Sacred-Texts Native American South American Index Previous Next
The Body: Originally considered immortal (63); renovated by change of skin (64), or by Fountain of Youth (65); its immortality put to the test (66), and assured by its transformation into stone (67).
The Spirits: Several in each body; Shadow Spirits; Head, Heart, and Pulse-beat, Blood, Spittle, Footprint, and Bone Spirits, possessed by both men (68-69) and animals (70): become associated with Dream, Familiar, Forest, Mountain, Sky, and Water, Spirits (71).
Stages in Conception of Spirit Immortality shown in disposal and treatment of corpse: attitude in which buried, etc. (72); flattery and adulation, festivals and feasts (73-74); furnishing dead with means of capturing assailant (75); supplying dead with dogs, women, ornaments, hunting and fighting weapons, and food (76); eating his flesh and bones (77); exhuming his remains for witchcraft and prophecy (78); abandonment of place of sepulture, etc. (79); doubtful animistic indications of other burial customs (80).
Where spirits take on anthropomorphic forms, they reach their final destination direct (81) or only after certain trials and ordeals (82), but the idea of a future existence dependent on present conduct is very probably a borrowed one (83).
Spirits are Good or Bad according as they help or harm the Indian, and not according to the bodies whence they have been derived; the latter conception is an error into which many missionaries and travelers have fallen—e. g., the Maboya Spirit (84).
Individuals can be relieved of the presence of undesirable Spirits by use of rattle, by blowing (85).
63.* As with many another savage people, there are traces among the Guiana Indians of an idea of perpetual existence of both body and its contained spirits. On the upper Yary River, Cayenne, when a Roucouyenne piai is buried, the flesh (matière) and spirit remain in the grave, to be visited by medicine-men and others, as well as by beasts, for the purpose of being consulted (Cr, 298). The following is a curious case from Surinam reported by de Goeje (22): "An Ojana woman asked me, when I came again, to bring her a teremopüilatop which literally means 'die-never implement-for,' so that her little son might be blessed with everlasting life. When I told her there was no such thing, and that everybody had to die, I met with the same extraordinary unbelief that Von den Steinen records in his 'Unter den Naturvölkern' (p. 348)." So also on the upper Rio Negro Koch-Grünberg (I, 197) was applied to for a panacea (Universalsmittel) against death.
64.* Other phases of this idea of an immortal body are met with in the myths relative to changed skins: the Indian belief is that those creatures which undergo ecdysis live forever. After Amalivaca had lived a long while with the Tamanacas, he took his corial to reach the other side of the salt water whence he had come. Just as he was taking his departure he sang out to them, "You will change your p. 150 skins," (i. e., "You will always be young," like snakes, etc.), but one doubting old dame called out "Oh!" which annoyed Amalivaca so much that he now said "You shall die!" (ScR, II, 320). When Kururumanni [Kororomanna] came to earth to see what the Arawaks were doing, he found them so bad that he wished to destroy them, on which account he took away their everlasting life and bestowed it on those creatures who cast their skins—snakes, lizard and cockroaches (ScR, II, 319).
64A.* There are several examples of this taking-off and putting-on of skins and consequent continuous existence, to be met with in the Guiana folk-lore (e. g., Sects. 64B, 137, 162), therefore I can only conclude that all of these are stages in the conception of the same idea of living forever.
*THE MAN WlTH A BAD TEMPER (W)
A man and woman once caught a girl monkey and "minded" her: she became quite tame, and when the old people would have to go away for a while, they would often leave the monkey in charge. One day when they had thus gone away on a visit to some friends, the monkey took off her skin, threw it over one of the house-beams, and replaced it with the apron-belt and other ornaments that the household had left behind. She then started with the cassava, which she cooked and ate; finally she put on her skin again. When the house-folk returned, they looked for the cassava, but could find none, and though they were puzzled a good deal, they never suspected the monkey. On the next occasion that they had to leave the place, a young man remained behind, though hidden, to watch lest any one should steal the cassava a second time. After a while the monkey took off her skin, dressed herself as before, and commenced baking the cassava: the young man rushed up and seized her, and a hard struggle took place. "No," said the girl, "I am not fit to be your wife." "But I want you badly" was the rejoinder. "That's all very well," added the girl, "but you will ill-treat me and knock me about." And when he assured her that he would never ill-treat her, she at last consented, and so soon as she agreed to yield to his desires, he pulled the monkey skin down from the beam and threw it into the fire. They remained together a long time. By and by she bore him a little boy. And now her troubles indeed again commenced, because, getting tired of her, he began "lashing" her and kept calling her "Monkey," and annoying her in every way he could. Suffering so much, at last she said to herself, "I can bear this treatment no longer; I will return to my people." Taking a calabash and some ité-starch, she told her husband that she was going to bathe in the pond, but instead of doing so, she really went far away into the bush. Her husband waited long, long, for her to return, and finally followed in search. By this time she was limping along with the help of a stick: she was trying to get back into her original style of walking on four legs, and was just contriving to resume her old habit of jumping from tree to tree; her little boy also was beginning to imitate her movements. And when the husband reached the spot where she had been, there he saw her with the baby jumping from the top of one tree to the top of another. "Come back home!" he kept on shouting, but his wife took no heed; only his child, who felt sorry for his father, threw down the spiders and insects for him to eat. Now, though monkeys eat such things, men can not eat them, and so he had to proceed hungry. "Come back home!" he again called out to her, as he tried to follow her through the bushes below, but looking down upon him, she said, "No! I have had quite enough punishment from you already." And thus they proceeded on and on, the father running along on the ground below, the mother and child jumping from the topmost branches of tree to tree. At last they came to a wide river, and here the monkey cried out to her people Katanni-tóri (i. e. "Come and fetch us!"). And they made the p. 151 wind to blow so strongly that it caused the opposite shore to come close over to the tree where the monkey was, so close that the trees on both sides of the stream touched; by this means the mother and her child jumped across, and once across, the opposite shore with its bushes drew back to their original position. As the separation took place, the monkey called out to the man, "You must swim after us if you want us!" and the little boy, who was really fond of his father, shouted, "Good-bye—I am going!" But the mother would say nothing further. The man was thus left on the nearer shore, and got home again much vexed. He destroyed everything that had belonged to the woman: he cut up her hammock, broke her calabash, and smashed her goblets. What a bad temper he must have had!
