Non-Aryan Myths of the Origin of the World and of Man
[This is taken from Andrew Lang’s Myth, Ritual, and Religion.]
Confusions of myth—Various origins of man and of things—Myths of Australia, Andaman Islands, Bushmen, Ovaherero, Namaquas, Zulus, Hurons, Iroquois, Diggers, Navajoes, Winnebagoes, Chaldaeans, Thlinkeets, Pacific Islanders, Maoris, Aztecs, Peruvians—Similarity of ideas pervading all those peoples in various conditions of society and culture.
The difficulties of classification which beset the study of mythology have already been described. Nowhere are they more perplexing than when we try to classify what may be styled Cosmogonic Myths. The very word cosmogonic implies the pre-existence of the idea of a cosmos, an orderly universe, and this was exactly the last idea that could enter the mind of the myth-makers. There is no such thing as orderliness in their mythical conceptions, and no such thing as an universe. The natural question, “Who made the world, or how did the things in the world come to be?” is the question which is answered by cosmogonic myths. But it is answered piecemeal. To a Christian child the reply is given, “God made all things”. We have known this reply discussed by some little girls of six (a Scotch minister’s daughters, and naturally metaphysical), one of whom solved all difficulties by the impromptu myth, “God first made a little place to stand on, and then he made the rest”. But savages and the myth-makers, whose stories survive into the civilised religions, could adhere firmly to no such account as this. Here occurs in the first edition of this book the following passage: “They (savages) have not, and had not, the conception of God as we understand what we mean by the word. They have, and had at most, only the small-change of the idea “God,”—here the belief in a moral being who watches conduct; here again the hypothesis of a pre-human race of magnified, non-natural medicine-men, or of extra-natural beings with human and magical attributes, but often wearing the fur, and fins, and feathers of the lower animals. Mingled with these faiths (whether earlier, later, or coeval in origin with these) are the dread and love of ancestral ghosts, often transmuting themselves into worship of an imaginary and ideal first parent of the tribe, who once more is often a beast or a bird. Here is nothing like the notion of an omnipotent, invisible, spiritual being, the creator of our religion; here is only la monnaie of the conception.”
It ought to have occurred to the author that he was here traversing the main theory of his own book, which is that RELIGION is one thing, myth quite another thing. That many low races of savages entertain, in hours of RELIGIOUS thought, an elevated conception of a moral and undying Maker of Things, and Master of Life, a Father in Heaven, has already been stated, and knowledge of the facts has been considerably increased since this work first appeared (1887). But the MYTHICAL conceptions described in the last paragraph coexist with the religious conception in the faiths of very low savages, such as the Australians and Andamanese, just as the same contradictory coexistence is notorious in ancient Greece, India, Egypt and Anahuac. In a sense, certain low savages HAVE the “conception of God, as we understand what we mean by the word”. But that sense, when savages come to spinning fables about origins, is apt to be overlaid and perplexed by the frivolity of their mythical fancy.
With such shifting, grotesque and inadequate fables, the cosmogonic myths of the world are necessarily bewildered and perplexed. We have already seen in the chapter on “Nature Myths” that many things, sun, moon, the stars, “that have another birth,” and various animals and plants, are accounted for on the hypothesis that they are later than the appearance of man—that they originally WERE men. To the European mind it seems natural to rank myths of the gods before myths of the making or the evolution of the world, because our religion, like that of the more philosophic Greeks, makes the deity the fount of all existences, causa causans, “what unmoved moves,” the beginning and the end. But the myth-makers, deserting any such ideas they may possess, find it necessary, like the child of whom we spoke, to postulate a PLACE for the divine energy to work from, and that place is the earth or the heavens. Then, again, heaven and earth are themselves often regarded in the usual mythical way, as animated, as persons with parts and passions, and finally, among advancing races, as gods. Into this medley of incongruous and inconsistent conceptions we must introduce what order we may, always remembering that the order is not native to the subject, but is brought in for the purpose of study.
The origin of the world and of man is naturally a problem which has excited the curiosity of the least developed minds. Every savage race has its own myths on this subject, most of them bearing the marks of the childish and crude imagination, whose character we have investigated, and all varying in amount of what may be called philosophical thought.
All the cosmogonic myths, as distinct from religious belief in a Creator, waver between the theory of construction, or rather of reconstruction, and the theory of evolution, very rudely conceived. The earth, as a rule, is mythically averred to have grown out of some original matter, perhaps an animal, perhaps an egg which floated on the waters, perhaps a handful of mud from below the waters. But this conception does not exclude the idea that many of the things in the world, minerals, plants and what not, are fragments of the frame of a semi-supernatural and gigantic being, human or bestial, belonging to a race which preceded the advent of man. Such were the Titans, demi-gods, Nurrumbunguttias in Australia. Various members of this race are found active in myths of the creation, or rather the construction, of man and of the world. Among the lowest races it is to be noted that mythical animals of supernatural power often take the place of beings like the Finnish Wainamoinen, the Greek Prometheus, the Zulu Unkulunkulu, the Red Indian Manabozho, himself usually a great hare.
The ages before the development or creation of man are filled up, in the myths, with the loves and wars of supernatural people. The appearance of man is explained in three or four contradictory ways, each of which is represented in the various myths of most mythologies. Often man is fashioned out of clay, or stone, or other materials, by a Maker of all things, sometimes half-human or bestial, but also half-divine. Sometimes the first man rises out of the earth, and is himself confused with the Creator, a theory perhaps illustrated by the Zulu myth of Unkulunkulu, “The Old, Old One”. Sometimes man arrives ready made, with most of the animals, from his former home in a hole in the ground, and he furnishes the world for himself with stars, sun, moon and everything else he needs. Again, there are many myths which declare that man was evolved out of one or other of the lower animals. This myth is usually employed by tribesmen to explain the origin of their own peculiar stock of kindred. Once more, man is taken to be the fruit of some tree or plant, or not to have emerged ready-made, but to have grown out of the ground like a plant or a tree. In some countries, as among the Bechuanas, the Boeotians, and the Peruvians, the spot where men first came out on earth is known to be some neighbouring marsh or cave. Lastly, man is occasionally represented as having been framed out of a piece of the body of the Creator, or made by some demiurgic potter out of clay. All these legends are told by savages, with no sense of their inconsistency. There is no single orthodoxy on the matter, and we shall see that all these theories coexist pell-mell among the mythological traditions of civilised races. In almost every mythology, too, the whole theory of the origin of man is crossed by the tradition of a Deluge, or some other great destruction, followed by revival or reconstruction of the species, a tale by no means necessarily of Biblical origin.
In examining savage myths of the origin of man and of the world, we shall begin by considering those current among the most backward peoples, where no hereditary or endowed priesthood has elaborated and improved the popular beliefs. The natives of Australia furnish us with myths of a purely popular type, the property, not of professional priests and poets, but of all the old men and full-grown warriors of the country. Here, as everywhere else, the student must be on his guard against accepting myths which are disguised forms of missionary teaching.
