Akbal (darkness)

God L

The means by which these signs, and these of the " months " were used for divinatory purposes were the same as in the case of the Mexican system, that is, the auspicious were weighed against the evil, and thus a balance was struck.

We can now proceed to discuss the magical significance of the various periods of time, but here there s no need to treat of them as chronological units.

As we have seen, the Bacabs presided over the points of the compass. These were thought of as being beset by demons called Uayeyab, who were driven out by magical ceremonies. Great statues of stone representing the Bacabs were placed on the several reads converging on a village, ana at the end of the year pottery figures of the fertility god were placed so as to "nfluence them. The priests, accompanied by the people, gathered together and offered incense to the idols of the Bacabs, sacrificing fowls in front of them, then they placed the image dedicated to the year on a litter and carriedit to the house of the chief, where presents were placed before it, and sacrifices made to it by draw ing blood from the ears. The statue was permitted to remain in position until the five unlucky days at the end of the year were over, 'v hen the Uayeyab was supposed to have been scared away and the new year to have begun auspiciously. The four Bacabs had each a year in which they were thus chosen as guardians and were opposed by different Uayeyabs, which took the names of the four different colours of the compass.

As regards the significance of the months of the Maya year and their days, Pep, the first month, was regarded with much solemnity. It was essentially a time of purification, when houses were cleaned and ashpits emptied, nor must one take condiments with his food during its course.

Dm ing the. month Uo the priests, mediciners, aDd sorcerers held a festival for the hunters and fishers, invoking the aid of Itzamna, and examining in their sacred books the omens for the year. They accordingly took precautions against ev l happenings. In the month Zip the sorcerers gathered in their quarters along with their wives for the worship of the Gods of Medicine, Itzamna, Cit-Bolan-Tun, and Ahau-Chama-hez. and the Goddess of Medicine, lxchak, and danced symbolical and magical dances.

In the month Yax the prognostications of the Bacabs were made. In the month known as Mac a strange magical allegory was celebrated. Wild animals were assembled in the court of the temple of the Rain-gods, and a priest carry ing a vase of water presided. He set fire to a heap of dry wood. He then took the hearts from the captive wild beasts and cast them into the flames, and as regards such animals as were not available, their hearts were modelled in i icense gum and thrown into the blaze. Then he ext :'iguished the embers of the flame with the water he carried. The intention was to secure an abundance of water for the grain during the year, and the magical significance of the rite was the metamorphosis of blood into rain, the fierce blood of the forest animals being regarded as more intense in its action than any other.

From these notices it is clear that few of the mensual festivals had a magical significance. Of the astrological qualities of the several days of the year or months we are ignorant, but it is most probable that in this respect they were similar in their influence to those in the Aztec tonalamatl.

The Venus period was also regarded by the Maya as a season of magical influence. I11 the Dresden manuscript we see a god casting his spear at the " various classes of people," as we are told was the case in Mexico. These are the same as in the Aztec

S., but the Maya deities who cast the missiles differ from the Aztec. In the first place it is God K, in the second the God Chac, in the third God E, whilst the remain-ng two arc obscure; but Selcr believes these figures to represent planetary conjunctions having a special astrological and magical significance, p lie says : " It is hardly possible to see anything else in these figures struc-k by the spear than augural speculations regarding the influence of the light from the planet, suggested by the initial signs of the periods. We shali have to accept this as true, but not only for the representations of the Borgian Codex group (Mexican), but also fox the pictorial representations and the hieroglyphic text of the Dresden manuscript" (Maya).

Augury was also influenced by the Bacabs, or deities of the four quarters. These were called Kar, Muluc, Ix, and Cauac, and represented the. east, north, west, and south respectively. Their symbolic colours were yellow, white, black, and red. They had an influence upon certain years in the calendar. The " astrology " of the Maya is unfortunately most obscure owing to the paucity of the data concerning it and the necessity for much further study of the glyphs and calendar-system. whj-:h is by no means so far advanced as that of the Mexican tonalamatl.

The superstitions of the Maya are likewise difficult to come at. During the five days at the end of the year people in Mexico were careful not to fall asleep during the day, nor to quarrel or trip in walking, because they believed that what they then did " they would continue to do for evermore." We find the same notion in Yucatan. On these days men left the house as seldom as possible, did not wash or comb themselves, and took special care not to undertake any menial or difficult task, doubtless because they were convinced that they would be forced to do this kind of work throughout the whole ensuing year. The Mexicans were more passive in regard to these days, inasmuch as they merely took care to avoid conjuring up mischief for the coming year, while the Maya did things more thoroughly, as we have seen when dealing with the Uayayeb festival.

