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I HAVE shown that man could only have escaped the fire, the poisonous gases, and the falling stones and clay-dust, by taking refuge in the water or in the deep caves of the earth.
And hence everywhere in the ancient legends we find the races claiming that they came up out of the earth. Man was earth-born. The Toltecs and Aztecs traced back their origin to "the seven caves." We have seen the ancestors of the Peruvians emerging from the primeval cave, Pacarin-Tampu; and the Aztec Nanahuatzin taking refuge in a cave; and the ancestors of the Yurucares, the Takahlis, and the Mbocobi of America, all biding themselves from the conflagration in a cave; and we have seen the tyrannical and cruel race of the Tahoe legend buried in a cave. And, passing to a far-distant region, we find the Bungogees and Pankhoos, Hill tribes, of the most ancient races of Chittagong, in British India, relating that "their ancestors came out of a cave in the earth, under the guidance of a chief named Tlandrokpah."
We read in the Toltec legends that a dreadful hurricane visited the earth in the early age, and carried away trees, mounds, horses, etc., and the people escaped by seeking safety in caves and places where the great hurricane
[1. Captain Lewin, "The Hill Tribes of Chittagong" p. 95, 1869.]
could not reach them. After a few days they came forth "to see what had become of the earth, when they found it all populated with monkeys. All this time they were in darkness, without the light of the sun Or the moon, which the wind had brought them."
A North American tribe, a branch of the Tinneh of British America, have a legend that "the earth existed first in a chaotic state, with only one human inhabitant, a woman, who dwelt in a cave and lived on berries." She met one day a mysterious animal, like a dog, who transformed himself into a handsome young man, and they became the parents of a giant race."
There seems to be an allusion to the cave-life in Ovid, where, detailing the events that followed soon after the creation, he says:
"Then for the first time did the parched air glow with sultry heat, and the ice, bound up by the winds, was pendent. Then for the first time did men enter houses; those houses were caverns, and thick shrubs, and twigs fastened together with bark."
But it is in the legends of the Navajo Indians of North America that we find the most complete account of the cave-life.
It is as follows:
"The Navajos, living north of the Pueblos, say that at one time all the nations, Navajos, Pueblos, Coyoteros, and white people, lived together tinder ground, in the heart of a mountain, near the river San Juan. Their food was meat, which they had in abundance, for all kinds of game were closed up with them in their cave; but their light was dim, and only endured for a few hours each day. There were, happily, two dumb men among the Navajos, flute-players,
[1. "North Americans of Antiquity," p. 239.
2. Bancroft's "Native Races," vol. iii, p. 105.
3. "The Metamorphoses," Fable IV.]
who enlivened the darkness with music. One of these, striking by chance on the roof of the limbo with his flute, brought out a hollow sound, upon which the elders of the tribe determined to bore in the direction whence the sound came. The flute was then set up against the roof, and the Raccoon sent up the tube to dig a way out, but he could not. Then the Moth-worm mounted into the breach, and bored and bored till he found himself suddenly on the outside of the mountain, and surrounded by water."
We shall see hereafter that, in the early ages, mankind, all over the world, was divided into totemic septs or families, bearing animal names. It was out of this fact that the fables of animals possessing human speech arose. When we are told that the Fox talked to the Crow or the Wolf, it simply means that a man of the Fox totem talked to a man of the Crow or Wolf totem. And, consequently, when we read, in the foregoing legend, that the Raccoon went up to dig a way out of the cave and could not, it signifies that a man of the Raccoon totem made the attempt and failed, while a man of the Moth-worm totem succeeded. We shall see hereafter that these totemic distinctions probably represented original race or ethnic differences.
The Navajo legend continues:
"Under these novel circumstances, he, (the Moth-worm,) heaped up a little mound, and set himself down on it to observe and ponder the situation. A critical situation enough!--for from the four corners of the universe four great white Swans bore down upon him, every one with two arrows, one under each wing. The Swan from the north reached him first, and, having pierced him with two arrows, drew them out and examined their points, exclaiming, as the result, 'He is of my race.' So, also, in succession, did all the others. Then they went away; and toward the directions in which they departed, to the north, south, east, and west, were found four great arroyos,
by which all the water flowed off, leaving only MUD. The Worm now returned to the cave, and the Raccoon went up into the mud, sinking in it mid-leg deep, as the marks on his fur show to this day. And the wind began to rise, sweeping up the four great arroyos, and the mud was dried away.
