Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chinigchinich by Friar Geronimo Boscana

Father Geronimo Boscana was a Spanish friar who presided over Southern California Missions (mainly Mission San Juan Capistrano) in the 1800s.  He is unique among his friars in that he wrote a sort of ethnographic study of the tribes of Southern California.  His account is, of course, colored by his own belief that his culture and religion were superior, but it still stands as one of the best records we have of local tribes like the Juanenos and Gabrielenos.  I am currently working on a historical novel set in Southern California that deals mainly with history.  Boscana's account is fascinating in that it gives a window into a long-lost world.  I have decided to include his full account, which he entitled Chinigchinich, after a local native American diety.  Here it is...

Introduction

The motives which have induced me to write the present history, have been, principally, to fulfil my obligations as Apostolical Missionary; to have before me the means of presenting to these poor Indians an account of the errors entertained by them during their state of heathenism, and to contrast the same with the light they now enjoy as Christians. Also, to leave to my successors such instruction, as will relieve them from the trouble and labor that I experienced, in procuring a knowledge of the belief, usages, and customs, i.e., the Religion, which these natives possessed in their heathen state; persuaded as I am, that being ignorant of this, it will be difficult to remove their erroneous belief, and give them an understanding of the true Religion. It is difficult, I confess, if unacquainted with their language, to penetrate their secrets, as they do not all understand the signification of their usages and customs; this knowledge being confined to the chiefs of their tribes, and the old men who officiate as priests; and when they reveal any thing, to their children, it is only to such as they intend to rear for their successors, and these, are enjoined to keep fast the secrets, and not communicate them to any one, under pain of severe chastisement. A veil is cast over all their religious observances, and the mystery with which they are performed, seems to perpetuate respect for them, and preserve an ascendancy over the people. This is the reason that the ceremonies of the dances, in their grand feasts, (which are properly exercises of religion,) cannot be understood. They have never had the use of writings, letters, or characters of any description. All their knowledge is from tradition, which they preserve in songs for their dances, and these are introduced, by the chief, at their festivities, in a language distinct from that, in common use. Others unite with them, but without understanding the meaning of what they do, or articulate; perhaps, the songs thus introduced, are in the primitive language.

Perchance, some one may enquire, how I have obtained so much information, relative to the secrets or religion of these natives, when, up to the present time, no other Father has written on the subject.

We are to suppose it a truth, that there are many things hidden, not only, in the Divine Prophecies, but in human events, also, which cannot be comprehended, or known but by the Divine Will; and as God, almost always, makes use of the most humble instruments for his purpose, to me, he assigned three aged Indians, the youngest of whom was over seventy years of age. They knew all the secrets, for two of them were Capitans, and the other a Pul, who were well instructed in the mysteries. By gifts, endearments, and kindness, I elicited from them their secrets, with their explanations; and, by witnessing the ceremonies which they performed, I learned, by degrees, their mysteries. Thus, by devoting a portion of the nights to profound meditation, and comparing their actions with their disclosures, I was enabled, after a long time, to acquire a knowledge of their religion. There are yet, many things, which I do not understand, because they have not been disclosed to me, with that clearness that I could wish, but, always so confusedly, that I was unable to penetrate their meaning.

Chapter 1: Of What Race of People are These Indians?

To commence this relation, it may be proper, in the first place, to search after the origin, or lineage of these Indians of New California. But it is impossible to find any account of where they originated; as those of this mission, (St. Juan Capistrano) and indeed those of all the missions in the province, have no tradition, and are entirely ignorant of their descent. Without examining into the opinion of others, as to their being descendants of the Jews, Carthagenians or Phœnicians, I shall confine myself to the class that came to populate the Mexican Territory, and from these have doubtless descended the natives of California.

The tribes that populated the Mexican Territory at different epochs, according to the writings of Father Torquemada in his "Monarquia Indiana," were four; and as follows: "Tulticas," "Chichimecas," "Aculnas," and "Mexicanos." Of these distinct tribes, my opinion is, that the race of California proceeded from the Chichimecas, because, from the Tulticas they could not have originated, as is manifest from their characters, and inclinations; for "Tultica" signifies Art, and these Indians do not manifest the least industry or ingenuity. They are, in every respect, like the Chichimecas, according to the description given of them by Father Torquemada. "Near the northern boundary of Mexico there was a province, the principal city of which was called Amaqueme; its inhabitants, Chichimecas, were people entirely naked, fierce in appearance, and great warriors. Their arms the bow and arrows; their ordinary sustenance game and wild fruits, and their habitations were caves, or huts made of straw. As it was their manner of life habitually to roam about among the mountains, in search of game, they paid but little or no attention to the art of building." This is the picture given by Father Torquemada of the Chichimecas, and comparing them with the natives of California, they are found the same in every respect.

Although the habitations of the said Chichimecas formed a kind of village, still they had no police, nor acknowledged any higher power than that of "Capitan" or chief, and toward him was observed but little respect; indeed, hardly sufficient to designate him from the rest. They did not live permanently in one place, but roamed about, from spot to spot, as the scarcity of game compelled them. Of medicine they had no knowledge; consequently, no means of curing the sick, and the bodies of their dead were immediately burnt. Idolatry prevailed among them, but not a belief in a plurality of gods; neither did they sacrifice, as was the custom among the Mexican Indians.

Having thus described the Chichimecas, we see precisely the character of the Californians, with the exception, that the last mentioned lived in villages, and were governed by a chief, whom they entitled "Not," signifying lord, or master; he possessed but little influence over his subjects, and they in return entertained no respect for his authority, as we shall see hereafter. The name, Chichimeca, signifies a "sucker." Their principal sustenance was the flesh of animals taken in hunting excursions, and which was generally consumed in a raw state, after sucking all the blood; and from this, arose the term Chichimeca.

The Californian, often made his repast from the uncooked animal, and at the present day, flesh, very slightly cooked, is quite common among them. They also extract the blood in like manner, and I have seen many instances of their taking a rabbit, and sucking its blood with eagerness, previous to consuming the flesh in a crude state. The diversities of language, and other pecularities, render it extremely difficult to ascertain to a certainty, if all the inhabitants of Alta California descended from the Chichimecas. Those between Monterey and the extreme northern boundary of the Mexican domain, shave their heads close; while those to the south, between Santa Barbara and towards St. Lucas, wear their hair long, and take pride in cultivating its length as a mark of beauty. Those between Santa Barbara and Monterey, differ considerably from these, as regards their habits; being much more industrious, and appear an entirely distinct race. They formed, from shells, a kind of money, which passed current among them, and they constructed, out of logs, very swift and excellent canoes for fishing. Their dead, they interred in places appropriated to that purpose. The diversity of language is so great, in California, that almost every 15 or 20 leagues, you find a distinct dialect; so different, that in no way does one resemble the other. It is natural to suppose, that the Chichimeca nation, would have had but one language, notwithstanding, it might have varied a little, from one place to another, as is seen in other parts of the world, where are to be met with certain provincialisms, which are not to be found in the original tongue. But here, it is not so; for the natives of St. Diego cannot understand a word of the language used in this mission, and in like manner, those in the neighborhood of St. Barbara, and farther north. If it should be suggested, that people thus separated, could have corrupted the original language, in all its phraseology, and manner of pronunciation, I would reply, that such might be the case; but still, there would be some connection, or similarity, so that they could understand each other. This has placed me somewhat in perplexity; and I am without means of discovering the cause of such dissimilarity in a spot, confined like California; and I shall leave the subject to some of my brother missionaries, or to those who may peruse these writings, to explain.

Chapter 2: On the Creation of the Universe

Although this chapter has for its title, the creation of the world, the reader must not suppose it has any relation to the account given by Moses in the first chapter of Genesis. I do not intend any such thing; but merely to make known the belief of these Indians in their heathen state. We must not be surprised, if there be found many contradictions and extravagances; for these rude Indians were ignorant of the true God, without faith, without law, or king, and governed by their own natural ideas, or by tradition; we should, therefore, not wonder at their inconsistencies, and want of discernment to discriminate the truth from falsehood; for, deprived of the light of the Gospel, they ever walked in heathen darkness. Before I commence with their ideas of the world's origin, I must premise, that the Indians of this particular location (the mission of St. Juan Capistrano) account for the creation of the world in one way, and those of the interior (about 3 or 4 leagues distant) in another. In substance the same. One, as fabulous as the other. For this reason I will give both relations, and commence, in the first place, with the account of those in the interior.

