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Copyright, 1881, by RusHTON M. Dorman. 


The study of archaeological subjects is increasing in interest. 
Recent disclosures concerning the early condition and history 
of the human race have directed much attention to these sub- 
jects. Man's oral history crystallized in myths and supersti- 
tions reflects much light into a past which written history has 
not penetrated. Mythology is, therefore, a very important 
branch of anthropological science. Mythology in its broadest 
definition includes all pagan religious beliefs, commonly called 
superstitions, and cannot be confined to collections of fables 
and traditions, which are the folk-lore of peoples. It is the aim 
of this book to contribute facts to show the homogeneity of 
man's religious beliefs. Although the New World is the field 
of research in the present volume, the rudimentary forms of 
belief are shown to be the same there as elsewhere, and their 
systematic development is also the same. A striking illustra- 
tion of this fact occurs to the writer, who, while among the 
negroes of the South, found among that uncultured people the 
same superstitions that prevailed in Africa, which were also the 
same as those found among equally uncultured peoples every- 
where. The only way to account for their presence among the 
Southern negroes is to ascribe them to the natural outgrowth 
of the human mind, everywhere the same in the same stage of 
progress. Mythologists have studied myths without studying 
the superstitions which have found expression in the myths. 
They have exhausted resources in attempts to prove that the 
higher phases of belief and worship have been the most ancient 
and have become debased in the ruder forms. Voss endeavors 
to find in pagan myths a distortion of Hebrew revelations. 



Dupuis, with his Sabaistic origin for cults, looks to astronomy 
for a solution. Abbe Banier finds in mythology " history in 
poetic dress." Creuzer sees nothing but symbols, and shows 
much erudition in his attempts to find their hidden meaning. 
Nearly all mythologists have fixed upon some locality where 
myths have originated, in the infancy of the human race, and 
whence they have spread, by transmission or migration, into the 
rest of the earth. Pococke and Sir William Jones locate their 
origin in the East; Rudbeck, in the North; Bryant, among 
the Hebrews. A new departure has been taken, however, in 
mythological science. 

A work of the character of the present volume must neces- 
sarily be to a great extent a compilation. I have used great 
care to give credit to authors cited in this work, but, in order 
to escape quoting in full, in some cases have made abstracts of 
passages in such a way as to preserve their sense, without being 
able, however, to use quotation-marks, on account of such 
change. In such cases citations always occur, but it may not 
always be clear where the citation begins and ends. On this 
account I wish to acknowledge special obligations to the work 
of H. H. Bancroft on the Native Races of the Pacific Slope, 
Mr. Spencer's works on Sociology, and Mr. Tylor's Primitive 
Culture. I will also mention, as being specially full of in- 
formation on subjects relating to the aboriginal tribes, the works 
of Mr. Schoolcraft, especially the large work, in six volumes, 
published at the expense of the United States government, but 
under his supervision ; also the works of Messrs. Squier and 
Brinton ; also Mr. Southey's History of Brazil. 

A list of authorities cited in this work might be of some 
value as a bibliographical manual of the literature of the sub- 
ject, but would add to the size and cost of this book, and only 
be superfiuous when such exhaustive works as those of Messrs. 
Ludewig, Field, and Sabin have been published and can easily 
be obtained by those desiring such a work. 

Chicago, February 9, 1881. 





Introductory 13 



Spirits permeate all animate and inanimate nature — Fear of these spirits — 
Contests with spirits — Destruction and desertion of property — Spirits 
assume fairy forms — Demonology — Fear of evil spirits becomes worship 
— Doctrine of future rewards and punishments — Land of souls — Its locali- 
ties and occupations — Difficulties of the journey thither — These difficul- 
ties dependent on the traditional difficulties of tribal migrations — Trans- 
migration of spirits — Disease produced by them — ^The confessional as a 
cure — Sorcciy — Couvade — Dreams a revelation from spirits — Prophecy . 19 



Worship of human spirits — Ancestral worship — Apotheosis — Culture-heroes 
— Fabulous forms assumed by mythical beings — Gods of Mexico, Central 
America, Bogota, and Peru — Idolatry — Its primitive forms — Grave-posts 
roughly hewn into the image of the dead and worshipped — Its later form 
an image of the deceased containing his ashes — Idolatry in aboriginal 
art — Supposed vitality of idols 69 



Fetichism — Scalping fetichistic in conception — Inherence of spiritual force 
— Cannibalism fetichistic and a religious act — Eating images of gods a rite 
similar to the eucharistic — Superstitious fears about pronouncing the names 
of the dead — ^Tattooing fetichistic — Amulets — Primitive ornamentation 
fetichistic 141 






Burial-customs — Care of the dead — Interment — Suspension — Cremation — 
Tombs the primitive altars — The mounds, their builders and uses — Burial- 
towers — Resurrection of the dead — Sacrifice — Food-oiferings the primitive 
form — Human sacrifices — Tombs the primitive temples . . . .163 



Its animistic origin — Immortality of the spirits of animals — Transmigra- 
tion of human souls into animals — ^Omens — Manitology — Totemism — 
Animal names given to human beings — Traditionary descent of tribes 
from animals — ^Totemism in art — Heraldry — Totemic writing — ^Tattooing 
— Probable totemic origin of the animal mounds — Traditionary descent 
of animals from the human race — Metamorphosis — Animal dress — ^Wor- 
ship of animals — Fabulous animals — Animals in the rOle of creators . 221 



Worship of trees — Their supposed vitality explained by animism — Supposed 
descent of human beings from trees — Worship of plants — Personality 
ascribed to them — Origin of plants from human bodies — Those having 
medical properties supposed to be endowed with supernatural powers . 287 



Worship of mountains and dangerous places — Their supposed frequentation 
by spirits — ^Worship of volcanoes — Echoes and other noises supposed to 
be the voices of spirits — Traditionary descents of tribes from mountains — 
Metamorphosis — Worship of islands — Traditions of the origin of islands 
— Origin of the belief that the world was supported on the backs of ani- 
mals — Worship of springs and fountains — Traditionary tribal descents 
from them — Their healing properties supernatural — ^Worship of rivers and 
lakes — Places of refuge 300 





Worship of the heavenly bodies — ^Their personality — Their anthropomorphic 
nature — Animistic conceptions of them — Their romantic attachments to 
human beings — ^Their vitality — Their occupation by translated heroes — 
Crude notions concerning them — E^ipses — Astrology .... 325 



Tempests produced by hostile spirits — Coercive measures used to prevent 
them — ^Winds the manifestations of spiritual agency — Anthropomorphic 
representations of atrial deities 349 



Priests — Sources of their influence — Medicine-men or doctors of rude tribes 
— Exorcism of evil spirits the method of curing diseases — Sorcerers — 
Miraculous powers ascribed to them — Rain-doctors — ^Witches — Rise of 
priestly hierarchies among the more civilized peoples — Priesthoods of Peru, 
Mexico, Yucatan, etc. — Monastic institutions of those countries — Educa- 
tional institutions in the hands of the priests — Their influence in the State 
— Confessional — Priestly absolution saved criminals from legal penalties . 353 

Conclusion 385 

Index 393 



A Flying Head (see page 281) Frontispiece 

Dacotah God of Thunder ^3 

Heyoka 84 

Dacotah God of War 85 

Atotarho, ancient ruler of the Iroquois .... faces 86 


Tomb OF AN Alaskan Chief 118 

Image OF AN I NCA 119 

Sepulchral Urn of the Mexicans faces 120 

Sepulchral Urn containing Brazilian Chief 121 

OjiBWAY Idol • . . . . 127 

MoQUi Idol . . 127 

Stones slightly altered to a human resemblance . \ . .130 

Burial-tower of Peru 191 

ToTEMic Writing faces 239 

Thunder-Bird of the Haidahs 272 

TcHiMosE 278 

Fabulous animal of the Winnebagoes 279 

Composite figure of the Peruvians . . . . 284 

God of Grass «... 299 

Rock-Temple of Peru 302 

God of the Sea • . . . . 323 

SunHead 338 

God of the Air 352 

Prophet's Lodge faces 363 








The object of this book is to reduce to a system of religious 
belief that multitude of superstitions that have germinated 
among uncultured peoples, and many of which remain as sur- 
vivals in a higher culture, although they are inconsistent with 
the higher forms of religious belief among which they are 
found. We hope to trace all superstitions to a common ori- 
gin. Success in tracing such superstitions to their source, 
connected with evidence that they have originated in error, or 
in ignorance of the truth, will certainly prove a benefit to man. 
The process of discovering these sources is, and always will 
be, an interesting labor to the anthropologist. The results of 
such research will certainly prove an interesting chapter in the 
history of man. 

The doctrine of transmigration in the Orient, the animal 
worship of the Egyptians, the Sabaism of the Persians, are but 
stages of progress in a religious evolution. The pagoda of 
the Orient, the pyramid of Egypt, the temple of Greece, are 
but the representations in art of a superstition that finds its first 
expression in a more primitive form. The laws of evolution 
in the spiritual world can be traced with as great precision as 
in the material world. Much labor has been spent in the study 
of the laws of man's social progress, and much success has 
followed such effort. While a progressive movement must be 
recognized in all social institutions among peoples that have 

2 13 



attained any degree of civilization, yet the tendency of all the 
evidence is to show that the highest development of religious 
culture among pagan nations has not attained to monotheism ; 
on the contrary, the principles that control all religious thought 
among primitive peoples will work themselves out in poly- 
theism among those peoples in lower stages of culture, or in 
pantheism among those of a higher culture. 

That sublime definition, " God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and 
unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, 
goodness, and truth," followed by that definition of the " chief 
end" of man, which is " to glorify God and enjoy him forever," 
is the high, product of Christianity, which, if maintained in its 
purity, has nothing to fear from religious evolution. 

All primitive religious belief is polytheistic. All savage 
tribes are full of the terror of invisible spirits which have been 
liberated by death. These spirits fill all nature, animate and 
inanimate. They are in the air, the wind, the storm, in the 
rock, the hill, the vale, in the river, the waterfall. They trans- 
migrate into human beings, animals, plants, and even into in- 
animate stones, idols, and heavenly bodies, which are supposed 
to be animate thereafter. Hence originates the worship of 
ancestors, and also of animals, plants, stones, idols, and the 
heavenly bodies. Death, the liberator, and burial, have their 
religious ceremonies, and the tomb becomes the temple. 
These spirits liberated by death, or by sleep or a comatose 
condition, which are its equivalents in savage life, are abroad 
on the earth for a time, and can avenge themselves for past or 
present wrongs, in disease, which is a form of transmigration. 
They can appear in dreams, which is a form of prophecy. 

Among primitive peoples the cure of diseases was given 
over to sorcerers, who were supposed to have some control 
over the evil-disposed spirits. This sorcery developed into 
the priestcraft of higher cultures, where exorcism of evil spirits 
still survives as one of the offices of the priests. In our own 
day those peculiar diseases which have defied medical skill, 
such as insanity, hysteria, and epilepsy, are relegated in many 


countries for cure to the priesthood. Even the primitive feti- 
chism survives in the use of charms and amulets, and in the 
heraldic devices on many national flags and the armorial bear- 
ings of many families. 

In tracing the origin of superstitions among savage or bar- 
barous peoples, we will become convinced of the error of any 
writer who has affirmed that this or that people has no re- 
ligion or religious feeling. Many such authors have contra- 
dicted themselves unwittingly by giving a long list of these 
superstitions ; and I have often thought that they merely meant 
to convey the impression that the savages knew nothing of 
true religion. Let me say here that in all my studies upon 
this subject I have not found a people, no matter how savage, 
who have no religion, if the word is used in its broadest sense 
to embrace all superstition. I wish to speak of another error 
found in many books on the aboriginal tribes of America, 
where it is intimated that the belief in a Supreme Being has 
existed among them from an early time. No approach to 
monotheism had been made before the discovery of America 
by Europeans, and the Great Spirit mentioned in these books 
is an introduction by Christianity. Among the Northern tribes 
the Indian word manitou expresses their highest conception of 
deity. "Their gods were no whit better than themselves," 
says Mr. Parkman, " and when the Indian borrows from Chris- 
tianity the idea of a supreme spirit, his tendency is to reduce 
him to a local habitation and a bodily shape. The idea that 
the primitive Indian had an Omnipotent Spirit to which he 
yielded his untutored homage is a dream of poets, rhetoricians, 
and sentimentalists." Mr. Keating says that the ideas that the 
Sauks had of the Great Spirit were that he had a human form, 
was white, and wore a hat. Mr. Dall says, " The Thlinkeets, 
like all American Indians, do not believe in a Supreme Being. 
Their feeble polytheism presents no feature worthy the name 
of such a belief." Mr. Schoolcraft says, " The Dacotahs do 
not understand the difference between a great Good Spirit and 
a great Evil Spirit They think any spirit can do good when 


it chooses, or evil when it chooses." The Patagonians call 
God Soycku, but their word for the dead is soychuhet. The 
word Co7i, which has been used for the supreme deity of the 
Peruvians, originated in a blunder of the Spanish writers. It 
was a prefix to sacred names, and is the first syllable in Con-- 
opa^ a stone idol. A close examination makes it evident that 
the Indians* idea of a Supreme Being was a conception no 
higher than might have been expected, and when they under- 
took to contemplate such a Being it became finite, and gener- 
ally ridiculous. There is no Iroquois word that had such a 
primitive meaning as Great Spirit, or God. Perrot, after a life 
spent among the Northern Indians, ignores the idea that they 
had any conception of such a Being ; and Allouez says the 
same of the tribes about Lake Superior. The tribes of Cali- 
fornia had no conception whatever of a Supreme Being. Mr. 
Powers says, " True, nearly all of them now speak of the Old 
Man Above, but they have the word and nothing more." 

The American tribes afford a very favorable opportunity for 
such an investigation as the present. Without entering into 
the controversy as to the antiquity of the Red Race, I shall 
assume that it has occupied the territory of North and South 
America for a sufficient length of time to have developed its 
own culture in the varied stages of progress found at the time 
of the discovery by Columbus. Such an assumption is war- 
ranted by the best researches into their antiquity. I shall also 
assume that during the progress of their culture no interference 
from without has left any traces of itself. The best American- 
ists, after much study devoted to this subject, have so decided. 

Without discussing the theory of the unity of the human 
race, I shall assume that the Red Race, if the unity of human 
races is true, was separated from the rest of the human family 
at such an early day that their mythology is indigenous, as was 
also their language. 

All stages of progress are faithfully represented among them, 
from the most savage root-digger to the most civilized Peru- 
vian. There were tribes of hunters, tribes of fishermen, and 


tribes of agriculturists. Art is also represented in all its forms. 
When we arise from a study of their mental characteristics, 
we cannot help being impressed with the fact that the human 
mind unfolds itself in all directions with as great regularity as 
does our physical nature. The growth of the mind is as cer- 
tain in its order of development as is the growth of the body. 
It is due to these laws of development that the native of Pata- 
gonia has about the same superstitions as has the native of 
Alaska. The similarity is not due to contact between the sev- 
eral tribes of America. The differences in all the tribes are 
due to external influences, such as climate, soil, occupation, 
and also to their different degrees of progress in culture. 

Progress in religious culture is coextensive with all other 
human progress among pagan nations. Pagan religion being 
the product of the human mind, and emanating from no higher 
source, will therefore have no great tendency to elevate hu- 
manity. Hence religious progress will always be in accord 
with progress in other directions. 

The American savages agree in their religious views with 
the savages of other continents more than with the civilized 
peoples of their own. Says Mr. J. G. Miiller, "The origin 
of their religions is found in their human nature. They 
have not received them from the peoples of the Old World, 
neither can they be understood if we try to derive them from 

Hence the study of comparative mythology can never have 
scientific value unless it is coextensive with the study of 
human progress in all directions. Too much effort has hereto- 
fore been directed to tracing a derivation of one system of 
mythological belief from another by contact or migration of 
myths. The growth of mythologies among all peoples has 
taken place according to the laws of man's spiritual being. 
There is therefore a great similarity of religious belief among 
all peoples in the same progressive stages. Even the simi- 
larity of the myths themselves is remarkable in cases where 
no transmission could possibly have taken place. 


I shall not undertake to compare, to any extent, the super- 
stitions of the New World with those of the Old World in 
this volume, as I intend to reserve that subject for another 
time ; and I shall therefore confine my attention almost ex- 
clusively to a comparative study of the religious beliefs and 
traditions of the aborigines of the New World. 



Spirits permeate all animate and inanimate nature — Fear of these spirits — Contests 
with spirits — Destruction and desertion of property — Spirits assume fairy forms 
— Demonology — Fear of evil spirits becomes worship — Doctrine of future re- 
wards and punishments — Land of souls — Its localities and occupations — Diffi- 
culties of the journey thither — These difficulties dependent on the traditional 
difficulties of tribal migrations — Transmigration of spirits — Disease produced by 
them — The confessional as a cure — Sorcery — Couvade — Dreams a revelation 
from spirits — Prophecy. 

The primitive man fills his world with spirits, and his belief 
in this spirit life manifests and unfolds itself in all his varied 
superstitions. The places of the living are haunted with the 
spirits of the dead. 

The Illinois, says Tonti, " fancy that the world is full of 
spirits, who preside over everything in nature, and that they are 
good or bad according to their caprice. It is upon this prin- 
ciple that all their foolish superstitions are grounded." ' 

The Hurons, says Charlevoix, believe in an infinite number 
of subaltern spirits, both good and bad. These are objects of 
their worship. Everything in nature has its spirit. Lest the 
spirits of the victims of their torture should remain around 
the huts of their murderers from a thirst of vengeance, they 
strike every place with a staff in order to oblige them to de- 

Mr. Greenhalgh relates the same custom among the Iro- 
quois. He says, " Att night we heard a great noise as if ye 
houses had all fallen, butt itt was only ye inhabitants driving 
away ye ghosts of ye murthered." * 

* Tonti's Account, 7. » I Doc. Hist. N. Y., 16. 



The Iroquois believe the space between the sky and earth is 
full of spirits.* In every tribe a death from time to time adds 
another ghost to the many that have gone before. Continually 
accumulating, they form a surrounding population, usually in- 
visible, but occasionally seen.* 

The Ottawas all believe in ghosts. " Once," said Mr. Bar- 
ron, " on approaching in the night a village of Ottawas in con- 
fusion, they were all busily engaged in raising noises of the 
loudest and most inharmonious kind. Upon inquiring, I found 
that a battle had been lately fought between the Ottawas and 
Kickapoos, and the object of all this noise was to prevent the 
ghosts of the dead combatants from entering the village." 3 

The Choctaws also have their ghosts or wandering spirits, 
which can speak and are visible, but not tangible. Of the be- 
lief of the tribes about Hudson*s Bay in spirits, Umfreville tells 
us they were so influenced by these superstitious ideas that 
they kept large fires burning all night, and slept only in the 
daytime. They often fired their guns at them. Among the 
tribes about Lake Superior you will frequently be awakened 
by the firing of guns. On inquiring for the cause, you will be 
told they are shooting the dead that trouble them. The Mo- 
hawks would never leave their dwellings at night, except in 
companies, for fear of evil spirits.^ 

In a war expedition, if any warrior fancies that he has seen 
the spirits of his forefathers, or heard their voices, he can 
oblige the warriors to retreat. The Ohio tribes were accus- 
tomed to bore holes in the coffin over the eyes and mouth 
to let the spirit pass in and out.s 

Among the Eskimos, spirits trouble them by seating them- 
selves near them and making faces at them. A meal is often 
spoiled in this way. They can generally drive them off by 
blowing their breath at them. ^ 

* Hennepin's Contin., 55. ^ I Spencer Soc, 234-35. 

3 I Keating*s St. Peter's River, 109. 4 Wood's N. E. Pros., 86. 

s Dodge's Red Man O., 52. * Lyon's Journal, 172. 


" The natives of Brazil so much dread the manes of their 
dead, that some of them have been struck with sudden death 
because of an imaginary apparition of them. They try to ap- 
pease them by fastening offerings on stakes fixed in the ground 
for that purpose." ' 

Among the natives of Costa Rica spirits are thought to in- 
fest everything. When anything has been lying around for 
some time, they beat it with sticks the day before they use it, 
to drive away the spirits. The spirits of the dead are supposed 
to remain near their bodies for a year." 

The natives of the Pacific slope suppose spirits to be present 
everywhere. On the northwest coast of America, at Stony 
Point, a burial-place of the Indians was considered to be 
haunted by them, and no Indian ever ventured there. Their 
usual superstitious reverence for and fear of anything belonging 
to the " memelose tillicums," or dead people, prevented their 
going near the spot.3 

There was another locality near there, on the Shoal- Water 
Bay, the former site of an Indian village which had been de- 
serted on account of dead people. The Indians were afraid to 
go back there on account of them, but if a white man went 
along they were willing to go, for the dead people were afraid 
of whites.^ 

The idea they have of their spirits is that they are hovering 
in the air; yet they are puzzled to know where the spirits of 
the whites got their wings from.s Association of ideas had not 
led them to this pleasing fancy of cultured minds. 

Their superstition about names originates in their belief 
in spirits. The Indians of the Northwest Territory always 
change their own names when a relative dies, .because they 
think the spirits of the dead will come if they hear the 
same name called that they were accustomed to hear before 

* Nieuhoff's Brazil, 2; Churchill's Coll. Voy., 150. 

» Gabb's Ind. Tribes, 503-4. 3 Swan's Wash. Ter, 68. 

*Ib., 77. s lb., 181. 


death. For the same reason they avoid speaking the name of 
the dead person." 

They would not let Mr. Swan attend the burial of their dead, 
because, they said, the spirit of the dead person, and hosts of 
others hovering around, would see him and be displeased at 
his presence." 

Among many of the tribes their contests with spirits would 
often appear such realities that in their defence of themselves 
they would be covered with blood from the bruises received in 
their violent gesticulations. The spirits would often vanish by 
turning themselves into stone with a flesh-and-blood interior.^ 

This superstitious fear of places supposed to be haunted by 
spirits led to the destruction and desertion of dwelling-places, 
and thus served as a check to material prosperity and became 
an obstacle to progress. 

The Ojibways pulled down the house in which any one had 
died, and chose another place to live in as far off as possible. 
Even with the death of an infant the same dread manifested 
itself Mr. Kohl, while among them, visited a neighbor with a 
sick child in the morning. When he returned in the evening 
the lodge had disappeared, and all its inhabitants had departed. 
This revealed to him the child's death.* 

It is quite remarkable to discover this same fear of the spirits 
of harmless children; but its cause is found in their superstitious 
ideas about disease. The Navajos would never occupy a lodge 
in which a person had died, but the lodge was burned.^ 

The Seminoles immediately removed from a house where 
death had occurred, and where the body was buried.^ 

A superstition is universally prevalent among the tribes of 
the Northwest, that when an abode has been deserted on 
account of a death, an evil spirit dwells there. The New Eng- 
land tribes would never live in a wigwatn in which any person 
had died, but would immediately pull it down.' 

'Swan's Wash. Ter., 189. « lb., 192. • 3 i Jes. Rel., 16. 

4 Kitchi-Gami, 106. s 4 Schoolcraft, 214. * 5 ib., 270. 

^ 10 Mass. Hist. Coll., 1st Series, 107. 


The Arkansas burned the lodges in which any one had 

Among the Abipones of Paraguay, when any one's life is 
despaired of, the house is immediately forsaken by his fellow- 
inmates. The custom of destroying and deserting the houses 
where death has occurred has undoubtedly arisen from a super- 
stitious fear of the spirits of the dead. The same fear impels 
them to thrust the dead through some aperture other than the 
ordinary way of exit, and carry them away to a place of burial. 
By closing securely the hole which is made for the exit of the 
dead, the spirit, it was thought, would not be able to get back 
again into the lodge. A very curious custom sprang up in 
connection with this, by which they could investigate to their 
satisfaction whether the spirit had made any effort to return : 
they sprinkled ashes along the way to the place of burial.* 

The Ojibways believe innumerable spirits are ever near; that 
the earth teems with these spirits, good and bad. Those of 
the forests clothe themselves with moss. During a shower of 
rain thousands of them find shelter in a flower. These spirits 
assume fairy forms, and also appear by means of transmigra- 
tion in the varied forms of insect life. The Ojibway detects 
their tiny voices in the insect's hum. Thousands of them 
sport on a sunbeam." 

Thus the Ojibways have a fairy mythology. Burlington 
Bay is a great resort for these fairies. Whenever they are 
cornered they disappear under ground with a rumbling noise. 
They are thought to have great influence on the lives of the 
Indians. They attack their poultry and cattle, who soon there- 
after die. They throw small stones through the windows of 
their houses. They dance over the ground like the down of a 
thistle. The Indians say the fairies are enraged at white people 
for destroying their forests. 

The manifestation of spirits in fairy-like forms is not con- 
fined to the mythology of the Ojibways. The Dacotahs have 

' 2 Dobrizhoffer, 265. » Cop\vay*s Ojibways, 148-49. 


land and water fairies of a mischievous character. They say 
they often see them.^ 

Among the Otoes, a mound near the mouth of White Stone 
River is called the mountain of Little People or Little Spirits, 
and they believe that it is the abode of little devils in human 
form, about eighteen inches high, and with remarkably large 
heads. They are armed with sharp arrows, with which they 
are very skilful, and are always on the watch to kill those who 
should have the hardihood to approach their residence. The 
tradition is that many have suffered from these little evil 
spirits. This has inspired all the neighboring nations with 
such terror that no consideration could tempt them to visit 
the hill.' 

Mr. Kane tells a legend of the Nasquallies, who believed in 
a dwarf people, that were destroyed by birds, who stuck their 
quills into them. When the quills were extracted by one of 
their tribe, the fairies came to life again.^ 

Aisemid was a famous aerial spirit of the Western tribes, 
who carried a curious little shell, and could become visible or 
invisible as he chose.* 

All the Indians imagine they see small spirits skip about 
over the plains and suddenly vanish ; they dance in the moon- 
light on the tops of cliffs.^ 

The Shoshone legends people the mountains of Montana 
with little imps, called Ninumbees, two feet long, naked, and 
with a tail. These limbs of the evil one are accustomed to eat 
up any unguarded infant they find, leaving in its stead one of 
their own baneful race looking so much like the child that the 
mother will return and suckle it. If the little fiend seizes her 
breast she dies thereafter.^ 

The Tinneh also people their earth, sea, and air with spirits 
in the shape of fairies.^ 

« 3 School., Ind. Tribes, 232. » I Lewis and Clarke, 52-53, ed. 18 14. 

3 Wanderings, 253. ♦ 3 School., Ind. Tribes, 523. 

s 3 ib., 408. * 3 Bancroft, Native Races, 157. 7 3 ib., 142. 


In Choctaw mythology, itallaboys are genii of very diminu- 
tive stature, but of great power. From them the conjurers 
receive their influence. They often ride by moonh'ght on 
deer, with wands in their hands, singing magic songs. They 
are invisible, intangible, and invulnerable. Thus we find 
a fairy mythology similar to that of Europe among the native 
races of America, embracing even the superstition of the 

" Sleep is thought by the Algic race to be produced by fair- 
ies, the prince of whom is Weeng. The power of this Indian 
Morpheus is exerted in a peculiar manner and by a novel 
agency. Weeng seldom acts directly in inducing sleep, but he 
exercises dominion over hosts of gnome-like beings, who are 
everywhere present. These beings are invisible. Each one is 
armed with a tiny club, and when he observes a person sitting 
or reclining under circumstances favorable to sleep, he nimbly 
climbs upon his forehead and inflicts a blow. The first blow 
only creates drowsiness ; the second makes the person lethargic, 
so that he occasionally closes his eyelids ; the third produces 
sound sleep. It is the constant duty of these little emissaries 
to put every one to sleep whom they encounter, — men, women, 
and children. They hide themselves everywhere, and are ready 
to fly out and exert their sleep-compelling power, although 
their peculiar season of action is in the night. They are also 
alert during the day. While the forms of these gnomes are 
believed to be those of little or fairy men, the figure of Weeng 
himself is unknown, and it is not certain that he has ever been 
seen. lagoo is said to have seen him sitting upon a branch of 
a tree. He was in the shape of a giant insect with many wings 
upon his back, which made a low, deep, murmuring sound, like 
distant falling water. Weeng is not only the dispenser of 
sleep, but it seems he is also the author of dulness. If an 
orator fails, he is said to be struck by Weeng. If a warrior 
lingers, he has ventured too near the sleepy god. If children 
begin to nod or yawn, the Indian mother looks up smilingly 


and says they have been struck by Weeng, and puts them to 
bed." ^ 

The Indian conception of the action of these invisible spirit- 
ual agents is aptly illustrated by an Ojibway legend of a war- 
rior's spirit which returned from the field of battle and found 
his wife lamenting his death. He endeavored to talk to her, 
but she made no reply, except to remark to one near her that 
she felt a buzzing in her ears. The enraged husband, who did 
not realize the change from the material to the spiritual in his 
condition, struck her a blow on the forehead. She complained 
of feeling a shooting pain there. Thus the spirit was foiled in 
every attempt to make itself known." 

The Dacotahs believe that a mother, when her dead children 
think of her, will feel a pain in her breast, due to the action of 
the invisible spiritual agent.3 

Thus the far-reaching effect of their doctrine of spiritual 
agency is evident. 

Another form of spiritual manifestation is fire. Fire has 
always been regarded with more or less superstitious awe, 
because it is supposed to contain a mysterious spirit. Among 
the Hurons, a female spirit who was supposed to cause much 
of their sickness appeared like a flame of fire.* 

Of the New England Indians, Josselyn says, " They have a 
remarkable observation of a flame that appears before the death 
of an Indian, upon their wigwams, in the dead of night. When- 
ever this appears, there will be a death." s 

The Ojibways will never cut a stick that has once been on the 
fire. The reason of this superstition is that the fire has a spirit 
that has entered the wood and will get cut. 

Among many of the tribes of America no cutting instrument 
could be used for some time after the death of a person, lest his 
spirit, the exact whereabouts of which they could not determine, 

» Schoolcraft's Algic Res., 226, seq. * Jones's Traditions, 120. 

3 Neill's Minnesota, 70. ♦ Jes. Rel., 16. 

s Josselyn's Two Voyages, 133. 


should get cut. Every object is supposed to be occupied by a 
spirit The intelligence of these spirits is aptly illustrated by 
the following anecdote. A certain missionary to the Califor- 
nians sent a native with some loaves of bread, and a letter, 
stating their number. The messenger ate a part of the bread, 
and his theft was consequently discovered. Another time, when 
he had to deliver four loaves he ate two of them, but hid the 
accompanying letter under a stone while he was thus engaged, 
believing that his conduct would not be revealed this time, as 
the letter had not seen him eating the loaves." 

This illustrates the natural tendency of the savage to believe 
that everything is inhabited by a spirit. 

While upon the doctrine of spirits, let us trace the belief 
in evil spirits, and its gradual development into demonology. 
Although there was no moral dualism among the American 
nations, whereby all evil had become personified in a Satan, 
yet there were many tribes who had one or more evil spirits, 
to whose visits they ascribed personal and tribal calamities. I 
shall not, however, dwell long on this branch of their my- 
thology, as the material for the subject has been employed to a 
great extent in tracing their belief in a future life, and their 
theory of disease. The Indians thought the inhabitants of the 
spirit-land act very much as they did when among the living. 
Hence each individual could do much harm as well as good. 
It was also thought that the next life was a time for retribution ; 
and this idea is the key-note to demonology in primitive times. 

The Comanches stood in great dread of evil spirits, which 
they attempted to conciliate. Their demons withheld rain or 

All the appeals of the Mosquitoes are addressed to the evil 
spirits called Wulasha. These devils are the causes of all 
misfortunes and contrarieties that happen. The fear of these 
devils prevents them from going out alone after dark.3 

» Bacgert's, Smith, Rep., 1864, p. 379. 

■ I Bancroft, Native Races, 520. 3 3 lb., 479. 


These Wulasha are supposed to strive for the possession of 
the dead. They have a religious ceremony in which we have 
a scene very similar to those represented upon Etruscan vases. 
Four naked men disguise themselves in performing their burial 
rite so that the Wulasha will not know them, and then rush 
into the hut, seize the dead body, drag it away, and bury it. 
Thus the dead are rescued from evil spirits." 

"They think that evil spirits destroy their crops and do 
them many grievous injuries."' 

Thevet mentions an isle of demons near Newfoundland 
where the Indians were so tormented with them that they 
would fall into his arms for relief 

Among the Californians the most interesting feature of their 
religion was their belief in a body of demons. These malig- 
nant spirits have taken entire possession of the country about 
the Devil's Castle. In the face of divers assertions that no 
such thing as a devil proper has ever been found in savage 
mythology, Mr. Powers uses this language in reference to 
the belief of the Californian tribes: "Of course the thin and 
meagre imagination of the American savages was not equal to 
the creation of Milton's magnificent, imperial Satan, or of 
Goethe's Mephistopheles, with his subtle intellect and malig- 
nant mirth ; but in so far as the Indian fiends or devils had the 
ability they are wholly as wicked as these. They are totally 
bad, but they are weak, undignified, absurd.'* ^ 

Says Denis of the Brazilian tribes, " Thej;^ complain without 
ceasing of the evil spirits that torment them. Houcha was 
the chief of the hierarchy of devils" among the Brazilians. 

Ercono is the devil of the Moxos, and their foes were the 
Conos tribe. The devils of the Taos were called Tupas, and 
their enemies were the Tupis. Chelul is the devil of the Pat- 
agons, and a tribe called Cheloagas were their enemies.* 

These linguistic evidences are very interesting in the study 

» I Bancroft, 744. * Roberts's Narrative, 267. 

3 3 Bancroft, 158. * 2 Rafinesque, 204. 


of the mythologies, and are very consistent with their animistic 
theories. How natural that tribal enemies should become the 
devils of the tribe, and their spirits attempt to revenge the in- 
juries of their lives ! 

Among the more civilized peoples demonology prevailed, 
and a tendency existed to exalt some one demon to a pri- 

The Nicaraguans had evil spirits, and a ceremony for expel- 
ling them from new dwellings." 