"Then the men and the animals began to come up from their cave, and their coming up required several days. First came the Navajos, and no sooner had they reached the surface than they commenced gaming at patole, their favorite game. Then came the Pueblos and other Indians, who crop their hair and build houses. Lastly came the white people, who started off at once for the rising sun, and were lost sight of for many winters.
"When these nations lived under ground they all spake one tongue; but, with the light of day and the level of earth, came many languages. The earth was at this time very small, and the light was quite as scanty as it had been down below, for there was as yet no heaven, no sun, nor moon, nor stars. So another council of the ancients was held, and a committee of their number appointed to manufacture these luminaries."
Here we have the same story:
In an ancient age, before the races of men had differentiated, a remnant of mankind was driven, by some great event, into a cave; all kinds of animals had sought shelter in. the same place; something--the Drift--had closed up the mouth of the cavern; the men subsisted on the animals. At last they dug their way out, to find the world covered with mud and water. Great winds cut the mud into deep valleys, by which the waters ran off. The mud was everywhere; gradually it dried up. But outside the cave it was nearly as dark as it was within it; the clouds covered the world; neither sun, moon, nor stars could be seen; the earth was very small, that is, but little of it was above the waste of waters.
[1. Bancroft's "Native Races," vol. iii, p. 81.]
And here we have the people longing for the return of the sun. The legend proceeds to give an account of the making of the sun and moon. The dumb fluter, who had charge of the construction of the sun, through his clumsiness, came near setting fire to the world.
"The old men, however, either more lenient than Zeus, or lacking his thunder, contented themselves with forcing the offender back by puffing the smoke of their pipes into his face."
Here we have the event, which properly should have preceded the cave-story, brought in subsequent to it. The sun nearly burns up the earth, and the earth is saved amid the smoke of incense from the pipes of the old men--the gods. And we are told that the increasing size of the earth has four times rendered it necessary that the sun should be put farther back from the earth. The clearer the atmosphere, the farther away the sun has appeared.
"At night, also, the other dumb man issues from this cave, bearing the moon under his arm, and lighting up such part of the world as he can. Next, the old men set to work to make the heavens, intending to broider in the stars in beautiful patterns of bears, birds, and such things."
That is to say, a civilized race 'began to divide up the heavens into constellations, to which they gave the names of the Great and Little Bear, the Wolf, the Serpent, the Dragon, the Eagle, the Swan, the Crane, the Peacock, the Toucan, the Crow, etc.; some of which names they retain among ourselves to this day.
"But, just as they had made a beginning, a prairie-wolf rushed in, and, crying out, 'Why all this trouble and embroidery?' scattered the pile of stars over all the floor of heaven, just as they still lie."
This iconoclastic and unæsthetical prairie-wolf represents a barbarian's incapacity to see in the arrangement
of the stars any such constellations, or, in fact, anything but an unmeaning jumble of cinders.
And then we learn how the tribes of men separated:
"The old men" (the civilized race, the gods) "prepared two earthen tinages, or water-jars, and having decorated one with bright colors, filled it with trifles; while the other was left plain on the outside, but filled within with flocks and herds and riches of all kinds. These jars being covered, and presented to the Navajos and Pueblos, the former chose the gaudy but paltry jar; while the Pueblos received the plain and rich vessel--each nation showing, in its choice, traits which characterize it to this day."
In the legends of the Lenni-Lenape,--the Delaware Indians,--mankind was once buried in the earth with a wolf; and they owed their release to the wolf, who scratched away the soil and dug out a means of escape for the men and for himself. The Root-Diggers of California were released in the same way by a coyote."
"The Tonkaways, a wild people of Texas, still celebrate this early entombment of the race in a most curious fashion. They have a grand annual dance. One of them, naked as he was born, is buried in the earth; the others, clothed in wolf-skins, walk over him, snuff around him, howl in lupine style, and finally dig him up with their nails."
Compare this American custom with the religious ceremony of an ancient Italian tribe:
"Three thousand years ago the Hirpani, or Wolves, an ancient Sabine tribe of Italy, were wont to collect on Mount Soracte, and there go through certain rites, in memory of an oracle which predicted their extinction when they ceased to gain their living as wolves do, by violence and plunder. Therefore they dressed in wolf-skins,
[1. Brinton's "Myths of the New World," p. 247.
ran with barks and howls over burning coals, and gnawed wolfishly whatever they could seize."
All the tribes of the Creeks, Seminoles, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Natchez, who, according to tradition, were in remote times banded into one common confederacy, unanimously located their earliest ancestry near an artificial eminence in the valley of the Big Black River, in the Natchez country, whence they pretended to have emerged. This hill is an elevation of earth about half a mile square and fifteen or twenty feet high. From its northeast corner a wall of equal height extends for nearly half a mile to the high land. This was the Nunne Chaha, properly Nanih waiya, sloping hill, famous in Choctaw story, and which Captain Gregg found they had not yet forgotten in their Western home.