64B.* Another example is to be met in the story which I am adapting here from Brett (BrB, 177).
*THE SORCERER'S DAUGHTER
The daughter of a piai fell in love with a brave young hunter, who did not seemingly pay her any too much attention. She begged her father to make her like one of the young man's dogs so that she might always be with him. He put a magic skin over her shoulders and she became a dog. Thus it came about that each time the youth went out hunting with his four dogs, one always ran back home and would never join in the fray; more than this, he found that whenever he got home in the afternoon, there was the fire buming, the cassava ready, and all neat and clean. He thought this was due to some of his neighbors, and went to thank them, but they denied all knowledge. On the next occasion, therefore, as soon as he missed one of his dogs, he tied the three up to a tree, and returned home without making the slightest sound. Taking an advantageous position, he saw a lovely maiden there making casaava, and doing other things, while at one side there hung the charmed skin. He swiftly rushed in, seized the skin, and threw it on the already lighted fire. He then claimed the girl from her father for his wife.
65.* It was owing to a myth relative to the fountain of perennial youth that Florida came to be discovered just four centuries ago. Some old Island Indians, presumably of the Arawak stock, assured Ponce de Leon that—
Far to the north there existed a land abounding in gold and in all manner of delights; but above all, possessing a river of such wonderful virtue that whoever bathed in it would be restored to youth! They added, that in times past, before the arrival of the Spaniards, a large party of the natives of Cuba had departed northward in search of this happy land and this River of Life, and, having never returned, it was concluded that they were flourishing in renovated youth, detained by the pleasure of that enchanting country. [WI, 788.]
66.* Another interesting example of the existence of this idea of immortality is connected with the Arawak stock in Porto Rico:
Many of the most hardy and daring (of the Indians) proposed a general insurrection, and a massacre of their oppressors; the great mass, however, were deterred by the belief that the Spaniards were Supernatural Beings and could not be killed. A shrewd and sceptical cacique, named Brayoan, determined to put their immortality to the test. Hearing that a young Spaniard named Salzedo was passing through his lands, he sent a party of his subjects to escort him, giving them secret instructions how they were to act. On coming to a river, they took Salzedo on their shoulders to carry him across, but, when in the midst of the stream, they let him fall and throwing themselves upon him, pressed him under water until he was drowned. Then dragging his body to the shore, and still doubting his being dead, they wept and howled p. 152 over him, making a thousand apologies for having fallen upon him, and kept him so long below the surface. The cacique Brayaon came to examine the body and pronounced it lifeless; but the Indians still fearing it might possess lurking immortality and ultimately revive, kept watch over it for three days, until it showed incontestable signs of putrefaction. Being now convinced that the strangers were mortal men like themselves, they readily entered into a general conspiracy to destroy them. [WI, 779.]
67.* Certain of the Indians (e. g., Otomacs) seemingly held the view that, after death, the body or skeleton itself turned into stone, reverted to the very material from which some of them believed it to have originally sprung (Sect. 58). The Atorais regard certain enormous blocks of granite as some of their local warriors who, after death, have been changed into stone (Cou, II, 346). Hence we must not be surprised to find cases where bowlders (Sect. 171 et seq.) and bones (Sects. 26, 91) possess a more or less independent animate existence of their own. The transformation of people into rocks and stones by way of punishment, or for other reasons, may be a development of the same belief. Thus, a long time ago, the Caribs came up to the Kirinampo Rocks, upper Rupununi, in order to surprise the Makusi and destroy them from off the face of the earth; but the good Spirit who in those days lived among the Makusis took pity on them, and changed their enemies into these stones (ScR, I, 375).
68.* Having reached a higher stage of belief, and realized that the material body does indeed undergo dissolution at death, the Indians are convinced of a Spirit or Something, one or more, being set free at the time of its occurrence. I purposely say "one or more" because it would seem that originally, not only the shadow, but also the heart, the head, and the more perceptible of all the parts of the body where there is a pulsation of arteries, as well as perhaps the blood (Sect. 240A), the spittle (Sect. 112), the footprint (Sect. 24), and the bone (Sect. 69) were each regarded in the light of a Spirit or Something that was part and parcel of the body, and took its departure at the material death. The Arawak present-day conception of this Something is connected with the person's shadow (Sect. 253); their terms for a dead person's spirit and a person's shadow are (h)iyaloko and (h)iyá, respectively. With these same people according as this spirit helps or harms them, they may qualify the designation by satu-(h)iyaloko when doing good, or wakaiatu-(h)iyaloko when doing evil. The hiyaloko, strange to say, does not appear any further in the folk-lore collected by me, unless indeed it is identical with Iya-imi and so with Hyorokon, Yolok, etc., the word for a bush spirit, a term which, as I propose showing (Sect. 94), is met with throughout the extent of the Guianas, from the Orinoco to the Amazon.
