Page:Queen Moo and the Egyptian Sphinx.djvu/61

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
xxxix
INTRODUCTION.

For it is a fact that, wherever we find their name, there also we meet with the vestiges of their language and customs, and many of their traditions; but nowhere, except in Yucatan, is the origin of their name to be found.

Among the various authors who have written on that country several have endeavored to give the etymology of the word Maya: none has succeeded; for, instead of consulting the Maya books that escaped destruction at the hands of the Zumarragas, Landas, and Torquemadas, they have appealed to their imagination, as if in their fancy they could find the motives that prompted the primitive inhabitant to apply such or such name to this or that locality.

Ramon de Ordoñez y Aguiar [1] fancied that the name Maya was given to the peninsula on account of the scarcity of water on its surface, and intimated that it was derived from the two vocables ma, "no," and ha, "water" — "without water." Brasseur,[2] following his own pet idea, combats such explanation as incorrect and says: "The country is far from being devoid of water. Its soil is honeycombed, and innumerable caves exist just under the surface. In these caves are deposits of cool, limpid water, extensive lakes fed by subterranean streams." Hence he argues that the true etymology of the word Maya may possibly be the "mother of the waters" or the "teats of the waters ma-y-a" — she of the four hundred breasts, as they were wont to represent the Ephesian goddess.

Again, this explanation did not suit Señor Eligio Ancona,[3]

  1. Ramon de Ordoñez y Aguiar, the author of Historia de la Creacion del cielo y de la Tierra, was a native of the ciudad Real de Chiapas. He died, very much advanced in years, in 1840, being canon of the cathedral of that city.
  2. Brasseur (Charles Etienne), Maya Vocabulary, vol. ii., p. 298, Troano MS.
  3. Author:Eligio Ancona:Ancona (Eligio), Hist. de Yucatan, vol. i., chap. i. See Appendix, note v.