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Religion & Legends                   1,000 BC
Africa
Southwest Asia
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Indus Valley
China
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Africa

 

Southwest Asia

The familiar biblical story of sibling rivalry, foreshadowing strife in the Middle East then and to this day, began when the pregnant Rebecca, wife of Isaac, was told by the Lord: Two nations are in thy womb, And two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; And the one people shall be stronger than the other people; And the elder shall serve the younger. -Genesis 25:23 Rebecca gave birth to twin sons, Esau and Jacob, whose lives fulfilled the prophecy. Esau, the firstborn, became a hunter who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, a stew. Jacob tricked their dying father into granting a blessing that made Jacob master over Esau. The brothers, an angry Esau and a fearful Jacob, went their separate, antagonistic ways as patriarchs of rival nations. Esau took wives from among the Canaanites and settled his family in the hill country of Seir, which became known as the land of Edom. This land, east of the Negev Desert of Israel, lies in present-day Jordan. Esau is called the father of the Edomites, about whom little is known except for the biblical accounts, which were colored by Israelite animosity. (96)

...apparently deliberate impregnation of human females by gods (sexually or artificially) would play a great role in the procreation of special individuals who would make significant contributions to the course of human history. ...such virgin births allegedly included Zoroaster (1500 BC)...

Under YHVHs direction, Moses (born circa 1510 BC) led the Hebrew exodus from Egypt around 1430 BC when he was 80 year old. He marched the state-less people (not unlike modern Palestinians) around in the Sinai desert for 40 years. From the books of Moses (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) and the Book of Joshua, a picture emerges of an Anunnaki who wished to institutionalize a new kind of society among the heretofore squabbling mini-states that had occupied the Middle East until about 1500 BC. His vision, spelled out to Joshua, who assumed tribal leadership upon the death of Moses, was to establish a model nation from the Sinai Desert and the shores of Lebanon to the Euphrates and across to the Great Sea (probably the Caspian). (113)

During those years they learned how YHVH wanted them to live and how to ensure his continued protection. YHVH distanced himself from the earlier practices of the Anunnaki-gods, avoiding social or sexual contact with humans. YHVH's 40-year training program reveals his attitude toward his human subjects. It was reflected in three books that later became part of the Hebrew Bible. Leviticus established YHVH's priesthood for the community, set forth his ordained laws of behavior, and explained rituals required of his followers. The Book of Numbers explained the basic covenant required by YHVH: People must accept his authority on faith and trust his promises. Doubt would not be acceptable. Devotion to other gods would be punished. In exchange for this loyalty he promised to protect his people. (113)

Deuteronomy, after a preamble, set forth a constitution for the theocracy of Israel, gave ten commandments regarding forbidden behaviors, ordered the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites, and prescribed how they were to treat the sanctuary (YHVH's center for communicating with his priesthood). This book also ordained dietary rules, titles, and festivals in YHVH's honor and described the nature of expected leadership practices and interpersonal relations. It set forth a "carrot and stick" contract between YHVH and his followers (depending on their behavior they would either be blessed or cursed). The Israelites, according to their own accounts, accepted his definitions of right living, learned to hate what he hated, and felt eternally indebted to him. (113)

YHVH seemed to have wanted the Israelites to follow a strict moral code, but he did not appear any more mature than the other Anunnaki in terms of peaceful resolution of conflict, concepts of justice, ideas of the family, and rules of social intercourse. He ordered terrorist acts against the followers of other gods. Even with the Israelites, he resorted to coercion and punishment to control behavior (not unlike parents using corporal punishment in child-rearing practices). If he was not actively hostile toward women, he exhibited no plan to make them equal partners in his ideal society. (113)

For centuries, Israel did not make much progress in establishing the utopia YHVH seemed to have had in mind. The Israelites fought and mingled with the Canaanites, adopting some of their ways. In the process, the clarity of thought that YHVH had hoped for dissipated, and the Jews became mired in the minutiae of ritual and petty competition for status. For more than 1,500 years, YHVHs notion of a well-ordered, utopian future for humans became lost in factional squabbling among the Israelites, and it attracted few followers from other Anunnaki-cults. (113)

An Azerbaijani legend credits an antediluvian personality, a wise Enoch known as a demigod in other texts, with being the first teacher of the Kiyumars and the first ruler of Iran. (113)

We have a lot of information about the perspective of one personality: YHVH. He does not appear in history under that name until about 3,500 years ago, when he chose Moses to rally the Israelites in Egypt around him. This god, who kept himself invisible, may have personified the naturally arrogant Anunnaki view of less-developed beings. He demanded absolute obedience and loyalty, and impeccable service. He viewed his relationship to his "chosen people" as: "And they shall know that I am YHVH, who rescued my people, giving them the covenant…" And how shall they be rewarded for their loyalty [asked Ezekiel]? "…I will strike them with a great [blow] in the midst of the land…when all the curses happen to them and strike them until they die and until they are destroyed." (113)

Given the amount of information we have in the Hebrew Pentateuch about the attitudes toward humans held by YHVH, he illustrates a range of behaviors that is consistent with the stern, authoritarian colonialist model. He showed himself to be a vindictive god against the enemies of Israel, but it was a trait he also turned on his own people. When the Hebrews after 600 BC grew rebellious and brazen in their defiling of his temple, YHVH reportedly somehow instigated its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC. (113)

YHVH's reach exceeded the Hebrew people. He apparently did not hesitate to enlist others in supporting his chosen Israelite followers. Cyrus, king of Persia, said he had been ordered by YHVH to build the temple of Jerusalem. The Book of Ezra (chapter 1) reports that Cyrus declared YHVH had anointed him king of "all the kingdoms of the Earth." This indicates that although the Hebrews had been selected by YHVH to implement his vision of a post-Anunnaki culture, he did not hesitate to order others to support his agenda. (113)

Zoroastrianism, dated by historians at various times from around 1200 to 500 BC, had a somewhat humanistic perspective but had an anthropomorphic god as its centerpiece and gave the edge to supernaturalism. Yet, its texts clearly documented the "flesh and blood" nature of the gods (known as the Sons of God) who consorted with and corrupted humans.