Their belief is this: before this world was, there existed one above, and another below. These two were brother and sister. The one above signified the heavens, and the one below, represented theearth. But the heaven and earth here mentioned, were not as they appear now to us, but of another nature, which they could not explain. We may, therefore, consider them as imaginary. All below was dark, without sun, moon, or stars. The brother came unto the sister, and brought the light, which is the sun, saying he would take her unto him to wife; she resisted, reminding him of their affinity, and desired that he would return and leave her in peace. But in time they were wedded, and the first-fruits of their union were earth and sand. After which, were produced rocks and stones of all kinds, particularly flints, for their arrows; then, trees and shrubbery; next, herbs and grass; and again, animals, principally the kind which they eat. Finally, was born one that they called Ouiot. This was an animated being. The father and mother of Ouiot were not mortals, as we said before, but were of a nature they could not explain. This said Ouiot had children, and was king, or grand captain of the first family; and, as I understand it, we are to suppose them, like their parent, a species of animal, distinct from any which now inhabit the earth; or, in other words, imaginary phantoms. Upon enquiring how this grand captain could have had children, and what was the name of his partner, they could not explain; but he had children, and many, both male and female.

As Captain Ouiot's descendants multiplied, the first born of his mother, (the earth,) increased in size, and extended itself to the south; (it will be well to state here, that it is the general belief of the Indians that they originated in the north) and as they increased the earth continued to augment. Captain Ouiot having become aged, his eldest vassals formed a conspiracy to destroy him; alleging as a reason for so doing, that his years prevented his attending to their wants; and, in fact, that he was too old to govern. A consultation was held, to resolve upon what method to carry into execution their designs, and it was decided that he should be poisoned. They mixed a poisonous ingredient in his beverage, and administered it to him. After drinking of this he immediately became sick, and left the mountains where he had lived, and resorted to the place which is now occupied by the beach, or sea shore; for it is supposed, that at this time, there was no sea. His mother, hearing of the danger of her son, mixed for him a remedy, which was prepared in a large shell, and placed it in the sun to ferment. The "Coyote," attracted to the spot by its fragrance, overturned it, and thus frustrated the intention of his mother. At length the captain died; and, although he told them that in a short time he should return, and live with them again, they never have seen him more. I must state, that, at this time, there was no kind of grain or flesh to eat, and their food was the earth, which, according to their description, I understand to have been a kind of white clay, often used upon their heads by way of ornament. After the death of "Ouiot," they remained, for some time, undecided, whether to inter his remains, or to burn them; however, it was determined by the elders, that they should do the latter. The fire was prepared, the body placed upon a pile erected for the occasion, and fearing that the "Coyote" would come, and eat him, they sent out and burnt his retreat; but he had made his escape, and soon presented himself at the place of sacrifice, declaring he would be burnt with his captain; and, suddenly leaping upon the pile, he tore off from his stomach a large piece of flesh, and ate it. The remainder of the body was afterwards consumed by the flames.

The name of the Coyote was Eyacque, which implies second captain; and from this time they changed his name to that of Eno; signifying a thief and cannibal, and thieves were generally termedEyoton, derived from Eno and Ouiot.

After burning the body, a general council was called, to make provision for the collecting of grain and seeds; the acorns, &c., &c., and the flesh of animals; such as deer, rabbits, hares, squirrels, rats, and all kinds which they fed upon. While consulting together, they beheld for several days, and at distinct times, a spectre, unlike themselves, who appeared and disappeared; sometimes in one direction and sometimes in another. Alarmed at its appearance, they determined to speak to it. Having summoned it to their presence, inquiries were made if he were their Captain Ouiot. "I am not Ouiot," said he, "but a captain of greater power; and my name is Chinigchinich. My habitation is above. On what matters are you debating, and why are you thus congregated?" he inquired. "Our captain is dead," said they "we have come to his interment, and were discussing in what manner to maintain ourselves upon the seeds of the fields, and the flesh of animals without being obliged to live upon the clay, or earth, as we have done."

Having listened to their answer, he spake unto them, and said, I create all things; I will make you another people, and from this time, one of you shall be endowed with the power to cause it to rain, another to influence the dews, another to produce the acorn, another to create rabbits, another ducks, another geese, another deer." In fine, each one received his particular occupation, and power to create such food as they now eat. Even now, such as claim to be descendants of this people, pretend to be endowed with the same powers, and are frequently consulted as to their harvests, and receive in return for their advice, a gift of some kind, either in money or clothing, and, in fact, the result of their harvest depends entirely upon the maintenance given to these sorcerers, and the supplying all their necessities. To offend them, would be to destroy all their productions of flesh and grain.

Chinigchinich, after having conferred the power, as we have said, upon the descendants of Ouiot, about the time of "dixet et factum est," created man, forming him of clay found upon the borders of a lake. Both male and female he created, and the Indians of the present day are descendants of these. He then said unto them these words--"Him who obeyeth me not, or believeth not in my teachings, I will chastise--to him I will send bears to bite, serpents to sting, misfortunes, infirmities, and death." He taught them the laws they were to observe for the future, as well as their rites and ceremonies.
His first commandment was to build a temple, where they might pay to him adoration, offer up sacrifices, and have religious worship. The plan of this building was regulated by himself. From this time they looked upon Chinigchinich as God. The Indians say, he had neither father nor mother, and they are entirely ignorant of his origin. The name Chinigchinich signifies "all-powerful" or "almighty," and it is believed by the Indians, that he was ever present, and in all places: he saw every thing, although it might be in the darkest night, but no one could see him. He was a friend to the good, but the wicked he chastised.

Chinigchinich was known under three distinct names, as follows: SaorQuaguar, and Tobet. Each one possessing its particular signification, denoting diversity or a difference of times. Saor, signifies or means, that period in which Chinigchinich could not dance; Quaguar, when enabled to dance; and Tobet, when he danced enrobed in a dress composed of feathers, with a crown of the same upon his head, and his face painted black and red. They say that once, while dancing in this costume, he was taken up into heaven, where are located the stars. His order was, that they should use this mode of dress in their grand feasts--an observance regarded to this day.

Let us now return to the children of Ouiot, to know what became of them, and their descendants. It is said by some, that the God Chinigchinich, after he had formed the Indians out of the clay of the lake, transformed them into men like the others. To this opinion I am inclined, as being the most reasonable, for the power which they received from Chinigchinich, to create animals and grain, has been claimed, as has been seen, by those who pretend to be their descendants; and if he had not transformed them into Indians, no one would have remained with the power, for, the children of Ouiot were not Indians, or rational beings. It is affirmed by others, that when they saw the Indians that were created by Chinigchinich, they disappeared, and went off, no one knows where; and, consequently, that there are no descendants of Ouiot in existence. Nevertheless, they all consult alike relative to their harvests, and pay for the advice given to them. This is the belief that these Indians of the interior had respecting the creation of the world, and its origin.

Chapter 3: Of the Creation of the World According to Those Residing on the Sea-Coast

In the preceding chapter, we have been amused by the belief of the Indians, Serranos, relative to the creation of the world. Now, let us compare the same with that of the Playanos--that is, those who came to settle in the valley of St. Juan Capistrano. An invisible and all-powerful being called Nocuma made the world, the sea, and all that is therein contained, such as animals, trees, plants and fishes. In its form it was spherical, and rested upon his hands; but, being continually in motion, he resolved to secure the same by placing in its centre a black rock, called Tosaut, and it remained firm, and secure as at the present time. This black rock, the Indians say, is from a small island near the beach, and the fragments which they often collect, serve as trowels, with which they smooth their mud walls.

