صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

They begin the year with the setting of the Pleiades, and close it with the lunar months. To each month they give the name of a moon, so that in counting by months they count by moons. In their language the moon is called Tona. Days are counted by suns, so many suns being so many days. The sun in their language is called Tonaticus. Whether for some unknown reason or for no reason whatever, they divide the year into twenty months of twenty days each. *

The temples in which they assemble are vast, and are decorated with tapestries embroidered in gold, and furnishings decorated with precious stones. Each morning at sunrise, they burn perfumes in these temples and offer their prayers in the presence of the Creator. A most execrable crime of which all the inhabitants are guilty is the sacrifice of boys and girls as victims, in the manner I have above described. In sowing time and when the grain begins to bud, the people offer sacrifices to their idols, and if youths are not forthcoming as victims, slaves, who have been carefully fattened and are dressed in rich clothing, are chosen. All the victims destined for sacrifice are circumcised, and this operation is performed during twenty days of the year. When the destined victims pass through a town the inhabitants salute them, with great respect, as being destined soon to have a place in heaven. Another singular fashion they have for honouring their idols is to offer their own blood, which they draw from the tongue, lips, ears, breast, hips, or the legs. In doing this, they first use a sharp razor and, collecting the blood in their hands, they cast it heavenwards and sprinkle the floor of the temple. By so doing they hope to win the favour of the gods.

conquered that peninsula, able to decipher the hieroglyphics carved on the temples and monuments. While we cannot measure the blame due to the destroyers, we can and should recognise our debt to men like Sahagun, Torquemada, Motolinia, Acosta, and others, all members of religious orders, to whose painstaking labours we owe the preservation of such records of ancient Mexican civilisation as the world possesses. Within a few years after the conquest there was hardly any one who could decipher the native records or interpret the picture-writings; Ixtlilxochitl states that in his time there existed but two very old men able so to do.

1 Brasseur de Bourbourg's, Nations civilisees de VAmirique, torn, iii., explains the Mexican calendar. Clavigero, Prescott, and Mrs. Nuttall in her Old and New World Civilisations have lucidly treated this interesting subject.

Twelve miles west of the new colony of Villarica stands a native town composed of five thousand houses. Its former name was Cempoal, and its present name is Nueva Sevilla. Five slaves whom the cacique was keeping to be sacrificed were liberated by the Spaniards, but the cacique begged them to return them to him, saying: "You will ruin me and all this kingdom if you rob me of those slaves who are destined for sacrifice. Our angered gods will send locusts to devour our harvests, hail to wreck them, drought to burn them, and torrential rain to swamp them, if we offer them no more sacrifices."

Fearing that the inhabitants of Cempoal might desert them, the Spaniards thought it better to assent to a lesser evil in the present than to risk a greater in the future, and convinced likewise that the time had not yet come for suppressing the ancient rites, they gave up the slaves, hoping that the priests would promise them eternal glory and undivided joy, as well as the society of the gods, when they were once delivered from the miseries of this life. The slaves, however, listened with chagrin to these promises, preferring liberty to immolation.

The bones of their enemies captured in war are cleaned of their flesh and tied in bundles, to be suspended at the feet of their idols as battle-trophies, and to them are attached the names and titles of the victors. Another custom, of which Your Holiness will learn with pleasure, is that boys one year old, and girls, are led with pious ceremonies to the temples where the priests take water from a small cup and sprinkle it upon their heads in the form of a cross, as though baptising them. Nothing is known as to the words they use, but the celebration of the rite may be seen and the words heard. Differing from the Jews and Mussulmans, the natives do not consider their temples profaned by the presence of strangers at their ceremonies. I have spoken enough concerning their temples, their religious rites, and their books; let us now examine the other gifts presented to the King.

BOOK IX

THE Spaniards have brought back two hand-mills,* one made of gold and the other of silver. They are massive and their circumference is about twenty-eight palms. The golden mill weighs 3800 castellanos, a castellano being a golden coin which is worth one-third more than a ducat. In the centre is the image of a man, a cubit high, resembling a king seated upon his throne, the figure being draped to the knees; it is like a zemes; that is to say it has the features we ascribe to nocturnal goblins. The bottom of the mill is decorated with branches, flowers, and leaves. The silver mill resembles the gold one, and their weight is almost identical; both mills are pure, without any alloy. Besides these, there are some shapeless grains of gold, not smelted, so as to show what the native gold is. They are the size of lentils or peas. There are two golden necklaces, one of which is composed of eight small chains set with thirty-two red stones, which however, are, not rubies, and one hundred and twenty-three green stones. The natives value these last as much as we do emeralds.' Twenty-seven golden bells surrounded by four figures set in jewels of wrought gold hang from the collar. From each of these bells hangs a golden pendant. The second collar is formed by four circles of little golden chains, ornamented with two hundred red stones and one hundred and seventy-two green stones; ten large precious stones set in gold, from which are suspended one hundred and fifty admirably wrought pendants, hang from this collar. There are twelve pairs of leather buskins of different colours, decorated with gold and silver and precious stones of both the blue and green varieties. Little golden bells are attached to each of these buskins. There are tiaras and mitres, spangled with stones chiefly resembling sapphires.

'These objects were far from being mills of any kind. Consult Bernal Diaz, Hist. Verdad., i., 39.

'Chalchihuites, commonly mistaken by the Spaniards for emeralds.

I am at a loss to describe the aigrettes, the plumes, and the feather fans. If ever artists of this kind of work have touched genius, then surely these natives are they. It is not so much the gold or the precious stones I admire, as the cleverness of the artist and the workmanship, which much exceed the value of the material and excite my amazement. I have examined a thousand figures which it is impossible to describe. In my opinion I have never seen anything, which for beauty could more delight the human eye. Many of their brilliantly plumaged birds belong to unknown species. Just as these natives would admire the tails of our peacocks and pheasants, if they could see them, so are we delighted on beholding the feathers of which they make their fans and head-dresses, giving to their work a note of a very special elegance. These feathers are of bluish tints, greens, yellows, whites, and even browns.

Gold enters into the composition of all their manufactured objects. I have seen two helmets brought from there, both entirely covered with blue stones; one of these helmets edged with golden bells, and covered with scales of gold, each supporting two golden bells; the other helmet decorated with the same stones, and twentyfive little golden bells. Upon its crest is a green bird, whose comb, feet, beak, and eyes are of gold. Each little bell is attached to a golden ingot, and has a threepointed fork terminating in plumes of various colours,

« السابقةمتابعة »