The Mayas of Yucatan had evil spirits who could be driven 
off by the sorcerers ; they never came around when their 
fetiches were exposed." They had a ceremony for expelling 
evil spirits from houses about to be occupied by newly-married 

The Peruvians had devils who frequently put in an appear- 
ance. The Huancas have a legend that a great number of 
these devils once assembled and did much damage. One of 
their devils, called Huarivalca, is worshipped to this day, al- 
though he has disappeared and not been seen lately. There 
were spots which they said showed evidences of his presence. 
Supay was the prince of devils among them.* 

The Toltecs have left a curious tradition of the destruction 
of many of their people by a demon, who would stalk into their 
midst, with long bony arms, and dash many of them lifeless. 
He kept up his persecution, appearing from time to time, and 
spreading disease, fear, and destruction, until they fled from 
their homes and lands.5 

The Mexicans had an evil spirit, which often appeared in 
order to terrify and injure them.^ 

The assumption of pre-eminence by one or more demons is 
made easy by a belief in a local demon, who sometimes assumes 
the office of tribal demon or god. A local demon or malev- 
olent spirit is usually ascribed to places where accidents re- 

' 2 Bancroft, 785. ■ 2 ib., 697. 

3 Landa, xxxii. 4 Cieza, 179. 

5 5 Bancroft, 281. ^ i Clavigero, Hist, of Mexico, 242. 



suiting in death have occurred. An eddy in the river where 
floating sticks are whirled around and engulfed is not far from 
the place where one of the tribe was drowned and never seen 
again. What more manifest, then, than that the spirit of this 
drowned man dwells thereabout, and pulls these things under 
the surface, and even in revenge perhaps seizes and drags down 
persons who venture near? Soon there survives the belief in a 
water demon haunting the place. Some tribes had a curious 
way of finding drowned bodies. They would float a chip of 
wood, watch where it turned around, and drag there for the 
body.' The spirits of the drowned, with motives of revenge, 
dragged every object beneath the surface. 

The primitive doctrine of souls obliges the savage to think 
of the spirit of the dead as close at hand. The tribes of Guiana 
suppose every place is haunted where any one has died. A 
superstitious fear soon instigates worship, and this worship, 
beginning at the tombs and burial-places of the dead, develops 
into the temple ritual of higher cultures. 

" Most of the worship of the natives of Guiana," says Mr. 
Brett, " is directed to spirits, and generally to those of a malig- 
nant nature, which are unceasingly active in inflicting miseries 
on mankind. Pain in their language means * the evil spirit's 

Among almost all of the American tribes the worship of 
spirits that are malicious, and not of those that are good, is a 
characteristic that has been noticed with much astonishment 
and commented upon by travellers and other writers. It is 
certainly natural that primitive worship, which is bom of fear, 
should be directed to those malevolent objects that inspire 
fear. Another cause of this distinction in their worship is un- 
doubtedly to be found in their belief that the wicked spirits 
remain upon the earth, and only the good ones pass over into 
a heavenly land, where they have naught to do with human 
aflairs. The Ojibways thought good spirits inhabited the 

« I Alexander's L'Acadie, 26. » Brett's Ind. Tribes, 284. 


upper empyrean and descended every few days to inquire after 
them. An invisible vine was supposed to form the connect- 
ing link, whose roots were in the earth and top in the sky. On 
this ladder the spirits passed up and down." All ordinary and 
wicked spirits, however, remained on the earth, which was 
called the big plate where the spirits eat. Here we can trace 
the germ of the belief in a difference of locality for good and 
evil spirits. Among the Blackfeet, demons are worshipped 
with much ceremony and self-torture, in which they torment 
themselves without flinching or appearance of pain, in order to 
show the demons that it is useless to try to afflict them. There 
are evidences of demon-worship among the Cherokees, Chick- 
asaws, Shawnees, and many other tribes, which I will not notice. 
To use the language of Mr. Shea, " pure unmixed devil-worship 
prevails through the length and breadth of the land.'*' The 
primitive conception of the spirit-land is not, except in a few 
cases, of a place in the sky, but of a place upon the earth and 
earthlike, where the ordinary avocations of life are carried on 
with less vicissitudes and hardship.^ 

Let us now notice the different opinions entertained as to the 
occupations of the spirit-life, and their doctrine of rewards and 
punishments. Mr. Tylor divides the subject of the future life 
into two theories, the continuance theory and the retribution 
theory. The first is that the future life is a reflection of this. 
Men- are to retain their earthly form and earthly conditions, 
have around them their earthly friends, possess their earthly 
property, and carry on their earthly occupations. The other 
theory is that the future life is a compensation for this, where 
men's conditions are reallotted as the consequence, and especi- 
ally as the reward or punishment, of their earthly life. The 
most primitive of these is the continuance theory. The shade 
of the Algonkin hunter hunts the spirits of the beaver and the 
elk with the spirits of bows and arrows, walking on the spirits 
of his snow-shoes over the spirit of the snow. The Brazilian 

' CopDV^y, 164. > Catholic Missions, 25. 3 5 School., 403. 


forest tribes will find a forest full of calabash-trees and game, 
where the souls of the dead will live.* Most of the tribes of 
North America thought that the spirits of the dead remained 
in form and feature as they had been in life. The belief re- 
specting the land of souls varied greatly in different tribes. 
The prevalent idea was that the present life was continued 
with little change. The Ojibways think the soul after death 
enters a world where the souls injured in life haunt it. Even 
the phantoms of the wrecks of property destroyed during life 
obstruct its passage, and the animals to which cruelty has been 
shown in life torment it. After death enemies are also ready 
to avenge their injuries.' In this primitive form we can see the 
outline of the doctrine of future punishment. 

Among the Ahts, a lofty birth or a glorious death gives the 
right of entering into a goodly land, where there are no storms 
or frost, but sunshine and warmth. The common people had 
to roam about the earth, in the form of some person or 

The Brazilian tribes think the spirits of their chiefs and sor- 
cerers enter a world of enjoyment while others wander about 
the graves.* 

The Manacica chiefs were fed with a gum distilled from cer- 
tain celestial trees in the spirit-land. 

The Chibchas believed that men who died in war, and women 
in childbed, went directly into bliss, no matter how wicked they 

The Natches and Tensas believed that after death the souls 
of their warriors went to reside in the land of the buffalo ; but 
those who had not taken any scalps went to reside in a country 
inhabited by reptiles.^ 

We find everywhere the prevalence of the idea that the cour- 
ageous would be specially favored in the spirit-world. This is 

« 2 Tylor, Primitive Culture, 75-77. " 2 Keating, 255. 

3 3 Bancroft, 521. « Bradford's American Antiquities, 345. 

5 5 Herrera, 90. 

6 La Harpe's Historical Journal; French's Historical Coll., La., vol. ill. p. 18. 


the primitive idea. The infliction of punishment for evil deeds 
soon appears, however. The Natches consigned the guilty- 
guardian of their sacred fire, who let it go out, to one of those 
large mounds which are to be seen in the vicinity of the pres- 
ent city of Natchez. There he is doomed to languish forever, 
and to be eternally debarred from entering the world of spirits, 
unless he can make fire with two dry sticks, which he is ever 
rubbing together with desperate eagerness. Now and then a 
slight smoke issues from the sticks, the wretch rubs on with 
increased rapidity, and just as a bright spark begins to shoot 
up, the sluices of his eyes open against his will, and pour out a 
deluge of tears which drown the nascent fire. Thus he is con- 
demned to a ceaseless work, and to periodical fits of hope and 

The Sioux are of opinion that suicide is punished in the land 
of spirits by the ghosts being doomed forever to drag the tree 
on which they hang themselves ; for this reason they always 
suspend themselves to as small a tree as can possibly sustain 
their weight.' 

The Mayas of Yucatan believed in rewards and punishments 
in the future life. Living in a warm climate, their idea of 
happiness in the future life was to lie beneath the shade of 
the evergreen and umbrageous tree called yaxche. Herrera 
says, " The wicked were hungry and cold.3 They think the 
souls of the deceased return to the earth if they choose, 
and, in order that they may not lose the way to the domestic 
hearth, they mark the path from the hut to the tomb with 
chalk." * 

The Peruvians held the doctrine of future rewards and pun- 
ishments. The greatest enjoyment of the good was rest of 
mind and body.s The souls can wander about the earth, 
although their heaven and hell are above and below the earth. 

» Gayarre*s La., 356. ^ Bradbury's Travels, 89, 

3 Herrera, 176. ♦ Orozco y Berra, 157. 

5 I Garcilasso, 126-27. 


and therefore they have anniversaries, at which food and sup- 
plies are furnished these souls.* 

The Chippewyans think that bad souls stand up to their chin 
in water, in sight of the spirit-land, which they can never enter. 
Many believe, however, in transmigration for the wicked. 

The New England tribes consigned their enemies to a place 
of misery, but they themselves had a very good time in the 
next world.' 

Some tribes thought the wicked hunted and killed, in the 
next world, animals that were all skin and bone. 

Thus we see the universal credence of all the tribes in the 
reality of a spiritual life and its rewards and punishments. Not 
only is that world inhabited by the spirits of their dead, but 
also all animate and inanimate substances, or shadows of sub- 
stances. Its woods, streams, and lakes were more beautiful 
than the earthly. The soul's progress was not stopped by 
them, for they were but the shadows of material forms. 

** By midnight moons, o'er moistening dews. 
In vestments for the chase arrayed. 
The hunter still the deer pursues, 
The hunter and the deer a shade.*' 

The region supposed to be haunted by the souls of the dead 
becomes wider as populations increase and scatter. Several 
counteracting influences have operated, however, to prevent the 
entire possession of the earth by these unseen powers. The 
most important of these influences has been the gradual sepa- 
ration of the spirit-world from the world of the living. Their 
entire separation is the last result of causes that for a time 
only removed it to localities proximate to the abodes of the 
living. * 

As nomadic tribes change their habitat, the spirit-land di- 
verges from the abode of the living; and the difficulties of the 
road thither depend upon the nature of the hardships endured 

» Jos. D*Acosta, bk. 5, chap. 7. ■ Wood's N. E. Pros., 104. 


in migration. Most of the traditions agree that the spirits on 
their journey to the spirit-land were beset with difficulties and 
perils. There was generally a stream of water to cross, and 
only a narrow and slippery log to bridge the stream. Often 
they had to pass between moving rocks, which momentarily 
crashed together, grinding to atoms the less nimble of the 

As populations increase, burial-places are set apart, and the 
world of the dead becomes distinct from that of the living. In 
many cases the world of the dead, still near at hand, is an adja- 
cent mountain. The genesis of this belief is clear. The Caribs 
buried their chiefs on mountains ; the Comanches, on the highest 
hill in the neighborhood ; the Patagonians, on the summits of 
the highest hills.' The Tupinambas located their heaven behind 
the great mountains which surrounded their country. The 
Mexicans also buried on their high places. Where caves are 
used for interments, they become the supposed places for the 
dead ; hence develops the notion of a subterranean other world. 
The natives of Terra del Fuego believe that some of them after 
death are to return to those divine caverns where they were 
created and their deities reside.^ Many of the savages of South 
America have a subterranean spirit-world where the pursuits 
are the same as in life.* The Zuiiis had removed their spirit- 
world to a comfortable distance, where they would not be 
troubled with them daily; but they annually assembled on 
the top of a lofty mesa, and spent the entire day in communi- 
cation with the spirits of the departed, who were supposed on 
that day to revisit that locality and hold converse with their 
friends and relatives, who carried them presents. This supersti- 
tion is very similar to the custom of Roman Catholics on All 
Souls' Day. 

The Dacotahs think each human body has four souls. After 
death one wanders about the earth, the second watches the 

' ParkmaD's Jesuits, vol. Ixxxii. » i Spencer Soc, 218. 

3 1 ib., 219. 4 2 Dobriz., 269. 


body, the third hovers over the village, whilst the fourth goes 
to the land of spirits.* 

Here we have a curious illustration of continuous survivals 
of more primitive beliefs. The soul which watches over the 
body represents the most primitive form of belief The soul 
which hovers over the village represents one remove from the 
primitive belief The soul which wanders about the earth repre- 
sents another remove, and the fourth stage of progress assigns 
it to a distant land of spirits ; but the three other beliefs are 
still surviving, and are the causes of their belief in this quadru- 
plication of souls. The last forms of belief are undoubtedly 
due to the increasing tendency to migration as population in- 

A tribe that leaves its accustomed seat will have ever-recur- 
ring memories connected with that locality. They will desire 
when the spirit leaves the body to go back and visit the spirits 
of their ancestors and friends, whose souls are still living at 
their places of sepulture. An impulse is given to this belief 
by the superstitious fear of the dead by the living, who are very 
glad to get rid of them in this way. 

Hence the tendency to locate the spirit-land elsewhere than 
in the midst of the living has been due to the migratory move- 
ments of tribes that are nomadic, or to the separation of the 
places of burial among populous settled peoples. 

As migrations have proceeded in all directions, there must 
arise different beliefs about the direction of the world of spirits. 
In South America the Chonos and Araucanians go after death 
towards the west; whereas the Peruvians went east. The 
Central Americans went towards the east, while the Otomacks 
of Guiana went west. In North America the Chinooks have 
their paradise in the south, the Ojibways in the west, where the 
brave and good spend their time in pleasures, but cowards and 
the wicked wander about in darkness." 

The New England tribes thought the souls of the dead went 

* Eastman's Legends, 129. « Jones's Ojibways, 104. 


to the southwest, where were their forefathers' souls.* The 
souls of murderers and thieves, however, wandered restlessly.* 

Among many tribes the spirit-land is far distant from the 
place of the living. The soul is believed to take a long jour- 
ney, only after the tribe has taken a long journey away from 
the place where their ancestors lived and died. It is generally 
to see its ancestors. If the tribe has formerly lived upon an 
island, their heaven is upon an island, as among the Caribs. If 
the tribe in its migrations has crossed a stream of water, as is 
generally the case, then the soul has a Stygian flood to en- 
counter. If the tribe has crossed dangerous and difficult moun- 
tains, and has barely escaped their dangers, then a Scylla and 
Charybdis stand in the path of the soul. 

The Potawatomies think the souls of the dead cross a large 
stream over a log which rolls so that many slip off into the 
water. One of their ancestors went to the edge of the stream, 
but, not liking to venture on the log, he came back two days 
after his death. He reported that he heard the sounds of the 
drum on the other side of the river, to the beat of which the 
souls of the dead were dancing.3 

The Ojibways have traditions of the return of souls who have 
come to this stream, across which lies a serpent, according to 
their mythology, over whose body they must pass. A big 
strawberry lies by the side of the way to the spirit-land, which 
affords them refreshment on the journey .-♦ 

The soul of the Manacicas of Brazil is carried on the back 
of a sorcerer to the spirit-land. Over hills and valleys, across 
rivers, swamps, and lakes, to the Pass Perilous they fly. Here 
they have to get by a god Tatusio, who, if not satisfied with the 
conduct of the spirit, casts it into the flood. 

These sorcerers who pretend to take charge of the soul, and 
when they have deposited it safely in the future home return 
to the earth, frequently come back, and say that Tatusio took 

* Williams, Key to the Languages, 2X. « lb., 113. 

5 I Keating, 173. * Tanner's Narrative, 290. 


it away from them and threw it into the water. They then ask 
for a canoe from the relatives, that they may go back with it 
and fish out the soul. This artifice is successful in getting 
them a good canoe, which they keep.* 

The Chibchas had a great river that souls had to pass over 
on floats made of cobwebs. On this account they never killed 
spiders. In the future state, each family had its own location, 
as in this life.* 

The Araucanian soul is borne across the Stygian flood by a 
whale, which does not succeed, however, in protecting it from a 
mythical hag, who tears out one eye if a toll is not paid her.^ 

The Mohaves believed that when their friends died they de- 
parted to a certain high hill in the western section of their terri- 
tory ; that they there pursued their avocation free from the ills 
and pains of their present life, if they had been good and brave. 
But they held that all cowardly Indians were tormented with 
hardships and failures, sickness and defeats. This hill, or hades, 
they never dared visit. It was thronged with thousands who 
were ready to wreak vengeance upon the mortal who dared to 
intrude upon this sacred ground.* The souls of those cremated 
were wafled thither on the curling smoke. 

The Blackfeet believe that the spirits of the dead have to 
scramble up the projecting sides of a steep mountain before 
they can view the land of their ancestral spirits. Those who 
have imbrued their hands in the blood of their tribesmen fell 
down this mountain-side, and can never reach the top. Women 
who have been guilty of infanticide never even reach this moun- 
tain, but wander about the earth with branches of the mountain 
pine tied to their legs. The cries of wicked spirits are often 
heard above the country. Those that reach the happy land 
can have plenty of mushrooms, which are considered a great 
delicacy by Blackfeet spirits. He who has destroyed his neigh- 
bor's canoe stumbles over its wreck, which he cannot pass. The 

» 3 Southey, 186-87. " Bollaert, 12. 3 2 Molina, 91-92. 

4 Captivity of the Oatman Girls, 233. 


spirits of animals and men injured in life haunt him. All the 
acts of life are deeply impressed on the green leaf of his 

The Chippewyan, living in the regions of almost perpetual 
snow, wants to find a heaven in some more genial clime, and as 
his spirit moves onward the ice grows thinner, the air warmer, 
the trees taller. Birds of gay colors plume themselves in the 
warm sun. The swallow and the martin skim along the level 
of the green vales. The trees no longer crack beneath the 
weight of icicles and snow, and he sees no more the spirits of 
the departed dancing on the skirts of the northern clouds. His 
spirit craves a warmer heaven. A stone canoe is ready to take 
him over the dividing stream. No Charon demands a fare, but 
onward speeds the magic craft, with no visible impelling force, 
and lands him on the blessed shore, if he has not slaughtered 
more oxen than he could eat, or speared salmon to be devoured 
by the brown eagle, or gathered rock-moss to rot in the rain. 
These great crimes, in the moral code of the Blackfeet, will 
sink the canoe, and its occupant will flounder about in the 
water black with the heads of the unhappy." 

The Mosquito heaven was across a broad stream. 

The future abode of Mexicans had three divisions. Their 
elysium was open to the souls of warriors, who were borne 
thither in the arms of Teoyaomique, Queen Consort of the 
God of War. Here awaited them the presents sent by loving 
friends below. These souls never tired, for they spent their 
days marching around the zenith as an escort to the sun. At 
evening they dispersed to the chase, or to the shady grove, 
after having delivered their precious solar charge to a new 
escort, composed of women who had died in childbed, who 
conducted it to its nightly couch of quetzal feathers, in which 
it reclined. 

Although this is represented as the highest heaven, its joys 
would not appear as great to us as those of Tlalocan, where 

» I Jones's Traditions, 245-50. * x ib., 256-63. 



happiness reigned supreme and sorrow was unknown. To this 
place were assigned those killed by lightning, and the drowned, 
and those dying of long and incurable skin diseases. Children 
sacrificed to Tlaloc played about its gardens.* 

The Greeks assigned children to Erebus, as a penalty to 
prevent infanticide ; but the Mexicans encouraged their sacrifice 
by assigning them to this place of happiness. 

The third place, Mictlan, was a land of darkness and desola- 
tion, wherein were the souls of those who died of old age, or 
those who died in bed. There was no mercy in the Aztec 
Tartarus for those who died in bed among a race of warriors. 
The Mexican souls had to pass between two mountains that 
confronted each other. They were subjected to cutting winds. 
They had passes given them by the priest, who thrust little slips 
of paper in their hands. The journey ended with the passage 
of the *' nine waters."" 

In the Mexican heaven there were various degrees of happi- 
ness. The high-born warrior who fell gloriously in battle did 
not meet on equal terms the base-born rustic who died in his 
bed. The ordinary avocations of life were not dispensed with, 
but the man took up his bow again, the woman her spindle. 

The road to paradise was represented to be full of dangers. 
Storms, monsters, deep waters, and whirlpools met the traveller 
on his way, who, however, almost always succeeded in reach- 
ing his destination, after having suffered more or less maltreat- 
ment on the way.3 

The Northern Californians had a heaven where all met after 
death to enjoy a life free from want ; but when the soul first 
escaped from the body, Omaha, an evil spirit, hovered near, 
ready to pounce upon it and carry it oflf.* 

Among the natives about Clear Lake there is no contest, but 
a coyote waits for the soul and captures it : a good spirit may 
redeem it by paying a price. They kept up many demonstra- 

» 3 Bancroft, 532-34. » 2 ib., 604-5. ^ 3 »b., 5"-'3- 

^ 3 i^-» 523- 


tions about the grave for three days, to scare away coyotes." 
This superstition has arisen from the fact that the coyotes dig 
up the dead and devour them. 

The Winnebagoes keep a fire on graves for four nights after 
burial, and keep the grass dug up, that bad spirits can have 
nothing to cling to." 

The Eurocs burn a light on the grave, and this beacon is kept 
burning a longer time in the case of the wicked, because they 
are thought to have a longer and more difficult passage to the 
spirit-land. Many are compelled to return, and transmigrate 
into birds, beasts, and insects.3 

The Kailtas are carried to the spirit-land by a little bird, 
but if impeded by sins a hawk will certainly overtake them, 
and end their journey heavenward. The Cahroc path of the 
dead branches into two roads, one bright with flowers and lead- 
ing to the great western land beyond the great waters, the 
other filled with thorns and briers, and the haunt of deadly 

The Maricopa paradise, is at their ancient home on the banks 
of the Colorado. There the spirits live on the sand-hills. 

The Yumas located their paradise in a pleasant valley, hidden 
in one of the canons of the Colorado, and they had gone so 
far as to separate the wheat from the chaff, for their wicked 
were shut up in a dark cavern, within view of their paradise, 
but ifs pleasures they could never enjoy, although within sight. 
The Navajo spirits had to travel far to reach their heaven. 
They had to cross an extensive marsh, in which many were 
bemired; but if they got through, they soon arrived at the home 
of two spirits, — one male and one female, — who sat combing 
their hair. After receiving a lecture on cleanliness, and obey- 
ing its injunctions, they passed on to the happy land. The Co- 
manche spirits have not yet been confined to any locality, but 
want much more freedom than the circumscribed bounds of 
an Indian heaven can give them : so they hunt on the happy 

» 3 Bancroft, 523. " Eastman's Chicora, 21. 3 3 Bancroft, 524. 


prairies of the setting sun, where the buffalo leads the hunter 
in the glorious chase, but at night they come back to their old 
homes and stay till break of day/ 

The souls of the Sonora Indians dwell among the cliffs of 
their mountains, and the echoes there are their clamoring 
voices. Echoes throughout the Americas are the voices of 
spirits. In Nayarit the natives thought that most souls went to 
a common resort near their living habitat, but returned in the 
daytime in the shape of flies, in order to get something to eat* 

The Neeshenams had a heaven a long way off, and a stream 
to cross before getting to it. Their great ancestor, Eicut, pre- 
sides over that happy land, whither he was led by his beloved 
wife, Yoatotowee. When she died, his grief knew no bounds; 
the light was gone from his eyes, the world was black and 
dreary. He fell into a trance ; Yoatotowee came and stood be- 
side him. He saw her; she turned, and started for heaven, the 
dance-house of ghosts. Eicut followed her into the spirit-land.^ 

The belief of the Mohicans regarding the separation of the 
soul is that it goes westward on leaving the body. There it is 
met with great rejoicing by the others who died previously. 
There they wear black otter- or bear-skins, which among them 
are signs of gladness.* 

The Creeks believe the soul at death goes to the west and 
joins its friends.5 

When a Kioway dies, his spirit travels toward sunset. A 
high mountain stands on the confines of the other world, upon 
which is a sentinel who informs the spirits when their friends are 
coming, and the spirits, with rejoicings, go forth to meet them. 

The Dog-Ribs had located their heaven a great way off, for 
Chappewee, their ancestor, when his spirit took the long jour- 
ney, carried three thousand roasted porpoises and thirty whales 
to supply him food on the way.^ 

» 3 Bancroft, 426-28. » 3 ib., 528. 3 3 ib., 531-32. 

4 Wassenaer's Historic, Tr. Doc. Hist. N. Y., vol. iii. p. 29. 

5 Hawkins's Sketch, 80. ^2 Jones, 2. 


The heaven of the Tondanwandies is not far off, for they 
bury their dead in the morning, that the deceased persons may 
have time before night to reach their relations in another world.* 
The peaks of Costa Rica are the resort of their spirits, and their 
revellings can be heard at the distance of a mile or more." 

The Greenlanders assign two retreats for their departed 
souls ; one the centre of the earth, the way to which appears 
difficult, because upon the path at a certain point they slide 
down a rocky defile, leaving blood all along the way .3 It takes 
about five days to make this slide/ « 

Their spiritual body has evidently not been wholly demate- 
rialized. The second abode for the dead is among the heavenly 
bodies, the path to which is along the Milky Way, called the 
path of the dead by this new school of Eskimo philosophers. 
It is curious to note here the prevalence of these two opinions 
upon the locality of their spirit-world. They have removed it 
from their living abode, and the first remove has evidently been 
to a subterranean abode, which is quite natural to a people 
living in underground houses a portion of the year. The new 
sect, becoming dissatisfied with this subterranean paradise, have 
turned it into a gloomy underground region. Mr. Crantz 
noticed that these two sects were quite hostile upon this subject. 

Many mourning ceremonies had reference to the journey to 
the spirit-land. In the burial ceremonies of the natives of 
Alaska, if too many tears were shed, they said that the road of 
the dead would be muddy, but a few tears just laid the dusts 

Many traditions of a journey to the spirit-land and return are 
found. The following story is told of an old Indian chief of 
the Algonkins of Northern New Brunswick. His favorite son 
died ; whereupon the father, with a party of friends, set out for 
the land of souls to recover him. They had to wade through 
a shallow lake several days* journey. This they did, sleeping 
at night on platforms of poles, which supported them above the 

* Evans, Pedest. Tour, 57. " Gabb, 506. 3 Egede*s Greenland, 205. 

4 I Crantz, 186. s Dall, Alaska, 423. 


water. At length they arrived in the realms of Papkootparout, 
the Indian Pluto, who rushed at them with his war-club up- 
raised, but relented before striking. The bereaved father now 
begged hard for his son's soul, which was given him in the 
shape of a nut, which he was to insert in his son's body, and 
he would come to life. The adventurers returned to earth, 
and the father, who wished to take part in a dance of rejoicing 
which was begun, handed the bag containing the soul to a squaw 
to hold for him. She through curiosity opened the bag, and 
awtiy went the soul to the realms of the Indian god of the dead.' 

A Shawnee tradition tells of a brother who followed his sister 
into the land of spirits, seized her in the midst of a spirit-dance, 
placed her soul in a hollow reed, covered the orifice with the 
end of his finger, and brought her back to the earth, where gay 
festivities were indulged in on account of her return.' 

Such stories of journeys to the spirit-land and a return are 
found in nearly every tribe. 

Another destiny of the human spirits was transmigration. 
The transmigration of souls explains and renders intelligible all 
the various superstitions of pagan religions. A belief in this 
doctrine is found in every American tribe. The most primitive 
form of the belief was the most comprehensive. Before the 
separation of the abode of spirits from the abode of the living, 
disembodied spirits were everywhere present, seeking embodi- 
ment in some more material form. As the spiritual world be- 
came separated and became the abode of deserving souls, the 
undeserving souls were left to transmigrate until they were 
better fitted for the abode of the blest. The wicked generally 
entered noxious animals ; those not so bad, the nobler animals 
and the bodies of infants. 

Mr. Schoolcraft says, " The Indians of the United States be- 
lieve in the transmigration of souls. The soul is thought to 
pass from one object to another, generally into the animal cre- 

* Le Clerc, in Parkman's Jes., Ixxxiii. 
» a Gregg's Commerce of Prairies, 239. 


ation. The individual can often determine the form of his 
future life for himself." * 

The Northwestern tribes believe in transmigration; their de- 
parted souls can come back in human shape. The priests can 
transfer a soul released into a living body by blowing it through 
their hands. 

The medicine-men of the Cocomes pretend to receive the 
spirit of the dead in their hands, and are able to transfer it to 
any one, who then takes the name of the dead person." 

When a body is burned among the Tacullies, the priest re- 
ceives the spirit of the deceased into his hands, and, with a 
motion as though throwing it, he blows the spirit into some 
person selected, who takes the name of the deceased in addition 
to his own.3 

Algonkin women who desired to become mothers flocked to 
the couch of those about to die, in hope that the vital principle 
as it passed from the body would enter theirs.-* 

A sorcerer among the Iroquois pretended he was once an 
oki (spirit) dwelling under the earth with a female spirit ; that 
both of them ascended to the earth and hid beside a path until 
a woman passed, when they entered into her. After a time 
they were born, but not until he had quarrelled with and stran- 
gled his female companion, who came dead into this world.s 

Permanent transition, new birth, or reincarnation of human 
souls is supposed to occur by the transmigration of the soul of 
a deceased person into the body of an infant. Many tribes 
buried dead children by the wayside, that their souls might 
enter into mothers passing by, and so be born again. 

The Nootkans accounted for the fact that a distant tribe 
spoke the same language as themselves, by declaring them to 
be the spirits of their dead. 

The Thlinkeets believe in the transmigration of the soul. It 
is not uncommon to hear a poor Thlinkeet say, when speaking 

» I Schoolcraft, 33. ■ 4 U. S. Ex. Exp., 453. 

3 Hazlitt, Br. Columbia, 32. < Brinton, 270. 

5 Parkman's Jes., 92. 



of a rich and prosperous family, " When I die, I should like to 
be born into that family." ' 

The Greenlanders think the soul may be taken out of the 
body and replaced; may be divided into parts and repaired 
when it loses a part. It can forsake the body during sleep, 
and be exchanged for that of some animal. They believe in 
the migration of souls. Widows make use of this doctrine 
to their great advantage; for if one of them can persuade 
any father that the soul of her deceased child has migrated 
into his son, or that the spirit of his deceased offspring ani- 
mates the body of one of her children, the man will always 
do his best to befriend the child and widow." As soon as a 
person dies, the soul is supposed to animate a new-born in- 
fant.3 A young Eskimo woman, by the name of Avigiatsiak, 
had been a whale and a seal. When she was a seal she was 
caught, killed, and her head thrown beneath a bench. From 
thence she slipped into the body of the wife of the man who 
harpooned her, and was born a human being.* 

Among the Kolushes the mother often dreams that she has 
seen the deceased relative who will transmit his soul to her 
child. In Vancouver's Island, in i860, a lad was very much 
regarded by the Indians, because he had a mark similar to a 
chief who had died four generations before. They thought the 
dead chief had returned again.s 

The celebrated Dacotah, Cloudy Sky, had lived three times 
on the earth. When his body was laid upon the scaffold at his 
first death, his spirit enlisted in the army of the enemies of the 
storm-god, and as they flew to battle with their shields before 
their breasts, the wind tore up the trees, and the waters cast 
their angry billows at the cloud ; but the contest was brief, and 
they were conquerors, and the bow of bright colors rested be- 
tween the heavens and earth. It was these cloud-battles that 
gave him his name of Cloudy Sky.^ 

A curious tradition among the Crows relates the incarnation 

« Dall, 423. » I Crantz, 185. 3 i ib., 342. 

4 Rink, 450-51. s 2 Tylor, 3-4. ^ Eastman, 229. 


of Storm Child. Black clouds gathered in midwinter; the 
thunder rolled and the lightning flashed, while strange noises 
alarmed the Crows. An inky cloud covered the peak of their 
mountain, and from its midst reached two long arms that de- 
posited an infant on the earth. Soon the mysterious child 
which was given disappeared in the vapor. An old squaw who 
had not borne children for years stood looking on. No sooner 
did she see the child disappear in the vapor than she felt herself 
seized with violent labor-pains, and was delivered of a female 
child, perfectly green, like grass. The Indians all said it was 
the same child that had been in the cloud, and that the mys- 
terious hands had no sooner deposited it than it was trans- 
ferred to the woman. The squaw persisted that it was not 
the child of a man, though she was married. The Indians 
named it the Storm Child. Says Mr. Belden, " I often saw 
the Storm Child, and she is greatly feared and respected by 
her tribe." ' 

The Chibchas of Bogota believe in transmigration of souls 
into infants.* 

Mr. Southey says ** the Tucamas of Brazil hold the metemp- 
sychosis," or transmigration of human souls into human bodies.' 

The Guaycurus* and the Guaranies believed in the same 
doctrine. " The Conchas held for certain that the dead again 
entered the bodies of those who were born.'* s 

The Peruvians thought the souls of the dead returned after a 
time, and entered the bodies of infants at their birth.^ 

These few illustrations, selected from many more, will suffice 
to show the prevalence of the doctrine of transmigration, or re- 
incarnation of human souls in human bodies. Let us now 
notice another form of the doctrine, the transmigration of human 
souls into animals. All peoples in early stages of culture draw 
little distinction between animal and man. 

Primitive psychology, drawing no definite line of demarcation 

* Belden, p. 215, seq. * Bollaert, 5. 3 x Southey, 590. 

< I ib., 118. 5 Cieza, 354. * Bradford, 356. 


between souls of men and of beasts, admits the transmigration 
of human souls into animals. 

The nobler animals are generally, but not universally, selected 
as objects into which transmigration takes place. The archi- 
tectural skill of the beaver, the wise aspect of the owl, the 
sweet plaint of the nightingale, the howls of beasts like the 
moans of children in pain, the sparkling orbs and tortuous 
stealthiness of the snake, supply hints at metempsychosis.* 

The spirit freed 

" Fills with fresh energy another form, 
And towers an elephant, or glides a worm ; 
Swims as an eagle in the eye of noon, 
Or wails a screech-owl to the deaf cold moon." 

The Chinooks believe in the transmigration of souls into 
birds, beasts, fishes, and all animate objects.* 

In Peru, as soon as a dying person draws his last breath, 
ashes are strewed on the floor of the room, and the door is 
securely fastened. Next morning the ashes are carefully ex- 
amined to ascertain whether they show any impression of foot- 
steps, and imagination readily traces marks, .which are alleged 
to have been produced by the feet of birds, dogs, cats, oxen, or 
llamas. The destiny of the dead person is construed by the 
footmarks which are supposed to be discernible. The soul has 
transmigrated into that animal whose tracks are found.3 

Mr. Hennepin says the Northern Indians related that they 
had seen a serpent come out of the mouth of a woman when 
she died.* Her soul had passed into its body. 

