The Mythologies of Ancient Mexico and Peru

The mythologies of ancient Mexico and Peru,
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There was more than one paradise. And this, in passing, is perhaps an explanation of the marvellously speedy adop- tion of Christianity by the Mexican natives subsequent to the conquest of Anahuac. Of the higher realms of bliss the ' Mansion of the Sun ' was perhaps the most desirable. There the principal pleasures consisted in accompanying the sun in his course, and the amusement of choral dancing. Souls in this paradise might also enter the bodies of humming-birds, and flit from flower to flower. The exercise of the chase lent to this place something of the character of a Valhalla, and we hear something of Gargantuan banquets.

Here, too, the blessed might animate the clouds, and float deliciously over the world they had quitted. The paradise of Tlaloc was the special dwelling of those who had lost their lives by drowning, of sacrificed children, and of those who had died of disease caused by damp or moisture. But two exceptions were made as regarded the souls of others, and these related to warriors slain in battle, and women who had died in child-bed, who were permitted to enter paradise as having forfeited their lives in the service of the state.

The priests understood the education of the people, and so forcibly impressed their students with their knowledge of the occult arts that for the rest of their lives they quietly submitted to priestly in- fluence. The priestly order was exceedingly numerous, as is proved by the fact that no less than five thousand functionaries were attached to the great temple of Mexico, the rank and offices of whom were apportioned with the most minute exactitude.

The basis of the priesthood was emi- nently aristocratic, and its supreme pontiff was known by the appellation of Mexicatl Teohuatzin, or 'Mexican Lord of Divine Matters.

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This was probably a remnant of old Toltec practice. The pontiff seems to have wielded a very consider- able amount of political power, and to have had a seat on the royal council. The life of an Aztec priest was rigorous in the extreme. They dressed entirely in black with the exception of the caste of Quetzalcoatl, who were clothed in white , and their cloaks covered their heads, falling down at each side like a mantilla.

Their hair was permitted to grow very long. They bathed every evening at sunset, and rose several times during the night for the purpose of paying their devotions. Some of their orders permitted marriage, while others were celibate, but all, without distinction, passed an existence of severe asceticism. As has been said, departmental duties were strongly marked.

Some were readers, others musicians, while others again, probably the lower orders, attended to the sacred fires, and the more menial offices, the grand duty of human sacrifice devolving upon the higher orders of the prelacy alone. There was also an order of females who were admitted to the practice of all the sacerdotal functions, omitting only that of human sacrifice. These appear to have been more of the descrip- tion of nuns than of priestesses.

Fakirs and religious beggars also abounded, but these seem to have taken upon themselves mendicant vows for a space only. That is, though secular studies were communicated to the young, the principal part of their training con- sisted of religious instruction. The schools were situated in the temple precincts, and entering these at an early age the boys were instructed by priests, and the girls by nuns. They resided within the temple buildings, and those who did not, and who probably consisted of the lower orders, were enrolled in a society called the Telpochtiliztli, which met every evening at sunset to perform choral dances in honour of Tezcatli- poca.

A secondary school also existed, called the Calmecac, in which the lore of the priests and the reading of the hieroglyphs, astrology, and the kindred sciences were taught the young men, whilst the girls became experts in the weaving of costly garments for the adornment of the idols, and the wear of the higher orders of the hierarchy. When the boys and girls left the school at the age of fifteen they were either sent back to their families, or to public service, to which they were often recommended by the priests.

Others re- mained to become in their turn priests or nuns in different convents. The priests, we have seen, might occupy one of several ranks, and the nuns could become abbesses, or merely retain the position of simple sisters, according to their ambition and abilities. The lower ranks were designated CikuaquaquUli, or 'lady herb-eaters,' while the higher orders were known as Cihuatlainacasque, or 'lady deaconesses.

Such were the use of the cross as a symbol, communion, baptism, and confession. The cross, which was designated, strangely enough, ' Tree of our Life," 1 was merely the symbol of the four winds, which were indeed the life of Anahuac. As regards confession and absolution, these were per- mitted to a person only once in his existence, and that at a late period of life, as any repetition of the pardoned offence was held to be inexpiable.