In Southern Australia we learn that the Boonoorong, an Australian coast tribe, ascribe the creation of things to a being named Bun-jel or Pund-jel. He figures as the chief of an earlier supernatural class of existence, with human relationships; thus he “has a wife, WHOSE FACE HE HAS NEVER SEEN,” brothers, a son, and so on. Now this name Bun-jel means “eagle-hawk,” and the eagle-hawk is a totem among certain stocks. Thus, when we hear that Eagle-hawk is the maker of men and things we are reminded of the Bushman creator, Cagn, who now receives prayers of considerable beauty and pathos, but who is (in some theories) identified with kaggen, the mantis insect, a creative grasshopper, and the chief figure in Bushman mythology. Bun-jel or Pund-jel also figures in Australian belief, neither as the creator nor as the eagle-hawk, but “as an old man who lives at the sources of the Yarra river, where he possesses great multitudes of cattle”. The term Bun-jel is also used, much like our “Mr.,” to denote the older men of the Kurnai and Briakolung, some of whom have magical powers. One of them, Krawra, or “West Wind,” can cause the wind to blow so violently as to prevent the natives from climbing trees; this man has semi-divine attributes. From these facts it appears that this Australian creator, in myth, partakes of the character of the totem or worshipful beast, and of that of the wizard or medicine-man. He carried a large knife, and, when he made the earth, he went up and down slicing it into creeks and valleys. The aborigines of the northern parts of Victoria seem to believe in Pund-jel in what may perhaps be his most primitive mythical shape, that of an eagle. This eagle and a crow created everything, and separated the Murray blacks into their two main divisions, which derive their names from the crow and the eagle. The Melbourne blacks seem to make Pund-jel more anthropomorphic. Men are his [Greek text omitted] figures kneaded of clay, as Aristophanes says in the Birds. Pund-jel made two clay images of men, and danced round them. “He made their hair—one had straight, one curly hair—of bark. He danced round them. He lay on them, and breathed his breath into their mouths, noses and navels, and danced round them. Then they arose full-grown young men.” Some blacks seeing a brickmaker at work on a bridge over the Yarra exclaimed, “Like ‘em that Pund-jel make ‘em Koolin”. But other blacks prefer to believe that, as Pindar puts the Phrygian legend, the sun saw men growing like trees.
The first man was formed out of the gum of a wattle-tree, and came out of the knot of a wattle-tree. He then entered into a young woman (though he was the first man) and was born. The Encounter Bay people have another myth, which might have been attributed by Dean Swift to the Yahoos, so foul an origin does it allot to mankind.
Australian myths of creation are by no means exclusive of a hypothesis of evolution. Thus the Dieyrie, whose notions Mr. Gason has recorded, hold a very mixed view. They aver that “the good spirit” Moora-Moora made a number of small black lizards, liked them, and promised them dominion. He divided their feet into toes and fingers, gave them noses and lips, and set them upright. Down they fell, and Moora-Moora cut off their tails. Then they walked erect and were men. The conclusion of the adventures of one Australian creator is melancholy. He has ceased to dwell among mortals whom he watches and inspires. The Jay possessed many bags full of wind; he opened them, and Pund-jel was carried up by the blast into the heavens. But this event did not occur before Pund-jel had taught men and women the essential arts of life. He had shown the former how to spear kangaroos, he still exists and inspires poets. From the cosmogonic myths of Australia (the character of some of which is in contradiction with the higher religious belief of the people to be later described) we may turn, without reaching a race of much higher civilisation, to the dwellers in the Andaman Islands and their opinions about the origin of things.
The Andaman Islands, in the Bay of Bengal, are remote from any shores, and are protected from foreign influences by dangerous coral reefs, and by the reputed ferocity and cannibalism of the natives. These are Negritos, and are commonly spoken of as most abject savages. They are not, however, without distinctions of rank; they are clean, modest, moral after marriage, and most strict in the observance of prohibited degrees. Unlike the Australians, they use bows and arrows, but are said to be incapable of striking a light, and, at all events, find the process so difficult that, like the Australians and the farmer in the Odyssey, they are compelled “to hoard the seeds of fire”. Their mythology contains explanations of the origin of men and animals, and of their own customs and language.
The Andamanese, long spoken of as “godless,” owe much to Mr. Man, an English official, who has made a most careful study of their beliefs. So extraordinary is the contradiction between the relative purity and morality of the RELIGION and the savagery of the myths of the Andamanese, that, in the first edition of this work, I insisted that the “spiritual god” of the faith must have been “borrowed from the same quarter as the stone house” in which he is mythically said to live. But later and wider study, and fresh information from various quarters, have convinced me that the relative purity of Andamanese religion, with its ethical sanction of conduct, may well be, and probably is, a natural unborrowed development. It is easy for MYTH to borrow the notion of a stone house from our recent settlement at Port Blair. But it would not be easy for RELIGION to borrow many new ideas from an alien creed, in a very few years, while the noted ferocity of the islanders towards strangers, and the inaccessibility of their abode, makes earlier borrowing, on a large scale at least, highly improbable. The Andamanese god, Puluga, is “like fire” but invisible, unborn and immortal, knowing and punishing or rewarding, men’s deeds, even “the thoughts of their hearts”. But when once mythical fancy plays round him, and stories are told about him, he is credited with a wife who is an eel or a shrimp, just as Zeus made love as an ant or a cuckoo. Puluga was the maker of men; no particular myth as to how he made them is given. They tried to kill him, after the deluge (of which a grotesque myth is told), but he replied that he was “as hard as wood”. His legend is in the usual mythical contradiction with the higher elements in his religion.
Leaving the Andaman islanders, but still studying races in the lowest degree of civilisation, we come to the Bushmen of South Africa. This very curious and interesting people, far inferior in material equipment to the Hottentots, is sometimes regarded as a branch of that race. The Hottentots call themselves “Khoi-khoi,” the Bushmen they style “Sa”. The poor Sa lead the life of pariahs, and are hated and chased by all other natives of South Africa. They are hunters and diggers for roots, while the Hottentots, perhaps their kinsmen, are cattle-breeders. Being so ill-nourished, the Bushmen are very small, but sturdy. They dwell in, or rather wander through, countries which have been touched by some ancient civilisation, as is proved by the mysterious mines and roads of Mashonaland. It is singular that the Bushmen possess a tradition according to which they could once “make stone things that flew over rivers”. They have remarkable artistic powers, and their drawings of men and animals on the walls of caves are often not inferior to the designs on early Greek vases.
