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PERUVIAN RELIGION.—DEITIES.~-GORGEOUS TEMPLES.
FESTIVALS. -VIRGINS OF THE SUN. -MARRIAGE.
It is a remarkable fact that many, if not most, of the rude tribes inhabiting the vast American continent, however disfigured their creeds may have been in other respects by a childish superstition, had attained to the sublime conception of one Great Spirit, the Creator of the Universe, who, immaterial in his own nature, was not to be dishonored by an attempt at visible representation, and who, pervading all space, was not to be circumscribed within the walls of a temple.* Yet these elevated ideas, so far beyond the ordinary range of the untutored intellect, do not seem to have led to the practical consequences that might have been expected ; and few of the American nations have shown much solicitude for the maintenance of a religious worship, or found in their faith a powerful spring of action.
* [This statement represents what is still, probably, the common belief-based on the representations of the early missionaries and of many subsequent explorers—in regard to the religious ideas of the aboriginal races. The subject has, however, undergone of late a more critical investigation, in connection with the general inquiry as to the development of religious conceptions, and of monotheism, considered either as an original intuition or as the latest outcome of more primitive beliefs. Dr. Brinton, who considers that the intuition of an unseen power—"the sum of those intelligent activities which the individual, reasoning from the analogy of his own actions, imagines to be behind and to bring about natural phenomena"—is common to the species, traces this conception in the American mythologies, especially those in which the air, the breath of life, appears as the symbol of an animating or creative Spirit. Yet he adds, “Let none of these ex. pressions, however, be construed to prove the distinct recognition of One Supreme Being. Of monotheism, either as displayed in the one personal definite God of the Semitic races, or in the dim pantheistic sense of the Brahmins, there was not a single instance on the American continent. ... The phrases Good Spirit, Great Spirit, and similar ones, have occasioned endless discrepancies in the minds of travellers. In most instances they are entirely of modern origin, coined at the suggestion of missionaries, applied to the white man's God." (Myths of the New World, p. 52.) Mr. Tylor finds among various races of North and South America, of Africa and of Polynesia, the "acknowledgment of a Supreme Creator," yet always in connection with a system of polytheism, of which this belief is the culmination. (Primitive Culture, 2d ed., vol. ii. p. 332.) It may be doubted, however, whether it is possible to arrive at any certainty in regard to conceptions so vague in themselves and so liable to be moulded into def.nite shapes by the mediums through which they are communicated.ED.)
But with progress in civilization ideas more akin to those of civilized communities were gradually unfolded; a liberal provision was made, and a separate order in stituted, for the services of religion, which were conducted with a minute and magnificent ceremonial, that challenged comparison, in some respects, with that of the most polished nations of Christendom. This was the case with the nations inhabiting the table-land of North America, and with the natives of Bogotá, Quito, Peru, and the other elevated regions on the great Southern continent. It was, above all, the case with the Peruvians, who claimed a divine original for the founders of their empire, whose laws all rested on a divine sanction, and whose domestic institutions and foreign wars were alike directed to preserve and propagate their faith. Religion was the basis of their polity, the very condition, as it were, of their social existence. The government of the Incas, in its essential principles, was a theocracy.
Yet, though religion entered so largely into the fabric and conduct of the political institutions of the people, their mythology, that is, the traditionary legends by which they affected to unfold the mysteries of the universe, was exceedingly mean and puerile. Scarce one of their traditions
except the beautiful one respecting the founders of their royal dynasty—is worthy of note, or throws much light on their own antiquities or the primitive history of man. Among the traditions of importance is one of the deluge, which they held in common with so many of the nations in all parts of the globe, and which they related with some particulars that bear resemblance to a Mexican legend."