The sea, at that time, was no more than a small stream of water, running from the south to the north, encircling the world: so filled with fish, that they were literally piled one on top of another, in such a state of inconvenience, that they held a consultation, and some were for landing upon the earth; others were of opinion that it would be impossible, for they would perish when exposed to the air and the heat of the sun, and besides they had no legs and feet as other animals have. While conferring upon this matter, there came a large fish, bringing with him the rock Tosaut, which, having broken, they found in its centre a ball formed like a bladder, filled with gall. This they emptied into the water, and from its fresh state it was converted into a bitter condition. The water then immediately swelled, and overflowed upon the earth, covering the space which it does now, and the fishes were rejoiced to find themselves so amply supplied with room, and at the change effected in the taste.

Nocumo having created all the things contained in the world, and secured it with the rock Tosaut, as before remarked, created man, or the first Indian, out of the earth, and called him Ejoni. Afterwards he created woman, and gave her the name of . It is not known of what she was made, but the supposition is that she was created from the earth, like the man. Many years after the creation of Ejoniand , one of their descendants, called Sirout, (which signifies a handful of tobacco) and his wife called Ycaiut, (which signifies above) had a son, and they gave him the name of Ouiot. This name, according to the explanation given by the Indians, signifies something which has taken root, denoting that in like manner, he would, in course of time, extend his power and dominion over the earth, as the largest trees spread their roots in every direction. I have not been enabled to ascertain if the name Ouiot, properly implying dominator, was given to him at the time of his birth, or at the time of his celebrity as the great Captain. Be it as it may, let us examine his history, or life.


Out of the confines of a Rancheria, called Pubuna, distant from St. Juan Capistrano N.E. about eight leagues, came the monster Ouiot, and the Indians, at the present time, preserve the account in their annals. At that time, all the inhabitants were at peace, and quietly following their domestic pursuits; but Ouiot, being of a fierce disposition, a warrior, ambitious, and haughty, soon managed to gain a supremacy over many of the towns adjoining that where he originated. During the commencement of his reign, he was pacific, kind and generous to such a degree, that every one appeared happy, and contented with their chief; but after the lapse of a few years, he gradually exposed his ferocity, and persecuted many of his vassals; cruelly treating them, and some he put to death. In fact, he soon became the detestation of all his subjects.

Having suffered so much from Ouiot, they determined to rid themselves of the tyrant, and release themselves from the oppression in which they had lived for so long a period. A consultation was held by the elders, and it was decided that he should receive his death by means of poison. The rock Tosaut was procured, and whilst in the act of pulverizing the ingredient, they were perceived by one called Cucumel, who immediately gave information to Ouiot, that they wished to destroy him by poison. Said Cucumel was a small animal inhabiting holes in the ground, from which, in the daytime, he issued to obtain his sustenance. The said Ouiot, believing he was hated and despised, and fearful of the death revealed to him by Cucumel, despatched messengers in every direction to ascertain the truth; threatening, at the same time, those who might have been concerned in the conspiracy; but, obtaining no information, he rather looked upon it as a jest. In the meantime, his enemies had secretly prepared the mixture, and were consulting how to administer the same, saying that it was so active and effective, that the mere application of it to the flesh, would cause almost instantaneous death. One of them was entrusted with its execution, and at night, finding Ouiot asleep, he placed a small quantity upon his breast. On waking, he experienced a sickness and weakness in his limbs, and fearing very much that he should die, he immediately called in, all the intelligent from the different towns. But the more they administered for his relief, the worse he became, until, at length, he died.

After his death they sent off couriers to all the towns, and settlements, which Ouiot had governed, summoning the people to the interment of their Grand Captain; and in a few days, so great a collection had assembled, that the City or Town of Pubuna could not contain them, and they were obliged to encamp in the outskirts. They consulted together as to the propriety of burning or interring the body, and they decided upon the former. The funeral pile was made, the deceased placed upon it, the pile was fired, and during the time of its burning, they danced and sang songs of rejoicing.

These ceremonies concluded, and before the return of the people to their different places of abode, a council was called to regulate the collecting of grain or seeds of the fields, and flesh, to eat; for up to this time they had fed upon a kind of clay. While conferring upon this subject, there appeared to them one, called "Attajen," which name implies man, or rational being; but they knew not from whence he came. To his enquiry, "Why they were thus congregated?" they answered "that their Grand Captain was dead, and that they had met together to assist at the funeral ceremonies; and now, previous to their retirement, the elders were consulting as to the manner they should subsist for the future, without the necessity of living upon clay as they had heretofore." "Attajen" was much pleased with the relation that he had heard, and said unto them, "Ye are not capable, nor can ye do what ye think, or wish to do. I am the only one that has power, and I will give it to ye, that ye may have an abundance to eat, in your habitations." And, accordingly, he selected from the multitude a few of the elders, and endowed them with the power to cause the rain to fall, to make grain, and others to make animals, such as rabbits, hares, deer, &c., &c. And it was understood that such power was to descend to their successors.
Many years, and perhaps ages, having expired since the death of Ouiot, there appeared in the same town of Pubuna, one called Ouiamot," son of Tacu and Auzar. I imagine that this new character was not, or, at least, his parents were not inhabitants of the place, but had originated in some distant land. The said Ouiamot did not appear like Ouiot, as a warrior, but as a God. To him they were to offer presents. And this was the God Chinigchinich, so feared, venerated, and respected by the Indians, who taught first in the town of Pubuna, and afterwards in all the neighboring parts, explaining the laws, and establishing the rites and ceremonies necessary to the preservation of life.

The manner in which he commenced to dogmatise, manifesting his extravagances, was as follows. One day, at a very large congregation of the people, he danced before them, adorned in the robes which have been already described; his flesh painted black and red, and calling himself Tobet. He said that he had come from the stars to teach them those things of which they were ignorant. After dancing a considerable time, he separated the chiefs and elders from among them, and directed that they alone should wear the kind of dress which had adorned his person, and then taught them how to dance. To these Indians was given the name of puplem, who would know all things, and relieve the infirm and diseased. In other words, they would become the sorcerers or soothsayers, to whom the Indians might invariably apply for advice, and relief from their necessities. In the event of a scarcity of food, or any infirmity, they were told to appear, dressed like unto Tobet; that is, after the manner in which he appeared to them, dancing; to supplicate him, not in the name of Ouiamot, but of Chinigchinich, and their wants would be relieved. The sick would be cured, and the hungry receive food. In all cases they were to return thanks, and even now, to this day, whenever they chance to secure an animal of any kind, they say, "guic Chinigchinich," that is, "thanks to Chinigchinich, who has given me this."

This Chinigchinich, as we shall style him hereafter, taught them how to build the Vanquech, which means temple, or church, and how they were to conduct themselves therein--forbidding any others than the chief and puplem entering its sanctuary. Here they were to teach only the laws and ceremonies, and those who entered, would be called Tobet, and the remainder of the people Saorem, which signifies, persons who do not know how to dance; that is, more properly, those who could not make use of the vestments of Chinigchinich. The name of Quaguar, was given to him when he died and ascended above, among the stars. This is the explanation of the three terms which is given in the preceding relation relative to Chinigchinich.

Chinigchinich having become seriously indisposed, and while instructing the elders how to rear the young, as well as in the rules they were to observe for the future, they enquired of him where, or to which one of his rancherias he wished to go when he died? He answered, "to neither, for they were inhabited by people, and he should go where be would be alone, and could see the inhabitants of all the pueblos and rancherias." They offered to bury him, placing him under the earth, but he said "no," that they would walk upon him, and he would have to chastise them. "No!" said Chinigchinich, "when I die, I shall ascend above, to the stars, and from thence, I shall always see you; and to those who have kept my commandments, I shall give all they ask of me; but those who obey not my teachings, nor believe them, I shall punish severely. I will send unto them bears to bite, and serpents to sting them; they shall be without food, and have diseases that they may die." Chinigchinich, at length, died. His memory was so revered among the Indians, that they ever besought him in all their undertakings, and regarded him with fear and respect.