Thus we must regard the Bushmen as possibly degenerated from a higher status, though there is nothing (except perhaps the tradition about bridge-making) to show that it was more exalted than that of their more prosperous neighbours, the Hottentots. The myths of the Bushmen, however, are almost on the lowest known level. A very good and authentic example of Bushman cosmogonic myth was given to Mr. Orpen, chief magistrate of St. John’s territory, by Qing, King Nqusha’s huntsman. Qing “had never seen a white man, but in fighting,” till he became acquainted with Mr. Orpen. The chief force in Bushmen myth is by Dr. Bleek identified with the mantis, a sort of large grasshopper. Though he seems at least as “chimerical a beast” as the Aryan creative boar, the “mighty big hare” of the Algonkins, the large spider who made the world in the opinion of the Gold Coast people, or the eagle of the Australians, yet the insect (if insect he be), like the others, has achieved moral qualities and is addressed in prayer. In his religious aspect he is nothing less than a grasshopper. He is called Cagn. “Cagn made all things and we pray to him,” said Qing. “Coti is the wife of Cagn.” Qing did not know where they came from; “perhaps with the men who brought the sun”. The fact is, Qing “did not dance that dance,” that is, was not one of the Bushmen initiated into the more esoteric mysteries of Cagn. Till we, too, are initiated, we can know very little of Cagn in his religious aspect. Among the Bushmen, as among the Greeks, there is “no religious mystery without dancing”. Qing was not very consistent. He said Cagn gave orders and caused all things to appear and to be made, sun, moon, stars, wind, mountains, animals, and this, of course, is a lofty theory of creation. Elsewhere myth avers that Cagn did not so much create as manufacture the objects in nature. In his early day “the snakes were also men”. Cagn struck snakes with his staff and turned them into men, as Zeus, in the Aeginetan myth, did with ants. He also turned offending men into baboons. In Bushman myth, little as we really know of it, we see the usual opposition of fable and faith, a kind creator in religion is apparently a magician in myth.
Neighbours of the Bushmen, but more fortunate in their wealth of sheep and cattle, are the Ovaherero. The myths of the Ovaherero, a tribe dwelling in a part of Hereraland “which had not yet been under the influence of civilisation and Christianity,” have been studied by the Rev. H. Reiderbecke, missionary at Otyozondyupa. The Ovaherero, he says, have a kind of tree Ygdrasil, a tree out of which men are born, and this plays a great part in their myth of creation. The tree, which still exists, though at a great age, is called the Omumborombonga tree. Out of it came, in the beginning, the first man and woman. Oxen stepped forth from it too, but baboons, as Caliban says of the stars, “came otherwise,” and sheep and goats sprang from a flat rock. Black people are so coloured, according to the Ovaherero, because when the first parents emerged from the tree and slew an ox, the ancestress of the blacks appropriated the black liver of the victim. The Ovakuru Meyuru or “OLD ONES in heaven,” once let the skies down with a run, but drew them up again (as the gods of the Satapatha Brahmana drew the sun) when most of mankind had been drowned. The remnant pacified the OLD ONES (as Odysseus did the spirits of the dead) by the sacrifice of a BLACK ewe, a practice still used to appease ghosts by the Ovaherero. The neighbouring Omnambo ascribe the creation of man to Kalunga, who came out of the earth, and made the first three sheep.
Among the Namaquas, an African people on the same level of nomadic culture as the Ovaherero, a divine or heroic early being called Heitsi Eibib had a good deal to do with the origin of things. If he did not exactly make the animals, he impressed on them their characters, and their habits (like those of the serpent in Genesis) are said to have been conferred by a curse, the curse of Heitsi Eibib. A precisely similar notion was found by Avila among the Indians of Huarochiri, whose divine culture-hero imposed, by a curse or a blessing, their character and habits on the beasts. The lion used to live in a nest up a tree till Heitsi Eibib cursed him and bade him walk on the ground. He also cursed the hare, “and the hare ran away, and is still running”. The name of the first man is given as Eichaknanabiseb (with a multitude of “clicks”), and he is said to have met all the animals on a flat rock, and played a game with them for copper beads. The rainbow was made by Gaunab, who is generally a malevolent being, of whom more hereafter.
Leaving these African races, which, whatever their relative degrees of culture, are physically somewhat contemptible, we reach their northern neighbours, the Zulus. They are among the finest, and certainly among the least religious, of the undeveloped peoples. Their faith is mainly in magic and ghosts, but there are traces of a fading and loftier belief.
The social and political condition of the Zulu is well understood. They are a pastoral, but not a nomadic people, possessing large kraals or towns. They practise agriculture, and they had, till quite recently, a centralised government and a large army, somewhat on the German system. They appear to have no regular class of priests, and supernatural power is owned by the chiefs and the king, and by diviners and sorcerers, who conduct the sacrifices. Their myths are the more interesting because, whether from their natural scepticism, which confuted Bishop Colenso in his orthodox days, or from acquaintance with European ideas, they have begun to doubt the truth of their own traditions. The Zulu theory of the origin of man and of the world commences with the feats of Unkulunkulu, “the old, old one,” who, in some legends, was the first man, “and broke off in the beginning”. Like Manabozho among the Indians of North America, and like Wainamoinen among the Finns, Unkulunkulu imparted to men a knowledge of the arts, of marriage, and so forth. His exploits in this direction, however, must be considered in another part of this work. Men in general “came out of a bed of reeds”. But there is much confusion about this bed of reeds, named “Uthlanga”. The younger people ask where the bed of reeds was; the old men do not know, and neither did their fathers know. But they stick to it that “that bed of reeds still exists”. Educated Zulus appear somewhat inclined to take the expression in an allegorical sense, and to understand the reeds either as a kind of protoplasm or as a creator who was mortal. “He exists no longer. As my grandfather no longer exists, he too no longer exists; he died.” Chiefs who wish to claim high descent trace their pedigree to Uthlanga, as the Homeric kings traced theirs to Zeus. The myths given by Dr. Callaway are very contradictory.
In addition to the legend that men came out of a bed of reeds, other and perhaps even more puerile stories are current. “Some men say that they were belched up by a cow;” others “that Unkulunkulu split them out of a stone,” which recalls the legend of Pyrrha and Deucalion. The myth about the cow is still applied to great chiefs. “He was not born; he was belched up by a cow.” The myth of the stone origin corresponds to the Homeric saying about men “born from the stone or the oak of the old tale”.
In addition to the theory of the natal bed of reeds, the Zulus, like the Navajoes of New Mexico, and the Bushmen, believe in the subterranean origin of man. There was a succession of emigrations from below of different tribes of men, each having its own Unkulunkulu. All accounts agree that Unkulunkulu is not worshipped, and he does not seem to be identified with “the lord who plays in heaven”—a kind of fading Zeus—when there is thunder. Unkulunkulu is not worshipped, though ancestral spirits are worshipped, because he lived so long ago that no one can now trace his pedigree to the being who is at once the first man and the creator. His “honour-giving name is lost in the lapse of years, and the family rites have become obsolete.”
The native races of the North American continent (concerning whose civilisation more will be said in the account of their divine myths) occupy every stage of culture, from the truly bestial condition in which some of the Digger Indians at present exist, living on insects and unacquainted even with the use of the bow, to the civilisation which the Spaniards destroyed among the Aztecs.
The original facts about religion in America are much disputed, and will be more appropriately treated later. It is now very usual for anthropologists to say, like Mr. Dorman, “no approach to monotheismn had been made before the discovery of America by Europeans, and the Great Spirit mentioned in these (their) books is an introduction by Christianity”. “This view will not bear examination,” says Mr. Tylor, and we shall later demonstrate the accuracy of his remark. But at present we are concerned, not with what Indian religion had to say about her Gods, but with what Indian myth had to tell about the beginnings of things.
The Hurons, for example (to choose a people in a state of middle barbarism), start in myth from the usual conception of a powerful non-natural race of men dwelling in the heavens, whence they descended, and colonised, not to say constructed, the earth. In the Relation de la Nouvelle France, written by Pere Paul le Jeune, of the Company of Jesus, in 1636, there is a very full account of Huron opinion, which, with some changes of names, exists among the other branches of the Algonkin family of Indians.
