Images de page
PDF
ePub

According to Nahuatl cosmogony, "when Omeyocax, the Creator, who dwelt in himself, thought that the time had come when all things should be created, he arose, and from one of his hands, resplendent with light, he darted four arrows, which struck and put in motion four molecules, origin of the four elements that floated in space. These molecules, on being hit by the divine arrows, became animated. Heat, which determined movement in matter, was developed in them. Then appeared the first rays of the rising sun, which brought life and joy throughout nature."1

What conclusions are we to derive from the fact that the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Nahuatls, and the Mayas assigned the number Four to the creative power? That the Chinese, other Asiatic, and Polynesian nations adopted, like the Mayas, as a distinctive badge for their kings and their religious chiefs, vicars of the Deity on earth, the yellow color, whose name in the Maya language, Kan, is but a variant of that of the numerical FOUR, or that of heaven, or that of the serpent, emblem of the Creator in Egypt, Chaldea, China, as in Mayach? In China, Long or Ti-Hoang, the Tse-yuen, the “ engendered," who had the body of a serpent, is the protector and arranger of all things; and Hoa, the "god of life," of the Chaldees, was represented as a serpent. I may quote in this connection the following remarks from Canon Rawlinson: "There are no means of strictly determining the precise meaning of the word (Hoa) in Babylonian, but it is perhaps allow

1 Lord Kingsborough, vol. ii., copy of a Mexican manuscript in the Vatican library, No. 3738. Compare with the recital of Creation in Manava-Dharma-Sastra, lib. i., Slokas 5-7.

2 The origin of the Nahuatls is unknown, and a matter of discussion among Americanists. Were they Huns?

[ocr errors][merged small]

able to connect it provisionally with the Arabic Hiya, which is at once 'life' and 'serpent,' since, according to the best authority, there are strong grounds for connecting Hea or Hoa with the serpent of the Scripture, and the paradisiacal traditions of the tree of knowledge and the tree of life."1

Will it be argued that this widespread symbol of the Creator is but a natural consequence of the working of various cultivated minds, pondering over this same subject and reaching identical conclusions? We must not lose sight of the fact, before answering this question in the affirmative, that in Mayach alone the name of the serpent can, and the numerous meanings of the word, form a pandect. Is it not, then, probable, that the Mayas, having conceived the idea from the geographical outlines of their country, which figures a serpent with inflated breast, spread the notion among the other nations with which they had intimate relation, in whose territories they established colonies?

There is much to be said, that is interesting, on the red color as symbol, and its use as mark of nobility of race among all civilized nations of antiquity, in Asia, Polynesia, Africa, and America. The subject seems directly connected with the object of our present investigations, since we are told by Mr. Piazzi Smyth, the well-known Egyptologist, that the great Egyptian Sphinx was originally painted red. Judging from the royal standards represented in fresco paintings in Prince Coh's Memorial Hall; from the tint prevalent on the façades of the palaces of the Mayas, and that of the floors in castles

Such is the knowledge of the majority of the great scholars whose works are accepted as authority on historical questions. In this case Canon Rawlinson, in his biased ignorance, has been teaching a greater truth than he imagined. But let it be said to his credit-he has not done it on purpose, for he did not dream of it.

and temples, red was the distinctive color of nobles and warriors. It was in early times the symbol of nobility among the Egyptians, who styled themselves Rot-en-ne-Rôme, a name having the same meaning as kar or cara in the language of the Caras of the West Indies and northern coast of South America, and that of those Carians, once the terror of the inhabitants of the littoral of the Mediterranean, and who finally established themselves on the western coast of Asia Minor; that is, of men par excellence, of "brave men." Was it because their ancestors came from the country of the red men in the West, that in their paintings they invariably painted their skin a reddish brown, as did the Mayas? From remote antiquity to our day, among all nations civilized or savage, red has been and is typical of courage, war, contention; and, by contrast, of prayer and supplication.