We have thus seen the belief of these Indians, respecting the creation of the world, and their God, and from its narration, we comprehend their religion, usages and customs. I do not understand why it is, that in neither of the two narrations, is there any mention made of the heavens, and that all their ideas of things appear to be confined to the earth, with the exception of the stars. What I should like to know, is, from whence they received such accounts? for, notwithstanding their imperfect, as well as fabulous description, they have some allusion to the truth. We have the six productions of the mother of Ouiot, corresponding to the six days of the creation of the world--The Indian formed of the earth or clay, like our first parent--and Ouiot, analogous to Nimrod of the Holy Scripture. I do not know to whom we may compare Ouiamot, unless it be to Simon Magus, as his teachings were idolatrous.

Chapter 4: Description of the Vanquech or Temple

Although god needs not a material temple, to be adored, praised and venerated, to fill all the world with his essence, presence, and power: nevertheless, he has always desired that there should be sacrifices, and prayers offered unto him, to obtain his mercy and forgiveness, in places determined upon by him; as may be seen in Deuteronomy in the Holy Scriptures. He ordered the patriarch, Abraham, to sacrifice on a mount of his own selection. Moses was ordered to build a tabernacle, and 440 years afterwards, Solomon, was commanded to build the magnificent temple of Jerusalem.

Satan, jealous of the honor due to the true God, wishes that man should also adore him, and offer up sacrifices in temples, by him ordained, thus endeavoring to draw him from the knowledge of the true God, one in essence, and three in person. He has taught man a diversity of Gods, and a variety of forms for his temples. I will therefore explain, in this chapter, the location and form of the temple, called Vanquech. The name of temple, or church, we know is derived from contemplatione, a place dedicated to prayer. If the Vanquech of these Indians can be thus termed, the reader will best decide.
The temples erected by command of the God Chinigchinich, or the celebrated idolater Ouiamot, were invariably erected in the centre of their towns, and contiguous to the dwelling-place of the, captain, or chief; notwithstanding their houses were scattered about without any particular regard to order, still, they managed to have the location of his house as near the middle as possible. They formed an enclosure of about four or five yards in circumference, not exactly round, but inclining to an oval. This they divided, by drawing a line through the centre, and built another, consisting of the branches of trees, and mats to the height of about six feet, outside of which, in the other division, they formed another, of small stakes of wood driven into the ground. This was called the gate, or entrance, to the Vanquech. Inside of this, and close to the larger stakes, was placed a figure of their God Chinigchinich, elevated upon a kind of hurdle. This is the edifice of the Vanquech.

Not being acquainted with the art of drawing, I cannot give a true picture of the figure adored by them, but will explain the same as well as I am able. In the first place, of the skin of a coyote, or gato montes, which was taken off with great care, including the head and feet, they formed a species of sack. This they dressed quite smooth, like deer skin, but without taking off the hair. Inside of this, were placed the feathers of particular kinds of birds, horns of deer, lions' claws, beaks and talons of the hawk and crow, and other things of this class; particularly the beak and talons of a species of hawk, called pame, that we shall describe hereafter, from the feathers of which they formed a kind of petticoat, to dress their Chinigchinich, such as was used by the captain and chiefs, and called paelt. Inside of this sack, they placed some arrows, and upon the outside, a few more, with a bow. It resembled in appearance, a live animal, and projecting from its mouth might be seen the feathers of the arrows.

When the Captain sent out orders by the crier of the general council, for the Indians to go out in search of game, or seeds, one of the puplem, (signifying one who knows all things) sketched upon the ground in front of Chinigchinich, a very ridiculous figure, and the crier called upon all to go and worship it. Having congregated together, according to their custom on such occasions, (male and female) the men armed with their bows and arrows, and well painted--the chief and the puplem dressed in their appropriate costumes, resembling devils more than human beings--they went in succession, running one behind the other, led by their captain, until they arrived. opposite Chinigchinich, and the figure upon the earth. The leader then gave a jump, springing very high from the ground, accompanied by a loud yell, and with his bow and arrow, prepared as if to shoot at something in the air. Each one in his turn performed the same evolution.

The ceremony being concluded on the part of the men, the females followed, headed by their Capitana in like manner as the men, differing only in this respect, that instead of running, they moved along in slow procession, and when in front of the Vanquech, they inclined the head, presenting at the same time their bateas, or instruments collected for the occasion. This ceremony concluded, they all dispersed to the mountains. The object of this performance, was to implore protection from all danger and sickness while in their pursuit of game.

Very great was their veneration for the Vanquech, or temple, and they were extremely careful not to commit the most trivial act of irreverence within. No one was permitted to enter it on their feast days, but the chief, the Puplem, and elders. The remainder of the people remained outside of the stakes. The younger class did not dare to approach even the entrance. Profound silence was observed generally throughout the assembly, interrupted occasionally by a whisper. Of those inside, sometimes the chief, or one of the Puplem, danced, making all kinds of grotesque figures; after which they partook of an entertainment, when all ate from the same vessel.

It has always appeared to me extremely ridiculous that his Satanic Majesty, desirous of the honors and veneration due to God alone, should have adopted so ludicrous a form of worship, as that which was observed toward Chinigchinich. When in his presence, the Indians were entirely naked, and remained for hours in a posture equally awkward and fatiguing--a sort of squat; resting their heads, generally, upon their right hands, without moving during the ceremony of adoration.

Extraordinary as was the veneration observed for their Vanquech, no less so were the privileges allowed to those who sought its protection. Whatever criminal, guilty of the highest misdemeanor--of homicide, adultery, or theft, escaping from justice, should be enabled to reach its sanctuary, unknown to his accusers, from that moment he would become free, and at liberty to go abroad without any fear of molestation, on the part of those aggrieved. No mention would be made of the crime of which he might be guilty, yet, it might be said, in derision of his having sought refuge in the Vanquech, "you went to the protection of Chinigchinich, if you had not, we should have killed you; but, nevertheless, he will chastise you for your wickedness."

They believed, that, as their God was friendly to the good, and punished the wicked, he also would not permit any one to be molested, who sought his protection; thus, the criminal escaped punishment at the time. Yet it must be understood, that although the delinquent went free, the crime did not remain exempt from punishment; for vengeance was wrought upon the children, grandchildren, or some near relative, whenever opportunity to the aggrieved offered; and the tradition was handed down, from father, to son, until the same was accomplished. In like manner, the captain could preserve his life when charged with squandering the grain, which was deposited with him. If he, by good luck, achieved a refuge in the Vanquech, no one could harm him, nor enter therein, particularly if he were adorned in the robes of the "Capitanejas." Should any one enter in defiance of this custom, he would be immediately despatched by his companions, for death was the penalty. The captain would be deposed, however, but they would suffer him to go at large, deprived of his title and supremacy, and the puplem would elect as his successor, one of his children; charging him to hold in recollection, the fate of his father; to be faithful, or the same punishment would attend him.

Chapter 5: Obedience and Subjection to Their Captain

Their form of government was monarchical, acknowledging but one head, and the Puplem, or general council. This body served as a kind of check to the will of the captain, and without its sanction he could do nothing of importance. Before treating upon the obedience observed towards their ruler, and his advisers, I will first explain the forms and ceremonies adopted in their elevation to office. In the event of the decease of their captain, or his inability to govern, from extreme age,--or of his desire to elevate a son to the command, a general feast was prepared, and all the neighboring chiefs and friends were invited to attend. (I must note here, that each town or Rancheria, had its chief, or captain.) Upon their arrival, after all were collected together, the object of the invitation was made known to them, and the cause of the old chief's relinquishing the command to his son, was explained. If this were satisfactory, their consent was given, and a day specified for the event, which was generally the succeeding one. A crier was despatched to give notice of the election to the inhabitants, and they were invited to take part in the feast of the new captain.