They recognise as the founder of their kindred a woman named Ataentsic, who, like Hephaestus in the Iliad, was banished from the sky. In the upper world there are woods and plains, as on earth. Ataentsic fell down a hole when she was hunting a bear, or she cut down a heaven-tree, and fell with the fall of this Huron Ygdrasil, or she was seduced by an adventurer from the under world, and was tossed out of heaven for her fault. However it chanced, she dropped on the back of the turtle in the midst of the waters. He consulted the other aquatic animals, and one of them, generally said to have been the musk-rat, fished up some soil and fashioned the earth. Here Ataentsic gave birth to twins, Ioskeha and Tawiscara. These represent the usual dualism of myth; they answer to Osiris and Set, to Ormuzd and Ahriman, and were bitter enemies. According to one form of the myth, the woman of the sky had twins, and what occurred may be quoted from Dr. Brinton. “Even before birth one of them betrayed his restless and evil nature by refusing to be born in the usual manner, but insisting on breaking through his parent’s side or arm-pit. He did so, but it cost his mother her life. Her body was buried, and from it sprang the various vegetable productions,” pumpkins, maize, beans, and so forth.
According to another version of the origin of things, the maker of them was one Michabous, or Michabo, the Great Hare. His birthplace was shown at an island called Michilimakinak, like the birthplace of Apollo at Delos. The Great Hare made the earth, and, as will afterwards appear, was the inventor of the arts of life. On the whole, the Iroquois and Algonkin myths agree in finding the origin of life in an upper world beyond the sky. The earth was either fished up (as by Brahma when he dived in the shape of a boar) by some beast which descended to the bottom of the waters, or grew out of the tortoise on whose back Ataentsic fell. The first dwellers in the world were either beasts like Manabozho or Michabo, the Great Hare, or the primeval wolves of the Uinkarets, or the creative musk-rat, or were more anthropomorphic heroes, such as Ioskeha and Tawiscara. As for the things in the world, some were made, some evolved, some are transformed parts of an early non-natural man or animal. There is a tendency to identify Ataentsic, the sky-woman, with the moon, and in the Two Great Brethren, hostile as they are, to recognise moon and sun.
Some of the degraded Digger Indians of California have the following myth of the origin of species. In this legend, it will be noticed, a species of evolution takes the place of a theory of creation. The story was told to Mr. Adam Johnston, who “drew” the narrator by communicating to a chief the Biblical narrative of the creation. The chief said it was a strange story, and one that he had never heard when he lived at the Mission of St. John under the care of a Padre. According to this chief (he ruled over the Po-to-yan-te tribe or Coyotes), the first Indians were coyotes. When one of their number died, his body became full of little animals or spirits. They took various shapes, as of deer, antelopes, and so forth; but as some exhibited a tendency to fly off to the moon, the Po-to-yan-tes now usually bury the bodies of their dead, to prevent the extinction of species. Then the Indians began to assume the shape of man, but it was a slow transformation. At first they walked on all fours, then they would begin to develop an isolated human feature, one finger, one toe, one eye, like the ascidian, our first parent in the view of modern science. Then they doubled their organs, got into the habit of sitting up, and wore away their tails, which they unaffectedly regret, “as they consider the tail quite an ornament”. Ideas of the immortality of the soul are said to be confined to the old women of the tribe, and, in short, according to this version, the Digger Indians occupy the modern scientific position.
The Winnebagoes, who communicated their myths to Mr. Fletcher, are suspected of having been influenced by the Biblical narrative. They say that the Great Spirit woke up as from a dream, and found himself sitting in a chair. As he was all alone, he took a piece of his body and a piece of earth, and made a man. He next made a woman, steadied the earth by placing beasts beneath it at the corners, and created plants and animals. Other men he made out of bears. “He created the white man to make tools for the poor Indians”—a very pleasing example of a teleological hypothesis and of the doctrine of final causes as understood by the Winnebagoes. The Chaldean myth of the making of man is recalled by the legend that the Great Spirit cut out a piece of himself for the purpose; the Chaldean wisdom coincides, too, with the philosophical acumen of the Po-to-yan-te or Coyote tribe of Digger Indians. Though the Chaldean theory is only connected with that of the Red Men by its savagery, we may briefly state it in this place.
According to Berosus, as reported by Alexander Polyhistor, the universe was originally (as before Manabozho’s time) water and mud. Herein all manner of mixed monsters, with human heads, goat’s horns, four legs, and tails, bred confusedly. In place of the Iroquois Ataentsic, a woman called Omoroca presided over the mud and the menagerie. She, too, like Ataentsic, is sometimes recognised as the moon. Affairs being in this state, Bel-Maruduk arrived and cut Omoroca in two (Chokanipok destroyed Ataentsic), and out of Omoroca Bel made the world and the things in it. We have already seen that in savage myth many things are fashioned out of a dead member of the extra-natural race. Lastly, Bel cut his own head off, and with the blood the gods mixed clay and made men. The Chaldeans inherited very savage fancies.
One ought, perhaps, to apologise to the Chaldeans for inserting their myths among the fables of the least cultivated peoples; but it will scarcely be maintained that the Oriental myths differ in character from the Digger Indian and Iroquois explanations of the origin of things. The Ahts of Vancouver Island, whom Mr. Sproat knew intimately, and of whose ideas he gives a cautious account (for he was well aware of the limits of his knowledge), tell a story of the usual character. They believe in a member of the extra-natural race, named Quawteaht, of whom we shall hear more in his heroic character. As a demiurge “he is undoubtedly represented as the general framer, I do not say creator, of all things, though some special things are excepted. He made the earth and water, the trees and rocks, and all the animals. Some say that Quawteaht made the sun and moon, but the majority of the Indians believe that he had nothing to do with their formation, and that they are deities superior to himself, though now distant and less active. He gave names to everything; among the rest, to all the Indian houses which then existed, although inhabited only by birds and animals. Quawteaht went away before the apparent change of the birds and beasts into Indians, which took place in the following manner:–
“The birds and beasts of old had the spirits of the Indians dwelling in them, and occupied the various coast villages, as the Ahts do at present. One day a canoe manned by two Indians from an unknown country approached the shore. As they coasted along, at each house at which they landed, the deer, bear, elk, and other brute inhabitants fled to the mountains, and the geese and other birds flew to the woods and rivers. But in this flight, the Indians, who had hitherto been contained in the bodies of the various creatures, were left behind, and from that time they took possession of the deserted dwellings and assumed the condition in which we now see them.”
Crossing the northern continent of America to the west, we are in the domains of various animal culture-heroes, ancestors and teachers of the human race and the makers, to some extent, of the things in the world. As the eastern tribes have their Great Hare, so the western tribes have their wolf hero and progenitor, or their coyote, or their raven, or their dog. It is possible, and even certain in some cases, that the animal which was the dominant totem of a race became heir to any cosmogonic legends that were floating about.