So the combination of camels, Arabian goods, Philistines, and Gerar­ as well as other places and nations mentioned in the patriarchal stories in Genesis - are highly significant. All the clues point to a time of composition many centuries after the time in which the Bible reports the lives of the patriarchs took place. These and other anachronisms suggest an intensive period of writing the patriarchal narratives in the eighth and seventh centuries BC. (143)

The great genius of the seventh century creators of this national epic was the way in which they wove the earlier stories together without stripping them of their humanity or individual distinctiveness. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob remain at the same time vivid spiritual portraits and the metaphorical ancestors of the people of Israel. And the twelve sons of Jacob were brought into the tradition as junior members of more complete genealogy. In the artistry of the biblical narrative, the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were indeed made into a single family. It was the power of legend that united them - in a manner far more powerful and timeless than the fleeting adventures of a few historical individuals herding sheep in the highlands of Canaan could ever have done. (143)

Did the conquest of Canaan really happen? Is this central saga of the Bible - and of the subsequent history of Israel - history, or myth? Despite the fact that the ancient cities of Jericho, Ai, Gibeon, Lachish, Hazor, and nearly all the others mentioned in the conquest story have been located and excavated, the evidence for a historical conquest of Canaan by the Israelites is...weak. Here too, archaeological evidence can help disentangle the events of history from the powerful images of an enduring biblical tale. (143)

The process that we describe here is, in fact, the opposite of what we have in the Bible: the emergence of early Israel was an outcome of the collapse of the Canaanite culture, not its cause. And most of the Israelites did not come from outside Canaan - they emerged from within it. There was no mass Exodus from Egypt. There was no violent conquest of Canaan. Most of the people who formed early Israel were local people - the same people whom we see in the highlands throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages. The early Israelites were - irony of ironies - themselves originally Canaanites! (143)

The existence of high places and other forms of ancestral and household god worship was not - as the books of Kings imply - apostasy from an earlier, purer faith. It was part of the timeless tradition of the hill country settlers of judah, who worshiped YHWH along with a variety of gods and goddesses known or adapted from the cults of neighboring peoples. YHWH, in short, was worshiped in a wide variety of ways - and sometimes pictured as having a heavenly entourage. From the indirect (and pointedly negative) evidence of the books of Kings, we learn that priests in the countryside also regularly burned incense on the high places to the sun, the moon, and the stars. (143)

Since the high places were presumably open areas or natural hilltops, no definite archaeological traces of them have as yet been identified. So the clearest archaeological evidence of the popularity of this type of worship throughout the kingdom is the discovery of hundreds of figurines of naked fertility goddesses at every late monarchic site in Judah. More suggestive are the inscriptions found in the early eighth century site of Kuntillet Ajrud in northeastern Sinai - a site that shows cultural links with the northern kingdom. They apparently refer to the goddess Asherah as being the consort of YHWH. (143)

But after the fall of Samaria, with the increasing centralization of the kingdom of Judah, a new, more focused attitude toward religious law and practice began to catch hold. Jerusalem's influence - demographic, economic, and political - was now enormous and it was linked to a new political and territorial agenda: the unification of all Israel. And the determination of its priestly and prophetic establishment to define the "proper" methods of worship for all the people of Judah - and indeed for those Israelites living under Assyrian rule in the north - rose accordingly. These dramatic changes in religious leadership have prompted biblical scholars such as Baruch Halpern to suggest that in a period of no more than a few decades in the late eighth and early seventh century BC, the monotheistic tradition ofJudeo-Christian civilization was born. (143)

It is easy to see why the biblical authors were so upset by idolatry. It was a symbol of chaotic social diversity; the leaders of the clans in the outlying areas conducted their own systems of economics, politics, and social relations - without administration or control by the court in Jerusalem. That countryside-independence, however time-honored by the people of Judah, came to be condemned as a "reversion" to the barbarity of the pre-Israelite period. Thus, ironically, what was most genuinely Judahite was labeled as Canaanite heresy. In the arena of religious debate and polemic, what was old was suddenly seen as foreign and what was new was suddenly seen as true; And in what can only be called an extraordinary outpouring of retrospective theology, the new, centralized kingdom of judah and the Jerusalem-centered worship of YHWH was read back into Israelite history as the way things should always have been. (143)

The book of Deureronomy established the unity of the people of Israel and the centrality of their national cult place, but it was the Deuteronomistic History and parts of the Pentateuch that would create an epic saga to express the power and passion of a resurgent Judah's dreams. This is presumably the reason why the authors and editors of the Deuteronomistic History and parts of the Pentateuch gathered and reworked the most precious traditions of the people of Israel: to gird the nation for the great national struggle that lay ahead. Embellishing and elaborating the stories contained in the first four books of the Torah, they wove together regional variations of the stories of the patriarchs, placing the adventures of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in a world strangely reminiscent of the seventh century BC and emphasizing the dominance of Judah over all Israel. They fashioned a great national epic of liberation for all the tribes of Israel, against a great and dominating pharaoh, whose realm was uncannily similar in its geographical details to that of Psammetichus. The Deuteronomistic History was not history writing in the modern sense. It was a composition simultaneously ideological and theological. (143)

In the seventh century BC, for the first time in the history of ancient Israel, there was a popular audience for such works. Judah had become a highly centralized state in which literacy was spreading from the capital and the main towns to the countryside. It was a process that had apparently started in the eighth century, but reached a culmination only in the time of Josiah. Writing joined preaching as a medium for advancing a set of quite revolutionary political, religious, and social ideas. Despite its tales of apostasy and the disloyalty of Israel and its monarchs, despite its cycles of sin, retribution, and redemption, with all its calamities of the past, the Bible offers a profoundly optimistic history. It promised its readers and listeners they would be participants in the story's happy ending - when their own King Josiah would purge Israel from the abominations of its neighbors, redeem its sins, institute general observance of the true laws of YHWH, and take the first steps to make the legendary kingdom of David a reality. (143)

Other evidence, however, seems to suggest that Josiah failed to stop the veneration of graven images, since figurines of a standing woman supporting her breast with her hands (generally identified with the goddess Asherah) have been found in abundance within private dwelling compounds at all major late-seventh century sites in Judah. Thus, at least on a household level, this popular cult seems to have continued despite the religious policy emanating from Jerusalem. (143)

This is the story of Yima as told in the Avestan literature of Zoroastrian tradition, which perhaps dates back as early as the sixth century BC. Yima may be compared with the righteous Noah, the flood hero of Hebraic tradition, although the Iranian account bears many contrasting differences to its biblical counterpart. To start with, there is no flood, and secondly, instead of Yima constructing a huge sea-going vessel in which he houses the animal kingdom and his immediate family, he is instructed by Ahura Mazda to make a var, a word meaning a subterranean fortress or city. Strangely enough, in Persia the term ark, the word used to describe Noah's vessel, actually means 'citadel' or 'fortress'. Yima constructed the var in order that the Iranian race could survive the 'vehement frost', the freezing conditions and the perpetual snow that was said to have accompanied the 'fatal winter' that raged in the world during this mythical age. There seems little doubt that the so-called 'fatal winter' preserved in Iranian literature refers to the final onslaught of the last Ice Age, which began around 15,000 BC and ended in the Near East perhaps as late as 8500-8300 BC.  (149)

Even though the people of Israel felt so separate from their neighbors, the biblical record suggests that until the sixth century Israel's religion was not in fact very different from that of the other local peoples. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had worshiped El, the High God of Canaan, and later generations merged El's cult with that of Yahweh. Yahweh himself referred to this process when he explained to Moses that at the beginning of Israel's history the patriarchs had always called him El, and that only now was he revealing his real name, Yahweh. In Canaan, El eventually met the fate of most High Gods, and by the fourteenth century his cult was in decline. He was replaced by the dynamic storm god Baal, a divine warrior, who rode on the clouds of heaven in his chariot, fought battles with other gods, and brought the life-giving rains. In the early days, Yahweh's cult was very similar to Baal's, and some of Baal's hymns were even adapted for use in Yahweh's temple in Jerusalem. Middle Eastern religion was strongly agonistic, dominated by stories of wars, hand-to-hand combat, and fearful battles among the gods. In Babylon, the warrior god Marduk had slaughtered Tiamat, the primal ocean, split her carcass in two like a giant shellfish, and created heaven and earth. Each year this battle was reenacted in the temple of Esagila during the new year ceremony to keep the world in existence for another year. In Syria, Baal fought Lotan, a seven-headed sea dragon, who is called Leviathan in the Bible. He also fought Yam, the primordial sea; symbol of chaos, and Mot, god of drought, death, and sterility. (158)

