Flood Legends from the Americas
The knowledge of the flood pervades Mexico, Central and South America, just as it does in the US and Canada. Almost every people group of whom we have real ethnographic data has a memory of the great flood. We have found over 170 such traditions of the flood from Mexico to South America!
Make no mistake: these traditions do not speak of a local flood or some generic flood story. They match the Noahic flood account on several specific details. There can be no doubt that they are referring to the flood of Noah, described in Genesis.
This expansive array of flood traditions, documented in my book Echoes of Ararat, is exactly what we would expect to find if the biblical account is true. This unequivocal body of evidence demands an explanation. It will be found that the only explanation that will do it justice is the truth of the Genesis record—in light of the sheer volume of these tribal traditions, their antiquity, and the specific details with which they match the Genesis account.
The great civilizations of Mexico all knew about the flood. The Toltecs had historical paintings and traditions that told of an ancient flood, which they said occurred 1716 years after the creation of the world (this is within 100 years of the biblical timeframe). Only a few escaped the flood, floating inside a “toplipetlacali,” an enclosed vessel. After the flood, they said that “men multiplied and made a very high zacuali … which means the highest tower, at which they sought to find shelter when the Second World would be destroyed. In time, the languages were changed and, not understanding each other, the people went to different parts of the world.” They said they arrived in Mexico “520 years after the flood had passed, which are five ages.”1
The Aztecs too have ancient paintings that depict the flood, showing one couple safely floating inside a hollow tree as the world was destroyed by water. In another ancient pictorial manuscript from Mexico (Codex Vaticanus 3733), we find the depiction of a woman talking to a serpent and two children behind the serpent, contending with each other. The similarity of this painting to Genesis is obvious, and it is confirmed by the literature and traditions from Mexico. As Humboldt explains, the woman is Cihuacohuatl, the “woman of our flesh,” and the “serpent woman.” She is considered the mother of the human race, and she is “always represented with a great serpent.” She is considered the mother of two twin children (they are shown in this exhibit). She is also considered to have “fallen from her first state of happiness and innocence.”2 How great are these parallels with Genesis!
“Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth; and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth.” (Genesis 8:11)
Ancient (pre-colonial) paintings representing the flood were also found among the Mixtecs, Tlascaltecs, Zapotecs, and Michoacáns, as Humboldt reported.3 The Michoacáns told the first Spanish colonizers their account of the flood in which their Noah, whom they called Tezpi, “embarked in a spacious ‘acalli’ with his wife, his children, several animals, and grain, the preservation of which was of importance to mankind. When the great spirit, Tezcatlipoca, ordered the waters to withdraw, Tezpi sent out from his bark a vulture.” This bird did not return to him, finding many carcasses to eat from. Then, “Tezpi sent out other birds, one of which, the hummingbird alone, returned, holding in its beak a branch covered with leaves.” The man, seeing that fresh vegetation was growing on the earth again, left his vessel “near the mountain of Colhuacan.”4
“Amongst one hundred and twenty different tribes that I have visited in North and South and Central America, not a tribe exists that has not related to me distinct or vague traditions of such a calamity, in which one, or three, or eight persons were saved above the waters, on the top of a high mountain.” (George Catlin, early 19th century explorer and painter)
The Zapotecs, who had a powerful empire in southern Mexico, said that the flood wiped out the world’s first inhabitants—giants, according to the Zapotecs—because “God was angry with them because of their idolatry.” “A number of persons were able to escape in a boat. They found themselves on top of a hill when the waters subsided.”5 The Cora, an isolated mountain tribe of the state of Nayarit, told that after the flood, “God told the zopilote (vulture) to see if the earth was sufficiently dry to get out of the canoe. But he did not return because he ate the dead.” Then “he commanded the pigeon to see if the world was already good. Then the pigeon went and saw that the world was good.”6
