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p. 165


   Head Spirits are the causes of Dreams (86); the Unreality and Reality of Dream-life (87). Idiocy (88).

   86.* From Mainland Caribs, those on the Pomeroon and Moruca Rivers, I have learned that the Aka, or Akari, Spirit (Sect. 69) resides in the head. Yurokon, their Bush Spirit (Sect. 94), comes along when the person is asleep, seizes the Akari, and takes it with him into the forest; this causes people to dream, but sometimes Yurokon forgets, and does not bring it back, with the consequence that the individual dies. In dreaming, the Indians say that the spirit is paying a visit to the world to come (KG, I, 167) or has gone for a walk, etc. (ibid., II, 151).

   87.* While Coudreau (II, 198) seems emphatic in his remark concerning the Uaupes River Indians, that they have the correct idea of a dream, and do not take for reality the visions of sleep, im Thurn would seem to have an equally positive opinion to the contrary. The latter (344-345) tells us how—

   One morning when it was important for me to get away . . . I found that one of the invalids, a young Macusi, though better in health, was so enraged against me that he refused to stir, for he declared that, with great want of consideration for his weak health, I had taken him out during the night and had made him haul the canoe up a series of difficult cataracts. Nothing could persuade him that this was but a dream, and it was some time before he was so far pacified as to throw himself sulkily into the bottom of the canoe. . . . More than once, the men declared in the morning that some absent man, whom they named, had come during the night, and had beaten or otherwise maltreated them; and they insisted upon much rubbing of the bruised parts of their bodies.

   Laborde records similar expenences from the Island Caribs: "At night, I have heard them, sometimes two at once, complain, cry, wake with a start, and tell me that the devil wanted to beat them. They went on screaming when quite awake," etc. (BBR, 236). Rochefort and Poincy confirm this for the same people: the Caribs are also subject to other ills which they say come from Maboya, and often complain that he is hitting them, especially during sleep (RoP, 474). The medicine-men appear generally to have enjoyed a great reputation as dreamers (Sects. 264, 300). More than this, dreams were sometimes interpreted as omens and auguries; thus, in token of the missionary coming to visit them, and a sign of his approach, a certain cacique told Gumilla that he had dreamed that his lands sown with seed were very dry, and that the rain had fallen just in the nick of time (G, I, 311).

p. 166

   88.* In connection with the idea of at least one of the individual's Spirits being located in his head, it is of interest to record Schomburgk's observations among the Wapisiana on the Takutu River with regard to idiocy: imbeciles are regarded with awe by the Indians, for according to their traditions, these are in close intimacy with good Spirits, and hence their words and actions are regarded as signs of divinity (ScR, II, 54); their doings and sayings are considered oracular (ScT, 44). True it is also that imbeciles are regarded as "uncanny" and that they will often carry out with impunity and success many a deed which people in their right senses would not even attempt. Here is a case in point, from the Warraus.



   A man was blessed with a sister and mother, but unfortunately was without good sense, and for this reason he was known as Wabassi (lit., a sickly person). His sister had a dog called Warribisi (lit., a wasp). One day Wabassi went down to the seashore to catch big bunari crabs, and just as he was about to step out of the boat, an immense tiger approached; thinking it was his sister's dog, he exclaimed: "Warribisi! Warribisi! Come on! What are you doing here?" And as the creature trotted up quite close, he seized it round the waist, and tried to pull it into the boat. Of course the tiger growled, but all Wabassi said was, "Don't bite me, Warribisi," and as the animal was too heavy and clumsy to be dragged in, he lost his temper and said: "Stupid Warribisi. Stay where you are, then, and may Tiger come and eat you!" When Wabassi got home, he told his sister that he had seen her dog. She said: "No, you did not. You can not be in your right senses. Warribisi has been here with me all the time." On another occasion Wabassi joined some friends and relatives on a hunting expedition: they came across a herd of bush-hog, and Wabassi shot one. By and by, his friends collected into one big heap all the hogs that they had shot, and Wabassi came to have a look at their spoil, leaving his own quarry behind. "Oh!" said he, "my bush-hog is different from these. Mine has a mark on his head, and a flat nose." So the other hunters told him to go and fetch it and let them have a look. When they saw it, they were much surprised to recognize a tiger, and still more so to learn that his captor had not even met with a scratch. Next day after they reached home. Wabassi dressed himself like a bird, with a feather (representing the tail) stuck into his belt behind; he climbed a high tree and jumped from limb to limb three times; on the fourth occasion he alighted on a dry limb, which broke, and he fell to earth. "How splendidly I can fly!" he remarked, when he picked himself up.

   88A.* The picking up, or handling of, certain birds' feathers conduces to loss of memory and to insanity (Sect. 223).