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E o 1 T E o B v Alan Dundes
University of California Press
Berkeley Los Angeles London
teilungen der Osterreicl1ischen Gesellschaft fur Anthropologie, Eth-
nologie, und Prahistorie 78/79 :60- 115.
Walker, Gemld Bromhead
1976 "Sources of the Great Flood and Its Diffusion." In Diffusion: Five Stud-
ies in Early History. London: Research Publishing Co. Pp. 43-63.
Williams, Marv
1974 and After the Flood." Journal of i lnalytical Psychology 19:
54- 70.
An Analysis oi the Deluge
Myth in Mesoamerica
Most sllldies of the .flood myth cnJ]fine themselves to a spec!fic cultural
or geographical area. One area where the .flood narrative has been amply
clm:umented is Mesoamc:rica. Mexican anthropologist Fernando J-lorcasitas
undertook a detailed consideration ofthe range of texts reported there. This
ex.cellenl review has had little impact upon .flood myth scholarship, hnwf:ver,
for it was submilled as an MA. thesis in Me,"ico City in December 1953 and
was never published. 1-Jorcasitas skil(fully surveys sixty-three versions of the
flood myth, taking care to note possible relationships with biblical sources
indigenous American Indian narrative elements.
For other considerations of the .flood myth in the New World, see H. de
Charcncey, "Le Deluge d'apres les traditions indiennes de /'Amerique du Nord, "
Revue amcricaine. 2nd series, 2 (18651: 88- 98, 310- 320; Werner Miiller, Die
illtesten amel'ikanischen Wonn, 1930); Johannes Gille, Der
Manabozho-Fiutzyklus der Nor(!-, Nordost-, und Zentralalgonkin: Ein Beitrag
zur indianischen Mytholot,'ic (Gottingen, 1939!; anci Maria/ice Moura Pessoa,
"The Deluge Myth in the Americas, Ilevista do Paulista, N.S. 4 (19501:
The texts are classilled or separated according to the system tradi-
tionally used by ethnologists. Should we encounter stories containing
the same elements combined in the same manner, it will be justifiable
to consider them the same type and therefore to include them in the
same classification. As Franz Boas observes, the more complex the
plot or combination of motifs, the more certain we can be that two
tales containjng them are essentially one story and can be classified as
Hepri.nted from "An Analysis of the Deluge Myth in Mesoamerica," unpublished M.A. the-
sis, Cenli'O de Estutlios Universilarios of Mexico City College, Dccemhm1953, pp. 7-67.
such.' In the case of two very simple plots it is more difficult to decide
whether the stories are of one ol'igin or whether they developed
Let us compare two complex versions: one is an Aztec flood myth
-eco'ded in 1558
and the other a modern Totonac story? The outlines
Aztec (1.558)
1. A man and a woman are
warned by Tezcatlipoca that a
flood is coming.
2. The man and woman ar-e saved
in a hollow tree.
3. After the tlood they are hungry
and begin to cook fish.
4. The gods smell the smoke and
send Tezcatlipoca down to pun-
ish the sLuvivors.
5. Tezcatlipoca turns the people
into dogs by reversing their faces
and hind parts.
Totonac (1953)
1. A man is warned by God that a
flood is coming.
2. The man is saved in a hollow
3. After the flood he is hw1gry
and begins to cook fish.
4. God smells the smoke and
sends Saint Michael down to pun-
ish the survivor.
5. Saint Michael turns the man
into a monkey by reversing his
face and hind parts.
After a cru-eful compru'ison of the elements of the two original te:x1:s
we must conclude that both myths have a common origin or that one
is derived from the other. As cru1 be seen, the discrepancies are few
and the causes of some of them can be explained easily. (For instance,
on the Aztec plateau tl1e survivors are changed into dogs, while in the
jungle land of the Totonacs the survivor becomes a monkey. The rea-
sons for the variation are obvious.) The almost identical motifs and
their fairly complicated combination justify our considering them as
basically the same story.
Let us now consider another case. thal of two stories with ve1y
simple motifs. One is a sixteentll-century Otomi version/ and the
other is a modern account originating in Yucatan.s
'Franz Boas, "Dissemination of Tales Alnong lhe Natives of North Amcdca," Race, Lan-
guage and Culture lNew Yoti<: Macmillan, 1949), p. 438.
'"Ley1mda de los Soles," C6dice Chimalpopoc:a (Mexico City: Nacional Au-
t6noma, 19451, p. 120.
'Fernando Horcasitas, unpublished text dictated by a Totonac informant in Papantla,
Fray Ger6nomio de Mendieta, Historia eclesiiistica indiana (Mexico City: Chavez Hay-
hoe, 1945). vol. Ill, pp. 199-200.
' Alfred M. Tozzer, A Comparative Study of the Mayas and the f.-acandones (New York:
Archaeolog:icallnstitute of Amel'ica, 1907), pp. 153- 154.
An Analysis of the Deluge Myth in Mesoamerica 1.85
1. A gmat flood destroys the
2. Seven people ru-e saved in an
1. A great flood destroys tlle world
after tl1e third cmation.
2. Three people are saved in an
It is obvious that we have gained nothing by this comparison except
to establish the not very helpful fact tl1at flood mytl1s have existed at
certai11 times runong both the Otomi and the Maya. The stories may be
of independent origin or, on the other hand, they may have a common
source. The motifs and the way in which they are combined are faT too
simple to enable us to reach any definite conclusions. (Incidentally,
this does not mean that the original myths themselves were simple;
the appruent simplicity is due to the rather sketchy way in which they
were recorded.!
Even more difficult than the previous cases is the problem of two
versions that resemble one another to a certain degree only-not simi-
lar enough to establish theiJ common origin ru1d yet not different
enough to exclude that possibility. This case may be exemplified by a
compruison of tl1e following myths: one recorded in Quito during the
sixteenth century and the othet' recently among the 11apanecs of
southern Mexico.'
1. Two brothers rue saved after
the flood.
2. The two brothers 1-ealize that
someone is preparing food fo1'
them while they are at work.
3. The elder bmther spies to see
who the cook is.
4. He sees two macaws enter the
house, take off their mantles, and
begin to work.
5. The man comes out of his hid-
ing place.
6. The birds fly away.
1. A man is saved after the flood.
2. The man realizes that some-
one is prepating food for him
while he is at work.
3. The man spies to see who tl1e
cook is.
4. He sees a bitch, who takes off
her skin and begins to work.
5. The man comes out of his hid-
ing place.
"CIist6bal de Molina, Riros y fabulas de los fncas (Buenos Aires: Editol'ia Futuro, 1947),
H. V. Lemley, "Tiwee Tlapaneco Stories," Tlalocan (Mexico CHyJ Ill (1949): 76- 81.
7. Three days later the younger 7.
brother hides himself in the house
to spy on the birds.
8. He is able to catch one of the 8.
10. The man and the bird-woman
repopuJate the carlh.
9. The man hwns the bitch's
skin, whereupon she becomes a
10. The man and the dog-woman
repopulate the earth.
As can be seen by this comparison the Mesoamerican and the
South Amel'ican stories are strikingly similar. Six of the ten elements
listed are practically identical. Yet I believe that most folklorists would
be rel uctant to declare that they are the sm11e story, even though many
of theil' characteristics point to a common origin.
In such cases (and many are far moi'C complicated than the com-
parison between the Quito and Tlapanec llood myths) I believe that
anthropologist s must restrict themselves to indicating the similarities
and differences, and hope that in the future, when more texts are avail-
able, tl1ey may be able to reach truly definitive conclusions.
Causes of the Flood
Though Mexican flood myths follow a cetain pattem in describing
man's destruction o his dramatic escape from the wates, none of
them emphasize the causes of tJ1e cataclysm. Those which mention
any causes at all vmy greatly. Ln fact , only eighteen percent of the
myths I have collected offer any explanation whatsoever for the deluge
itself. Eighty-two percent of the infonnants appai'Cntly did not con-
sider it an impotant par't of the story. Iris also probable that many of
the myths which do contain explanations are stmngly influenced by
European ideas. Indeed, in a few of them such a European back-
ground is quite obvious. In a Tarascan sto1y." for instance, it is men-
tioned that humanity was destroyed because Cain killed Abel.
Let us r-eview the few sources that deal with the motives for the
' Pedro Catntsco. row unpublished texts in Spanish from Jar.icuaro, Michoacln, 1945.
An Analysi.o; of the Ddugc Myth in Mesoamerica 187
1. Five sources
state that tl1e flood occur-ed because of sin. None
of them sheds more light on the point, howcvc1. It is quite probable
tl1at these stories we1'C strongly influenced by the biblical account.
2. A Tzeltal version states that mankind was punished because of
cannibalism. A man told his wife to cook the "tender one" for lunch. lie
was referring to beans, but she mistmder'Stood him and killed and
cooked their child. They enjoyed eating it and soon the entire wodd
was cooking and eating children. God became ang1y and sent down
tl1e watel's to punish mankind.
The p1-eceding story is a common one in Mesoamerica and is gen-
erally told as a joke-not necessarily as part of the Hood myth. One
other version of I he deluge" also contains this motif, though the inci-
dent takes place afte1 the catastrophe, not before. Perhaps tllis element
crept into tl1e Tzeltal story in the same manne1' that so many com-
pletely foreign traits have entered modem Mexican fairy tales. It can
be suspected also that the teachings of tll e early missionaries against
cannibalism gave rise to this motif.
3. God annihjlated mankind because Cain killed Abel.
This infor-
mation is obviously of biblical origin.
4. The flood came because man forgot God, who had created him.
This motif is undoubtedly an ancient one. A highly reliable source, the
Popol Vuh, and a modern text mention it.
5. The flood came "because the world was very old." u: This explann-
tion of the deluge seems to fit perfectly into the Mesoamerican con-
cept ofwodd history. I twas believed that the story of mankind was not
a continuous course fmm U1e beginning to the present time, but that
humanity had lived in cycles, each world succeeding a p1-evious one.
