« PrécédentContinuer »
good genii who brought fertility to the earth. Balam's office, however, is quite different. He is the lord of the fields, the protector of the crops, and to him the primitia of all the fruits of the earth are offered before the harvesting is begun. Is he an imaginary Being? By no means. His name Balam tells who he is an anthropomorphism of the puma, whose clear, shrill whistle rings sharply through the forests, breaks the stillness of the night, and, waking the sleeping echoes, sends a thrill of terror coursing along the spine of the superstitious native. How came he to be looked upon as the protector, the guardian of the fields-Yumil col? Most naturally, indeed.
The fields, covered with their abundant, ripening crops of corn, beans, and pumpkins, are nightly the resort of deer, peccaries, rabbits, and other herbivora that, during the day, sheltered by thick foliage from the fierce rays of the tropical sun, roam in the forests. All these grass-eating denizens of the woods are the natural food of leopards, pumas, catamounts, and other carnivora. These emerge from their lairs after sunset in search of prey. In the twilight, in the darkness, they prowl in and around the fields where they know their intended victims are feeding. Pouncing upon those
nearest, an awful struggle for life takes place. Alarmed by the noise and the despairing cries of the victims, the others seek safety in flight, and the crops are thus saved from destruction. This is why these self-constituted protectors of the crops came to be regarded as natural guardians of the fields. Believing that the pumas and leopards obey the orders of their invisible spirit lord, Balam, the natives, with appropriate ceremonies called Tich, make to him offerings of the best fruits of their fields. (Plate LXXII.)
Notwithstanding his pretensions, Dr. Brinton does not know Maya, even remotely. If any further proof were needed of the truth of this assertion, it would be found in this simple sentence, " Pixe avito1 xnoch cizin," printed in his book (p. 174), as it is here, in italics; as is also his Spanish translation, which, with cause, I omit. He has copied both, original and translation, from a manuscript by a native of Tihosuco, named Zetina, who, it seems, was not over particular in the choice of his language. I wish to believe that the learned Professor of Linguistics is but little better acquainted with the Spanish tongue than with the Maya, else how does he dare call particular attention, by printing them in italics, to words that no gentleman would use in refined society?-words that, besides, are not a correct translation of what was probably intended to be conveyed in the Maya; the exact rendering of which in that tongue would be, "Pixe a ito, xnoch cizin," whilst the intention of Señor Zetina was to write, "Pixe a uitho, xnoch cizin." Like the majority of his countrymen, he did not know how to write correctly his mother tongue. It must be confessed very few do.
The first lesson in Maya taught to pupils is the letters of the alphabet and their proper pronunciation. At the same time they are told that several of the characters forming part of the Latin alphabet are not used in the Maya; among these the letter v.
1 Avito is not a Maya word. It has no meaning in that language.
I might be censured for publishing this sentence, which is a verbatim translation of Dr. Brinton's Spanish. My excuse for doing so is to show that the learned doctor does not know Maya, which is an unknown language outside of the countries where it is spoken; I do not therefore run the risk of shocking the sense of propriety or decency of my readers in this or in European countries.
Dr. Brinton is evidently ignorant of this elementary fact. Throughout his book, whenever he has had occasion to mention the Maya word for man, he has invariably spelled it vinic. This is Quiché. The Maya orthography of the word is uinic.
and the other
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the letters v and u were used indifferently one for the other. Thus it is that Landa, Cogolludo, Torquemada, Las Casas, writers of those times wrote both uinic and vinic. quite different, however, in our day.
It is evident that the learned Professor of Linguistics does not know which is the right word in Maya for "man," any better than he knows what was the true name for each of the cardinal points among the Mayas, although Landa gives them very explicitly. Shall it be said of Dr. Brinton as of the wooden saints, He has eyes but sees not? Or has he also, perchance, the pretension of being better informed on that subject than the author of "Las Cosas de Yucatan"? In every one of his books he assigns a different name to each of said points, in the hope of perhaps hitting, in one at least, on the right name.
For instance, in his book "Myths of the New World,' article "Quiché Legends" (p. 82), he magistrally informs his readers: "The four known by the names of Kan, Muluc, Ix, Cauac, represent respectively the east, north, west, and south. As in Oriental symbolism, the east was yellow, the south red, the west black, the north white." These were the names of the guardians of the pillars that sustained the vault of heaven.2 In his "Essays of an Americanist" (p. 204), the author seems
1 D. G. Brinton, Essays of an Americanist, pp. 176, 254, 438, et passim. 2 Ibid., Myths of the New World, p. 82.