Maya demonology is obscure. A sinister figure, the prince of the Maya legions of darkness, is the bat-god, Zotziliha Chimalman, who dwelt in the " House of Bats," a gruesome cavern on the v.ay to the abodes of darkness and death. He is undoubtedly a relic of cave-worship pure and simple. " The Maya," says an old chronicler, " have an immoderate fear of death, and they seem to have given it a figure peculiarly repulsive." We shall find th's deity alluded to in the " Popol Vuh," under the name Camazotz, in close proximity to the Lords of Death and Hell, attempting to bar the journey of the hero-gods across these dreamy realms. He is frequently met with on the Copan reliefs, and a Maya clan, the Ah-zotzils, were called by his name. They were of Kakchiquel origin, and he was probably their totem.

Indeed, more than one Maya tribe was called after him, and he was evidently a " nagual" or tribal animal-sorcerer and guardian. The fact that he is called " this Xibalba " in the " Popol Vuh " shows that he is of plutonic nature, a deity of the Underworld. lie is also the vampire-beast of darkness who combats the sun-god and swallows his light.

The dog, <pek, was the symbol of the death-god and the bearer of the lightning. But he has also a stellar significance, and probably represents some star or constellation as at times he is dotted with spots to represent stars. We see him also playing on the medicine drum. Another horrible figure associated with the death-god is the mean bird, a noxious cloud-spirit, represented 'n the manuscripts by a bird of the falcon spccies.

We can glean much regarding the magical propensities of the Maya priesthood from a study of the customs of the related Zapotec priests of southern Mexico, whose religion was of Maya origin. Their high priests were known as Uija-tao, or " great seer,"

and their chief function was evidently to consult the gods in important matters relating cither to the community or to individuals. We have already seen ii Burgoa's account of M'tla how the high priest conferred with the deities on the occasion of a human sacrifice, placing himself in an ecstatic state, and how they were regarded as the living images of Quetzal-coatl or Kukulkan.

That they employed stones for scrying or visionary purposes is clear from the following passage from Seler's essay on " The Deities and Religious Conceptions of the Zapotecs."

" As Yoopaa, or Mictlan, was the holy city of the Zapotecs, so Nuundecu, or Aehiotlcn, was the holy city of the Mixtecs, where the high priest had his abode and where there was a far-famed oracle, which indeed King Motecuhzoma is said to have consulted when he was disturbed by the news of the landing of Cortes. The chief sanctuary was situated on the highest peak of a mountain. Here, as Father Burgoa relates, there was among other altars one of an idol " which they called the ' heart of the place or of the country' and which received great honour. The material was of marvellous value, for it was an emerald of the, size of a thick pepper pod (capsicum), upon which a small bird was engraved with the greatest skill, and, with the same si ill. a small serpent coiled ready to strike. The stone was so transparent that it shone from its interior with the brightness of a candle flame. It was a very old jewel, and there is no tradition extant concerning the origin of its veneration and worship."

The first missionary of Achiotlan, Fray Benito, afterward visited this place of worship and succeeded in persuading the Indians to surrender the idol to him. lie had the stone ground up, although a Spaniard offered three thousand ducats for ■stirred the powder in water, and poured it upon the earth and trod upon it in order at the same time to destroy the heathen abomination entirely and to demonstrate in the sight of ail the impotence of the idol.

iiurgoa says, writing of an oracle in the Laguna de San Dionisio near Tehuantepec, that on an sland there " was a deep and extensive cave, where the Zapotecs had one of their most important and most revered idols, and they called it ' soul and heart of the kingdom ' (Alma v Ccrazon del Revno), because these barbarians were persuaded that this fabulous deitj. was Atlas, upon whom the land rested and who bore it on his shoulders, and when he moved his shoulders the earth was shaken with unwonted tremblings ; and from his favour came the victories which they won and the fruitful years which yielded them the means of living."