Penance was apportioned, and absolution given much in the same manner as in the Roman Catholic Church. There appears to have been more than one kind of communion. In the case of Xiuhtecutli a similar image was placed on the top of a tree, which, like our Christmas trees, had been transported from the forest to the town, and when the tree was thrown down and the image broken, the people scrambled for the pieces, which they devoured.

In the rite of baptism the principal functionary was the midwife. She touched the mouth and breast of the infant with water in the presence of the assembled relations, and invoked the blessing of the goddess Cihuatcoatl, who presided over childbirth and who was a variant of Centeotl, the maize-goddess upon it.

But it is unlikely that she did so in the devoutly Christian language ascribed to her by Sahagun.

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At death the corpse of a Mexican was dressed in the robes peculiar to his guardian deity, and in this can be perceived an analogy to every dead Egyptian becoming an Osirian, or Osiris himself. Covered with paper charms, as the Egyptian mummy was covered with metal or faience symbols, the body was cremated, the ashes placed in an urn, and preserved in the house of the deceased.

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Editorial Reviews. About the Author. James Lewis Thomas Chalmers Spence ( ) was a Scottish journalist, poet and author. Spence was a Fellow of. The Mythologies of Ancient Mexico and Peru [Lewis Spence] on * FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. This work has been selected by scholars as .

This was obviously a meaningless survival of a prehistoric custom. Valuable treasures were often buried with the wealthy, and a rich man would often have his private chaplain sacrificed at his tomb to assist him with ghostly counsel and comfort in the other world. Among the ancient Mexicans every month was consecrated to some particular deity, and in their calendar every day marked a celebration of some greater or lesser divinity. Those differed consider- ably in their character.

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Some were light and joyous, and their ritual abounded in the use of flowers and song. Others and these, unhappily, were in the majority were stained with the hideousness of human sacrifice. The temples of the Ancient Mexicans were very numerous.

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They were called teocallis, 1 or ' houses of God,' and were constructed by facing huge mounds of earth with brick and stone. They were pyramidal in shape, and built in stages which grew smaller as the summit was reached. The bases of some of these teocallis were more than one hundred feet square. The great teocalli at Mexico, for example, was three hundred and seventy-five 1 The temple, with all its purlieus and courts, was named teopan ; the central pyramid, teocalli.

Its height was over eighty feet. It con- sisted of five stages, each communicating with the other by means of a staircase which wound around the entire edifice. In the case of some teocallis, however, the staircase led directly up the western face of the building. At the top two towers, between forty and fifty feet in height, stood perched upon a broad area. Inside these were kept the idols of the gods to whom the teocalli was sacred. Before these towers stood the stone of sacrifice, and two altars upon which the fires blazed night and day. In the city of Mexico six hundred of these fires rendered any artificial illumination at night superfluous.

Through the very construction of these temples all religious services were of a public nature. In front of the great teocalli of Mexico stretched a court twelve hundred feet square, around which clus- tered the chapels of minor deities, and those captured from conquered peoples, as well as the dwellings and offices set apart for the attendant priests. Although it appears that the Toltecs, the fore- runners of the Aztecs in Mexico, had at one period of their history been prone to human sacrifice, they had almost entirely discarded the practice 37 at the time of their downfall.

Some two hundred years before the coming of the Spaniards the Aztecs had adopted this abomination, and were in the habit of sparing the lives of immense numbers of prisoners of war solely for the purpose of offering them up to the national gods. As their empire ex- tended, these holocausts became greater and more common. On the teocalli of Mexico the Spaniards could count one hundred and thirty-six thousand human skulls piled in a horrid pyramid. Of the sacrifices the most important was that signifying the annual demise of Tezcatlipoca. The most handsome of the captives who chanced to be in the hands of the Aztecs was chosen for the purpose.

It was necessary that he should be without spot or blemish, as it was intended that he should represent Tezcatlipoca himself.

He was taken in hand by a body of tutors, who in- structed him how to play his allotted part with the dignity and grace to be expected from a divine being. Arrayed in magnificent robes typical of his godhead, and surrounded by an atmosphere of flowers and incense, he led the life of a voluptuary for the space of nearly a year.