The Powhatans refrained from doing any harm to small wood- 
birds, because they were animated by the souls of their dead 

A very popular bird for transmigration of the souls of the 
Hurons was the turtle-dove ; and the Iroquois, as a part of the 
funeral rite, set free a bird to carry the soul away.s 

* Alger's Doc. Fut. Life, 479. ■ Swan's Washington Territory, 174, 

3 Tschiidi's Peru, 337. < Hennepin's Continuation, 122. 

5 Morgan's League, 174. 


In Dacotah mythology a large fish which dammed up the 
waters of the St. Croix had in it the spirit of a Dacotah, and 
the only way of inducing his monstrous highness to take him- 
self off and stop his obstruction of navigation was for an Indian 
woman, whom he had loved when a Dacotah, to entreat him 
to go to deeper water. She accompanied her request with a 
present of a little dish of bark, worked and ornamented very 
handsomely by herself.* 

Among the South American tribes, the Abipones of Paraguay 
believe that the little ducks that fly about in flocks at night, 
uttering a mournful hiss, are inhabited by the souls of their 

The Yurubas believed the souls of the dead entered into 

animals. The Mexicans also believed in such transmigration.^ 

The ^aribs think human souls transmigrate into the bodies 

of beasts. A Guarany woman would start at seeing a fox, 

thinking the spirit of her dead daughter might be within it. 

The totemic system is connected with transmigration. The 
Moquis think that after death they live in the form of their 
totemic animal. Those of the deer family become deer; the 
bear tribe become bears ; and so on through the gentes.* 

The doctrine of transmigration of human souls into animals 
is the source of their superstitious abstention from eating the 
flesh of some animals. 

Darwin mentions a South American Indian who would not 
eat land-birds because they were dead men.s 

The tribes akin to the Pomo will not eat grizzly bears, for 
the spirits of their dead enter into them. They will often beg 
to save the life of one of these animals.^ 

The California tribes abstain from large game, because they 
believe the souls of past generations have passed into their 

* Eastman, 163-64. « 2 Dobrizhoffer, 74. 

3 Bradford, 357. * Cozzens, 465. 

5 Naturalist's Voyage, 214. * 3 Schoolcraft, 1 13. 

7 5 ib., 215. 


Hayes mentions an Eskimo woman who would not eat 
walrus, as her husband's soul had passed into it for temporary 
habitation. The Angekok always announces to the widow the 
animal into which her husband*s soul has entered, and she never 
eats that animal/ 

Nothing could be more natural to those who believe in the 
transmigration of human souls into animals, than to imagine 
that the best men would enter the nobler animals, while the 
common spirits entered the lower animals. The Tlascalans 
thought the souls of nobles animated the beautiful singing birds, 
while those of plebeians passed into weasels, beetles, and such 
creatures. The Icannis of Brazil thought the souls of brave 
warriors passed into beautiful birds that fed on pleasant fruits. 
Souls of cowards migrated into reptiles.* 

The Tapuyas think the souls of the good and braye enter 
birds, while the cowardly become reptiles.^ 

The Arkansas thought their principal deities resided in some 
of the nobler animals, feeding in the forests, and perpetuity was 
kept up by transmigration. 

The doctrine of transmigration of human souls into animals 
is found among all the tribes of the New World, but among the 
ruder tribes very little evidence of the limitation of this trans- 
migration to evil spirits is found. Among a few of the Northern 
tribes it is found to a limited extent, but connected with a be- 
lief in a paradise for good spirits. The Ojibways thought the 
souls of the wicked passed into toads.* 

We can recognize in the destiny of the departed souls, accord- 
ing to these rules of transmigration, the beginning of the doc- 
trine of future rewards and punishments. 

The Dog-Ribs think evil spirits assume the form of bears, 
wolves, and other animals, and in the woods and desert places 
they fancy they hear them -howling and moaning.* 

The AUequas supposed the soul must transmigrate until it 

» Hayes's Arctic Researches, 199. " 2 Tylor, 6-7; 3 Bancroft, 512. 

3 Orton's Andes, 170. * Kohl's Kitchi-Gami, 219. 

5 Hartwig's Polar World, 329. 


had become so good as to be able to pass into the ever-green 
prairies of the happy land. Some of the Western tribes thought 
that by eating those animals that did not contain the embodied 
spirits of their own tribe, whose flesh they abstained from eat- 
ing, they would gather their souls and increase their own soul- 
power, and insure their getting into the spirit-land without 
further transmigration.' 

It is among the South American nations that we find the 
doctrine most prevalent that wicked spirits transmigrate into 
animals. The Brazilian Indians thought evil spirits appeared 
in lizards, crocodiles, and other such reptiles.* 

The Mbayas and Guaycurus of Brazil think the souls of the 
wicked pass into the bodies of wild beasts at death.3 

Such is the doctrine of transmigration of wicked and inferior 
spirits into animals, and it certainly suggests a similarity to that 
of the races of the Old World, which Mr. Thoreau presents 
pleasantly in this strain: "All the shore rang with the trump 
of bullfrogs, the sturdy spirits of ancient wine-bibbers and 
wassailers still unrepentant, trying to sing a catch in their 
Stygian lake, who would fain keep up the hilarious rules of 
their old festal table, though their voices have waxed hoarse 
and solemnly grave, mocking at mirth."* 

Another form of transmigration, according to the super- 
stitious belief of barbarous peoples, appears in their theory of 
diseases and their cures ; and a brief history of this remarkable 
superstition will now be given. As in normal conditions the 
man's soul inhabitmg his body is thought to give it life and 
health and power to think, speak, and act through it, so an 
adaptation of the same principle explains abnormal conditions 
of body or mind, by considering the new symptoms as due to 
the operation of a second soul-like being, a strange spirit. ** A 
man burning in fever, or pained and wrenched as though some 
live creature were tearing and twisting him within, rationally 

' 3 Bancroft, 525. " Darwin, Nat. Voy., 243. 

3 I Southey, 1 18; 3 ib., 392. * Thoreau's Walden, 137. 


finds a personal spiritual cause for his sufferings. When the 
mysterious unseen power throws him helpless on the ground, 
jerks and writhes him in convulsions, and impels him, with 
distorted face and frantic gesture not his, or seemingly even 
human, to pour forth wild, incoherent raving; or, with thought 
and eloquence beyond his sober faculties, to command, counsel, 
and foretell ; such an one seems to those who watch him, and 
even to himself, to have become the mere instrument of a spirit 
which has seized him or entered into him. This is the savage 
theory of possession and obsession, which is their theory of 
disease and inspiration. There is this difference between pos- 
session and obsession. In possession the spirits enter into and 
inhabit the body ; in obsession they hover about and affect it 
from outside." * 

They are based on an animistic conception, most genuine 
and rational. This animism must assume the most prominent 
place in man's intellectual history. The doctrine underlying 
disease spirits and oracle spirits is the same, however strange 
it may appear. Many of those most diseased and abnormal 
and. morbid have for the same reason become the great re- 
ligious and prophetic teachers of humanity. Especially is this 
true among the uncultivated and primitive races, where all 
prophecy is a synonym of dream and all medical practice a 
synonym of sorcery. Disease being accounted for by an attack 
of spirits, it naturally follows that to get rid of these spirits is 
the proper means of cure. Nothing could display more vividly 
the conception of a disease or a mental affection, as caused 
by a spiritual being, than* the proceedings of the sorcerer, who 
talks to it, coaxes or threatens it, makes offerings to it, and 
tries to entice or drive it out of the patient's body. 

That the two great effects ascribed to such spiritual influ- 
ence, namely, the infliction of ailments and the inspiration of 
oracles, are not only mixed up together, but often run into 
absolute coincidence, accords with the view that both results 

" 2 Tylor, Prim. Cult., 123-26. 


are referred to one common cause. The intruding spirit may 
be a human soul, or belong to some other class in the spiritual 
hierarchy. These spiritual beings are abroad upon the earth in 
large numbers, and their life is a continuation, and not a new 
life, in savage religion. They have revenge to satisfy, inspired 
by past and present wrongs. Again, those that have been 
wicked spirits when embodied are wicked when disembodied, 
and will seek to do all the injury to others in their power. The 
most primitive belief concerning the way in which these injuries 
are inflicted is that which attributes sickness and bodily harm 
to these disembodied spirits. Those that inflict sickness are 
really the demons of primitive times, although demonology in 
its modern form has not yet been fully developed. Thus we 
see that demonology, transmigration, disease, and dreams, 
although different branches of the same subject, are so inter- 
woven in the study of the religion of the American nations 
that I have chosen to place them together in the same chapter, 
but study them separately, as far as it can be done, without a 
repetition of the facts that elucidate them all. 

Disease is produced by the transmigration of one or more 
spirits, generally those of animals, into the sick person. Says 
Mrs. Eastman, " What the Dacotah most dreads is that some 
animal will enter his body and make him sick." * They 
thought that toothache was produced by the spirit of a wood- 
pecker." An old Dacotah, whose son had sore eyes, said that 
nearly thirty years before, when his son was a boy, he fastened 
a pin to a stick and speared a minnow with it, and it was 
strange that the fish after so long a time should come to 'seek 
revenge on his son's eyes.^ 

Among the Northern Californians, snakes and other reptiles 
appear to get most of the blame for their sickness. They dis- 
cover the locality of the spirit in the body by barking at it for 
some time.* 

» Eastman's Sioux. " Ncill's Minnesota, 87. 

3 2 Wiscon. Hist. Coll., 183. ♦ i Bancroft, 354-5$. 


Among the wild tribes of Mexico the animals generally 
guilty are monstrous ants or worms.* 

The natives of Brazil think disease is produced by the spirit 
of some animal entering the body of the patient, in revenge for 
some wrong, and the chief of the tribe, who acts as physician, 
asks the patient if he has offended a tortoise, deer, or other 

Thus, among the Abipones of Paraguay, if they give the flesh 
of a tortoise, stag, or boar to dogs, it is an indignity to those 
animals, and punishment will overtake them. The soul of the 
animal will enter their bodies and afflict them.3 

Paralysis was generally attributed to the agency of the spirit 
of a deceased person. The treatment consists in efforts to 
drive away the spirit by conjuring and uncouth noises. 

According to the disease theory above given, the pathology 
of all diseases being nearly the same, their professed medicine- 
men treat all diseases nearly alike. Their efforts are expended 
in expelling the spirit, whatever it may be, which it is expected 
the medicine-man will soon discover, and, having informed the 
friends what it is, he usually requires them to be in readiness to 
drive it away as soon as he shall succeed in expelling it. This 
he attempts in the first place by incantations, intended to secure 
the aid of the spirits he worships, and then by all kinds of fright- 
ful noises and gestures, and by sucking the place where the pain 
is. As soon as he thinks he has succeeded in dislodging the 
spirit, he says the word, and two or more weapons are dis- 
charged at the door of the tent, to frighten the spirit as it 
passes out* If they do not succeed in curing the patient, they 
excuse themselves by saying that they have not found the 
right animal. 

Among the Six Nations the Indians had a singular way of 
discovering the right intruder in cases of extreme sickness. In 
the case of the illness of the wife of Ca-whic-do-ta, which oc- 

« I Bancroft, 640. « i Southey, 334. 

3 2 ib., 263. 4 I School., 250. 


curred in 1793, fearing she was to die, the Indians gathered 
eight or ten bushels of ashes and placed them in a pile near the 
hut in which she lay. The ashes were then scattered around 
the cabin. By these manceuvres they hoped to discover what 
spirit visited the sick person by its tracks. The Western tribes 
had a still more singular way of discovering the intruding 
animal. Each medicine-man had diminutive wooden idols 
under some form of a quadruped, or bird, or fish. When any 
chief personage was sick, the priests were sent for, to bring their 
idols. They retired into a canoe to hold a consultation, and if 
they did not agree as to the malady or the mode of treatment, 
they settled the dispute by beating the idols against each other, 
and whichever lost a tooth or a claw was confuted.' 

The departure of the animal was a cause of thanksgiving, 
even in the slightest affections. Thus, the Omahaws after an 
eructation say, " Thank you, animal." " 

The way of curing sick patients among the Indians of Darien 
was to strip them stark naked and shoot small arrows at them. 
If an arrow opened a vein and blood rushed out, the people 
leaped with joy. The theory undoubtedly was that the in- 
truding spirit had been pierced and compelled to come forth. 

Among the Mapuches the sorcerer proceeds to frighten the 
evil spirit out of the patient. He makes himself as horrible- 
looking as he can, and begins beating a drum and working 
himself into a frenzy until he falls to the ground with his breast 
jerking convulsively. As soon as he falls, a number of young 
men outside the hut, who are there to assist him in driving off 
the evil one, begin yelling defiantly, and dashing at full speed, 
with lighted torches, around the hut. If this does not frighten 
the evil spirit off, but death takes place, it is attributed to witch- 
craft. A woman often acts as sorcerer.3 

The Araucanians have the same ceremonies for cure of 

The Mundrucus think sickness is caused by spirits, and the 

Dunn's Oregon, 91. '2 Long's Exp., 54. 

3 2 Wood's Uncivilized Races, 562. 


medicine-men fix upon the place where the evil spirit has 
located itself, and then suck the spot and blow smoke upon it* 

The Abipones think disease is produced by enemies, and 
murders are committed in many cases where disease results in 
death. An immense drum which makes a horrible bellowing 
is placed near a sick person's head to frighten away the evil 

The Central American tribes attribute sickness to evil spirits, 
and have medicine-men called sookias, who perform their in- 
cantations over the sick, whom they first surround with a little 
fence of charmed and painted sticks. If there is an epidemic 
in the town, they will surround the windward side with these 
sticks, with little grotesque images on them. If their success 
is not such as they expect in expelling the evil spirits, the in- 
habitants remove immediately and burn the village.^ 

The Patagonians thought sickness was caused by a spirit en- 
tering the patient's body. They believed every sick person to 
be possessed of an evil demon. The inhabitants of the West 
Indies also referred diseases to hostile demons, and the physi- 
cian, after pulling and sucking the patient thoroughly, would 
go to the door of the house and pretend to blow something 
through his hands, saying, " Begone to the mountains, or where 
you will."* 

The natives of Cumana thought the diseased were possessed 
with spirits. Their physicians sucked and licked the part af- 
fected, to draw out the distemper, spitting at short intervals. 
They said they drew out spirits. " If the disease increased, they 
tickled the throat with a stick till the patient vomited, which 
they carried into the field, saying, * Go thy way, devil !* " s 

The Koniagas in the Northwest, when a person falls sick, 
suppose some evil spirit has taken possession of him, and it is 
the business of the sorcerer to drive it out. He begins with a 
tambourine and incantations, and if this does not accomplish 
the purpose he falls upon the person of the sufferer, and, seizing 

' 2 Wood's Uncivilized Races, 577. « 2 Dobriz., 266. 

3 I Brown, 251. ♦ I Herrera, 163. s 3 ib., 310. 


the demon, struggles with it, overpowers it, and casts it out, 
while the assistants cry, " He is gone ! he is gone !" * 

The Nootkans ascribe disease to the influence of evil spirits. 
The patient is always starved, lest the food should be consumed 
by his internal enemy." If the disease becomes serious, it is 
decided that evil spirits have fixed upon the patient's body for 
their dwelling-place, whereupon they begin a most violent 
pressure and kneading of the body ,3 evidently intending to 
make it very uncomfortable for the intruder. 

Among the more advanced races of Mexico and Peru, an 
additional method of aiding in the cure of disease was found in 
the confession of sins. 

The employment of the confessional in the cure of disease 
had a practical use. The disease was supposed to be produced 
by some avenging spirit, which might be appeased and turned 
aside from its revengeful purpose by the penitent admission of 
the wrong. Hence it was very common among semi-civilized 
peoples to have a confessional, and among the barbarous tribes 
it existed in a rude form, as the following illustration shows. In 
Honduras, if a native was met by a jaguar he would confess his 
sins aloud, imploring pardon. If the beast still threatened, he 
would say, " I have committed as many more sins : do not kill 
me." * 

The Roman Catholics were quite astonished to find the con- 
fessional established before their arrival. The primitive belief 
that disease is produced by hostile spirits seeking revenge for 
some wrong would naturally result in confession, if the estab- 
lishment of a priestly hierarchy outstripped the progress of 
medical science, conditions which we find fulfilled in the Mex- 
ican and Peruvian civilization. They both had an established 
priesthood, successors to the primitive sorcerers. But the wild 
and violent methods of these sorcerers would not be tolerated 
by a more cultivated people. They must yield to a more 
peaceful method of cure. The priest has assumed to himself 

» I Bancroft, 85. ■ I ib., 204-205. 

3 I ib., 246. ^ 3 ib., 486. 


the mediatorship between man and these revenging spirits, and 
a confession to him of all offences, followed by sacrifice and 
other penalties, served to propitiate the spiritual agents pro- 
ducing diseases. Coercion is supplanted by propitiation. 

In Yucatan, difficulty in childbirth was supposed to be pro- 
duced by some sin which had to be confessed. If the wife's 
confession did not answer, the husband was compelled to con- 
fess.* Sins committed twenty years before a sickness were 
thought to have come to give judgment at last, and were con- 
fessed and sacrifices offered to escape the penalty.* A married 
priesthood were the regular confessors, but in an emergency a 
husband confessed to a wife, and a wife to a husband.3 

The natives of Salvador compelled confession of sins in case 
of sickness. The sins confessed were generally neglect of the 
worship of their gods. The Peruvians had the confessional, 
and it was a sin to conceal anything therein : all had to con- 
fess but the Inca, who confessed to the sun.** 

The curious couvade, noticed by so many travellers, and 
which has been so difficult to explain, is a superstition that has 
arisen through fear of attacks of evil spirits. In the couvade 
the man takes to his bed when the wife gives birth to a child, 
and kills no animals. This fear of killing animals and carrying 
on their ordinary avocations arises from the supposition that 
the spirits of the animals will take advantage of the helpless- 
ness of the child, and avenge itself upon it in some 

Among the Caribs, in the West Indies, when a child is born, 
the father begins to complain and take to his hammock, and 
does not eat sometimes for five days together. After forty 
days the relatives and friends collect, and hack his flesh with 
agouti-teeth, and draw blood from all parts of his body. The 
wounds are then washed with pepper infusion. For six months 
he must not eat birds or fish, for whatever animals he eats will 
impress their likeness on the child, or produce disease by 
entering its body. The tribes on the east coast of South 

* 2 Bancroft, 678. " 2 ib., 796. 

3 3 ih., 472. 4 4 Herrera, 348. 


America practised the couvade, and thought if the father 
killed any animal it would harm the child. The idea seemed 
to be that the father must refrain from food the killing of which 
would bring harm to the child. Among the Arawaks the 
father can kill little birds and fish, but no large game. 

Says Mr. Southey, speaking of the couvade among the Bra- 
zilians, "The father, according to a custom more widely diffused 
perhaps than any other observance which is entirely unac- 
countable, takes to his hammoc" during and after the birth of 
a child.* For fifteen days after the birth he ate no meat, did 
no hunting, and set no snares for birds." 

Among the Abipones the husband goes to bed, fasts a num- 
ber of days, ** and you would think," says Dobrizhoffer, "that it 
was he that had had the child." 

The same custom prevails among the Coroados, the father 
abstaining from the flesh of animals. In Guiana the same 
custom prevails. 

Among the Eskimos the husbands forbear hunting during the 
lying-in of their wives, and for some time thereafter.^ 

A curious custom of transferring disease-spirits to images, 
which are then carried away, is a method of cure that pertains 
to the subject of transmigration. 

The Mexicans, to cure a raging fever, made a little dog of 
maize paste and put it on a leaf and left it on the roadside, 
saying the first passer-by would carry away the illness.* The 
spirit producing the disease entered the dog's image and was 
carried away. These curious methods of sending away the 
spirit of disease were common to the Old World as well as the 

A favorite treatment among the Nahuas was to form a figure 
of corn dough. They introduced the disease into it and then 
carried it off and left it by the wayside. Of course it is the 
intruding spirit that is carried away in the image or figure, and 
the priest has succeeded in driving it out of the patient into the 

» 3 Southey, 165. » 2 ib., 368. 

3 Egede, 196. ♦ Motolinia, 130. 


image, which is their equivalent of the scapegoat. It is quite 
remarkable to find this practice more common among the civil- 
ized American tribes than anywhere else, although it is found 
at certain stages of progress among all peoples. 

The use of medical cures formed little or no part of the 
sorcerer's programme, and the few herbs that were discovered 
to have medical properties were themselves elevated into gods. 
Those that grew on burial-places had superstitious pre-emi- 
nence given them in these cures, showing the animistic nature 
of their cures and the tendency of the primitive mind. 

Sometimes diseases of the consumptive or non-acute kind are 
produced by the prolonged absence of a person's soul from his 
body. Such a case came under Mr. Jones's observation, where 
the sorcerer told a sick man that his soul had gone away from 
him, and was in the bank of a river with the manitous who 
reside there.' 

The Aht sorcerer undertakes to bring back truant souls into 
bodies that have been bereft of them ; also effects interchanges 
of souls." • 

This theory of the absence of the spirit from the body during 
life and the incoming of another spirit, explains a large class of 
phenomena which are accounted for by the presence of the 
strange spirit. The body perhaps struggles violently in the 
throes of a nightmare. The inference is that this usurping 
spirit uses the body in this violent way. Sometimes the new 
spirit is not willing to go out when the other returns, and then 
we would have a case of possession, and the struggle might 
become so fierce and sharp that the person would behave like 
a maniac, and the intruding spirit would be dubbed a demon. 
Again, upon the same theory these cases of possession by an 
unclean, or, in other words, an intruding spirit, would not be 
confined to the sleep superstition, but some audaciously wicked 
spirit would occasionally attempt to force an entrance when the 
spirit is not away ; and then we have epilepsy, and the falling 

Jones's Ojibways, 271. » Sproat's Scenes of Savage Life, 169. 


sickness. Again, sometimes the body does things involuntarily. 
What has caused this ? Evidently an intruding spirit has pro- 
duced contortions, and makes the body do things its owner does 
not wish. Hysteria is produced by an intruder, and its uncon- 
trollable and meaningless laughs and sobs are those of the new- 
comer. Its movements are felt in the globus hystericus. Again, 
sneezing and yawning are involuntary, and these are the work 
of the intruder ; and hence quite a body of superstitions have 
grown up around these, many of which have survived to the 
present day. 

The next branch of the subject of the employment of spirits, 
and their invisible agency, will be that of dreams. Dreams are 
produced by the temporary transmigration of an outside spirit 
into the troubled person, or they are the real experiences of the 
wandering soul of the sleeper. Among the Ahts, when a per- 
son starts in a dream with a scream, a relative will cut his arms 
and legs, and sprinkle the blood around the house as a sacri- 
fice to the spirit which is troubling him. If the vision continues, 
they throw articles on the fire.' This sacrifice appeases the in- 
truding spirit. 

The influence of dreams is so great upon the life of the 
American Indians that every act and thought is predicated 
upon this superstition. Many instances are found where In- 
dians have dreamed of seeing a bear, or some other animal, at 
a certain place, whose flesh they need to keep them from 
starving; and such credence do they give to this dream that 
they will start after the game. Such a case is mentioned in 
Tanner's narrative. The mother of a young hunter dreamed 
that she saw a bear at a certain place which she described. 
A young sod following the description found a bear in the place 
indicated, and killed it' 

A few such coincidences have strengthened their faith in 
dreams. The Nootkans find out where fish and berries are 
most abundant by means of dreams. Obedience was yielded 
to dreams. 

* Sproat, 173. » Tanner, 52-53. 


Charlevoix mentions an Iroquois who dreamed of having a 
finger cut off, and forthwith proceeded to cut it off when he 

An Iowa chief, having dreamed that he would die after the 
happening of a certain event, prepared himself for death after 
the event happened, and expired without any previous indis- 

Says Hind of those savages about Hudson's Bay, " If one 
of them dreams he will die, he cannot be saved." An Indian 
dream is an inspiration. The inspiring agent is a spirit. Its 
communication in the dream becomes an oracle to them, more 
implicitly believed than ever was oracle of Dodona or Pythian 
Apollo. Their doctrine of dreams is closely connected with 
their belief in the transmigration of souls, for their doctrine 
of the transmigration is much broader than the Pythagorean. 
Death did not have to loose the bands of the spirit to give it 
freedom to migrate, in the Indian philosophy. In sleep it wan- 
dered away from the body, and while gone another from the 
spirit-land could usurp its vacant throne. Each man was, how*- 
ever, his own channel of inspiration, and his own interpreter. 
The spirit was not connected with the body by a luminous band 
exceedingly ethereal, yet so sensitive as to warn the wanderer 
of danger or encroachment, as is imagined by some modem 
spiritualists, but its connection was severed, and it sometimes 
took a long journey to converse with the sun or moon, or this 
or that star. 

Their crude anthropomorphic conceptions of the heavenly 
bodies did not make it presumptuous to think of conversing 
with the sun ; many of them in their dreams have taken a 
pleasant walk with that luminary. Little Raven, an Ojibway, 
walked over mountains and high up into the vault of heaven 
with " the big sea-water" far beneath. He at last beheld the 
sun sitting with a lamp behind him. The sun told him his 
future life, and then sent him back to earth to live till it was 

' 2 Voyage, 156. ■ Stoddard's Louisiana, 425. 


fulfilled.' Little Raven, on account of this dream, was confident 
of living until his mission was accomplished. 

Indians of the Algonkin stock believe that communications 
from superior beings take place in dreams. Not only the future 
in this life, but their life after death, is revealed to them in this 
way. Many of their ideas of the future life are the result of 
these dreams.' 

The savage considers the events in his dreams to be as real 
as those of his waking hours. The dream is the first important 
act of their lives, and takes place soon after they become adults. 
They have discovered that fasting is a very sure method of in- 
ducing these dreams, and each one goes to some secluded place 
as soon as he arrives at maturity, to dream, and in this way to 
select a guardian spirit. After fasting the necessary time in 
his solitary retreat, whether it be a cave, a forest tree, or the 
lofty summit of some neighboring mountain, the dream comes, 
and home the famished recluse hastens, happy in the inspira- 
tion of the hour. Sometimes he is so reduced by starvation 
he cannot return without help ; but anxious friends who have 
sought out the lost one are ready when the sacred act is over 
to lend their aid. 

In these first dreams, which are religious acts, the first or the 
most prominent thing they dream about becomes their manitou 
(fetich), and on awaking all their eflTorts are directed toward ob- 
taining this object. To dream of anything that is proof against 
the arrow or tomahawk makes them proof against the enemy, 
and brave warriors. To dream of an animal of any kind 
makes them imagine they will have the qualities of that 
animal. Birds were favorite manitous, for he who had a bird 
for his manitou could escape from impending danger as easily 
as that animal. 

We can see what a great influence these dreams would have 
upon almost every act of their life. To illustrate more particu- 
larly ; chiefs when organizing an expedition for war would call 
■ . . . — .. 

* Kohl, 206-7. ■ Tanner*8 Narrative, 290, 


their men together and inquire of them, one by one, what they 
had dreamt of during their fast-days, and what manitous they 
could rely on for assistance. All who had dreamed of war, or 
things proof against the arrow or tomahawk, were always selected 
for these war expeditions. The Ojibways have a tradition of a 
body of warriors who once went out to victories more astonish- 
ing than that of Marathon. The secret of their success was 
that every man selected for the expedition had had a dream 
that nerved him for the field of battle. 

Dreams all through life have a great significance, though 
not so great as these first dreams. For instance, if a band of 
warriors is on its way to the enemy's country, it will turn back 
if a chief has one or more unfavorable dreams. All dreams 
before and during the expedition are carefully observed and 
considered, and all the individual manitous of their first dreams 
are carried along as fetiches to the war, and the most implicit 
faith is shown in these, although they have so much evidence 
all the time before their ^y^:^ of their uselessness. 

A large part of the religious belief of the Dacotahs is made 
up of dreams. 

The Indians of New England had superstitious regard for 
their dreams. One who dreamed that the sun had darted a 
beam into his breast was so frightened thereby he lay awake 
and fasted ten days and nights.* 

An Ojibway damsel, whom Copway knew, had fasted ten days 
and nights in a lonely cave near Grand Island. Here she waited 
for inspiration of the spirits. She fled from her home to the 
rocky cave, and, though sought in woodland and in glade for 
two days, she was not found by her anxious friends. At last, 
one evening, as the sun was sinking below the horizon, they 
beheld, standing on a lofty peak, the lost maiden gazing at the 
departing sun. She was soon found sitting in the cave, and, 
although a rivulet of pure water coursed along at her feet, she 

touched it not, for she was fasting that she might have dreams, 

. . . « - 

« WiUiams, Key, 39-40, 


and they came. The clouds rolled beneath her. She looked 
back on the path she had followed, and around it she beheld 
the lightning's flash. Up she went, and on one side rolled the 
deep broad ocean, on the other the lofty mountains of the west 
stretched their heads into the clouds. She dreamed she had a 
companion who touched her head, when one-half of her hair 
was changed to snowy whiteness. She awoke ; her soul was 
satisfied. She was to be blessed^with old age, and with the 
most perfect confidence she believed she would not die till her 
hair turned white.* 

The Brazilians had the same superstitious confidence in the 
inspiration of dreams as the Northern tribes. Before an expe- 
dition into an enemy's country, if many of the tribe dreamt of 
eating their enemies it was a sure sign of success ; but if more 
dreamt that they themselves were eaten, the expedition was 
given up. The dreams of their prophetesses when in a trance 
produced by being fumigated with petun were received as 

Among the Chiquitos a dream will make a whole horde for- 
sake their place of sojourn, and induce an individual to abandon 
his wife and family .3 

The Guaranies noted their dreams with apprehensive cre- 
dulity .*♦ Among the natives of Paraguay dreams were proph- 
ecies : an Abipone juggler would sit upon an aged willow over- 
hanging some lake, and abstain from food for several days until 
he began to see into futurity through the medium of dreams.s 

The conjurers of Hispaniola fasted three or four months to 
obtain communication with the evil spirits, and when reduced 
to extreme weakness had a hellish apparition, to use the lan- 
guage of Herrera, in which they were informed whether the 
seasons of the year would be favorable or not, and how many 
children would be born, and how many live, and other such 
inspirations. These were their oracles.^ 

» Copway, Ojibways, 150-58. « i Southey, 204. 3 i ib., 335. 

< 2 ib., 371. 5 2 Dobriz., 67-68. * 2 Herrera, 15. 


The native of Honduras repaired to a river, wood, or hill, 
where, in an obscure place, he might fall asleep and dream. 
In these dreams the first animal he saw would be his nagual, 
their equivalent of the Northern manitou/ 

The civilized tribes watched their dreams after the birth of a 
child, and interpreted them as a revelation of the future of the 
child.* The Mayas believed implicitly in the fulfilment of these 
dreams.3 The same was true among the Nahuas, who had a 
certain order of priests who made the interpretation of dreams 
their special province/ 

Many of the folk-tales among the tribes of North America 
describe the dreamy experiences of youthful Rip Van Winkles 
who have, with so much vivid reality, lived out twenty years 
of incident in twenty-four hours. Many imaginative persons 
have passed into the dream-land, loved some spirit form that 
has presented itself to their disordered minds, have had chil- 
dren grow up around them, and in the midst of these delight- 
ful associations awoke. Their dreams are remembered as 
realities, and their awaking is called a return from the spirit- 

A curious tradition to illustrate this point is told of a Win- 
nebago who died with love for a phantom woman who appeared 
in a spiritual body and, beckoning to him, called, — 

" Misbikiwakwa, come, 
And thou shalt be prest 
To a faithful breast, 
And thou shalt be led 
To a bridal bed." 

The romantic Winnebago, after pining away in his attach- 
ment to the dreamy shadow that had called him in some 
ecstatic vision of the night hour, died, and went to drink with 
her of the crystal streams in the land of souls, and bring her 
berries from the hills and flowers from the vales.s 

» 4 Herrera, 138. ■ 4 ib., 141. 

3 2 Bancroft, 796. * 2 ib., 212. 

5 2 Jones, Traditions, 278-80. 


Among many of the tribes we find a mythical tree or vine, 
which has a sacredness connected with it of peculiar signifi- 
cance. It always forms a connecting link and medium of com- 
munication between the world of the living and the dead. It 
is generally used by the spirits as a ladder to pass downward 
and upward upon, when their religious conceptions have located 
the land of spirits in an upper empyrean. The Ojibways had 
one of these vines, the upper end of which was twined around 
a star. Many traditions are told of attempts to climb these 
heavenly ladders. These myths have undoubtedly found place 
in the Indian folk-lore on account of some dream many times 
told and well adapted to fill a want in the human mind. The 
wish has become father to the thought, and a way to the spirit- 
land over the vine or the tree has been found just as satisfac- 
tory as was the ladder of Jacob to the ancient Hebrew world. 
If a young man has been much favored with dreams, and the 
people believe he has the art of looking into futurity, the path 
IS open to the highest honors. The future prophet puts down 
his dreams in pictographs, and when he has a collection of 
these, if they prove true in any respect, then this record of 
his revelations is appealed to as proof of his prophetic power. 
The old people meet together and consult them, for the whole 
nation believe in these revelations. If convinced, they give 
their approval, and he is declared a national prophet.* 

Among the Iroquois, Hiawatha gave his revelations to his 
nation through the medium of dreams." 

Many of the mystic ceremonies of the Iroquois, as well as 
those of all the other tribes, designed for the cure of the sick 
and the welfare of the community, have been dictated by 
dreams and transmitted as a sacred heritage from generation 
to generation. 

To aid in bringing on dreams and visions, drugs were used, 
especially among the natives of the Mexican countries and 
those of South America. The Omaguas, on the Amazon, use 

« I Schoolcraft, 113-14. • Parkman's Jesuits, Ixxxii. 


narcotic plants, under the influence of which they are subject 
to extraordinary visions. The inhabitants of the West Indian 
islands snuffed cahoba, and by its intoxicating influence put 
themselves in communication with the spirits, as they thought 
The Mundrucus of North Brazil would administer intoxicating 
drinks to seers, who would discover murderers by their dreams. 
The Peruvian priests threw themselves into an ecstatic con- 
dition by a narcotic drink, called tonca, made from the Datura 
sanguinea^ or fetich herb. The Mexican priests made them- 
selves ecstatic and saw spirits by the use of intoxicating drinks. 

Mr. Heckewelder describes the same custom among the 
Delaware medicine-men, who were made to drink decoctions 
of an intoxicating nature until their minds became bewildered, 
so that they saw extraordinary visions. The North Ameri- 
can Indians held intoxication by tobacco to be supernatural 
ecstasy.* This accounts for their use of tobacco in so many 
of their religious ceremonies. 

Tobacco was called the holy herb among many Brazilian 
tribes, because it induced visions in which they saw spirits. 

^2. Tylor, 416-17. 



