Bobadilla In Nicaragua
The early chroniclers of the Spanish conquest have left us invaluable information as to the circumstances, culture and lives of the Indian peoples of that era. In my opinion, their observations and histories are of much more value than tentative theories regarding their history and cultural, derived from limited archaeological evidence.
One of these early Spanish historians, who arrived in the new world shortly following its discovery, was Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés. He later wrote a very detailed (fifty volumes to be exact) account of all that he observed. Unfortunately these writings seem to be only available in Spanish. A portion of his writings deal with his time spent in Nicaragua, which is of particular interest to me.
Up to the present I have been under the impression that there were very few accounts of the early Indians of Nicaragua. However, in reading the book Nicaragua, its people, scenery, monuments, and the proposed interoceanic canal by E. G. Squier, I found a number of lengthy quotations from Oviedo in English. Either Squier had access to an English translation of the work, or he translated the material himself. One section of these Oviedo quotations deals with a series of interviews that a Francisco de Bobadilla had with the early native Americans of Nicaragua, questioning them on their beliefs, religion and culture, which I have found to be very informative.
These interviews were mostly with the Nicaro Indians who had immigrated to Nicaragua from Mexico around 700 AD. As a result, they mainly reflect Nahuatl or Mexican religion and culture. I will include a copy of Bobadilla's interview below, but first let me summarize some of the details I gleaned from his questioning.
The Indians were reluctant to share their beliefs and traditions with the Spanish.
Many Indians were “baptized” who had no idea what they were committing themselves to, or had no intention of changing their beliefs – conversions of convenience.
The Indians worshiped two principal gods named Famagostad and Zipaltonal, the first male and the second female.
They had other minor gods who controlled many of the natural phenomena. They also had personal gods which they could call on for assistance.
These gods were male and female, had bodies, were immortal, and dwelt in heaven.
The images of the gods had been carved in stone by their ancestors and left for them. They made small images of these original idols to place in their homes.
They had a vague knowledge or tradition of the flood, but believed that all men and animals had been destroyed during this event, and then the gods recreated mankind and the animals.
Those who died in battle went with the gods, while they who died a normal death went to a “hell-like” place under the earth.
They believe that their ancestors had become gods.
They were uncertain about the resurrection. Only certain individuals would be resurrected. The resurrection would not be universal.
They did not practice fasting.
They practiced a rite similar to the Catholic confession.
The traditions of the Indians were kept orally and passed from generation to generation in this manner.
The essence of life was something like the spirit, which they called “julio” and which dwelt in the heart. When this left the body it resulted in death.
They had a tradition that the gods anciently communicated with man, but no longer did so.
Although they had been baptized and had become “Christians”, they understood very little of Christian doctrine, scriptures, or history.
There were special temples which only the priests, chiefs and young boys could enter. A chief would spend a year at a time in the temple petitioning for the needs of the people. At the end of the year he would leave and another chief would take his place.
Other common temples were provided for the general population but only males were admitted.
They practiced human sacrifice and believed that human blood nourished the gods.
People were sacrificed to propitiate the gods. Their blood was sprinkled on the idols in the temples. The sacrificed
bodies of the men were eaten, but not the bodies of the women or children.
Young children were sacrificed to induce the gods to send rain.
Sacrificial victims were normally slaves or war captives, however certain children were raised specifically to be sacrificial victims and receive special treatment and privileges during their lives prior to the sacrifice.
The people also offered animals, garden produce, etc. in the temples.
The people made self sacrifices by cutting the tongue or genitals.
The Indian temples were large buildings built of wood with thatched roofs. None but the priests and residing chief were allowed entrance.
Around the temples were high places in the shape of small pyramids or cones, eight to fifteen steps in height. The human sacrifices were conducted on the top of these pyramids. The top of these platforms was flat, with some large enough to hold as many as10 men. In the center of this platform was the large sacrificial stone. as long as a man.
On the appointed day of sacrifice, the victim was taken to the top and placed on the stone altar. The chief observed the rite from an adjacent pyramid, while the people watched from below. The priest cut open the abdomen and tore out the heart, then anointed the idols with the blood. The body was cut in pieces and distributed among those appointed to receive a portion, while the head was severed and hung in a special tree as a trophy.
