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Man was either brought here from Cloud-land, etc. (51), or was created here (52); in the latter case, from Animals, as Tigers (53), Snakes (54-56), from Plants (57), or from Rocks and Stones (58).
Certain Plants were derived from human beings or Bush Spirits (59), or grew upon a Wonderful Tree (60-61). Some animals arose from the Spirits of Mortal Men (62).
51.* Certain tribes believe that man, already made, reached this world from elsewhere, while others claim that he developed here, where he either merely grew into being or was indebted to some Master Spirit for coming into existence at all. His presence on the planet, however, would not seem to give rise on his part to claims superior to those of various animals, including birds.
In those cases where Man, already created, reached this "vale of tears" from elsewhere, his place of origin appears to have been Cloud-land, the Skies, and countries beyond them, according to views held by Caribs, Arawaks, and Warraus.
The first-mentioned hold that mankind descended from on high . . . unfortunately, the clouds which had brought them down receded and so left them behind. Being hungry, they were forced to eat earth, which they baked into cakes, and followed the beasts and birds to see what wild fruits they were accustomed to devour, and so learned to help themselves (BrB, 103). According to the Island Caribs, "Louquo was the first man and a Carib. He was not made of any other body; he descended from the sky and lived a long time on earth;" in fact it was he who made it. "He had a large nostril from which, as also from an incision in his thighs, he produced the first men (BBR, 226-7). Bolingbroke talks of Longwo as being the first man, in the Indian belief of the "central parts" of Guiana: "Certain vapors, or spirits, to which the savages ascribe thunders and fevers, are the objects of their fear and propitiatory worship. They do not ascribe a human form to these divinities, but conceive them to have brought hither the first man,whom they call Longwo" (Bol, 371). The Korobohána, one of the many group-divisions of the Arawaks . . . believe that they originally came from above the clouds. The weight of a heavy woman broke the rope by which they were descending: and communication was thus cut off between those who had reached the ground and those remaining above. The Great Spirit, pitying the latter, supplied them with wings and plumage; and they came down to colonize the trees above the heads of their p. 142 brethren—still privileged to live near, and to converse with them, though changed into kuriaka parrots (BrB, 179).
The Warrau version of their own origin is very similar. Okonoróté one day went hunting for a rare bird—in those times the Warraus lived up above the sky and the only creatures they knew of were birds—and it was many a long day before he succeeded in locating it, though he did so at last. Letting fly an arrow he transfixed it, but on rushing up to the place where it had fallen, there was nothing visible but a big hole in the ground through which he could see the deer, peccary, and other animals disporting themselves on the green plains below. With the help of a cotton rope he descended to earth, and saw jaguars, snakes, and wild beasts devouring their prey. He shot a young deer, cooked the flesh, and finding how sweet it tasted, took some of the flesh back with him on his ascent up the rope, home again. Needless to say, all the Warraus were only too eager to accompany him when he repeated his descent, which they did in safety, one after the other until the very last—and this happened to be a woman who got wedged in the aperture, and could neither get up nor down. The hole being thus filled up, the Warraus have never been able to reach their old home again (BrB, 55). The name of this woman who thus stuck half-way is Okona-kura, the Warraus still recognizing her as the Morning Star.
Certain of the Salivas did not hesitate to proclaim themselves children of the Sun (G, I, 113).
52.* In those cases where man, as such, put in his first appearance on this world's stage (i. e., as in many other places was created on the earth) there is no evidence available pointing to the existence of any belief that his creation took place out of nothing, either spontaneously or at the instance of some Master Spirit, or some person, or thing. Indeed, the two or three examples which might be claimed in support of the existence of such evidence are very dubious. Schomburgk notes an Arawak tradition, which I can not find elsewhere, that man was created by Kururumanni, and woman by Kulimina (Sect. 19); he mentions also that the former was subservient to Aluberi, the Supreme Spirit (ScR, II, 319). Among the Maipures of the Orinoco, however, it was the Supreme Being Purrunaminari who created man, but the traveler just cited admits that the above tradition, among others reported by Gili, shows a seemingly evident admixture of Christian ideas (ScR, II, 320). So also does the alleged Akawai legend that Makunaima, admittedly the Supreme Being, put his son, the first man, in charge of all the other animals that he had just made (BrB, 126). On the other hand, the Indian seemingly can conceive of man's origin only from something already existing in the world of nature immediately surrounding him. And so, in considering the reputed origins p. 143 of the various tribes, the belief becomes more and more prominent that Mankind—and by Mankind each Indian means the original ancestors of his own people—was originally derived, with or without the assistance of pre-existing agencies, from various animals and plants, from rocks, stones, and rivers.