After examining this scant evidence of interest in the causes for the
ArtW'o Monz6n, roogonJa lriquc," Tlalocan (Mexico Cilyt U 119451: 8; Alfonso Caso,
"CuJtura mi..xteca," Mcxiro (Mexico City: Emma Hurtado, 1946). p. 522; "His-
toyre du Machique," Journal de La Societe des Americanislt!S II !Paris, 19051, chap. 6; J. d!'
Ia Fuente, \'ala/ag: una villa ztJpotcca serrana (Mexico Cily: Museo Nacional de 1\ntropo-
Jogia. 1949), p.3l7; Hobctt M. Zingg. The Huichols: Primitive Artists INew York: G. E.
Stechert. 1938), p. 53!J.
'"Marianna Slocum, unpublished texts from Ococingo, Chiapas, 1947.
"Manuel Ot'Opcza Castro, "EI diluvio totonaco," T/.1/ iMexico Cityl U 275.
" Can-as co, op. rit.
"'Popol Vuh: /;1s nntigua.s historias del Quiche, lrans. 1\d.-ian tMcxico Cil,v:
Fondo de Cullura Econ6mica, W47J, p. 99.
''' ArabcUe Andcr'Son, unpublished text in Chol from the Chol tribe of Chiapas, 1:<1.
"George M. Fosler, "SIIlrTa l'opoluca Folklore and 13r11itJfs.''IJniversity ofCalifomia Pub-
lic-.ations in Amel'icun Archaeology and Elhnologv 42. 119--151: Z35.
deluge, it is my conclusion that the average pre-European my1h teller
was not especially conccrned with them. Less tha'n four percent of
the sixteenth-century flood chronicler::; even mention the causes: the
flood came, m.e an earthquake, a thunderstorm, or sudden death. and
there was little that mankind could do about it.
Position of the Flood in Mesoamerican Cosmogony
A striking characteristic of Mesoamerican cosmogony is the story of
the creation and destruction of successive worlds. The early colonial
chroniclers recount how the gods created the universe and mankind
and how, dissatisfied with the results of their labor. they destroyed and
re-cr-eated them again and again. The cataclysms vary in number. In
Moxico we generally find a list of four destructions and one final cre-
ation, the beginning of our present world.
On oxnmining the early accounts it immediately becomes obviotiS
that there are discrepancies: most authors describe catadysms caused
by water, Ugor'S, fire, and wind, yet many of them disagr-ee on the con-
setutivu order in which they occurred. It is an extremely complex sub-
jtct which we need not examine here. Essentially, the only question
that we must answer in this study is: after which of the creations did
tht! deluge occur?
Two schools of thought are found among the Spanish and Indian
writers of the colonial period: some describe the flood m, the first cata-
clysm and others as the last. Let us the accounts which do-
s<ribe the deluge as the first destruction. Without a doubt they arc
writings of great significance and authenticity and are by far the most
n umerous: the Codex Valicanus A, the "Anales of Cuauhtill<i n," the
"Histoyre du G6mara, Motolinia, and htlihochitl. A mom
recent author', Boturini, in the eighteenth century, studied the subject
with a wealth of material no longer available to us and considered the
deluge to be fir'St in chronological order.'
Veytia, who analyzed the
order fr-om a completely critical point of view. agreed \vith Boturini
Many scholars are tempted to agree with these eight authoritative
writings. Yet ther-e are tremendous difficulties to overcome before
one can accept the order they pr'Opose. These difficulties may he seen
'"Lorcn;to Boturini Bcnnduci. Idea de una nueva histurm getwral de /11 Amorim Sep-
Wntriuna/ IMadrid: Juan cle Z(u'liga, 17461, p. 47.
" Mal'iano Vo_ytia Historla antigua de ;\te;dco City: !: tUtorial 1-eycncla
pp 23-27.
"Vuytia agrees with Botulin! in placiug the flood Hn;l , though hu on tlw
or'tlor of the other creations and desti'Uctions.
An Analysis of Llw fl.lytlr "' McsonmerrCll
\\ rnd
Ram of l'lrt'
in tl1e "Historia do los mexicanos por sus pinturas" and in the ''Le-
yenda de los Soles.":w The anonymous authors of both these docu-
state that the dduge was the last, not the first, of the four
The "Historia de los mexicanos por su& pinturas" is a short, badly
copied account ol'iginating around 1540. Judging by its title and con-
ten ts, some scholru-s have consider'Cd it a glosa or interpretation of in-
digenous pictographic material and have attributed it to either Olmos
or SahagUn.:
TI1e second source. the Lc.venda de los Soles," is, in my opinion,
probably t11e only sLxteenU1-ctntury deluge myth !excepting the Popol
Vuhl which can be consider-ed, to a certain extent, a truly indigenous
text. 111e ccrtaintv that it is an inteJllN!tat ion of native picture writing,
its style, thP rather Hwly conversation that takes place between the
gods and mankind, its early date I 15581-aU mark it as the most au-
thentic and complete Oood myth of the siAteenth century.
Another soW'Ce of conflict is the Aztec Calendar Stone at the Na-
tional Museum of Mexico City. This monument, authentic beyond any
doubt, gives the order of cataclysms as shown in the accom-
do los moxicanns por I!Uii piniUt'as; f'mnar. /..urita, rclaciones antiguas
tMexico City: Chuve:t. llayhoo, n.d.J.
"""Lcyenda dt: lru. Sulns," C6clice c.;trinwlpopora (MI1xico Ci ty: Univcrsidad Nacional Au-
t6noma, 19-tal.
"f\ngcl Mada Garihay K., clolalittt--ntur.1 Ndhuatl !Mexico City: Pom1a, 1953),
panying fi gw'O. The Aztec Calendar, therefo1-e, agn!es with the "II istoda
do los mexicanos por sus pintw-as" and witJ1 the "Levcndu de los
Soles" in placing the Oood Last. These three sources, l'Cprcsent a
for midable opposition to U1e previous eight sources.
The following solutions to this difficult question of co-ect order
can be conside-ed :
1. The "llistoria de los mexicanos por sus pinturas," the "Lcycnda
de los Soles," and the Azt ec Calendar are correct; that is, the ol'iginal
pre-His panic o'de placed the deluge as the fi rst of the wol'l d cata-
clysms . Such a simple answer is not acceptable. If it were COJ'J'Cl!t, Moto-
linfa, Lxtl iLx6chitl, and the other indep endent and semi-independent
writers and their informants would not have made such obvious
blunde rs.
2. The eigh t SOUJ'Ces mentioned first are corJ'CCt and the "ll istol'ia
de los mexicanos por sus pinturas," the "Leyenda de los Soles," and the
Aztec Culondar are wrong. This is even less accep table than the first.
The cba.-actcistics of the two documents and the cal ender stone, as
indica tod, pr'Ccl udc any possibili ty of their falsity.
3. None of the sources is to be considered "cor>ect " since the native
informants themselves, shortly aft er the Conquest, did not agree on
the o'C.Ier of tho successive worlds and destructions.
We am (()l'ced to conclude that the third answc is the acceptable
one. It is to be sus pected iliat the order of the cataclysms was never
very clca in the mjnds of the native informants themselves. 111 is quit e
possible that even befom the Conquest there already existed disc
ancics.l n 1e indigenow. infonnants of the may have
come from different parts of the Aztec Emp ire; the missionaries. pl'obu-
bly J'CCOJ'clcd them in different places. The story was probably ne\-cr
consist ent in pr'C-European days, much less by the time the
ccntury missionar ies wrote their chronicles.
Introduc tion
J\ftcl' studying the sLxty-thJ>ee versions gather-ed for this essay, it seems
advisable to group them into five sep[uate divi sions, whi ch will bo
call ed A, B, C, n, unci E. The pmcess to be foll owed lol' each of the di vi
sions o typos will consist of:
1. A lwinf r'Csumc of the plot of t he myth
2. Resu mes of all the versions that seem to fall within the division
3. A discussion of the problems connected wi th each division or type
t\n Analysis oftlw Uclugv Myth in 1\ l t:scmnwl'ic:u 191
Division A
The world was destro.ved by \\ ntcr.1\ number oflwman beings were able
to escape. Fourteen of the sixty thl'ce vt'rsions fall into this category.
The follO\ving ru'e outlines of the fout<'<' n myU1s.
1. Nahua I ! Codex Vat icanus AI I he human 1-ace had been pmp a-
gated by the two pl'imogenitors, but the world was destroyed by a
great flood which occun-cd at the end of the first age. One man and
one woman escaped in an tree and later repopu-
lated the earth."'
2. Nahua ll I Code,\ \ 'aticanus t\1. When the great deluge came, a
number of persons managed to hide in a cave. Later they emerged
from their refuge and repopulated the earth. '
3. Nahua J/1 llxtlilx6chitl- Primcm rc:lacion). The first world ended
in a great flood which destmycd mankind through minstorms and
LighLning. Even the highest mountai ns weJ'tl submmged fifteen cubits
beneath the waters. A few human boings were able to escape in an c.u-k.
They repopulated the worl d."
4. Nahua lV (Clavijero). The deluge destroyed the mass of mankind ;
however, a man named Cc>xcox (OJ' Teocipac: Lli l and a woman called
Xochiquetzal we1'C saved in a canoe. When the waters subsided they
found t hemselves on a mounta in culled Colhuacan . They had many
children, all of them born d umb. Later a dove taught them to speak.""
5. Afaya 1 (Landa!. n 1c wol'ld was desti'Oyed by a flood. The four
Bacab gods were able to escap<'. ' I hey now hold up the four corners of
U1e sky to p revent its falli ng upon the earth.
6. II I Chi/am Balam d(' Clw maydl. Me man was created the
sky fell upon the earth ru1d the waH'1-s descended in its wake. The four
Bacabs then took the i p laces I at the fow cornc1'S of U1e earth!.""