One additional rite was observe. During certain ceremonies the participants would draw a little blood from the genital organs and sprinkle this on corn which was then eaten with great solemnity.
Now quoting from Squier's book:
Among these [the writings of Oviedo] is a transcript of the proceedings of a commission, of which the Fray Francisco de Bobadilla, Provincial of the Order of Mercy, was the head, delegated by Pedro Arias de Avila, Governor of Nicaragua, in 1528, to procure an exact account of the condition of the Indians, to ascertain the nature of their religion, and to discover how far they had been affected by the introduction of Christianity. It was on the 28th of September of the same year that Bobadilla arrived in the province of Niquira, and commenced his investigation.
The first who appeared before him was a chief named Chichoyatona, whom Bobadilla piously proceeded to baptize, naming him Alonzo de Herrera. He then inquired of him if he knew there was a God who had created man, the world, and all things. But Chichoyatona either did not know, or else did not care to answer questions, and the friar got nothing from him. He next tried an old man named Cipat, but he replied to the same question that he neither knew nor cared, and was accordingly dismissed. It is not, however, to be supposed that Cipat was really so ignorant; for the Indians of Nicaragua, in common with those of every part of the continent, were extremely jealous of all things relating to their religion.
Bobadilla, no wise discouraged, tried another chief, named Mizeztoy, and this time with better success. Mizeztoy stated that he was a Christian; that is to say, had had water poured on his head by a priest, but had really quite forgot what name had been given to him. The result of his examination is given by the chronicler as follows:
Friar, Do you know who made heaven and earth? Indian, My parents told me, when I was a child, that it was Famagostad and Zipaltonal, the first male and the second female.— F. What are they, men or animals? I, I do not know; my parents never saw them; nor do I know whether they dwell in the air or elsewhere.— F. Who created man, and all tilings? I, As I have already said, Famagostad and Zipaltonal, a younger named Ecalchot, a Guegue (or very old personage), and the little Ciagat — F. Where are they? I, I do not know, except that they are our great gods, whom we call Teotes. — F. Have they parents or ancestors? I, No; for they are gods.— F, Do the Teotes eat? I, I do not know; but when we make war, we do so that they may eat the blood of our enemies whom we have slain or taken prisoners. We scatter the blood on all sides, in order that the Teotes may make sure of it; for we know not on which side they dwell, nor even that they do really consume it— F. Do you know, or have you even heard, that the world has been destroyed since the creation? I, I have heard our fathers say that it was destroyed by water, a very long time ago.— F. Were all men drowned ? I, I do not know; but the Teotes rebuilt the world, and placed upon it men and animals again.— F. How did the Teotes escape ? upon a mountain or in a canoe ? I, They are gods, how could they drown. — F. Were all animals and the birds drowned ? I, Those now existing were created anew by the Teotes, as well as men and all things.— F. Are all the Indians acquainted with what you have just told me ? I The priests of the temples and the caziques know it— F. By whom are the Teotes served ? I, The old men say that those who are slain in battle serve the Teotes, and that those who die in the natural way, go under the earth.— F. Which is most honorable, to go under the earth, or to serve the teotes7 I. By far to serve the Teotes, because we shall then meet with our fathers.— F, But if your fathers have died in their beds, how can you meet them ? I, Our fathers are themselves Teotes, — F. Can the Teotes bring the dead lo life, and if so, where are the reawakened dead ? I, All that I know is, that infants who die before they are weaned, and before they have tasted maize, will be raised again, and return to their fathers' houses, where their fathers will recognize and provide for them; whilst, on the other hand, those who die at a more advanced age will never come to life again.— F. But if the father should die before his children come to life again, how can he recognize or provide for them? I, If the fathers die, I know not what becomes of the children.— F. Finally what is their destiny? I, I know only what I have told you; and it must be true, because our fathers have told us so."