The Tzeltal of Chiapas told that “God became very angry and sent down the deluge. One intelligent man was saved in a canoe.” They have a memory of the birds that Noah sent as well, adding that “then God sent the hawk, which fulfilled its mission.”7 The Paipai tribe of Baja, California, had a vague memory of the tower of Babel and the confusion of languages that occurred there. The Opata people, according to an old manuscript from the Ayer Collection, in the Newberry Library in Chicago, “say that a few children, boys and girls, were put inside a hollow log the shape of a drum, in which they were saved. From these children the people are descended.”8
“Now all the writers of barbarian histories make mention of this flood and of this ark.” (Josephus, ca. A.D. 90)
According to the Lacandon, an isolated jungle tribe of southeastern Mexico, a god instructed his son-in-law “that he should build a boat, in which they should enclose one man and one woman of every lineage, and samples of all types of animals, and seeds of all trees and plants of the forest. … Then it began to rain without stopping. It was a deluge. … All mankind perished, except those who were in the boat.”9
The pyramid at Cholula, which Humboldt described as “the greatest, most ancient, and most celebrated of the whole of the pyramidal monuments of Anahuac [Mexico],” was not originally intended for the worship of Quetzalcoatl—a demonic being depicted as “the “green-feathered serpent,” possibly Satan himself. It was a memorial of the high mountain of the flood. This pyramid at Cholula, no doubt, represents a memory of Ararat itself. The ancient tradition preserved at Cholula was that the flood took place “4,800 years after the creation of the world” and that only seven people—giants—survived by taking refuge in a cave at the top of a high mountain. Their captain, Xelhua, is said to have later built a great pyramid, “the top of which was to reach the clouds,” but “the gods beheld with wrath this edifice.” “Irritated at the daring attempt of Xelhua, they hurled fire on the pyramid. Numbers of the workmen perished, the work was discontinued, and the monument was afterward dedicated to Quetzalcoatl, the god of the air.” This is clearly a memory of the tower of Babel. Humboldt cites evidence, further documented in my book Echoes of Ararat, confirming this tradition’s authenticity as well.10
We could also describe the traditions of the flood preserved by the Mayans, the Tarahumara, Tlapanec, Tepehua, Chontal, and many other tribes of Mexico. In short, it can be categorically stated that all the tribes of Mexico knew of the Noahic flood.
Further south, the nations of Central America all have an account of the flood. The Popol Vuh of the K’iché people (a Mayan people) contains a memory of the flood, telling that the first inhabitants of the world were destroyed by a “great flood” because “they no longer remembered the Heart of Heaven.” “They no longer thought of their Creator nor their maker … And for this reason they were killed, they were deluged. A heavy resin fell from the sky.” The Achi people of Guatemala, another Mayan group, told the first Spanish settlers that they had this flood painted among their antiquities.11
Flood histories have been found among some 170 tribes of Mexico and Central and South America
The Popol Vuh also described a time when all the nations spoke the same language and gathered together at a place called Tulan, which is their Babel. Of this place it says, “it was there that the languages of the nations were changed.” “Their languages came to be different. They did not hear each other clearly when they came from Tulan, thus they split apart.”12
An old tribal elder of the Jacalteks told that “In the ancient culture, our Mayan ancestors speak of a great deluge that covered and destroyed the world.” “Then the waters went up, up, and up, flooding all the mountains and highest hills and killing all that had life on the earth. Only one house had been raised over the waters, which had covered all the species of animals. For a long time the waters covered the land and very slowly they went down, and down, and down, until the land was again free from those turbulent, destructive waters.” The Jacalteks also preserved the memory of Noah’s sending of the two birds, replacing his raven with a vulture and his dove with a grackle, which “was sent to observe the horizon. As the water was still high, the grackle soon returned to report its completed mission.”13