7. i\-1a_va Ill tTozzerl. After two lloods had destroyed humanity, a
third and final one occurmd. Only three people we1-e able t o escape in
a canoe.:a
111\tanoscritto Messic::mo V:rtiC"<IIW :J73H !INto il C6dicc IRomc: Stabilimento
Danesi, 19001, p. 24.
"' lbid.
" Fcmando d e Alva lxlli b.6ch itl, Olwns City: Sccr-ctaria de
1891- 1892), vol. I. p. 17.
"' Francisco J . Clavijcru, 1/istnri:l c/11 Ml':,'o:ir-u !Mexico Cily: Editodal Delfin, 1944),
vol. I, p. 273.
"' Fray Diego de Landa, llclndon dtlus ccmus dr Ywmtfr11 tMcxico City: Hobr-edo. 1938),
p. l 44.
" Chi/am Balam do Clwmn_I'CI CI Jy: llniH'r'Sldad Nadunal Aut6noma, Ul41J.
p. 63.
"'Tozzcr, A Comparati1e Study uf tile Atawts ;md tit< L:Jcandoncs. p. ls.t.
8. Otomi /Mendieta!. The earth and all living things were once de-
stmyed by a flood. Seven persons were able to escape in an ark."9
9. Zapotec 1 (Relaci6n de Ocelolepeque). There was once a great
deluge. A number of persons were able to escape in a boat. They found
on top of a hill when the waters subsided. A great Zapotec
clueftam of Ocelotepeque, Petela (Dogl, was descended from the smvi-
vors of the deluge!"
10. Quiche l (Torquemada). The people of Guatemala adored the
Great Father and the Gr-eat Moth< .. r. A deluge flooded their world. A
number of persons were able to survive and repopulate the wodd!'
11. Quiche lJ (Mendieta). A gr-eat deluge flooded the world. The
Achies (?) of Guatemala had records of it in their codices."
12. (Monzon). Since the ways of the world wer-e very wicked,
Nexqumac sent down a great flood to punish mankind. He called one
man and instructed him to make a large box to preserve many
anm1als and the seeds of certain plants. The man shut himself up in
the box. When the flood was almost over, Nexquiriac warned the man
not to come out of the box but to bmy himself, box and all, until the
face of the earth had been burned. Once this was done, the man
emerged and repopulated the earth."'
13. Mi;aec (Caso). When the earth was well populated, m<mkind
cmrunitted a magical fault which was punished by the great deluge.
Only a few men were saved. The Mixtec people descended from the
14. Tarascan 1 (Herrera). When the gr-eat flood was coming a priest
Tespi ma?e an ark, took aboard his wife and children together
With different arumals and seeds, and in this way was able to survive.'
I the preceding versions under one heading,
therr bas1c muty 1s dtsputable. They agree only in the bare essentials-
that there was a deluge and that a few persons were saved. The
sparsely worded, vague manner in which they recorded prevents
us from arriving at any conclusive judgments.
"'Mendieta, Historia ec/esi;1stica indiana, vol. U!, pp. l99-200.
"" Fr-ancisco del Paso y Troncoso, ed., Papeles de Nueva Espana tMadrid: Ril>adeneVt'a,
1905J, vol. IV, p. t39.
Fray Juan de Torquemada, Monarqufa indiana (Mexico City: Hayhoe, 1943),
vol. 11, p. 53.
"' Mendieta, Historia eclcsi<istica indiana, voJ. lll, pp. 199-200.
"' Monz6n, "Teogonia trique," vol. U, p. 8.
"' Caso, "Cultura mixteca," p. 522.
de Decada terce-a: quoted in Alfredo Chavei'O, " La piedra
del soL segundo estudio, Anales del Musco Nacwnal de Me,xico 1 11877): 366- 367.
An of the Deluge Myth in Mesoamerica 193
As twelve of these fotuteen versions date back several hundr-ed
years, it is now impossible to ampwy them: we cannot go to the living
descendants of the groups originating these myths in order to verify
them or to obtain more information. Even if we recorded extensive in-
digenous texts, we would have no certainty that the original story was
being told.
It is quite possible that a number of these versions, if they had been
r-ecorded in a more ample manner, would mveaJ themselves to be 'I)rpe
C-that is, the story of the survivors who wer-e converted into animals
for having lighted a fire.
When the world was destroyed by water, no one mana,ged to escape. All
mankind was drowned. The following twelve versions fall into this
1. Nahua V ("Anales de Cuauhtitlan"). A great flood ended the iirst
world. All human beings became
2. Nahua VI ("Histoyr-e du Mechique"). Because of sins committed
against the gods, a g1-eat flood arutihilated all men except a few, who
became fish?'
3. Nahua Vll (Motolinia). At the end of the first age, under the sign
nahui at/, a great tlood destroyed mankind.
4. Nahua Vlll ("Historia de los mexicanos par sus pinturas"J. On the
last year of the age in which Chalchiuhtlicue was sun, the sky fell upon
the earth. The water'S drowned all the inhabitants, who thereupon be-
came fish.
5. Nahua IX (Mendieta). A great flood occurred. All men perished.""
6. Nahua X (Munoz Camargo). When the giants inhabited the earth,
the earth was turned upside down and a gmat deluge destroyed
4 1
7. Nahua Xl (G6mara). At the end of the first sun a great deluge de-
stroyed humanity:"
.. "Anales de Cuauhtitlan," C6diC<! Chimalpopoca (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional
Aut6noma, 19451, p. 5.
"Histoyre du Mechique," vol. U, chap. 6.
""Motolin!a, Memoria/es (Mexico City: Garcia Pimentel, 1903/, pp. 346- 347.
"1-tistoria de los mexicanos po1 sus pinturas," p. 214.
Mendieta, His to ria eclesiasrica indiana, vol. I, p. 84.
Diego Munoz Camargo, Historia de (Mexico City: Ateneo Nacional de Cien-
cias y Ates, 19481, p.165.
Francisco Lopez de Gomam, Conquista de Mejico, vol. 22 of Bib/ioreca de autores
espmio/es (Madrid: Ribadeneyra, 1852), p. 431.
I !)4 I"EHNANDO 11011 (; /\SI I'M>
8. Nnlwu XII UicmandczJ. At the end of the fin;t sun all human be-
ings were drowncci.JJ
9. Nalwa XIII lh.tlilx6chit1- Historia chichimecal. At the cncl of
\tonntiuh, the fi r'St sun, a great flood destroyed humanity and all living

10. Nalwa >.IV 1Hen-era1. The end of the world of tht giants was
hmuf{ht about by a great deluge. The eruth was tumed upsich down."
11. Mava IV IRedfieldl. "The dwarfs, inhabitants of the earth, heard
that to be a terrible storm. So they put soml! stones in a
pond nnd on them. But the waters came and destr'Oyed tlw dwarfs.
1 hen Jesucl'isto sent down four angels to see what was happening
upon the earth. They took off their clothes and began to bathe. where-
upon they became doves. Some other angels were sent down but they
began to eat the dead and were turned into buzzards."'
J2. Maya v (Villa Rojas). The first mhabitants of the earth WOI't' tho
industrious Puzob, a dwarf people. They were in theirnhscrva-
tion of custom; the1-efm-e God sent down a flood and thcy all perished.'
My ohsmvations the mcondusiveness inherent in 'IYpo l \
UI'O also applicuhlo to 'lyPe B. The twelve or the latll:r tii'C rudi-
mcntaJy in the extreme.
The concept of a world populated by giants who pel"it>lwd in the
flood is a fai rly common one and is mentioned by several chroniclers
of the colonial period. Some of the later versions may ho influenced by
European ideas. Pr'Ohably owing to biblical references they had read,
many of the Spaniards showed a lively interest in investigating the
lar-ge fossil hones which were often found in l"ew Spain during the
tcenth century and \\11ich were said to have belonged to giants. This
interest may ha\'e been the cause of some later versions of tales about
giants among the native population.
Division C
When tlw world was destroyed by water, a number of human beings
managed to escape, but they lighted a fire without divine permission
" Fntnctsco l lrrnt\ndr?., de la Nueva &p.11ia (MoAico City:
p. IZ!l.
"Alva lxtlllxllchlll. Obras llisr6ricas, vol. u, p. 22.
'"Chavut'O quol inl-( ll ot't'Ct"a, '" La piedm del sol: segundo esiUdlo," p. 366.
"' Mioo'l(at'tll Pnok IIHdlinld, The Folk Literature of a YucMecan '/'own, vol. I;! of Contl"il>u
w Anwrit:nll Att:luwology (Washington, D.C.: Camel(ic rmllitutlon. W37l. p. 74.
"1\lfonso Villa Hojns, Tile M.1yils of East Central Quirttru111 noo !Wnsltini(Lun, n .C.: Car'-
negil lnstilulion, p. IS:l.
An Analysis of the Vdugr. Myth in Mmumnu:ric:u 195
and were turned into :mimals. No fewor than twenty versions of'JYpe C
are available fol' anaJvsis. The rcsumlls follow.