Worship of human spirits — Ancestral worship — Apotheosis — Culture-heroes — 
Fabulous forms assumed by mythical beings — Gods of Mexico, Central Amer- 
ica, Bogota, and Peru — Idolatry — Its primitive forms — Grave-posts roughly 
hewn into the image of the dead and worshipped — Its later form, an image of 
the deceased containing [his ashes — Idolatry in aboriginal art — Supposed 
vitality of idols. 

In his earliest state of culture man is an ignorant, consistent, 
natural spiritualist. The broader spiritualism of savage life is 
more full and thoroughly consistent than that of modern times. 

Mr. Spencer says, " It is unquestionably true that the first 
traceable conception of a supernatural being is the conception 
of a ghost." "Whatever is common to men*s minds in all 
stages must be deeper down in thought than whatever is pecu- 
liar to men's minds in higher stages, and if the later product 
admits of being reached by modification and expansion of the 
earlier product, the implication is that it has been so reached." 
" When, instead of wandering groups, who continually leave far 
behind the places where their members lie buried, we come to 
settled groups whose burial-places are in their midst, and 
among whom development of funeral rites is thus made possi- 
ble, we find that ghost-propitiation becomes an established 
practice." ' 

The fear of spirits inspired acts of worship. The supersti- 
tion that spiritual agency produced personal calamities would 
naturally develop an appeal to spirits, together with rites and 
ceremonies intended to appease their malevolent designs. 

Says Schoolcraft, " The Dacotahs stand in fear of the spirits 

* I Spencer, 305-6. 



of the departed, because they thought it was in their power to 
injure them in any way they pleased."* They tried to keep these 
spirits pleased, by making feasts to the dead.* They prayed to 
the spirits of the dead for intervention in their behalf in the 
ordinary pursuits of life. Mr. Prescott gives the following 
prayer as a specimen : " Spirits ! have mercy on me, and show 
me where I can find a deer." 3 The principal dance of the Da- 
cotahs was a sacred rite in honor of the souls of their dead.* 

The Mandan religious ceremonies consisted in acts which 
they supposed appeased the spirits of their dead. They crawled 
on their hands and knees around a row of skulls which they 
kept near the village. They cut their flesh with knives, and 
prayed to and conversed with the spirits of their dead, which 
were supposed to be presenfin the skulls. The women would 
often bring their work and sit and keep company with, and 
talk to, the skull of a husband for hours together.s 

The Koniagas worshipped dead whalers just before they 
started on a whaling-expedition, and the Kadiaks seemed more 
attracted to the dead than to the living. Their mourning cere- 
monies were very elaborate and of a religious nature. Sac- 
rifices were often made to their dead. 

The Thlinkeets, Kenai, and Tinneh celebrated annual festivals 
in commemoration of the dead. One of the most important 
religious ceremonies of the Ojibways was the feast of the dead, 
when they kindled a fire at their graves, and burned meat in 
sacrifice. They prayed to the dead.* They always offered a 
portion of their daily food to the spirits of the dead by putting 
it on the fire, where it burned while they were eating.^ The 
Virginians worshipped the manes of those buried in their tu- 
muli. The Abipones of Paraguay had annual religious cere- 
monies to the spirits of their dead. The Guaranies also wor- 
shipped their dead, and carried round with them little boxes 
containing their relics. 

' 2 Schoolcraft, 195. * 2 ib., 199. 3 2 ib., 226. 

4 Eastman's Legends, 33. s i Catlin's Illustrations, 90. 

* Jones, Ojibways, 98. 1 Beach, Ind. Mis., 376. 


The Mexicans worshipped the spirits of all women that died 
in childbed. There were oratqries raised to their honor in 
every ward that had two streets crossing. In these were kept 
images of them. The famous superstitions the world over 
about cross-roads are familiar, probably, to the reader. These 
haunted places where two roads cross are appropriate localities 
for the spirits of mother and child who die together. The 
Mexican cross-roads were their favorite haunts, and on certain 
days of the year the people made offerings at the cross-roads 
of bread kneaded into figures of butterflies, also toasted maize. 

Cihuacoatl appears to have been the patroness of such women. 
They prayed to her in their trouble. If they died before child- 
birth the body was sacred, and every effort was made to steal 
it, to be divided into amulets. Hence it was guarded for four 
days and nights by the family of the deceased. What a remark- 
able proof that spiritism was the secret of their religious life! 
The value of these bodies consisted in their being surcharged 
with a double portion of spiritual power. The superstition can 
find no other rational explanation than this. The grave of the 
unfortunate woman was turned into a bivouac of armed forces. 
The body they guarded was a holy relic, which many were 
eager to win, who prowled around the nightly camp-fires of the 
little band that guarded her grave. Wizards watched for a 
chance to obtain a left arm of the dead wife, which had a special 
power in their profession.* 

Among the praises sung to her by the mourners of her fate 
were many clothed in all the beauty of a matchless verbiage : 
" O woman strong and toil-enduring ! O child beloved, beauti- 
ful and tender dove I Thou hast conquered ! Up with thee ! 
Break from sleep ! Already the morning shoots through the 
clouds. Thither, to the house of thy father, let thy sisters, the 
celestial women, carry thee." " 

The savages that inhabited the banks of the Orinoco wor- 
shipped the dead, and their skeletons were hung up in rude 

« 3 Bancroft, 364. » 3 ib., 366. 


huts or temples. All the bones of their dead were kept like so 
many relics. 

" The rudimentary form of all religion," says Mr. Spencer, 
"is the propitiation of dead ancestors." The worship of human 
spirits is more universal than pure ancestral worship. It is 
doubtful whether ancestral worship is comprehensive enough 
to explain all the facts connected with the worship of spirits. 
It is limited in its definition, and the worship of spirits is in- 
clusive of it as well as all other worship of pagan peoples. 

Ancestral worship is found in America connected with the 
worship of human spirits. It was most prevalent among the 
more civilized peoples, but nowhere had it assumed that elab- 
orate form found among the Chinese. Ancestral worship 
might properly be called the state religion of Peru. The living 
Incas worshipped their royal ancestors. The Peruvian village 
Indians worshipped the founder of the village from whom they 
claimed descent; the village patrons were the mummies of 
these ancestral aboriginal inhabitants.' In addition, each family 
worshipped the bodies of its ancestors, which were often 
adorned with costly garments, and had priests attached to 
them who made the offerings.'* These dead bodies were wor- 
shipped every day .3 Some of the Peruvians would carry the 
dried corpses of their parents around the fields, that they might 
see the state of the crops. 

Among the natives of Trinidad Island, feasts are held in 
honor of their ancestors, at which they worship them. The 
natives of the Ladrone Islands worshipped the bones of their 
ancestors, which they kept oiled in their houses. 

The Haytians called their ancestors zemis, and worshipped 
them. Some zemis were bad, and sent diseases, hurricanes, 
and other catastrophes ; others were good. Some were male, 
some female. 

At the annual feast to the dead among the Central American 
tribes, the relatives prostrated themselves and called loudly 

* Arriaga, 89. » lb., 14. 3 lb., 63. 


upon the dead. The Woolwas placed a gruel of maize on the 
grave for somaktime after burial.* 

The Tlascaltecs had an annual festival of the dead, when the 
lords and priests spent several days in the temple weeping for 
their ancestors, and singing their heroic deeds. The families 
of lately deceased persons assembled upon the terraces of their 
houses, and prayed to their dead heroes who had fallen in battle, 
who were rewarded with canonization, and their statues placed 
among the images of the gods." 

The Aztecs had two festivals of the dead each year, at which 
they burned incense and made offerings to the dead in the 
temples, and the people blackened their bodies ^nd prayed to 
their dead relatives. The Miztecs had an annual festival to the 
dead, which was kept in all its primitive significance. On the 
eve of that day the house was prepared as if for a feast. A 
quantity of food was spread upon the table, and the inmates 
went out with torches in their hands, bidding the spirits enter to 
the feast. They then returned and squatted around the table 
with crossed hands and eyes lowered to the ground, for it was 
thought the spirits would be offended if looked upon. In this 
position they remained till morning, praying to their unseen 
visitors. The food was supposed to have had all its virtue 
extracted by these spirits.3 

Speaking of ancestral worship among the Northern triBes, 
Mr, Henry says, in his captivity among those about Lake 
Superior, that at their feasts the master of ceremonies calls 
upon the manes of deceased relatives to be present and par- 
take of the food which has been prepared for them, and to 
assist them in the chase. They offer at every feast, and 
almost all their meals, a portion of their food to their dead 

Among the New England Indians ancestral worship is seen 
in their reverence for the souls of their forefathers, which had 
gone to the southwest, to the court of their great god Cantan- 

' I Bancroft, 745. » 2 ib., 331. 3 2 ib., 622-23, 


towit, whose anthropomorphic and ancestral character is seen 
in the traditionary accounts of him.' 

Among the Mandans there was a tradition of a first man who 
promised to be their helper in time of need, and went away. 
It came to pass that the Mandans were attacked by foes. One 
Mandan proposed to send a bird to the great ancestor to ask 
for help ; but it was decided no bird could fly so far. Another 
thought a look would reach him ; but the hills walled him in. 
Then said the third, thought must be the surest way to reach 
the first man. He wrapped himself in his buffalo robe, fell 
down, and thought a prayer.* 

The Ming^ tribes revere and make offerings to the first man. 
Many Mississippi tribes say the first man ascended into heaven 
and thunders there.3 

The principal god of the Maypuris, of Brazil, was Eno, from 
whom they claimed descent as an ancestor. This word Eno 
forms the root of the word for man in the dialects of the Panos, 
Guaranies, Omaguas, and other tribes who have probably de- 
scended from the same ancestor. 

The Moquis worshipped a great father and mother from 
whom they sprang. Traditionary first parents in many tribes 
were deified, and often figured in the role of creators. Among 
the Dog-Ribs, Chapewee, the first man, was creator of sun and 

The Nicaraguans said Tamagostad, a man, and Cipattonal, 
a woman, from whom they descended, made heaven and earth, 
and they were their gods whom they served. They formerly 
walked on the earth, and were just like them. The remotest 
ancestors that are remembered have become divinities, remain- 
ing human in physical and mental attributes, and differing only 
in power.* The mythical creator of the natives of the Antilles 
was their ancestor. 

The cosmogony of the tribes of interior California shows 

' Williams's Key, 21. » 2 Tylor, 311. 

3 2 ib., 312. * I Spencer, 313. 


the anthropomorphic character of their creator, for the world 
was produced by union of brother and sister, she protesting 
against the incest ineffectually. From this union sprang all 
animate creation, and even inanimate, according to some 
authors.' They claimed that these creators were not of the 
human family, but this assumption on behalf of an apotheosized 
ancestor is generally found among all the tribes. The tradi- 
tions reveal their nature, for their progeny was Ouiot, an ances- 
tral chief, who was plainly a historical character.' Some time 
after the death of Ouiot, whose tyranny led to his destruction by 
poisoning, arose the great Chinigchinich, a leader and founder 
of the order of sorcerers. His life was one of beneficence, 
and his memory was revered among the Indians of California. 
He was deified and much worship paid to him. He looks down 
upon them from the stars.3 

The worship of living persons who, on account of some 
physical peculiarity or mental superiority, are supposed to have 
within them an incarnated spirit, is found in America, and is 
not inconsistent with their worship of the dead. Diaz men- 
tions a curious case : " In the centre of the Chiapanese army 
was a woman, aged and immoderately fat, who was esteemed 
by them a goddess and had promised them the victory."* 

D'Acugna also mentions the case of an Indian of a Brazilian 
tribe, who presumptously set himself up to be a god and re- 
ceived the homage of a great many. 

Mr. Dobrizhoffer mentions the case of an Indian sorcerer 
at the town of St. Joaquin, in Paraguay, who was adored as a 
divine person by a lot of foolish women.s 

The Indians of Tolteque worshipped an old Indian whom 
they had dressed up in a particular way and installed in a hut, 
where they offered sacrifices to him. His godship, who had no 
manner of work to do, was regaled with all the good things 
the village afforded, and willingly sustained the character he 

' Boscana's Chinigchinich, Tr. in Life in Cal., 243. * lb., 246. 

3 lb., 254-56. < Diaz, 61. s 2 Dobriz., 81. 


had been made to assume. A great many instances of such 
worship of the living are found. 

" It was the custom of the natives of New England, at the 
apprehension of any excellency in men or women, to cry out, 
* Manitou I* which means, ' he is a god !* This they do if they 
see one man excel others in wisdom, valor, and strength. They 
called the English ' gods.* " * 

Anything which transcends the ordinary, the savage thinks 
of as supernatural. The remarkable man or hero shares this 
superstitious reverence. This remarkable man may be simply 
the remotest ancestor, remembered as the founder of the tribe. 
He may be a chief famed for strength and courage. He may 
be a sorcerer of great repute. He may be an inventor of some- 
thing new that is useful. He may be a stranger of superior 
race, who brings to them arts and knowledge. Whoever he is, 
if he is regarded with awe during life he will be regarded with 
increased awe after death. The propitiation of his ghost being 
sought more than the propitiation of ghosts less feared, he will 
become a culture-hero, with an established worship. 

The apotheosis after death of those who have become dis- 
tinguished in life as benefactors or rulers renders them the 
objects of a general worship, which is not ancestral because 
participated in by all. 

Montezuma appears to have been worshipped by the New 
Mexican tribes. They extol his miraculous powers. He 
planted maize at night which in the morning was grown and 
ripened. He was immaculately conceived by a drop of dew 
falling on the exposed breast of his mother as she lay asleep 
in a beautiful grove." The estufas are Montezuma's churches, 
where they worship him. 

The Arawaks had a culture-hero, named Arawanili, who 
appears in their traditions to have been the discoverer and 
founder of their system of sorcery. Before his time the spirits 
inflicted continual misery on mankind, but by this mystery 

* Williams's Key, ill. • Cozzens's Marvellous Country, 434-3S« 


they could be restrained in their practices. Arawanili was 
translated without death. He appears to be the principal deity 
of the Arawaks.* 

A famous god among the Caribs was Bohito L, who was 
evidently an early priest and legislator. He is said to have 
established sorcery. Bohito H. introduced medical knowledge 
and the burning of the dead, and was apotheosized. Bonito III. 
brought music to them." This trimurti appeared to stand at 
the head of the Haytian pantheon.^ Another prominent figure 
was Oubekeyeri (man from above), who introduced agriculture 
and house-building.* 

The worship of dead chiefs prevailed among the more civ- 
ilized peoples. Balboa says the Peruvians worshipped all their 
dead chiefs, and offered them sacrifices at certain seasons of 
the year. An ancient Curaca, mentioned by Cieza, was wor- 
shipped with great reverence by many villages. His body was 
in a grotto under a tent, with a diadem on its head, and mag- 
nificently clothed. The Indians did not even dare to look 
upon him. He had been a just and wise counsellor of one of 
the Incas. 

The Mexicans in their great feast of the tenth month gave 
divine names to their dead chiefs and other famous persons 
who had died in war. Idols were made in the image of these 
persons and put with the other deities. Says Camargo, " They 
then called them Teotl so-and-so, meaning god or Saint so- 
and-so." The Mayas worshipped their dead chiefs. Among 
the Isthmians a dead chief w<is dried and hung up in his own 
palace, and on the anniversary of his death food was brought 
to him. The arms which he formerly used, and models of the 
canoes he used, were placed in the presence of the body. They 
then celebrated a festival in his honor. 

There was a tendency among all the tribes to deify heroes. 
Thus originates the worship of particular gods. Among primi- 

' Brett, 292-93. * I Rafinesque, American Nations, 189-92. 

3 I ib., 189-92. 4 I ib., 196. 



tive peoples the ghosts and manes of the dead are feared. Su- 
perstitious fear of these ghostly spirits pervades the savage 
communities. There is not, however, among such a people, as 
yet, a pantheon, nor has such pre-eminence been attained by 
any member of a savage tribe as to entitle him to deification. 
Equality in the social status of peoples seldom produces 
apotheosis. Giants are the first mythical heroes that emerge 
from the chaos of their past. Nameless generally, they are 
only identified with a locality. Gradually, however, as nations 
emerge from a condition of barbarism, leaders of these pro- 
gressive movements become culture-heroes ; and if, perchance, 
in these progressive movements a despotic form of government 
should arise, under the leadership of a man of despotic nature, 
and be isolated amid a surrounding barbarism, the religious 
condition of such a people will and must be deplorable. All 
the paraphernalia of apotheosis will lend its glitter to the ex- 
altation of the despot, but at the expense of the spiritual 
degradation of the people. Costly funeral ceremonies and 
magnificent tombs at the monarch's death will be followed by 
as abject a spiritual worship as was the homage given him in 
life. Human sacrifices will soon be added to the offerings with 
which his tomb-temple has been filled. Human sacrifice is a 
very convenient way of disposing of the multitudes of barbarous 
captives taken in the wars. Besides this, the apotheosized 
warrior king will delight in the blood of his enemies, who are 
now sent to be his slaves in the spirit-world. Very soon a 
myth of immaculate conception will account for the birth of so 
elevated a personage, and if, perchance, another monarch of 
similar courage or virtue appears, then an incarnation, accord- 
ing to the doctrine of transmigration, is accorded him. The 
last great act in the drama of apotheosis will be translation. 
Death must be robbed of this one victim, that the triumph of 
the hero may not be limited. Then comes a myth of transla- 
tion, and we have a full-fledged heathen god, with a personality, 
and a name, and a throne, and a court, and a moral nature no 
different from that of the living king. This is the thread that 


runs through the mythological story of every civilized people, 
and especially is it true of the civilized American nations. Be- 
fore taking up the pantheons of the more civilized races, let 
us notice some of the culture-heroes and mythical characters 
that can be found among the more uncivilized tribes. 

Torngarsuk is the principal god of the Greenlanders. The 
most popular representation of him is as a giant with one arm. 
He is the one consulted by the Angekoks in disease. But 
Torngarsuk's wife or mother, the stories do not agree which, 
is the most feared of any of their deities. She is reputed 
by many to be the daughter of the famous Angekok who 
tore Disko Island from the continent, near Baals River, and 
towed it a hundred miles farther north. She lives under the 
ocean in a large house. Sea-fowls swim about in the tub of 
train-oil under her, lamp. Seals, exceedingly vicious, guard 
the portals of her palace.* Her human character is unques- 

Another god is Innertirrirsok, who is spirit of the air. Er- 
loersortok is a ghastly character in their pantheon, who feeds 
upon the intestines of the dead." 

The Ingnersuit are fabulous beings that live beneath the 
surface of the earth, in cliffs along the sea-shore. They are 
often seen entering through mounds of turf They have the 
shape of men, and their life is like the Greenlander's. They act 
as the guardian spirits of the Kayakers. But they are not all 
good. Some without noses persecute the Kayakers.3 

The Kayarissat are giant Kayakers. They raise storms 
and bring bad weather. The Mermen are fabulous creatures 
who inhabit the sea. They are fond of fox-flesh, which is sac- 
rificed to them. The Toruit are inland giants, living under the 
earth. They enter through places hidden by vegetation. They, 
however, go to sea in foggy weather, without kayaks, sitting on 
the surface of the water. The Erkigdlit have the shape of man 
in the upper part of their body, but are dogs in their lower 

« I Crantz, 190-91. » Egede, 185-86. 3 Rink, 46. 


limbs.* These deities of th« Greenlanders are evidently anthro- 

Manabozho undoubtedly occupies the Olympic throne in 
the Ojibway pantheon. He was no more nor less than a great 
brave and chief, about whom many folk-tales are told. Mana- 
bozho lives in a wigwam, with two squaws to make up his 
family circle. The Ojibways did not ascribe omnipotence to 
him. Their crude ideas of the helplessness of their gods when 
involved in difficulties is illustrated by a story they tell of 
Manabozho. They say he went up into a tree-top to stop a 
noise produced by two branches rubbing against each other. 
When he had pulled the branches apart they sprang together 
again and caught Manabozho and held him suspended for three 
whole days. His appeals to the animals resulted in jibes and 
ridicule, and the wolves ate up his breakfast which he left 
under the tree. A bear at last helped him out of his difficulty. 
When he returned home he gave both of his wives a severe 
beating," — a touch of human depravity surviving in a god. 

Manabozho had three brothers, named Chibiabos, Wabasso, 
and Chokanipok. This last he accused of killing his mother, 
because he was the last born of quadruplets, whose birth re- 
sulted in her death. He destroyed him, after many contests. 
Wabasso went north, and was changed into a white rabbit, and 
is considered a great spirit. Chibiabos and Manabozho lived 
together in great happiness, until Chibiabos, venturing out on 
the ice too far one day, was drowned. Manabozho made the 
shores resound with his wails of sorrow on account of the death 
of his brother. Such was the mythological family from whom 
the Algonkin tribes trace descent. In a war between the tur- 
tles and Manabozho he barely escaped destruction in a flood 
produced by the turtles. He reached a place of safety, how- 
ever, carrying his grandmother under his arm. She is a prom- 
inent character in their traditions, and is called the great-grand- 
mother of all. She remains at home in her lodge all the time, 

» Rink»s Traditions, 47. » Kohl's Kitchi-Gami, 38&-89. 



in order that no one may call on her in vain. They thus deny 
her omnipresence.* 

Manabozho discovered that the maple-tree could produce 
sugar. He killed the ancient monsters of their traditions, 
whose bones are frequently found. He cleared the streams of 
obstructions. He has now gone to live on an immense flake 
of ice in the Arctic Ocean." 

Manabozho was the reputed ancestor of the Algonkin race. 
He was the inventor of picture-writing, the founder of Meda 
worship, the maker of the earth, the sun, and moon. From a 
grain of sand he fashioned the habitable land, and set it float- 
ing on the waters, till it grew to such a size that a young wolf, 
running constantly, died of old age ere he reached its limits. 
Manabozho was a mighty hunter of old. The Great Lakes 
were the beaver-dams he built, and when the cataracts impeded 
his progress he tore them away with his hands. After watch- 
ing the spiders spread their webs to trap flies, he devised the 
art of making nets to catch fish. In the autumn, ere he com- 
poses himself to sleep, he fills his pipe and takes a godlike 
smoke, and the clouds float over the hills and woodlands, filling 
the air with the haze of an Indian summer.^ 

He was reputed to have been born at Mackinaw. Accord- 
ing to ancient tradition, there is a chain of mountains and an 
immense lake to the northwest of Lake Superior — probably 
meaning the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean — where 
he was particularly fond of living.* 

This god, says Father Allouez, according to the traditions 
of the natives, crossed at a single step a bay eight leagues in 
width. Manabozho once went angling for the king of fishes, 
but was swallowed, canoe and all. He smote the monster's 
heart with his war-club till the fish would fain have cast him up 
into the lake again, but the hero set his canoe fast across the 
fish's throat inside and finished slaying him. When the dead 

» Tanner's Narrative, 192. 
s Brinton's Myths, 176-77. 

" I Schoolcraft, 317-19. 

4 Chateaubriand's Travels, 41-42. 


monster drifted ashore, the gulls pecked an opening, through 
which Manabozho came out* 

With entire unanimity all branches of the Algonkins, includ- 
ing the Powhatans of Virginia, the Delawares, the warlike hordes 
of New England, the Ottawas of the far North, and the Western 
tribes, spoke of this " chimerical beast," as one of the old mis- 
sionaries calls him, as their common ancestor. The totem of the 
great hare, whose name he bore, was looked upon with respect* 

He has not always borne the ludicrous character that has 
been given him latterly. Mr. Brinton thinks it passing strange 
that such an insignificant creature as a hare should receive this 
apotheosis, and says, " No explanation of it in the least satisfac- 
tory has ever been offered." The totemic system of the Indians 
is a solution of it Manabozho, a hero of the gens of the hare, 
has distinguished himself in their early history, and the process 
of deification has gradually gone on, with an accretion of folk- 
tales and traditions, in which his acts have become more and 
more superhuman, until nothing was too great for Manabozho. 

Wabun, Kabun, Kabibonocca, and Shawana are four Algon- 
kin gods, who preside over the winds from the cardinal points. 
These gods of the winds were ancestral spirits. Shingebiss 
was a mythical character of the Ojibways. He had probably 
been an early sorcerer in that tribe, for they have many stories 
to tell of his metamorphoses. His great triumph over the god 
of the weather is curiously told in one of their folk-tales. How 
he managed to live nobody knew : it was a mystery to the wild 
foresters around him. Yet on the coldest day he would catch 
fish. His success enraged Kabibonocca, god of the northwest, 
who sends the cold and storms, and he determined to freeze 
him out. He poured the cold blasts of the north upon him 
and piled up the snow-drifts. Failing in this, he decided to 
visit Shingebiss in person, and entered his lodge one night, 
while he sat by the burning logs ; Kabibonocca began to melt, 
and he was glad to leave the imperturbable Shingebiss to enjoy , 

« I Tylor, 337. • Brinton, 175. 


his warm fire. Shingebiss had thereafter the reputation of being 
a great spirit who was too much for the god of the wind.* 

" Windy god ! I know your plan : 
You are but my fellow -man ; 
Blow you may your coldest breeze, 
Shingebiss you cannot freeze." 

The Waindegoos were giants as tall as pine-trees. They 
were invulnerable and cannibals, and passed through the forests 
as a man does through grass." They had the human form, as 
had also the famous giant god called Aggodagoda, who was 
uniped. He hopped over rivers and valleys at a bound.3 
Among the Ojibways there was a god called Pabookowaih, 
the god that crushed diseases ; also a goddess Wahneetis, god- 
dess of health,* who was his spouse. The worship of these 
gods was undoubtedly confined to a family or gens, as they 
had no tribal reputation. Their images were of human form. 

The name of one of the Dacotah divinities is Wahkeenyan. 
His teepee is supposed to be on a mound on the top of a high 
mountain in the far west. The teepee, or tent, has four open- 
ings, with sentinels clothed in red down. A 
butterfly is stationed at the east, a bear at the 
west, a fawn at the south, and a reindeer at 
the north entrance. He is supposed to pro- 
duce the thunder. He has a bitter enmity 
against Unktayhee. and attempts to kill his 
offspring. The high water and floods were 
supposed to be caused by his shooting 
through the earth and allowing the water 
to flow out. When the lightning strikes their teepees or the 
ground, they think that Unktayhee was near the surface of the 
earth, and that Wahkeenyan, in great rage, fired a hot thunder- 
bolt at him.5 Fig. i is a representation of this god hurling 
these thunderbolts, and shows his human form. 

» 3 Schoolcraft, 324-25. ■ Jones's Ojibways, 156-^. 

9 3 Schoolcraft, 521. ^ Jones's Ojibways, 87. 

5 I Minn. Hist. Coll., 267, seq. 



The Jupiter Maximus of the Dacotahs is named Unktayhee. 
He fills the role of creator. He made man in this manner. 
The earth being finished, he took a deity, one of his own offspring, 
and, grinding him to powder, sprinkled it upon the earth, and 
this produced many worms. These matured into infants, which 
became full-grown Dacotahs. They think the bones of the 
mastodon are the bones of this god, and preserve them with 
great care.* Morgan's Bluff, near Fort Snelling, is the residence 
of Unktayhee. Under the hill, they say, is a subterranean 
passage for the use of the god. They often pretend to see 
this god passing through the air and over the hill,' and repre- 
sent him with human form. 

Heyoka is the antinatural god of the Dacotahs. He ap- 
pears in four forms ; sometimes as a tall and slender man with 

two laces, like the Janus of an- 
cient mythology. He holds a 
bow in his hand streaked with 
red lightning ; also a rattle of 
deer-claws. The second form 
is a little old man with a cocked 
^ hat and enormous ears, holding 
a yellow bow. The third, a man 
with a flute suspended from his 
neck. The fourth is invisible 
and mysterious, and is the gen- 
tle zephyr which moves the 
grass and causes the ripple of 
the water. Heyoka is a perfect 
paradox. He calls bitter sweet, and sweet bitter; he groans 
when he is full of joy, he laughs when he is in distress ; in 
winter he goes naked, and in summer wraps up in buffalo robes. 
Those whom he inspires can make the winds blow and the rains 
fall.3 He uses a frog for an arrow-point. He keeps a zoo- 

i ( 

' I Minn. Hist. Coll., 267, seq. ' Eastman, 210. 

3 I Minn. Hist. Coll., 268, seq. 



logical garden within his court-yard. Among the animals are a 
deer, elk, and buffalo. He hurls meteors at his enemies in self- 
defence, and uses the lightning which surrounds his house to 
kill his game with.* Fig. 2 is a representation of this god. 

Takinshkanshkan is a deity of the Dacotahs, and is sup- 
posed to be invisible, yet everywhere present. He is full of 
revenge, exceedingly wrathful, very deceitful, and a searcher 
of hearts. His favorite haunts are the four winds and the 
granite boulders strewn on the plains of Minnesota. He is 
never so happy as when he beholds scalps warm and reeking 
with blood.* The East, West, North, and South each had a 
deity presiding over them, but of an undoubtedly anthropo- 
morphic character. The translation of the names indicates Man 
of the East, Man of the West, Man of the North, and Man of 
the South. Witkokaga is another god, who deceives animals 
into being taken.3 Canotedan is the Dacotah god of the 
forest, and lives in a tree. When he wants anything, he can 
be found sitting on a branch. He has powers of attraction, 
and draws around him all the birds of the forest. He wages 
constant war with the gods of the elements, and kills one occa- 
sionally, — ^which does not exterminate 

Fig. x. 

them, however. The Dacotahs have a 

god of the grass, who can make them V v 

crazy, and a god of war. All of these i \ :}^ 

spiritual beings were anthropomorphic. ^^ " ^ !>' 

Fig. 3 is a rough representation of ^ S^-^^^ »/ 
the god of war.* \^ /" v . '^^ 

The Great Spirit is borrowed from i , 

the whites, to complete their pantheon. / / 

The Dacotahs have giants who stride ^/ M 

over the largest rivers and the tallest ^>, '. 

trees with ease. 

Among the Iroquois the stonish giants figure in their folk- 

« 2 Schoolcraft, 225. • i Minn. Hist. Coll., 268. 

3 Eastman, xxxi. * 3 Schoolcraft, 485-87. 


lore, and undoubtedly represent an invading tribe whose valor 
tested the Iroquois to the utmost. Plate II. is a representation 
of one of their culture-heroes, whose name was Atotarho. He 
was an early ruler, whose hair was represented in snake forms, 
as was that of Medusa. Many of the characters in the Iroquois 
pantheon have assumed the human form, or, in other words, are 
ancestral. Hiawatha is one of the most prominent. He taught 
the Six Nations arts and knowledge. He taught them to raise 
corn and beans. His wisdom was great, and the people listened 
to him with admiration. There was nothing in which he did 
not excel. He was a good hunter, brave warrior, and eloquent 
orator. He selected a beautiful spot on the southern shore of 
Cross Lake. He erected his lodge, planted his field of corn, 
and selected a wife. Here he was resorted to for advice and 
instruction. Soon there arose a great alarm at the invasion of 
a ferocious band of warriors from the north. The public fear 
was extreme. A great council of all the tribes was appointed 
to meet on an eminence overlooking Onondaga Lake. Three 
days had elapsed, and there was a general anxiety lest Hia- 
watha should not arrive. Messengers were despatched for him. 
They found him in a pensive mood, and he communicated to 
them his strong presentiments that evil betided his attendants 
at the council. The messengers urged him to come, and he 
put his magic canoe in the water, and it moved without paddles. 
His only daughter took her seat in the stern. Soon they en- 
tered on the bright bosom of the Onondaga. The great coun- 
cil saw the well-known canoe approaching, and sent up shouts 
of welcome as the venerated man landed in front of the assem- 
blage. As he and his daughter ascended the banks, a loud 
sound was heard in the air, and a dark spot was discovered de- 
scending rapidly. Terror seized the Indians, and they scattered 
in confusion to escape the impending calamity. Hiawatha's 
daughter was the doomed object. A white bird with a mighty 
swoop crushed the girl to the earth, and not a human trace of 
her could be discovered. Not a muscle moved in the face of 
Hiawatha. He passed on to the head of the council. His 





advice was given and adopted, and Hiawatha's mission was 
accomplished. He went down to the shore, and assumed his 
seat in his mystical vessel. Sweet music was heard in the air, 
and, as its cadence floated on the ears of the wondering multi- 
tude, an apotheosis was taking place. Hiawatha in his magic 
canoe rose in the air higher and higher, and vanished from sight* 

Thus WcLS this great and good man translated, according to 
the traditions of his people. The sun-worship of the Iroquois 
is ancestral in its character, as they believe the sun to be a 
man, but their legend has not come down to us relating the 
earthly career of this solar man, as in many other tribes. 
Iosco, another mythical hero, confirmed their ideas of this 
luminary by visiting him and taking a day's journey with him 
around the world.* 

Jouskeha was the Iroquois mythical character who figured as 
the creator of the world and the father of the human race.3 

Areskoui was another of their deities to whom sacrifices were 
oflfered. Father Jogues saw a female prisoner burned as a sac- 
rifice to Areskoui.* The god of thunder was supposed to be 
a giant in human form.s Two gods of the Iroquois appeared 
among the Natches ; for their goddess Athaensic was the fe- 
male chief of evil spirits, and Jouskeha of good spirits, in both 
tribes/ They were the reputed ancestors. 

Among the New England tribes a god called Squanto, to 
whom they ascribed all good, and another god, Tanto, to whom 
they ascribed all evil, were worshipped. Tanto produced death 
and carried the dead to his wigwam.^ They were ancestral. 
Pampagussit was the name of the sea-god of the New England 
Indians.* He was represented with human form. Yotaawit 
was god of fire, Nanepaushat was god of the moon, and Kee- 
suckquand god of the sun. " They had their he and she saints, 
even as the papists," says Roger Williams.^ Another of their 

« 3 Schoolcraft, 315-17. 
4 lb., Ixxvii. 
^ 2 Chateaubriand, 40. 
« Williams's Key, 98. 

» 5 ib., 402. 

3 Parkman's Jesuits, Ixxvii. 
5 lb., Ixix. 

7 2 Maine Hist. Coll., 94. 
9 lb., no. 


gods was named Moshup, who lived at Martha's Vineyard with 
his wife and five children. He used to catch whales, and pluck 
up large trees to roast them with. He once sent his children 
to play ball on the beach that joined Noman's Land to Gay 
Head. He then cut with his toe a line in which the water 
followed and cut them off. His wife mourned them so much 
that he threw her away in a fit of rage. She fell upon Seconet, 
near the rocks, where she lived some time, exacting contribu- 
tion of all who passed there by water. Afler a while she was 
changed into a stone : the shape of this stone remained until 
the English broke it up for relics.* 

Wakon is the principal god and ancestor of the Osages.'' 