69.* The mainland Caribs term a person's shadow ai-akaru, and the spirit resident in his head, his Dream Spirit, aka or akari (Sect. 86); but after the latter leaves the body for the forest permanently, it is p. 153 known as aka-tomba. The Warrau expression for the shadow is amého-ko-i, while ak-óbi is their word for 'heart' or for the heart's Spirit which, leaving the body at death, becomes their Hebu, or Bush Spirit (Sect. 99). The Island Caribs applied the word akamboüe [cf. mainland Carib akatomba] to the spirit of a person whatever it might be like, the women speaking of it as opoyem (RoP, 471); unfortunately no information is given as to the particular part of the body (head, heart, pulse, etc.) whence it was supposed to have emanated. It was these same islanders, however, who held strong beliefs in a connection between spirits and an individual's heart- and pulse-beats: "they talked of the latter as the Spirit of the Hand [RoP, 452]; they spoke of the Spirit-something near the heart as Gonanni or Lanichi" (BBR, 237). This one at the heart was the principal one, which after death went to the sky in company with its Ichĕiri, or Chemin (Sect. 89), to live there with other Familiar Spirits (RoP, 484), and change into a young and new body (BBR, 237). They do not regard the spirit as being so immaterial as it is invisible. As to their other Spirits which have nothing to do with the heart, they believe that some go after death to make their home on the seashore, and that it is they who make the boats tack—these are known as Oumekou; they believe that others go and live in the woods and forests—these they term Maboyas (RoP, 484), or they become changed into beasts. All these Spirits are of different sexes and multiply (BBR, 237). Koch-Grünberg (II, 153) makes the interesting suggestion that certain procedures connected with some of the death festivals point to a belief in the bones constituting the real and final resting-place of the Spirit after the dismemberment (Zersetzung) of the body.
70.* The possession of a Body Spirit, or spirits, was not, however, the prerogative solely of man, but, as will be subsequently shown, there was a widespread belief in the association of spirits with animal life. Survivals of this cult, in part or in its entirety, are still recognizable in the folk-stories, in certain omens and tokens, charms or talismans, in the observance of certain tabus with regard to food, in blood-atonement and the treatment of disease, and perhaps in the application of family group-names. So also, there are similarly many traces of a corresponding association of spirits with plant-life (Chap. X).
71.* The general mainland belief in a Something (singular or plural) emanating, disintegrating, separating, etc., from the dead body of an individual, or an animal, and either remaining in the immediate neighborhood or pursuing various courses, hence becomes quite intelligible. Thus it may associate itself with some other person, to become his spirit friend and adviser as it were, or else may become intimately connected with the bush, forest, fields, and trees, sometimes with stones, rocks, mountains, underground caverns, and occasionally with stars, clouds, lightning, with rain, river, or sea. Thus, associated p. 154 with spirits already there; we can speak collectively of Dream (Sect. 86), Familiar (Sect. 89), Forest (Sect. 94), Mountain (Sect. 171), Water (Sect. 178), and Sky (Sect. 195) Spirits. I have met with no example of a freed spirit associating itself with a person's shadow, and hence purposely omit the term Shadow Spirits (Sect. 68) from this category. The important thing to remember is that two or more different kinds of spirits may have been derived from one and the same body. The old Spanish Fathers used the word demonio as a generic term for these Beings, in the same way that some of the present-day Creoles employ the name Devil; there are, however, too many diverse opinions held concerning the abstract and concrete nature of the latter to permit of the term being profitably employed for comparative purposes. Others of the Creoles as well as the "civilized" Indians often employ the word "Mother," or Máma (e. g., the Mother of Powis, the Water-Mama). I propose using the term "Spirit" throughout the following pages. Another matter to be borne in mind, however, before proceeding further, is that these Spirits of the Forest, Waters, etc., did not all have a human or an animal origin. Unfortunately the evidence at present available is insufficient to demonstrate with certainty how, or along what lines, many of them thus closely associated with the chief physical characteristics of nature, came to have an existence at all. Certain of them (e. g., Mountain Spirits) would seem to have been derived on a principle somewhat analogous to that of choosing a picture to suit the frame; in other cases, they may perhaps have been due to foreign introduction, while I doubt not that a few, like Topsy, "growed" on their own account.