1. Nahua Xl de los Soles"l. At the end of the fourth age,
under the sun called nahui at/, Tezcatlipoca called a man and a woman
to him and told them to work no mor'C since a gr-eat deluge was com-
ing. He mstructed them to hollow out a large ahuehuetl tree and to get
into it. taking with them two ears of rorn. Each was to eat one ear, no
more. They entered the improvi!.ed bark. ' I hen the sk-y collapsed upon
the earth and the whole world was des tr'Oyed, but the man and woman
were saved. When the waten> abated they noticed that the tree was no
longer moving. They eme1-gcd and lighted a fire to cook fish !which
had been the previous inhabitants of the world). But the gods Citlal-
linicue and CitlaJJat6nac looked toward the earth and exclaimed,
"Gods! Who has lighted a fire'? Who smoked the sky?" Tezcatlipoca
appeared, reproached tho man and woman, and turned them into
dogs by r'CveJ'Sing their faces and hi11d parts:
2. Tarascw1 II (Carrasco) . When tho g1-eat flood began, God buil t a
house. Everyone tried to cmwd into it and those who succeeded wer.e
saved. The house Ooated upon the waters for twenty days. It str uck the
sky three times. When the waters suhsidcd, some of the survivoi'S were
very hungry. Even though God had told them not to cat anything they
began to cook tortillas inside the house. God sent down an angel who
said to them, "My father told mo to see that no fire be lighted yet." But
the smoke was going up i11to the sky and God was seeing it. He sent the
angel do"vn again with the message. The people ansvvered that
they were very hungry. "Do as you wish." said the angel, "but my father
told me to tell vou not to do it." The angel went up again and God said
to him, "If don't understand you this time, let Me know!" The an-
gel went up again to teU God that .the people did not understand. God
said, \fery well, go give them all a good kick!" And all this time the
smoke was gomg up into tlw sky. All these people became dogs and
buzzards. They cleaned up the earth
3. Tarascan /II ICruTascoJ. \o\lhen the wodd was destroyed by water
a boy was very hungry. He got out of tho canoe to heat a gorda. The
Eternal Father sajd, "Jl is not time to light tho fire yet. You, Saint Bar-
tholomew, go down to the world and see who is making a fire.' ' Saint
Bartholomew came down und spoke to the boy: "Why are you making
smoke? Don't you see that uo ordms have hcen given yet to build a
fire?" The boy answered, "Hull was very hungry and that is why I built
de los Soles,'" pp 110 120
"' Pedro Canasco. unpublislll'd toxts fl't>nl Jtuiir uoi'O. 1\tlch oacan.
the fire." Saint Bartholomew went up into Heaven again' and told the
Eternal Father. The Eternal Father sent him down again, saying, "If
he doesn't understand, kick him so he won't be so ignomnt." So Saint
Bartholomew came down once more and kicked the hov. llis voice
changed and he became a
4. 'T'arascan TV ICanascol. The angel came dm.'\111 a third time. He
kicked the man and said, 'This is so that vou mav understand vou
haven't obeyed me." And the man began whine-like a dog and. be-
came a dog. That is why dogs exist.
5. 7'arascan V ICarmscoJ. While the k'ua.nari (idolatrous giantsl in-
habited the world, Cain killed Abel and the Lord sent down a message
that an ark was to be built since a flood was to destroy humanity. A pair
of cvey ldnd of animal was put into the ark. The survivors were changed
into dogs ....
6. VI ICan-ascol. God ordered a man to make a large house
and lo put animals and food in it. When the man had finished, it beg;m
to rain. It mined six months. The house floated on the waters and all
those who had ht:lped build it were saved in it . When tho wol'ld was
beginning to ruy, the man sent forth a raven to see if the ea1th was
solid, hut the 1-aven did not return. It remained behind to l!at dead
bodies. Then the man sent forth a dove, which came back to repott
that tlw r-aven was eating the dead. The raven was condemnt!d to eat
COJllSes thereafter. God had ordered that no fire be kindled, but one
man disobeyed and was turned into a dog."
7. Tarascan VII ICanascol. When the great flood was ovfw, God saw
smoke. JIP. sent down an angel, who found a sunivor. God, who was
very angty. turned him into a Huaxtecan monkey.""
8. l'opo/uc.a I IFosterl. Christ ordered a man to build an m'k and to
tal' along in it pairs of all useful animals. Then the world was nooded.
WhC'n the waters subsided, the surviYors began to cook fish, into
which all the oU1er inhabitants of the world had been converted.
Clwist :-.ent down the buzzard to see what was happening, but the buz-
?.ard remained to get his share of fish. Then Christ send the
hawk and the hummingbird. Christ himself finally came down and
turned the people upside down, whereupon thev became monkeys.
. .
"' I hid.
" lhid.
"" lhid
"' Pmlrn Cmwsco, UJlpubli:.lwd teu from Cocucho, Michoacan, Hl-15.
.. Pedro Can-asco. UJlpublishcd lcxt from Ocumkho. Mic-hoar.iin, t9-t5
An Analysis o,( tlw Velugc Mytfl in Mt!soamerica 197
The buzzard was condemned to cat only dead animals thereafter.
Then Christ repopulated the world by turning U1e dead fish back into
human beings."'
9. Popoluca II (Foster). A man was swpdsed to lind that all the trees
he cut down wer-e gmwing again overnighl. Jcsucristo appeared and
warned him of the coming of the flood. n1e man made an ark, taking
with him pairs of each kind of animaL When the waters subsided the
man and hi'> family began to cat fish, which \ .. -ere scattered all ove the
ground. Jesucl'isto smelled the smoke and sent d0\-'\111 a vulture to sec
where the fu-e was. The vultui'C remained behind to eat dead animals.
Then Jesucristo sent the hummingbird to sec, and the hummingbird
retwned to Heaven with the news. Then Jcsucristo came down and
turned the people into monkl1YS by reversing thei r faces and hind
parts. He condemned the vulture to eat henceforth only of dead
10. Popoluca IJJ !Lehmann I. God told a man to stop working since a
nood was to destroy the world. The man was instructed to build a ca-
noe for himself and his family. Tho deluge came, but the man and his
family were saved. Afttw tho wateJ'S subsided the man began to cook
the bodies of dead animals. Saint Peter smelled the smoke and came
down to see what was happening. He tumed the man into a buzzat'd
and his childt-cn into monkeys:'
11. Popolura IV (Lehmannl. God, El Viejito, asked where fire was
burning and upon finding that the first man, against his orders, had
built a fire to cook fish, transformed him into a monkey by reversing
his face and hind parts.!llj
12. Totonac I IHor-casitasl. A man was warned by God that the del-
uge was conung. He hollowed out a tree and wa& saved in it. After the
deluge the man was very hungry and he built a fir-c. God smelled the
smoke and told the buzzard to go down to see what was happening.
TI1e buzzard stayed to eat dead animals, and God condemned him to
eat only J'Otlen Oosh fmm that dtty on. 111en God told Saint Michael the
Archangel to go down. Saint Michael the Archangel reversed the man's
face and hind pa1ts and turned him into a monkey.
.,George M. "Si1:rrn Popolura loiiJun and llcliefs. p 239.
"' lbid., pp. 235-238.
w. Lehmann, "rgchnisso tli111w mit lJnterstOtzung dm Notgemeinschaft dew
Oeulschen Wisscnschufl in den Jalm.ln l!l25/1926 nusgcfOhrtcn Fm'Sc:hungsreistJ nach
Mexico und Guutmnnla," Anthmpos 2:1 (10281: 740- 791, quoted in Foster, "Sierra Popo-
luca Folktol'C and lieliofs," p . 238.
" F'emando Hol'('asitas. lrom Papantla, Vemcruz, 1953 .
13. Tepchua (GessainJ. After clearing his fields a man was surpl'iscd
to lind that tho vegetation grew agai n overnight. He spied and found
that a monkey was r-esponsible for this harm. The monkey told him
that God did not want him to work any more. since a gr'Cat flood was
coming. Following the instructions of the mon"-ey the man built a
coffinlike craft and got into it. When the deluge began, tho monkey sal
on top of the coffin. When the water-s subsided the man climbed out,
pic"-ed up some ftsh he found on the ground, and built a smaU fire to
cook them. But out of the sky appeared the Almighty, who, irritated
with the man for having built the fire, turned him into a monkey.r.o
14. Tzelta/1 (Slocum). One day, thmugh a misunderstanding, a wife
killed and cooked her child. She and her husband ate it and enjoyed it
very much. Soon everyone was killing and cooking childr-en. God be-
came very angry and sent down the deluge. One intelligent man was
saved in a canoe. After the water-s subsided he lighted a fire. God
smelled the smoke. He sent down the buzzard , the turkey buzzard,
and a churn-owl to sec what was happening upon the earth, but they
alll'omained behind to eat dead bodies. God condemned them to cat
only dead bodies thereaftet'. Then God sent down the hawk, which ful-
(illed his mission. The man was tumed into a monkey.
15. Tzeltal II (Slocum). The Padre Santo warned two brothers that
the nood was comjng. Together with many animals they wel'c able to
sutvive in an ar"-. When the waters were beginning to subside, the
younger bmther fell out of the ark and Landed on a tree. whereupon he
became a monkey. The eldet bmther was saved ....
t6. Cho/ 1 (Anderson). God was tired of seeing men. lie decided to
kill them and exchange them for new men. Thei'Cfor'C God created
darkness to destmy them. One man sealed his house "''ell with thic"-
boar'C.Is. At night he went up onto the roof of the house. When God
came down to see who had died, he found this man st ill alive. God
reversed his face and hind parts and turned him into a monkey.r-r
17 . Chol //113cekmanl. When the deluge came a few people climbed
to the top of the highest trees and wet-e saved. But Ahau became angry
wit h them and, reversing their faces and their hind parts, tumed them
in to monkeys.''
"' 1\ubcrt Ges.'>ain, texts frolll rho Tepehuas, 1!.153.
''' Mnrianna !>lunrm. unpublished tc.x'tS in Tzcllal and Spanish from Ocodngo, Chia
pas, t'a. 1947.
'" I hid.
"' Anrbclle Amhll'liOn. unpublislwd text fJ'orn tlw Chol of Chiapns. en I!)
, .. John Bccl..mun, unpublished text from 111c Chol of Yajal6n, Chiapm ca 1!)..19.
An Analysis ofthr Vf'iuge Myth ill Mcso;rrrrcrica
18. Quiche Ill tl'opol Vuhl. The Hearl of Heaven desired to populate
the world with men who would adot'e him. 1-le created animals, men of
clav, and men of wood, who all successively refused to woi'Ship him in
correct wav. To destmy the wooden men the Heart of Heaven sent
down a nood. -Olll' ing the flood four animals were sent down to fight
against man. Man was also attacked hy the animals of the earth, and by
the implements he had been using. At the end of the deluge all the
wooden men were turned into monkcyl>."