Yahweh would not become the only god until the late sixth century. In the very early days, Yahweh was simply one of the "holy ones," or "sons of El," who sat in the divine assembly. At the beginning of time, it was said, El had assigned a "holy one" to be the patronal god of each nation, and Yahweh had been appointed the "holy one of Israel." The Akkadian word for holiness was ellu, "cleanliness, brilliance, luminosity." It was related to the Hebrew elohim, which is often simply translated as "god" but originally summed up everything that the gods could mean to human beings. For centuries,Yahweh's cult had been nourished by the hymns and rites of Baal. As archaeologists have discovered, most of the population worshiped other local gods besides Yahweh, and Baal worship flourished in Israel until the sixth century. But by the ninth century, some Israelites were beginning to cut down on the number of gods they worshiped. In Syria and Mesopotamia, the experience of the divine was too complex and overwhelming to be confined to a single symbol. The imagery of the divine assembly, with its carefully graded ranks of consorts, divine children, and servants, showed that divinity was multifaceted and yet formed a coherent unity. The symbolism of the divine assembly was very important to the people of Israel and Judah, but by the ninth century it was becoming more streamlined. Instead of presiding over a large divine household, like El and his consort, Asherah, Yahweh presided alone over a host of lesser celestial beings. They were his "heavenly host," the warriors in his divine army.But Yahweh was a warrior god. He had no expertise in agriculture or fertility, and so many Israelites, as a matter of course, performed the ancient rituals of Baal and Anat to ensure a good harvest, because Baal was the power that fertilized the land. In the old Middle Eastern theology, El had appointed a god to each of the nations, Yahweh was the holy one of Israel; Chemosh the holy one of Moab; and Milkom the holy one of Ammon. (158)

Egypt

Through most of antiquity, Egyptians believed that their society and life in general had been established by the gods, and that they and all their social, political, and economic relationships were part of a divinely designed, immutable world order. To some extent, the Egyptian past makes sense only when viewed in that way.

Certain themes are deeply embedded in ancient Egyptian culture. For one thing Egyptians seem to have been a "God-intoxicated" people, "half in love with easeful death." Herodotus wrote that they were the most "religious" people he had encountered, given to incessant and elaborate religious rituals and an enormous priestly bureaucracy. Their concern with death, and the vast energies and richness they invested in preparing for it, are manifestly evident, but it is also a testament to a people so passionately alive that they tried everything to perpetuate life into death. Mummification was an attempt to preserve the body for use in the afterlife, when it would be revived and rehabilitated.

For the ancient Egyptian, the world teemed with unseen but animate conscious forces; malignant spirits were everywhere, as were forces for good; and, with sufficient effort, some of the inconveniences of being dead could be mitigated.

Ancient Egyptians seem to have had a monophysitic perspective in that everything in the universe was thought to been derived from one substance and to be an expression of that substance.

To our own, essentially Greek, minds, the Egyptians seem to have been unable to distinguish between things and representations of things. J. Wilson argues that the Egyptians saw no difference between supplying a dead king with real loaves of bread, wooden models of bread, or loaves painted on the walls; it was not the actual thing that mattered it was the idea. The physical man needed physical bread, but in the spirit world, "spiritual" bread was appropriate.

Most temples are oriented from east to west, like the path of the sun, so that the sun could illuminate a statue of god in the innermost sanctuary at specific times. (47)

The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (c. 90-21 BC) in Bibliotheca historia depicts her saying: I Isis, queen of the country, educated by Thoth, Mercury. What I have decreed, no one can annul. I am the eldest daughter of Saturn (Seb), the youngest of the gods. I am the sister and a wife of King Osiris. I am the first who taught men the use of corn. I am the mother of Horus. In the Book of the Dead (The Papyrus of Ani from 1240 BC, translated by Wallis Budge), Isis says: "I am the queen of these regions; I was the first to reveal to mortals the mysteries of wheat and corn. I am she who is risen in the constellation of the dog." (70)

Regardless of the lack of an overall policy, at least one Anunnaki decided about 3,500 years ago to prepare a group of humans for a special role. He may have hoped they might become a model for a successful human society. Unfortunately, the last-minute effort at institution-building and social engineering (terms we might use today) was implemented in the middle of this chaos. The brainchild of an Anunnaki who identified himself as YHVH, the intervention called for creating a new nation-state from Hebrews then living in Egypt. (113)

Under YHVHs direction, Moses (born circa 1510 BC) led the Hebrew exodus from Egypt around 1430 BC when he was 80 year old. He marched the state-less people (not unlike modern Palestinians) around in the Sinai desert for 40 years. From the books of Moses (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) and the Book of Joshua, a picture emerges of an Anunnaki who wished to institutionalize a new kind of society among the heretofore squabbling mini-states that had occupied the Middle East until about 1500 BC. His vision, spelled out to Joshua, who assumed tribal leadership upon the death of Moses, was to establish a model nation from the Sinai Desert and the shores of Lebanon to the Euphrates and across to the Great Sea (probably the Caspian). (113)

About 1000 BC, the pharaoh known as Akhnaten made an attempt to move the Egyptians away from the god-cult mentality. He attempted to gain acceptance for the idea that humans should relate to the natural order of the universe. He tried to get worship to focus on the Sun as the symbol of that universal power. His Egyptian experiment was very short-lived, a totally unsuccessful effort at transcending the era of god-cults, but its seeds may have survived in esoteric circles. (113)

The conclusion - that the Exodus did not happen at the time and in the manner described in the Bible - seems irrefutable when we examine the evidence at specific sites where the children of Israel were said to have camped for extended periods during their wandering in the desert and where some archaeological indication - if present - would almost certainly be found. The pattern should have become clear by now. Sites mentioned in the Exodus narrative are real. A few were well known and apparently occupied in much earlier periods and much later periods - after the kingdom of Judah was established, when the text of the biblical narrative was set down in writing for the first time. Unfortunately for those seeking a historical Exodus, they were unoccupied precisely at the time they reportedly played a role in the events of the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness. All these indications suggest that the Exodus narrative reached its final form during the time of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, in the second half of the seventh and the first half of the sixth century BC. Its many references to specific places and events in this period quite clearly suggest that the author or authors integrated many contemporary details into the story. (143)

Indus Valley

 Both the Greeks and the Hindus describe the Iron Age (the Hindu Kali Yuga) as being characterized by materialism and greed. Kali is literally translated as "quarrel and hypocrisy." In this age labor is degraded into toil for selfish ends; crime becomes commonplace; terrible wars break out; and fraud, deceit, and hatred rule. If all of this sounds familiar, it is because, according to Hindus, we are still living in this age, just as we have been for thousands of years. (69)

