whose emblem was an enormous blue serpent with yellow scales; that is, the ocean.
The learned men of Mayach always described with appropriate inscriptions the notions, cosmogonic or others, or the religious conceptions that they portrayed in the sculptures; ornamenting with them the walls of their public edifices, not only to generalize them among their contemporaries, but to transmit them to future generations in a lasting manner. They Idid not fail to do it in this instance.
A seated therein.
on either side of the egg tells who is It is composed of the
the personage characters drawing,
four times repeated, for the symmetry of the and to emphasize the meaning of the word, as well as to indicate the exalted quality of said personage. Champollion le jeune tells us that in Egypt this very combination of letters means "the engendered." These letters emphatically belong to the alphabet of the Mayas. The sign , or be it, that stands for our Latin M, represented
Ellis, Polynesian Researches, vol. i., chap. v., p. 100.
Champollion le jeune, Précis du Système Hieroglyphique des Anciens