The southern Mayans of the Honduras area told that, long ago, people “possessed a magic chest,” which contained an unlimited supply of everything they needed. However, “on account of this they forgot to worship God. God sent a flood to destroy them,” and they all drowned.14 According to the Pipil tribe, the first people “outraged the creator” and “a furious rain broke out on them.” All died except for two people, who repopulated the earth.15
The Guatuso, an isolated tribe of Costa Rica, said that “in ancient times, when the gods sent the catastrophe,” it occurred because the people provoked heaven with their sexual immorality. Next, it says that animals came to them, out from the forest, and spoke to them, warning them that destruction was coming. The sloth came and spoke first, then the tapir, and then the jaguar also warned them, but the people did not listen. Finally, the gods sent the flood, and “after a short time the world was drowned.” “All died in the water.” “The people were annihilated, with the exception of one righteous man, who is pulled out of the water” by order of one of the gods.16
The natives of Panama told the earliest Spanish colonizers that “when the Flood occurred, a man escaped in a canoe, with his wife and sons, and that from him the people of the world multiplied.” This comes from a record from the 1500s, quoted by Herrera in his work Décadas (1601).17 A record of an interview in 1528 attests to the native Nicaraguans’ knowledge of the ancient flood too.18 The Kuna and Guaymi recall the divine judgment by which “all the evil of the world was washed away by the flood,” when God “destroyed it with water, and killed all the people,” while taking care to “preserve the seed of man.”19
The Cabécar seemingly have combined the memory of the garden of Eden and the flood. They spoke of a magical tree, a woman who was bitten by a serpent, a test by a god named Sibu to see whether the people obeyed him, the flood, divine judgment, and the survival of a favored few on a giant raft. Sibu “saw that all the earth’s inhabitants behaved very badly, that they forgot and denied that he was the one who had created them.” So he sent the flood. “The majority of the people had died, having drowned in the punishment.” But others who “kept the commands” of Sibu were helped, and were enabled to build an enormous raft, by which they survived the flood and waited until the waters subsided.20 We have other accounts of the flood from Central America besides these, such as the Choco, who told that long ago, “the world was changed” in the flood. A man who spoke with God “warned the Chocos to save themselves on wooden rafts,” and that “the world was going to drown because of the rising waters.” However, “the people did not believe him.” But this prudent man prepared rafts under his house, so that when the flood came, “the house of the man was carried on the surface of the waters, floating like a raft.”21
The abundant evidence of Flood traditions can no longer be dismissed or ignored. The only valid explanation is that the Flood truly happened, just as Genesis says it did.
The native tribes of the Caribbean Islands also have their flood traditions, recorded as early as 1493 by Columbus’ companions. “The Master of Spirits,” said the Caribs, “became angry at the Caribs of that time who were very wicked.” So he sent the flood, from which only a few managed to survive. They have a memory of the serpent in the garden of Eden as well.22 Of the Taino people of Cuba, Juan de Torquemada wrote, “The old people, of more than 70 and 80 years, back when our people [the Spanish] first came to that island, said that an old man, knowing that the flood was to come, made a great boat. He placed inside it many animals, along with his family. He sent out a raven, which did not return, because it ate from the dead floating corpses. Then he sent a dove, which returned singing and carrying a twig with a leaf.”23
“When the great waters were about to be sent, a chief of distinguished piety and wisdom, named Marerewana, was informed of the coming flood, and saved himself and his family in a large canoe.” (William Brett)
Proceeding to South America, we find ubiquitous testimony of the flood. Among these, the Kágaba tribe of Colombia told that, long ago, “this world produced men with unnatural inclinations,” so perverse that “the god Zantana saw this and opened the doors of the sky, so that it would rain for four entire years. … Then Chief Seizankua built a magical boat and put all types of animals and other things inside it: four-footed animals, the birds, and all types of plants. After this, the older brother Mulkueikai entered the magical boat and closed the door. Then, it began to rain with water red and green in color. It rained for four years,” and at last the magical boat came to rest “on the peak of the Sierra Negra.”24