72.* The extent or degree of the spirit's immortality, if such an expression may be used, varies from the primitive idea of its hovering around the place of sepulture to the advanced view of its translation, with or without apparent zoomorphic or anthropomorphic reincarnation, to less defined realms of happiness and bliss. There is nothing to prevent the several spirits of the one body pursuing different courses. Indications of some of these primitive ideas are to be found in certain of the procedures followed with the corpse, namely, the position in which it is laid to rest, its propitiation and address, the objects buried with it, the eating of the flesh, the abandonment of the place of death, and other customs. "McClintock . . . says that the . . . Akawoio races like to bury their dead in a standing position, assigning this reason,—'Although my brother be in appearance dead, he (i. e., his soul) is still alive.' Therefore, to maintain an outward sign this belief in immortality, some of them bury their dead erect, which they say represents life, whereas lying down represents death. Others bury their dead in a sitting posture, assigning the same reason" (Br, 356). Certainly on the Pomeroon, with the Arawaks, if a person should step over another lying down, the latter p. 155 would be mortally offended, and would say, "You can cross me only when I am dead. I am not dead yet." This is of interest in connection with the procedure described by Schomburgk (ScR, I, 421) at the burial of a Makusi woman: all the relatives next surrounded the grave, and each one jumped over it in the direction whence he had come. Even the barely twelve-week old orphan was taken in the arms and made to jump over it. So also at the anniversary of the death of a captain among the Guahiba of the Vichada River (Orinoco) the pyre is jumped over by the piai, the men, and women, at the same time that they blow with full force (Sect. 85) in the direction of the country occupied by the Piaroa, their terrible neighbors who make them die through throwing spells over them (Cr, 548).
73.* However beloved or despised during life, the spirit of the dead is always an object of dread, and is to be propitiated by kind and flattering expressions, by festivals and feasts. At York Hill, near Tinadu Creek, Demerara, says Dance (256), an Indian child had taken to the habit of eating sand, which contributed to its early death. While the dead body of the child lay in the open coffin, which his father had procured from a Creole carpenter in the neighborhood, and just before the interment, the grandmother of the child stood over it and in wailing tones said:
My child, I always told you not to eat sand. I never gave you any, for I knew it was not good for you; you always sought it yourself. I told you that it was bad. Now, see, it has killed you. Don't trouble me, for it was your own doing; some evil thing put it into your head (mind) to eat it. Look, I put your arrow and bow by your side that you may amuse yourself. I was always kind to you; be good and don't trouble me.
Then the mother came up crying, and said as in a chant:
My child, I brought you into the world to see and enjoy all the good things. This breast [and she exposed it, or rather held it up, for it was already exposed] nourished you as long as you were willing to take it. I made your laps and pretty shirts. I took care of you and fed you, and played with you, and never beat you. You must be good and not bring evil upon me.
The father of the dead child likewise approached and said:
My boy, when I told you that the sand would kill you, you would not listen to me, and now see, you are dead. I went out and got a beautiful coffin for you. I shall have to work to pay for it. I made your grave in a pleasant spot where you loved to play. I shall place you comfortably, and put some sand for you to eat, for now it can not harm you, and I know that you like it. You must not bring bad luck to me; but look for him who made you eat the sand.
This was a family of Christian Arawaks, but the roots of inbred traditional beliefs could not at once be eradicated.
74.* At the burial of a Makusi woman at Nappi, upper Essequibo: Surrounding the hammock in which the corpse lay, in and between the wailing, the women were chanting eulogiums upon the deceased—one had lost her best friend; another praised the fine cotton thread that she had woven; another, the various objects that she had possessed. p. 156 When the last article had passed out of the door, in came the piai: he proceeded to the head of the corpse, bent down to the left ear, and shouted several words into it, when he retired. The piai came back with a bundle of hair, and bending down, exposed the corpse's face from beneath the laths, spat on it; then plugged the hair into the ears and mouth, while he continued spitting; then, addressing it in a harsh tone, he retired (ScR, I, 421). So again, at the death of a Makusi female from the effects of a snake bite, all the women of the village gathered in the hut and shouted unintelligible words into the corpse's ears (ScR, II, 269).1
On the Moruca River, the Warrau women sit in a circle round the grave, and break out ever anew with their song of mourning, which is approximately as follows: "Why have you left your wife, children, and friends who loved you so dearly? Why have you left your home and field, where yams and cassava were thriving so well? . . . Who will catch agouti, monkey, fish, and turtle for us now?" (ScR, II, 446.) "Why are you dead? Were you tired of life? Did you not have cassava enough?" are among the expressions addressed by the Island Carib women to the corpse (BBR, 252). So with their fellow tribeswomen in Cayenne where, on a death, the men, women, friends, and children assemble and weep, or rather sing; the singing is done mostly by the nearest female relatives who, sitting on their heels, slowly pass both hands over the corpse from head to foot, while reproaching him for having let himself die. "Is it because you were not happy with us?" say some. "What have we done for you to leave us like this?" say others. They add: "You were such a good hunter, too! You caught fish and crabs so well! You knew how to make a proper provision-field," etc. (PBa, 228). On the Orinoco the Saliva mourners, on finally eulogizing the deceased would say, "What an excellent fisherman we have lost!" "What a clever archer has died; he never missed his mark!" (G, I, 197). Among the special feasts and festivals in honor, or rather in propitiation, of the dead, I would mention the Arawak Makuari (Mora-Kuyuha, Sect. 75) and Hauyari dances for deceased males and females, respectively. In the far western Guianas, the object of the Mask dances is to propitiate the spirit of the dead, so that he will not come back again to fetch one of the survivors (KG, 138).