53.* Among various animal forms, "tigers" (jaguars) and snakes constitute the commonest sources from which peoples claiming an animal pedigree have been derived. Carib history furnishes excellent examples in this respect, because we have records not only of what they themselves thought about their own origin, but of what other peoples also believed concerning it. Thus the Achagua maintain that the Caribs are legitimate descendants of tigers . . . chavi in their language signifies a tiger, whence they deduce chavinavi, "arising from a tiger," which is their term for a Carib. Other branches of the Achagua explain the term more satisfactorily thus: chavi in their language is a tiger, and chavina is the spear, lance, pike, pole, and from these two words, "tiger" and "pike," they derive the word chavinavi, as being the children of tigers with pikes (G, I, 112).
54.* The Salivas say that the son of Puru conquered and put to death a horrible snake that had been destroying and devouring the nations of the Orinoco; but that as soon as the monster began to putrefy, certain large worms began to develop in her entrails, and that from each worm there finally arose a Carib Indian and his woman; and that in the same way that the snake was so bloody an enemy of all those nations, so her children were savage, inhuman, and cruel (G, I, 111).
55.* The Warrau version, like that recorded by Brett in his Legend of Korobona (BrB, 64) refers to a special water-snake, and the account which I now give is almost word for word as related to me:
*THE ORIGIN OF THE CARIBS (W)
A Warrau man warned his sister not to bathe in a certain neighboring pond at those regular periods when she happened to be unwell (Sect. 188). For a long time she obeyed his instructions, but after a time, forgetting all about them, she went to bathe at the forbidden spot and time, and was caught by a large snake, the water-camudi Uamma. By and by she became pregnant. Now it was during the bullet-tree (Mimusops belata) season, when the Indians used to cut down the trees to secure the seed, which are excellent eating, and it was noticed that this same woman, although she took no ax away with her in the morning, invariably returned with a large quantity of the delicious seed in the afternoon. The brother, thereupon becoming suspicious, watched her. Unobserved himself, he followed her next day, saw her approach a huge bullet-tree, and saw the Uamma snake (Sect. 244) exeuntem ex corpore feminæ, coil around the tree, and make his way up into the topmost branches. There the snake changed into a man, who shook the boughs for the woman, thus causing the seeds to fall to the ground, where she gathered them. Having done this, the Uamma, reverting to his original form, descended the tree, and iterum corpus p. 144 feminæ intravit. Thereupon the brother said, "There is something wrong here; this will not do: Soror mea probabiliter serpentem in corpore suo habet." So told his friends who, in company with him, watched his sister the next day, when the same thing took place, Uamma exeuns sub corpore feminæ, climbing the tree, changing into human form, shaking the seeds down, and then becoming a snake again. But just as Uamma was about to reach the ground, the watchers rushed up and cut him into thousands of pieces. The woman grieved sorely, but collected all the fragments under a heap of mold and leaves, each piece of which by and by grew into a Carib. Many years passed; the Caribs growing strong and numerous, became a nation. They lived in harmony with the Warraus, so much so that when one tribe caught some game or other dainty, they would send a child with a piece of it over to the Warraus. The latter would then return the compliment and send a child of theirs with food to the Caribs. This lasted a long time, until one day the original mother of the Caribs—a very old woman now—told them to kill the child which the Warraus had sent to them; this was in revenge for the way the Warraus had slain her snake lover years before. As might have been expected, the Warraus on the next occasion slaughtered the Carib child, and thus a blood feud arose between the two nations, the Caribs finally overwhelming the Warraus.