Every thing being prepared, they placed the crown upon his head, and he was enrobed with the imperial vestments. Anciently, the diadem of kings and emperors consisted of a kind of bandage, wound around the head, as we may infer from the account of Alexander Magnus, who upon beholding a valiant soldier, wounded, took from his head the diadem, to bind up the wound of his vassal. Of this class was the diadem used by the captain. His hair was tied close to the neck, plaited, or rather twisted, and instead of a bandage, he wore a species of cord made from the hair, which was passed three or four times around his head. A thin piece of wood, about half a yard in length, sometimes, of a shape similar to the blade of a sword, and often rounded like a wire, they secured to the cord, which they adorned with feathers of the hawk, the crow, and other birds. Lastly, they put upon him a kind of petticoat, formed also from the feathers of birds, reaching down almost to the knees, while the remainder of his body was painted black. This was called the dress of the "Capitaneja," and was the Tobet, so termed by Chinigchinich.

His toilet being concluded, as above described, be went into the Vanquech to dance before Chinigchinich, and the instruments, used upon such occasions, were not very musical, nor of any great variety; being composed mostly of the shells of turtles, with small stones inside, which they rattled continually, as an accompaniment to their voices. After dancing until he felt somewhat fatigued, the other captains entered, dressed with their several insignia, and placed him in their centre. After dancing around him a short time, the ceremony was concluded, and he was acknowledged as their captain.
The feast, generally, lasted three or four days and nights, and the old captain procured for the occasion, an abundance of their choicest kinds of food, which he presented to the guests, and to all the inhabitants of his dominion.

The new captain did not assume the reins of government, until his father died or resigned them to him, and then, the only ceremony necessary in taking the command, was, to make known the fact to the neighboring chiefs. In the right of succession to the command, having no male descendant, the females also participated; and were permitted to marry with whomsoever they pleased, even one not descended from the true line of captains. In such a case, the husband was not acknowledged as chief, nor was the wife allowed to govern; but always the nearest male relation assumed the power. The first male child, as soon as born, they proclaimed captain, and from that time he was known as such, although the relative governed during his minority. On the day of transferring the government, all the neighboring chiefs were invited, and a grand feast given on the occasion. It was the custom among these Indians, in all their feasts, to carry presents to the person who gave the invitation, and he in return, was obliged when invited, to give one of equal value.

As it regards obedience and subjection to their captains, what I have been enabled to ascertain, is, that the conduct of the people was in no wise influenced by their authority, but that they lived a life of insubordination, without laws or government. The malefactor went unpunished, and the meritorious unrewarded. In fact, each one lived as he pleased, and no one interfered, do what be would. Notwithstanding this, the Indians say, that in the days of their gentilism, they had but very few quarrels and disturbances. The reason of this, I presume, was, the fact of their being nearly all related to each other, and the frequent exhortation of the fathers to their children, to be good. When one committed a fault against another, if the aggrieved could avenge himself, he did so; death, generally, was the result, and no one interfered or spoke of it.

Although the Captains did not exercise any power, whatever, in the administration of justice, or in any other way, still the people possessed great respect and veneration for their persons, particularly the youthful part of the community, who were early instructed to look upon them, as well as upon the Puplem and elders, with fear and trembling. This was, as before stated, their daily instruction, and on this account no one dared to treat them with disrespect, or to injure them by word or action, for death would have been the consequence, and its execution carried into effect as follows:--The case having been declared in the council, an elder was appointed to make public the crime, which he did by crying most bitterly throughout the rancheria, saying, that "so and so, has said or done this or that, to our captain,"--that "Chinigchinich is very angry, and wishes to chastise us, by sending upon us a plague, of which we may all die. Arm yourselves, then, both old and young, to kill the offender, so that by presenting him dead to Chinigchinich, he may be appeased, and not kill us." This was repeated several times throughout the town. As the Indians were easily influenced, they immediately went out, armed, in search of the delinquent, and when they fell in with him, they despatched him, and, together with the arrows with which they killed him, he was borne to the presence of Chinigchinich. The parents of the deceased were permitted afterwards to take possession of the body, and perform the accustomed ceremony of burning it.

The captain was authorized to decide upon all differences, occurring between his rancheria and the neighboring towns, to declare war, to make peace, and to appoint the days on which they were to celebrate their feasts, as well as those for the bunting of game, and the collecting of grain. This was about the extent of his authority. In case of a declaration of war, he convoked the Puplem, and explained his intentions; a consultation was held, to decide whether they alone, could carry on the warfare, without the assistance of the neighboring tribes; but no reflection was made as to the justice or injustice of their intentions. Immediately a crier was sent forth, to order the preparation of arms and men. The women were compelled to make an abundance of pinole, and to get ready the provisions necessary; and on the day determined upon for their march, the crier called them together, and they set forward, headed by the captain, who acted as general-in-chief, every one strictly obeying his orders.

They had a pul, (a kind of astrologer), who knew by the moon's appearance, the time to celebrate the feasts, and from his information, the captain made them public; and this was generally done by sending round a crier, on the evenings previous to their celebration. In the same manner, was made known the time to collect grain, and to hunt: but he, who advised the captain, was the one originally endowed with the power of providing their game, herbs, &c., &c. On such occasions, all turned out in quest of food, both men and women, boys and girls; and on returning to their rancheria, the greater part was deposited with the captain, who took care of the same for the feast. In their ordinary excursions for game, &c., the captain was obliged to hunt for his own subsistence, and although he frequently received a portion, still it was not considered obligatory on the part of the giver.

Some of them had two or more wives, that they might be more plentifully supplied with seeds, and vegetables, and thus have it in their power to make provision for the poor and feeble.

Chapter 6: The Instructions Given to Their Children

One of the difficulties most perplexing to the Indians, was, the rearing and educating their children. They were unacquainted with the arts, excepting those most necessary for their maintenance, and ignorant of all useful knowledge to keep them from idleness; so that their only education consisted in the construction of the bow and arrow, with their peculiar uses, in procuring game and defending themselves from their enemies.

Although, ignorant as they were of the knowledge of the true God, the moral instruction given by parents to their children, was contained in the precepts of Chinigchinich, which were strongly impressed upon their minds, that they might become good, and avoid the fate of the evil. The perverse child, invariably, was destroyed, and the parents of such remained dishonored. At the age of six, or seven years, they gave them a kind of god, as protector; an animal, in whom they were to place entire confidence, who would defend them from all dangers, particularly those in war against their enemies. They, however, were not to consider this animal as the real God, for he was invisible, and inhabited the mountains and bowels of the earth; and if he did appear to them at any time, it was in the shape of an animal of the most terrific description. This was not Chinigchinich, but another called Touch, signifying a Devil. That they might know the class of animal, which the God, Chinigchinich, had selected for their particular veneration, a kind of drink was administered to them, made from a plant called Pibat, which was reduced to a powder, and mixed with other intoxicating ingredients. Soon after taking this preparation, they became insensible, and for three days were deprived of any sustenance whatever. During this period they were attended by some old men or women, who were continually exhorting them to be on the alert, not to sleep for fear the coyote, the bear, the crow, or the rattlesnake might come; to observe if it were furious or gentle, and to inquire of the first that should come, what were its desires. The poor Indian thus intoxicated, without food or drink, suffering under delirium, beheld all kinds of visions; and when he made known that he had seen any particular being who explained the observances required of him, then they gave him to eat and drink, and made a grand feast; at the same time advising him to be particular in obeying the commands of the mysterious apparition.

They did not all partake of the drink, and those who did not, were adorned with feathers, and were painted with a mixture of black and red. They were thus taken to the Vanquech in fantastical procession, and placed at the side of Chinigchinich. On the ground, and directly before them, the Puplem sketched a most uncouth and ridiculous figure, of an animal, and prohibited them from leaving the Vanquech during the time of penance, (generally three days) and in case of hunger or thirst, they were advised to suffer with patience. Should they partake of any thing, the figure before them would inform to that effect, and Chinigchinich would chastise them severely, by sending them sickness that would take away their lives. These and many other ludicrous stories were told to them, and the poor Indians placed the most implicit confidence in them.