"The legend was, that in its center was a cave, the house of the Master of Breath. Here he made the first men from the clay around him, and, as at that time the waters covered the earth, he raised the wall to dry them on. When the soft mud had hardened into elastic flesh and firm bone, he banished the waters to their channels and beds, and gave the dry land to his creatures."
Here, again, we have the beginnings of the present race of men in a cave, surrounded by clay and water, which covered the earth, and we have the water subsiding into its channels and beds, and the dry land appearing, whereupon the men emerged from the cave.
A parallel to this Southern legend occurs among the Six Nations of the North. They with one consent looked to a mountain near the falls of the Oswego River, in the State of New York, as the locality where their forefathers saw the light of day; and their name, Oneida, signifies the people of the stone.
[1. Brinton's "Myths of the New World," p. 217.
2. Ibid., p. 242.]
The cave of Pacarin-Tampu, already alluded to, the Lodgings of the Dawn, or the Place of Birth of the Peruvians, was five leagues distant from Cuzco, surrounded by a sacred grove, and inclosed with temples of great antiquity.
"From its hallowed recesses the mythical civilizers, of Peru, tile first of men, emerged, and in it, during the time of the flood, the remnants of the race escaped the fury of the waves."
We read in the legends of Oraibi, hereafter quoted more fully, that the people climbed up a ladder from a lower world to this--that is, they ascended from the cave in which they had taken refuge. This was in an age of cold and darkness; there was yet no sun or moon.
The natives in the neighborhood of Mount Shasta, in Northern California, have a strange legend which refers to the age of Caves and Ice.
They say the Great Spirit made Mount Shasta first:
"Boring a hole in the sky," (the heavens cleft in twain of the Edda?) "using a large stone as an auger," (the fall of stones and pebbles?) "he pushed down snow and ice until they reached the desired height; then he stepped from cloud to cloud down to the great icy pile, and from it to the earth, where he planted the first trees by merely putting his finger into the soil here and there. The sun began to melt the snow; the snow produced water; the water ran down the sides of the mountains, refreshed the trees, and made rivers. The Creator gathered the leaves that fell from the trees, blew upon them, and they became birds," etc.
This is a representation of the end of the Glacial Age.
But the legends of these Indians of Mount Shasta go still further. After narrating, as above, the fall of a
[1. Balboa, "Histoire du Pérou," p. 4.
2. Bancroft's "Native Races," vol. iii, p. 90.]
stone from heaven, and the formation of immense masses of ice, which subsequently melted and formed rivers, and after the Creator had made trees, birds,. and animals, especially the grizzly bear, then we have a legend which reminds us of the cave-life which accompanied the great catastrophe:
"Indeed, this animal" (the grizzly bear) "was then so large, strong, and cunning, that the Creator somewhat feared him, and hollowed out Mount Shasta as a wigwam for himself, where he might reside while on earth in the most perfect security and comfort. So the smoke was soon to be seen curling up from the mountain where the Great Spirit and his family lived, and still live, though their hearth-fire is alive no longer, now that the white-man is in the land."
Here the superior race seeks shelter in a cave on Mount Shasta, and their camp-fire is associated with the smoke which once went forth out of the volcano; while an inferior race, a Neanderthal race, dwell in the plains at the foot of the mountain.
"This was thousands of snows ago, and there came after this a late and severe spring-time, in which a memorable storm blew up from the sea, shaking the huge lodge" (Mount Shasta) "to its base."
(Another recollection of the Ice Age.)
"The Great Spirit commanded his daughter, little more than an infant, to go up and bid the wind to be still, cautioning her, at the same time, in his fatherly way, not to put her head out into the blast, but only to thrust out her little red arm and make a sign, before she delivered her message."
Here we seem to have a reminiscence of the cave-dwellers, looking out at the terrible tempest from their places of shelter.
[1. Bancroft's "Native Races," vol. iii, p. 91.]
The child of the Great Spirit exposes herself too much, is caught by the wind and blown down the mountain-side, where she is found, shivering on the snow, by a family of grizzly bears. These grizzly bears evidently possessed some humane as well as human traits: "They walked then on their hind-legs like men, and talked, and carried clubs, using the fore-limbs as men use their arms." They represent in their bear-skins the rude, fur-clad race that were developed during the intense cold of the Glacial Age.
The child of the Great Spirit, the superior race, intermarries with one of the grizzly bears, and from this union came the race of men, to wit, the Indians.