...apparently deliberate impregnation of human females by gods (sexually or artificially) would play a great role in the procreation of special individuals who would make significant contributions to the course of human history. ...such virgin births allegedly included . Krishna (Mother Devaki-1200 BC), Indra (in Tibet-700 BC), Gautama Buddha (Mother Maya-600 BC)... (113)

An Indian author, Sri. A. Kalyanaraman, in his book Aryatar-angini, ...argues that the Aryans had early made their home in north-west India, the Sapta Sindhu, even if they had originally migrated from the Caucasus. Their literature, he emphasises in three places, was composed at a much earlier date than British archaeologists allow: the Rig Veda 5000-4000 BC, the Yajur Veda 4000-3000 BC, the Brahrnanas 3000-2000 BC, the Upanishads 1500-1000 BC. He argues from the internal evidence of these compositions that the Aryans were a sun-worshipping sea-people, who sailed around the world, to the New World as well as to many parts of the Old. (135)

Humans, deities, animals, plants, and the forces of nature were all manifestations of the same divine "spirit," which the Avestans called mainyu and the Sanskrit-speakers manya. It animated, sustained, and bound them all together. Over time the Aryans developed a more formal pantheon. At a very early stage, they had worshiped a Sky God called Dyaus Pitr, creator of the world. But like other High Gods, Dyaus was so remote that he was eventually replaced by more accessible gods, who were wholly identified with natural and cosmic forces. Like all other phenomena, speech was a god, a deva. Aryan religion was not very visual. As far as we know, the Aryans did not make effigies of their gods. Instead, they found that the act of listening brought them close to the sacred. Quite apart from its meaning, the very sound of a chant was holy; even a 'single syllable could encapsulate the divine. Similarly, a vow, once uttered, was eternally binding, and a lie was absolutely evil because it perverted the holy power inherent in the spoken word. The Aryans would never lose this passion for absolute truthfulness. (158)

When a beast was ceremonially given to the gods, its spirit was not extinguished but returned to Geush Urvan ("Soul of the Bull"), the archetypical domestic animal. The Aryans felt very close to their cattle. It was sinful to eat the flesh of a beast that had not been consecrated in this way, because profane slaughter destroyed it forever, and thus violated the sacred life that made all creatures kin. The Aryans would always see sacrifice as creative. By reflecting on this ritual, they realized that their lives depended upon the death of other creatures. The three archetypal creatures had laid down their lives so that others might live. There could be no progress, materially or spiritually, without self-sacrifice. Sacrifice was therefore at the spiritual heart of Aryan society in India, but it was also central to the economy. The old peaceful rites of the steppes had become far more aggressive and competitive, and reflected the dangerous lives of the cattle rustlers. Aryan sacrifice was now similar to the potlatch celebrated by the Native American tribes of the northwest, who proudly displayed the booty they had won and slaughtered large numbers of beasts for lavish sacrificial banquets. (158)

Violence escalated on the steppes as never before. Even the more traditional tribes, who simply wanted to be left alone, had to learn the new military techniques in order to defend themselves. When they fought, killed, and robbed, the Aryan cowboys felt themselves one with Indra and the aggressive devas who had established the world order by force of arms. But the more traditional, Avestan-speaking Aryans were appalled by Indra's naked aggression, and began to have doubts about the daevas. Were they all violent and immoral? Events on earth always reflected cosmic events in heaven, so, they reasoned, these terrifying raids must have a divine prototype. Perhaps the peaceful ahuras, who stood for justice, truth, and respect for life and property, were themselves under atack by Indra and the more aggressive daevas? This, at any rate, was the view of a visionary priest, who in about 1200 BC claimed that Ahura Mazda had commissioned him to restore order to the steppes. His name was Zoroaster. (158)

...Zoroaster could no longer believe in these natural rhythms. The world was rushing forward toward a cataclysm. He and his followers were living in the "bounded time" of raging cosmic conflict, but soon they would witness the final triumph of good and the annihilation of the forces of darkness. After a terrible battle, Lord Mazda and the Immortals would descend to the world of men and women and offer sacrifice. There would be a great judgment. The wicked would be wiped off the face of the earth, and a blazing river would flow into hell and incinerate the Hostile Spirit. Then the cosmos would be restored to its original perfection. Mountains and valleys would be leveled into a great plain, where gods and humans could live side by side, worshiping Lord Mazda forever. There would be no more death. Human beings would be like deities, free from sickness, old age, and mortality. We are now familiar with this kind of apocalyptic vision, but before Zoroaster there had been nothing like it in the ancient world. (158)

While some of the Sanskrit-speaking Aryans were creating havoc on the steppes, others had begun to migrate south, traveling in small bands through Afghanistan and settling finally in the fertile lands of the Punjab, among the tributaries of the river Indus. The Aryans have left no archaeological record of this early period in India. Theirs was an itinerant society, and people lived out in the open or in temporary encampments. Our only sources of information are the ritual texts, composed in Sanskrit, known collectively as the Vedas ("Knowledge"). The language of the Vedas is so similar to Avestan and its cultural assumptions so close to the Gathas that it is almost certainly an Aryan scripture. Today most historians accept that during the second millennium, Aryan tribes from the steppes did indeed colonize the Indus Valley. (158)

By the time they had established themselves in the Punjab, the cult of Varuna, the chief asura, was already in decline and Indra was becoming the Supreme God in his place. With his wild, flowing beard, his belly full of soma, and his passion for battle, Indra was the archetypal Aryan to whom all warriors aspired. But the uncomfortable fact remained that for all his glamour, Indra was a killer, who had only managed to defeat Vritra by lying and cheating. This was the violent and troubled vision of a society constantly involved in desperate warfare. The Vedic hymns saw the entire cosmos convulsed by terrifying conflict and passionate rivalries. Devas and asuras fought each other in heaven, while the Aryans struggled for survival on earth. Some hymns of the Rig Veda could be very old indeed, because by the time the Aryan tribes arrived in India, its language was already archaic. The poems were the property of a small group of seven priestly families, each with its own "copyrighted" collection, which they chanted during the sacrificial rituals. Family members learned the hymns by heart and transmitted them orally to the next generation; the Rig Veda was not committed to writing until the second millennium of the common era. The visionary truth of the Rig Veda stole up on the audience, who listened carefully to the hidden significance of the paradoxes and the strange, riddling allusions of the hymns, which yoked together things that seemed to be entirely unrelated. As they listened, they felt in touch with the mysterious potency that held the world together. This power was rita, divine order translated into human speech. As the rishi physically enunciated the sacred syllables, rita was made flesh and became an active, living reality in the torn, conflicted world of the Punjab. (158)

China

 The texts and inscriptions tell us that the Shang nobles felt in constant and clear communication with their ancestors, whom they consulted through oracles about the best actions to take in multitudes of situations. (49)

Europe

 Both the Greeks and the Hindus describe the Iron Age (the Hindu Kali Yuga) as being characterized by materialism and greed. Kali is literally translated as "quarrel and hypocrisy." In this age labor is degraded into toil for selfish ends; crime becomes commonplace; terrible wars break out; and fraud, deceit, and hatred rule. If all of this sounds familiar, it is because, according to Hindus, we are still living in this age, just as we have been for thousands of years. (69)

