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Sacrifice Of The Toltecs


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

Centuries ago, when Toltec civilization had extended over Arizona, and
perhaps over the whole West, the valleys were occupied by large
towns--the towns whose ruins are now known as the City of Ovens, City of
Stones, and City of the Dead. The people worked at trades and arts that
had been practised by their ancestors before the pyramids were built in
Egypt. Montezuma had come to the throne of Mexico, and the Aztecs were a
subject people; Europe had discovered America and forgotten it, and in
America the arrival of Europeans was recalled only in traditions. But,
like other nations, the Toltecs became a prey to self-confidence, to
luxury, to wastefulness, and to deadening superstitions. Already the
fierce tribes of the North were lurking on the confines of their country
in a faith of speedy conquest, and at times it seemed as if the elements
were against them.

The villagers were returning from the fields, one day, when the entire
region was smitten by an earthquake. Houses trembled, rumblings were
heard, people fell in trying to reach the streets, and reservoirs burst,
wasting their contents on the fevered soil. A sacrifice was offered. Then
came a second shock, and another mortal was offered in oblation. As the
earth still heaved and the earthquake demon muttered underground, the
king gave his daughter to the priests, that his people might be spared,
though he wrung his hands and beat his brow as he saw her led away and
knew that in an hour her blood would stream from the altar.

The girl walked firmly to the cave where the altar was erected--a cave in
Superstition Mountains. She knelt and closed her eyes as the
officiating-priest uttered a prayer, and, gripping his knife of jade
stone, plunged it into her heart. She fell without a struggle. And now,
the end.

Hardly had the innocent blood drained out and the fires been lighted to
consume the body, when a pall of cloud came sweeping across the heavens;
a hot wind surged over the ground, laden with dust and smoke; the
storm-struck earth writhed anew beneath pelting thunder-bolts; no tremor
this time, but an upheaval that rent the rocks and flung the cities down.
It was an hour of darkness and terror. Roars of thunder mingled with the
more awful bellowing beneath; crash on crash told that houses and temples
were falling in vast ruin; the mountainsides were loosened and the rush
of avalanches added to the din; the air was thick, and through the clouds
the people groped their way toward the fields; rivers broke from their
confines and laid waste farms and gardens! The gods had indeed abandoned
them, and the spirit of the king's daughter took its flight in company
with thousands of souls in whose behalf she had suffered uselessly.

The king was crushed beneath his palace-roof and the sacerdotal
executioner perished in a fall of rock. The survivors fled in panic and
the Ishmaelite tribes on their frontier entered their kingdom and
pillaged it of all abandoned wealth. The cities never were rebuilt and
were rediscovered but a few years ago, when the maiden's skeleton was
also found. Nor does any Indian cross Superstition Mountains without a
sense of apprehension.

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