Within a month's time of his immolation four beautiful girls were given him as wives, and he was feasted and feted by the nobility as the in- carnation of Tezcatlipoca. On the day preceding the sacrifice the victim was placed on one of the royal canoes, and accom- panied by his four wives, was rowed to the other side of the lake. That evening his wives bade him farewell, and he was stripped of his gorgeous apparel He was then conducted to a teocalli some three miles from the city of Mexico. In scaling this he threw away the wreaths of flowers with which he had been adorned, and broke in pieces the musical instruments with which he had amused his hours of captivity.

Crowds thronged from the city to behold the act of sacrifice. On reaching the summit of the teocalli the victim was met by six priests, five of whom led him to the sacrificial stone, a great block of jasper with a convex surface. On this he was placed by the five priests, who secured his head, arms, and legs, whilst the officiating priest, robed in a blood-red mantle, dexterously opened his breast with a sharp flint knife. He then inserted his hand into the gaping wound, and tearing out the still palpi- tating heart, held it aloft towards the sun.

A species of sermon was then delivered by one of the priests to the people in which he drew a moral from the fate of the victim illustrative of the inevitable conclusion of all human pleasure by the hand of death. Huitzilopochtli had also a representative sacri- ficed every year who had to take part in a sort of war-dance immediately before his immolation, and a woman was annually sacrificed to Centeotl, the maize-goddess.

Before her death she took part in several symbolic representations which were ex- pressions of the various processes in the growth of the harvest. The day before her sacrifice she sowed maize in the streets, and on the arrival of midnight she was decapitated and flayed. A priest arrayed himself in the still warm skin and engaged in mimic combat with soldiers who were scattered through the streets. Part of the skin was then carried to the temple of Centeotl the Son, where a priest made a mask of it in the like- ness of the presiding deity, and afterwards sacri- ficed four captives in honour of the occasion.

The skin was then carried to the frontiers of the empire, and buried. It was supposed that its presence there acted as a talisman against invasion. Even more gruesome were the awful doings at the festival of Xiuhtecutli, when the unhappy victims were half-roasted and finally despatched by having their hearts torn out. Cannibal feasts often followed these sacrifices feasts which were the more horrible in that they were accompanied by all the accessories of a high standard of civilisation ; but it must be remem- bered that their purport was essentially symbolic, and in no way partook of the nature of the orgies of flesh-famished savages.

When the great temple of Huitzilopochtli was dedicated in , the chain of victims sacrificed on that occasion extended for the length of two miles. In this terrible massacre the hearts of no less than seventy thousand human beings were offered up! In the light of such appalling wicked- ness it is difficult to blame the Spanish con- querors of Anahuac in their zeal to blot out the worship of the deities whom they designated 'horrible demons. This the Mexicans called a ' sheaf of years,' and when the first day of the fifty-third year dawned, the ceremony of Toxilmolpilia, or ' the binding-up of years,' was held.

Priests and people gazed feverishly at the Pleiades to see if they would pass the zenith. Should they do so the world would hold on its course for another similar period ; if not, extinction would instantly follow. Fire was kindled upon a victim's breast by the friction of wood, and whenever it was alight the prisoner's heart was plucked out, and along with his body was consumed upon a pile of wood kindled by the new fire.

As the flames ascended, and it was seen that the Pleiades had crossed the zenith, cries of joy burst from the assembled people below. Faggots were lighted at the sacred pyre, and domestic fires rekindled from them. Humanity had been respited for a generation. It seems certain, however, that as a race the Aztecs were austerely moral, pious, truth- loving, and loyal as citizens, and even the sanguinary priests do not appear to have reaped any benefit from their terrible offices.

All the evidence would seem to show that it was the belief in the existence of cruel and insatiable gods which rendered the priests and people alike callous and insensible to the taking of human life, and this is the more easily understood when it is remembered that the Aztecs had at a com- paratively late period emerged from a state of migratory savagery into the heirship of an ancient and complex civilisation.

The mythologies of ancient Mexico and Peru

Of some of the sacrifices, at least, this is certain. The peoples of the two empires were totally unaware of each other's existence, and were divided by dense tracts of mountain, plain, and forest, where the most intense savagery pre- vailed. It seems probable that the Peruvian culture had its origin in the region of Lake Titicaca, and that it was of an indigenous character admits of little doubt. Like the Mexicans, the Peruvians had displaced an older civilisation and an older race.