The newly discovered Euripidean text...shows that the story of Erechtheus and virgin sacrifices for the good of the city were themes resonating among Athenians at the time the Parthenon was being built in the heady years following their defeat of the Persians at Marathon. Greek writings of the time were making much of the sentiment attributed to Praxithea that just as boys go to war, girls go to sacrifice--both for the good of the polis, the city-state. Another famous example was Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia, which enabled the Greek fleet to set sail for war against the Trojans. At the same time, she happened to be reading the rediscovered lines from the Euripides tragedy about Erechtheus, seeking insights about priestesses. The play was written about 423 BC, a decade after the completion of the Parthenon. Reading those lines, Dr. Connelly recognized that the woman in the peplos scene was no ordinary priestess, but probably the queen of the myth, Praxithea. In the myth, she has not only lost her daughters but her husband Erechtheus, who perished in his triumphant battle against Eumolpos, son of Poseidon. In the play's recovered lines, Athena appears to Praxithea with instructions for the burials of the king and the daughters on the Acropolis and for remembering them "with annual sacrifices and bull-slaying slaughters" and "with holy choruses of maidens." As for Praxithea, Athena rewarded her for restoring "the foundations of the city" by designating her a "priestess to make burnt sacrifice at my altar on behalf of the city" (92)

In the fifteenth century, the campaign for global supernatural hegemony began in earnest, carried by Spanish and Portuguese maritime exploration and British-led intercontinental trade. By then, everyone except a few esoteric societies had forgotten that the supernatural god of Indo-European culture had originated as an ordinary god in a family of gods from the planet Nibiru. (113)

This rational worldview tried to take away the mysteries of the material world, account for human behavior and its self-control, and learn how to live well with nature. These Greeks were not concerned about being saved from sin or blessed by otherworldly beings as a result of blind faith. They had no commandments, dogma, complicated ritual, or sacraments. Their freedom "from fear of the supernatural was one of the most important factors contributing to the intellectual and artistic progress of the Greeks." (113)

The second rise of rationalism occurred in the seventh century BC, remembered in the scientific and philosophical works of Thales of Miletus (in modern Turkey), Anaxamander, and Anaximenes. These Ionian intellectuals espoused ideas similar to those in the Vedic East. By the sixth century BC, Pythagoras (550 to 500 BC) taught along the natural lines reflected in the Vedanta principles. (113)

By this time the god cult movement had become stronger in Greece. Perhaps to attract followers, Pythagoras mixed some mysticism (such as belief in the transmigration of souls) with his powerfully rational concepts, and his followers slipped more toward magical thinking in the following century. Socrates attempted a similar balancing of the natural and supernatural, but his intellectual progeny, Plato and Aristotle, edged more toward the mystical side. Plato abandoned the Greek idea that truth could be proven only with the five senses and embraced the conception of a supernatural world of which this one is only a shadow. Aristotle's retrogressive astronomy provided a basis for the Christian Earth-centered universe that lasted until the sixteenth-century Renaissance. (113)

By 500 BC, teachers with a more natural, realistic conception of reality were trying to bring the increasingly popular god-cults back to a human focus on Earthly life. For instance, Orpheus, in a cult that honored the Dionysus, did not support the idea of an anthropomorphic god. His concept was closer to Eastern thought, an immanent power that is also inherent in humans (similar to the teaching of Jesus). (113)

Iraniologists have found the problem of the Magi to be one of the most compelling, as well as one of the most difficult, in the history of the ancient world: "associated with the highest speculation and the most base charlatanism; the mixed resources of religion and magic; a mysterious origin and an authority that endures across the succession of beliefs." Portrayed as sorcerers in popular fable, the Magi were recognized by the more serious Greeks and Romans (Dio Chrysostom, Apuleius) as dedicated servants of the gods. They were everywhere the reputed masters of learning, credited in ancient times with initiating the "cosmological science," the study of not only the heavens but also the elements and kingdoms of earth. (115)

The first obstacle to Jowett and perhaps our believing the truth of this tale is the dating of its occurrence, 9000 years ago. The tale is about war and a western Mediterranean power, substantially the western sea­peoples, opposed by Bronze Age Greeks and Egyptians. An ancient Semitic use of the word 'year' was 'month' when the moon had been man's prehistoric time-keeper and his year meant not a solar cycle but a lunar cycle. Nine thousand lunar years becomes, when divided by 13.1, about 680 solar years. If Solon was living in Egypt about 580 BC, the 9000 years would approximate a date of about 1260 BC for this great conflict. The priest gives to it the same date as the founding of Athens. Theseus was the one who consolidated Athens, tradition maintained, and the date given for that by the Oxford Classical Dictionary is possibly some time in the thirteenth-century BC. Further confirmation of this Egyptian use of the word 'year' is given twice by the Egyptian historian, Manetho (280 BC). 'the year I take, however, to be a lunar one, consisting, that is of 30 days: what we now call a month the Egyptians used formerly to style a year.' And again he writes: 'The total of the last five groups amounts to 11,000 years, these however being lunar periods, or months. The opposing power came out of the Atlantic Ocean, from an 'island' described as being larger than Libya and Asia put together. This is not only an adequate description of the Americas, but a perfect one where we have already discovered that there were substantial Mesopotamian and Greek colonies, which, settled on top of the principal and contemporaneously exploited supplies of tin and copper, would most certainly have traded with half the continent. (135)

Sun-worshippers seem to have become prominent, for the second time, about 2500 BC and the religion maintains itself until 1200 BC. Chronos, the time-people, also worship the sun and dominate from 1930 to 1600 BC. Atlas, the western sea-people, are powerful from 1930 to 1200 BC. Zeus, sky-god of the Greeks and Trojans, would seem to have been powerful from 1600 BC to the coming of Christ. (135)

Humans, deities, animals, plants, and the forces of nature were all manifestations of the same divine "spirit," which the Avestans called mainyu and the Sanskrit-speakers manya. It animated, sustained, and bound them all together. Over time the Aryans developed a more formal pantheon. At a very early stage, they had worshiped a Sky God called Dyaus Pitr, creator of the world. But like other High Gods, Dyaus was so remote that he was eventually replaced by more accessible gods, who were wholly identified with natural and cosmic forces. Like all other phenomena, speech was a god, a deva. Aryan religion was not very visual. As far as we know, the Aryans did not make effigies of their gods. Instead, they found that the act of listening brought them close to the sacred. Quite apart from its meaning, the very sound of a chant was holy; even a 'single syllable could encapsulate the divine. Similarly, a vow, once uttered, was eternally binding, and a lie was absolutely evil because it perverted the holy power inherent in the spoken word. The Aryans would never lose this passion for absolute truthfulness. (158)