There was an oracle connected also with this temple, and the last king of Tehuantepec, Cocijo-Pij, is said to have received here from the god the information that the rule of the Mexicans was at an end and that it was not possible to withstand the Spaniards. When the baptized king was later seized and imprisoned on account of his falling back into idolatry the \ car of Tehuantepec, Fray Bernardo de Santa Maria, sought out the island, forced his way into the cave, and found there a large quadrangular chamber, carefully swept, with altar-like structures around on the sides, and on them many 'ncense vessels, rich and costly offerings of valuable materials, gorgeous feathers, and disks and necklaces of gold, most of them sprinkled with freshly drawrn blood.

From what has gone before, it is clear that our knowledge of Maya magic and all that it implies is certainly not on a level with that relating to Mexican occult science. This is owing chiefly to the paucity of the records left us by the Spanish priesthood, and by their endeavours to stamp out the memory of oil native culture and thought. V\Te must also bear in mind that Maya origins and the ancient history of the country, which greatly pre-dates that of Mexico, have not as yet been thoroughly explored.

Yet a general conclusion may be reached. In all likelihoe»d the arcane knowledge of the Maya resembled that of Mexico, which indeed had its roots in Maya practice, and like it was founded on an alimentary basis. The fooel supply was regarded in Guatemala and Yucatan as the direct gift of the gods, maize, honey, and all food products being regarded as the donations of deities, if we do not find human sacrifice among the Maya so rampant as in Mexico it is simply because the practice in the more southern sphere remained, as in early Mexico, on a lesser scale owing to the non-adoption by the Maya of the awful conclusion arrived at by the Aztecs that the more blood shed the more rain would be likely to descend.

There is good evidence, too, that at a certain period in their history the Maya, in some instances at least, substituted human sacrifice by the use of paste images of human beings, little cakcs of maize paste maele in the shapes of distorted dwarfs. The dwarf, we know, was in Mexico an especial sacrifice to the rain-gods, probably because he was thought to resemble the Tlaloque, or small gods who poured down the rain. Tiie more dwarfs despatched to help them in this task, the more rain, argued the Mexicans. This substitution seems to have been general among the Maya, and to have supplanted human sacrifice to a great extent.

But the g< >ds who sent the people food must themselves be kept in life, and for this purpose the Maya appear to have employed magical formulae rather than sacrificial means. They certainly gave blood drawn from the tongue and thighs, as some of their wall-carvings show, and this substitution of the part for the whole exhibits a higher degree of civilized thought than that obtaining in Mexico. But this was not all. Their festivals, from what we know of them, seem to have resembled the external shows of the Egyptian Mysteries in enacting the myths of the gods of growth, and thus they helped by sympathetic magic to induce the gods themselves to enact the drama of growth with benelit to humanity. In their religion the deities of fruitfulness played a most important part, and are adorned w;th symbols relating to agriculture. Indeed, it would seem that the elements current in their hieroglyphic script were borrowed from agricultural implements.

Maya religion may, indeed, be summed up in the expression " sun-worship." In an illununating passage Dr. Hacbler writes :

" The varied representations of the gods in the monuments and in manuscripts were certainly to some extent only different forms of one and the same divine power. The missionaries were able to describe this consciousness of an underlying unity in the case of the god Ilunabku. who was invisible and supreme ; naturally their zealous orthodoxy saw here some fragmentary knowledge of the one God.

" Ilunabku does not appear very prominently in the Maya worship or mythology; of this the sun is undoubtedly the central point. Kukulcan and Guku-matz—probably in his essence ltzamna also are only va riant names, originating in difference of race, for the power of the sun that warms, lights and pours blessings upon the earth. As the sun rises in the east out of the sea, so the corresponding divinity of the tradit ions comes over the water from the east to the Maya, and is the bringer of all good things, of all blessings to body and soul, of fruitfulness and leaning, In the last character the divinity is fully incarnated. He appears as an aged greybeard in white flowing robes; as Votan he divides the land among the peoples and gives the settlements their names ; as Kabil, the Red Hand, he discovers writing, teaches the art of building, and arranges the marvellous perfection of the calendar. This part of the myth has undoubtedly a historical connection with the sun-myth, the real centre of all these religious conceptions, and is further evidence of the powers of the priesthood and of the fact that their influence was exercised to advance the progress of civilization. Fully realistic is a conception of that particular deity which is represented in the Maya art by the widely prevailing symbol of the feathered snake. This s also a branch of the sun-worship. In the tropical districts for a great part of the year the sun each day, at noon, draws up the clouds around himself; hence, with lightning and thunder, the symbols of power, comes down the fruitful rain in thunderstorms upon tht thirsty land. Thus the feathered snake, perhaps even a symbol of the thunder, appears among the Maya, on the highland of Central America, among the Pueblo Indians, and also among some Indian races of the North American lowland. It represents the warm fruitful power of the heavens, which is invariably personified in the chief luminary, the sun. The symbols of the snake and of Quetzal, the sacred bird with highly coloured plumage, are attributes of more than one Maya divinity.