19. Quiche IV (T<L'\l. When the deluge occurred some men tried to
save hy making boxes and goi ng under the ground in
them. But God, not approving of this, turned the people into bees . .-;
20. Zapolec 11 Ide la l'uent<l. \Nhen the earth was dark and cold, the
only inhabitants were the giants. God was angry with them of
their idolatry. A number of giants, feeling that the deluge was commg,
carved great slabs of mck to make houses for themselves under the
earth. some escaped destruction in this way and are still to be found
hidden in certain caverns under the ground. Other giants hid them-
selves in the forests and bet:ame monkeys."
On examining the preceding versions (which I have classified as
1)lpe CJ one immediately becomes awurc of the abundance and qual-
ity of the material. No fewer than twenty versions of the story
have been recorded and outlined for this study. Furthermore, m con-
trast to the texts assembled under Types A and B. this group of twenty
contains at least thirteen te\ts which are dependable and fuJI of de-
tail."" !Nine of the thi rteen ver-sions, in their turn, may be conside1-ed
almost as reliable as if they had come dir-ectly fmm the indigenous
Another advantage is the fact that, aside [rom the modern texts, we
have an excellent si>.teenth-ccntury version: the "Leyenda de lot.
Soles." or aU the ancient VCJ'Sions of the deluge the "Leyenda de los
Soles" and U1e Popo/ Vuh arc the only truly detailed texts I hmre en-
countered. We ar-e therefon working with a wealth of material. both
ancient and modern.
Having examined the motifs and their combination in the ancient
"" Popol Vuh: aiiiiJlLWS clrl ()pichli, pp 98-103.
"'Sol TaA, "1-'olktalcs in An Un:.olvc<.l Puulc," Journal oj'Americ.11l
Polk/ore 62 li9-1HI .
J. do Ia FueniC, Yullllug: una vi/111 :-.tlfJOWCII serrmm I Mexico City: Musco Nudmaal du
AntrtJpolog!a, 19--191, p. 237.
'"Trua. .. can 1, Tai'3SCIII Ill , Tarah('<lrl VI, Pupotw,, I, Popotucall l'opoluca Ill , Totonac I.
Tepehua, Tzelr:tl l. T:.wllalll, Chnt I, quiche Ill, and .lapotec II.
and more reccnt texts, J concluded that they are basically the same
story. The two Quiche and the Zapotec versions are perhaps the only
doubtful cases: they are similar enough to warrant their classification
under ' l)rpe C but different enough to cause doubt.
The story itself is unquestionably indigenous and pr'e-European.
This is an inevitable conclusion as we consider the following points:
1. The "Leyenda de los Soles" is a native source. All of its character-
istics inclicate this fact, and no serious scholar has doubted the au-
thenticity of the document.
2. The Popol Vuh, which contains a version similar to that of the
"Leyenda de los Soles," is also of unquestionable pre-Eur'Opean origin
Of not in all its par1s, at least in the section containing the flood myth).
3. The version is not to be found in European or African folklore.
The plot, as given in the "Leyenda de los Soles" and supported by
the modem versions, may be outlined as follows: A human couple is
told by a supernatural being that a great flood is coming. They are
saved in a wooden craft. After the flood is over they emerge and light a
fir-e to cook food. The deity smells the smoke and becomes angry. lie
sends down a messenger, who punishes them and turns them into
Having described U1e qualities of the source material and the storv
itself we can now proceed to the following observations.
1. The idea of wrongdoing seems to be prominent in the myth. Jn
the "Leyenda de los Soles" it appears that the wrongdoing consists in
disobedience. The swvivors are warned not to eat mor'e than one ear
of com; because they disobey and begin to cook fish they are pun-
ished. It i s necessary to consider that the fi sh had once been human
beings-the inhabitants of the previous world.
This last concept introduces an idea akin to cannibalism, promi-
nent in sever-al of the versions. Cannibalism is the cause of the flood in
one version,b9 and in another it occurs immediately after the deluge.70
In many of the stories the buzzard is punished for having eaten dead
bodies.'' In yet another myth it is angels who eat human flesh and ar'e
punished for it. In any event, whether it is basically pr'e-1-lispanic or
not, the idea of cannibalism is one that must be taken seriously into
consideration in discussing the tlood myth in Mesoamerica.
'""Tzcltal I.
' "No1-man McQuown, Totonac tcx1 from Coatepec, Puebla, HJtiO (mimt:O!(I'<lphedl ;
Oropozu Custm, "gl diluvio lotonaco," vol.ll, pp.2.69-275.
Popoluca l, Popoluca Jl, Totonac I, Tzeltall. Zapotcc UJ . Zapotec IV, and :U.potcc V.
" Maya V.
An Analysis of the Deluge Myth in Mesoanwricu 2.01.
Another possible cause for the punishment of the survivors for
wrongdoing is the fact that they otfcnded thfl deity by smoking the sky.
The words of the "Leyenda de los Soles" seem to suggest this: "The
gods Citlallinicue and CiUallat6nac looked down and said, 'Gods! Who
is burning something? Who is smoking the sky"?'"'"" Later the text reads:
"'Therefore, the heavens were smoked in the year 1wo Reed."
Another possibility exists: perhaps mankind's only sin was swvival.
Some of the versions imply that mankind was doomed to perish, that
no one was to be allowed to escape. One even receives the impression
that the supernatural being who warned the chosen ones of the com-
ing of the waters was acting against the wishes of the supreme deity, or
at least that it was through his special intetvention that they were
saved. In any case. the gods ar-e not pleased to see man survive:
When the deluge ended, God saw smoke. He sent dO\-vn an angel. who
saw that there was a survivor who had not perished in the llood. God
was angry and turned him into a ll uaxtccan monkey."
Another text reads:
It is said that God sent his sctvant down from lleavfln. "Go ask lum how
he managed to survive," God said. '1 he se1vant came down. '" How were
you saved, sir?" he said to I he man. 'I was saved in a boat, !Joss,'' the man
answered. [God said to the man iu Heaven!, 'Well, you aren't going to
stay like you are now, you ru-e going to be changed." "AJJ right. boss;
whatever you say," he answered. God said, " J am going to give you a tail."
So he gave him a tail and he became hair y. The man asked, ''Where am I
going to live, boss?" "You .tro going to live in the for-ests.'' God ans\<\ erect
That is how the monkey went to live in the fm-ests."
In another text we read:
\1\'hen the god came down to sec who had died. he arrived to find a man
still alive .... He broke otT his neck. When he broke off hili neck, he put
his head on at the end of hib spine .... rhus the man was changed into
a white stomach monkey.'"'"
More cases could be cited of God's displeasure al the suJVival of
mankind, but the texts cited here ilJustrate tho idea clearly enough.
"Leyenda de los Soles.'' p. 120.
" Ibid.
"Tamscan Vll.
" Choll.
The fact that the deity had never intended man to swvive fits in well
with the Mesoamerican pattern of wodd history: humanity was de-
stroyed again and again and no one was allowed to escape. In view of
these observations it is necessary to reconsider the motif of the smok-
ing of the sky. Perhaps the important aspect of this element is not the
fact that the sky was smoked (diitied), but that the smoke was an limo-
cent signal of man's swvival. Viewed in this light, the fir>e was a great
blunder, since it l'evealed to the unsuspecting gods that theii plans
had been frustrated .
.Z. Another interesting motif of the 1)rpe C versions is the person-
ality of the messengerwho warns man not to light a fire and who even-
tually punishes him. In the Aztec text, the "Leyenda de los Soles," he is
called Titlacahuan (Tezcatlipoca). The ne:une in itself, in my opinion, is
not a basic part of the myth: "Tezcatlipoca" can simply be consider'ed
the name given to the messenger by the Aztecs. In previous times and
in other cultures h ~ : name was probably totally different.
Though the last statement cannot be verified, the substitution of
names for the same p ersonage may be illustrated perfectly by examin-
ing the post-Conquest versions. The myth is basically the smne, but
the name of the messenger varies. In one story, for instance, he is
called Saint Michael the Archangel, in another Saii1t Peter, in yet an-
other Saint Bartholomew. Others speak of Jesucristo, or of a simple an-
gel, or of an unnamed "servant of God." Others place a buzzard in the
role of the messenger. But the personality remains unchanged: he is
always the intermediaJy between God and the survivors. Just as the
story is now told in several languages in modem Mexico (each vvith its
own name for the messenger), so it may have been told in multi-
cultural and multilingual Mesoamerica in pre-Eumpean times.
3. A map of the distribution of Type C according to linguistic groups
may be seen in the accompanying figw'e. Following Jilnt!mez Moreno's
classification of languages we become aware of the fact that the ver'-
sion is known to at least five totally different linguis tic groups: Taflo
Aztecan, Zapotecan, Totonac, Zoque-Mayan, and Tarascan.
4. It is i:nte1-esting to speculate on the period in which the story
spread over southem Mexico. Was the myth the common heritage of
many linguistic groups since very ancient times? Did its diffusion take
placH during the Aztec expansion? Or did it occur aftee the Spanish
Conquest? At present it is impossible to give categorical answers to
these questions. The diffusion of folktales in Mexico has been ilnper-
fectly studied and tl1ere is a lack of colonial material. It is possible that
the s tOJy spread considerably after the Conquest. Many of the versions
are too similar to warrant many hundreds of years of independent exis-
All Analysis of the Deluge Myth in Mesoamerica 203
1. Nahuatl 4. Totonac 7. Chol
2. T.:trascan 5. Popoluca 8. Tzeltal
3. Thpehua 6. Zapotec 9. Quiche
tence. Many Indian cultures which may have been totally isolated be-
fore the Conquest found themselves s uddenly connected by t-eligious
and political ties to alien institutions. Communications ilnpmved. Part
of the diffusion of the story may have taken place as late as the nine-
teenth centLUy. At pr-esent we can do little more than to point out
these possibilities.