The Fray Bobadilla next questioned the cazique Abalgoalteogan, who also bore the name of Francisco, and who said he was a Christian. The Fray asked him, " if he was glad that he was a Christian ?" to which he replied that, " he thought he was," and gave as a reason for his felicitation that only Christians went to heaven, while "all others went to hell with the devil." Being a more hopeful subject than the rest, the Fray proceeded to interrogate him. His testimony, as to the gods, coincided with that of Mizeztoy, and with him he affirmed that all knowledge concerning them was perpetuated by oral tradition; that formerly the priests had converse with the gods, but that since the arrival of the Christians, the latter had withdrawn from earth; that although the Teotes are of flesh, and male and female, yet that they are uncreated, immortal, enjoy eternal youth, and reside in the heavens. That the earth was once destroyed by water, and became a great sea, and that afterwards Fanagostad and Zipaltonal descended, dispersed the waters, and recreated all things. That of the dead, the good alone go above with the Teotes, the bad to a subterranean abode named Miquetanteot; that there is no resurrection of the body, but by the act of death "there comes forth from the mouth something which resembles the person, called julio which goes to the place of the Teotes, It is immortal: but the body decays forever." The good are those " who take care of the temples, and observe the laws of friendship; the wicked are those who do differently, and they are sent under the earth."
The Fray next interrogated an old man, past sixty years of age, named Tacoteyda, who was a priest in one of the temples of Nicaragua. When he was asked if he was a Christian, he said No, that he was old, and why should he become a Christian? Whereupon the Fray told him, that if he became a Christian, it would be a source of great good to him here and hereafter; but that if he did not, he would inevitably go to the devil. But the old priest was firm in his own faith, and would not be baptized. He concurred entirely with the others, in representing Famagostad and Zipaltonal as themselves uncreated, the creators of heaven and earth, and the greatest of gods. He added, that they were like the Indians themselves, forever young, dwelt in the heavens towards the rising of the sun, and that their aid in war, or for other purposes, previously to the arrival of the Christians, was procured by addressing petitions to heaven. Tacoteyda testified that Famagostad and Zipaltonal received to themselves, at their abiding place in the eastern heavens, those who had lived worthily, or had been slain in battle, but that all others were sent under the earth; that those who went above did not carry their bodies with them, but only a heart or rather that which was the cause of life, and which in departing from the body caused death. The Fray asked him what the gods would do when all men ceased to live. To which the Indian priest replied, very frankly, that he did not know; nor did he know anything of a flood which had destroyed the world.
Altogether, his examination does not appear to have been satisfactory to the Fray Bobadilla, who dismissed him, and sent for an Indian named Coyen, who was very aged, exceeding eighty years, and whose head was white as cotton wool. He said he was a Christian, or rather that water had been poured on his head, and he had had a new name given him, which, however, he had forgotten. His testimony, in respect to the gods, confirmed what had been said by the others; they were immortal—resembled the Indians—were ever young—dwelt on high—anciently communicated with the priests in the temples, but did so no longer, and loved the blood and hearts of children, and the ' perfume of resins. He had heard, from his ancestors, that the world had been destroyed by water in remote times, and that none were saved, but that the gods had created the world anew. The good went on high with the Teotes, the bad below the earth. The body putrefied in the ground, but the principle of life, which dwelt in the heart, and which was immortal, went above.
Upon the 30th of the same month, the Fray resumed his inquiries, and called up the chief of Xaxoita, whose name was Quibiat, a comparatively young man, who was not a Christian, but desired to become one, whereat Bobadilla was so delighted, that he not only baptized him, but gave him his own name. The Fray undoubtedly thought he had found a profitable subject, but Quibiat answered every question with " I do not know!"
So he was sent off and an Indian named Atochinal called in, who, although but a sorry Christian, nevertheless answered all the questions put to him, in precisely the same way with those who had been previously examined, except that he did not know whether the world was destroyed by fire or water, only that his fathers said that it had been destroyed.
The Fray afterwards collected thirteen Indians, priests, caziques, and others, and made various inquiries of them, which, with their answers, are given below. It should be remembered, however, that the Fray was now amongst the Niquirans, or people of Mexican stock.