" Under different shapes in the Tzendal district, in Yucatan to a large extent, and particularly in Chichen-Itza, they have so coloured the religious and the artistic conceptions of the Maya that we meet with traces of this symbolism in almost every monument and every decoration. The dualism of the Maya Olympus also originates in a mythological interpretation of natural phenomena. The representatives of the sun—light and life—are opposed to those of the night —darkness and death ; both have nearly equal powers and are in continual conflict for the lordship of the earth and of mankind. Moreover, the good gods have been obliged to abandon man after expending all their benefits upon him, and have made him promise of a future return, to support him in the struggle, and to assure him of victory at the last. Around these central mythological conceptions, which ii different forms are practically common property among most early peoples, are grouped in the case of the Maya, a large number of individual characteristics, each diversely developed. Not only was human life subject to the power of t he gods in a large and general way, since the gods had created and formed it, but also religion—or, to be more exact, the Maya priesthood—had contrived a special system whereby a man's life was ostensibly under the permanent influence of the gods, even in the most unimportant trifles. Upon this subject the quarters of the heavens and the constellations were of decisive importance; carcful and keen observation, lasting apparently over a great period of time, had put the Maya priesthood in possession of an astronomical knowledge to whieh 110 other people upon a corresponding plane of civilization has ever attained.

" This is, of course, reflected in the Solar Calendar and the Maya tonalamail. The solar year was considered in relation to all other annual calculations, and on it the priestly caste established a code of astronomical laws. The ritual year of twenty weeks, each of thirteen days, was of equal import ance. Here the four quarters of the heavens played an important part, since to each of them a quarter of the ritual year belonged. But in ail this diversity the consciousness of a higher unity clearly existed ; evidence for this is the special symbol of t he four quarters of the heavens—(the cross—which the Spaniards were highly astonished to find everywhere in the Maya temples as an object of particular veneration. Moreover, an influence upon the motions of the earth was certainly attributed to the morning and evening stars and to the Pleiades. Perhaps also the periods of revolution for Venus, Mercury, and Mars were approximately known and employed in calculation.

" The knowledge of these minute astronomical calculations was the exclusive possession of the highest priesthood, though at the same time they exercised a certain influence upon the whole national life. Upon these calculations the priests arranged the worship of the gods."

The principal Maya manuscripts which have escaped the ravages of time are the Codices in the libraries of Dresden, Paris, and Madrid. These are known as the

Codex Perezianus," preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris, the " Dresden Codex," long regarded as an Aztec manuscript, and the " Tro&no Codex," so called from one of its owners, Señor Tro y Ortolano, found at Madrid in 18fi5. These manuscripts deal principally with Maya mythology, but as they cannot be deciphered with any degree of accuracy, they do not greatly assist cur knowledge of the subject.

As has been sa id, these manuscripts Lave mostly an astrological significance, but little if anything can be gleaned from them which might be described as of the nature of magic proper.

" Those who would follow Forstemann's (and my own) views in understanding the codices," says Dr. Brinton, " must accustom themselves to look upon the animals, plants, objects, and transactions they depict as largely symbolical, representing the movements of the celestial bodies, the changes of the seasons, the meteorological variations, the revolutions of the sun, moon, and planets, and the like ; just as in the ancient zodiacs of the Old World we find similar uncouth animals and impossible collocations of images presented. The great snakes which stretch across the pages of the codices mean time ; the torches in the hands of figures, often one downward and one upvsard, indicate the rising and the setting of constellations ; the tortoise and the snail mark the solstices ; the mummied bodies, the disappearance from the sky at certain seasons of certain stars, etc. A higher, a more pregnant, and, I believe, the enly correct meaning is thus awarded to these strange memorials."

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