The following circumstance was related to me, which transpired during the time of their heathenism. A young man, who had been taken to the Vanquech to perform the accustomed penance of fasting, the second day feeling somewhat afflicted with hunger and thirst, secretly retired from the temple, and entered a house that was near by, whose inhabitants were absent; and having found food, he ate and drank sufficiently, and returned without any one having seen him. After the accomplishment of the time, being one day in company with many of his friends, he related the circumstance, and gave out, as his opinion, that all that was told them by the Puplem, regarding the figure upon the ground, was a mere story,--for he had eaten, and drank, and even injured with his foot a portion of the figure, and no bad result had happened to him; therefore they ought not to believe the Puplem. But his companions, instead of profiting by the information, immediately dispatched him with their arrows, so furious were they, on hearing of the sacrilege offered to their religious observances. He was the son of a captain, that is a prince, for only such could do penance in the Vanquech; others drank of the intoxicating mixture.

Having undergone the ceremonies described, they placed upon the poor Indians a brand, which was done in this manner. A kind of herb was pounded until it became sponge like; this, they placed, according to the figure required, upon the spot intended to be burnt, which was generally upon the right arm, and sometimes upon the thick part of the leg also. They then set fire to it, and let it remain until all that was combustible, was consumed. Consequently, a large blister immediately formed, and although painful, they used no remedy to cure it, but left it to heal itself; and thus, a large and perpetual scar remained. The reason alleged for this ceremony, was, that it added greater strength to the nerves, and gave a better pulse for the management of the bow. Besides, Chinigchinich required it of them, that they might be more formidable in war, and be enabled to conquer their enemies. Those who were not marked in this way, which was called "potense," were ever unfortunate, easily conquered, and men of feeble capacities.

They also were obliged to undergo still greater martyrdom to be called men, and to be admitted among the already initiated; for, after the ceremony of the "potense," they were whipped with nettles, and covered with ants, that they might become robust, and the infliction was always performed in summer, during the months of July and August, when the nettle was in its most fiery state. They gathered small bunches, which they fastened together, and the poor deluded Indian was chastised, by inflicting blows with them upon his naked limbs, until unable to walk; and then he was carried to the nest of the nearest, and most furious species of ants, and laid down among them, while some of his friends, with sticks, kept annoying the insects to make them still more violent. What torments did they not undergo! what pain! what hellish inflictions! yet, their faith gave them power to endure all without a murmur, and they remained as if dead. Having undergone these dreadful ordeals, they were considered as invulnerable, and believed that the arrows of their enemies could no longer harm them.

The young were not allowed to approach the fire to warm themselves, that they might learn to suffer, and become connaturalized with the changes of temperature--a severe deprivation, indeed, to the Indian! whose greatest luxury was to lie basking in the sun, or to enjoy the comforts of a blazing fire. They were forbidden also to eat certain kinds of seeds, and meats, until arrived at the age of manhood, and were even parents of two or three children. Should they eat of such, clandestinely, "El Touch" would know it, and chastise them in various ways; and Chinigchinich, also, would be very angry. Their faith and belief in these instructions were such, and the fear and terror produced therefrom, so infused among them, that, rather than violate them, they would suffer death.

Thus far, I have explained the education given to the boys. Now I will proceed to that instilled into the minds of the females. Besides the general instructions given to the males, to observe the commandments of Chinigchinich, the girls were taught to remain at home, and not to roam about in idleness; to be always employed in some domestic duty, so that, when they were older, they might know how to work, and attend to their household duties; such as procuring seeds, and cleaning them,--making "atole" and "pinole," which are kinds of gruel, and their daily food. When quite young, they have a small, shallow basket, called, by the natives, "tucmel," with which they learn the way to clean the seeds, and they are also instructed in grinding, and preparing the same, for consumption. Those who are industrious in their youth, are flattered with promises of many admirers when they grow up to be women--that they will be generally beloved, and receive many presents. In this neighborhood, and as I have been informed, as far south as Cape St. Lucas, the girls were tat-tooed in their infancy, from their eyebrows, down to their breasts; and some from the chin only-covering the arms entirely, in both cases--but, the execution of this was not generally complied with, until they reached their tenth year; and varied in the application and style. The usual method of effecting the same, was by pricking the parts with the thorn of the cactus plant, until they bled, and then they were rubbed with a kind of charcoal produced from mescal, so that a permanent blue color remained.

The particular reason for thus tat-tooing their females, was, that it added to their beauty, and when well executed, would insure them many admirers--but I think, besides this motive, it signified something more, and was a necessary kind of distinction. As the devil invented the branding of the males, so he may have ordered the painting of the females, and Chinigchinich required its performance; so that both might have their particular mark. Who was the inventor of the singular ceremony, I could not ascertain, but presume it must have been the famous Ouimot, who instituted the burning, or branding of the males.

A very novel, and rare custom, that these Indians had, was one that the parents invariably advised them to adhere to, after arriving at the state of womanhood, and it is this. In their excursions for the collecting of seeds, or for other purposes, should they unfortunately meet with one of the sorcerers, or eaters of human flesh, they were to comply with any desire which he might express, without manifesting the least reluctance on their part; not even if in company with their mothers, or if married, and attended by their husbands, should they command their protection. Both mothers and husbands were obliged to submit to his requests, through fear of the many inflictions, which they believed would be the result of their refusal; so, that whenever they discovered any of this detested race, if possible, they concealed themselves, so as not to be seen by them.

On arriving at the state of womanhood, a grand feast was made, and conducted with much ceremony and witchcraft. They made a large hole in the ground, in shape resembling a grave, about two feet deep: this they filled with stones and burning coals, and when sufficiently heated, the latter were taken out, and upon the former they laid branches of the "estafiarte" (a kind of perennial plant), so as to form a bed, which the natives called "Pacsil." Upon this, they placed the young girl, and for two or three days she was permitted to eat but very little; thus continuing until the accustomed term for purification had expired. In the meantime the outside of the hole was adorned with feathers of different birds, beads, and many other baubles. Several old women with their faces painted like devils, were employed in singing songs in a tone so disagreeable, that one could hardly tell whether they were crying or laughing; and the young women danced around her, at intervals, every day.

Chapter 7: On Matrimony

The usual custom of these Indians in selecting and obtaining their wives, was as follows:--When one of them was inclined to marry, and having seen one with whom he was particularly pleased, he kept loitering about her place of residence, until opportunity offered to communicate, in secret, the wish of his heart: generally after this style: "I wish to wed with you," or, "We are to be married;" and the reply of the fair one, invariably, was, "It is well." "I will inform my parents, and you shall know." The girl then gave the information to her father and mother, and if the proposal were agreeable, the suitor was admitted to the house as a visitor.

Others proceeded after this manner:--They employed a third person to ascertain from the girl, if the proposal would be agreeable to her, and if so, the assent of the parents was solicited. In many cases the old men or women of the town made up the marriages, and after communicating with the parents of the girl, she was summoned to their presence and addressed as follows--"You are to marry so and so: you will be happy, because he is an excellent young man, and will have plenty to eat, and other things, for he knows how to kill the deer, rabbits, and other game." Others went direct to the parents of the girl to solicit their consent, and, if obtained, they were presented with some trifling gift as a token of the fact, and the daughter was informed as follows--"My child, you are to marry such a one; for we have given you away to him"--and the poor girl was obliged to submit, although, often-times, contrary to her wishes and feelings.


On the suitor's first visit to the house, he carried with him a present, either of some kind of fur skin, or of seeds or beads, or whatever else he had that was valuable; and from that day he considered it as his home, and the task of providing maintenance for the family, in part, fell upon him. During the time of their matrimonial promise, his obligations were to supply the house with fuel and game, and the girl attended to the domestic affairs--ever rising at the dawn of day, bathing herself, and supplying the house with water; after which, she put every thing in order, with the utmost precision, and prepared their customary repast. This task she was obliged to perform without any assistance whatever; thus, the wooer had an opportunity of witnessing the qualities of the girl, in regard to her acquirements in domestic duties, and for this reason, he was admitted to the house as a member of the family.