When the world was destroyed by water one man and a bitch were able
to escape. The man discovered that the bitch was cookingfoodfor him,
whereupon he spied on her. He burned her skin and she turned into a
woman. They repopul:itcd the world. The following twelve versions may
be termed "the stmy of the Dog-Wife."
1. Huicho/1 !Lumholtz). A man felling trees found that the trees he
had cut down grew again overnight. He spied and found that it was
the grandmother Nakawe who was doing this mischief. She told him
that he was working in vain, since a great deluge was soon to destroy
the world. She also instructed him to make a box out of a tree and to
put in it grains of corn, beans, a fire, five squash stems to feed the fire,
and a black bitch. For five years the box floated on the waters. After the
waters subsided the box settled upon a hill. The man went back to
work as before the flood. Every day, when he came back to the cave in
which he lived, he found that someone had prepared tortillas for him.
He spied and dis..:overed that it was the bitch. She had taken off her
skin, had become a woman, and was grinding corn for him. He threw
her skin into the fire, whereupon she whined. Then he bathed her' in
ni.xtama/ water. They repopulated the earth.
2. Huicho/11 (Preuss). Timusave, the Sower of Corn, was sw-prised
to find that all the trees he cut down were rising up again. He found
that Tahutsi Nakawe was doing this. She told him not to work, as a
great flood was coming. He hollowed out a tree in the form of a hut
and put a cover on it. He took along all kinds of corn, beans, and ani-
mals with him. He also took fire and a bitch. When the flood was over,
the children of TimuMwe and the bitch were the founders of the new
3. Huicho/111 (Zingg) . Kauymali went out to clear his fields every
day and found that the bushes had grown back to where they had
been before he had started his task. He spied and found that it was the
old woman Nakawe who was making the bushes rise. She told him
that a great deluge was coming. Under her instmctions he made a ca-
noe and put in it fire, a bitch, and the seeds of corn and other useful
plants. Dming the deluge the boat floated upon the waters. Finally it
came down to rest upon a mountain top. After Kauymcili came out of
the boat, he built a new house. Every day, on returning horne from his
daily work, he found that someone had cooked tortillas for him. Nakawe
told him to return early from his work in order to spy out the myste-
rious housekeeper. He found the bitch, absorbed in washing at the
river. He took her skin and bun1ed it. The bitch howled, but he bathed
her in water and she changed into a woman. Thereafter they
lived as man and
4. Huichol IV (MclntoshJ. A man, on going to clear the fields, was
surprised to find that all the trees he had cut the night before had
risen again. He decided to watch and discovered that it was an old
woman who was responsible for this mischief. The woman told him
that a great flood was coming. She advised him to make a canoe and to
"Carl Lumholtz, El Me;cico desconocido (Mexico City: PublicaGiones Henedas, 1945),
vol. IJ, pp. 189-191.
'"K. "Th. Preuss, ""Au suj111 du caractere des mythes et des chants huichols que j"ai re-
cueillis," Revisw df:llnstituto de Etnologia (Tucuman: Univcrsidad Nacional de Tucuman,
1932), vol. II, pp. 452-453.
""Zingg, The Huichols: Primitivc1 Artists, p. 539.
An Analysis ofthe Deluge Myth in Mesoamerica 205
take along with him a bitch and pumpkin seeds. When the waters
started to flood the earth, he rode on top of the canoe. When the
waters subsided, he went back to work. On retUJ'ning home every day,
he saw that someone had prepared food for him. He spied and found
that the bitch was the mysterious housekeeper. While the dog-woman
went down to fetch water, he took her skin and burned it. The woman
whined like a dog until he bathed her in nixtamal water. The couple
thereafter lived together and had many children.
5. Tepecano (Mason). A man who went to cut down every
morning was surprised to find that the same had grown agam over-
night. He spied and found that it was an old who had been caus-
ing thL'> state of affairs. The old man told not to work
since a great flood was coming. He was also mstructed to build an ark
and to fill it with pairs of each existing animal, some com, and some
water. The deluge began. For forty days the ark wandered ove: the
waters which covered the face of the earth. When the waters
the man abandoned the ark and went back to work. He began to notice
that someone had prepared food for him when he returned from
work. He spied and discovered that it was his black bitch who was the
mysterious housekeeper. He burned her skin and then to
soothe her by sprinkling nixtamal water on her. Thence they hved to-.
gether and had twenty-fout children. One day the man took of
them to visit God, who gave them clothes. The other twelve were left at
home and remained naked. This explains why there are rich and poor
in the world.a"
6. Totonac 11 (B<uIow). A deluge destroyed mankind. The children
jumped up to where the star is and became flowers. A man was sent a
large dog. The man used to go out every day to clear the fields .. When
he came home, h e found that someone had prepared food for him. He
determjned to learn the identity of the mysterious cook."'
7. Totona.c []] (McQuown/Oropeza!. Before the deluge occtu-red a
nan was instructed by God to make an ark. When the waters subsided,
the man sent forth a dove to see if the earth was dry. The dove crune
back. Later', he sent the dove forth again and it returned with its feet
covered vvith mud. The man emerged from the ark. He happened
upon an old house and decided to make it his home. The ants brought
him corn. Every day he used to return to his horne to find that some-
"' John Mcintosh, cosmogonJa Huichol,"' Tlaloc.m <Mexico Cityl ll (1945): 14- 21.
"'J. Alden Mason, "FolktaltJS of the Tepecanos,'" Jourm!l of American folklore 27:
164- 165.
"" Kobert II. Barlow, fragment of an unpublished text in the Barlow Archive, Mnxico
City ca. 1948.
one had prepared food for him. He began to watch his dog. He found
that it was the dog herself who was p repal'i ng food for him. One day he
spied and found h er, skinless, grinding corn. He threw her skin into
the fi re, whereupon she began to weep. The couple then lived together
and had a pretty baby. One day the man told his wife to make some
tamales out of the "tender one." The woman, mislmderstanding him,
killed and cooked their child. When the man realized what had hap-
pened he scolded his wife and ate the tamales
8. Totonac IV (Horcasitas). When the deluge no one was
saved except a man and a bitch. Every day, when the man came home
from work, he found thal someone had pt'epmed beans and tmLillas
for him. One day he hid himself and discovet'ed that the dog took off
her skin in a temazcal <Uld then prepared food for him. He followed
her and caught her. The bitch said, "God wants it this wav. Now we will
be married and have children." They repopulated the
9. Tlapanec I (Lemley). A buzzard appeared to a man working in the
fields. The bird told him nol to work anymore, and then made all the
tmes lhat had been cut down rise again. Then the buzzard advised
the man to make a box and to enter it, taking along a dog and a
chicken. ' Ole flood came but the man was saved. When the waters sub-
sided , the chicken turned into a buzzard and the dog went to live with
the man. The man noticed that someone was preparing tortillas
for him while he was away at work. One day he remained home and
saw the bitch removing hot skin and proceeding to grind com . lie
thereupon burned her skin. The dog complained, but she t'emained a
woman and they repopulated the earth.""
10. 'T'lapanec II (Lemley). A man went to wot' k in his fields every day
He r'ealizcd that during the night someone was raising the trees he
h ad c ut down. A man appeared and told him not to work anymore,
since a great flood was coming. He added thar the man should make
a box and get into it, taking with him a black chicken and a black
dog. The deluge came but the man was saved. Every night, when the
man came home, he found that someone had prepm'ed tortillas for
him. Ue spied and discovered that the dog had taken off her skin and
was working. Though the dog complained. he threw her skin into the
"'Mc-Quown, Totonac text from Coatepec, Puebla, 1940; Ompo7..a Castro, "EI diluvio
totonaco," vol. II, pp. 269-275.
"' Hon:nsitas, unpublished toxts from PapantJa, Vol'llr.ruz, 1953.
"' H. V. Lemley, 'Three Tlapaneco Stories," Tlalocan !Mexico Cityi Ul fl94!ll : 76-81.
An Analysis of the Deluge M,vth in Mesoamerica 207
11. Popoluca V (Foster!. When a certain mm1's wife died, he became
verv sad and lonely. llis dog also looked downcast. One day his dog
dis.appeamd. Yet Ct'Om thal day fotward the man would return home to
find fresh tor1illas and other types of food pt'epared and ready for him.
One day the man r'eturned home early and fow1d a heautifuJ woman
baking his tmtillas. The dog's skin was hanging near the table. The
man married the dog-woman.""
12. Cho/1/l !Bcek:manl. A woman died and went to Hell. Her hus-
band was left alone upon the ea1'th. The wife took pity on the man and
sent a bitch to cook for him. Every day, on coming home, the man dis-
covered that someone had baked tortillas for him. He spied and found
the bitch grinding corn. The man cried, "This is not my wife!" And,
knife in hand, ho chased the dog out of the house.""
'l)rpe D lin my opinion the most thought-provoking of all the Meso-
american flood myths! can rightly he identified as "The Dog-Wife Tale"
or "The Stmy of the Mysterious Housekeeper." Here again the source
material is excellent: eleven of the twelve vers ions 1 have quoted may
be considered fir -st-class texts. The fundamental quflstion which musl
be answered can be reduced to the following words : is the stmy pre-
Hispanic? The question does not find a ready answer, as will be seen
by the following observations.
1. To my knowledge, no pre-Hispanic indigenous version has been
recorded. The earliest text we actually possess is that transcl'ibed by
Lumholtz, dating around the year 1900. However, the fact that n o ver-
sion of this sto1y was set down by any chronicler of the sixteenth con-
twy is probably less significant than it might seem at fir-st glance. It
should be rememhemd that the bulk of the colonial texts originated
in the Nahua linguistic gmup. It is therefore possible that, while the
Nahua group did not know U1e story, other pl'e-Eur-opeans may have
shared it as part of their heritage. I t is also possible that a con cept so
alien to Ew'Opean minds as that of a union between a man and a dog
was repugnant to them, and like so many othe aspect s of native life,
they preferred to ignore it in thei r writings.