The Indians on the Columbia River believe that men were 
created by a deity named Etalapass, but when made they were 
imperfect, having a mouth that was not opened, eyes that were 
fast closed, hands and feet that were not movable. A second 
divinity, whom they call Ecanumu, having seen men in this 
state of imperfection, took a sharp stone and laid open their 
mouths and eyes ; he gave agility also to their feet, and motion 
to their hands.3 

Kareya, the ancestor of the Karoks of California, was the 
creator of their world. They have the stool upon which he 
sat when upon the earth. Since the advent of Christianity he 
has been elevated to the divine primacy of Supreme Being. 

Gard is the name of the culture-hero of the Yuroks. He 
gave them their language, and now lives in their mountains. 
He has recently been elevated to the dignity of Supreme 
Being, as no other is so well adapted to represent the Christian 
God to their minds.** 

He was also ancestral god of the Hupas. Many of the in- 
cidents of his life are remembered by them. " Clean was his 
heart," say they. He was translated, according to their 
myths, in a thick cloud of smoke, which floated to the land of 

« I Mass. Hist. Coll., 1st Series, 139. *» I Rafinesque, 160. 

3 Franchere's Voy., 258. ■♦ 3 Ethnol. of PowelPs Exp., 64. 


spirits.' This is undoubtedly a myth connected with his cre- 

The creator of the Maidus was a man from whom they 

Quahootze is the principal god of the Nootkans. He stills 
the tempests and controls the storm. They chant and pray 
to him. A human victim was formerly offered at his annual 
festival, but now a boy with knives stuck through his flesh 
appears as a substitute. Matlose is a famous hobgoblin of 
the Nootkans. He is a very Caliban of spirits : his head is like 
the head of something that might have been a man. but is not. 
His monstrous teeth and nails are like the fangs and claws of 
a bear. Whoever hears his terrible voice falls like one smitten, 
and his curved claws rend prey into morsels with a single 
stroke.3 Huge images, carved in wood, stand in their houses, 
intended to represent the form and hold in remembrance the 
visit of a god in the guise of an old man who came up the 
sound long ago in a copper canoe and instructed them in 
many things.* The Nawloks are fabulous beings, part human, 
with whom their sorcerers are supposed to commune and ob- 
tain their prophecies.^ 

Yehl stands at the head of the Thlinkeet pantheon. He is 
kind, and loves men ; not so with Khanuk, who could raise a 
magic darkness that would frighten Yehl into helplessness. 
Yehl cannot die or become older. Chett is a great Northern 
rukh, that snatches up and swallows a whale without difficulty. 
The flash of his eyes produces the lightning.^ 

The anthropomorphic nature of these gods is beyond ques- 
tion. Yehl and Khanuk lived formerly on the earth, and were 
born of a woman whose race has passed away. Khanuk was 
god of war and the patron of every fearless brave. He sends 
epidemics and bloodshed to all who displease him, while Yehl 
crosses the purposes of his dark-minded brother. Yehl had 

» 3 Ethnol. of Powell's Exp., 81. " 3 ib., 287. 3 3 Bancroft, 151. 

^3ib., 151. 5 3ib., 150. «3ib., 146. 


great skill in the use of the bow and arrow. They have a 
traditionary incarnation of Yehl in one of their mighty hunters. 
A disconsolate mother went to the sea-shore to weep for her 
lost children, and while there a dolphin pitied her and told her 
to swallow a small pebble and drink some sea-water, which she 
did, and in proper time Yehl was born. His first famous ex- 
ploit was to shoot a crane, called, when translated, " crane that 
can soar to heaven." In the skin of this bird he clothed him- 
self whenever he wished to fly. Yehl's contests with his uncle 
for revenge made much of their folk-lore. Yehl had other in- 
carnations, in one of the most romantic of which he was trans- 
formed into a blade of grass and got into a girl's drinking-cup 
and was swallowed by her and born again. The balance of 
his life was spent in stealing benefits for mankind, and in his 
adventures, metamorphosing himself at pleasure. His black 
plumage was obtained in an adventure where he attempted to 
escape through the chimney of a hut.* He had the fogs and 
clouds at his command, and would draw them around him to 
escape his enemies.* 

The Okanagans have a god Skyappe, and also one called 
Chacha, who appear to be endowed with omniscience ; but their 
principal divinity is their great mythical ruler and heroine 
Scomalt. Long ago, when the sun was no bigger than a star, 
this strong medicine-woman ruled over what appears to have 
now become a lost island. At last the peace of the island was 
destroyed by war, and the noise of battle was heard, with which 
Scomalt was exceeding wroth; whereupon she rose up in her 
might, and drove her rebellious subjects to one end of the 
island, and broke off the piece of land on which they were 
huddled, and pushed it out to sea, to drift whither it would 
This floating island was tossed to and fro and buffeted by the 
winds till all but two died. A man and woman escaped in a 
Canoe and arrived on the mainland, and from these the Okana- 
gans are descended.' 

» 3 Bancroft, 100-3. " 3 i^., 149. s 3 ib., 154. 


The Acagchemen races of California appear to reverence an 
ancestor by the name of Ouiot, who was a great warrior and 
ruler of the early day. He grew old, however, and useless, 
and. as was their custom, they poisoned him, and he died, and 
was succeeded by a greater, named Ouiamot, who came dancing 
among them when assembled for some purpose, and entered 
into league with their medicine-men and confirmed their power. 
He then returned to the stars whence he came.^ 

The Pericues of Lower California were divided into two 
sects, worshipping two hostile divinities who waged a war of 
extermination on each other, and who were historical characters. 

Niparaya was the name of one, whose wife, though possess- 
ing no body, bore him, in a divinely mysterious manner, three 
children. This young god made men by drawing them up 
out of the earth. He died, and an owl appears to represent 
him. Another god was Tuparan, whom Niparaya appears to 
have defeated in battle and confined under the earth. This was 
another way, undoubtedly, of expressing his death and burial. 
His followers continue to be his sectaries.^ 

The tribes in the neighborhood of Trinity River had their 
great ancestor Wappequemow, who was a giant who quarrelled 
with a great god at the mouth of the Klamath and was ban- 
ished thence. Next in their pantheon comes the great Omaha, 
who is invisible and brings misfortune on mankind. Next is 
Makelay, a veritable fiend, as swift as the wind, moving in 
great leaps as the kangaroo moves. The sight of him is death 
to mortals.3 They were represented in human forms. 

The most curious mythological characters among the natives 
of Northern California are those mysterious people called the 
Hohgates, who have left an immense bed of mussel-shells near 
the Crescent City. These Hohgates, seven in number, were 
famous hunters of seals. One day, being out at sea in their 
boat, they struck a huge sea-lion with their harpoon, and, stand- 
ing by their line, were dragged with fearful speed toward a great 

« 3 Bancroft, 166. • 3 ib., 169. 3 3 ib., 176. 


whirlpool that lay to the northwest, where spirits shiver in its 
dark cold, and even the living suffer from its winds. Just as 
the boat reached the dreadful current, the rope broke, and the 
sea-monster was swept alone in the whirl, while the Hohgates 
were caught up into the air, their boat floating steadily to- 
ward the empyrean until the translated heroes landed where 
the Seven Stars now shine.^ 

The inhabitants on the Rio Grande adored three ancestral 
gods, called Cocopo, Cacina, and Homace, to the first of whom a 
temple was raised some ten feet wide and twice as deep. At 
the end sat the idol of stone or clay, representing the god 
bearing some eggs in one hand and some ears of maize in the 
other. In this temple an old woman presided as priestess, and 
directed the ceremonies by which the natives implored rain, 
— a blessing the more necessary as the streams frequently ran 

The Araucanian pantheon is composed of Pillan, Epunamun, 
Mulen, and Guecubu. Pillan signifies the spirit, and it appears 
that he had acquired a great pre-eminence over all others. His 
anthropomorphic character is written plainly in his polity, which 
is a prototype of the Araucanian. Undoubtedly he was an 
early ruler and the founder of their government, and when he 
disappeared his administration of affairs in the spirit-world 
would not vary from the earthly. Epunamun was their god of 
war. Mulen was their beneficent deity, and always the friend 
of the human race. He is the antagonist of Guecubu, who is 
their malevolent deity and the author of all evil. If a horse 
tires, it is because Guecubu has ridden him. Death is brought 
about by this demon, who suffocates them. These gods have 
a hierarchy of genii or active spirits,^ and were historical char- 

At the head of the pantheon of the Tupinambas was Tupa, 
which is their word for father, and was used for the Supreme 

* 3 Bancroft, 177. " Shea's Cath. Missions, 79. 

3 2 Molina, 84-86. 


Being after the introduction of Christianity. Although he was 
the god of thunder, still his character was that of a beneficent 
being/ Next stood Zome, who taught them the use of the 
mandioc. The woods made a path for Zome in his progress, 
and the rivers opened to give him passage. He could also 
walk upon the waters. He commanded the tempests. The 
most ferocious animals crouched submissive at his feet* They 
pointed out his footsteps imprinted on the shore. 

The Manacicas had a triplet of deities„called Urapo, Ura- 
sana, and Uragozoriso, two of them good and one bad, and a 
host of spiritual attendants, including the souls of their ene- 
mies. They would come with a noise through the air and 
enter the hut prepared for them, which shook at their pres- 
ence. This rude temple had a holy of holies, into which none 
but priests were allowed to enter. When the oracles were 
pronounced, these spirits returned to the air whence they came. 
They had a goddess Quipoci, who appears to have been a 
sweet singer of early times.^ 

The Yuracares of Brazil had a divine hero, Tiri, who was 
suckled by a jaguar.-* 

Among the Tamanacas of Guiana a hero-god, Amalavaca, 
piled rocks upon each other until a famous cavern, which was 
called his house, was formed. He was no other than their 
primitive ancestor. He, with his brother Pochi, another myth- 
ical hero of this people, gave the surface of the earth its 
present form. The pictographs on the rocks are his hand- 

Among all of the culture-heroes of the civilized races of 
America, Quetzalcoatl is the pre-eminent one. There can be 
no doubt that he was a historic character. Descriptions of 
his personal appearance are found in the historic fragments of 
those peoples among whom he lived. Quetzalcoatl came to 
TuUa. He had a broad forehead, large eyes, and flowing 

' I Southey, 227. » Warden's Researches, 189. 

3 3 Southey, 184. 4 i Tylor, 282. 

5 2 Humboldt's Personal Narrative, 471, seq. 



beard, and was clad in a white robe. He held a sickle in his 
hand. His habits were ascetic. He was never married, yet 
was chaste and pure in his life. He condemned sacrifices, 
except of fruits and flowers. When addressed on the subject 
of war, he stopped his ears with his fingers. He loved peace. 
He instructed people in agriculture, metallurgy, and the arts 
of government. He was one of those benefactors of their 
species who have been deified by the gratitude of posterity. 
His age was the golden age of Anahuac ; a veritable mythical 
age, too, for under him the earth teemed with fruits and 
flowers without the labor of culture. An ear of Indian com 
was as much as a single man could carry. The cotton as it 
grew took the rich dyes of human art. Stalks of the amaranth 
were so large people climbed them like trees. Such a man as 
this in the semi-civilized state of Tulla is a marvel. His char- 
acter was more exemplary than any other human being of 
whom we have any account in America. He was like a meteor 
that flashes across a dark sky and is gone. Tezcatlipoca, whose 
worship was quite opposite in its character to that of Quetzal- 
coatl, triumphed, however, with his sanguinary ritual, which 
was celebrated with human sacrifices. A struggle ensued in 
Tulla between the opposing systems, which resulted favorably 
to the bloody deity, and the faction who sought to establish 
his worship in preference to the peaceful and ascetic service 
of Quetzalcoatl triumphed. But Quetzalcoatl was allowed to 
depart in peace. Myriads of rich-plumed songsters made the 
air melodious as they accompanied him on his journey. The 
flowers by the wayside gave forth unusual volumes of perfume 
at his approach. A few devoted followers clung to him in his 
travels. He next appeared at Cholula. War was not known 
during his sojourn there. The enemies of the Cholulans came 
with perfect safety to his temple, which is one of the most 
interesting relics of antiquity, and the sculptor and architect 
flourished under the patronage of the great god king. After 
twenty years he passed down to the sea, and, entering his 
wizard skiff) made of serpent-skins, embarked, after bestowing 


his blessing upon four young men who had followed him 
thither in their devotion.^ 

Most prominent among the peculiar reforms of Quetzalcoatl, 
and the one that is reported to have contributed most to his 
downfall, was his unvarying opposition to human sacrifice. 
This sacrifice had prevailed from pre-Toltec times at Teotihua- 
can, and had been adopted more or less extensively in Culhua- 
can and Tulla. By Quetzalcoatl it was absolutely prohibited 
in the temples of the latter capital, and thus the powerful priest- 
hood of Otompan and Culhuacan was arrayed against him. 
Again, it is thought that under Quetzalcoatl the spiritual power 
became so dominant as to excite the jealousy and fears of the 
nobility in Tulla, who were restless under priestly restraint." 

Tezcatlipoca, the persecutor of the great priest of Tulla, be- 
came the greatest god adored in these countries. Creator of 
heaven and earth, recompenser of the just and the unjust, his 
name means shining mirror. According to tradition, he de- 
scended from heaven by a rope made of spiders' webs. Stone 
seats were placed in the corner of the streets for him to rest 
upon, which no other person was ever allowed to use. Of 
course this adulatory worship is due to his success in attaining 
the primacy. His true character is shown as the sorcerer. 
His triumph is that of sorcery and semi-barbarous religion 
over an attempted reformation. The tradition of the visit of 
Tezcatlipoca to the sick Quetzalcoatl gives us a vivid insight 
into the nature of the struggle of the contending forces. The 
account is as follows. There came at last a time in which the 
fortunes of Quetzalcoatl and his people the Toltecs began to 
fail, for there came against them three sorcerers who were gods 
in disguise, — Tezcatlipoca, Huitzilopochtli, and Tlacapevan. 
Tezcatlipoca turned himself into a hoary-headed old man and 
went to the house of Quetzalcbatl when sick, and demanded 
to see the sick man. He gave him a draught, which worked 
its spell to induce Quetzalcoatl to leave his pontifical throne 

« Short, 269-71 ; I Prescott, 5S-60. » 5 Bancroft, 261. 


and palace and become a wanderer. In Cholula he found a 
resting-place for twenty years, and yet after that lapse of time 
the magic spell was still upon him, and again he left his work 
of civilizing to flee from the dread sorcerer's charm. 

Tezcatlipoca, though a magician and of the religious order, 
allied himself to the civil power in the following manner. He 
disguised himself, and, while selling green peppers in the 
market-place of Tulla, the only daughter of the temporal lord 
of the Toltecs saw him by chance from the palace-windows, 
and was smitten with love for the disguised god. She sickened 
and languished with love for the handsome pepper- vender. He 
was brought into the palace, went in to the princess and remained 
with her, and she became well. Innumerable acts of sorcery 
did he now perform, many of them in punishment of the Tol- 
tecs for their hostility to him. He at last won his way to the 
control of the civil and religious affairs, and the Mexicans were 
subdued into submission to the most bloody religious worship 
ever established on the face of the earth. In the midst of their 
progress in the arts of civilized life, a cessation of progress in 
religious life took place. The retreating figure of Quetzalcoatl 
would have shuddered to look back and see the dark pall that 
the great sorcerer was hanging around his redeemed land. 
Although so many supernatural acts are ascribed to Tezcatli- 
poca, yet he was undoubtedly a culture-hero and the founder 
of Tezcuco. His father was king of Tulla probably about 752 
A.D., and it was undoubtedly after his death that Tezcatlipoca 
strove for the supremacy at Tulla, appearing there with many 
metamorphoses. Quetzalcoatl, according to that eminent an- 
thropologist, Mr. Waitz, was originally a man, a priest in Tulla, 
who arose as a religious reformer among the Toltecs, but was 
expelled by the adherents of Tezcatlipoca, who had been, 
according to Francis of Bologna, a great prince. They made 
an image of him and worshipped it. 

Apotheosis of monarchs among the Mexicans was a natural 
consequence of their earthly autocracy. From the moment 
of his coronation the Aztec sovereign lived in an atmosphere 


of adulation unknown to the mightiest potentate of the Old 
World. Reverenced as a god, the haughtiest nobles — sov- 
ereigns in their own provinces — humbled themselves before 
him. Absolute in power, the fate of thousands depended upon 
a gesture.* 

In his coronation oath he promised to make the sun shine, 
the clouds give rain, the rivers flow, and the earth bring forth 
fruit in abundance. ' 

We will next notice the goddess Citlalicue, to whom women 
prayed. She had many children in the upper world, but finally 
brought forth a flint knife which was thrown to the earth, and 
from it sprang sixteen hundred heroes. Xolotl, who was one 
of these heroes, went to the regions of Mictlanteuctli, the 
Mexican Pluto, and got a bone of a dead man, that he might 
create a new race of men in place of those destroyed in one of 
their traditionary destructions. The god of the dead pur- 
sued him when he discovered the theft. Xolotl stumbled in 
his flight and broke the bone, but escaped with it. When 
sprinkled with the blood of the heroes, the bone became a 
male and female.^ 

This Promethean legend of the Mexicans is repeated with 
different incidents throughout American mythology. 

Centeotl, goddess of corn, had five temples in Mexico. Next 
to Quetzalcoatl, this goddess was the most beneficent in the 
Mexican pantheon. She elicited the love of her worshippers. 
There were no human sacrifices to her, but she was contented 
with the sacrifice of doves, quails, and leverets, which they 
offered in great numbers. They looked to her for deliverance 
from the cruel slavery they were under to the other gods. 
Mictlanteuctli, god of the under-world, was supposed to dwell 
in a place of great darkness, in the bowels of the earth. Sac- 
rifices were always made to him at night, and his priests were 
painted a black color. Both Centeotl and Mictlanteuctli were 
represented in human form. 

' 2 Bancroft, 143-44. * 2 ib., 146. 3 i Clavigero, 245-46. 


Mixcoatl, goddess of hunting, was the principal deity of the 
Otomies, who were a tribe of hunters. She had two temples, 
however, in Mexico, where wild animals were sacrificed to her. 
She was the Diana of the Mexican pantheon, and represented 
a hunter condition. There appears to have been another deity 
bearing this name, — ^and a male. He seems to have been god 
of thunder. He was represented with a bundle of arrows in 
his hand. He was the principal deity of the ancient Chiche- 
mecs, but held in high honor by the Nahuas, Nicaraguans, 
and Otomies. He rode upon the tropical tornado, and was 
lord of the lightning. He is probably identical with Ca- 
maxtli. It is not uncommon, where adoption of tribal gods 
takes place, to change their profession without changing their 
name. Thus, the god of hunting, olf a tribe of hunters, if estab- 
lished in the pantheon of a tribe whose pursuits are not the 
chase, will be assigned to other duties, and the whole form of 
worship gradually changed. One of the ceremonies of this 
god, however, observed by the Mexicans, was a great hunt in 
the fourteenth month, when the celebrants wended their way to 
a mountain-slope, and drove deer, rabbits, hares, coyotes, and 
other game together and began their slaughter in honor of 
this hunting god. A portion of the game was sacrificed to the 
god. Later in the month, human sacrifices were made by the 
Mexicans; but I think this was a late introduction by the ad- 
vocates of a bloody ritual, and after sacrifice had reached its 
greatest height of enormity. Another fact has some bearing 
upon this subject. The sacrifices of this hunting god appear 
to have been synchronous with those of the gods Tlamatzincatl 
and Yzquitecatl, and their ceremonies conducted together; and, 
since human sacrifices were offered to these two deities, they 
would eventually be introduced into the worship of the hunting 

Opochtli was god of fishing. He was believed to be the 
inventor of nets and other instruments of fishing. His image 
was like a man. The sacrifices to him were pulque, smoking- 
canes, and other vegetable substances. No human sacrifices 


are mentioned, and therefore no departure from the primitive 

Texcatzoncatl was god of wine. This Aztec Dionysus had 
companion deities, who as a class bore the remarkable name of 
** the four hundred rabbits." This, taken in connection with 
the fact that four hundred priests officiated in the temple of this 
god, would point to a time when a family bearing the totemic 
name of the rabbit had consecrated themselves to the worship 
of an ancestor, and had gradually grown into a priestly caste, 
maintaining the worship of their god among many other 
rival deities. Upon the head of the image of this god was a 
vessel for the reception of wine, which was ceremoniously 
poured into it* 

Ixtlilton was a god of physic, who cured sick children. He 
was represented by a living man decorated with certain vest- 
ments. His temple was a temporary structure of painted boards, 
in which were kept many jars containing a fluid like black 
water, which was given the sick child to drink. This is a re- 
markable piece of imposture, which was only possible among 
a people all of whose religious conceptions of a deity were 
colored by anthropomorphism. Here we see a man assume 
the functions of a deity, with a priesthood attached to his 
service, whose blessing was supposed to impart curative power 
to a useless decoction. The same god appears to have been 
? used for the detection of crime; for when a feast was given to 
him by a private person, he would come to the house of the 
feast-giver with music, and preceded by the smoke of copal in- 
cense, and after feasting he would examine a jar containing the 
black water above mentioned, and if a piece of straw, or a hair, 
or any dirt was found therein, it was a sign that the giver of 
the feast was a thief, or adulterer, or doer of some kind of evil, 
and he was confronted with the charge accordingly.^ This god 
appears to be a personification of primitive sorcery surviving 
in a higher civilization. 

« I Clavigero, 256; 3 Bancroft, 410. « 3 Bancroft, 418. 

3 I Clavigero, 257 ; 3 Bancroft, 409-10. 


Tlazolteotl was the goddess of sensual pleasure. The Mexi- 
cans invoked her to free them from the disgrace following the 
exposure of illicit love. Her principal devotees were lustful 
men and courtesans. She does not, however, bear the wholly 
depraved character of her votaries, for the Mexicans never 
attributed to their gods those shameful irregularities which the 
Greeks and Romans imputed to theirs.* She had no very- 
prominent place in the minds of the people. Her mythical 
home was in a pleasant plain, watered by innumerable foun- 
tains, where she passed her time in the midst of delights 
and ministered to by a host of inferior deities. No man was 
able to approach her, but she had in her service a crowd of 
dwarfs, buffoons, and hunchbacks, who diverted her with their 
songs and dances and acted as messengers to such gods as 
she fancied. So beautiful was she, no woman in the world 
could equal her. The garden of her palace was filled with 
flowers, the touch of any one of which would make one love 
to the end and love faithfully. She would not allow that any 
man could resist her temptations. Yappan, the Simeon Sty- 
lites of the New World, retired to a great stone in the desert, 
and there dedicated his life to penitential acts. No spot could 
be found in the austere, continent life of the anchorite, and 
the many women sent by the gods to tempt him to pleas- 
ure were repulsed and baffled. The chaste victories of the 
lonely saint were applauded in the upper world, and he was 
about to be transformed into the higher life. Then it was that 
Tlazolteotl felt herself slighted, and, wrathful, contemptuous, 
rose in her evil beauty and descended to earth. That day her 
singing dwarfs were silent, her messengers undisturbed by her 
behests, and away into the desert she sped, fairer than eye can 
conceive, and advancing toward the lean, penance-withered 
man on his sacred height, her sweet voice sent a thrill through 
his mortified flesh. " She had come to comfort him," she said, 
and down from the rock he came, and helped the goddess 

' I Clavigero, 257. 


ascend, and, alas ! in a cloud of shame the chaste light of Yap- 
pan went out forever. Tlazolteotl, flushed with victory, left the 
poor recluse humbled on his deserted rock, all his nights and 
days of fasting gone for naught He was transformed into a 


scorpion, and crawls in and out from under the stone on which 
he had his abode/ 

Xipe was the god of the goldsmiths. Those who neglected 
his worship would be afflicted with sores and itch. He appears 
to have had his origin in Jalisco, and was especially honored 
on the sea-shore. His image was of the human form. Human 
sacrifices disgraced his altars. Those who stole gold or jewels 
were always offered, and often prisoners of war were sacrificed 
to him. The hearts of the victims were placed in the mouth 
of the idol with a golden spoon. Napatuctli was god of the 
mat-makers and workers in water-flags and rushes. His idol 
wore a black and white skirt adorned with little sea-shells. He 
was a beneficent deity, and was known as " he that was large 
and liberal." His image was that of a man. He had two tem- 
ples in Mexico.^ 

Omacate was the god of mirth. His image, which was that 
of a man, was brought to, and presided at, the banquets. If this 
was neglected, this god would mix hairs with the food of the 
guests, and this was a great disgrace.^ 

Mexitli, often called Huitzilopochtli, was god of war and the 
principal deity of the city of Mexico. He was immaculately 
conceived by a woman called Coatlicue, and born with a shield 
in his hand and a crest of feathers on his head. Coatlicue was 
a very pious woman, and spent much of her time in the temple. 
One day when walking in the temple she beheld descending 
in the air a ball made of feathers, which she seized and kept in 
her bosom. The ball disappeared, and Mexitli was the result. 
Mexitli's first act was to kill his brothers and sister, who had 
conspired to destroy their mother on account of her supposed 

" 3 Bancroft, 377-79- ' ' Clavigero, 257 ; 3 Bancroft, 417. 

3 I Qavigero, 258 ; 3 Bancroft, 408. 


fall from virtue. His early life inspired mankind with terror. 
He became the leader of his people, conducted them for many 
years in their great migration, and settled them finally where 
the great city of Mexico was built. He was the founder of 
that city, in which was built for his worship the superb temple 
so admired by the Spaniards/ Like all primitive heroes, he 
was supposed to be gifted with miraculous power, and his birth 
and death were surrounded with mystery. An incarnation 
accounted for his birth, and an apotheosis rewarded his life. 
Pinailton, who was Mexitli's war-lieutenant, came in for a 
share of worship, and was appealed to on all sudden occasions 
when the delay of formality kept them from the presence of 
Mexitli. Coatlicue, his mother, was goddess of flowers and 
patron saint of the flower-dealers, who were numerous in Mex- 
ico. She had a festival in the spring, when the flower-dealers 
presented her with beautiful braids of flowers." 

Toci was goddess of medicinal herbs. She was called " our 
ancestor," or " grandmother." At her religious ceremonies she 
was represented by a woman, who was then sacrificed to her. 
This representative was treated with all the reverence due a 

The goddess Xilonen seems to be connected with agricul- 
ture and the vegetable world, as well as Centeotl and Toci. 
She is represented by a woman who was to be offered to her 
in sacrifice during her religious ceremonies. A peculiarity 
connected with the human sacrifice in the case of these 
agricultural gods appears to be the flaying of the victim, 
whose skin is torn off" and worn by the priests for a time. It 
would appear to represent the tearing off* of the husk or out- 
side covering of the corn and other vegetable substances used 
by the people. 

The goddess Chalchihuitlicue had power over the waters of 
the sea and rivers, to drown those who went down to them. 
She raised tempests and caused boats to founder. In her left 

* 1 Clavigero, 254-55. » i ib., 257. 3 3 Bancroft, 356-58. 


hand she held the leaf of the white water-lily ; in her right a 
boat in the shape of a cross. In her honor were celebrated the 
ceremonies of the lustration of children. Two of these bap- 
tisms were practised on every infant, — one immediately after 
birth, when prayer was offered to this goddess of waters to 
purge the infant of the vices inherited from its father and 
mother. " All spot and defilement let the water carry away," said 
the celebrant of this ceremony, who then immersed the child. 
The second baptism took place about five days thereafter, at 
some time considered propitious by the diviner. The cere- 
mony in its formal part was nearly similar to the first, but it 
had more of a spiritual significance. The first was a practical 
act, where washing the body of the newly-born babe was an 
essential feature. The second was more of a typical cleansing 
of the spirit and a dedication to the goddess of water. The 
last baptism was not an immersion. It was accompanied with 
the ceremony of naming the child. 

Tlaloc was the god of rain and the fertilizer of the earth. He 
resided where the clouds gather on the highest mountain-tops. 
He had many attendant deities passing under the same name. 
He had only one eye. They prayed and sacrificed to him for 
rain. He received a very large share of the ceremonial worship 
of the Mexicans. Xinhtecutli was the god of fire. Upon the 
back of the image of this god was a dragon's head. This form 
of representation of the gods is familiar to us in the art of 
Nicaragua and other neighboring regions. Human sacrifices 
and an elaborate ceremonial worship were given this god. 
Teoyaomique was a goddess who collected the souls of those 
who died in war. She was represented in an image as hold- 
ing her head in her hands, while two snakes issued from the 
neck where the head should have been.^ Jacateuctli was god 
of merchants. He was represented as a man walking with a 
staff. The Mexicans also had a god of the tennis-court, as 
Herrera calls it, or a patron deity of the ball-play. His priest 

* 3 Bancroft, 400. 


blessed the ball-ground before the game began. The winner 
of the game sacrificed to this god/ 

In Michoacan the goddess Xaratanga occupied the first place 
in the affections of the Terascos, although she transformed 
their princes into snakes because they appeared drunk at her 
festivals. Her name is associated with the downfall of the 
native dynasty. She was evidently a historic character. She 
assumed at last a secondary place, because Curicaneri was ex- 
alted over her by the Chichemec rulers of the country. Mano- 
vapa, the son of Xaratanga, was worshipped, as was also 
Teras, from whom the Terascos took their name and were 
descended. Surites, a high-priest who preached morality and 
was considered an inspired prophet, also had a share of their 

The Chiapenec pantheon had twenty gods, all of whom were 
heroes, ancestors, or first rulers of the people inhabiting 
Chiapas. Imox appears to have been the first settler of this 
country, and was worshipped. Costahuntox was another of 
their gods, who is represented with ram's horns on his head. 
Chimax was a great military leader, and, although captured 
and burned by enemies, he was apotheosized. Been appears to 
have been god of travellers. Among the other gods, Igh, Chanan, 
Yabalan, Tox, Moxic, Lambat, Molo, Elab, Evob, Hix, Chabin, 
Chic, Cahoh, and Aghul appear to have had little related of 
them, but were human beings elevated to the position of deities. 

Votan is a mythical character who appears to have been one 
of the earliest culture-heroes of the Mayas of Yucatan ; but 
some authorities make him the descendant of Imox. He de- 
scribes himself in his book on the origin of the race as being 
a snake. Votan founded the great city of Palenque, the 
metropolis of a mighty kingdom, and one of the cradles of 
American civilization. It is a curious fact that a tribe of 
natives called the Snakes was found near Palenque and in the 
neighborhood where Votan's life was spent. The name of 

« 2 Herrera, 341. " 3 Bancroft, 445-46. 


Snake, which he has given himself, was undoubtedly his 
totemic or family name. Votan was apotheosized. Ah-Hulneb, 
named the chief archer on account of his exploits before death, 
received after death divine honors in the island of Cozumel, 
whither he had probably carried the Maya civilization. After 
his death his tomb became an object of veneration, and a temple 
was built on his royal sepulchre. The island was named after 
his successor, who also had a sumptuous temple there, in 
which he was represented in the form of a swallow. Within 
the temple of Ah-Hulneb a gigantic terra-cotta statue of him 
was placed, where he appeared dressed as a warrior and hold- 
ing an arrow in his hand. This statue was hollow, and placed 
close to the wall, so that a priest could speak through it. So 
famous did this oracle become, and so great was the multitude 
of pilgrims flocking thither, that it was found necessary to 
construct roads to it from all the chief cities of Yucatan, 
Tabasco, and Guatemala. Zacal-Bacab, Caual-Bacab, Chacal- 
Bacab, and Ekel-Bacab were gods of the air, and were an- 
thropomorphic* The deities of the Mayas of Yucatan, says 
Lizana, were their good kings, whom gratitude or fear had 
made them place among the gods. Hunabku, who was the 
father of Zamna, their great culture-hero, appears to stand at 
the head of the Maya pantheon in point of time, and his spouse, 
Ixazalvoh, who was the inventor of weaving, was also apo- 
theosized. The principal god or culture-hero of the Mayas 
of Yucatan was Zamna, who was an early lawgiver and civil- 
izer. He invented the Maya hieroglyphic art. He was founder 
of the royal house. He died at an advanced age, and was buried 
at Izamal, where a sacred temple was erected in his honor. It 
was a favorite shrine for Yucatec pilgrims, especially those who 
were diseased. Prayer and presents offered to Zamna were sup- 
posed to bring cures. He was said to have raised the dead.^ 

Of all the apotheosized heroes of Yucatan, Kinich Kakmo 
was the most remarkable. Son of the sun, he dedicated to 

* 3 Bancroft, 466. » 5 ib., 618 ; 3 ib., 464. 


that luminary a magnificent temple in the village of Izamal. 
He became personified in the sun.* 

Pizlimtec, an ancient priest, was deified under the name of 
Ahkin-Xooc. Ahkin means magician. He undoubtedly at- 
tained his distinction through the practice of sorcery. He was 
also god of poetry and music."* 

Izona, who appears [to have been called the father of men, 
and was probably an early historical character, was an object 
of their worship. He had a son Bacab, who attained divine 
honors. He was divinely begotten; for, according to the 
traditions, he was born of a virgin Chibirias, who was the 
daughter of Ixchel, the Yucatec medicine-goddess.^ Echua 
was the patron god of merchants and travellers. To him 
travellers erected every night an altar and burned incense 
thereon.* Cuculcan, the founder of Mayapan, has been con- 
sidered identical with Quetzalcoatl. Although this identity 
has not been established, yet there is some probability of it. 
Many of the followers of Cuculcan were deified, two of whom 
became gods of fishes, two of farms, and one of thunder. 
They wore full beards, says the account of them, showing 
their anthropomorphic character.* Chilam Cambal was their 
god of strength, says Ayeta ; Citboluntum was god of health, 
and Xuchitun of song. There can be no doubt that all of these 
gods of the Mayas were deified men. All their kings and 
heroes, for whom they had gratitude or fear, were apotheo- 

Another Maya divinity, by the name of Hunpictoc, had a 
temple toward the southwest from Izamal. This name was 
the title of one of the chiefs of the nobility, to whom were con- 
fided the safety of the king and the security of the temples. 
This was the most respectable position under the prince, and 
his eminent services were probably rewarded with an apotheosis.^ 

« 2 Brasseur, Hist. Mex., 5. "2 ib., 11. 33 Bancroft, 462. 

^ Cogolludo, bk. 10, ch. 8. 53 Bancroft, 465. 

* Cogulludo, 198. 7 2 Brasseur, 47. 


