Page:Queen Moo and the Egyptian Sphinx.djvu/53

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xxxi
INTRODUCTION.

tion, the old traditions and lore were forgotten or became disfigured. Ingrafted with the traditions, superstitions, and fables of the Nahuatls, they assumed the shape of myths. The great men and women of the primitive ages were transformed into the gods of the elements and of the phenomena of nature.

The ancient libraries having disappeared, new books had to be written. They contained those myths. The Troano and the Dresden MSS. seem to belong to that epoch.[1] They contain, besides some of the old cosmogonical traditions, the tenets and precepts of the new religion that sprang from the blending of the ceremonies of the antique form of worship of the Mayas with the superstitious notions, the sanguinary rites, and the obscene practices of the phallic cult of the Nahuatls; the laws of the land; and the vestiges of the science and knowledge of the philosophers of past ages that still lingered among some of the noble families, transmitted as heirlooms, by word of mouth, from father to son.[2] These books were written in new alphabetical letters and some of the ancient demotic or popular characters that, being known to many of the nobility, remained in usage.

With the old orders of priesthood, and the students, the knowledge of the hieratic or sacred mode of writing had disappeared. The legends graven on the façades of the temples and palaces, being written in those characters, were no

  1. See Appendix, note iii.
  2. Diego de Landa, Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan (chap, vii., p. 42): "Que enseñavan los hijos de los otros sacerdotes, y á los hijos segundos de los señores que los llevaban para esto desde niños."
    Lizana (chap. 8), Historia de Nuestra Señora de Ytzamal: "La historia y autores que podemos alegar son unos caracteres mal cutendidos de muchos y glossados de unos indios antiguos que son hijos de los sacerdotes de sus dioses, que son los que solo sabian leer y adevinar."