2. The story itself is not European. It is clifficull to believe that the
Spaniards. in their efforts to convert the natives to Chl'istiani ty, shouJd
have bmught such a myth to Mexico. The story itself is unknown in
European folktale collections and is completely for'eign to any Ch ris-
tian concepts of the origin of mankind.
3. There docs seem LObe a reference to the my th in a description of
"" Foster, "Sierr;t Popoluca folklore and liclicfs.'' p. 211.
.. Beekman. unpublis hed text rmm lhe Chol ofYajal6n, <:a. 1949
an incident in pre-1/ispanir Mcxtco. Jimenez Moreno has poiJlted out ""
a passage in the llistoria J'oltcca-Chichimeca which seems to contain
an . to it The text s peaks of the sufl'el'ings of the Toltec-
at the hands of the Olmec-Xicalanca. One of their greatest
tribulations was the fact that ni;aamal water was often thrown
them. This is mentioned thr'ee times: "And the Olmcc-Xicalanca made
great fun of the Toltccs; they threw ni;aamal water in their' faces; they
scratched their legs and their backs with quills of feathers; thev made
them swallow bitter things." 111e ToJtec-Chichimecs complan;: "Now
they treat us in such a way that they ar-e ruining us, sometimes throw-
ing. their women's ni,xtam_al in our faces, sometimes scratching
legs and hacks quills. Are we dogs, pe1'Chance, that they
deal With us so v.rltile we live with them?" La.te1 the oppressors
ask if the Toltccs want some D<.'w weapons and the latter answer: "No,
my dear friends. AU we want are your old weapons, lest your new ones
be spoiled with the water."
The apparent connection between this episode and the Dog-Wife
as conceived by Jim6nez Moreno, can be summed up in the fol-
mannet. Tho Tollecs loriginally Chichimecs) pi'Obably detived
thetr name from a lotomic animal, a dog, considered the common an-
cestor of the group. This dog ancestor is to be consider'ed in connec-
or identified with the bitch of the deluge myth. In the myth it is
satd that when the dog's skin wa'> bwned, the man bathed her in ni.,Y.-
tamal water to sootl1e her. Interpreting the text fr'Om the Historia
Tollcca-Chichim_eca, it that the Toltec-Chichirnecs were being
taunted by theu' enemtes r-egarding their rathet curious OI'igin bv
having ni;damal water pow'Cd on them. ,
Another suggestive J'eference is to be found in the works of Sa-
In describing the end of the feast of 'J'Iacaxipehualiztli, the
states that those who had been wearing hu-
man skins durmg the feast had to go through a itual bat]
to clean
of the impurities caused by the skins. This bath took place
the temple. where the individuals were washed in water mi}(ed
wtth corn flour or corn dough After this ceremonial washing, they
went to bathe in ordinary water.
. "'Wigbel'lo Jimenez Moruno, antigua de Mt!xico (Mexico Citv: Escuela Na-
ctonal do Antropologia, 19491, p. 41 (mimeographed).
11istoria Tolter.a-GIIir:/rimcr;;t !Mexico City: Robredo, 1947), pp. 81- 85.
wrirt.on odglnally in Niihuatl, translated into German, and from the
Ge1 man mto Spanrsh. rho pmsenl lranslation, inlo English. is my own.
, IJe:nardino llis10ria gt:neral de las cosas de Nueva Espana {Mexico Citv:
l!:dJtonal Nueva Espana, 19461. vol. 1, p. 144. '
An Analysis o.(tlte Deluge Myllt in Mesoamericu 209
The connection between the removal of the skin and the relief ob-
tained by bathing in watel' mixed with com dough certainly seems to
be indigenous. This concept st.J-engthens the probability of the native
origin of the Dog-Wife stmy considerably.
Another text which is possibly connected with the myth of the Dog-
Wife is the Rela.ci6n de Ocelotepeque."'' We ar-e told in this source that a
famous Zapotecan chieftain, a descendant of the sutvivors of the del-
uge, was named Petela (Dog). No further explanation is given, and it
is quite likely that the name is simply a calendrical one, totally dis-
connected with the Dog-Wife story. 1 simply point it out as a remote
4. The motif of the mysterious housekeeper is found in other parts of
1\merica. Cristobal de Molina, a South American mestizo, recorded a
deluge myth in Quito around the year The following is a t-esume
of the story: The tlood destroyed all mankind with the exception of
two brothers, who remained alone upon the earth. At first they only
ate I'Oots and herbs but aitel' some time, on retuming home from work
every day, they noticed that someone had pl'epared food for them. The
eJder brother spied to see who the mysterious housekeeper was and
found that two macaws enteJ'Cd the house, took off their mantles
(feathers?), and undertook the duties of the house. The man came out
of his hiding place. whe1-eupon the birds Oew away. He was able to
catch one of the birds, while the other one Dew away. He and the b.iJd-
woman married, had six children, and repopulated the world.
Basically, the South American story seems to be identical to the
Dog-Wife myth of Mesoamel'ica. If the forme!' can be proved indige-
nous to Ecuador or Peru, I am inclined to believe that theo1y in sup-
port of the native odgin of the Mexican Dog-Wife st01y will be greatly
Another version of the "Mysterious Housekeeper" is found in Arctic
America and on Vancouver Island. Boas, quoting Petitot, outlines the
arctic tale as follows:
A woman was manied lo a dog and bore six pups. She was deserted
by her tribe, and went oul daily procur' tg food fat' her family. When
she returned she found tracks of children around her lodge, but did
not see anyone besides her pups. Finally she discovet'Od fmm a hiding
place that the dogs lhrew off their skins as soon as she left them. She
stu-prised them, look away the skins and the dogs became children-a
.. Del Paso y 'J)'Oncoso, cd., P:rpr:les de Nueva Espwla, vol. IV, p. 139.
"' Crisl6bal de Molina. nitos .v .Jlibulas de los inc;ts !Buenos Aires: Futuro. J9-J71,
pp. 31- 33.
number of boys and a gid. These became the ancestors of the Dog-Rib
ln regard to the preceding version it is better nol to exaggerate its im-
portance: it is simply a motif, not a fully detailed deluge myth. Isolated
motifs have been suspected of developing independently on occasion.
An even more similar version is to be found in Surinam, though it is
not clear from the text whether it belongs to the Arawak or' to the Carib
[An anchorite] had a wonderfully failhfuJ dog. Wandering in the forest,
the hermit discovered a linely cultivated field, with cassava and other
food plants, and thinking "Who has prepared all tllis for me?'' he con-
cealed himself in order to discover who might be his benefacto1, when
behold! his faithful dog appeared, transtormed herself into a human
being, laid aside her dog's skin, busied herself with the toil of cultivating,
and, Lhe task accomplished, again resumed her canine form. The native,
carefully preparing, concealed himself anew, and when the dog came
once more, he slyly stole the skin, carried it away in a courou-courou (a
woman's harvesting baskel/ and burned it, al'ter which the cultivator,
compelled to retain woman's form, became his faithful wife and Lhe
mother of a large family."'"
A similar story is found in Haiti among the Caribs:
Them was once a widower who lived Y.rilh his bitch in a little house.
Every day when he returned he found that someone had prepa1'ed tood,
grated manioc, baked cassava, washed, swept the house and fetched
fu'ewood and water. A talebea.r-et' called UanuhJ carne and told Lhe man
that it was really his clog who was responsible for all of this. He added
that if the man wanted the dog to remajn a woman he should take he1to
the put her in the water and cause a fish to pass between her legs.
He did so and the bHch turned into a woman. Yet, sometime later, the
man g1-ew tired of his dog-wife, took her down to the river agajn and
tLII'ned her into a male dog. She never became a woman again ...
The preceding tale is not told as a deluge myth; it is simply a folktale
popular among the descendants of the Carib aborigines. The Haitian
version does not strengthen the pmbability of the myth being peculiar
"' E. Pcrir ot, Traditions indienncs du Canada nord-ouest, quoted in Boas, "Dissemina-
tion of Tales Among the Natives of North p. 438.
"' H. fl. Alexander, l ..<llin American Mythology, in vol. ll of Mythology ofAll Races (Bos-
ton: Marshall Jones Company, 1920), p. 274.
.. Douglas Taylor, "Tales and u:g(mds of the Dominica Caribs," Journal of American
Polk/ore 65 (1952) :267-279.
An Analysis of tile Deluge Myth in Mesoamerica. 211
1. Huichol 3. Totonac 5. Popoluca
2. Thpecano 4. Tlapanec 6. Chol
to America, since it is a well-known fact that liaitian folklore is impreg-
nated with African concepts and stories. Though I have not encoun-
other versions of the story of the Mystel'ious Housekeeper, I am
inclined to believe that it is widely extended in contemporary Amer-
ica. This extensive diffusion does not necessarily prove the indigenous
origin of the myth, however. The story of Noah's messenger-birds is
perhaps even more widespread in America, and yet it finds its origin
in the Old World.
5. The idea of the transformation of an animal into a human being is
a common Mesoamerican concept In his "Sierra Popoluca Folklore
and Beliefs,"'"' Foster states that
the belief that many humans are able at will to assume animal form, and
many supernatural and animal beings to assume human form and live
with humans, is so basic in Mexico that the sto1y of the "Dog Wife"
seems to me to integrate perfectly with the autochthonous folk belief.w
Foster's statement is undoubtedly true. Yet is can hardly be considered
a solution to the problem. The same basic concept is common to other
parts of America and is also to be found in Africa.
""Foster, "SierTa Popoluca l'olklore and Beliefs," p . 211 .
"" Ibid., p. 212.
6. The geographical distribution of the story reveals little. The Dog-
Wife story's geographical distribution in Mesoamerica is shown in the
accompat"\}'ing figure. The myth seems to be concentrated on or near
the coast of Mexico, and to my knowledge no version has been re-
corded on the Central Plateau. Of course, this does not mean that the
story is not to be found there. It is possible that the myth spread in
very early times-perhaps since the time that Teotihuacan was a great
religious center. C01mections between the coasts and the highlands
were then very strong. The existence of the story in Ecuador and along
the coast of South America is also suggestive of early diffusion; ancient
Mesoamerican culture is known to have affected this region.