His name signifies " commander of eight thousand lances.^ 
Yucemil was god of death. Food was sacrificed to him. If 
he became hungry, human beings were his victims. Baklun 
Cham was the Maya Priapus, and was worshipped in a magnifi- 
cent temple at Merida. Chac was god of agriculture. Abchuy- 
Kak was another apotheosized warrior. He became god of war, 
and his statue was borne in the van of the army by four of the 
most illustrious captains, and received an ovation all along the 
route. Yxchebelyax was god of painting and writing.* Xibalba 
was the god of evil, or the devil of their religion. Ayeta gives 
the name of Multimtizec to this god, and the change of this 
name to Xibalba was probably brought about by their hostile 
connection with the rising Xibalban empire, hereafter noticed. 
Most of the Maya gods have evidently gained their celebrity as 
historical characters. Very little is told of most of them, but 
their anthropomorphic character is unquestionable. 

The Mijes, a Maya nation, surrounded the birth and death of 
their hero Condoy with the mystery preceding an apotheosis. 
A prince of indomitable courage, undertaking great conquests, 
he was defeated, and, with his followers, driven into the moun- 
tain-range of Cempoaltipec. He and his followers were hunted 
down like the beasts of the forests, and would fain have hidden 
themselves in the dens of animals. Condoy, in their traditions, 
had no father or mother, and disappeared as mysteriously as he 
came.* They cherished his memory, and thought he had been 
translated among the gods. 

The deities of the Quiches of Guatemala were apotheosized 
men. Hun Hun Ahpu and Vukab Hunahpu are historical 
characters who figure extensively in Quiche traditions. These 
two culture-heroes appear to have gotten into difficulty with 
the princes of Xibalba, and were beheaded. This tradition 
shows their anthropomorphic character. The head of Hun 
Hun Ahpu was placed between the withered branches of a 
calabash-tree, whereupon the tree became immediately laden 

' 3 Bancroft, 466-67. " 3 Brasseur, 48-49. 


with fruit, and the head turned into a calabash. The tree was 
thenceforth held sacred, and it was sacrilege to touch it. A 
princess, however, disobeys the injunction, becomes pregnant, 
and brings forth two sons, named Xbalanque and Hun Ahpu,' 
who after many adventures overthrow the Xibalban princes, 
and apotheosize Hun Hun Ahpu, whom they recognize as their 
father by the mystery of an incarnation. Zipacna and Cabraken 
were Herculean princes of the royal house of Xibalba at the 
time of the struggle that ensued, and for their heroism had 
godlike honors in their mythology. The primitive condition 
of this early Xibalban monarchy is shown in the traditions. 
Vucub Cakix, the monarch, was shot by Hun Ahpu and 
Xbalanque while eating fruit in a tree-top. Zipacna, his son, 
who carried mountains on his shoulders, had to be destroyed 
by craft. He lived on crabs. Hun Ahpu and Xbalanque made 
an artificial crab, which he followed into the cave of a moun- 
tain which had been previously mined by them. The moun- 
tain fell on him and crushed him. Thus ended the Hercules 
of their mythology. Cabraken was poisoned, and, when the 
strength had gone out of him, tied and buried alive.' Thus 
ended the dynasty of Vucub Cakix. Monarchs that climbed 
trees, and princes that crawled on the earth after crabs, were sup- 
planted by Hun Ahpu and Xbalanque, the young agriculturists, 
whose enchanted tools worked of themselves while they were 
away on the mountain-side hunting deer. The dawn of agri- 
culture hadbegun before the hunting life had closed. While 
the Quiche-Cakchichel empire was in process of formation, a 
great rivalry arose, as should be expected, between the gods 
of the respective branches. The great ancestors of the Quiche 
branch appear to have been rejected by a portion of the nation, 
who favored the introduction of the new gods Tohil Avilix and 
Hacavitz. Tohil appears to have been the creator of fire, and 
probably represented an era of progress. As a condition of 
granting the privilege of this great discovery to others, he in- 

» 3 Bancroft, 479-80. ' 5 ib., 172-73. 


sists upon an agreement to worship him. Tohil appears in 
then- early history as the leader of a great migration. His fol- 
lowers on their way are much annoyed, according to tradition, 
by the attacks of wild animals, meaning undoubtedly wild 
tribes inhabiting the regions through which they passed. 
Balam Quitze, who appears to have been high-priest of the 
migrating tribe, and his companions, brought these wild beasts 
and offered them before Tohil, Avilix, and Hacavitz. This 
introduction of human sacrifice enraged the tribes of the in- 
vaded country. At last great hostility to Balam Quitze and 
his companions was aroused in the mountain-tribes, who found 
it hard, however, to track the invaders on the fog-enveloped 
summits of the Guatemalan heights. The followers of Balam 
Quitze found it equally difficult to overcome the tribes that 
were arrayed in hostility against them. It was at last agreed 
to submit the new gods, Tohil, Avilix, and Hacavitz, to an 
ordeal, and if they proved to be the great and worthy gods they 
were represented, then there would be a submission to them. 
A strange plot was entered into to test their virtue, for two 
beautiful virgins were sent to wash linen in the stream where 
Tohil, Avilix, and Hacavitz were bathing in the form of young 
men. They were subjected to the great temptation, but they 
maintained their godlike dignity and virtue. They were the 
representatives of a higher morality and a progressive civiliza- 
tion. At last the great priest Balam Quitze prepared to die, 
after all the tribes were subjected and the Quiche empire es- 
tablished. He had been a faithful priest and leader. The tra- 
ditions say that he disappeared suddenly and mysteriously.*. 

Tohil, the principal god of the Quiches of Guaikemala, ap- 
pears to have been the discoverer of fire. This fire he produced 
by stamping with his sandal. Tohil was a great leader of the 
people at a period in their history when under him they went 
forth fi-om their native land. They endured much hardship. 
A sea, however, parted for their passage, and water miraculously 

' 5 Bancroft, 548-52. 


favored them in their migrations, as it has done in the traditions 
of almost all other peoples. It does not require much investi- 
gation to detect apotheosized men in the Quiche gods Tohil, 
Avilix, and Hacavitz. They were ancestral gods who were 
once men, and from whom the Quiches claim to have sprung. 
Other gods of Guatemala are Xchmel, Xtmana, and Gucumatz, 
who is identical probably with Quetzalcoatl, who, it will be re- 
membered, when exiled sought refuge among other peoples. 

The Chahalka were Guatemalan household gods, who pre- 
sided over houses. When they built a house they dedicated 
the central part to these go<ds, and kept a place of sacrifice to 
them. They prayed to them that good fortune should &vor 
the house.^ They are identical with the spirits of their dead 
relatives,' and a survival of house-burial. Incense was burned 
and sacrifices made to these ancestral deities. 

Pezelao appears to have been the principal god of the Za- 
potecs. He was their god of the dead and lord of the sacred 
places of Yopaa.3 

The spiritual pontiff of Yopaa was looked upon as a god by 
the Zapotecs, whom the earth was unworthy to hold, or the sun 
to shine upon. No one dared look upon him, but all fell with 
their faces to the ground. The most powerful lords never 
entered his presence without bare feet* Pitao Peeci, another 
of their gods, presided over auguries and divination,* and was 
undoubtedly an ancient high-priest. Pitao Pecala inspired their 
dreams. Cociyo was the rain god, and gave or withheld the 
showers as he pleased.^ Wichaana was god of fish, and was 
thojught to be their creator. The earliest ancestor remembered 
by a people is usually elevated to this position. PiltzinteoUi, 
the child-god, a representation of whose youthful form was 
reared in several places in Jalisco, had offerings of the choicest 
fruit and flowers.^ In Oajaca,as might be expected of a people 

» Ximenez, 188. "3 Bancroft, 481. 

3 3 Brasseur, 26. * 2 Bancroft, 142-43. 

5 2 ib., 27. • 2 ib., 27. 

7 3 ib., 444-47« 


who regarded living kings and priests with adoration, apothe- 
osis was common. Petela, an ancient Zapotec cacique, was 
worshipped in the cavern of Coatlan. At one end of this 
subterranean temple a yawning abyss received the foaming 
waters of a mountain-torrent, and into this were thrown 
human sacrifices, gayly dressed and adorned with flowers, 
Pinopia, a saintly princess of Zapotecapan, was worshipped in 
another place. Her corpse had been miraculously conveyed 
to heaven.^ Wixepecocha, a reformer and prophet of the 
Zapotecs, was worshipped. A statue of this god was found 
near Tehuantepec* 

The principal goddess of the natives of the province of Cer- 
quin, in Honduras, was Comizagual,a woman who came among 
them from other parts, according to tradition. She was skilled 
in the art of magic, and came into their province flying through 
the air. She had three sons without being married, and, ac- 
cording to the usual traditions in such case^, without knowing 
man. After ruling with equity, she was translated in the fol- 
lowing manner : she ordered her bed brought out of the house, 
when there came a great flash of lightning with thunder, and 
Comizagual was never seen more.3 

Oviedo says the Nicaraguans knew nothing of the "One 
Creator." The anthropomorphic character of their creators is 
evident from what Oviedo tells us of Tamagostad and Zipal- 
tonal. These Nicaraguan creators were a man and woman, 
from whom the Indians claimed descent. They asserted, with 
the greatest assurance, that their ancestors were the greatest 
gods. In their description of them they gave them the same 
color as the Indians, and said they ate the same things/ Since 
they were themselves anthropophagi, they said their gods 
delighted in human flesh.s 

Nezahualcoyotl, king of Acolhuacan, in popular belief was 

« 3 Bancroft, 457. » 4 ib., 372. 

3 4 Herrera, 137. 4 Oviedo, 19-26. 

s lb., 61. 


placed among the gods, even though he died after the Spanish 
inroad ; but the age of apotheosis was about closing. 

The most prominent personage in the Isthmian pantheon 
was Dabaiba. She is described as a native princess whose 
reign was marked by great wisdom and many miracles, and 
who was apotheosized after, her death. She was said to control 
the thunder and lightning, and to bring showers or produce 
drought as she pleased.* 

Xolotl was the leader of the first Chichemec invasion." He 
was deified. Wanacace was another of their gods, and an- 
cestor of the branch of the Chichemecs called Wanacaces. 
Hereti was also one of their primitive heroes, who became a 
patron saint.3 

The worship of great national gods did not supplant the 
worship of family gods, but supplemented it, as in the case of 
the classical nations of antiquity. Thus often we find the hus- 
band worshipping his family god and the wife hers. Thus, 
Iri Ticatame, in departing from his capital, took his god Curi- 
caneri with him, while his wife took her god Nasoricuare 
wrapped up in a rich cloth.* She was no more willing to 
desert her family god than was Rachel to leave behind her the 
idols of her father Laban. 

Bochica was the leading mythical character in Bogota. He 
had the fabulous age of two thousand years ascribed to him, 
and this time was all employed in elevating his subjects. The 
Chibchas apotheosized Bochica as the founder of their laws and 
institutions. Bochica lives in the sun, and has the privilege of 
standing at the head of their pantheon. His wife Chia was 
deified with him, and occupies the moon. The powerful Toma- 
gata, one of their oldest caciques, was deified.^ Another of 
their deities was Bachue, a beautiful female, from whom they 
descended. She after a period of time disappeared by meta- 
morphosis ; but statues of gold and wood are still to be seen 

' 3 Bancroft, 498. * Ixtliltxochitl, ire partie, 29. 

3 3 Brasseur, 80. ^ 5 Bancroft, 512. 

5 Bollaert, 48. 


representing her. Their patron deity was Chibchacum, although 
his power was not so great as that of Bochica. Chibchacum 
in an angry mood brought a deluge on the people of the table- 
land. Bochica punished him severely for this act, and obliged 
him thenceforth to bear the burden of the earth. He was the 
Atlas of the New World. He had not arisen above subjection 
to fatigue, for he occasionally shifted the earth from one shoulder 
to another, and he sometimes did this so carelessly that severe 
earthquakes were produced. Neucatocoa was the god of revelry 
and drunkenness, and was the Bacchus of the Chibchas. He 
appears to be the only one not bearing a strictly anthropomor- 
phic character. He is represented as a bear covered with a 
mantle. Sorro was the god who had charge of the boundaries 
of their fields.' 

Gacheta is a famous virgin who conceived and brought forth 
Garanchaca, a famous chief who ruled over them. She de- 
clared the sun to be the father of her boy. This is another 
case of immaculate conception. 

Xue, a great benefactor of his people, has received a place 
in their pantheon. He appears to have been a great preacher 
to whom large concourses of people repaired for instruction. 
He also taught them to spin and weave.' 

The Muyscas of Bogota had a god named Queteba, who 
fashioned the surface of the earth as it now is. With a single 
blow he opened a cliff in the Andes, through which flows the 
river Funha.3 

The historical deities were those which initiated men into 
social life and were founders of civil or religious institutions. 
Although the worship of spirits which was so prevalent among 
all the uncivilized tribes still survived among the more civilized 
nations, yet the worship of culture-heroes was peculiarly dis- 
tinctive of the latter. The chief of these deified men in the 
Peruvian history was Viracocha, who more than once appeared 
in human form to the Inca of the same name, saying he was the 

' Bollaert, 12-13. " I^** 21-22. 3 Brinton^s Relig. Sent., 240. 


brother of Manco Capac. The Inca ordered a magnificent tem- 
ple to be constructed to this apparition. In the temple stood a 
statue of the deity as he appeared to the Inca, in which he was 
represented as a man with a beard. Viracocha was of large 
stature, and his power so great that he brought down the moun- 
tains, raised the valleys, and made water spring from the rocks. 
He taught the people to love one another. They formed idols in 
his likeness and reared temples to his glory. He passed toward 
the north, but their legends appear to confirm his reappearance 
some time after on a different mission. He now healed the sick 
and gave sight to the blind, but after having been subjected to 
persecution he went to the sea-shore and spread his mantle 
upon its waves, went away, and has never been seen since.' 

Another culture-hero is Ayarache, who founded Pacaritambo. 
He was so strong he could throw down the hills. He appears 
to have used a sling. Ayarache was at last enticed into a cave 
by his two brothers, who immediately stopped up the mouth 
of it with stones. In his efforts to get out, many mountains 
and high hills fell down upon him, and thus ended Ayarache.* 
His two brothers, Aranca and Ayarmango, erected the town 
of Tamboquiro, and appear to have been sorcerers. Although 
they had dealt so treacherously with their brother, they pre- 
tended to commune with him and obey his directions, given 
from time to time. Aranca was at last turned into a stone, but 
Ayarmango founded the city of Cuzco, and was known there- 
after as Manco Capac.^ He deified his two brothers.* 

All the Incas after death enjoyed deification, and their apothe- 
osis began in life. The Peruvians also adored heroes in some 
of the provinces, which worship prevailed before the conquest 
of the Incas. In the ancient town of Huahualla they sacrificed 
to the mummies of Caxaparca and his son Huaratanga, both 
dressed in the garb of warriors.^ In Quichumarca they wor- 
shipped Huari and his two brothers. Apuyurac was wor- 

« 4 Herrera, 285. " 4 ib., 286. 3 4 ib., 287-89. 4 4 ib., 290. 

s Rivero and Tschudi, Ant., 163-66. 


shipped in the town of Hupa, and also his son in the town of 
Tamor. The race of Sopac worshipped Apri-Xillin and his 
son Huayna. In the valley of Janja, Huarivilca was worshipped, 
and a sumptuous temple constructed to him. The family deities 
were generally the entire bodies of their ancestors, so arranged 
in the tombs that they could see them and offer them sacrifices/ 
The natives of Quito adored Pacha and Eacha, who were gods, 
but had formerly been heroes.' 

This cursory examination of the pantheons of the more civ- 
ilized nations has been made for the purpose of showing that 
their gods were historical characters and their worship was the 
worship of human spirits. 

I will now notice the worship of idols, as it is closely con- 
nected with the subject of the worship of human spirits. Idolatry 
in its lowest form, and its development under higher conditions 
of civilization, can be advantageously studied among the native 
races of America. Conspicuous by its absence among many 
of the lower tribes, image-worship comes plainly into view 
among those in the upper levels of savagery. The Mandans 
howled and whined and made their prayers before puppets of 
grass and skins. The Virginians had idols with temples set 
apart for them, and a priesthood. To supply the" demand of 
the natives of the West India Islands for idols, one island near 
Hayti had a population of idol-makers. In Mexico, idolatry 
attained its full development. In the higher culture of Peru, 
the idols of conquered provinces were carried, half trophies, 
half hostages, to Cuzco. to rank among the inferior deities of 
the Peruvian pantheon, while the nobility of the empire were ad- 
vancing one step higher to the worship of the heavenly bodies.3 

Mr. Spencer thinks the savage may have been prepared to 
suspect animation in inanimate things by discovering plants 
and animals embedded in rock. I am persuaded that idolatry 
owes its origin to the belief that disembodied spirits are every- 
where present, ready to transmigrate into inanimate objects, 

« Rivero and Tschudi, Ant., 169-70. • Bollaert, 84. 3 2Tylor, 172-73. 


and that they will enter readily any image that bears any re- 
semblance to the body formerly inhabited by that spirit, or 
any image containing any fragment of that former body. The 
more civilized races made images of persons while living, or 
soon after death, and into these were put their ashes or some 
part of their body after death. This they thought insured the 
presence of the spirit in that idol, and the priests strengthened 
the credulity of the people by speaking through these images 
in such a way as to deceive them into the belief that the images 

Among the more primitive peoples a rude idolatry appears. 
When a child dies among the Ojibways they cut some of its 
hair and make a little doll, which they call the doll of sorrow. 
This lifeless object takes the place of the deceased child. This 
the mother carries for a year. She places it near her at the 
fire, and sighs often when gazing on it. She carries it wher- 
ever she goes. They think that the child's spirit has entered 
this bundle and can be helped by its mother. Presents and 
sacrificial gifts are made to it. Toys and useful implements 
are tied to the doll for its use.' 

La Ppterie mentions the same custom among the savages of 
the Canadas. This is the most primitive form of idolatry. 

Among the Northwestern tribes, says McKenny, " I have 
noticed several women here carrying with them rolls of cloth- 
ing. On inquiring what these imported, I learn that they are 
widows, who carry these bundles when their husbands die. 
This bundle is called her husband, and she must never be seen 
without it. If she walks out, she takes it with her. If she 
sits down, she places it by her side. This badge of widow- 
hood she is compelled to carry until some of her husband's 
family takes it away." ^ When presents are given round, this 
bundle, or *' husband," comes in for an equal share, as if living.^ 
A mother, on losing her child, prepares an image of it and 
fixes it in a cradle, and goes through the ceremony of nursing 

^ Kohl's Kitchi-Gami, io8. » McKenny's Tour, 292. 3 lb., 293. 


it for a year.* The Knistenaux, who killed their parents when 
old, always made a bunch of feathers tied with a string into a 
doll-shaped image of them, and treated it with superstitious 

The next step is to make images out of wood or roughly- 
hewn stones which require but little alteration to make them 
into the representation desired. A good many of the tribes of 
British America and the Northern United States made these 
rough idols and worshipped them. 

Among many tribes whose art is still in a rude state, a grave- 
post is roughly hewn into the image of the person over whose 
body it is placed. Mr. McCoy says, " Among the Ottawas we 
often discovered at the heads of their graves a post somewhat 
proportioned to the size of the deceased. When any one visited 
the grave, they rapped on the post with a stick to announce 
their arrival to the ^irit. On the upper end of this post was 
cut a slight resemblance of the human face." The Indians not 
far from Quebec, while the Jesuit priests were among them, 
whenever any one died, cut his portrait and put it on the grave, 
'* anointing and greasing that man of wood as if living," says 
Father Lalamant. Among the Algonkins a post was generally 
placed on the graves of the dead and their portraits carved 
thereon.3 The Alaskans ornamented all their graves with 
carved and painted faces.* This rude form of preserving images 
of the dead represents a primitive form of idolatry, and con- 
nects it with the worship of the dead. 

" Outside of the Indian graves of the Northwest are fre- 
quently found the images of those buried," says Mr. Brown, 
who found three figures carved out of wood placed outside a 
grave. One of the figures represented a man who had a rifle 
over his knee ready to guard the bodies from desecration. The 
figure of a woman was postured as if knitting a mat.5 

■ McKenny's Tour, 293-94. " Brinton, 275. 

3 2 Charlevoix, Journal, 185. ^ Whymper, loi. 

5 I Brown's Races, 109. 



Fic. 4. 

The natives of Chile decorate the graves of their chiefs with 
figures representing the chief and his wives placed around the 
grave. Each figure is cut from a huge log 
of wood ten or twelve feet high. These rude 
figures are carved by professionals, who get 
enormous prices for their work. Sometimes 
as high a price as an ox is given for one of 
these rude figures. No grandee is considered 
buried unless his grave is decorated with these 

In the West Indies the tombs had planks 
over them, some of which bore the likeness 
of the entombed person." 

Fig. 4 illustrates the configuration of the 
grave-post into the likeness of the deceased. 
It is the headstone of a Nicaraguan grave.^ 

Fig. 5 is an image of the son of an Alaskan chief placed over 
the tomb. 

Images of men and women were made 
and placed near the bodies of those de- 
posited in the bone-houses or primitive tem- 
ples of the tribes of the Southern United 
States. " Their temples had rows of statues 
round about them on the four sides, and a 
row of women opposite a row of men. 
These statues were placed opposite the dead 
bodies'* which they were made to represent 
in life.* 

Among the Isthmians the image of a great 
warrior was made at death and carried in 
procession to the place of burial.' 
The same custom prevailed in Peru. The images of the 
dead were made and set up in their tombs and worshipped. 

Fig. 5. 

I 2 Wood's Uncivilized Races, 567 ; Smilh's Araucanians, 309. 

' I Herrera, 366. ' Pirn and German's Doitings, Plale. 

'3 Pican, 113. '3ib., 176. 


All the Incas had this honor conferred on them, and their 
images were carried in the funeral processions, and sacrifices 
made to them.' Fig. 6 is an image of 
one of the Incas, and was an object of 

They also made statues of their chiefs 
during their lives, and these statues, made 
in the likeness of the chief, were served as 
if they had been alive, and villages were 
setapart to provide them with necessaries. 

Among the Mayas, merchants who 
died away from home, or warriors who 
were killed in battle whose bodies could 

not be found, were represented by images which were made of 
them, and these images received all the funeral ceremonies 
which their bodies would have received. If any one was 
drowned and the body lost, they made an image of it, which 
they treated in the same manner. To these images they made 

Among the Mayas of Yucatan images of all those who died 
were made and worshipped.' They cut off the heads of their 
lords and chief men when they died and kept them along with 
their statues. They made wooden statues of their dead parents, 
and left a hollow in the neck where they put in their ashes and 
kept them among their idols.s 

Among those tribes where cremation has supplanted inter- 
ment, a statue of the deceased is made, to contain his ashes or 
to be placed beside the vessel containing them. 

The Mexicans preserved the ashes, hair, and teeth of the 
dead and put them in little boxes, above which was placed a 
wooden figure shaped and adorned like the deceased. 

The Aztec monarchswere cremated, and their ashes, charred 
bones, and hair gathered together in an urn, near which was 
placed a statue of the monarch attired in his royal habiliments.^ 

■ Ji». (I'AcostA, buok 5, chap. 6. '2 Banciofl, 8oa. 

> 5 Herrera, 175. ' 2 Bancrol^ 6tl. 


The Tarascan kings were cremated and their ashes and 
valuables made into a figure which was dressed in royal habili- 
ments, with a mask for its face/ 

The Scyris had in their tombs a hollow figure of the de- 
ceased, within which were placed stones of divers colors and 
shapes, denoting the age and other biographical data of the 
deceased.' These images were objects of worship. 

The Mayas made hollow clay images, or hollow statues of 
wood, in which they placed the ashes of the burned bodies of 
their monarchs. They offered food to these images at their 
festivals. Thus cremation led those peoples practising it to a 
different form of idolatry than that of making and worshipping 
grave-posts that were carved into the image of the deceased. 
Cremation among the more civilized peoples led them to the 
manufacture of hollow images of the dead, capable of holding 
their ashes, or of urns to contain the ashes, near which stood 
the image of the deceased. 

Many of these sepulchral vases, made to hold the ashes of 
the dead, had upon the outside of them a representation of the 
deceased, and then they became the apparent objects of wor- 
ship. On Plate III. we find such a burial-vase of the Mexicans. 
Among all the Nahua nations, offerings of choice viands, wine, 
and flowers were placed before these caskets containing the 
dead.3 The Mayas erected temples over the urns containing 
the ashes of the dead.* The Peruvians placed the ashes of 
Viracocha in a small jar of gold, and offered sacrifices to it* 
The Peruvian cavaliers of royal blood, Curacas,and other mag- 
nates, were deposited in large vases of gold and silver in the 
form of urns, which were found in the meadows and woods.^ 
They worshipped these specimens of pottery. 

One of the most famous Huacas worshipped by several prov- 
inces in Peru was in the form of a large jar surrounded by 
eight other jars. Near it were many small rabbits which had 

» 2 Bancroft, 621. « Bollaert, 88. 3 2 Bancroft, 618. 4 5 Herrera, 175. 
5 Rivero and Tschudi, Per. Ant., Tr. Hiiwks, 166. * lb., 200-1. 




been offered in sacrifice." Many of their conopas, or femily 
gods, were such clay jars, hollow within. Twin children dying 
at an early age were placed in earthen pots and worshipped 
as sacred beings. Thus it will be seen that the worship of 
these hollow clay images or jars is due, not to any special 
reverence for the image itself, but because they were used as 
burial-ums and contained the ashes or some portion of the 
body of the deceased. This subject is well illustrated by Fig. 
7, representing the burial-urn of a Brazilian chief,' 

Fig. 7. 

It is very difficult to determine just how far we might go in 
making the art of the American nations tributary to the elucida- 
tion of their religious history. It is probable that all primitive 
art reflects the religious life of the people, even if religion did 
not originate their art. The first form of art among the Ameri- 
can aborigines, exclusive of the manufacture of their rude im- 
plements, is undoubtedly seen in their ornamentation, which 
was fetichistic, which will be treated under the head of fcti- 

■ Rivero and Tschudi, 16S-69. • Denis, Br«$il, 404. 


chism. The next progressive step was toward idolatry, which 
was followed by elaboration of sepulchral structures culmi- 
nating in temples. " By a superstition indigenous to all lands, 
people without records have left their annals in their graves. 
In the belief that their wants and occupations would be the 
same in the spirit-land as they were here, they had their house- 
hold and personal effects interred with them. We cart scarcely 
regret the prevalence of a delusion which has been the means 
of making us acquainted with the arts and habits of peoples 
of whom otherwise we could have known little." ' 

The pottery found in the tombs is a very large part of it 
fashioned after some object of veneration. Very little of it is 
perfectly plain and free from a quasi-idolatrous shape or picture 
representing some man, animal, or mythological character. A 
Peruvian vase is of special interest on account of the light it 
reflects upon one of the modes by which Peruvians perpetuated 
the features and characters of prominent men. It is a vase bust, 
representing the head of the famous cacique Ruminhauy. The 
features are strongly developed, and with indisputable traits of 
an individual's portrait. These baked clay busts preceded 
marble statuary in the Old World. Thus it will be seen what a 
prominent feature of their religious history their art history be- 
comes. The worship of urns used in urn-burial has of course 
resulted from the association of the urn with the person de- 
posited in it. The same is true of the idols which were made 
to hold the ashes of the dead. The worship is not at first di- 
rected toward the material part of the urn or idol, or even the 
representation it may have upon it of the deceased, but it is 
directed toward the spirit supposed to reside there. In the case 
of the conopas and other images, the theory of the entry of a 
spirit into anything representing natural objects explains the 
apparently unreasonable worship of material things. Many 
mythical characters appear on their vases. 

Gateways to towns were often of idolatrous forms. The 

' Ewbank's Brazil, Appendix. 


monolithic gateway of Tiahuanaco gives us a mythological 
group of representations of condor, tiger, serpent, and sun, sur- 
rounding a central human figure, toward which winged human- 
headed figures are kneeling. It was the custom of pagan nations 
to adorn the gateways of cities and entrances to temples and 
palaces with one or more figures of deities who were the pro- 
tecting genii of the place. A former monarch was often selected 
for this responsible position. Frequently, however, one or more 
persons were buried alive beneath the walls of the gateway, 
that their spirits might be ever present to guard the place. 

The belief in the vitality of idols can be illustrated by many 
curious facts. The inhabitants of Lambayeque, Peru, said they 
came from the north, bringing with them an idol of green stone 
called Llanpallec, which represented their ancient chief. They 
built a temple for this idol at a place called Chot. When they 
attempted to remove this idol from its temple after many gene- 
rations, it became very much enraged and brought on them 
drought and famine. It was somewhat appeased by their 
throwing the chief who had committed this sacrilege into the 

The belief of idolatrous nations in that vitality of images 
which makes them capable of feelings of pain and pleasure, and 
which endows them frequently with a capacity for speech and 
motion, is due to the imposture of priests. The idols of pagan 
nations which have temples and priests attached to them are 
generally hollow and so placed that they can be spoken through 
by priests or others attached to their temples. Thus originated 
the belief in oracles. This imposture of priestcraft was very 
prevalent among many of the American peoples. The Haytian 
idols were hollow, and so large that the priests could speak 
through them and delude the people, who thought the idol 
spoke.* The priests would often get inside of these idols in 
order to practise this imposition. This rendered it necessary 
to make those large idols which were used in the temples of 


» Squier's Peru, 169. * McCuUoh's Ant. Res., 108. 


the more civilized American races. Many of these were found 
in Mexico and Yucatan and the West India islands. In the 
island of Barbadoes an enormous clay idol was found, whose 
head alone weighed sixty pounds." 

The Virginia Indians had an idol in one of their temples 
which the priest moved about before the people and made it 
answer questions. They thought it was alive." 

An idol mentioned by Martyr, which was found in the West 
Indies and was made of wood, was thought by the natives to 
go about by itself. It would hide itself in the woods, and they 
would search a great while to find it, and bring it back.^ 

Says Roman Fane, the natives of Hispaniola had many idols 
which they thought spoke to them, and when food was placed 
before them and left there, and the priests devoured it, the idols 
were thought to have eaten it. He mentions many such cases 
of imposture. " Guamorete, a. man of note, had a cemi (idol) in 
his house, which, when his house was burned by his enemies, 
got up and went a bowshot from the place, near to a water. He 
would come down from on top of the house where he was put 
He had two crowns grow on his head. Another cemi had four 
feet like a dog's, and was made of wood. He would often at 
night go out of the house into the woods, and when brought 
home again and bound with cords, yet he would get away 
into the woods again ; and when the Christians came he broke 
away and went into a morass, where they tracked him, but never 
saw him again. There was another one which they found in a 
ditch. It was a log which appeared to have life in it. Taking 
it out, they built a house to it It went out of that house sev- 
eral times and returned to the place whence they brought it At 
another time they bound and put it in a sack, and yet it went 
away as before." The same author says the Indians will often 
see a log of wood, and through some hallucination will think 
it directs them to make it into an idol, which they immediately 
do. In the valley of Rimac, Peru, there was an idol in the 

» I Edwards's West Indies, 51. "3 Picart, 113. 3 Decades, 47. 


figure of a man, which answered questions and became famous 
as an oracle. Thus idols were supposed to have all the sagacity 
and passions of human beings. 

The Tarascos in their migrations appear to have been led by 
an idol, and their city Izintzuntzan was founded upon a spot 
pointed out by a supposed auspicious omen, for a multitude of 
gorgeous birds congregated in the air above their idol, and 
formed a brilliant canopy for the sacred image.* 

Uxmal is said to have been destroyed through the anger of 
their idols, who were outraged because a new clay god was 
made by a usurper and worshipped by the people." 

This supposed vitality of idols was taught by the priesthood, 
who by this means increased their influence and power. 

In Hispaniola, the Spaniards found a conspiracy between the 
cacique and priesthood to deceive the people. Hearing that a 
certain idol spoke to the people,, the Spaniards were present at 
one of these performances, and they found that the statue was 
hollow, with a hollow tube connecting with it, thrt>ugh which 
the priest spoke to the people. The cacique begged the Span- 
iards not to disclose this to the Indians, because by that artifice 
he kept them in subjection.3 

Among the tribes formerly inhabiting the territory of the 
United States idolatry did not prevail to the same extent as 
it did among the more civilized races. Many rude idols have 
been found, however, which were objects of worship. On the 
Saskatchewan were found four painted posts about five feet 
high. The features of a man were roughly carved on each post 
and smeared with patches of vermilion and green-colored paint 
over the cheeks, nose, and eyebrows. These were the images 
of the dead. "When decorated with fresh paint, feathers, strips 
of leather, and a painted robe of elk, moose, or buffalo-skin, 
these idols inspire the most superstitious awe among the savages, 
who carve and ornament them ; but the awe of many becomes 
terror when these images are illumined by fire at night." ♦ 

« 5 Bancroft, 516. ' 5 ib., 633. 3 l Herrcra, 160. 4 i Hind's Nar., 402. 



In the town of Franklin, Illinois^ was found a very rough 
figure of an idol. It was a stout stick of timber, hewn out so 
as to resemble an Indian with four faces.' 

Among the Senecas an image was discovered in 1802, which 
was made of wood and was nearly decayed to the ground. It had 
the form of a man, and was whimsically painted and decorated 
with skins. The rotten condition of this god occasioned much 
agitation among the Indians. Some were for taking it into the 
woods and leaving it there with plenty of provisions. They 
reluctantly consented that it should be destroyed if he who 
destroyed it should take upon himself the responsibility of any 
harm that might threaten the nation in consequence. This 
fearful idol was tumbled into the river by the Christians, while 
the Indians gazed upon it with reverential awe as it floated 
away. A curious illustration of the idolatrous superstition of 
the natives of North Carolina is related by Mr. Haywood. To 
encourage the young men to be industrious in planting their 
maize and pulse, they annually placed a kind of idol in the 
field dressed up exactly like an Indian. This image none of 
the young men dared approach, because the old men would not 
allow it. They told them that it was a former warrior who 
had died many years ago, but had now come back to see if 
they worked well. The old men sat around the image, paying 
it the most profound respect and maintaining silence." 

The Northwestern tribes had idols, before which their re- 
ligious ceremonies were performed. An idea prevailed that 
while these rites were going on a spirit entered into the wooden 

Rude idols have been found among most of the tribes of the 
Algonkin race. Fig. 8 is a rough idol of the Ojibways. Among 
the nations of Oregon every house had its idols.* 

The New Mexican tribes made images of all of their dead 
and worshipped them. 