When the day was fixed upon for the celebration of the nuptials, the friends and relatives of each family were invited to attend, and every one in the town was expected to take part in the feast, which continued, always, for three or four days. In front of the house belonging to the lover, was erected a temporary shelter covered with the branches and leaves of trees, sufficiently large to accommodate a great number of people. The ceremony commenced by his sending one or two of the Puplem and a few of the old women, to bring the bride. In the meantime, he awaited her arrival, seated upon a mat or upon the ground. As soon as she appeared, adorned and dressed for the occasion, in all her gayest apparel, and before she entered the place prepared, already described, she was seized upon by the old women, disrobed, and thus, she was placed by the side of her husband. The dress and ornaments were never returned to her, but were considered by the women as "spoils," and each one present, secured as much as she could. This practice was universal, excepting at the marriages of the chiefs, who, while seated upon the mat, received the bride adorned with feathers only--her dress and trinkets having been previously removed. The Puplem then took her, and placed upon her person the dress of the "Capitanejas." While the feast lasted, the guests were employed in singing, dancing, and other diversions. It was usual on such occasions, before the separation took place between the parents and the bride, for the father to explain to her, her obligations and duties as a wife, and the instructions were as follows: "Reflect that you are the daughter of respectable parents--do nothing to offend them--obey and serve your husband, that has been given to you by Chinigchinich; be faithful to him, for if you are not, you will not only lose your life, but we shall be disgraced; and if your husband does not treat you as he ought, tell us, and you shall come back and live with us." This was the general custom among the Indians; and without any other ceremony, than the one here described, they were considered man and wife. Some parents, even, when their children were in infancy, by mutual agreement, would promise them in marriage, and the same was ever adhered to, and when the parties were of sufficient age, they were united with the customary ceremonies. During the period of their childhood, they were always together and the house of either was a home to both.


In the year 1821, in the Mission of St. Juan Capistrano, I married, in "facie eclesia," a couple who were thus betrothed. The girl was eight or nine months old, and the boy two years, when their parents contracted them.


There are other marriages, or modes, of taking a wife. For instance, whenever a captain, or a son of his, or a pul became enamored of one in another town, a messenger was despatched to solicit the fair one--if she declined, or if her parents were not pleased with the alliance, three or four armed men were sent to demand her in marriage, and to use any measures to secure her person. Others, when in the woods in search of game or seeds, if they met with one that pleased them, carried her off. These kinds of marriages, generally, were the cause of war, and severe conflicts between the neighboring towns.


Whether these Indians were lawfully and truly married, is a question. Apparently they were, excepting those who were united against their will and desire; and consequently, the contracts should be binding. Nevertheless, they did not consider the ceremony as binding, and they were at liberty to throw off the alliance, whenever they deemed it proper, or conductive to their convenience.



VERSES SUNG TO THE BETROTHED
Quic noit noivam
Quic secat peleblich.

Ybicnun majaar vesagnec,
Ibi panal, ibi urusar,
Ibi ecbal, ibi seja, ibi calcel.
"I go to my home,
That is shaded with willow.""These five they have placed,
This argave, this stone pot,
This sand, this honey," &c., &c.



The first time the wife became enceinte, it was the custom to give a grand feast to all in the town, and they passed the whole of one night in dancing and singing. This rejoicing was on account of the looked--for increase, and in their songs they asked of Chinigchinich, his clemency towards the unborn, for the female was good--having, in a short time, arrived to a state that gave hopes of her becoming a mother. They looked upon a sterile woman as being unfortunate--one who would ever meet with calamities. On the day of the birth of the child, they made no particular demonstration of satisfaction, except to exhibit the infant to the people. If it were a male, the grandfather named it, saying A. B., thus shall he be named. If it were a female, then the grandmother named it, and generally gave it her own name, or, that of the mother, unless some event occurred about the time of the birth, and then it was given a name which would serve to commemorate that event. Notwithstanding no observance was made of the birth-day, yet the day, on which the umbilical cord was removed, was noticed with many ceremonies. All the relatives and friends of the family were invited to assist in the superstitious performances, and they were conducted as follows. At the hour appointed, all the guests being present, several old women who were skilled in the operation, removed the superabundant particles from the child, and the same were interred, with many ceremonies, in a hole prepared either within, or outside of the house. Then immediately commenced dancing and singing; and even now, among some of the Indians, the same observances are retained.

The most ludicrous custom among these Indians, was that of observing the most rigid diet from the day of their wives' confinement. They could not leave the house, unless to procure fuel and water--were prohibited the use of all kinds of fish and meat--smoking and diversions; and this observance lasted generally from fifteen to twenty days.

One of the many singularities that prevailed among these Indians was that of marrying males with males, which has been spoken of by Father Torquemada. It was publicly done, but without the forms, and ceremonies already described in their marriage contracts with the females. Whilst yet in infancy they were selected, and instructed as they increased in years, in all the duties of the women--in their mode of dress--of walking, and dancing; so that in almost every particular, they resembled females. Being more robust than the women, they were better able to perform the arduous duties required of the wife, and for this reason, they were often selected by the chiefs and others, and on the day of the wedding a grand feast was given. To distinguish this detested race at this mission, they were called "Cuit," in the mountains, "Uluqui," and in other parts, they were known by the name of "Coias." At the present time, this horrible custom is entirely unknown among them. I was told by a missionary from the Mission of St. Domingo, in Lower California, that he once enquired of several Indians, from the plains of the river Colorado, if in their confines, were to be found any of the Coias? he replied that they were once very numerous, but a serious plague visited them, many years back, which destroyed them all--unfortunately the time when this great event transpired, they could not tell, as they possessed no idea, whatever, of chronology.


Chapter 8: On Their Mode of Life and Occupation


Among the natural inclinations with which man is endowed, is that of defending, and preserving his own individual person. For this reason, he feels it his duty to consider how, and in what manner, he is to live, and how to procure the necessary means of sustenance. Necessity, "the mother of invention," has therefore revealed to him how to arrange the rustic implements, used for securing his food. No doubt these Indians passed a miserable life, ever idle, and more like the brutes, than rational beings. They neither cultivated the ground, nor planted any kind of grain; but lived upon the wild seeds of the field, the fruits of the forest, and upon the abundance of game. It is really surprising, that during a lapse of many ages, with their reason and experience, they had not advanced one iota in improving the things that would have been useful and convenient for them; for instance, in agriculture; in planting and cultivating those seeds which were most appreciated-also trees around their dwellings, bearing such fruit as they were obliged to bring from a great distance. But no! nothing of the kind; and in no part of the province was to be found aught but the common, spontaneous, productions of the earth.

It cannot be denied, that these Indians, like all the human race, are the descendants of Adam; endowed with reason, or in other words, with a soul. When we read of the ancients--of their having transplanted trees which were wild, thus increasing their abundance, and quality, and of their planting seeds, which improved by cultivation, we cannot but wonder that a knowledge so important was unknown here until the missionary fathers came amongst them, and introduced the planting of wheat, corn, beans, and other grains, that are now so abundant every where. I consider these Indians, in their endowments, like the soul of an infant, which is merely a will, accompanied with passions--an understanding not exercised, or without use; and for this reason, they did not comprehend the virtue of prudence, which is the result of time and reason--of the former, by experience, and the latter, by dissertation. Although ripe in years, they had no more experience than when in childhood--no reasoning powers, and therefore followed blindly in the footsteps of their predecessors.

Their occupation consisted in the construction of the bow and arrow, in hunting for deer, rabbits;, squirrels, rats, &c., which not only provided them with food, but clothing, if so it can be called. Their usual style of dress, was a small skin thrown over the shoulders, leaving the remaining portion of their person unprotected; but the females formed a kind of cloak out of the skins of rabbits, which were put together after this manner. They twisted them into a kind of rope, that was sewed together, so as to conform to the size of the person, for whom it was intended, and the front was adorned with a kind of fringe, composed of grass, which reached down to the knees; around the collar it was adorned with beads, and other ornaments, prized by the Indians.

They passed their time in plays, and roaming about from house to house, dancing and sleeping; and this was their only occupation, and the mode of life most common amongst them from day to day. The old men, and the poorer class, devoted a portion of the day to constructing house utensils, their bows and arrows, and the several instruments used in making their baskets; also nets of various dimensions, which were used for sundry purposes, such as for catching fish and wild fowl, and for carrying heavy burdens on their backs, fastened by a strap passed across the forehead. In like manner, the females used them for carrying their infants.