56.* The Carib version of the story was told me on the upper Pomeroon, by probably one of the oldest local survivors of the tribe, who spoke somewhat as follows:
The water-camudi had an Indian woman for a sweetheart. During the day he took the form of a snake; at night, he was "a people" like myself. The couple used to meet at the water side, and hence the girl's parents knew nothing about their being so fond of each other. After she became pregnant, a baby camudi was born. The little one used to appear when she reached the river bank, swim about, and after a time return to its nesting place. Now, as she stayed so long each time at the water side, the old father said to his two sons, "What is the matter with your sister? Why does she take so long to bathe?" Accordingly, the brothers, watching her go down to the stream, videt serpentem parvam exire atque serpentem magnam intrare. They saw also the huge camudi bring his infant son something to eat and saw the baby take the father's place when the latter left. When they reached home, the sons complained to the old man about what they had seen: he told them to kill both the snakes. So on the next occasion they killed the huge camudi, and seizing the baby serpent, carried it far away back into the bush, where they chopped it up into many small pleces. Some months afterward when hunting in the neighborhood, the brothers heard a great noise and the sound of voices coming from the very same direction, and going to ascertain the cause, found four houses in the identical spot where they had cut up the baby camudi, all occupied by Indians who had grown out of the fragments of the snake. In the first hut the house-master said he was glad to welcome his two uncles, but in the other three the occupants wanted to kill them for having destroyed their sister's child from which they had all sprung. But the first house-master said: "No, don't do that, because these two visitors are uncles to all of you, and you must not have a bad mind toward them." And thus it happened that the two brothers got away without further molestation, and on arrival at home told their old father how the snake fragments had grown into people. And when he expressed a wish to see his grandchildren, his two sons led the way into the bush, and he was right glad to see his numerous progeny, with whom he made good friends, and they all drank paiwarri. And thus the Carib nation arase from a water-camudi.
57.* The vegetable world takes a share of the responsibility for the derivation of man. There is either a story of some fabulous Tree of Life, or reference to certain well-known plants, as the silk-cotton tree p. 145 (Bombax) or ité palm (Mauritia). The Akawai and Makusi idea of creation is that, co-eval with Makunaima, there was a large tree, and that, having mounted this tree, with a stone ax he cut pieces of wood which, having been thrown into the river, became animated beings (HiC, 244; ScR, II, 319). The Arawaks hold that from his seat on the silk-cotton tree, the Mighty One scattered twigs and bark in the air, on the land, and in the water, and that from these pieces arose the birds, beasts, reptiles, fish, and also men and women. The sire of the Arawaks was Wadili (BrB, 7). Some of the Salivas affirmed that certain trees used to bear men and women for fruit, and that these people were their ancestors (G, I, 113). The Maipures and, according to Humboldt similarly the Tamanacs, say that in early days the whole earth was submerged in water, only two people, a man and a woman, saving themselves on the top of the high mountain Tamanaku; that as they wandered around the mountain in deep distress over the loss of their friends, they heard a voice which told them to throw the fruits of the Mauritia behind them over their shoulders, and that as they did so, the fruit which the man threw became men, and that which the woman threw, women (ScR, II, 320). Certain of the Achagua Indians pretend that they are the children of tree-trunks and from this allusion call themselves Aycuba-verrenais (G, I, 114). Loku-daia is the mythic Indian tree, growing out of a grave, which is said by some Indians to have been the root from which they sprang. When it was cut down, it was transformed into a rapid, whence the name of one of the Demerara River rapids (Da, 195).
According to the idea current among the Trios, people were originally like wood, stone, etc., and had no faces (Go, 12). The manufacture of a woman out of a plum tree (Sect. 29), and the tree changing into a man (Sect. 9), should also be noted here.
