« PrécédentContinuer »
Carians established in Egypt do still more.
They stab themselves on the forehead with knives.”
Landa · informs us that “the men in Yucatan made offerings of their own blood, and inflicted the most cruel treatment on their own persons, to propitiate the gods and beseech their favor. These sanguinary acts of piety that formed part of the religious observances of the Nahuatls, when introduced by them among the Mayas, were looked upon by the latter with great abhorrence, as acts unworthy of intelligent beings, foreign to the religion of their fathers, and distasteful to the gods. We may here record another singular coincidence. The worshippers of Siva, the Hindoo god of destruction, and those of his wife, the cruel goddess Kali, are wont to torture themselves to do homage to these divinities by drawing a rope through their pierced tongue,” as we see in the sculpture from Manche, now in the British Museum. (Plate XXIX.)
The invocation to the god of rain affords, also, an explanation of the subjects represented on the tablets of the altars in the temples of Nachan (Palenque), a city which seems to have been sacred to the god of rain, symbolized by an image of the Southern Cross. This special worship would seem to indicate that the inhabitants of that country were agriculturists. The analysis of the tablet represented in the illustration strengthens this presumption. (Plate XXXIV.)
A knowledge of the symbolism in vogue among ancient Maya adepts, together with the text of the invocation, gives us a clear understanding of the meaning of the sculptures on the said tablet.
'Landa, Las Cosas de Yucatan, pp. 160-162.
· William Ward, A View of the History, Literature, and Religion of the Hindoo8, pp. 282–284.
There can be no question as to the central figure representing a cross, image of the constellation known as the Southern Cross. When at the beginning of the month of May this appears perpendicular over the horizon, the husbandman knows that the rainy season is near at hand. He then prepares to sow the seed for the next crop. This is why, in all times and in all countries, the cross has been regarded as harbinger of the regeneration of nature, and the sign of the life to come; and why the T, tau, in Egypt, was placed in the hands or on the chest of all mummies.
This symbol, so common in the sculptures and temples of Palenque, sacred to the gods of rain, is of very rare occurrence in those of Yucatan, whose inhabitants were navigators, hence worshippers of the mastodon, god of the sea, whose image adorns their palaces, sacred and public buildings.
The Maya meaning of Ti-ha-u, name of the sign T, is, “This is for water;” and the main ornament, M the headdress of the priest standing on the right, or east, side of the cross, is the well-known symbol of water, emblem of the divinity to whom he ministers.
On each side of the cross stands a human figure; that of a man on the right, that of a woman on the left. They are emblematic of the dual forces of nature.
As in the tableau represented in plates vii. and viii. of the Codex Cortesianus, herein reproduced (Plates LV.-LVI.), the male principle, Cab, the “world,” the “ ancestor,” is pictured facing the east, holding in his hand the sign of life, Ik three times repeated, so in the Palenque tablet the male, he who fecundates, is placed to the right (that is, the east), whence the “Lord,” life-giver and sustainer, the Sun, rises every morning to animate and give strength to all nature.
As again in the tableau of the Cortesianus, the female principle, Ik mamacah, the “life nullifier," "she who causes life to disappear,” is placed to the left, so in the Palenque tablet the female, the generator, is likewise placed to the left (that is, the west), where every evening the sun disappears, leaving behind him darkness, in which generation takes place. The badge on her arm, a circle with its perpendicular and horizontal diameters intersecting each other, image of the mundane cross, is the symbol of the impregnated virgin womb of nature, hence of the life to come; while her headdress is adorned with leaves, emblem of the life that has come.
Both are making offerings to their god: the priest presents a young bird; the priestess, a full-grown plant with its roots, trunk, leaves, flowers, and fruit. We are told that they are the chacs, keepers of the troughs in which the sacred balché is fermenting.
It is well to recall here what Father Cogolludo,s quoting various authors who wrote regarding the Conquest and the customs and religion of the natives, says respecting the cross as symbol of the god of rain:
Gomara, speaking of the religion of the people of the island of Cozumel, says:
'Near by there was a temple that looked like a square tower, in which they kept a very
"See Appendix, note xiii.
* The balche was a fermented liquor made of honey and the bark of the balché tree steeped in water. It was used to make libations in the sacrifices to the gods, and in all religious rites—as the wine is used at the mass in Catholic churches. Does not this sacred balcbé of the Mayas bring to mind the soma of the Hindoos, made from the Asclepias acida and from the Sarcostemma acidum ; or the amrta, the divine beverage of the Indian gods; or the nectar that Homer tells us the beautiful Hébé dispensed to the gods of Olympus ?
* Cogolludo, Hist. de Yucathan, lib. iv., cap. ix., pp. 200-202.
famous idol. At the foot was an enclosure made of stone and mortar, highly finished with battlements. In the middle of this existed a stone cross ten palms high, which they regarded and worshipped as the god of rain ; because when it did not rain, and the water was scarce, they went to it in procession and with great devotion. They made offerings of quails that had been sacrificed, in order to allay its wrath against them with the blood of this small bird; after which they held it certain that rain would soon fall.'» “Torquemada says, that after the Indian Chilam Balam showed them the symbol of the cross, they regarded this as the god of rain, and felt certain that they would never be in want of rain whilst they devoutly asked it of the cross."
“Dr. Yllescas, in his Pontifical (lib. 6, chap. 23, $ 8), also says that they had a god, in the shape of a cross, which they regarded as the god of rain."
Without a knowledge of the Maya language and of the symbolism of the Maya occultists, it would be well-nigh impossible to understand why a quail, a bird, in full plumage, is figured perched on the top of the cross; why the cross is planted on a skull; why devotees offered sacrifices of birds to the god of rain. The explanation, however, is most simple. The bird on the top of the cross typifies the seed deposited in the ground at the beginning of the rainy season, and placed in the keeping of the god of rain, invoked as protector of the fields. Chiich is the Maya generic name for “bird;
" but it also means “seed,” and “to gather one by one grains that have been scattered," as birds do in the fields, robbing the owners of both the seed and the crops. What, then, more natural than to offer their enemies in sacrifice to the god, to the Yumil col, the lord of the crops ? This is why they