The women were obliged to gather seeds in the fields, prepare them for cooking, and to perform all the meanest offices, as well as the most laborious. It was painful in the extreme, to behold them, with their
infants hanging upon their shoulders, groping about in search of herbs or seed, and exposed as they frequently were to the inclemency of the weather. Often it was the case that they returned home severely fatigued, and hungry, to cook the fruits of their toil, but, perhaps, there would be no wood, the fire extinguished, and their lazy husband either at play or sleeping, so that again they would be obliged to go out into the cold for fuel. When the brutal husband came home, or awoke from his sluggishness, he expected his meal, and if not prepared at the moment, invectives and ill treatment were the universal consequence. Poor creatures! more unfortunate than slaves! They were in such subjection, that for the most trifling offence, punishment was the result, and oftentimes death; but, thank Heaven! since the introduction of the Christian religion among this unhappy race, the females have received more liberty and better treatment. The most wonderful of God's blessings enjoyed among them, was the great facility with which they underwent their accouchement, when it would seem as if they endured no suffering.

Chapter 9: On Their Principal Feasts and Dances


As on all their feast days, dancing was the principal ceremony, I will endeavor to describe many of the ludicrous customs attending it. Such was the delight with which they took part in their festivities, that they often continued dancing day and night, and sometimes entire weeks. Their whole heart and soul were wrapt up in the amusement, and hardly a day passed, without some portion of it being devoted to this insipid and monotonous ceremony. Chinigchinich gave to them as a religious precept, that they should adhere strictly to this custom, and once, previous to his death, whilst dancing, he was carried up among the stars. So this accounts for the enthusiasm universally observed among them on such occasions, and whoever did not take an active part in the festival, they believed would be chastised, and hated by him.

The costume used by them, called the tobet, has been already mentioned in a previous chapter, when describing the dress of the "capitans" or "puplem;" but perhaps, it would not be out of place to repeat the same, and in addition, to give a description of that generally worn by the females. In the first place, they fixed upon the head a kind of wig, called "emetch," that was made secure, by a braid of hair passed around the head, into which, they inserted various kinds of feathers, forming a crown, or as they termed it, an "eneat;" then, their covering for the body, was also prepared from the feathers of different kinds of birds, which were sewed together, and like a sort of petticoat reached down to their knees--this they called a "paelt." The parts exposed, were generally painted red and black, and not unfrequently, white.

The females painted their faces, breasts and arms, with a sort of brown varnish, imparting a glossy, and rather a disgusting appearance to their persons. From their necks, was suspended a variety of ornaments, such as beads, and pieces of shells. They never danced with the males, but each sex by itself, notwithstanding all danced at the same time, and after this manner. The males formed a file by themselves, and directly behind them, say two or three yards distant, the women were placed in like manner, and the musicians seated themselves upon the ground in front of all.

Many of their dances were very modest and diversified by a number of grotesque movements, so that for a short time one could look on, and witness their performances with some degree of pleasure; but they had no variety of figures, or songs, and kept on in the same monotonous movement. There were persons selected from both sexes to conduct the music, and for this purpose they had a kind of instrument, which they called "paail."

The most celebrated of all their feasts, and which was observed yearly, was the one they called the "Panes," signifying a bird feast. Particular adoration was observed by them, for a bird resembling much in appearance the common buzzard, or vulture, but of larger dimensions. The day selected for the feast, was made known to the public on the evening previous to its celebration, and preparations were made immediately for the erection of their Vanquech, into which, when completed, and on the opening of the festival, they carried the Panes in solemn procession, and placed it upon the altar erected for the purpose. Then, immediately, all the young, married and unmarried females, commenced running to and fro, with great rapidity; some in one direction, and some in another, more like distracted, than rational beings; continuing thus racing, as it were, whilst the elder class of both sexes remained silent spectators of the scene. The "Puplem," painted as has been heretofore described, looking like so many devils, in the meantime dancing around their adored "Panes."

These ceremonies being concluded, they seized upon the bird, and carried it in procession to the principal Vanquech, or temple, all the assembly uniting in the grand display--the Puplem preceding the same, dancing and singing. Arriving there, they killed the bird without losing a particle of its blood. The skin was removed entire, and preserved with the feathers, as a relic, or for the purpose of making their festival garment, "Paelt." The carcass they interred within the temple, in a hole prepared previously, around which, all the old women soon collected, who, while weeping and moaning most bitterly, kept throwing upon it various kinds of seeds, or particles of food, and exclaiming at the same time, "Why did you run away? would you not have been better with us? you would have made pinole as we do, and if you had noit run away, you would not have become a 'Panes!'" Other expressions equal in simplicity, were made use of, and as the ceremony was concluding, the dancing commenced again, and continued for three days and nights, accompanied with all the brutalities to which they were subject.

The Indians state that said "Panes" was once a female, who ran off and retired to the mountains, when accidentally meeting with "Chinigchinich," he changed her into a bird, and their belief is, that notwithstanding they sacrificed it every year, she became again animated, and returned to her home among the mountains. But the ridiculous fable does not end here; for they believed, as often as the bird was killed, it became multiplied; because, every year, all the different Capitanes celebrated the same feast of Panes, and were firm in the opinion that the birds sacrificed, were but one, and the same female. They had no evidence, however, of where she lived, or where she originated, and neither were the names of her parents known. The commemoration of the festival, was in compliance with the commands given to them by Chinigchinich.

The kind of dance common among these natives, was introduced by first preparing a large bonfire, around, and into which, the men promiscuously jumped, until all the fire was extinguished. The females stood a short distance from the scene, keeping up a continual screaming, and moaning, during the ceremony, and not until every particle of the fire was destroyed did the crying cease--then dancing commenced. Should it so happen, that they were not successful in extinguishing the flames, or if there should remain, and be discovered afterwards, any sparks, the dancing did not take place immediately; but they remained silent and discontented. It was a bad omen, and signified the approach of some calamity. This dance was generally performed at night, but when introduced in their large feasts, and danced during the day, then, in addition to the ceremonies already described, they despatched one of the most active of the tribe in quest of water, which, invariably, was brought from a great distance, and from a place designated. When obtained, they emptied the same into a hole previously prepared within the Vanquech. Then all went up into the temple, each one in his turn, blowing with his mouth upon the water, and uttering expressions which were apparently designed to curse and not to bless; however, the latter was the interpretation given to me, and when this was done, they went up again in the same order to sprinkle their faces with the dirty water. The women remained some distance off, and on no account were they allowed to touch it.

Another dance equally ludicrous among these natives, was conducted as follows. The males commenced, first dancing alone, and continued to do so for a short time, when they formed themselves in a line, and one of the females came forward in front of them, with her arms folded upon her breast, and danced up and down the file with many graceful turns, and movements, which were several times repeated, when she retired, and the males resumed their part of the performances--and so they continued dancing, the males and females alternately, until it was time to change the monotony. They had another dance, very similar, with this exception--that the female was entirely exposed, and whilst she was singing and displaying her person in many disgusting attitudes, the spectators, men, women and children, all formed a circle around her. This immodest exhibition was also one of the teachings of Chinigchinich, but was introduced twice, only, during the year, and then outside of the town.

They had another, which was introduced on the occasion of the son of the puplem, or chief's first appearing in public, adorned with the Tobet. Not only every one in the place was invited to attend on that day, but also many from the neighboring towns, and the arrangements were as follows. When all were congregated together, the youth was brought forward, and they put upon him the paelt, or robe of feathers, such as was used by Chinigchinich, afterwards the crown, and then the exposed parts of his person, they painted black and red. Thus arrayed, he commenced dancing, with the paail in his right hand, keeping time to the music of the singers, that did not cease until the lad was completely exhausted. If he were unable to dance, then, one of the Puplem was dressed in like manner, who, placing him upon his shoulder, danced before the assembly. After this was accomplished, one of the women rose up; a sister, an aunt, or some one nearly related to the youth, in all cases, however, a young person, who immediately disrobing herself, danced in presence of the multitude.












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