« AnteriorContinuar »
deluge were dumb; a dove from the top of a tree distributes amung them tongues represented under the form of small commas.
We must not confound this dove with the bird which brings Coxcox tidings that the waters were dried up. The people of Mechoacan preserved a tradition, according to which Coxcox, whom they called Tezpi, embarked in a spacious acalli, with his wife, bis children, several animals, and grain, the preservation of which was of importance to mankind. When the great spirit Tezcatlipoca ordered the waters to withdraw, Tezpi sent out from bis bark a vulture, the zopilote (vultur aurea). This bird, which feeds on dead flesh, did not return on account of the great num. ber of carcasses with which the earth, recently dried up, was strewed. Tezpi sent out other birds, one of which, the hummingbird, alone returned, holding in its beak a branch covered with leaves; Tezpi, seeing that fresh verdure began to clothe the soil, quitted bis bark near the Mountain of Colhuacan.'-vol. ii.
64. Well may M. de Humboldt say that these traditions remind us of others of high and venerable antiquity:'. To us they smell most rankly of the Spanish Monk. This deluge took place not many centuries before the Spanish conquest, according to the annals of a people that extended not more than 320 years back from that invasion; according to Pedro de los Rios, Gomara, Clavigero, Gemelli Careri, and M. de Humboldt, it happened eighteen thousand and twenty-eight years (the sum of the four ages) after the beginning of the first age ; but, according to Ixtlilxochitl, (we should like to hear M. de Humboldt pronounce this word,) a native Mexican, only one thousand four hundred and seventeen years from that epoch. Our author is not in the least disconcerted by this trifling discrepancy in point of time. . We ought not to be astonished at it," he says, when we recollect the hypotheses which, in our days, have been advanced by Bailly, Sir William Jones, and Bentley, on the duration of the five Yougas of the Hindoos." He adds, however, ' I have never been able to discover any peculiar propriety (property ?) in the number of 18,028 years; it is not a multiple of 13, 19, 52, 60, 72, 360, or 1440, which are the numbers found in the cycles of the Asiatic nations :—but give M. de Humboldt three years only-three little years--to add to these Mexican four suns, let him but change their respective durations, and then, if for the numbers 5206, 4804, 4010, and 4008, the numbers 5206, 4807, 4009, and 4009, were substituted, we might suppose that these cycles originated from a knowledge of the lunar period of nineteen years !?
The next“ cosmogonical analogy,' taken from the Codex Vati. canus, represents the 'celebrated serpent woman, Cihuacohuatl, called also Quelastli, or Tonacacihua, woman of our flesh; she is always représented with a serpent, and is considered as the mother of the human race.
• These allegories remind us of the ancient traditions of Asia. In the. woman and serpent of the Aztecks we think we perceive the Eve of the Semetic nations ; in the snake cut in pieces, the famous serpent Kaliya, or Kalinaga, conquered by Vishnu, when he took his form of Krishna.
The Tonatiub of the Mexicans appears also to be identical with the Krishna of the Hindoos, recorded in the Bhagavata Purana, and with the Mithras of the Persians.
This is not all. Two naked figures in the attitude of contention suggests the idea that, as 'the serpent woman was considered at Mexico as the mother of two twin children,' these naked figures - remind us of the Cain and Abel of Hebrew tradition.'
• The cosmogony of the Mexicans; their traditions of the mother of mankind fallen from her first state of happiness and innocence ; the idea of a great inundation, in which a single family escaped on a raft; the history of a pyramidical edifice raised by the pride of men, and destroyed by the anger of the gods ; the ceremonies of ablution practised at the birth of children; those idols made with the flour of kneaded maize, and distributed in morsels to the people assembled in the tem. ples; the confession of sins made by the penitent; those religious associations similar to our convents of men and women; the universal belief that white men, with long beards and sanctity of manners, had changed the religion and political systein of nations ;-all these circumstances had led the priests, who accompanied the Spanish army at the time of the conquest, to the belief, that at some very distant epocha Christianity had been preached in the New Continent.'- vol. i. p. 146. .