What was the nature of that civilisation, and thanks to what people it flourished, it is at present impossible to say. Scattered over the surface of the Peruvian slope are Cyclopean ruins, the sole remnants of the works of a more primeval people. Whatever may have been the architectural ability of this ancient people, the usurpers had little to learn from them in this respect, or, more strictly speaking, having borrowed their methods, continued faithful to them.

The temples and mansions of the Peruvians were massive and handsome, but for the most part covered only with a thatch of Indian maize straw. They made long, straight, macadamised roads which they pushed with surprising engineering skill through tunnelled mountains, spanning seemingly impassable gorges with marvellously constructed bridges. The temples and the palaces of the Incas were adorned with gold and silver ornaments of fabulous value and skilful design. Sumptuous baths, supplied with hot and cold water by means of pipes laid in the earth, were to be found in the houses of the aristocracy, and a high state of comfort and luxury prevailed.

To describe the social polity of the Peruvians is to describe their religion, for the two were one and the same. The empire of Peru was the most absolute theocracy the world has ever seen, much more absolute, for example, than that of Israel under the Judges. He was the head, the very keystone of a socio-religious edifice to equal which in intricacy of design and organisa- tion the entire history of man has no parallel to offer.

The Inca was the head of a colossal bureau- cracy which had ramifications into the very homes of the people themselves. Thus after the Inca came the governors of provinces, who were of the blood- royal; then officials were placed above ten thousand families, a thousand families, a hundred, and even ten families, upon the prin- ciple that the rays of the sun enter everywhere.

Personal freedom was a thing unknown. Each individual was under direct surveillance, as it were, branded and numbered like the herds of llamas which were the special property of the sun incarnate, the Inca. Rules and regulations abounded in a manner unheard of even in police- ridden Prussia, and no one had the opportunity in this vast social machine of thinking or acting for himself.

Even the place of his birth was indicated by a coloured ribbon which he dared not remove tied round his head. The Peruvian legend of the coming to earth of the sun-race, of whom the Inca was held to be the direct descendant, told how two beings, Manco Capac and Mama Ogllo or Oullo, the offspring of the Sun and Moon, descended from heaven in the region of Lake Titicaca.

They had received commands from their parent, the sun- god, to traverse the country until they came to a spot where a golden wedge they possessed should sink into the ground, and at this place to found a culture-centre. Thus it was that all Peruvian monarchs must marry their sisters, as it was not permissible to defile the offspring of the blood of the Son by mortal union the breaking of which law assisted in the ruin of the Peruvian empire. Like the Mexicans, the Peruvians appear to have acknowledged the existence of a Supreme Being.

The attributes of this Supreme Being, through the fostering care of a special cultus, soon developed the rank of deities, each having a strongly marked identity. The most important individual deities next to the Sun were Viracocha and Pachacamac, and these, curiously enough, were deities who had been admitted to the Peruvian pantheon from a still older faith. The name Viracocha was, besides being the specific appellation of a certain deity, a generic name for divine beings.

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On his appearance from the sacred waters Viracocha created the sun, moon, and stars, and mapped out for them the courses which they were to hold in the heavens. Arrived there he collected the inhabitants, and placed over them one, Allca Vica, who subsequently became the ancestor of the Incas.

He then returned into Lake Titicaca, into the waters of which he disappeared. It is evident that this legend clashes strongly with that of the solar origin of the Incas, and it would seem to have been put forward by a rival priesthood which had survived the introduction of solar worship, but which was not powerful enough to combat it.

Viracocha was usually represented as a god bearded with water-rushes, and this hirsute adornment is so far significant in that it may have some connection with the older legends of the Peruvians which tell of a white and bearded race which advanced to Cuzco, the centre of civilisation, from the regions of Lake Titicaca. He is also spoken of as being without flesh or bone, yet swift in movement, and this description does not leave us long in doubt as to his real nature. He was the water-god, the fertiliser of all plant life. His consort was his sister Cocha, the lake itself.

He, like Tlaloc among the Mexicans, had a penchant for human sacrifice, but his worship was by no means so sanguinary as was that of his Mexican prototype. We must then regard Viracocha as the god of a faith anterior to the sun-worship which obtained in Peru at the time of the Spanish conquest. But we shall also be forced to admit that Pachacamac whose name we bracketed with that of Viracocha a few paragraphs back , although a member of the Peruvian pantheon and a great god, was but there on sufferance.

