An Introduction to Mythology

Page: 93

[4] "that in this heaven are trees and forests of diverse sorts. The offerings which the living of this world make to the dead duly arrive at their destination, and are received in this heaven. After four years of sojourn in that place the souls of the dead are changed into diverse species of birds, having rich plumage of the most brilliant colours,"[5] These were known as tzinzonme ('little bird which flies from flower to flower'), and they flitted from blossom to blossom on earth as well as in Heaven, sucking the rich fragrance from the tropical blooms of the deep valleys of Anahuac.

Tlalocan, an even more material Paradise, was that of the water-god or deity of moisture, Tlaloc. Sahagun calls this a "terrestrial Paradise" "where they feign that there is surfeit of pleasure and refreshment, void for a space of torment." In that delectable region there is plenteousness of green maize, of calabashes, pepper, tomatoes, and haricots, and it is filled with variegated blossoms. There dwell the god Tlaloc and his followers. The persons who gain admittance are those slain by lightning or thunderbolt, the leprous, and the dropsical—those whose deaths have in any way been caused through the agency of water—for Tlaloc is god of that element; and existence there is perpetual. The Paradise of Tlaloc was situated in the mountains, in a climate of eternal summer.

[Pg 211]


The Hades of the Aztec race was Mictlan, presided over by Mictlantecutli (Lord of Mictlan) and his spouse (Mictecaciuatl). The souls of the defunct who fared thither were those who died of disease, chiefs, great personages, or humbler folk. On the day of death the priest harangued the deceased, telling him that he was about to fare to a region "where there is neither light nor window," but all was shadow—a veritable land of chiaroscuro, reached by a route swarming with grisly inimical forms. On arrival at the dreary court of Mictlan the defunct offered gifts to its lord—coloured paper, perfumes, and torches, mantles and other apparel, provided before cremation. It was a four years' journey to the first of the nine Hells of Mictlan, over a deep and wide river, on whose shores dwelt the dogs providently buried with the dead and employed to carry them across the stream.

Above the nine Hells of Mictlan were thirteen Heavens, the first containing planets, the second the Tzitzimime, or demons, the third the Centzon Mimizcoa, or four hundred stars of the Northern Hemisphere. The fourth was inhabited by birds, the fifth by fire-snakes (perhaps comets); the sixth was the home of the winds; the seventh harboured dust; and in the eighth dwelt gods. The remainder were placed at the disposal of the high primal and creative gods, Tonacatecutli and his spouse Tonacaciuatl, whose particular home was in the thirteenth and highest Heaven.


The red men of North and South America knew no place of future reward or punishment. They regarded the future life merely as a shadowy extension of this—more wonderful, more supernatural, perhaps more desirable because of its material delights, but still of the earth earthy. The land of the sun was for them the land of future bliss.

"Where the sun lives," they informed the earliest foreign visitors, were the villages of the deceased, and the Milky Way which nightly spans the arch of Heaven was, in their opinion,[Pg 212] the road thither, and was called the path of souls (le chemin des âmes). To