' Boies' De Kalb County, 463. » Haywood's Nat. and Ab. Hist. Ten., 229. 
3 Ball's Alaska, 389. * Dunn, 182. 


The Moquis had little images made of wood or clay, gaudily 
painted and gorgeously decorated with feathers. These images 
are suspended from the rafters of their houses by a string, and 
are objects of worship. Fig, 9 is one of their idols.' 

Fig. 8. Fio. 9. 

Idols were found in many parts of Georgia, although Bolzius, 
Bartram, Adair, and others deny, either positively or inferen- 
tially, the existence of either idols or images within the limits 
then occupied by the Georgia Indians. Subsequent investiga- 
tions prove, by the discovered presence of the images them- 
selves, that idol-worship was here practised. The Creeks had 
at one of their war towns a carved statue of wood, which they 
worshipped.' The ornamented posts, the wooden images, and 
figures of men and animals sketched upon the Creek houses 
have long since perished. Next in the order of durability are 
small images of burnt clay, which occur in various parts of the 

■ Couenl's Marvellous Couinry, 487 ; and Plate LXII. in Hayden's Geological 
Survey of Colorado. ' McCuUoh's AnL Kes., 107. 


State. Three stone idols were found in the Etowah valley of 
Georgia. Two of these represented the male human figure in 
a sitting posture ; the third represented a female figure. Many 
terra-cotta images were found.* A small shrine was found in 
Chatooga County hewn out of the solid rock, and within which 
was seated on a pedestal an image.' 

This removes the doubt we might have of the worship of idols 
by some population formerly inhabiting this region of country. 
Mr. Jones appears to think these are not the remains of Chero- 
kee art, but of some people who preceded them. Mr. Jones 
mentions the existence of a few idol pipes, in which a human 
figure was represented in a sitting posture. In their counte- 
nances the devotional idea was forcibly expressed.^ 

Among the inhabitants of that region of country now called 
Tennessee, idolatry in a rude form has left many remains of 
itself among their antiquities. The relics, which are somewhat 
unique and more interesting than all others in this region, are 
stone and clay images varying in height from six inches to 
two feet, and found in great numbers by all diligent explorers. 
Images are frequently found in the mounds of Tennessee. 
These images were without doubt placed upon the mounds and 
received worship.^ Evidences of sacrificial offerings to these 
images are found in the graves. 

The vast system of idolatry prevalent at the time of the dis- 
covery among tlie South American and Central American 
tribes is testified to by all the early writers. The greater num- 
ber of historical gods of the Peruvians had figures made of 
them in stone and wood. Some of these were of enormous 
size. Near Hilavi such a statue was found near the sculptured 
sepulchres three times a man's height, with two monstrous 
figures beside it. In front of each of these idols was an altar. 
It took thirty persons three days to destroy these images. The 
idol Rimac was a human figure found in a magnificent temple. 
Deputations from different countries came to worship this idol 

» Jones, Antiq. of Southern Indians, 432-33. ■ lb., 431. s lb., 402-3. 

4 Haywood's Nat. Ab. Hist. Tenn., 151. 


and bring it offerings. The idol Huaca Catequella, which fore- 
told the death of Inca Yupanqui, was famous throughout Peru. 
The son of the Inca, out of revenge, destroyed the temple of 
this idol, but the idol was rescued by the priests. The idol 
Umina, with a face half human, made of an emerald, was deeply 

The Purahas, near Quito, worshipped idols of clay with a 
human head, but with the mouth at the top of the head, for 
convenience of pouring in the blood of the sacrificed victims.* 

Among the Mayas of Yucatan the family idols were so 
reverenced that they were considered the most valued part of 
the inheritance left by those who died.3 The Brazilian tribes 
made gigantic idols of plaited palms, and also had their family 
idols, which often lay neglected in the corners of their houses 
until a time of need or war came.* The Tupinambas had idols 
in the image of men set up in the woods, where the sorcerers 
offered sacrifices to them and consulted the spirits supposed to 
reside in them.s They were their oracles. The missionary* 
Cardenas is said to have overthrown more than twelve thousand 
idols among the Brazilian tribes.^ 

Among the Patagonians every family had its own house- 
hold wooden image.' 

Mexico was divided into wards, and each ward had an idol- 
god of its own, with temple and temple service.® 

Every house in Mexico had its idols, one near the place 
•where they slept, and another near the door. 

Idols were so numerous on the chief island in Lake Peten 
that it took one hundred men a whole day to destroy them.^ 

In Granada there was a multitude of idols to which temples 
ivere dedicated. Their houses also contained idols. They 
i^rere so devoted to idolatry that wheresoever they went they 

* Rivero and Tschudi, 172-74. » Bollaert, 86. 

3 Landa, 27. 4 i Southey, 621. 

5 Denis, Brdsil, 20. « 2 Southey, 382. 
7 Nar. Adventure and Beagle, ed. 1839, p. 90. 

« 3 Herrera, 194. 9 3 Bancroft, 483. 


carried an idol. In battle they would hold an idol with one 
arm and fight with the other.' 

Closely connected with the subject of idolatry is that of the 
worship of stones. These stones are sometimes reverenced on 
account of their similarity to the human 6gure, or the figure of 
some animal. Such stones are called shingabawassins by the 
Ojibways. They have all the essential character of idols, 
and are supposed to be the locality of some god.' Figs. 10 
and 1 1 represent two of these stones. Their similarities to the 

human or animal form are frequently noticed, and are generally 
accounted for by a metamorphosis; they almost always have 
some tradition connected with them, which makes them the 
objects of superstitious fear. The Aricaras have a legend that 
three stones in their country that resemble a man, woman, 
and dog are a young Indian girl and her lover and the dog 
that followed them when they left their homes because the 
girl's parents refused their consent to their marriage.' They 
were worshipped. 

A curious case of metamorphosis occurred near Scar- 
borough's Hill, at Chinook Point. Two rocks are shown there 
which are two metamorphosed men who belonged to the fabu- 

■ 4 Heirera, 90. ■ l Schoolcraft, 94. 

I 1 Lewis and Clarke, 107; Tylor's Researches, 113. 


lous age of giants. This tale is told of them. One of them was 
wading in the water of Shoalwater Bay for crabs, when an 
aquatic monster swallowed him. His brother called the giants 
to his aid, and collected great fir-trees, dried spruce, and other 
trees wherewith to build a fire, and brought huge stones to be 
heated. The fire was made, the water in the bay evaporated. 
The great sea-monster was killed, ripped open, and the man 
released.* The giants were metamorphosed into these stones 
soon after. At the mouth of the Walla Walla two stones, 
human-shaped, were thought to be two Kiuse girls metamor- 
phosed by a jealous husband, and were objects of worship. 

The Standing Rock is a famous stone in the Indian country 
on the Upper Missouri. It is a little boulder twenty-eight 
inches high. The Indians look on it as sacred, and have 
painted and adorned it with colored ribbons and tails of ani- 
mals. The following myth gives it its sacred character. A 
young Aricara woman, wife of a celebrated brave, was spirit- 
broken because her husband took a second wife. She went 
out on the prairie and sat broken-hearted and refusing food 
until she died and was turned into that rock. All of the women 
of the tribes located thereabout repair to this rock and make 
their offerings whenever they are afflicted with domestic diffi- 

In a cavern on the banks of the Kickapoo there is a gigantic 
mass of stone presenting the appearance of a human figure. 
The Indians say that it is a metamorphosed Indian woman, 
who, having received several wounds in battle, was left, and 
nearly perished of hunger. She was converted into this mon- 
ument, which they hold in great fear, and never pass without 
ofTering sacrifices to it. They say it formerly had the power of 
killing those that approached it.^ 

Schoolcraft tells the following tradition of metamorphosis : 
" An Indian, while passing across Winnebago Lake on a beau- 
tiful summer day, espied at a distance in the lake before him a 

» Swan's Washington Territory, 69. " Beach, 388. 3 i Keating, 251. 


beautiful female form standing in the water. Her eyes shone 
with a brilliancy that could not be endured, and she held in 
her hand a lump of glittering gold. He immediately paddled 
toward the attractive object, but as he came near he could 
perceive that it was gradually altering as to its shape and com- 
plexion ; her eyes no longer shone with brilliancy, her face lost 
the hectic glow of life, her arms imperceptibly disappeared, and 
when he came to the spot where she stood, it was a monument 
of stone having a human face, with the fins and tail of a fish. 
He sat a long while in amazement, fearful either to touch the 
superhuman object or go away and leave it. At length, having 
made an offering of the incense of tobacco, and addressed it as 
the guardian angel of his country) he ventured to lay his hand 
upon the statue to lift it into his canoe, when it disappeared." * 

The Laches worshipped every stone as a god, and said they 
had all been men, and all men were converted into stones after 
death, and the day was coming when all stones would be raised 
as men. The shadows of stones were the manifestation of the 
gods in them." The inhabitants of Istlavacan had a rock three 
feet high and one foot thick, supposed to be a distorted human 
face, which they reverenced.^ 

Many stones of the shape of men and women, found in Peru, 
are, according to tradition, beings metamorphosed. Arriaga 
mentions metamorphoses of men to stones, and the worship of 
these stones. 

How vividly this recalls to our minds the myth of Deucalion 
and the derivation of the Greek word ii«oe (people), the primi- 
tive meaning of which was "stones"! The famous Oneida 
stone from which the Oneidas claim descent, is an illustration 
of mythical descent from stones. Mr. Schoolcraft thinks they 
were prompted to this absurdity by the use of metaphorical 
language; but I am convinced that cases of this kind have 
arisen from a mythical metamorphosis. Much of the stone- 

Schoolcraft's Nar. Journal, 406. ' Piedrahita, bk. I, ch. ii. 

3 3 Bancroft, 482. 


worship has arisen in this way, as we have seen by the myths 
I have cited in reference to these stones. If we remember that 
a mythical character is often the subject of such a metamor- 
phosis, and such mythical character may have been one from 
whom a tribe claims descent, then we have all the premises for 
such a conclusion as the Oneidas arrived at. This stone be- 
came a place for national sacrifice.* The Dacotahs claimed 
descent from a stone, and offered sacrifices to it, calling it 
grandfather. They thought the spirit of their ancestor was 
present in this stone, which is their altar for national sacrifices. 
The Ojibways had such stones, which they called grandfather. 

Animation was ascribed to all stones that were objects of 
worship. In cases of supposed metamorphosis, the < spirit re- 
mained in the stone notwithstanding the change. 

Many of the rocks which presented any similarity to man or 
animal were supposed to be inhabited by spirits, and were held 
in great awe by the Indians, whether a metamorphosis was as- 
cribed to them or not. Spirits transmigrated into stones, and 
this made them objects of worship. 

A curious illustration of such transmigration is found among 
the Peruvians. A certain stone supposed to be animated by a 
spirit, which had commanded resistance to the Inca Rocca, 
was ordered thrown from the top of a mountain- by this Inca, 
when a parrot flew out of it and entered another stone, which 
the Indians still point out and worship.' 

In Central America, when a lord died, a stone was put into 
his mouth to receive his soul.^ 

The Mexicans buried a small green stone with the dead, and 
this was called the principle of his life, and into it the soul was 
thought to pass. 

The natives of .Mizteca worshipped an emerald which was 
inhabited by a spirit which had transmigrated thither. In Es- 
meraldas there was a great emerald which belonged to the lord 
of Manta. It contained a powerful spirit, and was an object of 

* Schoolcraft's Iroquois, 46-47. * Montesinos, 147. 3 Ximenez, 211. 


great veneration. On certain occasions it was displayed and 
worshipped. It cured diseases, and pilgrimages were made 
from all parts, of those afflicted, to sacrifice and pray to the 

It would not be inconsistent for peoples holding such ideas 
to ascribe vitality and power of activity to stones; and such is 
the fact. There were many traditions among the Mexicans 
about their famous stone, which was selected for a sacrificial 
stone. On its way to Mexico, notwithstanding all the honors 
paid it, it broke through the causeway, and carried the high- 
priest and many others to the bottom of the lake. According 
to tradition, it spoke frequently on the journey to that city.' 

Among the Brazilians, the most popular charms worn by the 
Indians are stones called muira-kitans, which appear to be 
stones cut from rocks at the bottom of lakes. There is a tra- 
dition that they were alive in the lake, and the women, by 
giving them a drop of their blood, could catch them.3 

Among the natives of the West Indies food was regularly 
offered to certain stones that were objecta of worship, and they 
supposed the food was eaten when it disappeared. 

The Ojibways thought some of the stones that were wor- 
shipped by them moved about from place to place.** 

The following story of a Northern Indian illustrates the sup- 
posed vitality of stones and the worship paid them on this 
account Opposite La Pointe was an isolated boulder, which 
was a huge erratic rock. Otamigan, an Indian well known 
among the whites, sacrificed to this stone, and never passed it 
without laying an offering of tobacco on it He often went 
to pay worship to it. His attention was attracted to it in the 
following way. He sat down to rest himself at one time op- 
posite this rock, and as he was looking at it the rock oscillated, 
made a bow, and advanced toward him. This transient giddi- 
ness of Otamigan produced the greatest veneration in his mind 

« Cieza, 183-84. » 5 Bancroft, 471. 

3 Smith's Brazil, 581-82. 4 McKenny's Tour, 402. 




for this rock, and he considered it thereafter as his protecting 

Among the Ojibways, in the copper region, the erratic blocks 
of that ore were considered highly mysterious, and were raised 
to the dignity of idols. Mr. Kohl tells a story of an Ojibway 
chief who was willing to give him his daughter, or anything 
else he had, but a mass of copper in a forest, which had been 
his and his ancestors' protective genius. Through it he said he 
had won victories in battle, preserved his health, and been suc- 
cessful in the hunt. At last he consented to part with it, but 
he sacrificed the price given to his guardian spirit, after having 
made as sharp a bargain as he could, and laid five pounds of 
tobacco in its place in the forest.* It was the spirit that in- 
habited this lump of copper that gave it its significance, and 
when the metal was removed from its locality it lost its sacred 
character, and the tobacco was supposed to satisfy the spirit 
lurking about the place. 

Says Allouez, " The Ottawas often find at the bottom of 
Lake Superior pieces of pure copper weighing from ten to 
twenty pounds. I have often seen them in the hands of the 
savages, and, as they are superstitious, they look upon them as 
so many divinities. For this reason they preserve these pieces 
of copper wrapped up among their most precious movables. 
There are some who have preserved them for more than fifty 
years. Others have had them in their families from time im- 
memorial, and cherish them as household gods. For some 
time there was visible a great rock entirely of copper, the top 
of which projected above the surface of the water. This gave 
occasion to by-passers to go and cut off pieces from it. Never- 
theless, when I passed by that place, nothing could be seen of 
it. I believe that the storms, which here are very frequent and 
similar to those on the sea, have covered this rock with sand. 
Our savages wanted to persuade me that it was a divinity, and. 
had disappeared for some reason which they did not state." 

' Kohrs Kitcbi-Gami, 59. « lb., 62^4. 


We find among the inhabitants of both hemispheres at the 
first dawn of civilization a peculiar predilection for stones which, 
on account of some peculiarity of color or natural form, are 
looked upon with superstition. West of Rock River a stone 
was found which the Indians venerated, and had adorned with 
paint and a feather. It was a piece of syenite that differed from 
all the rocks in this vicinity. They made offerings to it.' Mr. 
Keating mentions many other such places, all objects of wor- 
ship. The White Dog gens of the Ojibways resided near a 
rock, which on account of its form was an object of great super- 
stition to them." 

The Dacotahs propitiated those spirits which were supposed 
to be embodied in oval-shaped stones by sacrifices of tobacco 
and other trifling articles.^ When a Dacotah is troubled in 
spirit and desires to be delivered from real or imaginary danger, 
he will select a stone that is round and portable, and, placing it 
in a spot free from grass and underbrush, he will streak it with 
red paint, and, offering to it some feathers, he will pray to it for 
help/ The Ojibways regard round stones with awe. They 
will pick them up, paint them, clear away the grass, make an 
offering, and then pray the stone to deliver them from danger.' 
The Red Pipe-Stone quarry is a famous place to inspire the 
Indians with religious feelings. There are five large erratic 
boulders near here, where not a blade of grass is broken or 
bent by the feet of man. The Indians venerate these so rev- 
erently that they stand at a distance and offer tobacco by throw- 
ing it toward these boulders, and then they solicit permission 
of the spirits supposed to reside here to carry away some of 
the stone '? they would not dare carry away any of it without 
these propitiatory offerings. The Northwestern Indians had 
stones from which they asked rain or wind, or a cessation of 
W About fifty-five miles above Fort Gratiot was the White 
Rock, an enormous detached mass of transition limestone 

< I Keating, 298. *2 ib., 149. 3 i Minn. Hist. Coll., 461. 

4 Neill's Minnesota, 60. S3 Schoolcraft, 229. ^ 2 Catlin, 203. 

7 I Brown's Races, 59. 


standing in the lake at a distance of half a mile from the shore. 
The White Rock is an object which had attracted the early- 
notice of the Indians, who are the first to observe the noncon- 
formities in the appearances of a country. And it continues 
to be one of the places at which offerings are made. These 
tributary acknowledgments are generally useless articles. There 
does not appear to be any obligation upon individuals to make 
them, or to renew them at any regular periods.* 

At the entrance to Lake Superior there is a high rock in the 
shape of a man, which the Indians call the master of life. Here 
they make their offerings by throwing tobacco into the water. 
By this they intend to make an acknowledgment to the rock 
for the blessings they enjoy.* 

Near Peoria there is a sacred stone resembling the figure of 
a man. The Indians who pass by pay their adorations to it, 
and believe it has an influence over their fortunes.^ One on 
Little Manitou Creek is supposed to resemble the bust of a 
man whose head is decorated with the horns of a stag. On 
Stone Idol Creek, some few miles from the Missouri, there are 
two other stones resembling the human form, and a third like 
that of a dog, all of which are objects of veneration. Another, 
near Big Manitou Creek, is inlaid with flints of various colors 
and covered with figures of animals. Stones were also oracles. 
Any rock or stone of extraordinary appearance becomes the 
object* of general veneration.^ 

In the country of the Mandans there is a smooth, porous 
mineral body twenty feet in circumference, called the Great 
Medicine Stone. To this stone a deputation is sent every spring, 
who, after smoking and presenting the pipe before it, retire to 
an adjacent wood and return in the morning to read the des- 
tinies of the nation, which they imagine they see written there- 
on in certain marks.^ 

« Schoolcraft's Nar. Journal, 87, seq. • Long's Voyages, 43. 

3 Pittman's European Settlements, 42. 

4 I Hind, 364; 2 Beltrami, 175; KerchevaPs Valley of Va., 48. 
S3 Warden's U. S., 58 1. 


In Guatemala a stone was the oracle through which a god 
gave his decision to the people after having been consulted by 
the judges. To the westward of Patinamit there was a mound 
that commanded the city. On it stood a round small building 
six feet high, in the middle of which was a pedestal formed of a 
shining substance resembling glass. Seated around this build- 
ing, the judges heard and decided upon the causes brought 
before them ; before executing a sentence, however, it was neces- 
sary to have it confirmed by an oracle, for which purpose three 
of the judges quitted their seats, and proceeded to a deep 
ravine, where there was a place of worship, wherein was placed 
a black, transparent stone. On the surface of this tablet the 
deity was supposed to give a representation of the fate that 
awaited the criminal. If the decision of the judges was ap- 
proved, the sentence was immediately inflicted. If nothing 
appeared on the stone, the accused was set at liberty. This 
oracle was also consulted in the aflairs of war.' 

Thus it will be seen that stones were worshipped because 
they were supposed to be animated by spirits, and the worship 
was idolatrous in its nature. Before leaving the subject of 
idolatry, let us notice its use in sorcery. All of the tribes of 
both continents use idolatry in their sorcery. When they 
wish to injure any one, they make an image of the person. 
They then injure this image, expecting the person to suffer as 
acutely as though the injury was inflicted on his body. • They 
sometimes burn these images, and then they expect the death 
of the person. They pretend to cure disease by means of the 
same superstition ; for, having made an effigy of the supposed 
evil spirit producing the disease, generally thought to be an 
animal, they will destroy this image, and thereby expect to de- 
stroy the disease.' 

When they want to overcome any one who resists their love, 
they make an image of the person, and into this image they 
introduce love-powders. If the image has a lock of hair or 

' Juaro's Guatemala, 384. * Kohl, 282. 


any part of the person desired to be affected attached to it, 
these powders will work their charm on the person as effectually 
as if really taken by such person.' 

The sorcerers are often told to transfer from the sick person 
to some other, who is the patient's enemy, the disease they are 
called to cure. This they can always do when they can get an 
image of that person.* 

The same superstition is resorted to in times of famine, to 
bring animals within the power of the hunter. A little image 
is made to represent the animal which they wish to obtain in 
the hunt ; then the part representing the heart is punctured 
with a sharp instrument. After this ceremony they will start 
out with full confidence of success.^ Sometimes simply a grass 
or cloth image of the animal is made and hung up in his wig- 
wam. After repeating an incantation he shoots at the image, 
and if the arrow enters it he will succeed in killing the animal.*^ 

To prove the universality of this curious superstition among 
all the tribes, I will select a few authorities. Says Charlevoix, 
"Amongst the Illinois and almost all the other nations, they 
make small figures to represent those whose days they have a 
mind to shorten, and which they stab to the heart. At other 
times they take a stone, and by means of certain invoca- 
tions they pretend to form such another in the heart of their 
enemy." 5 

The Ojibways believe that by drawing the figure of any per- 
son in sand or ashes, or on clay, or by considering any object 
as the figure of a person, and then pricking it with a sharp 
stick, or other substance, or doing in any other manner that 
which done to a living body would cause pain or injury, the 
individual represented, or supposed to be represented, will 
suffer accordingly.^ 

The Malemutes of the Northwest made images to represent 
children which they wished to have, and fondled the idol as if 

' Kohl, 396-97. « 2 Keating, 159, 

3 Tanner's Narrative, 174. 4 i Schoolcraft, 372. 

5 2 Charlevoix, 166. ^ Henry's Captivity. 


it was a real child/ They expected to obtain children by this 

Another form of this superstition about the representation of 
any person or thing was shown in their fear of having their 
photographs taken. They refused to risk their lives before a 
photographic apparatus. They said those who had their pho- 
tograph had their spirit, and they did not wish this to pass into 
the keeping of others who could torment it at pleasure.* The 
Yanktons accused Catlin of producing a great scarcity of buf- 
falo by putting a great many of them in his book.3 They re- 
fused at first to be painted by him, on account of the same 
superstition. These paintings were supposed to have their life 
in them. He had great difficulty in overcoming this supersti- 
tion. The Araucanians would not allow their portraits to be 
taken, lest the possessor might obtain some magical influence 
over them. I will not dwell longer on these fetichistic concep- 
tions in this chapter, but will treat of the subject more fully in 
the next. 

* I Bancroft, 82. > i ib., 245. 

3 2 Catlin's Illustrations, 194. 



Fetichism — Scalping fetich istic in conception — Inherence of spiritual force — 
Cannibalism fetichistic and a religious act — Eating images of gods a rite similar 
to the eucharistic — Superstitious fears about pronouncing the names of the 
dead — Tattooing fetichistic — Amulets — Primitive ornamentation fetichistic. 

The fetichism of primitive peoples is not a meaningless 
superstition, as generally represented, but has grown from the 
roots of their religious belief. A fetich is not the inanimate, 
powerless, material thing to them that it is to us, but is redo- 
lent with life. The idol is filled with a spirit; it speaks in 
the oracle. So the fetich, whether a medicine-bag, or image, 
or claw of beast or bird, is filled with a spirit. This imaginary 
animation gives fetichism its power over the savage mind. The 
fetichistic superstition has prolonged its life to our day. It 
survives in amulets, charms, talismans, seal-rings, heraldry. 
Among early peoples it originated their ornamentation with 
feathers, teeth, shells, animal skins, and similar articles of per- 
sonal adornment, including tattooing. Idolatry and fetichism 
are closely akin, but an idol is not, strictly speaking, a fetich ; 
it is always an object of worship, whereas fetiches are not 
always objects of worship, but are often connected with sorcery. 
They are generally amuletic in their character. Their sup- 
posed supernatural power is used to ward off evil from their 
owners or bring them good fortune ; they are also used to 
bring evil upon others. They are generally regarded as sub- 
ject to the will and control of their owners, and are, therefore, 
generally not objects of such reverence as inspires worship. 
The doctrine of fetiches has led to many superstitions that may 

properly be called fetichistic, and a few of these will explain 

lo 141 



the origin of the fetichistic sentiment. Among these were scalp- 
ing and the taking and preservation of the heads of enemies by 
so many primitive peoples. It was thought that the posses- 
sion of any part of an enemy placed that enemy in the power 
of the possessor. This superstition seems to be based upon 
the belief that each portion of any animate body, or inanimate 
body supposed to be animate, had also a portion of the spirit 
that appertained to the whole. Hence, whoever possessed a 
part of the material substance possessed also a portion of the 
spiritual, and although it was only a portion, generally a very 
small part, yet it gave the possessor a control over the whole, 
which he would never have succeeded in getting in an ordi- 
nary way. This explains the whole system of sorcery as prac- 
tised among ancient peoples, and all its kindred superstitions. 
Hence arose a desire to prevent any part of the body from 
getting into the possession and under the control of others. 
For this reason sorcerers and witches were anxious to get some 
part of the person upon whom they wished to work their spells, 
and enemies were very anxious to get some part of their enemy 
into their possession. Friends were just as anxious to preserve 
them, and would risk their lives to prevent the scalp of a tribes- 
man from falling into the enemy's hands. Individuals would 
conceal their nail-parings and hair, and even their saliva, with 
superstitious fear of its falling into the hands of the unfriendly. 
Even the clothes of a person were supposed to be permeated by 
his spiritual life. This belief in the inherence of spiritual life 
is shown in the fact that, in washing their soiled clothes, many 
of the tribes were very careful to dispose of the water so that 
no one could obtain any of it. This superstition was akin to 
the fetichistic, where a part of the soul is thought to inhere in 
every part of the body and in everything the body touched. 

Quite a curious illustration of their belief on this subject is 
found in the marriage of the fishing-nets. The Hurons mar- 
ried their nets every year to young girls of the tribe, with much 
more formality than that observed in human wedlock. The 
Algonkins of the Ottawa had the same ceremony yearly, in the 



middle of March, and, as it was difficult to find virgins, mere 
children were chosen. The net was held between them, and 
its spirit was harangued. They said the spirit of the net ap- 
peared to them when it had any complaint to make. The 
animation ascribed to these nets was due beyond doubt to the 
spiritual substance of the fish which was thought to inhere in 
them. This whole ceremony is meaningless, except by this 
inherence or transmigration of spiritual life, which explains it. 

Preserving parts of dead enemies was fetichistic in concep- 
tion. The Omaguas cut off the heads of their enemies and 
preserved them in their houses. The teeth they strung and 
wore as necklaces.* The Mundrucus of Brazil kept the heads 
of slain enemies. They had a preparatory process for preserv- 
ing them. The custom of wearing the skulls of slain enemies 
as fetiches was the origin of trepanning. Those trepanned 
skulls were found in Peru, and also among the Northern tribes. 
This custom is very prevalent among the barbarous tribes on 
the other continent, but among the Americans scalping appears 
to have generally superseded it; yet upon the monuments of 
the Mexican nations the entire skull is seen strung to the belts 
of many of the heroes whose achievements are pictured thereon. 

Scalping was universal among the Northern tribes, and was 
fetichistic in origin. The Osages planted on their graves a 
pole with an enemy's scalp hanging to the top. Their notion 
was that by doing this the spirit of the victim became sub- 
jected to the spirit of the buried warrior." Mr. Brown thinks 
that scalping has superseded the taking of the whole head, on 
account of the difficulty of carrying the entire head.3 This 
view is confirmed by the fact that many tribes scalped the heads 
of those taken in war only when they travelled a great distance. 
Sorcerers pretended to hold converse with the departed spirit 
through the scalp of the deceased.* 

The Indians of the Algonkin stock living around the Great 

* 3 Southey, 703. « i Tylor, 460. 

3 I Brown's Races, 67. ♦ i Bancroft, 569. 


Lakes, in addition to the practice of scalping, cut fingers, arms, 
and other limbs from their enemies, which they keep as long 
as they can, and toward which they show as strong a spirit of 
revenge as though the whole person was present and in life.* 
The Californians do not appear to scalp enemies, but the head, 
hands, or feet are preserved as trophies.' The savages of New 
Granada wore the teeth of slain enemies about their necks. 

The use of parts of the human body for fetichistic purposes 
IS common. Mr. Spencer says the primitive idea that any 
property characterizing an aggregate inheres in all parts of it, 
implies a corollary from this belief The soul present in the 
body of a dead man preserved entire is also present in pre- 
served parts of his body : hence the faith in relics. The Crees 
carried bones and hair of dead persons about for three years. 
Several Guiana tribes had their cleaned bones distributed 
among the relatives after death. The Eskimos, when a whaler 
died, cut his body into small pieces and distributed them 
among his fellow-craftsmen. These were dried and preserved 
as fetiches ; they rubbed the points of their lances upon them 
to bring them luck.3 Such a weapon would reach a mortal 
spot in a whale where another would fail. The Caribs thought 
that the bones of the dead were the abiding-place of his soul. 
They took bones of the dead from the grave and carefully 
wrapped them in cotton, and thought they could answer ques- 
tions. The Mexicans had a grand master of such relics.^ 
They thought the left arm and hand of a woman who had 
died in childbed had special talismanic virtue.^ 

The fear that some part of the body might be used by others 
in sorcery and witchcraft led to the custom of preserving all of 
its parts during life and also after death, lest it should get into 
the possession of others. This superstition will be referred 
to again in burial customs. 

Cannibalism was fetichistic in its nature, and originated in 

' Kohl, 345-46. » lb., 344, 3 I Bancroft, 76. 

4 2 ib., 202. 5 2 ib., 269. 


the same superstitious idea that instigated scalping and cutting 
off the heads and limbs of enemies. Its prevalence among all 
primitive peoples is probable. 

Among the Northern tribes of Indians there are evidences of 
a limited cannibalism. It was practised at religious festivals to 
some extent, and I am fully persuaded, after investigating the 
subject pretty thoroughly, that the practice, except in a few 
isolated cases, was based upon religious superstition. All 
primitive peoples thought that by eating anything animate they 
became endowed with the qualities of the thing eaten. This 
superstition was the result of their theories of transmigration. 
We have the very best evidence that in those cases where the 
dead have been buried in the stomachs of their living relatives, 
which will be noticed in the chapter on burial, the superstitious 
idea of the transmigration of the soul into their bodies urged 
them to the act. 

Mr. Keating says the Ojibways, the Miamis, the Potawato- 
mies, and all the other Algonkin tribes are cannibals. The 
most frequent cause of cannibalism among them is their belief 
that by eating an enemy they acquire a charm that makes 
them irresistible. There is a common superstition with them 
that he who tastes of the body of a brave man acquires a part 
of his valor, and if he can eat of his heart, the centre of all 
courage, his share of bravery is greater. Mr. Barron saw the 
Potawatomies feast on the bodies of white men and Cherokees, 
instigated by the same superstition. Captain Wells, who was 
killed in the vicinity of Chicago in 18 12, and was celebrated 
for his valor among the Indian tribes, was divided into many 
parts and sent to all the allied tribes, that all might have an 
opportunity to get a taste of the courageous white man.* The 
Thlinkeets devoured those killed in battle, in the belief that the 
bravery of the victim thereby enters into the nature of the par- 
takers.* The Californian tribes ate human flesh, not as food, 
nor for the purpose of wreaking vengeance on, or showing 

» I Keating, 10 1-3. » I Bancroft, 106. 


hate to, a dead adversary, but because they thought by eating 
part of a brave man they absorbed a portion of his courage/ 
Mr. Dall says some of the natives of Alaska practise cannibal- 
ism, but it was not instigated by starvation." 

Traces of cannibalism are found among all the tribes of 
America. Mr. Parkman mentions a family of the Miamis 
whose duty it was to devour the bodies of prisoners. The act 
had a religious character, and was attended with ceremonial 
observances. The Hurdns had cannibal feasts, and when re- 
monstrated with by the Jesuit priests they threw a hand of a 
victim in at their door. The Mohawks ate those captured in 
war: the chiefs ate the head and heart, the common people 
the arms and trunks. Among the Blackfeet, when war is de- 
clared against other nations, the manner of expressing it is, 
" to hang the kettle on the fire," which has its origin in the 
barbarous custom of eating the prisoners and those that were 
slain, after they had boiled them. Traces of cannibalism are 
found among the Winnebagoes, Sauks, and Comanches.' 

Pyrlaeus says "the Five Nations formerly did eat human 
flesh ; they at one time ate up a whole body of the French 
king's soldiers."* 

Heckewelder mentions the same custom among the Iroquois. 
He says, " Aged French Canadians have told me, many years 
since, while I was at Detroit, that they had frequently seen the 
Iroquois eat the flesh of those who had been slain in battle, 
and that this was the case in the war between the French and 
English, commonly called the War of 1756." 5 

Says Megapolensis of the Delawares, "They eat captives, 
after having burned them with a slow fire." ^ 

Says Roubaud of the Ottawas, ** The first object which pre- 
sented itself to my eyes, on arriving at the encampment of the Ot- 
tawas, was a large fire, while the wooden spits fixed in the earth 

' I Bancroft, 380. > Alaska, 49. 

3 I Keating, 233; I Schoolcraft, 135. ^ Heckewelder, 235. 

s lb., 37, note. 

