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OFFPRINT FROM: "THE AMERICAN ANTIQUARIAN AND ORIENTAL JOURNAL", VOL. XIII, 1891 



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THE STORY OF SKAGA BELUS. 



81 



hospital to check the contamination of disease among the young, 
and in the schools, to send our children trained in a higher civi- 
lization, carrying with them and putting in practice the informa- 
tion gained in their years of study and mental and mechanical 
training. This work can only be accomplished by Government, 
and the question rests with our legislators at Washington whether 
the proper steps be taken immediately to save a race, with the 
bright promise of usefulness which this race possesses, if cared 
for, or whether they shall be left to drift on without thought or 
care to that extinction to which they are surely doomed unless 
the Government at Washington stretches out its strong arm to 
save them. 



THE STORY OF SKAGA BELUS. 

By James Deans. 

This remarkable legend I found amongst the Haida tribes of 
Queen C^harlotte's islands, British Columbia. Although only a 
legend, it contains historical data enough to shed a gleiim of 
light on the long-forgotten migrations ot the early inhabitants 
of Northwestern America. And as such it is well worth pre- 
serving, not only in the valuable pages of The American 
Antiquarian, but by all and every one who take an interest 
in the subject in America and in other countries as well. But I 
must to the main point of my story, Skaga Belus. 

Skaga is the name in the Haida language for a doctor or 
medicine man. The words Skah gilda, from which skrga is a 
contraction, means one with long hair, from their never utting 
their hair, but always wearing it rolled up in a bunch on the 
top of the head. This makes them resemble the figures on the 
tablets in the ruined cities ♦ South America. If those figures 
were priests, so likewise were the Skaga, whose functions 
amongst the Haidas is all that remains of an ancient priesthood 
— a fact of which I have many proofs. I have heard of many 
famous ones, but the greatest of them all was the subject of my 
story. Skaga Beelas or Belus was the most famous as well 
as the most remarkable of all who ever lived in Haida land or 
amongst any of the tribes on this Northwest coast. The 
account given of him by the Haida tribes is as follows : 

Very long ago, our fathers and mothers tell us, lived a good 
Skaga. He was the best man that ever lived in Haida land ; 
he was good end kind of heart, ever ready to attend the sick 
and to help the poor and distressed ; always advising the people 
to love each other, because, he said, if they lived in unity there 
would be no wars rior bloodshed, nor no theiving; all the Haida 
tribes, instead of fighting and trying to destroy each other, 
would live and love one another like brothers and sisters. After 



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82 THE AMERICAN ANTIQUARIAN, 

living amongst them many years, and having gained the respect 
of these people from the eldest to the youngest, he called them 
together and, to their sorrow, told them that he was going to 
leave them ; that they were not to grieve over his absence, 
because after a while he would return and never again leave 
thetn. So wishing them all keel-slie (farewell), he took his de- 
parture. As to the mode of his going away I may say a few 
words. Some of the people say he died and was buried; others 
of them say that his body lay dead for a year and that his soul 
went to heaven, where it heard and saw wonderful things, along 
with their parents, in the beautiful country to which they had 
all gone. He told them that all who while here had led good 
lives were happy in that beautiful country beyond, and that at 
the end of life's journey would not only be met by their relations 
gone before, but would each one of them have homes prepared 
for them corresponding in beauty to the lives led by them while 
on earth. 

When he left he was sorely missed by all the people, who 
never failed to look forward to his return. At the end of a 
year's absence he suddenly made his appearance amongst them 
again. After he returned he lived with them so long and grew 
so old, that excepting his spine, which alone he could use to 
move his back, all other parts of his body were dead and 
shrunken. If his life before he left was good, after his return 
it was better. Still anxious to teach them everything good, the 
more earnest was he to urge them to love and help each other, 
and above all -o keep from inter-tribal wars. He further told 
them, if they did so they would become a great, a happy and a 
prosperous people. If, on the contrar}', they fought tribe against 
tribe and made slaves of their brothers and sisters, they would 
become weak, because few in numbers, and at last a fair com- 
plexioned race of people from the land of the rising sun would 
come and take possession of their country and all their belong- 
ings, until their existence as a people would cease, their name 
be forgotten, and of their language nothing but a few names of 
places would remain. When these people came, thev (the 
Haidas) were neither to kill nor ill treat them, because they 
would bring amongst them implements far better than the rude 
stone ones then in use. And he also told them that these people 
would give them a new and better sort of food. He, tradition 
says, conversed with them after that manner as long as his 
strength lasted, and with his latest breath could be heard to say, 
"Be kind to each other." 

By the new sort of implements, the Haidas of to-day con- 
sider the small iron adzes (called toes) brought amongst them 
by the earliest traders, and the axes and other tools of the 
present day, a fulfillment of the first part of the prophecy; 
flour is considered a fultillent of the latter part, while we colo- 
nists are believed by them to be the fair strangers from the east. 



THE STORY OF SKAGA BELUS. 



s:\ 



The Haidas are keen traders, and they have often told me 
that they were so out of respect to Belus. They also boast 
that they never killed a white man, for the saine reason. 