75.* When the death of any member of that tribe [Akawai] is supposed to have been brought about by unfair means, the knife of the deceased is buried with him, that he may have the means of avenging himself in the world of spirits. The Warraus, in similar circumstances, place a bow and arrows by the side of the dead man, that he may by means of those weapons keep off malignant spirits in his passage to the other world. (Br, 356.)
At the burial of a male Makusi at Pirari, not only the dead man's knife but several thongs were buried with him. The thongs were put into the grave for the purpose of enabling him to tie to a tree the kanaima who had caused his death (ScR, I, 468). Such thongs are to be seen also at some of the funeral dances of other tribes. Thus, among the Roucouyenne of Cayenne, at the pono, or first of the two festivals in honor of the dead, one man alone stands up, holding in his hand a whip eight meters long. With a swirling motion he cracks it with a report like that of a pistol; each one in turn gets up and cracks the whip (Cr, 258). At their corresponding festival the Arawaks use whips upon each other, often inflicting terrible wounds. To receive their flagellation, the performers put their legs forward as does the white crane or stork (Mycteria sp.), the wooden effigy of which the masters-of-ceremony carry, this particular dance as well as the whips being thus named, after the bird, morakúyuha: this Arawak word, corrupted now into macquarrie, makuari, etc., is seemingly of Tupi origin, the creature being known on the lower Amazon as magoary (HWB, 146, 316).
76.* Future provision may be made for the deceased by burying with him his dog, his women, or his slaves, some food, his hunting and fighting implements, and his ornaments. Examples of these procedures are plentiful in the old records.
His faithful hunting dog was killed and placed with him, and the grave closed in [Warraus, ScR, II, 446].
His dog is also buried to guard him, and watch those that caused him in die. . . .
If the deceased owned a negro, the latter is killed in order to serve his master in the other world. [Island Caribs, BBR, 252.]
They imagine that the Spirit lives the same life as the man lives below; and this is why they still kill the slaves when they can catch those who were in the service of the deceased, so as to serve him in the other world [Island Caribs, RoP, 484].
There are buried . . . on one side of the deceased his bow, arrows, club, and shield; on the other they place one of his wives to look after and accompany him [Orinoco Caribs, G, I, 201].
On the upper Amazon, when a mother dies, her young infant may be buried alive with her [Sect. 284].
Little bits of bone, fruits, bread, etc., were strewn on the corpse in the grave [Makusi, ScR, I, 421]: fruits, bones . . . and a flask filled with water . . . and a drinking cup [Makusi, ibid., 468]: bread, fruit, and dried fish [Warraus, ibid., II, 446]; at the side we find a vessel which . . . contained the couria to stimulate the deceased on his travels in the other world . . . cassava, bananas [Piaroas, of the Orinoco, Cr, 544-548].
It is almost universal amongst these Orinoco nations either to bury with deceased his arms and ornaments, or to burn them [G, I, 207]. Buried in a sitting attitude . . . and all his implements of war and hunting by his side [St, I, 399]. They place at its side . . . a blow-pipe and a quiver full of arrows dipped in curare [Piaroas, Cr, 548].
The dead are almost always buried in the houses with their bracelets, tobacco-bag, and other trinkets upon them [Uaupes, Rio Negro, ARW, 346].
The deceased is clothed in his finest ornaments; a crown of bright colored feathers on his head: to his neck are attached his collars, his wooden comb, and his deer-bone flutes; the arms and legs are covered with bracelets [Roucouyenne cremation, Yary River, Cayenne, Cr, 120].
Many of the Indian tribes, but chiefly the Caribs, Makusi, and Akawai have the custom of burying their dead either in the hut where they lived, or, if a case of death should happen during a journey, a shed covered with palm leaves is built over the grave to prevent the weather from incommoding the person who rests beneath (ScG, 271). For the alleged reason of making doubly sure of giving the spirit or spirits no cause for wishing to come out of the grave, certain of the present-day Pomeroon Arawaks are said either to plant cassava, or to place a cassava-squeezer, upon the top of it.
77.* The eating of the corpse's flesh or the drinking of a preparation made therefrom, except in those cases in which cannibalism was indulged in rather by reason of vengeance with the object of inspiring terror in their enemies (PBa, 171), was but the expression of another link in the chain of ideas which culminated in a belief in spirit immortality. There yet remained in the flesh and bones of the deceased certain qualities, somethings, spirits, etc., which could be detached, separated, and transferred to the living by means of ingestion. There is abundant evidence among these Guiana Indians of a belief in the transference of individual (animal or human) peculiarities through this agency (Sects. 250, 280). Thus in order to strengthen their own courage and contempt for death, the Caribs of the upper Pomeroon would cut out the heart of the person slain, dry it over the fire, powder it, and then mix the powder in their drink (ScR, II, 430).
The Tariánas and Tucános (of the Uaupes River) and some other tribes, about a month after the funeral, disinter the corpse which is then much decomposed, and put it in a great pan, or oven, over the fire, till all the volatile parts are driven off with a most horrible odour, leaving only a black carbonaceous mass, which is pounded into a fine powder, and mixed in several large couchés (vats made of hollowed trees) of caxiri: this is drunk by the assembled company till all is finished; they believe that thus the virtues of the deceased will be transmitted to the drinkers. [ARW, 346.]
The Salivas on the Orinoco also pursued the practice of digging up the bones, burning them, and then collecting the ashes to mix with their drinking water (Bri, 267).
