THE ARK, THE DELUGE, AND THE WORLD’S GREATYEAR.
first sight the general effect of the innumerable deluge-legends is to suggest theexistence of a primitive kind of catastrophobia resulting from fear of the water-flood. Thearkite symbolism originated in the mount and tree, the cave or enclosure being a natural place of refuge when the waters were out upon the earth; and these were followed by theraft, the boat, or ark that swam the waters as a means of human safety. Before the legendsof a deluge could have been formulated, the deluge as an overwhelming flood of water had become a figure used in sign-language to express the natural fact in a variety of phenomena to which the type might be and was applied. It is expressed in English still bywhat is termed “a flooding.” But a deluge is not only an overflow of water. There is adeluge of blood (both Egyptian and Polynesian). Night brings its deluge of darkness, anddawn lets loose the floods of day. The so-called deluge-legend comprises a hundredlegends and a hundred applications of the same type, from one single origin in sign-language as the primitive mode of representing a fact in nature. The deluge is universal because it was
local. The human race spread out over all the earth would not have been greatly troubled about an excessive overflow of water once upon a time inMesopotamia. The legend is coeval with all time, and current amongst all people, becausethe deluge did not occur “once upon a time.” On the grand scale it was the mythicalrepresentation of the ending and submergence of an old order of things in theastronomical mythology; but there were various distinct deluges with that meaning, andnot merely one. The Egyptian deluge in the so-called “destruction of mankind” isdescribed as continuing for three nights and days. The time is measured by three days’length in navigation through a deluge of blood (
Records of the Past,
6, 103). Now, threenights and days is the length of time that was computed for the monthly absence of themoon in the nether-world. Hence there was a deluge of darkness on that scale inmythology. But the deluge occurred in at least four categories of phenomena. There was adeluge of blood and a deluge of darkness, as well as a deluge of water. There is also thedeluge that was a type of periodic time; and by no black art of bibliolatry can these four kinds of deluge be combined in one.A deluge being an ending of a cycle in time, we can understand the545language of the Codex Chimalpopoca (translated by the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg)concerning the flood, when it says, “Now the water was tranquil for forty years plustwelve.” “All was lost. Even the mountains sank into the water, and the water remainedtranquil for fifty-two springs.” In this account, the well-known Mexican cycle of fifty-two years is measured by means of a deluge at the end of the period. In Inner Africa theyear was reckoned by the periodic great rain; in Egypt by the inundation; and a deluge,we repeat, became the natural type of an ending in time in the uranographicrepresentation. In India, a solar pralaya, in which
the waters rise till they reach the seven Rishis in the region of the pole,
is of necessity kronian, and applies solely to the keeping