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factorily established. Still, no one speaks any longer of American languages in general, nor would any one venture to treat the various religions of America as varieties of one and the same original type. Progress has been slow, still there has been progress here also. We can distinguish between at least four independent centres of language and likewise of religion, and though future researches may help us to subdivide more minutely, they will hardly tend to remove the landmarks which so far have been established.
These four centres of language and religion are :
1. The Red-Indians or Red-skins in the North. They will for the present have to be treated as one group, though not only in their language, but in their religious ideas and social customs also, different tribes exhibit very marked differences. Totemism, which has often been represented as the common feature of their religion, was originally much more of a social custom than a religious belief, though, like many social customs, it acquired in time something of a religious sanction. Their religion, if we are allowed to generalise, is based on a belief in divine spirits, often in a Supreme Spirit, and the questions of the creation of the world and of man have occupied the thoughts of many of these so-called savages.
2. The next nucleus of an independent religion existed in Mexico, where, if we may trust tradition, two immigrations took place from the North, bringing with them new elements of civilisation. These immigrants are known by the names of Tolteks and Azteks, the latter driving the former before them into more southern latitudes. Religion and ceremonial had
reached a very high development in Mexico at the time of its discovery and devastation by the Spaniards. Even philosophical theories on the true nature of the gods were not unknown among the higher classes.
3. Central America seems to have been the seat of an independent civilisation, though strongly influenced by immigrations from the North. One language, the Quiché, has been more carefully studied, and an ancient book, the Popol Vuh, written in that language, has been published in the original and translated. Some scholars have claimed for it a place among the Sacred Books of the world, and it is certainly a rich mine for studying the traditions of the Mayas, as they existed in the fifteenth century.
4. Peru, the kingdom of the Incas, is chiefly distinguished by its solar religion and solar worship, the very rulers being considered as children of the sun. Here also philosophical opinions seem to have sprung up from a religious soil, and the reasoning of a famous Inca has often been quoted, who maintained that there must be a higher power than their father, the sun, because the sun was not free, but had to perform its appointed course from day to day and from year to year.
Besides these four groups, there are still a number of independent tribes of whose language and religion we know something, but not enough to enable us to classify them either by themselves or with other tribes.
Such are the Arctic or Hyperborean tribes, more particularly the Eskimos and Greenlanders in the extreme North; the Arowakes and the once famous Caribes in the north of South America and in the islands of the Antilles ; the aboriginal inhabitants of Brazil; the Abipones, so well described by Dobrizhofer (1784); and in the South, the Patagonians and the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego.
Until the languages of these people have been carefully analysed by real scholars, any attempt at grouping them would prove simply mischievous. We are at present in a stage where our duty is to distinguish, not to confound. Even to speak of the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego as one race has produced, as we saw, disastrous results, and it is to be hoped that we shall hear no more of a South American language or of a North American religion. It is true that certain legends have been found in the North as well as in the South of America, which seem to point to a common origin. But it will be time to account for such coincidences after the legends of each centre have been studied by themselves, and after some clearer light has been thrown on the component elements of the population of the whole American continent.
How, under present circumstances, scholars could have been bold enough to trace the whole American race to immigrations from Asia or even from Europe, is difficult to understand. The physical possibility, no doubt, was there, whether across the island bridges in the North, or by sea from West or East. We heard but lately how a large vessel, cast off by its crew, drifted safely from America to England (the Hebrides). The same may have happened on either coast of America. But any attempts to recognise in the inhabitants of America descendants of Jews, Phenicians, Chinese, or Celts are for the present simply hopeless, and are in fact outside the pale of real science.
Oceanic Languages. The languages which extend from Madagascar on the East coast of Africa to the Sandwich Islands, West of America, have been far more carefully studied than those of America and Africa. I speak of languages, not of races, for if ethnological classification has proved a failure anywhere, it has when applied to the mixture of blood that led to the formation of such races as Australians, Papuans, Malays, Polynesians, Melanesians, Micronesians, Negritos, Mincopies, Orang-utans, and all the rest.
From the latest work on this family of languages, by Dr. Codrington ("The Melanesian Languages, Oxford, 1885), it appears that we must admit an original, though very distant, relationship between the Malay, the Polynesian, Melanesian, and Micronesian languages, but that in their later development it is possible to distinguish between the Malay, the Polynesian, and the Melanesian (with Micronesian) as independent branches of a common stem. The dialects of Australia stand as yet apart, as too little known, as well as those of New Guinea, though some dialects, like the Motu of New Guinea, are clearly Melanesian.
It follows from this division, that with regard to religion also we must distinguish between a Malay, a Polynesian, a Melanesian, and possibly a New Guinea (Papuan) and Australian centre. Our information, however, from the two last, is very imperfect.
Malay. Owing to the proximity of the Malay islands to India, they have from the earliest times been overrun by immigrants, conquerors, and missionaries from the Asiatic Continent. Their ancient religious opinions are covered up and hidden under superimposed strata of Hindu, Buddhist, Mohammedan, and Christian faith, and what there is of native growth in Java, Borneo and elsewhere represents probably the mere dregs of a former religion.
Polynesia The Polynesian languages, on the contrary, present us with an abundant growth both of religion and of poetical mythology. These Polynesian traditions are particularly valuable to the student of comparative mythology, because they offer striking similarities with the legends of Greeks, Romans, Teutons and others, without the possibility of a common origin or of a later historical contact.
The Melanesians, so far as we can judge, do not differ much from the Polynesians and Micronesians in the fundamental outlines of their religious opinions, but they are not so rich in imaginative legends. Further research, however, may modify this opinion.
As to the Australians and the Papuas of New Guinea, very little has been ascertained as yet of their religion, except what is embodied in their ceremonial observances and social customs.
Classification of Languages, why necessary.