When a beast was ceremonially given to the gods, its spirit was not extinguished but returned to Geush Urvan ("Soul of the Bull"), the archetypical domestic animal. The Aryans felt very close to their cattle. It was sinful to eat the flesh of a beast that had not been consecrated in this way, because profane slaughter destroyed it forever, and thus violated the sacred life that made all creatures kin. The Aryans would always see sacrifice as creative. By reflecting on this ritual, they realized that their lives depended upon the death of other creatures. The three archetypal creatures had laid down their lives so that others might live. There could be no progress, materially or spiritually, without self-sacrifice. Sacrifice was therefore at the spiritual heart of Aryan society in India, but it was also central to the economy. The old peaceful rites of the steppes had become far more aggressive and competitive, and reflected the dangerous lives of the cattle rustlers. Aryan sacrifice was now similar to the potlatch celebrated by the Native American tribes of the northwest, who proudly displayed the booty they had won and slaughtered large numbers of beasts for lavish sacrificial banquets. (158)

Violence escalated on the steppes as never before. Even the more traditional tribes, who simply wanted to be left alone, had to learn the new military techniques in order to defend themselves. When they fought, killed, and robbed, the Aryan cowboys felt themselves one with Indra and the aggressive devas who had established the world order by force of arms. But the more traditional, Avestan-speaking Aryans were appalled by Indra's naked aggression, and began to have doubts about the daevas. Were they all violent and immoral? Events on earth always reflected cosmic events in heaven, so, they reasoned, these terrifying raids must have a divine prototype. Perhaps the peaceful ahuras, who stood for justice, truth, and respect for life and property, were themselves under atack by Indra and the more aggressive daevas? This, at any rate, was the view of a visionary priest, who in about 1200 BC claimed that Ahura Mazda had commissioned him to restore order to the steppes. His name was Zoroaster. (158)

...Zoroaster could no longer believe in these natural rhythms. The world was rushing forward toward a cataclysm. He and his followers were living in the "bounded time" of raging cosmic conflict, but soon they would witness the final triumph of good and the annihilation of the forces of darkness. After a terrible battle, Lord Mazda and the Immortals would descend to the world of men and women and offer sacrifice. There would be a great judgment. The wicked would be wiped off the face of the earth, and a blazing river would flow into hell and incinerate the Hostile Spirit. Then the cosmos would be restored to its original perfection. Mountains and valleys would be leveled into a great plain, where gods and humans could live side by side, worshiping Lord Mazda forever. There would be no more death. Human beings would be like deities, free from sickness, old age, and mortality. We are now familiar with this kind of apocalyptic vision, but before Zoroaster there had been nothing like it in the ancient world. (158)

In the Greek world monolatry was taboo and could lead to a terrible punishment. No god prohibited the worship of any other, and it was forbidden to pick and choose your favorites and neglect the cult of any single member of the pantheon. Gods might fight and quarrel, but each represented an authentic aspect of reality, without which the cosmos would be permanently disfigured. By revering the entire array of gods, it was possible to glimpse a unity that drew the contradictions together. Every single Greek god had a dark and dangerous aspect. None was wholly good; none was concerned about morality. Together they expressed the rich diversity and complexity of life, without evading paradox or denying any part of the world. (158)

South America

 Richard Burger and Lucy Salazar-Burger have suggested that much of the architecture of Andean South America between about 1900 BC and 1000 BC expresses a common religious ideology, the Kotosh Religious Tradition (named after the site of Kotosh). We will never know precisely what this religion comprised, but an important element appears to have been ritual fires. In many sites ceremonial hearths were constructed below the floor level of a chamber. Quilter notes that El Paraiso's sunken pit, a rectangle about 4.5 X 4.25 meters, shows evidence of considerable burning. Benches around these pits are common in constructions of this period, and Quilter suggests that in ritual use ten to twelve adults sat around these ritual fires…(52)

According to the Incan creation account, the creator Viracocha sent out two of his children--Manco Capak and Mama Oello-"to gather the natives into communities, and teach them the arts of civilized life." These two children, brother and sister, became husband and wife so that they could maintain the purity of the creator's bloodline. The supreme Inca had to carry forward this tradition by marrying his blood sister. Though he kept concubines, only the offspring of his sister could produce the next supreme Inca. The title was passed down from the father to the eldest son of the Inca queen. It was all a carefully controlled genetic operation, for the queen was selected from the best of the supreme Inca's sisters. (68)

The story of how the Incan world came into being aligns with the biblical account of Genesis: The world was created by Viracocha near Lake Titicaca. After the great deluge or the receding of chaotic floodwaters, Viracocha descended to earth and created plants, animals and men on the empty land; he built the city of Tiahuanaco and appointed four world rulers. (68)

Can we better define the identity of Viracocha? The chronicles, or oral records, of the Incas describe the citizens of Tiahuanaco as the Viracochas, who "were fair-skinned and wore long white robes." Viracocha is also described in the singular as "a man with fair skin, a white beard, attired in a long robe and sandals, carrying a staff, with a cougar lying at his feet." (68)

The Incan origin account is revealing: A long time ago, when the world was filled with savages, misery, and poverty, a brother and sister--a married couple--Manco Capak and Mama Oello [Viracocha's children] left Lake Titicaca. Inti, the sun god, had sent them to refine the surrounding peoples, and gave them a golden stick for testing the land for cultivation and then settling in a suitable place. (68)

Having found such a place, they had to found the state, teach the people to live proper lives, and advocate the worship of the sun god. The journey took a long time. Eventually, in the Cuzco Valley the golden stick disappeared into the ground, and they could start their mission. Manco Capak taught his people the cultivation and irrigation of land and handicraft, while Mama Oello taught women spinning, weaving, and sewing. (68)

The Incas did not claim to have invented their civilization but instead attributed it to a god and his children, who long ago lived among them and taught them many skills. All of these accounts suggest that these visitors were physical beings with superior knowledge and power--like the "sons of God" and the Nephilim in Genesis. There are an astonishing number of coincidences to be merely the result of happenstance. (68)

…an Inca shaman/teacher in Peru once told me the megalithic ruins in the Andes attributed to the Incas were traditionally known to be constructed by ancients who preceded them. Further, he said those ancients were reportedly taught the construction techniques by the Apus (light beings). Similarly, in the Amazon, the god Abe Mango reportedly taught the Tukano tribe building technologies, pottery making, weaving, and cookery. (113)

In ancient times, according to the Incas, mankind was living in a state of utter, bestial barbarity: Our father, the sun...took pity and was sorry for them, and sent from heaven to earth a son and a daughter of his to indoctrinate them in the knowledge of our father, the Sun, that they might worship him and adopt him as their god, and to give them precepts and laws by which they would live as reasonable and civilized men, and dwell in houses and settled towns...with this order and mandate our father, the Sun, set these two children of his in Lake Titicaca..." The origin of the Incas is Titicaca, and Titicaca is the site of the Tiahuanaco civilization. The Incas were not part of the initial settling phase, the phase that moved down to the coast and later sprung up as Nazca and Mochica. The Incas were probably the last settlers to come down from the highlands, when Tiahuanaco was already in ruins and the imperious priest-king state was on the edge of annihilation by surrounding tribes over whom they had tyrannized for a millennia. (120)