That the red color in the "Lands of the West" was the distinctive mark of warriors and of power, there can be no doubt. All the chroniclers of the time of the Spanish conquest tell us that where the hosts of natives opposed the invaders and confronted them in battle array, their faces and bodies were painted red. To this day the North American Indians, particularly when on the warpath, daub their faces and bodies with red paint.

Plinius speaks of Camillus painting his face and body red, before entering Rome, on returning victorious after the expulsion of the Gauls from Italy by the troops under his command. It was customary for Roman soldiers to paint their bodies red in token of their bravery. The same author also

1

Cogolludo, Hist. de Yucathan, lib. i., chap. ii., p. 6; lib. ii., chap. vi., p. 77, et passim.

Plinius, Historia Nat., xxxiii. 7.

says that one of the first acts of the censors on entering upon their duties was to paint the face of Jupiter with minium, such being the practice on every high festival day.

In Egypt, the god Set, the enemy of Horus, was styled "the very valiant." He was painted red. At Ombos he was worshipped as the evil principle of nature, under the name of Nubti, a word for which the Maya affords this very natural etymon: nup, "adversary;" ti, "for." He was the chief god of the warlike Khati.

The possession of land and wealth has always been the privilege of the strongest and the most daring; of the warriors, who, wrongly or rightly, possessed themselves of the property of the conquered, and appropriated it to their own use. In the distribution of spoils, the chiefs never failed to set apart for themselves the largest share. At first, these chiefs were elective. They were chosen on account of their superior physical strength and their prowess in battle. Having acquired wealth, they paid men to fight under their leadership. To insure their power and authority, even over their own followers, they contracted alliances with other leaders, so that they might help each other in case of necessity. Thus they formed a privileged class, the Nobility, that by and by claimed to be of a nature superior to that of other men. They justified that claim by close obedience to the law of selection. Red, color of the blood shed on the battle-field, became the distinctive color of "nobility of race," of "brave and valiant man," of "man par excellence;" therefore, emblematic of power, strength, dominion.

All historians say that red in Egypt was the symbol of nobility of race. Landa1 says it was customary with the aborigines

Landa, Las Cosas de Yucatan, pp. 117–185.

red paint.

of Yucatan, both male and female, to adorn themselves with According to Du Chaillu,' the Fans of equatorial Africa, who have so many customs strangely identical with those of the ancient Mayas-even that of filing their front teeth like a saw-paint themselves red, men and women.

2

Herodotus asserts that the Maxyes (Mayas ?), a people. dwelling to the westward of Lake Triton, in Libya, daubed themselves with vermilion.

Molina, in his vocabulary of the Mexican tongue, at the word Tlapilli, explains that whilst its primary meaning is "to paint in red color," it also signifies "noble," "ancient," and that Tlapilli eztli implies, metaphorically, nobility of blood and family.

4

Garcilasso de la Vega,3 Cieza de Leon, Acosta,5 and other writers on Peruvian customs and manners, inform us that the fringe and tassel of the Llantu, royal headdress of the Yncas, were made of fine crimson wool.

6

Mr. William Ellis asserts that the Areois of Tahiti, in certain religious ceremonies, painted their faces red; that "the ceremony of inauguration, answering to coronation among other nations, consisted in girding the king with the Maro Uru, or sacred girdle of red feathers, which identified him with the gods.7

The prophet Ezekiel mentions the figures of red men pictured 'Du Chaillu, Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa, pp. 94, 104-107, et passim.

2 Herodotus, Hist., lib. iv. 19.

'Garcilasso de la Vega, Commentarios Reales, part i., lib. i., cap. 22; lib. vi., cap. 28.

B

Cieza de Leon, Cronica, cap. 114.

Acosta, Historia de las Indias Occidentales, lib. iv., cap. 12.

• William Ellis, Polynesian Researches, vol. i..

p. 180.

[blocks in formation]
« PrécédentContinuer »