Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/677

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CUSTOMS AND SUPERSTITIONS OF THE MAYAS.
CUSTOMS AND SUPERSTITIONS OF THE MAYAS.

By Mrs. A. D. LE PLONGEON.

FROM ancient Maya books and inscriptions we learn that the Mayas at one time formed a great nation, occupying the territory between Tehuantepec and Darien. To-day those Indians, as they are called, live in the peninsula of Yucatan, famous for its ruins; in Guatemala, in Peten, in the Lancandon country, on the banks of the Uzumacinta River, and in the valleys between those mountains where the mysterious "land of war" is supposed to be.

Among all people, civilized and uncivilized, superstition exists, though the former are more careful to conceal their peculiar notions. The Mayas are more superstitious now than they were

PSM V44 D677 Indians blasting rocks to level roads.jpg

Indians blasting Rocks to level a Road.

five hundred years ago, for, added to their own queer notions, they have a vast store of strange fancies imported by the Spanish conquerors. Many of the native ideas are of great antiquity, such as the belief in metempsychosis and metamorphosis. Those people hesitate before killing the most venomous reptile, if found in or near the old palaces and temples left by their ancestors, and now gradually crumbling beneath the dense foliage of tropical forests. Urge them to destroy a viper within or near those deserted halls, and they say: "Ah, no! it belongs to the Xlah-pak yum" (lord of the old walls), "whose spirit roams here." Under such circumstances they recoil from inflicting death, much as