A man (Noah) was warned by God that a flood was coming. He made an
ark and placed all kinds of animals in it. As the waters were subsiding,
he sem out several birds to see if the world was dry. Some birds came
back, having succeeded in their missions; others did not. This last divi-
sion, frankly biblical, finds representatives in most of the preceding
versions in that its motifs are included, in one way or another, in the
indigenous stories. The following five biblical versions may be added
to the previous accounts.
1 . Cora (LurnholtzJ. When the flood catne a man was ordered to
take a woodpecker, a woodcock, a11d a pat'l'Ot along with him in the
boat. When the water'S begru1 to subside, he sent forth the woodcock
to see if the earth was diy. The bird catne back. Five days later the
man sent forth the woodpecker, but it too returned to the boat. He fi-
nally sent forth the parrot which returned to announce that the earth
was dry.' "'
2. Zapotec liJ (Radin). 1\vo men were in the ark when the great
Hood subsided. They decided to send out a buzzard to see if the world
was dry. But the buzzard abandoned the boat, staying to eat the dead.
Therefore he was condemned to become the scavenge1 of the eatth. A
heron was sent forth and it accomplished its mission. It was therefore
permitted to eat fish as a t'eward. A raven was sent forth. It too fulfilled
its task and was permitted lo eat fruit and corn. Finally the dove was
sent. It came back to report that the eruth was almost dry. As a reward,
the dove was granted its freedom.'
"" Lumholtz, El Me,Y:ico desconocido, vol. rr, pp. 191-192.
Paul Radin, E/ Folklore de Oa,xaca (New York: Escuela lntemaciona1 de Ar'C)ueologiay
Etnolog:ia 1917/, pp. 7-9.
An Analysis ofthe Deluge Myth in Mesoamerica 213
3. Zapotec N (Parsons). Noeh was warned by the Angel Gabriel that
a deluge was in prospect because of the sins of mankind. Noeh warned
his people but they did not believe him. Then he constructed a
and took a pair of each animal along with him. The waters catne; Samt
Michael the Archangel catne forth and blew his trumpet. When the
waters subsided, Noeh sent forth the buzzard to see if the world was
dry but the buzzard stayed behind to eat dead anin1als. When _the
crow was sent forth, it catne back to report that the earth was drymg.
Then the turtledove and the parroquet were sent forth, and they re-
turned to say that the world was dry. The animals were then freed and
Noeh descended from the ark.'"'
4. Zapotec V fL6pez Chiiiasl. When the great flood came Noeh put a
pair of each animal in the ark. The ark struck the door of Heaven. Then
God sent down a beautiful buzzard to see if the earth was dry. But the
bird remained eating dead animals, whereupon he becatne ugly. Then
the dove was sent clown. In Juchitan the trip of a person unmindful of
his mission is called a "buzzatd's trip."'""'
5. Tarascan Vlll (Carrasco). Adam and Eve were the only people
saved in the deluge. They made an ark and took food with them. The
waters came and the rest of humanity was destroyed. God sent down a
bird to see if the waters had subsided and the bird flew back to say that
the earth was dry.'"'
At first glance it might seem that the previous texts
directly by the Bible; still, let us compare U1em with the ongmal btbli-
cal elements. The foBowing is a condensation of Genesis 6-9: Men
were very wicked. For this reason God decided to destroy Only
one man, Noah, and his fatnily were found worthy of bemg saved.
Therefore, God instructed him to build a large ark and to put in it a
pair of each existing animal. When the waters face of the
earth, Noah and his family wet-e saved. As the waters dmumshed, Noah
opened the window of the ark and sent forth a to see if the
was dry. Seven days later he sent forth a dove, but 1t he
waited seven days and again he sent forth the dove. Th1s tlme 1t re-
turned with an olive brat1ch in its beak. Seven days later he sent the
dove forth, but it did not retum. Then God told Noah to emerge from
th e ark. In gratitude, Noah built an altar for the Divine Being and
"Elsie Clews Par'Sons, Mit/a, Town of Souls !Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1936). pp. 350- 3.52.
""Gabriel L6pez Chinas, Vinni Gulasa: de Juchitan !Mexico City: Neza, 1940!,
""' Pedro Carrasco, unpublished text from Paracho, Michoacan, 1945.
offered a number of animals and birds upon it. God smelled the pleas-
ant odor and promised never to destroy the world again. '06
On comparing this account with the modern Mexican Bible-influ-
enced stod es, one becomes aware of cetain added elements in the
latter: the buzzard (or the raven ) is sent forth but he stays to eat
corpses and is condemned to eat only rotten flesh thereafter.'"7 This
element is possibly of Spanish origin; it may be one of the many apoc-
ryphal stories that gr-ew up around authentic Bible passages during
the Middle Ages. The earliest reference to it that I have encountered is
found in the Monarqufa Indiana ofTorquemada. '
This writer presents
a Cuban deluge account (and though he states that it is pre-Hispanic,
it is undoubtedly of European origin). The st01y is as follows. A cetain
man, knowing that the deluge was to come, built a great boat. He en-
tered it, together with his family and many animals. Later he sent forth
a raven, which did not return, as it stayed behind to eat dead animals.
Then he sent forth a dove, which 1-etwned s inging, bringing back a
leafy branch. According to Torquemada, this sto1y was told in Cuba
about 1510-1520. This fact leads us to suspect that the motif of the
mven eating dead bodies is an ancient theme, probably known to the
Spaniards long before the discovery of Amedca.
In the New World the motif of the birds sent forth from the ark
found ready acceptance. Themes similar to it we1-e already prominent
in native stories. Boas mentions a creation myth from the United States
which has a simila1 motif:
The Yokut in Califomia say that at a time when the earth was cove1-ed
with water there existed a hawk, a crow and a duck. The latter, after ctiv-
ing lo the bottom and b1inging up a beakful of mud, died. Whereupon
the crow and the hawk took each one half of tJ1e mud, and set to work to
make the mountains.""'
Another pre-Hispanic element which prepared the ground for the
motif of the raven (or buzzard) was that of the messenger (Tezcatlipoca
in one version) sent down t'o see who had lighted alii-e. In one Totonac
story,' '
the European and native elements are so combined as to make
it difficult to separate them:
""'Condensed from Biblia sacra vulgaram Clemcnrinam (Madrid: La Editorial Ca-
t61ica, 1946), pp. 9-lZ.
'"'Maya IV, Tarascan II, Tarascan VI, Popoluca J, Popoluca U, Popoluca w, Totonac r.
""'Torquemada, Monarquia indiana, vol. U, p. 572.
'"' lloas, "Dissemination of Tales Among the Natives of North 1\mmica," p. 440.
""Hoa-casilas. text from Papantla, Veracruz. 1953.
An of the Deluge Myth in Mesoamerica
The Lord God was up above and He began to smell the smoke going up.
He says to the buz;r-ard, "Go down and tell him to put out the lire so that
the sky won't be smoked up." The buzzard came down but ilr'emainecl,
eating with the man. Then God said to the buzzard, "From now on you
arc going to stay there, eating rotten flesh."
Anothm element not included in the original biblical account is that
of the dove's retutn with its feet cove1-ed with mud. Two Zapotec ver-
sions state Uutt when the dove was sent forth, its feet became muddy."'
This was a sign that the world was already drying. A curious counter-
part of the story is found in a pre-European Peruvian s to1y:
They also say that it J'ained so much once that all the lowlands and all
men were submerged, except a few who managed to take refuge on the
high mountain ranges. They covered the small entrances of the caves so
that water would not enter and put within them provisions and animals.
When they hear-d that the rain had stopped they sent forth two dogs. As
U1e dogs retumed, clean but wet, they knew that the watel'S had not
subsided yet. Later they sent fonh more dogs, and when the latter re-
turned. muddy but dry, they malized that the deluge was over.'"
The Peruvian s tmy may strengthen the possibility of the indigenous
origin of the motif.
1. Although there undoubtedly existed a number of independent
and semi-independent versions of the flood myth in ancient Meso-
america, in modern times our knowledge of them is limited to Type C
(the s tory of the survivors who lighted a fire and we1-e changed into
animals) and (if we accept the st01y of the dog-wife as pre-Hispanic) to
'lype D.
2. The Dog-Wife st01y is not known through any actual text from
the pre-Hispanic epoch. Nevertheless) ther-e are strong 1-easons which
lead us to beUeve that it was known among the ancient indigenous
groups. Its wide extension outside the borders of Mesoamerica may
indicate a great diffusion of Mesoamerican culture in the southern
part of the continent.
3. It is difficult to reconstruct the versions which wer-e not ade-
"'Zapotec JU. Zapolec V.
'"Francisco Lopez de Gomara, Hisroria de las Tndias, in vol. 22 of Bib/ioteca de nurores
espafio/es !Madl'id: Ribadeneym, 1852J. p. 233.
quately recorded in early colonial times. The fragmentary descriptions
of the mission a des and other chroniclers are not sufficient to warrant
a reconstruction. Modern texts, no matter how cautiously used, will
pmbably never reveal the original pre-EUI'Opean stories with any de-
gree of certainty.
4. The biblical account has exerted an overwhelming influence on
indigenous deluge stories, no matter how remote the native cultures
have been from European groups. On the other hand, native influence
on the Old World account, as told in Mesoamerica, has been weaker.
5. A number of important questions regarding the function of the
modern stories remain unanswered. Are they to be considered myths
in the .fi.lll sense of the word? Or have they lost their sacred character'?
Do those who tell and hear them believe them to be true? Tf so, how do
they influence indigenous life and thought?
Evidence which might produce solutions to these doubtful points is
scant. Still, it will be necessary to ask these questions- and to answer
them- if the significance of the Mesoamerican deluge myth is ever to
be grasped by the anthropologist.
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