The Fray first asked them if they were the original inhabitants of the country; to which they answered, that although their ancestors had been here from time immemorial, they were not the true aborigines, but came originally from a distant country called Ticomega Emaguatega which was situated towards the west, i. e. N. W. They quitted because they had masters who ill treated them. " Friar. Were these masters Indians or christians ? Indian. Indians.— F, What was the service which was required of your fathers? I, They tilled the ground, and served their masters as we now serve the Christians. Their masters overtasked, abused, and even ate them. It was fear which induced them to emigrate. Their masters came from another country, and by numbers and force overcame them.— F. What is your religion? Whom do you worship? I. We adore Famagostad and Zipoltonal, who are our gods,— F. Who sends you rain and all other things? I. The rain is sent by Quiateot son of the god Home-Atelite and the goddess Home-Ateciguat. They dwell at the extremity of the world, where the sun goes. — F. Have they ever lived on earth? I. No.— F. From whence do they come. I. We know not— F. Who made the heavens and earth, and all things else? I. Famagogtad and Zipcdtoncd. — F. Did they make the father and mother of Quiateot? I. No; what relates to water is an entirely different thing, but we know very little of the matter.— F. Has Quiateot a wife? I. No.— F. Who serve him? I. We think he ought to have servants, but we know not who they are.— F. What does he eat? I. What we do; for our food has come from the gods.— F. Which do you regard as the most powerful, the father, mother, or son? I. They are equal to one another.— F. When do you ask for rain, and what do you do to obtain it? I. We go to the temple dedicated to him, and sacrifice some young children. After having cut off their heads, we sprinkle the blood on the images and stone idols in the house of prayer consecrated to our gods, and which, in our language, is called Thobat. — F. What do you do with the bodies of the sacrificed? I. Those of the children we bury; those of the men are eaten by the caziques and chiefs, but not by the rest of the people.— F. When this is done, does the god send you rain? I. Sometimes he does, but sometimes not— F, Why do you go to the temples, and what do you say and do there? I. The temples are to as what the churches are to Christians; there are our gods, and there we bum perfumes in their honor; we ask of them health if we are sick; rain if it is needed, for we are poor, and if the earth should be parched we can have no fruits;—in short, we ask of them all things of which we stand in need. The principal cazique enters the temple and prays in the name of all; the rest of the Indians do not enter. The cazique remains there for prayer an entire year, and during that time never leaves the temple. When he comes forth a great festival is celebrated in his honor, with dancing and feasting. His nostrils are then pierced, to show that he has been pontiff of the temple, which is esteemed to be the greatest of honors. Another chief is then sought to take his place, so that there may always be one in the temple. As to those temples, which are only a kind of oratorio, any one can place in them one of his children; and any one who desires may enter, provided he is unmarried, and on condition of not having had connection with any woman for an entire year; that is to say, until the caziques and priests who are in the temple shall have come out— F. Are married persons who are willing to quit their wives and go into the temples, suffered to do so? I. Yes, But at the expiration of the year they must return to their wives, and if caziques, resume their government.— F. How are they provided with food? I. It is brought to them by children from the house of the priests, and during all the time they are in the temple no one can enter it beyond the vestibule, except those young persons who carry provisions.— F. While in the temple do they converse with the gods? I. For a long time our gods have not visited or conversed with us. If our ancestors may be believed, they were once in the habit of doing so. All that we know is, that the person charged with praying to the gods, asks of them all things needful.— F. In time of war, do they come forth from the temple? I.. No. The vestibule of the temple is very convenient for meeting.— F. Who clean and sweep the temples? I. Young boys only; married or old men take no part in the matter.— F. Have you, during the year, any prescribed days of general attendance at the temple? I. We have twenty-one festival days for amusement, drinking and dancing around the court, but no one is permitted to enter the temple.— F. Do the women take any part in collecting the straw, bringing wood, or anything else which may be of use either in building or repairing the temple? I. The women can take no part in anything which concerns the temple, and are never admitted within it— F. Since you sometimes sacrifice women, do you not violate the law which forbids them from entering the temple? I. When women are sacrificed in the temples or principal houses of prayer, they are first put to death in the court; but it is allowable to introduce them into the ordinary temples — F. What do you do with the blood of those who are sacrificed in the courts of the principal temples? I. It is brought into the temple, and the priest sprinkles it on the idols with his hands.