In the latter once stood a great temple to Pachacamac, the ruins of which, alone, now remain. Pachacamac would seem to have borne the reputation of a great civiliser, and to some extent he usurped the claims of Viracocha to this honour. He was also a god of fertility, as on the remains of his temples fishes are to be found evidently symbolis- ing this attribute. The hostility of Pachacamac and Viracocha has a mythical significance. Pachacamac was the god of volcanoes, earthquakes, and subter- ranean fire, and was therefore hostile to water.

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His worship was much more mysterious than that of Viracocha. The Peruvians, in fact, regarded Pachacamac as a dreaded and unseen deity, at whose mutterings in the centre of the earth they prostrated themselves in dread. Rimac, indeed, where the worship of this god had its focus, means ' the speaker,' ' the murmurer,' and a kind of oracular character appears ulti- mately to have been associated with the name of this terrible deity, who on occasion demanded to be appeased by human sacrifice.

The myth of Pacari Tambo, the ' house of the dawn,' a legend of the Collas, a tribe of moun- taineers dwelling to the south-west of Cuzco, throws some light on this strife between Vira- cocha and Pachacamac. Four brothers and sisters runs the legend issued one day from the caverns of Pacari Tambo. The other three were averse to this, especially the youngest, who was the most cunning of all. By dint of persuasion he managed to get the obnoxious brother to enter a cave.

As soon as he had done so he closed the mouth of the cave with a great stone, and imprisoned him there for ever. He then, on pretence of seeking his lost brother, persuaded the second to ascend a high mountain, from which he cast him, and, as he fell, by dint of magic art changed him into a stone. The third brother, having no desire to share the fate of the other two, then fled. The first brother appears to be the oldest religion, that of Pachacamac ; the second, that of an intermediate fetishism, or stone worship; and the third, Viracocha.

The fourth is the worship of the Sun, pure and simple, the youngest brother, but the victor over the other older faiths of the land. This is proved by the circumstance that the name applied to the youngest brother is Pirrhua Manca, an equivalent to that of Manco Capac, the Son of the Sun. This, however, does not altogether tally with what might be called the ' official ' legend, the myth promulgated by the Incas themselves. This stroke of policy at once blended all three religions ; but by another stroke of politic genius, the earthly power was vested in Manco Capac, the other two deities being placed in subordinate positions, where they were concerned chiefly with the workings of nature.

To Manco Capac, and his representatives, the Incas, alone, was left the dominion of mankind. We will now pass to a consideration of the minor deities of the Peruvian mythology. These were numerous, and had been mostly evolved from nature forces and natural phenomena. Among the more important was Chasca, the planet Venus, the ' long-haired,' the ' Page of the Sun.

He was represented in a private chapel of his own, contiguous to that of the Sun, by large plates of gold so fired as to represent the various colours in the prismatic hues of the rainbow. Fire, also, was an object of profound veneration with the Peruvians, derived, as it was believed to be, from the sun. Its preservation was scrupulously attended to in the Temple of the Sun and in the House of the Virgins of the Sun, of which an account will be found in the next chapter.

Catequil was the god of thunder. He was a servant of the Sun, and had three distinct forms Chuquilla thunder , Catuilla lightning , and Intiallapa thunderbolt. Temples were erected to him in which children and llamas were sacrificed at his altars. The Peruvians had, and still have, a great dread of thunder, and sought to pacify Catequil in every possible manner. Their children were sacred to him as the supposed offspring of the lightning.

We now descend gradually and almost in- sensibly in the scale of deism, until little by little we reach a condition of gross idolatry, not far removed from that still practised by many African tribes. Here we find even vegetables adored as symbols of sustenance. The potato was glorified under the appellation of acsumama, and the maize as saramama.

Trees partook of divine attributes, and we seem to see in this condition of things a state analogous to the reverence paid by the early Greeks and Romans to Sylvanus and his train, and the vivification of trees by the presence within them of dryads. Certain animals were treated with much reverence by the Peruvians. The condor or vulture of the Andes Mountains was the messenger or Mercury of the Sun, and he held the same place on the sceptre of the Incas as the eagle on the sceptre of the Emperor of Germany or Russia.