Might not these priests have suggested and encouraged such an idea there as they are known to have done in other countries ? The hieroglyphical paintings which they found, and others which they fabricated, afforded them an adunirable opportunity of explaining their recondite meaning to their own purposes ; nothing could be so well adapted for the propagation of nionkish fictions and pious frauds; and their success is recorded by M. de Humboldt. Some learned Mexicans,' says he, have imagined that the Apostle St. Thomas was the mysterious personage, high priest of Tula, whom the Cholulans acknowledged under the name of Quetzalcoatl.? What could the learned Mexicans know about St. Thomas but what the Spanish monks told them? It is astonishing, however, with what credulity these men embraced the most wild and extravagant fancies. It actually became a question among the Spanish priests, and was gravely discussed by them, whether this great personage, (Quetzalcoatl,) whom our author calls the Mexican Budha,' was a Carthaginian or an Irishman ? The Mac Carthays could have settled this important question at once. Absurd as it would appear to suppose that a rude people, like the Mexicans, without any written language, either symbolical or alphabetical, without any system of numeration, could have made much
in astronomy, or in adjusting the irregular motions of the sun and moon as to regulate their calendar; yet, according to M. de Humboldt, they knew the causes of eclipses, and had a method of computing time by means of cycles identic with that made use of by the Hindoos, the Tibetans, the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Asiatic people of the Tartar race. We shall see presently in what this identity' consists. The Mexican year was divided into eighteen months of twenty days and five days over, which are called memontomi or voids, and considered as unlucky—the month into five weeks of four days each. These days were represented by four signs or hieroglyphics-tochtli, a rabbit or hare; acatl, a cane; tecpatl, a flint, calli, a house. By applying the same signs to a period of four years, a simple system of chronology or reckoning of time presented itself for their adoption. To lengthen this without increasing the number of signs, and to prevent the confusion which would arise from the constant recurrence of the same sign at the commencement of each short period, they repeated them three times, making twelve years, to which the first in the series. (the rabbit) being added, gave them a period of thirteen years, of which the first year was 1 rabbit, the last 13 rabbit. This was called Tlalpilli, which M. de Humboldt finds analogous to the indiction of the Romans. The second Tlalpilli of thirteen years would then of course begin with a new (the second) sign; and be called 1 cane ; and it would also end with the same sign, and be distinguished as 13 cane; in like manner the third Tlalpilli would commence with the third sign, 1 flint, and end with 13 flint; and the fourth begin with 1 house, and end with 13 house; and these four added together would give them another period of (4x13 or) 52 years, called xiuhmopilli, ligature of the years. The series of a new cycle of fifty-two years would then again commence with 1 rabbit, as before. All this is perfectly simple, but has very little
identity with the cycles of sixty years in use among the Chinese, the Japanese, the Mongols, the Mantchous, and other Tartar hordes. None of these nations use any numbers in their cycles; the series is carried on by two sets of signs, or syllables, one of which is formed of the twelve constellations of the zodiac, the other of the five elements, male and female. In China they are called the twelve tchu, and ten kan; and the binary combinations of these ten roots and twelve branches (19312) give a distinct and proper name to every year of the period or age of sixty years, with=" out the employment of a single numeral character or figure, so that in no respect is there the least resemblance between
the oriental cycles and the roues séculaires of the Mexicans; if the latter be not altogether the fabrication of some Spanish monk.'