— F. What do you do with the body ? Z It is eaten; except the bodies of females, which are not touched. When the victim is a man, the priest has his share.— F, Are those who are sacrificed voluntary victims? Are they selected by lot? or is it a punishment inflicted upon them? I. They are slaves, or prisoners of war.— F. As you esteem your gods so much, how can you sacrifice persons of infamous condition to them? I. Our ancestors did so, and we do likewise.— F, Do you make any other offerings in your temples ? I. Every one brings such offerings as he pleases, such as fowls, maize, fish, fruits, etc They are carried to the temple by the young people.— F Who eats these offerings? I. The priests of the temple; and if any remains, it is eaten by the boys.— F. Are the provisions cooked before being carried to the temple? I. Always.— F. Does any one taste of these offerings before the priest? I. No one presumes to touch or taste of them before him; for this is considered one of the most important regulations of the temple.— F, Why do you make a self-sacrifice by cutting the tongue? I. We always do this before we purchase, sell, or conclude a bargain, because we believe it will bring us a fortunate result. The god we invoke on such occasions is named Mixcoa. — F. Who is your god Mixcoa? I. Carved stones, which we invoke in his honor.— F How do you know this god will aid your bargains? I. Because when we invoke him, we make good bargains.— F. Has Nicaragua ever been visited by any other nation than the Spaniards, who might have taught you all these ceremonies, ordered you to pour water on your heads, or to cut off the foreskin? and did you know that the Christians were on the eve of coming to your country? I. We know nothing of all this; but since you have come among us, you have told us it was good to pour water on the head, and to be baptized.— F, What is it that is cleansed by pouring water on the head? I. The heart— F. How do you know that the heart is cleansed? I. We only know that it purifies us; it is the duty of your priests to explain how.— F. At your death how do you dispose of your property, and what precautions do you take for another life? I. When we die, we recommend our children and property to our survivors, that they may not perish, but be taken care of after we are dead. He who lives a good life, after death goes on high among the Teotes; if a bad one, below the earth.— F. Who are your gods? I. Famogostad and Zipaltonal; and when we go to them they say, "here come our children!"— F. Why do you break the idols upon your tombs? I In order that they may think of us for twenty or thirty days; after that they forget us.— F, Why, at the death of any one of you, do you paint yourselves with red paints, decorate yourselves with plumes, singing, playing on instruments, and celebrating festivals? I. We do nothing of the kind. When our children die, we envelop them in cotton cloth, and bury them before our door. We leave all our property to our children, who are our heirs, if legitimate; that is to say, the children of a husband and wife, and born in the house; but they are not our heirs, if born of other women, or out of the house ; for those only are legitimate, who are born in the house. If we die without children, all we possess is buried with us.— F, What are your funeral ceremonies? I. Upon the death of a chief or cazique, a large quantity of cotton cloth, shirts, cloaks, plumes, hunting horns, and all sorts of articles belonging to the dead, a portion of each kind, is burned with the body, together with all the gold he possessed. Afterwards all the ashes are gathered together, placed in an earthen vase, and buried before the house of the deceased.— F. Why do you not bury them in your temples? I. Because it is not customary.— F. Do you place provisions in the vase? I. At the time of burning, a little maize is placed in a calabash, by the side of the dead body, and burned with it— F. The heart, julio, or soul, does it die with the body? I. If the deceased has lived well, the julio goes on high with the gods; if not, it perishes with the body and is no more.— F. Do the Indians see anything at the moment of dying? I. They have visions of persons, lizards, serpents, and many things which fill them with fear. They know thereby that they must die. The objects which they see do not speak, but strive to frighten them. Sometimes the dead return to this world, and appear to the living for the same object— F, Do not the crosses placed above the dead, by the Christians, protect them ? I. Much; for since this practice of the Christians was introduced, we have no more visions.— F, Who taught you to give your idols the form which they have? I. Our fathers left us idols of stone, and from them, as models, have we made those in our houses.— F. Why do you have them in your houses? I. That we may easily invoke them when necessary.— F. Do you sacrifice to the idols in your houses? I. No. Friar. Before your temples stand earthen huts of a circular form, and terminating in a point; they resemble a sheaf of grain in appearance; the summit is reached by a stairway through the middle of the hut: what is the name of these huts, and what is their use? Indian, Their name is Tezarit; the priest of the temple, whose name is Tamagoz, ascends to the summit of the hut, and there makes the sacrifices of the victims, sprinkling their blood on the stone idols."