Whales and sharks were also worshipped by the people who lived near the sea. But in all this nature and animal worship it is difficult to detect a totemic origin. At first it would appear as if the perfect organisation of the Peruvian state and its peculiar marriage laws had originated in a condition of totemism ; but had totemism ever entered into the constitu- tion of the Peruvian religion at any period of its development, it would have left as deep an impression upon it as it did in the case of the Egyptian religion that is, some of the more important deities would have betrayed a totemic origin.

That they betray an origin wholly naturalistic there is no room for doubt. And 1 The veneration of an animal or plant which does not identify a tribe is not ' totemism ' but ' naturalism,' or nature-worship. All that was sacred, from the sun himself to the tomb of a righteous person, was Huaca, or sacred. The chief priest of Cuzco was designated Huacap- villac, or ' he who speaks with sacred beings,' but the principal use to which the term Huaca was put was in reference to objects of metal, wood, and stone, which cannot be better described than as closely resembling those African fetishes so common in our museums.

These differed con- siderably in size. The reverence for them was probably of prehistoric origin, and in this cultus 1 The evidence of Garcilasso would seem to show that the early Peruvians possessed a totem-system ; this, however, would appear to have been by some process totally eliminated. It will be seen that I differentiate between ' naturalism ' and ' totemism. It later grows into the belief in blood-kinship with the symbol. They were believed by the Peruvians to be the veritable dwelling-places of spirits.

Many of these Huacas were public pro- perty, and had gifts of flocks of llamas dedicated to them. The majority, however, were private property. It will be necessary to mention one more deity. This is Supay, god of the dead, who dwelt in a dreary underworld. He was the Pluto of Peruvian mythology, and is usually portrayed as an open- mouthed monster of voracious appetite, into whose maw are thrown the souls of the departed. For the study of the worship of old Peru the materials are less plentiful than in the case of the Mexican mythology.

Stratum upon stratum of belief is discovered, like those in the ruins of some ancient city where each yard of earth holds the story of a dynasty. To the student of comparative religion an exhaustive study of the complex mythology of the ancient Peruvians offers an almost unparalleled oppor- tunity for comparison with and elucidation of other mythologies, since in it the process of its evolution is exhibited with greater clearness than in the case of any other belief, ancient or modern.

The poor might languish in the gloomy shades of the Hades presided over by Supay, Lord of the Dead, but for the Incas and their immediate relatives, by whom was embraced the entire nobility, the Mansions of the Sun were retained, where they might dwell with the Sun, their father, in un- disturbed felicity. In a community where every- thing was ordered with military exactitude, sin meant disobedience, and consequently death.

Indeed it took the form of direct blasphemy against the Inca, and was thus stripped of the purely ethical sense it holds for a free population. The sinner expiated his crime at once, and was consigned to the grey shades of the underworld, there to pass the same nebulous existence as his more meritorious companions.

But there is little ground for the acceptance of these statements. Strictly speaking, there was no priesthood in Peru. The ecclesiastical caste consisted of the Inca and his relatives, who were also known as Incas. These assumed all the principal positions in the national religion, but were unable, of course, to fill all the lesser provincial posts.

These were undertaken by the priests of the local deities, who were at the same time priests of the imperial deities, a policy which permitted the conquered peoples to retain their own form of worship, and at the same time led them to recognise the paramountcy of the religion of the Incas. Nothing could be more intense than the devotion shown by all ranks of the population to the person of the Inca.

He was the sun in- carnate upon earth, and his presence must be entered with humble mien and beggarly apparel, and a further show of humility must also be made by carrying a bundle upon the back. The High Priest, who has been already alluded to as holding the title of Huacapvillac, or ' He who converses with divine beings! He was invariably an Inca of exalted rank, as were all the priests who officiated at Cuzco, the capital. Only those ecclesiastics of the higher grades wore any distinguishing garb, the lower order dressing in the same manner as the people.

The existence of a Peruvian priest was an arduous one. It was necessary for him to master a ritual as complex as any ever evolved by a hierarchy. At regular intervals he was relieved by his fellow-priests, who were organised in com- panies, each of which took duty for a specified period of the day or night. The duties of the Peruvian priesthood, whilst even more exacting than that of the Mexican, did not appear to have been lightened in a similar manner by the acquirement of knowledge, or by mental exer- cise of any description, and this may be partly accounted for by the fact that the art of writing was discouraged among them, probably on the assumption that the whole duty of man culmin- ated in unfailing obedience to the Inca and his representatives, and that the acquirement of further knowledge was the work of supereroga- tion.

