AN important inquiry meets us at this point: How did man think of this second something that usually inhabited his body but sometimes left it for a time and at death left it permanently? For it would soon have been borne in upon him (even though he did not consciously recognize the soul's presence and operations) that the permanent absence of soul meant death, and that therefore while he lived it was present. What did he think concerning the nature of this all-important part of him? It is very clear from a number of circumstances that the notion of the soul was governed by the phenomenon of death. Decisive upon this point is the wonderful accord of meaning in so many languages of the word which expresses this inner elusive reality. In the developed languages we may note the root idea of such words as the Latin spiritus, anima, animus, Irish anam, Sanskrit atman, Greek psyche, pneuma, thumos, German Geist, Dutch geest, English ghost, Hebrew nephesh, ruah, Sumerian zid, Babylonian napishtu, Egyptian kneph, all of which go back to the notion of breath, or of a gentle movement of air or wind. One may forage at large and observe the same root notion and a similar usage in many other different regions, discovering the Australian wang, Mohawk atonritz, Californian-Oregonian wkrisha, piuts, Dakotan niya, Javanese nawa, Aztec ehecatl, Nicaraguan julio, Gypsy duk, and Finnish far. This line of thought is fortified by the conception of the insubstantiality of the soul, expressed in such words as skia, umbra, and "shade," used to denote the disembodied spirit. Terms of similar content were used not only by the cultured Greeks and Romans, but are known to be employed among North American Indians, Zulus and Basutos in Africa, among the Calabars, and elsewhere. One recalls the Hebrew rephaim. The survival of the belief in the insubstantiality of the disembodied spirit till the Middle Ages is shown by Dante, for according to him the souls in purgatory knew that the poet had not passed through death by the fact that his figure cast a shadow. Indeed, the idea of communication by a disembodied spirit with the living in dreams was entrenched by the reflection that its very immateriality enabled it to hold communication with sleeping persons without arousing them from sleep.
How early man came to realize that this part which is designated by breath or puff of air is his real self is impossible to say. But what is significant is that in many languages the word meaning spirit, life, or breath has also the connotation "self," as has, e.g., the Hebrew nephesh. And how natural such a signification is can be illustrated by the concrete fact that Laura Bridgman, the blind-deaf-mute, is said to have expressed the thought of death in a dream by the statement that "God took away my breath to heaven." Among the Ekoi of Nigeria ghost and soul and breath are connected as phases of the same thing or as equivalents. One must not forget that the phenomenon of death which is most obvious is the expiring sigh or last breath, after the departure of which life ceases to exist. What more natural than that the breath thus finally exhaled should be associated with the soul or spirit, or, as in some cases, be thought to carry the soul with it? Since in dreams a person deceased has been seen and addressed while the body was known to have dissolved, the way is direct and the step short to the conclusion that the self, the real person, is that same breath or soul.
But did primitive peoples endow the soul with form? The testimony to this is abundant and cogent. The most natural and perhaps most common idea of the soul's shape is that it is a: miniature of the possessor's form. Among those who have held this belief are American Indians such as the Hurons, the natives of British Columbia, Alaska, and the Esquimaux of the districts adjacent to Behring Straits, islanders such as the Niassians near Sumatra and the Fijians, and continental dwellers such as the Malays and West Africans. To give a single example, Nigerian Etoi believe that "when a man's body decays a new form comes out of it, in every way like the man himself when be was above ground
[1. Talbot, In the Shadow of the Bush, p. 230.
2. It has been collected not only by Tyler in his Primitive Culture, but also by Frazer, Taboo, chap. II.
3. Talbot, In the Shadow of the Bush, pp. 17, 230; cf. Frazer, Taboo, p. 39.]
For the Egyptians abundant testimony is available as to the belief in the double, existing indeed from birth. There is a picture in the Roman catacombs portraying the death of a Christian, in which the soul is represented as leaving the mouth of the dying in a cloud-like shape that takes his own form. What is practically a replica of this is found on the walls of the Campo Santo at Pisa; and in the east transept of Salisbury Cathedral on the sculptured monument over the tomb of Bishop Giles de Bridgport the soul appears as a naked figure carried by an angel. The usual notion is that the soul is invisible. But as in other respects shamans or medicine men are credited with extraordinary powers, so they are supposed to be able to discern the spirits or souls moving about or endeavoring to escape from the body. Sometimes the organ of detection is the ear, which can note the motion of the soul's wings. Or, the soul being of human shape, it leaves faint footmarks as indications of its presence, and light
[4. A notable case among many is the bas-relief in the temple at Luxor, exhibiting the presentation at birth to Ra of the royal child Amenhotep III and his double. Cf. Budge, Osiris, etc., p. 119.
5. Clodd, Animism, p. 40.]
ashes strewn on the ground may betray its presence to the keen-sighted medicine man.
Mention has been made of the return of the soul of one deceased to the haunts of the body as evidenced by dreams. The form appearing in the dream was recognized as that of a friend, again testifying to the assumed fact that the soul has the shape of the body. Further testimony to this belief is found in the faith that the soul is held to suffer in some degree the fate of the body. Brazilian Indians, for example, believe that the soul arrives in the other world hacked and torn, or uninjured, exactly as was the condition of the body at death. Australians tie together the toes and bind together the thumbs behind the back, or mutilate the body and fill it with stones, or, again, they lop off the thumb of a slain enemy, that the ghost may not hurl shadowy spear or pull the bowstring in the land of spirits. Chinese and Africans abhor mutilation, especially decapitation, as a punishment, for the latter produces headless ghosts. And Shakespeare makes Macbeth cry out:
[6. Im Thum, Among the Indians of Guiana, passim.