The Incas were so basically simple, even simplistic. They represented a purification and distillation of the essentials of "Viracochaism." The Indus Valley-Viracocha culture had been a splicing together of totemism and sun worship, and the Incas had taken the sun-worship component and stressed and exaggerated it to create almost a caricature of heliocentrism. They were children of the sun; Cuzco was the center of the sun empire; in every place that they conquered, they immediately set up a sun temple. They were the perfect theocratic-socialist empire. All the mad totem world of Chavin and Tiahuanaco, the Indus-Valley seal figures brought to life, the cats and snakes and bird-people and crocodile-people, all had been purified out of the Inca world. They weren't even cannibals. They didn’t even practice human sacrifice: The sacrifices offered by the Incas to the Sun consisted of many different things, such as domestic animals, great and small...they also offered as a sacrifice much of the brew they drank...they did not have death sacrifices with human flesh or blood, but rather abominated and prohibited them as they did cannibalism. (120)

There were at least two Viracochas, and there were at least two Quetzalcoatls. There was the first legendary deified Viracocha who had walked on the water out into the Pacific (on a raft!), and there was the Inca Viracocha who had adopted the name Viracocha as a ploy to get to see his father who had exiled him with some shepherds because he was too hot-tempered, nasty, and "cruel"--not balanced and "controlled" enough to be an Inca ruler. The Inca Viracocha claimed that Viracocha himself--the first Viracocha--had come to him in a dream, and he came back to Cuzco with a "dream-message" and so ended his exile. (120)

The Incas, like Aeetes, considered themselves the sons of the sun. The center of their empire was the Temple of the Sun in their capital, Cuzco. Aeetes was the first Inca; Viracocha was the last true Colchian before the Colchians had merged with and become the Incas. I thought "intihuatana." An intihuatana was a carved post that I'd seen in every Inca ruin I'd visited. It was always carved out of the rock itself. It meant "hitching place of the sun"…(120)

The famous Peruvian historian, Garcilasso de la Vega, son of a Spanish conquistador and an Inca princess, asked his Inca uncle to tell him the story of his people's origins. How had Lake Titicaca become the source of their civilization? The uncle explained: 'In ancient times all this region which you see was covered with forests and thickets, and the people lived like brute beasts without religion nor government, nor towns, nor horses, without cultivating the land nor covering their bodies...[the sun-god sent a son and daughter to]...give them precepts and laws by which to live as reasonable and civilized men, and to teach them to dwell in houses and towns, to cultivate maize and other crops, to breed flocks, and to use the fruits of the earth as rational beings.' The 'gods' who brought agriculture to the vicinity of Lake Titicaca were said to have come 'out of the regions of the south' immediately 'after the deluge'. In other words, agriculture was introduced to Lake Titicaca by people who already possessed the skills and who had been forced to leave their homeland when a flood destroyed their southern land. (123)

Viracocha was the 'god' who brought agriculture and civilization to the Andes. He was tall, of pale complexion, bearded and dressed in a long white robe. The myths tell us that this stranger came from the south and settled among the native people of Lake Titicaca some time after the flood. He brought instruction in the arts of agriculture, animal husbandry, medicine, metallurgy and even writing, which the Inca claim was later forgotten. Two groups of men accompanied him on his mission. One group were huaminca, 'faithful soldiers', and another hayuaypanti, meaning 'shining ones', who spread the word of Viracocha throughout the world. (123)

While plato was writing, cities in Peru and Bolivia of mixed Old world and New World culture were thriving and pulsating with life. Plato's description of a city in Atlantis with its enormous wealth, its docks, its temples and its huge irrigation systems is as accurate, to the best of our knowledge, as his description of Attica. (135)

As long as the modern study of human prehistory has existed, it has been founded on the bedrock assumption that the intricate, repeating pattern of the world's early civilizations--with their temple-mountains, their navel- stones, their underworlds, their strange "pillars" and "millers"--arose out of human nature, and not from the disseminated results of individual human insight. In this view, the early history of the world's peoples represents nothing less than the unconscious manifestation of the structures of the human mind. My own research was leading me toward a different conclusion. Civilizations based upon the authority of myth were engaged in an active quest to shed the limitations of ordinary human consciousness by courting the precincts of a greater Consciousness, written in the sky. In this enterprise, the one indubitably disposable commodity was outworn manifestations of human nature--the "heartlessness," for example, of the jaguar people. This endeavor was anything but "natural" and "unconscious." Myth, it seemed, sought to establish a dialogue with the celestial pattern in order to ask the Big Questions about the nature and extent of human responsibility. Myth was conscious. The first appearance of the apparatus of this quest, the great holographic thought-form wedding heaven to earth, was more than a historical event; for millennia it remained the historical event, the moment when Time itself began. Its appearance in the Andes, apparently sometime in the first millennium BC, raised, as far as I could tell, basic questions about the range, daring, and motivation of long-distance travelers in the distant past. To walk the earth apprised of this hologram was to carry in one's consciousness the seeds of civilization. All that was required was to find fertile ground. (167)

Mesoamerica

 The core ideology of the Olmec is hard to discern and decipher, however. Judging from their art style, the Olmec seem to have believed that at some distant time in the past a woman mated with a jaguar and gave issue to a line of half-human/half-feline monsters, or "were-jaguars." These were portrayed in pottery, stone, and other media in a highly stylized way, usually as fat infants of no discernible sexuality. (51)

When asked about their origins, the priest would have said that after Kukulkan created Heaven and Earth, he realized that he had no one to praise him and glorify the creation, so he made the animals. After listening to them, he realized that their praise was not adequate, so he tried to make people. In his first attempt he used clay, but it dissolved in the rain and the creatures could not multiply. Next he tried wood, but that was not quite equal to the task either. He finally fashioned the first Maya out of milled corn. A page from the Popul Vuh tells the story. (The Popul Vuh was the sacred book of the Quiche Maya containing their mythology, cosmogony, traditions, and history. Handed down orally, it was first committed (to writing in the middle of the sixteenth century.) (68)

The wooden people scatter into the forest
Their faces are crushed
They are turned into monkeys
And that is why monkeys look like humans
They are what is left of what came before
An experiment in human design. (68)

Kukulkan, the Mayan name for the feathered serpent called Quetzalcoatl by the Aztecs, is similar to the dragon in China--a symbol of the perfect man, the emperor, and the creator of all beings. But exactly who is this creator? The Maya and Aztecs agree on the following account: "A white man with strong formation of body, broad forehead, large eyes, and a flowing beard. He was dressed in a long white robe reaching to his feet. He condemned sacrifice, except of fruits and flowers, and was known as the god of peace. (68)

According to the myths, this mysterious man, accompanied by 19 assistants, came from across the sea in a boat that moved by itself. They all lived among the ancient Maya for 10 years, during which time he taught the people how to use fire, cook, and build houses and instructed couples to live together as husband and wife. In a clear echo of the accounts in Sumer, this "god" is a man from an advanced society who brings the gifts of civilization to these people of the New World. (68)

But the terrible irony that allowed them to conquer the Aztecs was Montezuma's belief that Cortes might be the returning god Quetzalcoatl. According to Aztec lore, after the feathered serpent planted the seeds of civilization, he and his entourage climbed in their "boat" and left, promising to return in the year One Reed--exactly the year Cortes arrived. For the Aztecs, this occurrence would have been akin to a flying saucer with the message "Second Coming" emblazoned across the hull suddenly appearing out of the clouds, landing in Washington, D.C., and opening to reveal its first occupant, who looks just like Jesus. (68)