The Arawaks of Guyana told that “when the great waters were about to be sent, a chief of distinguished piety and wisdom, named Marerewana, was informed of the coming flood, and saved himself and his family in a large canoe.”25 The Catío remembered that the supreme God, who is a “God of justice,” and the Creator of all things, sent the flood in judgment for man’s evil behavior. They remembered the "Great Canoe” of Noah as well.26 “The God of the universe,” said the Wounaan people of Colombia, “communicated to His creation via dreams and visions.” The message that he spoke was, “a great flood is coming. The world is going to sink under a flood. Place balsa beams under your houses so that you can float to survive the flood.’” Everything happened as the people had been warned. The good people survived the flood, and the bad people were swept away.27 “The whole world was covered with water,” told the Patángoras tribe of the mountains of Colombia. “The waters had drowned the people of that time. Neither men nor women escaped, with the exception of one man.”28
“There was a shaman who lived back when the world was inundated,” told the Ashaninkas of Peru. “One night, he had a dream in which he was warned of a coming flood, and that he should build a great raft with a house on it.” He gave his grandsons instructions to cut wood, make nails, and build the raft. “When the shaman saw that everything was finished, he saw that a tapir was coming to get on the raft. He saw all types of animals come as well.” He told his grandsons to store up foods on the raft. Some of his grandsons, who were making merry, scoffed and said, “Look at our grandfather. From where will this flood come that is going to fill the earth?” Then the old man said, “Do not call me a liar. Thus I was warned in a dream the other day. You yourselves have seen the animals come to the raft. You come also.” Soon, “a strong rain fell and began to fill the earth with water. … The raft continued floating higher and higher upon the waters.” After a long time and many difficulties, “when the earth had dried out from the flood, the children of the shaman dispersed in every direction. They also married among themselves, for there were no other women. So the people multiplied to the numbers which we have today. If it had not been for that shaman, we would not exist today.”29
The tradition which the Achagua have passed down for thousands of years is that “the world was flooded long ago with a very heavy rainstorm which covered the earth, and caused everything to perish. But, one of our ancient grandfathers (so they refer to Noah), seeing that the world was being inundated, climbed up a very high mountain with his family, in order to escape with their lives.”30 The Girara and Airico tribes, on the border of Colombia and Venezuela, told that the elder god “created everything from nothing, and that he destroyed all people with a Flood, in punishment for their sins.”31 The tribes along the great Orinoco River in Venezuela have preserved the memory that “at the time of the great waters, when their fathers were forced to have recourse to boats, to escape the general inundation, the waves of the sea beat against the rocks of Encaramada.” After taking recourse to boats, they add that “a man and a woman saved themselves on a high mountain, called Tamanacu,” and that after the flood they threw palm fruits behind them, which produced men and women, who repopulated the world.” This tradition is not limited to the Tamanacs, but it “makes part of a system of historical tradition, of which we find scattered notions among the Maypures of the great cataracts; among the Indians of the Rio Erevato, which runs in to the Caura; and among almost all the tribes of the Upper Orinoco.” “Hieroglyphic figures are often seen at great heights, on rocky cliffs,” Humboldt added, which memorialize this flood and how the survivors repopulated the earth.32 Among these tribes of the interior of Venezuela, Filippo Gilij, in the mid-1700s, “found a legend of the origin of woman, which differs but very slightly from the record in the book of Genesis.”33 The Piaroa, Guajiro, and other tribes have traditions of the wickedness of mankind that resulted in God sending the flood, some of which also remember Noah’s birds.