58.* Not a few legends (Sect. 158) connected with the origin of the tribes contain curious examples of animism relative to earth, rocks, and stones (Sect. 171). The Mapoyas, the Salivas, and the Otomacs, all three of them Orinoco tribes, had beliefs of this nature (G, I, 113). The last-mentioned used to say that a stone made up of three parts, arranged in the form of a pyramid upon the summit of a rock called Barraguan, was their earliest ancestress; and that another monstrous rock, which served as the summit of another pinnacle, two leagues distant, was their first ancestor. Being consistent, they believed that all the rocks and stones of which the said Barraguan (a high promontory of large rocks, bearing hardly a particle of earth) was formed, were each of them one of their predecessors. Although these Otomacs buried their dead, they dug up the skulls at the end of a year, and placed them in and among the crevices and holes between the rocks and stones constituting the promontory mentioned, p. 146 where they expected them in their turn to change into stone. The Mapoyas would call such a stone as that serving for the summit of the pinnacle just mentioned, Uruana, describing it as the source of their tribe, and would be delighted at any one speaking of them as Uruanayes in allusion to this fact. These tombs, caverns filled with bones, in the strait of Barraguan, are again referred to by Humboldt (II, 487). Some of the Salivas would declare that they were children of the soil, and that in former times the earth used to breed men and women in the same way that it now produces thorns and hidden rocks (G, I, 113). According to the Makusi tradition, Makunaima sent great waters: only one man escaped . . . this one man who survived the flood threw stones behind him, and thus peopled the earth anew (ScR, II, 320). Those of the Achaguas who believed in their origin from rivers distinguished themselves from the the tree-trunk ones (Sect. 57) by the name Uni-verrenais (G, I, 114).
59.* The Yahuna Indians of the Apaporis River have a belief in certain palm trees having been derived from the ashes of a human being (Sect. 163A). The Arawaks and Caribs hold similar views as to the origin of certain cultivated plants. In an Arawak story it is one of the Bush Spirits which supplies man with the first fruit plants, whereas the Carib version gives a wonderful tree itself as the source (Sect. 60). The following is the Arawak story:
*THE FIRST FRUIT TREES (A)
There were three sisters alone in the house, preparing drink; the men-folk were away at a party. Early in the afternoon a young man came along, bringing a powis with him. He was not what he appeared to be, a friend, but an Adda-kuyuha (Tree Spirit). (Sect. 96.) The girls, however, did not know this. They asked him inside and offered him pepper-pot and Cassiri. He refused the former, saying it did not agree with him, and putting to his mouth the calabash which contained the latter, he broke the vessel. This made the girl who handed it to him laugh. (Sect. 125.) She was the youngest of the three; he told her on taking his departure that he would pay her another visit later in the evening. The afternoon wore on, and night fell, when, sure enough, the young man appeared again, as arranged. The elder sister took a good look at him, and recognized that, though bearing a great resemblance, he was not identical with the person who had visited them in the afternoon. She went into the adjoining room and conveyed her suspicions to the second sister. They both kept watch. He proceeded to get into the hammock where the youngest sister was lying, and began caressing her, whereupon she said she was displeased with his actions. But as he continued troubling her, she said, "What do you want with me?" With this, he slipped his arm round her neck, and broke her "neck-bone," thus killing her. He then began eating her body and finished all except the head, by early dawn. He belched and said: "Yes! I am indeed satisfied. My mother told me to bring her the head, so I must spare it for her." Holding up the head by its beautiful long hair, he carried it away. Now, the sisters who had been keeping their eyes on him all night, watched well where he carried it; they saw him bear it far away into the bush, where he disappeared with it in a hollow tree, of which they, following him, took note. When they got back home again, their men-folk had returned from the party, and among them was a piai. They told p. 147 these people exactly what had happened to their young sister, how she had laughed at the Tukuyuha, and how she had been killed (Sect. 125) and eaten by him. The piai told them to collect plenty of firewood, and to bring it to the hollow tree, which the sisters were able to show them. This wood they piled up in plenty around the tree, and then started to fire it. It burned right merrily, and in amidst the din of the cracking timber, enveloped in smoke and flame, you could hear the whole Tukuyuha family screaming, and the old grandmother reviling her wicked grandson for having brought so much trouble on them. It did not take very long for the hollow tree and the whole family of spirits to be reduced to ashes. From the ashes grew the first fruit trees of our forefathers—the plantain, the pineapple, and the cocoanut, with all the others. But the piai had to taste the fruit before the others were allowed to touch it.