Montezuma was stricken with anxiety and confusion. His first strategy was to try to bribe Cortes to stop, turn around, and depart the land. He sent the captain lavish gifts as the army approached the city, but that only whet the Spaniard's avaricious appetite for the empire's riches. The Aztec ruler never truly understood the reality of the situation, and the rest is history. (68)

The reference to Quetzalcoatl finally making people out of corn parallels the gods' creation of Adam and the placement of the first man in the garden to cultivate it. Both stories distinguish the beginning of agriculture and the separation of the new human from his human-prototype ancestors. The Old Testament refers geographically to the Fertile Crescent and Palestine, while the Popul Vuh is concerned with Mexico, but the events each text describes occurred at about the same time. (68)

In Old Mexico, Zanna, who is believed to have led the ancestors of the Aztecs to the Yucatan, was considered the "author of civilization" and the source of their alphabet. The Mayans' ancestors reportedly received advanced ideas from Kukulcan who arrived from the West and helped found a new culture. Quetzalcoatl, credited with having taught the Toltecs many important areas of knowledge, was deemed to have made the greatest contribution to the founding of their culture, including setting ceremonial calendars and religious practices. Kukulcan and Quetzacoatl, different cultures' names for what is obviously the same being, remind one of YHVHs activities with Moses and the Hebrews. (113)

The basic god of the Olmecs was a man-lion/man-jaguar. In Panama there have been found jaguar metates--little table-like figures with lotuses on their legs, on which corn is ground. The lotus is a symbol of the universe and is associated with Vishnu. At Diquis, Costa Rica, beautifully executed human/cat heads have been found with snakes coming out of their mouths. Human/cat heads were also used as a part of the headdress. (120)

I turned next to an Olmec petroglyph discovered in central Mexico at Chalcatzingo, Morelos. The obvious association here is with rain and wind. A figure seated inside a "cave" of some sort, wind is streaming out of the "cave" in convoluted ribbons, the clouds above are pouring down rain, plants are sprouting out of bare rock. Was this another representation of Indra, the ruler of storms, the thrower of the thunder bolt, the source of all fertility? Only what about the "cave" in which the figure is contained? Could it be the lotus stem in which, in one legend, Indra has to hide after he has killed the demon-magician Vrtra (Drought)? Could the "box" in Indra's hands be a thunderbolt? And the seat upon which he is sitting...could it be another thunderbolt? Certainly the drops of rain on the god's flanks and in his headdress fit the etymology of Indra's name, Indu, a drop. One of Indra's other names is "The Owl" (Uluka). Could the birds pictured on his headdress be owls? And what about the four circles with dots in their centers? Could they be the Indian yantra element, Bindu, the point? As a whole, the entire petroglyph is a dramatization of creation/fertilization. (120)

I was already convinced that the Olmec cultists were essentialy "military," and Skanda/Kumara, it turned out, was the lord of war the secret chief of the gods' army. He is married to the army, chaste "purified," detached. (120)

In Mesoamerica, the giver of civilization was the "Winged Serpent" Quetzalcoatl. We have identified him as Enki's son Thoth of the Egyptian pantheon (Ningishzidda to the Sumerians) and as the one who, in 3113 BC, brought over his African followers to establish civilization in Mesoamerica. Though the time of his departure was not specified, it had to coincide with the demise of his African proteges, the Olmecs, and the simultaneous rise of the native Mayas--circa 600/500 BC. The dominant legend in Mesoamerica was his promise, when he departed, to return--on the anniversary of his Secret Number 52. (137)

Among the forest animals that held economic or symbolic importance to the Olmecs were tapirs, white-lipped peccaries, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, jaguars, ocelots, and other small cats. (159)

In the Aztec myth of the Five Suns, the giants who populated the first sun, or creation, were devoured by jaguars, and the people of the second sun became monkeys when they were destroyed by great winds. Likewise, the Popol Vuh of the Quiche Maya tells of a second creation in which men formed from wood and women from rushes became monkeys when they were destroyed by a great flood and rain of pitch. (159)


Early Horizon ceramic motifs: (a-b) Olman, San Lorenzo phase; (c-d) Valley of Oaxaca, San Jose phase; (e-g) Basin of Mexico, Ayotla phase; (h) Basin of Mexico, Manantial phase; (i-l) Soconusco, Jocotal phase

...the concepts of a multi-layered cosmos, a "world- tree" as the axis mundi connecting the cosmic planes, and the ability of certain individuals to communicate across the cosmic layers, thereby metaphorically becoming the world-tree, form constituents of a widely shared cosmology frequently associated with the ritual practices of shamans in the Americas. In order to travel to the supernatural realm, the shaman enters a trance or ecstatic state through techniques ranging from meditation, drumming, and dance to sensory deprivation, pain, or the taking of hallucinogens. Travel in this trance state is often described as flying between different planes of reality. Small carvings of a human figure seated or lying on the back of a feline or crocodilian, including one from Arroyo Pesquero, have been argued to represent this flight. Whatever it is called, and regardless of the circumstances of its origin, the hallmarks of the Early Horizon symbolic complex include the Saint Andrew's cross, the hand-paw-wing motif, and stylized zoomorphic depictions of sky (the "avian-serpent," "fire-serpent," or lightning) and earth (the "earth-monster" or "Olmec dragon"), often shown frontally or in profile, the ilhuitl or double scroll, and a variety of other more-or-less abstract motifs. (159)

In the Zapotec case..."All deities were but aspects, attributes, or refractions of a supreme force or principle, Coqui Xee". Related to this was the concept of pee, the animating force possessed by all living things, including lightning and the quaking earth. As the angry, animated aspects of sky and earth, Cociyo (Lightning) and Xoo (Earthquake) were complementary embodiments of Coqui Xee, and whose underlying unity is expressed in the Zapotec phrase for thunder, Xoo Cociyo ("Lightning's Earthquake"). Which component of the dual nature of these forces, their unity or their opposition, was emphasized would likely have depended on the particular contexts in which they were expressed. The inhabitants of the Basin of Mexico often (though not always) emphasized their unity, while their Oaxacan contemporaries more often emphasized their distinctive, opposed, aspects. (159)

North America

 At the end of the last ice age, the Chippewa's Manaboshu (a Noah-like personage) received instructions from a god on how to make a good bow and arrow and how to work with copper. These technologies defined their early culture. The Algonquins consider a being named Gluskap, who did feats too amazing for a man to have done, to be their cultural founder. (113)

Other

 The Australian Aborigones offer a wonderful subject for meditations on the nature of humanity. Consider: these people lived in what may have been nearly complete isolation for more than 40,000 years in an ecologically diverse continent, and when first encountered by Europeans in the 17th century, their technology hardly approached the sophistication of the Neanderthals: just simple stone tools and rudimentary wooden implements; and yet they evolved a kinship system and cosmology that most graduate students in anthropology have struggled to comprehend in all its complexity--and probably never do.(24)