"But the Great Spirit punished the grizzly bears by depriving them of the power of speech, and of standing erect--in short, by making true bears of them. But no Indian will, to this day, kill a grizzly bear, recognizing as he does the tie of blood."
Again, we are told:
"The inhabitants of central Europe and the Teutonic races who came late to England place their mythical heroes under ground in caves, in vaults beneath enchanted castles, or in mounds which rise up and open, and show their buried inhabitants alive and busy about the avocations of earthly men. . . . In Morayshire the buried race are supposed to be under the sandhills, as they are in some parts of Brittany."
Associated with these legends we find many that refer to the time of great cold, and snow, and ice. I give one or two specimens:
In the story of the Iroquois, (see p. 173, ante,) we are told that the White One, [the Light One, the Sun,] after he had destroyed the monster who covered the earth with
[1. "Frost and Fire," vol. ii, p. 190.]
blood and stones, then destroyed the gigantic frog. The frog, a cold-blooded, moist reptile, was always the emblem of water and cold; it represented the great ice-fields that squatted, frog-like, on the face of the earth. It had "swallowed all the waters," says the Iroquois legend; that is, "the waters were congealed in it; and when it was killed great and destructive torrents broke forth and devastated the land, and Manibozho, the White One, the beneficent Sun, guided these waters into smooth streams and lakes." The Aztecs adored the goddess of water under the figure of a great green frog carved from a single emerald.
In the Omaha we have the fable of "How the Rabbit killed the Winter," told in the Indian manner. The Rabbit was probably a reminiscence of the Great Hare, Manabozho; and he, probably, as we shall see, a recollection of a great race, whose totem was the Hare.
I condense the Indian story:
"The Rabbit in the past time moving came where the Winter was. The Winter said: 'You have not been here lately; sit down.' The Rabbit said he came because his grandmother had altogether beaten the life out of him" (the fallen débris?). "The Winter went hunting. It was very cold: there was a snow-storm. The Rabbit seared up a deer. 'Shoot him,' said the Rabbit. 'No; I do not hunt such things as that,' said the Winter. They came upon some men. That was the Winter's game. He killed the men and boiled them for supper," (cave-cannibalism). "The Rabbit refused to eat the human flesh. The Winter went hunting again. The Rabbit found out from the Winter's wife that the thing the Winter dreaded most of all the world was the head of a Rocky Mountain sheep. The Rabbit procured one. It was dark. He threw it suddenly at the Winter, saying, 'Uncle, that round thing by you is the head of a Rocky Mountain
[1. Brinton's "Myths of the New World," p. 185.]
sheep.' The Winter became altogether dead. Only the woman remained. Therefore from that time it has not been very cold."
Of course, any attempt to interpret such a crude myth must be guess-work. It shows, however, that the Indians believed that there was a time when the winter was much more severe than it is now; it was very cold and dark. Associated with it is the destruction of men and cannibalism. At last the Rabbit brings a round object, (the Sun?), the head of a Rocky Mountain sheep, and the Winter looks on it, and perishes.
Even tropical Peru has its legend of the Age of Ice.
Garcilaso de la Vega, a descendant of the Incas, has preserved an ancient indigenous poem of his nation, which seems to allude to a great event, the breaking to fragments of some large object, associated with ice and snow. Dr. Brinton translates it from the Quichua, as follows
Lo, thy brother
Breaks thy vessel
Now in fragments.
From the blow come
Strokes of lightning
And thou, princess,
Tak'st the water,
With it raineth,
And the hail, or
To this office
[1. "Myths of the New World," p. 167.]
But it may be asked, How in such a period of terror and calamity--as we must conceive the comet to have caused-would men think of finding refuge in caves?
The answer is plain: either they or their ancestors had lived in caves.
Caves were the first shelters of uncivilized men. It was not necessary to fly to the caves through the rain of falling débris; many were doubtless already in them when the great world-storm broke, and others naturally sought their usual dwelling-places.
"The cavern," says Brinton, "dimly lingered in the memories of nations."
Man is born of the earth; he is made of the clay like Adam, created--
"Of good red clay,
Haply from Mount Aornus, beyond sweep
Of the black eagle's wing."
The cave-temples of India-the oldest temples, probably, on earth--are a reminiscence of this cave-life.
We shall see hereafter that Lot and his daughters "dwelt in a cave"; and we shall find Job bidden away in the "narrow-mouthed bottomless" pit or cave.
[1. "Myths of the New World," p. 244.]
Next: Chapter VIII. Legends Of The Age Of Darkness