As regards the weird song which affected me so much, this 
may be said: Belus, it seems, told them that along with the 
evils which would befall them following their decadence would 
be dreadful diseases, which coming amongst them would spare 
neither youth nor age, and for the loss of their relations they 
would naturally feel bad; so as a means of relief he recom- 
mended them to hold sittings as before mentioned, because, 
said he, by coming to your sittings your spirit friends, as well 
as those who died before their time, would be able to learn 
something whereby they would be enabled to advance to higher 
homes (spheres), while presence at your sittings would cheer 
the lot of those left behind. Besides these admonitions, he also 
taught them the above mentioned song, or rather I should say 
lament, because it may truly be considered as one — the lament 
of Skaga Belus, a lament not only for the dear departed, but 
for the failing fortunes of the Haida people. He also told them 
that every time they met, in order to commune with their spirit 
friends, they were to sing it just before leaving for their homes. 
This they never failed to do, with its slow, weird and mournful 
numbers. The tune somewhat resembles the one usually sung 
in Scotland to the song "Land o' the Leal," or to some of the 
d/aii orans (mournlul songs) of our Scottish Yeal. As far as 
the words are concerned, 1 am unable to give them, although I 
have tried for years to get them correct During a four months' 
stay with the Haidas the past summer (1889), I tried hard to 
get the words and tune; to my surprise I could not find one 
who knew anything of Skaga Belus, although in the s>ame tribe 
twenty years ago every one, from the oldest to the youngest, 
knew him and sung his song. Instead of these weird songs of 
olden times, which now are seldom heard, such new ones (to 
these people) as ''Nearer My God to Thee," etc., can be heard 
any time, day or night. 

In conclusion, I shall say a few words while asking the ques- 
tion, Who was Belus? 

Bol, Bel, Beluus, Belus, Baal, or as the Greeks called him, 
Apollo, was first king of Assyria. He conquered Babylonia 
from the Arabians, over which he reigned for twenty-seven 
years — from 1993 to 1966 B. C, or about four thousand years 
ago. After his death his son Ninus caused him to be placed 
amongst the gods, and he was worshiped as the sun at divers 
places and by divers people. The Jews had a temple wherein 
to worship him, with a grove arund it.* The Babylonians also 
had a temple for his worship. f This temple was the most an- 

♦Toseplius, AnttquUles, Vol. I. 
tlbld.. Vol. II, 10.; 





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THE AMERICAN ANTIQUARIAN. 



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cienl and became the most magnificent at one time in the world. 
Amongst the British Druids May-daj' was called .6ei7 Tcine 
(Belus fire), because on that day they burned large fires to 
liiel. In the low-lands of Scotland a bone or large fire is called 
Beil-fire to this day. 

Tiie Chiapanecs, a very old branch of the Toltecs, say they 
were descended from Cham (Ham), the son of Noah, and that 
the first settler in Chiapas was Mae,or Imoe, or, as he is oltener 
called, Ninus. This Ninus was the son of Belo (Bel"s), who 
was the son of Nimrod, who was the son of Chus, who was 
the grandson of Ham. When or where these Chiapanecs got 
the name Belo o.- Belus, I can not say ; but wherever they got 
it, it no doubt was from a people who pronounced the name 
Bel, Belus or Belinus, and not from a people who called it Baal. 
In looking over the pages of ancient history we find that the 
Pelasgi or Syrians, who lived on the sea coast of that country, 
pronounced it Bel. No doubt from these Pelasgi, who were 
great sailors, and were found all over the (then) known world, 
as well as making a settlement in Greece about 1883, B. C, 
came the Bel, Belus or Belinus into the west. How the Haidas 
came to get the name I have so far been unable to find any clue, 
except that the name is pronounced Belus instead of Baal. It 
is strange that a people living so remote as the Haidas should 
be, as well as most of the ancient nations, acquainted with Be- 
lus. They did not get the name from our people — quite the 
reverse. The story has passed through unnumbered ages 
down among them from sire to sun. Not the least strange is it 
that it was Belus who first taught them the occult sciences and 
to practice them as used to be done in ancient times. 

There was nothing revolting in their meetings. Each person 
would sit quietly down alongside of each other, until an oval 
was formed, at one end of which was a small fire; at the other 
end, next the door sat the Skaga or medium. After a little 
quiet conversation one of the number would take up a song, in 
which all but the Skaga would join. The song would be like 
the following: "The good Skaga is here to-night, E ha ha, hac 
hoo. And through him our friends of the a-wohl (feast time) 
will come. Hydrel, hydrel (come, come), hak-weet (quickly)," 
etc. While the Skaga was talking all was quiet, unless a ques- 
tion was asked of the control. In the time between one control 
leaving and the next one taking possession they also used to 
sing, how glad they were again to hear from him, or her, as the 
case might be. And so on to the end, when finishing up with 
Belus' song, all went to bed. Judge Swan, of Port Townsend, 
thinks the Haidas are descendants of the ancient Aztecs. I 
believe myself that in remote times some connection existed be- 
tween them.