Originally the Peruvian priest- hood had adopted that pyramidal form of structure now familiar to us as that in use by the Mexicans, but as time went on they began to roof over these high altars, and this practice at length culminated in the erection of huge temples like that at Cuzco. The great temple of Cuzco, known as Coricancha, or ' The Place of Gold,' was the greatest and most magnificent example of Peruvian ecclesiastical architecture. The exterior gave an impression of massiveness and solidity rather than of grace. Round the outer circumference of the building ran a frieze of the purest gold, and the interior was profusely ornamented with plates of the same metal.

The doorways were formed from huge monoliths, and the whole aspect of the building was Cyclopean. In the dressing of stone and the fitting of masonry the Peruvians were expert, and the placing of immense blocks of stone appears to have had no difficulties for them. So accur- ately indeed were these fitted that the blade of a knife could not be inserted between them. The scintil- lations from a thousand gems, with which its surface was enriched, lent to it a brilliance which eye-witnesses declare to have been almost in- supportable.

Enthroned around this dazzling object were the mummified bodies of the monarchs of the Inca dynasty, giving to the place an air of holy mystery which must have deeply impressed the pious and simple people. The roof was com- posed of rafters of choice woods, but was merely covered in by a thatching of maize straw. The principle of the arch had never been thoroughly grasped by the Peruvians, and that of adequate roofing appears to have been equally unknown to them. Surrounding this, the principal temple, were others dedicated to the moon ; Cuycha, the rain- bow; Chasca, the planet Venus; the Pleiades; and Catequil, the thunder-god.

In that of Cuycha, the rainbow, as already explained, a golden repre- sentation of the arch of heaven was to be found, and the remaining buildings in the precincts of the great temple were set apart for the residences of the priests. The most ancient of the temples of Peru was that on the island of Titicaca, to which extra- ordinary veneration was paid.

Everything in connection with it was sacred in the extreme, and in the surrounding maize-fields was annually raised a crop which was distributed among the various public granaries, in order to leaven the entire crop of the country with sanctity. All the utensils in use in these temples were of solid gold and silver. In that of Cuzco twelve large jars of silver held the sacred grain, and censers, ewers, and even the pipes which con- ducted the water-supply through the earth to the temple, were of silver. In the surrounding gardens, the hoes, spades, and other implements in use were also of silver, and hundreds of re- presentations of plants and animals executed in the precious metals were to be found in them.

As in Mexico, so in Peru, the Spanish con- querors were astonished to find among the religious customs of the people practices which appeared to them identical with some of the sacraments of the Roman Catholic faith. Among these were confession, communion, and baptism. Confession appears to have been practised in a somewhat loose and irregular manner, but penance for ill- doing was apportioned, and abso- lution granted.

At the festival of Ray mi, which we will later examine, bread and wine were distributed in much the same manner as that prescribed in Christian communities.

The Mythologies of Ancient Mexico and Peru by Lewis Spence

Baptism also was practised. Some three months after birth the child was plunged into water after having received its name. The ceremony, how- ever, appears to have partaken more of the nature of an exorcism of evil spirits than of a cleansing from original sin. Like the ancient Egyptians, the Peruvians practised the art of embalming the dead, but it does not appear that they did so with any idea in view of corporeal resurrection as did the former.

Burnt offerings were very popular among the Peruvians. They were chiefly made to the sun, and were, in general, not unlike those made by the Semites. As with the Mexicans, the sacred dance was a striking feature of the Peruvian religion. These choral dances were brought to a very high state of perfection, and in the case of the common people were often wild and full of the fire of abandoned fanaticism.

The Incas, however, possessed a dance of their own, which was sufficiently grave and stately. At great festivals two choral dances and hymns were rendered to the sun, each strophe of which ended with the cry of Hailly, or 'triumph. You may have already requested this item. Please select Ok if you would like to proceed with this request anyway. WorldCat is the world's largest library catalog, helping you find library materials online. Don't have an account? Your Web browser is not enabled for JavaScript. Some features of WorldCat will not be available.

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