On the other hand, in the lands back [of Cayenne] there are nations who disinter the bones when they consider the body is putrid enough, and after calcining them, drink the ashes which they mix with their vicou, believing that by this means they are giving the defunct a more honorable burial than by leaving them a prey to worms and corruption (PBa, 231).1
78.* Surely it is not unreasonable to suppose, granted certain spirits and other agencies were believed to be contained in the corpses, that the bones of the deceased distributed among friends and acquaintances, or slung up in their houses, must have served a purpose other p. 159 than that of an every-day gift or ordinary ornament. The Island Caribs certainly used the bones of their friends for purposes of witchcraft and prophecy (Sect. 91). The practice of exhuming the remains after longer or shorter intervals, although not direct evidence, may nevertheless indicate the existence in former times of a similar use for the bones among the Mainland Caribs and other tribes. Thus, at the expiration of the year, the decomposed body is dug up and the bones are distributed to all the friends and acquaintances (St, I, 399). The bones, having been cleaned by the fish, are packed according to size in a basket already provided, worked with glass beads of various colors; care is taken that the skull of the deceased forms the lid of the basket. The basket is then hung up to the roof of their houses (among the Warraus of the Orinoco) along with the many other baskets containing the bones of their forefathers (G, I, 199). The women (among the Caribs of the upper Pomeroon) who prepare the bones are considered unclean for several months (ScR, II, 431-2).
79.* With regard to the abandonment by the Indians of the locality where death has taken place, nothing can conquer their fear lest the deceased's spirit, located somewhere in the immediate neighborhood, should do them harm. On the Orinoco the practice of rooting up the fields which deceased has planted, so soon as his widow or widows have buried him, is also almost universal: They said they do it to destroy all memory of the deceased (G, I, 207).1 With the Anabali and other tribes of this same river, when anyone dies they bury him in the place where he had his hearth and, covering the grave with many mats, they forsake the village and all their fields, and build and sow at 12 or 15 leagues' distance. They say that when death has once entered their village they can not live in security. But when these people subsequently advanced to a settled life—as soon as the sick person died they broke up his home and burnt everything which the deceased possessed (ibid., 206). One of the chief's wives had died; and in consequence, although the settlement was quite new, the houses most comfortable, the cassava still in the field, every man had abandoned it, and left this poor Indian to look after the crops (Rupununi River, ScG, 238). In an Ojana village (Tuwoli's) on the Tapanahoni (Surinam) three people died in 1907—Tuwoli's adult son Paleku, and two others. One house of Tuwoli and one of Paleku were burned. A month later, the village was deserted—the survivors had established themselves in another one (Go, 15). Among the Roucouyennes on the upper Parou, Cayenne, the common laity must not make the slightest noise, or approach anywhere near the grave of a piai, for fear of meeting his fellow-colleague, p. 160 the Tiger medicine-man who guards the corpse, but the spirits of the distinguished dead may be visited by "doctors," by the common crowd, and by animals for the special purpose of consultation (Cr, 298).
80.* Of other obscure burial customs—obscure in the sense that their real signification has been only approximately, if at all, determined—may be mentioned that of the Island Caribs (BBR, 252) who place two weights on the eyes of the deceased, so that he may not see his parents and thus make them ill (Sect. 253). Most extraordinary of all, however, would seem to be the procedure followed by the Warraus at the mouth of the Orinoco:
On the death of a woman, the husband lies down in front of her. He remains there a few minutes, weeping and singing, and then makes way for each and all who have ever had connection with the deceased. As no Indian will willingly act contrary to the established usages of his tribe . . . such a custom seems calculated to prove a check upon persons who are not desirous of having their actions exposed to public notoriety. [Cr, 612.]
81.* While certain of the Indians appear to hold advanced views respecting the immortality of that particular spirit which, on its departure from the body, takes on an anthropomorphic form, they are not in agreement as to the place of translation. This may be identical for the spirits of "good" and of "bad" people, as is the belief of the Warraus and the Makusi, or at all events the places may not be very far apart (e. g., the Caribs of the Yary River, Cayenne). According to the views of these people, the spirits of the "good" and "bad" [within certain limitations to be immediately discussed in this and succeeding paragraphs] rise after death toward the skies, which they call Capoun.1 The former travel high, very high, above the clouds where they find pretty women; they dance every night; they drink cassiri, and do not work in the clearings (provision-fields). The wicked remain below the clouds where they are always roaming without any hope of getting higher. If the body is burned immediately after death, this is done in order that the spirit may ascend with the smoke (Cr, 298). There are interesting records left to us concerning the Island Caribs: (a) Some hold that the most valiant of their nation are carried after death to the Fortunate Isles, where they have everything they can wish for, and that the Arawaks are their slaves; that they swim without being tired, in the wide and large rivers; and live delightfully and pass the time happily in dances, games, and feasts, in a country which produces all kinds of good fruits without being cultivated. (b) On the contrary those who have been cowardly and timid in going to war against their enemies, have, after death, to serve the Arawaks, who inhabit desert and sterile countries which are beyond the mountains. (c) But others, the most brutal, do not trouble about what takes place p. 161 after death: they neither dream not talk about it (RoP, 484-485). The Arawaks maintain that the spirits of "evil" people wander continually around an uninhabited desolate, barren place, while those of the "good" occupy the air above their former huts and settlements, but the conceptions of these Indians as to "good" and "bad" are not identical with modern European views. For instance, if an Arawak by any action of his proves himself a coward or faint-hearted, or succumbs too frequently to excesses in drink, he is called mako-burokwa ['one who forgets'], a man without sense, while one who shows a blameless disposition and has remained a stranger to continual intoxication, is named a kaka-burokwa, or brave man (ScR, II, 497): the spirits of two such people will be separated on the lines just indicated. It must not be forgotten, however, that these Arawaks, of all the Guiana Indians, have been longest in contact with civilizing influences, and that this idea of a future existence dependent on present conduct may be but a borrowed one. Speaking generally, the trend of opinion among the so-called unsophisticated Indians is that certain of the spirits of people departed hasten to a place where they will have all they want, and meet their friends who have gone before. The prevalent neglect of the South American natives of the sick and the want of love in dealing with them can become intelligible, in Schomburgk's opinion (ScR, II, 318), only on the assumption of their belief in some such religious tradition as this.