Hieroglyphic figures depicting the Flood are seen at great heights, on rocky cliffs in Venezuela
The Wapishana, Taruma, and several other tribes had a tradition which, interestingly, combines a memory of the flood and the garden of Eden. They told of great waters which “burst forth in a tremendous flood, which gradually rose and covered the face of the whole earth except Serriri, a three-peaked mountain.” They also spoke of a makeshift vessel which the survivors “used as a canoe, and floated to the top of the mountain,” like Noah’s ark landing upon the mountains of Ararat. They added that “after twenty days the waters began to subside.”34 Likewise, there is another version that combines the memory of the flood and the garden of Eden, told by the Jivaro people of Ecuador, among other tribes.35 The Yukpa people of Venezuela have a memory of the tower of Babel in addition to the flood.36
The Incans, one of the most powerful nations of the New World, had a well-known tradition of the flood that differs from Genesis, mainly in that they replace the ark with the “Cave of Pacaritambo,” located high atop a mountain and sealed watertight. They also replace Noah’s raven and dove with dogs which, on their first attempt, “returned wet and not dirty as from mud, which gave a sign that the waters had not yet diminished. So it was not right or safe to go outside. Then they sent out other dogs, and when they returned muddy and not wet, they knew that the Flood had ceased, and they could leave.”37 A mountain tribe of Peru told the earliest Spanish settlers that “all mankind perished in the Flood, except for six people who were saved in a boat, who later repopulated the country.”38 The Guaraní told that a flood was sent against them, but the discerning people, “acting on a word from the true god, Tunpacte, sought out a large mate leaf, which they called Choguao. And they placed two small children on it—a male child and a female child from the same woman—and left them to float in it upon the surface of the waters. The rain continued to fall in all its impulsiveness, and the waters continued to rise upon the earth, climbing to great heights. All the Chiriguanos were drowned, except the two children on the Choquao or great mate leaf, who survived the catastrophe.” They also replace Noah’s dove with a toad.39 And there are many other unmistakable traditions of the global flood from this part of the world.
“All mankind perished in the Flood, except for six people who were saved in a boat, who later repopulated the country.” (A Peruvian flood tradition)
The Wajapi people of northern Brazil and the Guyanas narrated the following account: “Long ago, the ancients did not believe what God said about the flood that was going to come. But they said that God was lying and the flood was not going to happen. Still, some of the ancients believed what God said. Then, God made a great canoe, just like a [modern] ship for the people who believed him, so that they could stay inside this great canoe and not die in the flood. This was not only for those people, but also for the animals—birds great and small, snakes and other animals. God placed these in the great canoe. And the ancients who did not believe God, they all died in the waters of the deluge, because they did not believe what God had said about the flood, that is why. After the flood, the earth dried slowly. When it finished God released the vulture to go look for the people, to see whether they had died or were living. Then the vulture went and ate the dead.”40 The Trio people of Suriname have a flood account with remarkable similarity to Genesis on several specific points and of which we find similar accounts in other parts of South America. They held that the global flood was unleashed because people were sexually promiscuous and because they gossiped, lied, cursed, and murdered.41
Before the flood arrived, there was a man of great knowledge, whose name was Tamanduara … God warned him that the whole world was going to be flooded … God appointed a tree on a high mountain for the salvation of him and his family. (Tupinamba flood tradition recorded by Simam de Vasconcellos, ca. 1660s)
The Ticuna tribe of Brazil told that a man was forewarned of the coming flood and was instructed “to have a great canoe ready to save himself and his family in the hour of the flood.” “The waters burst boiling out of the earth and flooded the entire surface. The Indian and his family embarked in the canoe,” and the waters carried them higher and higher. “But finally they landed on Mount Vaipi, where they remained until the waters subsided. They abandoned their canoe on the mountain.”42
Likewise, the Tupinamba related to the early Portuguese settlers their tradition, that “before the flood arrived, there was a man of great knowledge, whom they called the Paye.” This Paye, or Tamanduara, was a godly man, and he foresaw the coming flood and escaped the calamity with his family.43 The Juruna tribe, living deep in the Amazon, remember Noah by the name Sinaá. “Sinaá warned his people that the water of the rivers was going to rise and cover the forests, the fields, and the hills. He was saying, ‘The rain is not going to stop until everything is filled and covered by water. We need to build a great canoe in order to sow within in.’ Sinaá made the canoe, a great canoe, in which many people could fit. In the middle of the front of the boat he put soil and planted cassava, millet, yams, and everything else. The waters kept rising higher and higher. The rivers overflowed and covered the forests. Only the top of the mountains remained above the water. Everything was water.” They have a memory of Babel, telling that after the flood, “Sinaá gave each group that was leaving a different language.”44
The Bacairi tribe of Mato Grosso remember the prophet being forewarned about the flood, the construction of a “great canoe, as tall as a house,” the global flood, the survival of the man with his wife and children, and the drowning of those who did not believe. They added that “after a year the sea came down,” which is roughly consistent with the biblical duration.45 “The animals died. Even the high mountains were under water,” said the Yanomami tribe.46 “Almost all of mankind was destroyed with a flood because the people were foolish and would not cease to do evil,” said the Xavante tribe of Mato Grosso.47 “A torrent of water burst forth! A flood that went over all the world,” said the Krahó tribe of northeastern Brazil.48 The Apinaje have a flood tradition with stunning similarity to Genesis, and there are many other flood traditions from Brazil besides these.