The country of the Papagos, on the eastern side of the Gulf of California, is the southern boundary of the province of the coyote or prairie wolf. The realm of his influence as a kind of Prometheus, or even as a demiurge, extends very far northwards. In the myth related by Con Quien, the chief of the central Papagos, the coyote acts the part of the fish in the Sanskrit legend of the flood, while Montezuma undertakes the role of Manu. This Montezuma was formed, like the Adams of so many races, out of potter’s clay in the hands of the Great Spirit. In all this legend it seems plain enough that the name of Montezuma is imported from Mexico, and has been arbitrarily given to the hero of the Papagos. According to Mr. Powers, whose manuscript notes Mr. Bancroft quotes (iii. 87), all the natives of California believe that their first ancestors were created directly from the earth of their present dwelling-places, and in very many cases these ancestors were coyotes.
The Pimas, a race who live near the Papagos on the eastern coast of the Gulf of California, say that the earth was made by a being named Earth-prophet. At first it appeared like a spider’s web, reminding one of the West African legend that a great spider created the world. Man was made by the Earth-prophet out of clay kneaded with sweat. A mysterious eagle and a deluge play a great part in the later mythical adventures of war and the world, as known to the Pimas.
In Oregon the coyote appears as a somewhat tentative demiurge, and the men of his creation, like the beings first formed by Prajapati in the Sanskrit myth, needed to be reviewed, corrected and considerably augmented. The Chinooks of Oregon believe in the usual race of magnified non-natural men, who preceded humanity.
These semi-divine people were called Ulhaipa by the Chinooks, and Sehuiab by the Lummies. But the coyote was the maker of men. As the first of Nature’s journeymen, he made men rather badly, with closed eyes and motionless feet. A kind being, named Ikanam, touched up the coyote’s crude essays with a sharp stone, opening the eyes of men, and giving their hands and feet the powers of movement. He also acted as a “culture-hero,” introducing the first arts.
Moving up the West Pacific coast we reach British Columbia, where the coyote is not supposed to have been so active as our old friend the musk-rat in the great work of the creation. According to the Tacullies, nothing existed in the beginning but water and a musk-rat. As the animal sought his food at the bottom of the water, his mouth was frequently filled with mud. This he spat out, and so gradually formed by alluvial deposit an island. This island was small at first, like earth in the Sanskrit myth in the Satapatha Brahmana, but gradually increased in bulk. The Tacullies have no new light to throw on the origin of man.
The Thlinkeets, who are neighbours of the Tacullies on the north, incline to give crow or raven the chief role in the task of creation, just as some Australians allot the same part to the eagle-hawk, and the Yakuts to a hawk, a crow and a teal-duck. We shall hear much of Yehl later, as one of the mythical heroes of the introduction of civilisation. North of the Thlinkeets, a bird and a dog take the creative duties, the Aleuts and Koniagas being descended from a dog. Among the more northern Tinnehs, the dog who was the progenitor of the race had the power of assuming the shape of a handsome young man. He supplied the protoplasm of the Tinnehs, as Purusha did that of the Aryan world, out of his own body. A giant tore him to pieces, as the gods tore Purusha, and out of the fragments thrown into the rivers came fish, the fragments tossed into the air took life as birds, and so forth. This recalls the Australian myth of the origin of fish and the Ananzi stories of the origin of whips.
Between the cosmogonic myths of the barbarous or savage American tribes and those of the great cultivated American peoples, Aztecs, Peruvians and Quiches, place should be found for the legends of certain races in the South Pacific. Of these, the most important are the Maoris or natives of New Zealand, the Mangaians and the Samoans. Beyond the usual and world-wide correspondences of myth, the divine tales of the various South Sea isles display resemblances so many and essential that they must be supposed to spring from a common and probably not very distant centre. As it is practically impossible to separate Maori myths of the making of things from Maori myths of the gods and their origin, we must pass over here the metaphysical hymns and stories of the original divine beings, Rangi and Papa, Heaven and Earth, and of their cruel but necessary divorce by their children, who then became the usual Titanic race which constructs and “airs” the world for the reception of man. Among these beings, more fully described in our chapter on the gods of the lower races, is Tiki, with his wife Marikoriko, twilight. Tane (male) is another of the primordial race, children of earth and heaven, and between him and Tiki lies the credit of having made or begotten humanity. Tane adorned the body of his father, heaven (Rangi), by sticking stars all over it, as disks of pearl-shells are stuck all over images. He was the parent of trees and birds, but some trees are original and divine beings. The first woman was not born, but formed out of the sun and the echo, a pretty myth. Man was made by Tiki, who took red clay, and kneaded it with his own blood, or with the red water of swamps. The habits of animals, some of which are gods, while others are descended from gods, follow from their conduct at the moment when heaven and earth were violently divorced. New Zealand itself, or at least one of the isles, was a huge fish caught by Maui (of whom more hereafter). Just as Pund-jel, in Australia, cut out the gullies and vales with his knife, so the mountains and dells of New Zealand were produced by the knives of Maui’s brothers when they crimped his big fish. Quite apart from those childish ideas are the astonishing metaphysical hymns about the first stirrings of light in darkness, of “becoming” and “being,” which remind us of Hegel and Heraclitus, or of the most purely speculative ideas in the Rig-Veda. Scarcely less metaphysical are the myths of Mangaia, of which Mr. Gill gives an elaborate account.
The Mangaian ideas of the world are complex, and of an early scientific sort. The universe is like the hollow of a vast cocoa-nut shell, divided into many imaginary circles like those of mediaeval speculation. There is a demon at the stem, as it were, of the cocoa-nut, and, where the edges of the imaginary shell nearly meet, dwells a woman demon, whose name means “the very beginning”. In this system we observe efforts at metaphysics and physical speculation. But it is very characteristic of rude thought that such extremely abstract conceptions as “the very beginning” are represented as possessing life and human form. The woman at the bottom of the shell was anxious for progeny, and therefore plucked a bit out of her own right side, as Eve was made out of the rib of Adam. This piece of flesh became Vatea, the father of gods and men. Vatea (like Oannes in the Chaldean legend) was half man, half fish. “The Very Beginning” begat other children in the same manner, and some of these became departmental gods of ocean, noon-day, and so forth. Curiously enough, the Mangaians seem to be sticklers for primogeniture. Vatea, as the first-born son, originally had his domain next above that of his mother. But she was pained by the thought that his younger brothers each took a higher place than his; so she pushed his land up, and it is now next below the solid crust on which mortals live in Mangaia. Vatea married a woman from one of the under worlds named Papa, and their children had the regular human form. One child was born either from Papa’s head, like Athene from the head of Zeus, or from her armpit, like Dionysus from the thigh of Zeus. Another child may be said, in the language of dog-breeders, to have “thrown back,” for he wears the form of a white or black lizard. In the Mangaian system the sky is a solid vault of blue stone. In the beginning of things the sky (like Ouranos in Greece and Rangi in New Zealand) pressed hard on earth, and the god Ru was obliged to thrust the two asunder, or rather he was engaged in this task when Maui tossed both Ru and the sky so high up that they never came down again. Ru is now the Atlas of Mangaia, “the sky-supporting Ru”. His lower limbs fell to earth, and became pumice-stone. In these Mangaian myths we discern resemblances to New Zealand fictions, as is natural, and the tearing of the body of “the Very Beginning” has numerous counterparts in European, American and Indian fable. But on the whole, the Mangaian myths are more remarkable for their semi-scientific philosophy than for their coincidences with the fancies of other early peoples.