82.* Certain Venezuelan Indians believed that the spirit retires to certain lakes and is swallowed by monstrous serpents, which transport it to a paradise where its time is occupied in constant dancing and drinking (FD, 52). The Otomacs declare that peoples' souls all speed toward the West to a place where without trouble or toil they live at ease, but before they reach it, they are met by a big bird called Tigtitig, which seizes upon and swallows them, unless they valorously fight it (ScR, II, 318). Humboldt (II, 249) speaks of this fabulous bird as Tikitiki and makes it responsible for the deformities of new-born children (Sect. 279). In the province of Curoana are several lofty mountains, the highest of which is Tumeriquiri.
In this mountain is situated the cavern of Guacharo, which is so celebrated among the Indians. It is very extensive, and serves as a habitation to an immense number of nocturnal birds, especially a new species of the Caprimulgus, Linn., from the fat of which is procured the oil of Guacharo. Its situation is commanding, and ornamented by the most luxuriant vegetation. From this cavern issues a river of considerable size, and in the interior is heard the doleful cry of the birds which the Indians attribute to the souls of the deceased, which according to them, must of necessity pass through this place in order to enter the other world. This privilege they immediately obtain when their conduct has been irreproachable throughout life. In the contrary case they are confined for a longer or shorter time in the cavern, according to the magnitude of their offences. It is this dark and dreary abode that forces from them those groans and lamentations which are heard without. The Indians are so fully persuaded of the truth of this tradition, . . . that immediately on the death of any of their relations p. 162 or friends, they repair to the mouth of the cavern, in order to ascertain whether their souls have encountered any obstacles, or been allowed to pass. . . . Whatever the fate of the defunct's soul they give themselves up to the same excesses [drink], making no difference but in the nature of the dance. [FD, 129-130.]
The superstitions connected with this cavern are recorded also by Humboldt (I, 258).
83.* It has been mentioned (Sect. 81) that in the case of a spirit taking on an anthropomorphic form there were indications showing that its future state may sometimes depend on the character of the individual whence it had been derived. But mainly for the reason that the more complex ideas on this subject, as will have been recognized from even the few illustrations already given, are to be met with among those of the tribes which have been longest in contact with European influences, I am inclined to the opinion that the belief in a future condition directly dependent on present conduct is not only of comparatively late introduction, but is a borrowed one; the purgatorial nature of the ordeals to be successfully undergone by the spirits (Sect. 82) certainly savors strongly of Roman Catholic influences. In a sense this opinion is strengthened by a study of the Orinoco Indians, whose original beliefs have been preserved through the careful investigations of Father Gumilla, one of the very first of the missionaries to labor among them. I have searched his writings in vain for any reference to the doctrine of conditional future reward or punishment, or to that of a purgatory. In the same manner, on the Aiary (Rio Negro), the Siusi Indians, an Arawak group which has been but little in contact with civilizing influences, apparently make no distinction between good and bad spirits, all the members of the tribes after death finding their way to a forest upon high mountains on the upper Içana (KG, I, 166).