The Fray Bobabilla afterwards continued his inquiries in respect to other matters, with what results will be seen elsewhere. He ascertained that the god of hunger was called Vizetot, and the god of the air Chiquinau or Hecact, which last was probably intended for Eltecatl, the Mexican name for air or wind. He also ascertained the names of the days of their months, which entirely coincided with those of Mexico, as also many interesting facts connected with their religious ceremonies. They affirmed that they had twenty-one principal festivals each year, on which occasions no work was done, but the entire people surrendered themselves to rejoicing, and the observance of the rites prescribed for these occasions. During these periods they abstained from all connection with their wives; the females sleeping within the houses, and the males without. This abstinence was deemed most essential, and any infraction, it was supposed, would be summarily punished by the gods. It does not appear that fasting was enjoined on any occasion.
The Spaniards were very much surprised, both here and in Mexico, at finding a well-established rite, corresponding entirely with that of confession, as it existed in the Catholic Church. The confession was not, however, made to the priests, but to certain old men, who always maintained the strictest reserve, in respect to what was communicated to them. The penances were imposed for the benefit of the temple. These old men were chosen by the council, and wore a calabash suspended from their necks, as a mark of dignity. It was requisite that they should be unmarried, and distinguished for their virtues. Neglect of religious ceremonies and blasphemy of the gods, were regarded as offenses requiring early confession and absolution, lest they should entail sickness or death on the offender. No person was required to confess himself, however, until after he had attained the age of puberty.
They seem to have had a great variety of superstitious notions, corresponding generally with those prevailing amongst the other Indian nations, both to the northward and southward. Amongst these was the practice of throwing sticks or grass upon certain stones at the road side, in passing; by which they thought they would be less subjected to hunger and fatigue. They had also a superstition something like that of the "evil eye," amongst the Arabs and some other Oriental nations. They supposed that there were persons whose looks were mortal, and whose eyes were fatal to children. They had, also a great fear of sorcerers, whom they called texoxes.
Oviedo has not described the temples to which he so frequently refers, but Cerezeda informs us that they were built of timber, and thatched; but large, with many low, dark, inner chapels. These, it seems, were surrounded by large courts, beyond which none except the priests and the cazique during his year's novitiate, dared to pass. Besides these, there were what the Indians called Tezarit oratorios, or "high places," which stood before or around the temples, and which Oviedo describes as being conical or pyramidal in shape, ascended by steps. Upon these the human victims were sacrificed.
“Within view of their temples," says Cerezeda, who is more explicit, "there were divers bases or pillars like pulpits, erected in the fields, of unburned brick, and a certain kind of clammy earth, called bitumen, which are from eight to fifteen steps in height. The summit is flat, and varies in size, according to the purposes for which it is designed. Some are broad enough to hold ten men. In the middle of this space standeth a stone, higher than the rest, equaling a man's body in length ; and this accursed stone is the altar of their miserable sacrifices. Upon the appointed day of sacrifice, the king ascendeth another of these altars, whence he may view the ceremony, and the people gather about; when the priest, in full view of all, from this eminent place, performeth the office of preacher, and shaking a sharp knife of stone which he holds in his hand, proclaims that a sacrifice is to be made, as also whether it is to be a prisoner, or one who is a slave, or has been kept from infancy for this purpose. For every chief maintains certain persons for sacrifice, who are fed daintily, and so far from being sad and sorrowful, in anticipation of their fate, are persuaded that, by this kind of death, they shall be turned into gods and heavenly creatures. They are reverently received wherever they go, and whatever they ask is given to them. Those to be sacrificed are stretched out flat on the stone whereof I have spoken, and the priest, cutting open the breast, plucks out the heart, wherewith he anoints the mouths of the idols. The body is then cut in pieces, and distributed amongst the priests, nobility, and the people. But the head is hung, as a trophy, upon the branches of certain small trees, which are preserved for that purpose near the place of sacrifice. The parts which are distributed they partly bury before their doors, but the rest they burn, leaving the ashes in the field of sacrifice."
According to Herrara, the high-places above described, stood within the courts of the temples. He also informs us, that the sacrifices were frequently attended by ceremonies, in which all the people joined,—by dances, penances, and processions. In these processions, the priests wore cotton surplices, sometimes short, and sometimes long, hanging to the ground and heavily fringed. They carried also little bags of powdered herbs. The people followed, each person bearing a little flag, "with the representation of the idol which he most venerated," and carrying also their weapons of war.