60.* The statement has been already made, on Carib authority (Sect. 51), that mankind learned from the beasts and birds what wild fruits to devour. But it was the Bunia bird which taught the Carib folk all about the cultivated plants, which originally grew upon a certain wonderful tree, and it happened in this way:
Time was when the Indians had no cassava to eat; they all starved. Animals and birds also had nothing to eat; they likewise starved. It was the Maipuri alone who, going out regularly every morning and returning home of an evening, always appeared sleek and fat. The others, noticing his droppings—banana-skins, cane strips, etc., talked to one another after this manner: "Maipuri must have found a good place to get food. Let us watch him." So next morning they sent the bush-rat to dog his footsteps, and find out how he managed to keep in such good condition. The bush-rat did what he was told and followed Maipuri a long, long way into the bush, when he saw him pause under the shade of an immense tree and gather the fruit that had fallen. This tree was the Allepántepo, and very wonderful, in that everything you could wish for grew upon its branches—plantains, cassava, yams, plume, pines, and all the other fruits that Caribs love. As soon as Maipuri had had his fill the bush-rat climbed the tree, and picked upon the corn to satisfy his hunger; when he could eat no more, he came down and brought with him a grain in order to show the others what he had succeeded in finding. The Indians thereupon followed the rat who led the way back to the tree, and by the time they reached it, many plantains, pines, and other things had fallen on the ground. After they had cleaned up everything, they tried to climb the tree to get more, but it was too big and smooth, so they all agreed to cut it down. They made a staging around the trunk, and began hacking with their stone axes, and they cut away there for ten days, but it would not fall—so big was Allepántepo. They cut away for another ten days and still it would not fall. By this time their work had made them thirsty, so the Indians gave calabahes to all the animals except the Maipuri, to go fetch water; to the Maipuri they gave a sifter. When they all reached the waterside, they of course drank out of their vessels, except Maipuri out of whose sifter the water poured as fast as it was poured in: this was part of his punishment for being so greedy in keeping the secret of the bountiful tree all to himself. At the expiration of another ten days, cutting continuously, the tree at last fell. The Indians took away as their share all the cassava, cane, yams, plantains, potatoes, bananas, pumpkins, and watermelons, while the acouri (Dasypwata), labba (Cœlogenys), and other creatures crept in among the branches to pick out all they wanted. By the time the Maipuri had got back to the tree from the waterside only the plums were left for him, and with these he has had to remain content even to the present day. What the Indians took they brought home with them and planted in their provision fields. But it was the Bunia bird who spoke to them and explained how each was to be propagated and cooked, and how some, like the bitter cassava juice, had to be boiled before drinking, while others could be eaten raw.
61.* The above is the tradition, almost word for word as it was told to me by an old Carib, but no explanation was forthcoming as to the origin of the tree itself. Brett however ascribes it to Tamosi (BrB, 103-114) in the same way that he gives Makunaima credit (BrB, 126) for the similarly wonderful Akawai tree. In the latter case the immediately preceding sentence, however, shows an undoubted bias due to Christian influences: "Makunaima made all the beasts and birds, all of one speech, bade them live in unity, and put his Son, the first man, in charge of them." The same author gives also an addition to the story as above narrated, by the mention of a fountain or swelling waters in the stump, or under the roots, of this wonderful tree, the overflowing of which is temporarily checked by means of a rugged rock (Carib) or an inverted basket (Akawai). Owing to the reputed wickedness of the people in the one case, and the mischief of a howling monkey in the other, the waters are let loose, and a flood occurs, which overwhelms nearly everything, most of the people being destroyed." Some try to escape by climbing a high kokerite palm whose top reached the heavens, but a poor woman not in a condition to climb led the way, and halfway up was turned into stone by terror and exhaustion: none could help her and none could pass over her, and all who tried to do so became rocks likewise. A few survivors then climbed a komoo palm and so saved themselves" (BrB, 106).
62.* Among the mainland Indians, I can find no explanations current concerning the origin of the first birds and beasts. Brett's statement that Makunaima made them (BrB, 126) appears to lack confirmation. The Island Caribs had a tradition that Louquo, their first man (Sect. 51), "made fishes out of scrapings and fragments of cassava, which he threw into the water" (BBR, 227). Many an animal has been derived from the spirit (Sects. 69, 161) of mortal men.