Continuing south, the tribes of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chile all testify to the flood. The Tehuelche of Chile told that “in the remote past, people acted very wickedly. The sun-god sent torrential and continuous rain, the springs opened, and the ocean overflowed. All mankind and all animals were swept away.” Then, “the sun-god sent a carancho hawk to find out whether the water had subsided. But the carancho could not make the return trip because it had gorged itself on meat. So the sun-god sent the dove, which returned with blades of grass in its beak, proving thereby that it had found dry land.”49 According to the Mbaya of Paraguay, “When the flood came, Tupa went into a boat with his family,” and he ascended into the heavens.50 The Mocoví remember Noah’s ark also, which they called the “Nehcotá,” and they replace Noah’s dove with a vulture.51
In Paraguay, the tradition told by the Chamacoco tribal elders went thus: “In the past our ancestors the Eshiporio lived peacefully and ate only fruit, roots, and honey. They did not eat meat or kill anything. But one day, the Eshiporio committed a crime. He killed the great creature, Mbusu, and ate its meat. And the great Tatu Cornudo, in its anger, caused the inundation, ‘Amormalata,’ the worldwide flood. It rained without ceasing, day and night. The waters climbed in the rivers and in the lakes. Everyone and everything disappeared beneath the waters. The Eshiporio drowned. Only one man remained. He built a great house and, together with his wife, fought against the stormy waters, rescuing the animals which were struggling to survive in the waves. The storm ended, and the waters began to recede. Soon, the waters lowered so that the mountain became visible.”52 The Ayoreo tribe of Paraguay tell that one man foresaw the flood and took refuge in his house. His house “floated slowly on the water. ... All the people around him drowned.”53 The Puelche tribe of Argentina said, “After the flood which covered all the earth except the Sierra de la Ventana, the people came out of caves in the mountains and the world was populated again.”54 The Mundurucu, Vilela, and other tribes have their accounts of the flood. To the very southern end of the continent, even the tribes living at Tierra del Fuego retain the knowledge of the flood. These are documented in Echoes of Ararat.
From the historical traditions of the tribes of Central and South America, we have seen abundant and conclusive evidence that they knew of Noah’s flood. This is the same conclusion we reached in the previous articles, regarding the tribes of North America. There can be no doubt that they are referring to Noah’s flood, described in Genesis.
Now we must make an accounting for all this evidence, for it has many implications for us. How are these traditions, with remarkable similarity to Genesis, to be accounted for? Is it merely “by chance” that they resemble Genesis? Are “Christian missionaries” to blame? If so, did they figure out how to time-travel to the past, to create evidence confirming the Bible? And what about the evidence collected by atheists and other non-Christians that confirms the Bible? After all, much of this evidence predated the arrival of Europeans and was collected by non-Christians. And there is so much more wonderful evidence that we have yet to discuss, from the tribes and nations of the rest of the world, showing that they remembered the Noahic flood.
The truth is, the only explanation that will work is that the Genesis record of the flood is true. God’s flood happened, just as the Bible says. That has tremendous implications for us. And just as God lovingly rescued Noah and his family from the flood with the ark, Jesus lovingly gave up his life for us, to provide perfect atonement and to rescue us from the judgment that our sin deserves.
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