The Samoans, like the Maoris and Greeks, hold that heaven at first fell down and lay upon earth. The arrowroot and another plant pushed up heaven, and “the heaven-pushing place” is still known and pointed out. Others say the god Ti-iti-i pushed up heaven, and his feet made holes six feet deep in the rocks during this exertion. The other Samoan myths chiefly explain the origin of fire, and the causes of the characteristic forms and habits of animals and plants. The Samoans, too, possess a semi-mythical, metaphysical cosmogony, starting from NOTHING, but rapidly becoming the history of rocks, clouds, hills, dew and various animals, who intermarried, and to whom the royal family of Samoa trace their origin through twenty-three generations. So personal are Samoan abstract conceptions, that “SPACE had a long-legged stool,” on to which a head fell, and grew into a companion for Space. Yet another myth says that the god Tangaloa existed in space, and made heaven and earth, and sent down his daughter, a snipe. Man he made out of the mussel-fish. So confused are the doctrines of the Samoans.
Perhaps the cosmogonic myths of the less cultivated races have now been stated in sufficient number. As an example of the ideas which prevailed in an American race of higher culture, we may take the Quiche legend as given in the Popol Vuh, a post-Christian collection of the sacred myths of the nation, written down after the Spanish conquest, and published in French by the Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg.
The Quiches, like their neighbours the Cakchiquels, were a highly civilised race, possessing well-built towns, roads and the arts of life, and were great agriculturists. Maize, the staple of food among these advanced Americans, was almost as great a god as Soma among the Indo-Aryans. The Quiches were acquainted with a kind of picture-writing, and possessed records in which myth glided into history. The Popol Vuh, or book of the people, gives itself out as a post-Columbian copy of these traditions, and may doubtless contain European ideas. As we see in the Commentarias Reales of the half-blood Inca Garcilasso de la Vega, the conquered people were anxious to prove that their beliefs were by no means so irrational and so “devilish” as to Spanish critics they appeared. According to the Popol Vuh, there was in the beginning nothing but water and the feathered serpent, one of their chief divine beings; but there also existed somehow, “they that gave life”. Their names mean “shooter of blow-pipe at coyote,” “at opossum,” and so forth. They said “Earth,” and there WAS earth, and plants growing thereon. Animals followed, and the Givers of life said “Speak our names,” but the animals could only cluck and croak. Then said the Givers, “Inasmuch as ye cannot praise us, ye shall be killed and eaten”. They then made men out of clay; these men were weak and watery, and by water they were destroyed. Next they made men of wood and women of the pith of trees. These puppets married and gave in marriage, and peopled earth with wooden mannikins. This unsatisfactory race was destroyed by a rain of resin and by the wild beasts. The survivors developed into apes. Next came a period occupied by the wildest feats of the magnified non-natural race and of animals. The record is like the description of a supernatural pantomime—the nightmare of a god. The Titans upset hills, are turned into stone, and behave like Heitsi Eibib in the Namaqua myths.
Last of all, men were made of yellow and white maize, and these gave more satisfaction, but their sight was contracted. These, however, survived, and became the parents of the present stock of humanity.
Here we have the conceptions of creation and of evolution combined. Men are MADE, but only the fittest survive; the rest are either destroyed or permitted to develop into lower species. A similar mixture of the same ideas will be found in one of the Brahmanas among the Aryans of India. It is to be observed that the Quiche myths, as recorded in Popol Vuh, contain not only traces of belief in a creative word and power, but many hymns of a lofty and beautifully devotional character.
“Hail! O Creator, O Former! Thou that hearest and understandest us, abandon us not, forsake us not! O God, thou that art in heaven and on the earth, O Heart of Heaven, O Heart of Earth, give us descendants and posterity as long as the light endures.”
This is an example of the prayers of the men made out of maize, made especially that they might “call on the name” of the god or gods. Whether we are to attribute this and similar passages to Christian influence (for Popol Vuh, as we have it, is but an attempt to collect the fragments of the lost book that remained in men’s minds after the conquest), or whether the purer portions of the myth be due to untaught native reflection and piety, it is not possible to determine. It is improbable that the ideas of a hostile race would be introduced into religious hymns by their victims. Here, as elsewhere in the sacred legends of civilised peoples, various strata of mythical and religious thought coexist.
No American people reached such a pitch of civilisation as the Aztecs of Anahuac, whose capital was the city of Mexico. It is needless here to repeat the story of their grandeur and their fall. Obscure as their history, previous to the Spanish invasion, may be, it is certain that they possessed a highly organised society, fortified towns, established colleges or priesthoods, magnificent temples, an elaborate calendar, great wealth in the precious metals, the art of picture-writing in considerable perfection, and a despotic central government. The higher classes in a society like this could not but develop speculative systems, and it is alleged that shortly before the reign of Montezuma attempts had been made to introduce a pure monotheistic religion. But the ritual of the Aztecs remained an example of the utmost barbarity. Never was a more cruel faith, not even in Carthage. Nowhere did temples reek with such pools of human blood; nowhere else, not in Dahomey and Ashanti, were human sacrifice, cannibalism and torture so essential to the cult that secured the favour of the gods. In these dark fanes—reeking with gore, peopled by monstrous shapes of idols bird-headed or beast-headed, and adorned with the hideous carvings in which we still see the priest, under the mask of some less ravenous forest beast, tormenting the victim—in these abominable temples the Castilian conquerors might well believe that they saw the dwellings of devils.
Yet Mexican religion had its moral and beautiful aspect, and the gods, or certain of the gods, required from their worshippers not only bloody hands, but clean hearts.
To the gods we return later. The myths of the origin of things may be studied without a knowledge of the whole Aztec Pantheon. Our authorities, though numerous, lack complete originality and are occasionally confused. We have first the Aztec monuments and hieroglyphic scrolls, for the most part undeciphered. These merely attest the hideous and cruel character of the deities. Next we have the reports of early missionaries, like Sahagun and Mendieta, of conquerors, like Bernal Diaz, and of noble half-breeds, such as Ixtlilxochitl.
There are two elements in Mexican, as in Quiche, and Indo-Aryan, and Maori, and even Andaman cosmogonic myth. We find the purer religion and the really philosophic speculation concurrent with such crude and childish stories as usually satisfy the intellectual demands of Ahts, Cahrocs and Bushmen; but of the purer and more speculative opinions we know little. Many of the noble, learned and priestly classes of Aztecs perished at the conquest. The survivors were more or less converted to Catholicism, and in their writings probably put the best face possible on the native religion. Like the Spanish clergy, their instructors, they were inclined to explain away their national gods by a system of euhemerism, by taking it for granted that the gods and culture-heroes had originally been ordinary men, worshipped after their decease. This is almost invariably the view adopted by Sahagun. Side by side with the confessions, as it were, of the clergy and cultivated classes coexisted the popular beliefs, the myths of the people, partaking of the nature of folk-lore, but not rejected by the priesthood.
