was and is one familiar to the superstitions of the Mayas.[47] The natives still continue to propitiate the ancient gods of the harvest, at the beginning of the season assembling at a ceremony called by the Spaniards the misa milpera, or "field mass," and by themselves ti'ch, "the stretching out of the hands."

The German traveler, Dr. Schemer, when he visited, in 1854, the remote hamlet of Istlavacan, in Guatemala, peopled by Quiché Indians, discovered that they had preserved in this respect the usages of their ancestors almost wholly unaffected by the teachings of their various Christian curates. The "Master" still assigned the naguals to the new-born infants, copal was burned to their ancient gods in remote caves, and formulas of invocation were taught by the veteran nagualists to their neophytes.[48]

These Zahoris,[49] as they are generally called in the Spanish of Central America, possessed many other mysterious arts besides that of such metamorphoses and of forecasting the future. They could make themselves invisible, and walk unseen among their enemies; they could in a moment transport themselves to distant places, and, as quickly returning, report what they had witnessed; they could create before the eyes of the spectator a river, a tree, a house, or an animal, where none such existed they could cut open their own stomach, or lop a limb from another person, and immediately heal the wound or restore the severed member to its place; they could pierce themselves with knives and not bleed, or handle venomous serpents and not be bitten; they could cause mysterious sounds in the air, and fascinate animals and persons by their steady gaze; they could call visible and invisible spirits, and the spirits would come.

Among the native population of the State of Vera Cruz and elsewhere in southern Mexico these mysterious personages go by the name padrinos, godfathers, and are looked upon with a mixture of fear and respect. They are believed by the Indians to be able to cause sickness and domestic calamities, and are pronounced by intelligent whites to present "a combination of rascality, duplicity and trickery."[50]

17. The details of the ceremonies and doctrines of Nagualism have never been fully revealed; but from isolated occurrences and partial confessions it is clear that its adherents formed a coherent association extending over most of southern Mexico and Guatemala, which everywhere was inspired by two ruling sentiments—detestation of the Spaniards and hatred of the Christian religion.

In their eyes the latter was but a cloak for the exactions, massacres and oppressions exerted by the former. To them the sacraments of the Church were the outward signs of their own subjugation and misery. They revolted against these rites in open hatred, or received them with secret repugnance and contempt. In the Mexican figurative manuscripts composed after the conquest the rite of baptism is constantly depicted as the symbol of religious persecution. Says a sympathetic student of this subject:

"The act of baptism is always inserted in their records of battles and massacres. Everywhere it conveys the same idea, making evident to the reader that the pretext for all the military expeditions of the Spaniards was the enforced conversion to Christianity of the natives; a pretext on which the Spaniards seized in order

[47] Baeza's article is printed in the Registro Yucateco, Vol. i, p. 165, seq.

[48] "Wird ein Kind im Dorfe geboren, so erhält der heidnische Götzenpriester von diesem Ereignisse viel eher Kunde, als der katholische Pfarrer. Erst wenn dem neuen Weltbürger dureh den Aj-quig das Horoskop gestellt, der Name irgend eines Thieres beigelegt, Mi-si-sul (das citronengelbe Harz des Rhus copallinum) verbrannt, ein Liebliugegötze angerufen, und noche viele audere aberglaübische Mysterien verrichtet woden sind, wird das Kind nach dam Pfarrhause zur christliehen Taufe getragen. Das Thier, dassen Name dem Kinde kurz nach seiner Geburt vom Sonnenpriester beigelegt wird, gilt gewöhulich auch als seiu Schutzgeist (nagual) fürs ganze Leben." Dr. Karl Schemer, Die Indianer von Santa Catalina Isllavacan, p. 11, Wien, 1850.

[49] The word zahori, of Arabic origin, is thus explained in the Spanish and English dictionary of Delpino (London, 1763): "So they call in Spain an impostor who pretends to see into the bowels of the earth, through stone walls, or into a man's body." Dr. Stoll says the Guatemala Indians speak of their diviners, the Ah Kih, as zahorin. Guatemala, p. 228.

[50] Emetorio Pineda, Descripcion Geografica de Chiapas y Soconusco, p. 22 (Mexico, 1815).

Page 17

Please email us if you are interested
in a PDF of any of the posted books.