"Their standard," quaintly observes the chronicler, “was the picture of the devil set on a spear, and carried by the eldest priest, the religious men singing the while, to the place of worship. The ground was then covered with carpets, and strewed with flowers. When the standard halted, the singing ceased, and all commenced praying. At a signal from the chief priest, they punctured various parts of their bodies, and receiving the blood on paper, rubbed it on the face of the idol; and, in the mean time, the youths skirmished and danced in honor of the festival. The wounds were cured with the powder and herbs carried by the priests." " The ceremonies ended," says Cerezeda, " the priests bow down the spear a little, at which time, the priests first, and then the nobles, and lastly the people, whisper the idol in the ear, and every one uttereth the tempestuous outrage of his mind, and bending the head to one shoulder, with reverent trembling and mumbling, they humbly beseech that, luckily and happily, he would favor their desires."
There was another rite, practiced at certain times, connected with a worship which prevailed to a greater extent in America than has generally been supposed, and which discovers to us the rationale of many remarkable observances otherwise inexplicable. It consisted in sprinkling blood, drawn from the organs of generation, upon maize, which was afterwards distributed, and eaten with great solemnity. This scenical rite, under one form or another, may be traced through the rituals of all the semi-civilized nations of America, in strict parallelism with certain Phallic rites of the Hindus, and of those other numerous nations of the old world, which were devoted to a similar primitive religion.
The Fray Bobadilla was piously indignant at the practices of the Indians, and longed to be able to prove to them how insignificant their Teotes were as compared with the God and his subordinates whom he worshiped. In this respect he was favored, for there were several manifestations from above in his behalf, hardly less extraordinary than those which befell the Spaniards in Mexico, where the Virgin and the archangel Michael visibly, and in person, assisted in the fights against the Indians. Thus, there had been no rain in Nicaragua for a long time; but upon the Fray's arrival at the Indian towns, it rained for five consecutive days, which he regarded as a miracle, and straightway assured the Indians if they would become Christians, "it would rain whenever it was wanted, the seasons always be good, and that, besides, they would thereby save their souls. "The Indians approved of the rain, and in order to secure it, allowed the Fray to collect "a large number of idols, heads of deer, and parcels stained with blood, in the public square, and give them to the flames. "They even allowed him to convert their temple into a Christian church, which he did by sprinkling it with holy water, and setting up within it a cross and an image of the Virgin, which last he especially enjoined them to keep clean.
According to the notary of Granada, quoted by Oviedo, the Fray baptized not less than 43,000 Indians within the space of nine days; this was at the average rate of about 5,000 a-day, and may be called a " fair business." But the miracle of the five days' steady rain was nothing compared with what happened to the Fray in the province of Matearas, where he found a child dying, to which he administered the rite of baptism, whereupon the babe ejaculated "cruz!" and died! This so astonished the mother, that she requested to be baptized also, which was no sooner done, than she exclaimed that she saw her child ascending to heaven. The child had a magnificent funeral in consequence, and the Fray made the most of the miracle, inducing not less than ten thousand Indians to be baptized on the strength of it.
But the zeal of Bobadilla did not stop here; he burned "a vast number of idols, temples, and oratorios, erected crosses on their ruins, as also on the roads and elevations, and gave the Indians images of the Virgin and a quantity of holy water."
But the chronicler did not put much faith in these conversions; for he says that he would agree to give a peso de oro for every Indian able to tell his baptismal name, and repeat the Pater and Ave, and take a maravedi for every one who could not, and make money by the operation. In his opinion these baptisms did no good, and were only valuable to swell reports to be sent to Spain. " Far better," he sensibly ejaculates, "is it to instruct and truly Christianize one Indian, than to baptize thousands, who know not what it is to be a Christian, or what to do to be saved. I should like to ask those," be continues, " who have been god-fathers to four and five hundred Indians, what they have done for their godchildren?"
(Squier, E. G. (Ephraim George), 1821-1888. Nicaragua, its people, scenery, monuments, and the proposed interoceanic canal (Kindle Locations 5793-5799). New York, D. Appleton.)