Both strata of belief are represented in the surviving cosmogonic myths of the Aztecs. Probably we may reckon in the first or learned and speculative class of tales the account of a series of constructions and reconstructions of the world. This idea is not peculiar to the higher mythologies, the notion of a deluge and recreation or renewal of things is almost universal, and even among the untutored Australians there are memories of a flood and of an age of ruinous winds. But the theory of definite epochs, calculated in accordance with the Mexican calendar, of epochs in which things were made and re-made, answers closely to the Indo-Aryan conception of successive kalpas, and can only have been developed after the method of reckoning time had been carried to some perfection. “When heaven and earth were fashioned, they had already been four times created and destroyed,” say the fragments of what is called the Chimalpopoca manuscript. Probably this theory of a series of kalpas is only one of the devices by which the human mind has tried to cheat itself into the belief that it can conceive a beginning of things. The earth stands on an elephant, the elephant on a tortoise, and it is going too far to ask what the tortoise stands on. In the same way the world’s beginning seems to become more intelligible or less puzzling when it is thrown back into a series of beginnings and endings. This method also was in harmony with those vague ideas of evolution and of the survival of the fittest which we have detected in myth. The various tentative human races of the Popol Vuh degenerated or were destroyed because they did not fulfil the purposes for which they were made. In Brahmanic myth we shall see that type after type was condemned and perished because it was inadequate, or inadequately equipped—because it did not harmonise with its environment. For these series of experimental creations and inefficient evolutions vast spaces of time were required, according to the Aztec and Indo-Aryan philosophies. It is not impossible that actual floods and great convulsions of nature may have been remembered in tradition, and may have lent colour and form to these somewhat philosophic myths of origins. From such sources probably comes the Mexican hypothesis of a water-age (ending in a deluge), an earth-age (ending in an earthquake), a wind-age (ending in hurricanes), and the present dispensation, to be destroyed by fire.
The less philosophic and more popular Aztec legend of the commencement of the world is mainly remarkable for the importance given in it to objects of stone. For some reason, stones play a much greater part in American than in other mythologies. An emerald was worshipped in the temple of Pachacamac, who was, according to Garcilasso, the supreme and spiritual deity of the Incas. The creation legend of the Cakchiquels of Guatemala makes much of a mysterious, primeval and animated obsidian stone. In the Iroquois myths stones are the leading characters. Nor did Aztec myth escape this influence.
There was a god in heaven named Citlalatonac, and a goddess, Citlalicue. When we speak of “heaven” we must probably think of some such world of ordinary terrestrial nature above the sky as that from which Ataentsic fell in the Huron story. The goddess gave birth to a flint-knife, and flung the flint down to earth. This abnormal birth partly answers to that of the youngest of the Adityas, the rejected abortion in the Veda, and to the similar birth and rejection of Maui in New Zealand. From the fallen flint-knife sprang our old friends the magnified non-natural beings with human characteristics, “the gods,” to the number of 1600. The gods sent up the hawk (who in India and Australia generally comes to the front on these occasions), and asked their mother, or rather grandmother, to help them to make men, to be their servants. Citlalicue rather jeered at her unconsidered offspring. She advised them to go to the lord of the homes of the departed, Mictlanteuctli, and borrow a bone or some ashes of the dead who are with him. We must never ask for consistency from myths. This statement implies that men had already been in existence, though they were not yet created. Perhaps they had perished in one of the four great destructions. With difficulty and danger the gods stole a bone from Hades, placed it in a bowl, and smeared it with their own blood, as in Chaldea and elsewhere. Finally, a boy and a girl were born out of the bowl. From this pair sprang men, and certain of the gods, jumping into a furnace, became sun and moon. To the sun they then, in Aztec fashion, sacrificed themselves, and there, one might think, was an end of them. But they afterwards appeared in wondrous fashions to their worshippers, and ordained the ritual of religion. According to another legend, man and woman (as in African myths) struggled out of a hole in the ground.
The myths of the peoples under the empire of the Incas in Peru are extremely interesting, because almost all mythical formations are found existing together, while we have historical evidence as to the order and manner of their development. The Peru of the Incas covered the modern state of the same name, and included Ecuador, with parts of Chili and Bolivia. M. Reville calculates that the empire was about 2500 miles in length, four times as long as France, and that its breadth was from 250 to 500 miles. The country, contained three different climatic regions, and was peopled by races of many different degrees of culture, all more or less subject to the dominion of the Children of the Sun. The three regions were the dry strip along the coast, the fertile and cultivated land about the spurs of the Cordilleras, and the inland mountain regions, inhabited by the wildest races. Near Cuzco, the Inca capital, was the Lake of Titicaca, the Mediterranean, as it were, of Peru, for on the shores of this inland sea was developed the chief civilisation of the new world.
As to the institutions, myths and religion of the empire, we have copious if contradictory information. There are the narratives of the Spanish conquerors, especially of Pizarro’s chaplain, Valverde, an ignorant bigoted fanatic. Then we have somewhat later travellers and missionaries, of whom Cieza de Leon (his book was published thirty years after the conquest, in 1553) is one of the most trustworthy. The “Royal Commentaries” of Garcilasso de la Vega, son of an Inca lady and a Spanish conqueror, have often already been quoted. The critical spirit and sound sense of Garcilasso are in remarkable contrast to the stupid orthodoxy of the Spaniards, but some allowance must be made for his fervent Peruvian patriotism. He had heard the Inca traditions repeated in boyhood, and very early in life collected all the information which his mother and maternal uncle had to give him, or which could be extracted from the quipus (the records of knotted cord), and from the commemorative pictures of his ancestors. Garcilasso had access, moreover, to the “torn papers” of Blas Valera, an early Spanish missionary of unusual sense and acuteness. Christoval de Moluna is also an excellent authority, and much may be learned from the volume of Rites and Laws of the Incas.
The political and religious condition of the Peruvian empire is very clearly conceived and stated by Garcilasso. Without making due allowance for that mysterious earlier civilisation, older than the Incas, whose cyclopean buildings are the wonder of travellers, Garcilasso attributes the introduction of civilisation to his own ancestors. Allowing for what is confessedly mythical in his narrative, it must be admitted that he has a firm grasp of what the actual history must have been. He recognises a period of savagery before the Incas, a condition of the rudest barbarism, which still existed on the fringes and mountain recesses of the empire. The religion of that period was mere magic and totemism. From all manner of natural objects, but chiefly from beasts and birds, the various savage stocks of Peru claimed descent, and they revered and offered sacrifice to their totemic ancestors. Garcilasso adds, what is almost incredible, that the Indians tamely permitted themselves to be eaten by their totems, when these were carnivorous animals. They did this with the less reluctance as they were cannibals, and accustomed to breed children for the purposes of the cuisine from captive women taken in war. Among the huacas or idols, totems, fetishes and other adorable objects of the Indians, worshipped before and retained after the introduction of the Inca sun-totem and solar cult, Garcilasso names trees, hills, rocks, caves, fountains, emeralds, pieces of jasper, tigers, lions, bears, foxes, monkeys, condors, owls, lizards, toads, frogs, sheep, maize, the sea, “for want of larger gods, crabs” and bats. The bat was also the totem of the Zotzil, the chief family of the Cakchiquels of Guatemala, and the most high god of the Cakchiquels was worshipped in the shape of a bat. We are reminded of religion as it exists in Samoa. The explanation of Blas Valera was that in each totem (pacarissa) the Indians adored the devil.