7. Cases of the kind are cited in Frazer, The Dying God, pp. 10-11; and Howitt, Native Tribes, pp. 449, 474.
8. Cf. Roscoe, The Baganda, pp. 281-282.]
"Shake not thy GORY locks at me." The ghost retains the bloody form in which the body was left at its departure. From classical Greece and Rome the evidence for this same idea of the soul's form is abundant and cogent; and it would not be difficult to show, since so much has been revealed in the frescoes and vase paintings recovered in the Mediterranean region, that this idea comes down from very primitive times. In the paintings which represent Hermes Psychopompus directing the issue and return of souls, the latter are figured as winged mannikins, coming from or returning to burial jars. The form of Patroklos' shade was that of the living hero.
A notion closely akin to the foregoing is that which connects the soul with the shadow. While many curious ideas which gather around the latter--such as the Brahman belief that the shadow of a pariah falling on food defiles it--do not involve the identity of the two, in many cases there can be little doubt that soul and shadow are not only closely related but are regarded as identical. Some believe that an assault upon the shadow may be fatal
[9. Harrison, Prolegomena, p. 43, and Themis, p. 205.
10. Iliad, xxiii. 65 ff.]
to its possessor, or at least extremely harmful. The Indians of the lower Frazer River hold that man has four souls, of which one is the shadow. The Euahlayi of Australia believe that man has a dream spirit, a shadow spirit, perhaps an animal spirit, and one that leaves only at death. Other Australians consider that each individual has a choi, a sort of disembodied soul, and a ngai, which lives in the heart. The choi awaits reincarnation after death, the ngai passes immediately after death into the children of the deceased. It is the latter that sometimes leaves a person temporarily in his lifetime, e.g., when he faints. The choi has some sort of vague relationship with the shadow. The Kai of New Guinea also believe that man has two souls, as do some of the Fijians, one of these being light (as a reflection in the water), the other dark, like the shadow. Dyaks assert the possession of three or even of seven, souls; one may leave the body temporarily, the man dies only when all leave."
[11. Mrs. Parker, Euahlayi Tribe, p. 35.
12. Frazer, Belief in Immortality, i. 129.
13. Neuhass, Deutsch Neu-Guinea, iii. 112.
14. Williams, Fiji, i. 242.
15. Gomes, Sea Dyaks of Borneo, p. 177; cf. Hastings, ERE, vi. 226.]
Gilyaks may have three souls. The Balong of the Cameroon think that one may have several souls, one in his own body and others in different animals. The death of one of these animals, say, at the hand of a hunter causes the man's death. The equivalence of the shadow to the man himself is proved by its use (or that of its-dimensions, in a later stage of culture) in the same manner as the body in foundation sacrifice--to give stability to the structure. After an exactly similar manner of thought the reflection of a body in water or a mirror is regarded as the soul. Injury to reflection or shadow may result in injury to the corresponding member of the body. Among the Congo people shadow or picture or reflection is the equivalent of soul. This whole manner of thought explains why in so many regions the natives do not willingly submit to being photographed or represented on canvas.
While the usual mode of thought represents
[16. Globus, lxix (1896), 277, cited in Hastings, ERE, iv. 412-13.
17. Weeks, Among Congo Cannibals, p. 162; cf. Talbot, In the Shadow of The Bush, p. 230.
18. Cases cited in Frazer, Golden Bough, Part II; Taboo, ii. 77-100.]
the human soul as a mannikin, other ideas are found. Among the ancient Egyptians, in Brazil, in Melanesia, in Bohemia, Malaysia, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and elsewhere the shape of the spirit may be that of a bird; in British Columbia the bird is enclosed in an egg in the nape of the neck. Or the soul may take the form of a mouse (Brunswick, Transylvania, Swabia, Saxony), which may differ in color in different regions; or of a fly (Transylvania), a lizard (India), or an indistinct cloudy form (Scotland ). Greeks and Serbs thought of the soul also as a butterfly, and the Greek name for one species of this insect is Psyche.
As to the constitution of this part of man's duality there is a wide consensus along the lines already indicated. Primitive peoples throughout the world describe it as a vapor, a shadowy, filmy substance, related to the body as the perfume to the flower. It is pale and yielding to the touch, without flesh and bone, thin, impalpable, discerned as the figure in the human eye. Its movements may be
[19. Bros, La Religion des peuples non-civilisis, p. 54.
20. Miller, My Schools and Schoolmasters, pp. 106-107, cited by Frazer, Taboo, pp. 40-41; Brown, Melanesians, pp. 141 ff.--here bird, rat, lizard, etc., are forms the soul takes.]
as swift as the wind, and so it is sometimes regarded as winged. Yet it has a certain materiality, and consequently has necessities. After death, for instance, it needs nourishment and partakes of the spirit, the essential part, of the material things sometimes provided for it. Egyptians, carrying the idea still further, provided pictures or models of food, furniture, and the like, which in a similar way became available to the spirit. The semi-materiality of the soul is illustrated by the fact of the return to his temple being known by marks alleged to be found in maize flour strewed on the threshold of his temple-pyramid.
[21 Spence, Civilization of Ancient Mexico, p. 47]