· They related that, after the deluge, seven persons issued from a cave where they had saved themselves, and by them the earth was repeopled. One of the traditions of the Mexicans deduced their de. scent, and that of the kindred tribes, in like manner, from seven persons who came from as many caves in Aztlan.* (Conf. Acosta, lib. 6, cap. 19; lib. 7, cap. 2.-Ondegardo, Rel. Prim., MS.) The story of the deluge is told by different writers with many variations, in some of which it is not difficult to detect the plastic hand of the Christian convert.
* [A similar tradition is found in some Sanscrit legends. “This coincidence," remarks Dr. Brinton, “arises from the mystic powers attached to the number seven, derived from its frequent occurrence in astrology." (Myths of the New World, p. 203.) Yet the evidence he adduces will hardly apply to the American myths.-ED.)
Their ideas in respect to a future state of being reserve more attention. They admitted the existence of the soul hereafter, and connected with this a belief in the resurrection of the body. They assigned two distinct places for the residence of the good and of the wicked, the latter of which they fixed in the centre of the earth. The good, they supposed, were to pass a luxurious life of tranquillity and ease, which comprehended their highest notions of happiness. The wicked were to expiate their crimes by ages of wearisome labor. They associated with these ideas a belief in an evil principle or spirit, bearing the name of Çupay, whom they did not attempt to propitiate by sacrifices, and who seems to have been only a shadowy personification of sin,* that exercised little influence over their conduct.”
* Ondegardo, Rel. Seg., MS.-Gomara, Hist. de las Ind., cap. 123. -Garcilasso, vim. Real., Parte 1, lib. 2, cap. 2, 7.-One might suppose that the educated Peruvians—if I may so speak-imagined the common people had no souls, so little is said of their opinions as to the condition of these latter in a future life, while they are diffuse on the prospects of the higher orders, which they fondly believed were to keep pace with their condition here.
* [Dr. Brinton, citing with approval the remark of Jacob Grimm, that“ the idea of the Devil is foreign to all primitive religions," denies that such a conception had any existence in the American mythologies, and contends that “the Çupay of the Peruvians never was, as Prescott would have us believe, the shadowy embodiment of evil, but simply and solely their god of the dead, the Pluto of their pantheon, corresponding to the Mictla of the cans." It is certain many myths of the American Indians, in which a good and an evil power are opposed to each other, owed this idea to the later introduction of the Christian notions of Satan, or to the misconception of narrators
It was this belief in the resurrection of the body which led them to preserve the body with so much solicitude,-by a simple process, however, that, unlike the elaborate embalming of the Egyptians, consisted in exposing it to the action of the cold, exceedingly dry, and highly rarefied atmosphere of the mountains.3 As they believed that the occupations in the future world would have great resemblance to those of the present, they buried with the deceased noble some of his apparel, his utensils, and, frequently, his treasures, and completed the gloomy ceremony by sacrificing his wives and favorite domestics, to bear him company and do him service in the happy regions beyond the clouds. Vast mounds of an irregular or, more fre
3 Such, indeed, seems to be the opinion of Garcilasso, though some writers speak of resinous and other applications for embalming the body. The appearance of the royal mummies found at Cuzco, as reported both by Ondegardo and Garcilasso, makes it probable that no foreign substance was employed for their preservation.
4 Ondegardo, Rel. Seg., MS.—The Licentiate says that this usage
influenced by the same belief. Yet Mr. Tylor, while admitting the skill with which many of these legends have been analyzed by Dr. Brinton, and the general force of his criticism, maintains that “rudimentary forms of Dualism, the antagonism of a Good and Evil Deity, are well known among the lower races of mankind," and, after reviewing the evidences of this conception in various stages of development, makes the pregnant remark that “the conception of the light-god as the good deity, in contrast to a rival god of evil, is one plainly suggested by nature." (Primitive Culture, i. 287–297.) It is therefore among the sun-worshippers that we might especially expect to find the instinctive conception of a power of darkness, as the representative not merely of death but of the evil principle. This dualism is, accord. ingly, the distinguishing feature of the Zoroastrian religion, and its existence in that of Peru cannot well be questioned on the sole ground of inherent improbability.-ED.]