Athwart this early religion of totems and fetishes came, in Garcilasso’s narrative, the purer religion of the Incas, with what he regards as a philosophic development of a belief in a Supreme Being. According to him, the Inca sun-worship was really a totemism of a loftier character. The Incas “knew how to choose gods better than the Indians”. Garcilasso’s theory is that the earlier totems were selected chiefly as distinguishing marks by the various stocks, though, of course, this does not explain why the animals or other objects of each family were worshipped or were regarded as ancestors, and the blood-connections of the men who adored them. The Incas, disdaining crabs, lizards, bats and even serpents and lions, “chose” the sun. Then, just like the other totemic tribes, they feigned to be of the blood and lineage of the sun.
This fable is, in brief, the Inca myth of the origin of civilisation and of man, or at least of their breed of men. As M. Reville well remarks, it is obvious that the Inca claim is an adaptation of the local myth of Lake Titicaca, the inland sea of Peru. According to that myth, the Children of the Sun, the ancestors of the Incas, came out of the earth (as in Greek and African legends) at Lake Titicaca, or reached its shores after wandering from the hole or cave whence they first emerged. The myth, as adapted by the Incas, takes for granted the previous existence of mankind, and, in some of its forms, the Inca period is preceded by the deluge.
Of the Peruvian myth concerning the origin of things, the following account is given by a Spanish priest, Christoval de Moluna, in a report to the Bishop of Cuzco in 1570. The story was collected from the lips of ancient Peruvians and old native priests, who again drew their information in part from the painted records reserved in the temple of the sun near Cuzco. The legend begins with a deluge myth; a cataclysm ended a period of human existence. All mankind perished except a man and woman, who floated in a box to a distance of several hundred miles from Cuzco. There the creator commanded them to settle, and there, like Pund-jel in Australia, he made clay images of men of all races, attired in their national dress, and then animated them. They were all fashioned and painted as correct models, and were provided with their national songs and with seed-corn. They then were put into the earth, and emerged all over the world at the proper places, some (as in Africa and Greece) coming out of fountains, some out of trees, some out of caves. For this reason they made huacas (worshipful objects or fetishes) of the trees, caves and fountains. Some of the earliest men were changed into stones, others into falcons, condors and other creatures which we know were totems in Peru. Probably this myth of metamorphosis was invented to account for the reverence paid to totems or pacarissas as the Peruvians called them. In Tiahuanaco, where the creation, or rather manufacture of men took place, the creator turned many sinners into stones. The sun was made in the shape of a man, and, as he soared into heaven, he called out in a friendly fashion to Manco Ccapac, the Ideal first Inca, “Look upon me as thy father, and worship me as thy father”. In these fables the creator is called Pachyachachi, “Teacher of the world”. According to Christoval, the creator and his sons were “eternal and unchangeable”. Among the Canaris men descend from the survivor of the deluge, and a beautiful bird with the face of a woman, a siren in fact, but known better to ornithologists as a macaw. “The chief cause,” says the good Christoval, “of these fables was ignorance of God.”
The story, as told by Cieza de Leon, runs thus: A white man of great stature (in fact, “a magnified non-natural man”) came into the world, and gave life to beasts and human beings. His name was Ticiviracocha, and he was called the Father of the Sun. There are likenesses of him in the temple, and he was regarded as a moral teacher. It was owing apparently to this benevolent being that four mysterious brothers and sisters emerged from a cave—Children of the Sun, fathers of the Incas, teachers of savage men. Their own conduct, however, was not exemplary, and they shut up in a hole in the earth the brother of whom they were jealous. This incident is even more common in the marchen or household tales than in the regular tribal or national myths of the world. The buried brother emerged again with wings, and “without doubt he must have been some devil,” says honest Cieza de Leon. This brother was Manco Ccapac, the heroic ancestor of the Incas, and he turned his jealous brethren into stones. The whole tale is in the spirit illustrated by the wilder romances of the Popol Vuh.
Garcilasso gives three forms of this myth. According to “the old Inca,” his maternal uncle, it was the sun which sent down two of his children, giving them a golden staff, which would sink into the ground at the place where they were to rest from wandering. It sank at Lake Titicaca. About the current myths Garcilasso says generally that they were “more like dreams” than straightforward stories; but, as he adds, the Greeks and Romans also “invented fables worthy to be laughed at, and in greater number than the Indians. The stories of one age of heathenism may be compared with those of the other, and in many points they will be found to agree.” This critical position of Garcilasso’s will be proved correct when we reach the myths of Greeks and Indo-Aryans. The myth as narrated north-east of Cuzco speaks of the four brothers and four sisters who came out of caves, and the caves in Inca times were panelled with gold and silver.
Athwart all these lower myths, survivals from the savage stage, comes what Garcilasso regards as the philosophical Inca belief in Pachacamac. This deity, to Garcilasso’s mind, was purely spiritual: he had no image and dwelt in no temple; in fact, he is that very God whom the Spanish missionaries proclaimed. This view, though the fact has been doubted, was very probably held by the Amautas, or philosophical class in Peru. Cieza de Leon says “the name of this devil, Pachacamac, means creator of the world”. Garcilasso urges that Pachacamac was the animus mundi; that he did not “make the world,” as Pund-jel and other savage demiurges made it, but that he was to the universe what the soul is to the body.
Here we find ourselves, if among myths at all, among the myths of metaphysics—rational myths; that is, myths corresponding to our present stage of thought, and therefore intelligible to us. Pachacamac “made the sun, and lightning, and thunder, and of these the sun was worshipped by the Incas”. Garcilasso denies that the moon was worshipped. The reflections of the sceptical or monotheistic Inca, who declared that the sun, far from being a free agent, “seems like a thing held to its task,” are reported by Garcilasso, and appear to prove that solar worship was giving way, in the minds of educated Peruvians, a hundred years before the arrival of Pizarro and Valverde with his missal.
From this summary it appears that the higher Peruvian religion had wrested to its service, and to the dynastic purposes of the Incas, a native myth of the familiar class, in which men come ready made out of holes in the ground. But in Peru we do not find nearly such abundance of other savage origin myths as will be proved to exist in the legends of Greeks and Indo-Aryans. The reason probably is that Peru left no native literature; the missionaries disdained stories of “devils,” and Garcilasso’s common sense and patriotism were alike revolted by the incidents of stories “more like dreams” than truthful records. He therefore was silent about them. In Greece and India, on the other hand, the native religious literature preserved myths of the making of man out of clay, of his birth from trees and stones, of the fashioning of things out of the fragments of mutilated gods and Titans, of the cosmic egg, of the rending and wounding of a personal heaven and a personal earth, of the fishing up from the waters of a tiny earth which grew greater, of the development of men out of beasts, with a dozen other such notions as are familiar to contemporary Bushmen, Australians, Digger Indians, and Cahrocs. But in Greece and India these ideas coexist with myths and religious beliefs as purely spiritual and metaphysical as the belief in the Pachacamac of Garcilasso and the Amautas of Peru.