We will not attempt to follow M. de Humboldt through this learned chapter on the Mexican calendar, which employs upwards of 130 pages; suffice it to say, that having settled the identity of the Mexican cycles and those of the Asiatic nations, all the rest of the 'analogies' fall easily into his system, and the closest affinities are discovered between every branch of astronomical knowledge, every astrological reverie, every superstition, recorded of the Greeks, Hebrews, Phenicians, Hindoos, Persians, and Chinese, all the Tartar tribes, and all the corresponding branches among the Mexicans; every difference and difficulty disappearing at once when touched by the magic wand of M. de Humboldt. "The Very names even,' he tells us, "of the oriental zodiacs, and the Nacshatras of the Hindoos, are the names of the Mexican signs of the days ;' and the way in which this is proved is so curious that we shall select the history of one of the signs (Capricorn) as a specimen of it, as well as of the satisfactory manner of unravelling the mysteries of the Mexican paintings. The sign Cipactli is represented by Gama as a sea animal. M. de Humboldt says it is a whale with a horn in its forehead. Gomara and Torquemada calls it espadarté, a narwal. Boturini, mistaking the horn for a harpoon, translated cipactli by “serpent armed with harpoons. But, says our author, being a fabulous animal, it is natural enough its form should vary; accordingly the horn is sometimes a lengthening of the muzzle, as in the fish oxyrinchus.' But Valades,
Boturini, and Clavigero converted this whale into a shark or lizard; (very like each other, and the latter, according to the authority of Count Osrick, exceedingly like a whale ;) and in the Borgian manuscript the head of this cipactli resembles that of a crocodile, "and this same name of crocodile is given by Sonnerat (Sonnerat! a butterfly hunter!) to the tenth sign of the Indian zodiac, which is our capricorn -ergo, cipactli is capricorn. But lest this clear demonstration should not be considered as suflicient proof, we have it in another shape. Cipactli, in Mexican mythology, is connected with Coxcox, and Coxcox was Noah, who saved himself at the top of the mountain on the destruction of the fourth sun; and this, somehow or other, connects itself with another discovery of Sonnerat, that the capricorn of the Hindoos is the fabulous fish maharan, represented from the most remote antiquity as a sea monster with the head of an antelope ; and as capricorn is an antelope, and an antelope is also exceedingly like a whale,-ergo, cipactli is capricorn; and this striking analogy between the two signs suggests other analogies' equally close and remarkable.
An animal which, after having for a length of time inhabited the waters, takes the form of an antelope, and scales the mountains, reminds nations, whose disturbed imagination associates objects the most remote
from each other, of the ancient traditions of Menou, Noah, and the Deu. calions, famous among the Scythians and people of Thessaly.'
Were we to copy the list of parallels and analogies' similar to the few we have given, it would occupy the whole of this article. Among them we should find an Azteck priestess compared with the Egyptian Isis~-three xocpalli or prints of feet, with the sravana or three prints of the feet of Vishnu-the Mexican tcomoxtli, with the Hindoo Puranas--the Peruvian trinity, with the Hindoo trimurti-two unknown animals pierced with darts, the one compared with the Paschal lamb of the Hebrews, and the other with the anatomical man in the almanac-the gods hurling fire on the top of the Pyramid of Cholula, with the destruction of the Tower of Babel—the five complementary days of the Mexicans with the epagomena of the Memphian years, and the pendjehidouzdideh of the Persians--the Mexican year divided like that of the Egyptians, and the New French Calendar-the Mexican day commencing with the sun rising, like that of the Persians, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, and most Asiatic nations-divided into eight intervals, like that of the Hindoos and the Romans-of equal hours, like that of the Jews-and, to sum up all, that as · Plato, the Prince of Philosophers, thought there was something majestic and royal in a large nose,' so it would seem did the Mexicans, from the enormity of this organ in the · Mexican paintings?—but enough, and more than enough. We regret to find such foolery, for we really can give it no better name, carried to so great an extent, and by one too who is furnished with such abundance of matter of a superior cast.
We do not mean to deny that the first attempts, however rude, of an unenlightened people to register events, communicate ideas, and render visible the operations of the mind, are void of interest; on the contrary, we consider them as so many landmarks by whick
trace, in the most interesting manner, the progress of the intellectual faculties of man; but we wish to discountenance that perverse ingenuity which would mould and twist them to its own purposes, and give them a meaning which they were never intended to bear.
Neither do we mean to deny that this people had their calendar and their chronology. The alternate procession and recession of the shadows of fixed objects, to and from their extreme points, which have attracted the attention of all agricultural, and consequently stationary, people, would, in the course of a few years'observation, give them the four great divisions of the sun's revolution; still, we cannot admit with our author, that a nation so barbarous as the Mexicans had any knowledge of the causes of eclipses, or the Metonic period of nineteen years. A picture language,