84.* So again there does not appear to be sufficient warrant for many of the old travelers and missionaries making that arbitrary distinction of "good" and "bad" spirits (according to the bodies whence they have been derived) which has led to so many disastrous misconceptions. The Indian's idea of these comparative virtues is, as might have been expected, simplicity itself, in that a spirit is good or bad according as it is for or against him, that is, inclined to help or to harm him; it is only from this point of view that he concerns himself with the spirit at all. A spirit may be good as judged by its source of origin (e. g., a brave man), but bad as regards the evil which it happens to inflict upon the person concerned. Thus it was among the Carib Islanders, that the good Familiar Spirits, the Chemin or Icheiri, (Sect. 67) were sent by their human associates as messengers to carry sickness and evil to their enemies (RoP, 472). As a matter of fact, the above-mentioned misconception of the Indian's point of view affords an excellent illustration of the error into which certain authors have fallen in failing to recognize the very wide p. 163 distinction existing between the Evil Spirit, or Maboya, of the Carib Islanders, and their Good Spirit, or Chemin, when pursuing evil courses. It will be convenient to rectify this error, as far as possible, here. Maboya, or Maboia, was undoubtedly of human origin. Thus, of the several spirits which the body possesses (Sect. 69) some "remain on earth changed into beasts or into Maboia" (BBR, 237): they go and live in the woods and forests and are called Maboyas (RoP, 484). That is to say, in the same way that others of the body's spirits attach themselves to the waters, mountains, skies, etc., and remain there, so the Maboya attaches itself to the bush and forest. Indeed, there can be no doubt that the Maboya of the Antilleans corresponds in every sense with the mainland Spirit of the Forest, that is, the Yawahu, Hebu, Yurokon, etc. (Sect. 94). The Mainland Caribs of Cayenne actually used the identical term Maboya (PBa, 206). The people never invoke Maboya, as some imagine (RoP, 472): notwithstanding the extent to which he or it may be feared, and in spite of the brutality of the treatment received at his hands, the folk do not honor him with offerings, prayers, adoration, or sacrifice (ibid., 476). When the proverbial "pain and anguish wring the brow," Indians believe that these are due to the Familiar Spirits of some of their enemies by whom they have been sent (ibid., 473). When a person is sick, the offerings (anacri, Sect. 89) laid on the little table (matutu) are not for the Maboya, as (incorrectly) stated in one passage by Rochefort and Poincy (ibid., 563), but for that Familiar Spirit which had been instructed to convey the sickness, or for that Familiar Spirit which had played an important part in effecting the cure, as (correctly) mentioned by the same authors in another passage (ibid., 472). It is known also that the Island, as well as the Mainland, Caribs painted or carved a hideous figure of this spirit in front of their canoes, not only to frighten their enemies, but in order that the spirit's contemplation of its own likeness might divert its attention into other channels. This figure was said to be Maboia (e. g., BBR, 236), but as it would be ridiculous to assume the existence of Bush or Forest Spirits upon the bosom of the waters, I am forced to the conclusion that it represented a Chemin, or Familiar Spirit, capable of course of committing good or evil according to its "master's" instructions (cf. Sect. 48).
85.* Individuals can be relieved of the presence of undesirable spirits by means of the piai-rattle (Sect. 289), as well as by so-called "kissing" and "blowing." It is this latter method that I propose discussing here. While one writer talks of kissing being "unknown among Indians" (IT, 193), another speaks of these people expressing tenderness by kissing, not on the lips, but on all parts of the body (Cr, 175). If osculation is to be regarded as a sign of amativeness, the former is an error, because certainly among Caribs, Akawai, p. 164 Warraus, and Arawaks, this is expressed by man or woman, in the protrusion of the tip of the tongue between the loosely closed lips. What can also be considered a form of kissing is the custom of one individual blowing upon another under particular circumstances. The object of this blowing is explained by Schomburgk (ScR, II, 254) on the principle that both by the Indians "and the Orientals, the breath is regarded as an emanation of the most inward spiritual and mental vigor." A far more satisfactory explanation, however, would seem to lie in the fact that the blowing is intended to drive away an attached Evil Spirit, etc., as is indeed the belief among the Galibi piai (Sect. 310) and elsewhere (Sects. 14, 59, 72, 246, 319) a view which is only strengthened by the particular circumstances, above referred to, under which it is practised, namely, in sickness, or in absence of adequate protecting influences. On the way to Roraima, the Serekong "women brought us several of their sick children for us to breathe upon their faces, and so restore them to health" (ScR, II, 253). At Curasawaka streamlet, "a pretty-looking Makusi mother insisted upon my blowing in the face of her sickly infant, which she believed would act as a charm, and restore her child to health" (ScE, 177). "Before we left, she [the old Indian woman] made the entire party [on our way to Roraima] blow three times on her back for good luck, but whether the luck was for her or for us we never found out" (BW, 217).
[At Taiepong Village, upper Potaro] when on the point of leaving, a woman stepped forward to an old Indian in one of our canoes, and held up her head. He tapped her forehead with his fingers, muttered a few words, and then blew on her temple. This was done to charm away a pain in the head, the old fellow being a peaiman, and capable of effecting such cures. On our arrival at villages I have sometimes seen a woman carry her infant round to one after another of the Indians of my party, each man as she passed stooping down and blowing gently on the face of the child. [Bro, 202.]
Among the Arawak and the Warrau, when the child cries, or when father or mother leave it to set out on the chase, to work in the field, etc., they will blow either on the child's face or hand; but they do nothing of the sort on their return. It is a Makusi custom for the infant to be blown upon (angeblasen) by the relatives, before its parents take to their hammocks (ScR, II, 314) to keep the couvade. With the same tribe, the piai will blow upon the girl after the menstruation ceremony with the object of disenchanting her (Sect. 267).
1 In these last two examples there is difficulty in interpreting the real signification of the shouting into the ears—whether it is the deceased or the mischievous spirit causing the death (Sect. 310) that is being addressed. In North Queensland I have observed a similar custom. There, the seat of intelligence, life, etc., is located in the ear; and at death these escape through this exit: hence, by shouting into the deceased's ears his friends are trying to restore these essentials to their proper place.—W. E. R.
1 This was practically the identical reason given me by a North Queensland aboriginal native when I asked her why she had eaten her little child's body instead of burying it.—W. E. R.
1 The more probable reason, by analogy elsewhere in the Gulanas, is for the purpose of supplying the necessary drink at the funeral festivities.
1 Kabu, Carib term for 'sun.'—W. E. R.