^ Megapolensis and De Vries, N. Y. Hist. Coll., 2d Series, vol. iii. i55-59> 


gave signs of a feast. There was indeed one taking place. But, 
oh, Heaven ! what a feast ! The remains of the body of an Eng- 
lishman was there, the skin stripped off, and more than one- 
half the flesh gone. A moment after, I perceived these in- 
human beings eat with famishing avidity of this human flesh. 
I saw them taking up this detestable broth in large spoons, and 
apparently without being able to satisfy themselves with it. 
They informed me that they had prepared themselves for this 
feast by drinking from skulls filled with human blood, while 
their smeared faces and stained lips gave evidence of the truth 
of the story." » 

Says Josselyn, " At Martha's Vineyard, certain Indians whilst 
I was in the country seized upon a boat that put into a by-cove, 
killed the men, and ate them up in a short time before they 
were discovered." ■ 

The following description of a cannibal feast among the 
Ojibways is given by Henry : " An invitation to a feast is given 
by him who is the master of it. Small cuttings of cedar wood 
of about four inches in length supply the place of cards, and 
the bearer, by word of mouth, states the particulars. Seven 
prisoners were killed, and shortly after two of the Indians took 
one of the dead bodies which they chose as being the fattest, 
cut off its head, and divided the whole into five parts, one of 
which was put into each of five kettles hung over as many 
fires kindled for this purpose at the door of the prison lodge. 
An invitation came to Wawatam to assist at the feast. Wawa- 
tam obeyed the summons, taking with him, as is usual, his dish 
and spoon. After an absence of about half an hour, he re- 
turned, bringing in his dish a human hand and a large piece of 
flesh. He did not appear to relish the repast, but told me that 
it was then and always had been the custom among all the In- 
dian nations when returning from war to make a war feast from 
among the slain." ^ There was a lake in the Red River country 

» Roubaud, in Kip., 155. * Josselyn's Two Voyages to New England, 125. 

3 Henry's Captivity. 


called Lake Windigoostigon, or Cannibal Lake, in commemora- 


tion of deeds of cannibalism committed there by Ojibways in 

Among the Ojibways early cannibalism appears to have 
passed into their traditionary history embodied in a myth. 
They had an imaginary being whose deeds were horrible in 
the extreme. The ghostly man-eater, a species of vampire, 
had his residence on an island (imaginary) in the centre of 
Lake Superior. He had the appearance of the human form, 
yet intangible, with long nails with which he dug up dead 
bodies and devoured them, or robbed the burial-scaffold of its 
burden. He travelled with lightning speed from one place to 
another, and whenever the Indian heard strange songs above 
his wigwam, it was the ghostly man-eater hurrying upon the 
wings of the wind from a recent banquet to his mysterious 
island home. This spiritual monstrosity appears to have been 
doomed to this life as a punishment for an act of cannibalism, 
when he killed and fed upon the body of a youth who was the 
last remnant of a once powerful tribe. Having thus extin- 
guished the last hope of an Indian race for perpetuation by 
this bloody act, the Ojibways have handed down his infamy 
in their folk-lore.* 

Another mythological character which belongs to our sub- 
ject was a giant, who came from the north and sought the hos- 
pitality of an Indian village bordering on the Lake of the 
Woods, He was entertained at their expense, and when the 
feast was ready the giant, disdaining the wild rice and game, 
destroyed with one exception the inhabitants who had gathered 
at his feast, and devoured their dead bodies. The youth who 
escaped carried revenge in his heart, and when he became a 
great hunter he invited the cannibal giant to a feast, and into 
his bowl of soup he placed a bitter root, which soon deprived 
him of his strength. He prepared to sleep, and under him was 
spread his robe of weasel-skins, and over him was thrown his 

* Lanman's Haw-Hoo-Hoo, 195-96. 


net woven by a mammoth spider. When deep sleep had fallen 
upon him, the guests despatched him with their clubs, and his 
flesh became alive very soon with little animals and birds, who 
fed upon it.' Truly he was a fit companion for the giant 
Ymer of the Norse folk-lore. 

The Indians of Brazil and Paraguay formerly delighted in 
human flesh. They confessed, after the introduction of Chris- 
tianity, that the flesh of animals tasted insipid to them in com- 
parison with that of men." The Botecudos sucked the blood 
from living victims, thinking they would imbibe spiritual force.3 

The Brazilians had human flesh salted and smoked and hung 
up in their houses. One man boasted that he had partaken of 
the bodies of three hundred enemies. But it was a stronger 
passion than hunger that gave these accursed banquets their 
highest relish,^ Children were raised by their captives from 
tribal women for the express purpose of being eaten. In their 
great cannibal feasts the women were the most ravenous canni- 
bals, and even the children had the brains and tongue allotted 
to them. Every part of the body was devoured.^ One of the 
children raised from captives, whom the Portuguese offered to 
redeem and save from a feast to which she was dedicated, pre- 
ferred, she said, to be buried in the bellies of her lords and 
masters whom she.loved.^ 

Among the Brazilians, the first food given a child when 
weaning it from its mother's milk was the flesh of an enemy .' 
The bones of those eaten were laid up in piles before their 
houses, and the rank and estimation of a family were in propor- 
tion to the size of its heap.® 

Prisoners dedicated to a cannibal feast were treated well, had 
attendants appointed for them and women given them. They 
were fattened, and paraded up and down with great ceremony. 
Every guest invited to the feast came and touched the prisoner, 

« Lanman, 235. * 2 Dobriz., 26. 3 3 Southey, 808. 

4 I Southey, 17. s i ib., 218-22. « i ib., 640. 

7 2 ib., 289. ® I ib., 655. 


who was treated like a god/ Mr. Southey thinks the motive 
for their cannibalism was some savage notion of superstition." 

The priests of Guatemala ate the bodies of those who were 
sacrificed. It was considered sacred meat.^ 

Cieza, speaking of the Peruvians, says, " All the Indians of 
this country eat human flesh."* * Cieza saw them eat in one day 
more than a hundred men and women they had taken in war.^ 
Drawing blood from the nose of a child in Peru was a relic of 
cannibalism. The more uncivilized Peruvians always ate the 
flesh of those whom they sacrificed to their gods;^ and the 
bodies of the victims were cut up and exposed for sale, and 
sold in the public markets.^ Peruvian mythology had its giants 
who were cannibals, who were exterminated by a resplendent 
young man who came riding upon the clouds, shining like the 
sun, and hurling flames of fire.^ 

Cannibalism prevailed among the Mexicans. The bodies of 
those slain on the field of battle were devoured by those 
voracious cannibals who followed the armies to feed on the 

dead bodies.' The towns had wooden cages where they kept 


and fattened, for the purpose of eating, the captives in war." 
Human flesh, exquisitely prepared, was found upon the table 
of Montezuma, and was eaten by the Mexicans, not for the 
purpose of allaying appetite, but from religious motives." All 
the Nahua nations practised this religious canjiibalism. That 
cannibalism as a source of food, unconnected with religious 
rites, was ever practised, there is little evidence. Sahagun and 
Las Casas regard the cannibalism of the Nahuas as an abhor- 
rent feature of their religion, and not as an unnatural appetite. 
They ate the flesh of their sacrificed foes only." 

The Mayas also ate the flesh of human victims sacrificed to 
the gods. In Nicaragua, the high-priest received the heart, the 
king the feet and hands, the captors took the thighs, and the 

» 2 Southey, 370. ■ 3 ib., 709. 3 Ximenez, 183. 

* Cieza, 46. 5 lb., 78. ^ Ranking, 89. 

» lb., 77. 8 I 2^arate, 17. 9 i ib., 267. 

«• Diaz, 496. " 2 Bancroft, 176. "2 ib., 357-58; Diaz, 66. 


tripe was given to the trumpeters. The natives of Honduras 
said the Spaniards were too tough and bitter to be eaten.' " The 
Mosquito men never gave quarter to any but women ; but as 
many men and children as they take they tie and throw upon 
a barbecue, as they call it, which is a rack of stakes doing the 
office of a gridiron, and make a good fire underneath, which, 
with the help of the sun overhead at noon, soon dresses their 
bodies fit for their teeth, which food they esteem best of any. 
But before this cookery, whilst the prisoner lives, they draw 
out his finger and toe nails, and knock out his teeth with 
stones, which teeth and nails they wear about their necks like 
a necklace." • 

Many Brazilian tribes manifested their love for the dead by 
reducing the bones to powder, and mingling it with a bread 
which they then ate. Love, as well as hatred, leads to can- 
nibalism, and an Artemisia could be found in every Tapuya 

Among the Tapuyas, when an infant died it was eaten by 
the parents. Adults were eaten by the kindred, and their bones 
were pounded and reserved for marriage-feasts, as being the 
most precious thing that could be offered.^ When they be- 
came old they ofTered themselves to their children, who de- 
voured them after putting them to death. They thought their 
spiritual substance became incorporated.^ 

The Xomanas and Passes burned the bones of the dead, and 
drank the ashes, and in this way, they thought, they received 
into their bodies the spirits of their deceased friends. 

The Maypuris devoured their sick and infirm.* 

The Arawaks pounded the bones of their dead lords into 
powder, and drank them. 

The ancient Peruvians ate their deceased parents. 

I have dwelt longer upon the painful subject of cannibalism 
than might seem' desirable, in order to show its religious char- 

» 2 Bancroft, 725. 

3 Descrip. Mosquito Kingdom, Churchill's Coll. Voy., vol. vi. p. 291. 

3 I Southey, 379, 4 Denis, Br&il, 9. 9 i Southey, 590. 


acter and prevalence everywhere. Instead of being confined to 
savage peoples, as is generally supposed, it prevailed to a greater 
extent and with more horrible rites among the most civilized. 
Its religious inception was the cause of this. 

The origin of a religious rite among the aboriginal Ameri- 
cans similar to the eucharistic among Roman Catholics is un- 
doubtedly based upon the primitive superstition, that by eating 
a part of any animate body, or body supposed to be animate, 
the partaker is endowed with the qualities of that body. This 
superstition was very prevalent among the various tribes who 
thought they became endowed with the qualities of the animal 
eaten. It developed itself in cannibalism, which had a strangely 
protracted life in the semi-civilization of America, and it mani- 
fested itself in the eucharistic idol and feast of the Aztecs. 
This singular rite was called Teoqualo, — that is, *' the eating of 
the god." A figure of Huitzilopochtli was made in dough, 
and after certain ceremonies they made a pretence of killing it 
and dividing it into morsels, which were eaten by the worship- 
pers as a sacred food.' 

The superstition underlying idolatry explains this apparently 
meaningless rite. They supposed their idol was animate, and 
the spiritual substance inhered in the material of the idol and 
passed into their bodies with it and was assimilated. Thus a 
transmigration of a portion of the spiritual substance of a god 
was accomplished. One of these eucharistic ceremonies is thus 
described by Herrera : " An idol made of all the varieties of 
the seeds and grain of the country was made and moistened 
with the blood of children and virgins ; this idol was broken 
into small bits, and given by way of communion to men and 
women to eat, who, to prepare for that festival, bathed and 
dressed their heads and scarce slept all the night. They prayed, 
and as soon as it was day were all in the temple to receive that 
communion, with such singular silence and devotion that though 
there was an infinite multitude there seemed to be nobody. If 

' Tylor's Anahuac, 280. 


any of the idol was left, the priests ate it. Montezuma went to 
this ceremony attended by abundance of quality and richly 
dressed." * Mendieta mentions the same ceremony, and says, 
" Gods were eaten in this way ; they made idols of seeds, and 
ate them as though they were the bodies of their gods." * These 
seed idols have a special significance, because the mysterious 
vitality of a seed and its germinating power impressed itself on 
all the American tribes, and manifested itself in many rites and 
ceremonies. The tobacco-plant was supposed to be imbued 
with the spiritual body of the goddess Ciuacoatl, and was eaten 
in the eucharistic ceremony to her. The Totomacs had a com- 
munion in the following way. Every three years they killed 
three boys and took out their hearts. From their blood, 
mixed with certain seeds, they made a paste which was con- 
sidered a eucharist and a most sacred thing, and was partaken 
of every six months by men above twenty-five and women 
above sixteen. They called the paste, food of our souls.^ 

The significance of this rite consisted in a supposed afflux of 
spiritual life. A transmigration was the explanation of the 

Another fetichistic superstition arose from the animistic be- 
liefs of primitive peoples. Consequent upon their belief in the 
omnipresence of spirits was a superstitious fear of having their 
own names spoken aloud or of using the names of the dead. 

The superstition prevailed among all the tribes that the 
utterance of a word at any distance had a direct eflfect on the 
object which that word stands for. They thought they could 
be bewitched through their names as well as their images or 
parts of their bodies.* 

The Araucanians would not allow their names to be told to 
strangers, lest these should be used in sorcery.* 

The New Mexican tribes never made known their own names 
or those of friends to a stranger. The Indians of British Co- 

« 2 Herrera, 379. ■ Mendieta, 108. 3 lb., 109. 

4 Tylor's Researches, 124. s 2 Wood, 564. 


lumbia had a strong prejudice against telling their own names. 
Among the Ojibways the name-superstition prevailed. Hus- 
bands and wives never told each other's names, and children 
were told they would stop growing if they repeated their own 
names.* Their names were considered sacred, and were gen- 
erally kept secret. The names by which the Indians were 
called were generally not their true names, but were given 
them for some characteristic peculiarity. The secret name of 
Pocahontas was Matokes, which was concealed from the English 
out of superstitious fear." In the mythical story of Hiawatha 
the same was true, his real name being Tarenyawagon. The 
Abipones of Paraguay had the same superstition. Mr. Dobriz- 
hoffer says they would knock on his door at night, and when 
he would ask who was there no answer would come; they were 
afraid to utter their names. Among some tribes the names of 
all the acquaintances of a person were changed at his death, to 
avoid, as far as possible, the recognition of the living by the 
ghosts of the dead. The Chinooks changed their names when 
a near relative died, under the impression that spirits would be 
attracted back to earth if they heard familiar names.3 The 
Lenguas of Brazil changed their names on the death of any 
one, for they believed that the dead knew the names of all 
whom they had left alive, and might look for them ; for this 
reason they changed their names, hoping that if they returned 
they could not find them. 

The Indians also refrained from mentioning the names of 
dead persons. Among the New England tribes, if any man 
bore the name of the dead, he immediately changed his name.* 

A superstitious fear of pronouncing the names of the dead 
prevailed everywhere. It was a crime among the Abipones to 
utter the name of a dead person. A mistake in doing this led 
to bloody quarrels.5 

The Fuegians never mentioned the name of the dead.^ 

» Jones's Ojibways, 162. "2 Schoolcraft, 66. 

s I Bancroft, 248. « I Arnold's Rhode Island, 77. 

5 2 Dobriz., 444-45. ^ Darwin's NaL Voy., 214. 


The Indians of Virginia, says Blome, did not mention the 
name of a dead person, and those having the same name 
changed it. Among the Western tribes they never mentioned 
the names of their relations after they were dead.* 

Among the Northern tribes, when a death occurred, if a rela- 
tive of the deceased was absent they hung along the road by 
which he would return something to apprise him of the fact, so 
that he would not mention the name of the dead on his return. 
Among the Northwestern tribes- the Indians considered it a 
sacrilege to mention the name of a person afler he was dead.^ 

This superstition is found in the Shawnee myth of Yellow 
Sky, who was a daughter of the tribe, and had dreams which 
told her she was created for an unheard-of mission. There 
was a mystery about her being, and none could comprehend 
the meaning of her evening songs. The paths leading to her 
father's lodge were more beaten than those to any other. On 
one condition alone at last she consented to become a wife. 
That condition was, that he who became her husband should 
never mention her name. If he did, she cautioned him, a sad 
calamity would befall him, and he would forever thereafter regret 
his thoughtlessness. After a time Yellow Sky sickened and 
died, and her last words were that her husband should never 
breathe her name. The widower for five summers lived in 
solitude. But, alas, one day as he was upon the grave of his 
dead Yellow Sky an Indian asked him whose it was, and he 
forgot and uttered the forbidden name. He fell to the earth 
in great pain, and as darkness settled round about him a trans- 
formation scene began, and next morning near the grave of 
Yellow Sky a large buck was quietly feeding. It was the un- 
happy husband.3 

The Connecticut tribes never pronounced the names of the 
dead. If the offence was twice repeated, death was not re- 
garded as a punishment too severe. In 1655, Philip, having 

» Parker's Journal, 251. " Harmon's Journal, 349. 

3 Lanman's Haw-Hoo-Hoo, 231-32. 


heard that another Indian had spoken the name of a deceased 
relative of his, came to the island of Nantucket to kill him, and 
the English had to interfere to prevent it* Among the Cali- 
fornia tribes the name of the departed was never breathed by the 
living. If spoken accidentally, a shudder passed over all those 
present The Atuas never mentioned the name of the dead. 
Such an act would have been considered the greatest rudeness.^ 
Among the Iroquois, upon the death of a person, his name 
could not be used again in the lifetime of his oldest surviving 
son without the consent of the latter.* 

Tattooing is fetichistic in its origin. Among all the tribes, 
almost every Indian has the image of an animal tattooed on his 
breast or arm, which can charm away an evil spirit or prevent 
harm to them. 

It is quite remarkable to find this superstition as prevalent 
as it was among the more civilized tribes. 

The Central Americans tattooed their breasts, arms, and 
thighs with figures of eagles, serpents, and other animals.* 

The Nicaraguans practised the same custom. Herrera men- 
tions the custom of tattooing the skin with stags and other 
such creatures among the natives of Honduras.^ 

The Isthmians tattooed their bodies with the figures of ani- 
mals and trees.7 

The Mexicans thought themselves perfectly safe from all 
harm when their bodies were anointed or painted with an 
unction, called the divine medicament, composed of a mixture 
of poisonous insects, such as scorpions and spiders.^ 

Tattooing will be further noticed under animal worship. 

All fetiches are supposed to have spiritual intelligent beings 
who reside in them. In its broadest definition, therefore, feti- 
chism would include the whole subject of primitive religion ; 
but in order to deal with it as a separate subject it is limited 
to those material objects which are worn or kept about the 

> Beach, 301. ■ 4 Schoolcraft, 226. 3 DalPs Alaska, 524. 

4 Morgan's Ancient Society, 79. 5 Q^olludo, book 4, chap. 5. 

• I Herrera, 262. ' 1 Bancroft, 753. • 1 Clavigero, 273. 


person for individual use. Fetichism, being dependent on the 
ghost theory, has of course succeeded it in point of time. 

In America we find fetichism among the rudest tribes, but 
among the civilized Peruvians it became immensely elaborated. 

It is plain that a good deal of mental activity has been pres- 
ent among a people that have elaborated the doctrine of fetich- 
ism to any extent, as was the case among the Peruvians. 

A barren mind could not conceive of an inanimate object 
having in it some existence besides that which his senses ac- 
quaint him with. He could not imagine an invisible entity 
within a visible one, but showing no evidence of its existence. 
He has not the mental power to grasp such a conception.* 

A rude fetichism prevailed among the Eskimos, who loaded 
themselves with amulets dangling about their necks and arms. 
They consisted of bones, bills, and claws of birds, which, ac- 
cording to their opinion, had a wonderful virtue to preserve 
those that wore them from disease and misfortune." The men 
always kept some part of the seal they had killed, lest they 
should forfeit their luck. They were very anxious to get a 
rag or shoe of a European, to hang about their children's 
necks, that they might acquire European skill and ability 
thereby. They requested Europeans to blow upon them. The 
prows of their boats were always adorned with a fox's head, and 
their harpoons with an eagle's beak. They piled the heads of 
their seals before their doors, that the souls of the seals might 
not get angry. The kayak was often adorned with a dead 
sparrow or snipe, or the feathers or hair of some animal, to 
ward off danger. Eagles' claws were a great fetich.3 

It must be borne in mind that the souls of animals among 
savage peoples were more potent than those of men, and ani- 
mal fetiches prevailed as early man depended upon the animal 
world and most of his associations were with it. 

The natives of the Yukon territory wear bears' claws and 
teeth, sables' tails and wolves* ears, porcupine quills and ermine 

' I Spencer, 345. » Egede, 198. 3 i Crantz, 200. 




skins, beavers' teeth, and the bright-green scalps of the mal- 
lard. They pierce the nose to insert shells therein.* The 
Innuits wear beluga teeth. Ear-rings are much worn among 
them, and the ceremony of boring the ear is a religious one. 
They also wear images of animals." The Haidahs used small 
owls and squirrels as amulets. Amulets made of the tusks of 
some animal akin to the mastodon were found in many of the 
graves of Tennessee.^ An Indian who possessed a tooth pro- 
nounced by Professor Marsh, when in the Black Hills, to be 
that of a brontotherium, said it belonged to a big horse struck 
by lightning.* He thought it was a great fetich. The New 
Mexicans wore feathers of birds, antelopes' toes, and cranes* 
bills as charms.s The Isthmians wore around their necks the 
figures of animals, and carried about their persons the claws 
of wild beasts and faathers.* The Abipones wore crocodiles' 
teeth suspended from their neck, and believed they would de- 
fend them from the bites of serpents. The Haytians also used 
such fetiches.7 In the tombs of all the more civilized American 
nations small images of animals intended as fetiches were 
found. The eyes of the cuttle-fish were very popular fetiches 
in Peru.^ 

The Brazilian savages wore bones in their ears and cheeks 
as fetiches. One of the tribes wore a parrot's feather through 
the nose. Animal fetiches were more used than any other, on 
account of the prevalence of the system of animal manitous 
hereafter noticed. Among the Northern tribes, boys, when 
arriving at puberty, selected an animal as a patron, and always 
wore a piece of the skin or bone of that animal as an amulet, 
and used every precaution against its loss, which would have 
been regarded as a great calamity. The young Indian, after 
having chosen his patron or manitou, yielded to it a sort of 
worship, propitiated it with offerings of tobacco, thanked it in 
prosperity, and upbraided it in disaster. The superstition be- 

^ Dall, 95. 

4 Beach, 259. 

1 I Rafinesque, 191 

» lb., 140-41. 
5 I Bancroft, 522. 

3 Smithsonian Rep., 1877, 274. 
« I ib., 752. 
8 Bollaert, 151. 


came mere fetich-worship.'^ If the animal would admit of its 
skin being made into a bag, it became his medicine-bag. The 
medicine-bag and its meaning and importance should be under- 
stood, as it may be said to be the key to Indian life and Indian 
character. These bags were constructed of the skins of ani- 
mals, and ornamented in a thousand different ways as suited 
the taste or freak of each person. Every Indian carried his 
medicine-bag, to which he paid the greatest homage, and to 
which he looked for safety and protection through life. Feasts 
were often made and dogs and horses sacrificed to a man's 
medicine-bag, and days and even weeks of fasting and penance 
of various kinds were often suffered to appease this fetich, 
which he imagined he had in some way offended. He looked 
upon this as a supernatural charm or guardian, on which he 
depended for the preservation of his life. In death it was 
buried with him, and was thought to be as useful in the next 
world as in this. If an Indian should sell or give away his med- 
icine-bag, he would be disgraced in his tribe. If it was taken 
away from him in battle, he was forever subjected to the de- 
grading epithet of " a man without medicine," and he tould 
only restore his honor and replace his medicine by capturing 
one from an enemy in battle. He could institute his medicine- 
bag but once in life, and then by a dream." They did not dare 
touch the medicine-bags of each other, for they would injure 
any who dared to examine their sacred contents.^ Before they 
went to war they examined these as carefully as our soldiers 
would their cartridge-boxes.* 

The Tupinambas of Brazil carried their devotion to their 
maracas farther than the North American to his medicine-bag. 
These maracas were worshipped. They were supposed to give 
oracles. They sacrificed human beings to them. They were 
supposed to be inhabited by a spirit.^ 

These maracas were gourds with pebbles in them. They 

« Parkman's Jes., Ixxi. ■ 1 Catlin, 36-37. s i ib., 154-55. 

4 Kohl, 344. 5 I Southey, 202. 


were so sacred none but their owners could look at them. 
Offerings of game and honey were made to them/ They per- 
formed sacred dances to them. The maraca was made of a 
fruit so called, was hollow, and had a stick running through it, 
and on the top of this stick was a tuft of human hair, which 
undoubtedly gave it its sacred character. Every man of those 
tribes on the Orinoco had one of these.* 

The medicine-bag, or maraca, did not exclude the use of other 
fetiches. Sometimes as many as twenty amulets were found 
within a medicine-bag. Among the Northern tribes a child's 
cradle was hung with fetiches to ward off evil.^ 

The Iroquois wore amulets as a defence against witchcraft 
and sorcery. They were worn on the breast, or suspended 
from the neck or ears. They were sometimes representations 
of a human face, but generally a part of some animal.* 

A great part of their philosophy of medicine consisted of 
amulets. They believed the possession of certain articles about 
the person rendered the body invulnerable. Some of them 
were kept in the medicine-sack, some worn as ornaments. Sea- 
shells have always been very popular amulets. The sea appears 
to have been invested with mystical powers, and any of its in- 
habitants shared the mystery, — a very reasonable superstition, it 
would appear, when we look at these colored, glittering, and 
beautifully-formed objects. Their wampum-strings were always 
sacred in their eyes, and were a token of the sacred character 
of treaties. Amulets used in life were buried with the dead.s 

Among the Peruvians the conopas were the individual deities. 
If a person found anything that was of peculiar color or figure, 
it was a conopa, and became a fetich to them. They worshipped 
them. The bezoar stones, which were very popular conopas, 
were often found with blood on them, implying a bloody sacri- 
fice. These conopas descended from father to son.^ They 
protected their estates against thieves by laying down tortoise- 

« I Southey, 379. » i ib., 187-88. 3 Kohl, 8. 

♦ Schoolcraft's Iroquois, 137-38. 5 1 Schoolcraft, 86. * Arriaga, 14-15. 


shells. No one dared enter an Estate where there was one of 
these shells.* Flamingoes were used to preserve dwellings 
from harm. Each Peruvian might have as many fetiches as he 
pleased. The number was not restricted, as in Mexico, where 
the king might have six, a noble four, and a plebeian only two. 
They made little images of llamas, alpacas, vicunas, huanacas, 
deer, monkeys, parrots, lizards, and other animals, and carried 
and worshipped them. Some of them had little cavities in the 
back, in which sacrifices were placed." 

Among the Mexicans, " travellers carried a black stick which 
was a fetich, for they thought it preserved them from all harm, 
and when they made a halt they worshipped it." 3 

The Northern tribes used banners as fetiches, on which was 
a picture of the totemic animal of the tribe. Many heraldic 
devices, which will be noticed under animal worship, were 
sketched on skins of animals. An animal chosen as a crest 
must not be killed or ill treated in the presence of any wearing 
its figure. 

The supposition that the animate creation could be subjected 
to the control of any who possessed a part has survived even 
among the most civilized of the American peoples. The super- 
stition has been extended to include a belief which has devel- 
oped therefrom, that by keeping in possession the bones of an 
individual of a species, the other members of the species could 
be influenced thereby. 

The natives of Honduras kept the bones of deer in their 
houses, thinking it gave them power over the deer. If they 
lost them they would kill no more deer.* 

The prevalence of these superstitions relating to parts of the 
bodies of animate creation would develop a desire to preserve 
with sacred care the bones of the dead, for by obtaining a part 
of the body of a deceased person the possessor had control 
over the spirit of the deceased. 

* Oliva, 1 18-19. ■ Rivero and Tschudi, 171-74. 

3 I Clavigero, 388. * 4 Herrera, 142. 


Again, it was the universal desire of primitive peoples to have 
their bodies kept intact, with the expectation of reanimating 
them at some future time. The perfection of this reanimated 
body was prevented, they thought, if the parts were separated. 
Hence we are led to the consideration of the mortuary customs 
of the aborigines, and the ceremonies connected therewith, 
which will elucidate their worship of the dead. 



Burial-customs — Care of the dead — Interment — Suspension — Cremation — Tombs 
the primitive altars — The mounds, their builders and uses — Burial-towers — 
Resurrection of the dead — Sacrifice— Food-offerings the primitive form — Human 
sacrifices — Tombs the primitive temples. 

Burial-customs and ceremonies are closely connected with 
the subject of the worship of human spirits. In the perform- 
ance of this " last act" we can find valuable evidence to aid in 
our researches on primitive religion. The rites and ceremonies 
attending the disposition of the dead were religious in their 
nature, and religious rites are unconscious commentaries on 
religious beliefs. 

The great care of primitive peoples in preserving the bodies 
of the dead has been instigated by many of their superstitions, 
prominent among which was their belief in a resurrection. 
The doctrine of the resurrection was the most deeply-rooted 
and wide-spread conviction of the Indian mind. It is indis- 
solubly connected with their highest theories of a future life. 
The Delawares told Loskiel, " We Indians shall not forever die. 
Even the grains of corn grow up and become living things." 
The Indians thought the soul would return to the bones and 
be clothed again with flesh.' 

Their belief that dreams were produced by the soul's de- 
parture from and return to the body was akin to their belief in 
resurrection. The only difference between sleep and death 
to the primitive mind consisted in the ektent of time the soul 
was absent In both the soul would return ; in both the body 

* Brinton, 272-73. 



would reawake. The custom which we have noticed of bury- 
ing the dead quickly after death in many tribes, and with no 
medical skill to know whether life was extinct, resulted often 
in the return of the supposed dead man to life, and thus afforded 
practical proof of a resurrection to the savage mind. This doc- 
trine of a resurrection manifested itself in Oriental art in the 
production of the topes. In Egypt the pyramids are an evidence 
of it. In Greek literature Antigone is an expression of this 

The same superstitious care of the bodies of the dead which 
has inspired so many classical tales is found among even the 
rudest of the American tribes. Says Del Techo of those tribes 
inhabiting Brazil and its vicinity, "They carefully keep the 
bones of their relatives ; nor is there any affront they avenge 
with so much war and slaughter as when you upbraid them 
that the bones of their ancestors have been lost for want of 
looking after."* Mr. Humboldt says, in speaking of the cave 
of Ataruipe, in Guiana, which he thought to be the grave of an 
extinct tribe, " We counted about six hundred well-preserved 
skeletons placed in as many caskets formed of the stalks of 
palm-leaves. These skeletons were so perfect that not a rib or 
finger was wanting."' Among the Northern tribes the bones 
of the dead were preserved with scrupulous care, and if one was 
missing it would be looked for ti!l found. Even the comfort 
of the body was looked after. Says Arriaga of the Peruvians, 
" They are convinced that corpses feel, eat, and drink, and will 
rise again, and are much better satisfied with vaults, where they 
do not suffer with a load of earth placed upon them." 3 They 
so skilfully embalmed the bodies of their deceased Incas that 
they were as successful as the Egyptians in perpetuating the 
existence of the body beyond the limits assigned to it by 

Among the tribes of North America, unless the rites of burial 

* 4 Churchill, Coll. Voy., 705. ■ Views of Nature, 171. 

3 Arriaga, 40-41. < I Prescoit*s Peru, 33-34. 


were properly performed, many of them thought the spirits of 
the dead wandered upon the earth in great unhappiness. Hence 
arose their solicitude to get possession of the bodies of the 
slain.* Among the Ottawas a great famine was thought to 
have been produced on account of the failure of some of their 
tribesmen to perform these burial-rites. After having repaired 
their fault they were blessed with an abundance of provisions.* 

Many of the nomadic tribes carried their dead with them in 
their migrations. Heckewelder gives a curious instance of this 
in the following words : 

" These Nanticokes had the singular custom of removing the 
bones of their deceased friends from the old burial-place to a 
place of deposit in the country they now dwell in. In earlier 
times they were known to go from Wyoming and Chemenk to 
fetch the bones of their dead from the Eastern Shore of Mary- 
land, even when the bodies were in a putrid state, so that they 
had to take off the flesh and scrape the bones clean before they 
could carry them along. I well remember having seen them 
between the years 1750 and 1760 loaded with such bones, 
which, having flesh on them, caused a disagreeable stench as 
they passed through the town of Bethlehem." 3 

This disposition of each tribe to cling to the earthly remains 
of their kindred would originate the custom of burial in gentes 
or families. We find a good d|^l of evidence to show that this 
was done in early times. Mr. Morgan thinks that formerly a 
tendency existed to bury in this way. This practice he dis- 
covered at Lewiston among the Tuscaroras, where the beaver, 
bear, and gray-wolf gentes buried separately. The Choctaws 
and Cherokees kept separate and apart the bones of each gens, 
and the ark containing the bones had the family totem marked 
upon it. Among the Onondagas and Oneidas the practice sur- 
vived to recent times.* Among the Hurons the same practice 
prevailed. In the Jesuit Relations an elaborate annual cumula- 

» Morgan's League, 175, ■ Kip*s Jesuit Missionaries, 33. 

3 Heckewelder, 75, seq. 4 Morgan's Ancient Society, 83-84. 


tive burial of the bear gens of the Hurons is described. Among 
the tribes of South America, where hut-burial was so prevalent 
as it was, the house of each family became its burial-place. 

The place of sepulture and the manner of disposing of the 
dead vary greatly according to locality. The influence of cli- 
mate is apparent, also the occupation of the people, also the 
degree of progress they have made from savagery. The Eskimos 
prefer an elevated and remote situation for the tomb, and a 
woman waving a light follows the corpse, which has been taken 
out of the house through a window, and not the usual en- 
trance ; or, if living in tents, an opening is made in the back 
part of the tent. On the way to the place of interment she 
cries, " Here thou hast nothing more to hope for ! " * A super- 
stitious fear of the spirit of the dead is here plainly shown in 
the custom of carrying the body out of another beside the 
ordinary exit, and also in their address to the dead, which is 
not certainly very hospitable. Sometimes the body is buried 
in the ground, beneath a covering of fur or sods, over which 
heavy stones are placed as a protection against foxes and birds.^ 
The Eskimos do not generally, however, inter the dead, but ele- 
vate them above the earth. In the Yukon territory the body 
is doubled up in a box, and elevated above the ground on four 
posts.3 Sometimes it is enclosed in a standing posture in a 
circle of sticks, looking much like a cask.* The Ingalik graves 
sometimes look like an old-fashioned bedstead, with four posts 
supporting the box or coffin. The Tuski carry the dead out 
through a hole cut in the back of the hut, which is immediately 
closed up, that the spirit may not find its way back. Crema- 
tion sometimes occurs among them, but the dead are generally 
suspended above ground, because if buried the bears would dig 
them up.5 Some are, however, buried with the head above 
the surface.^ 

The external surroundings have had much influence among 

« I Crantz, 217. » Lyon*s Journal, 371. 

3 Ball's Alaska, 17. 4 lb., 95. 

5 lb., 382. * Hooper's Tuski, 221. 


wild tribes upon their burial-customs. Where there is no soil, 
as in many places, interment is impracticable. Where there 
are no trees and but little drift-wood, cremation is impossible, 
and the natives are compelled to expose their dead on some 
hill-side. In the Yukon valley, just below the surface, the soil 
is permanently frozen and excavation extremely difficult, but 
timber abounds, and the bodies are placed in wooden coffins 
and suspended on posts out of the reach of wild beasts. Where 
the soil is unfrozen and there are no obstacles to digging, in- 
terment is practised. Among the Kaniag and Aleut branches 
of the Eskimos the dead were mummified. The body was pre- 
pared by making an opening in the pelvic region and removing 
the internal organs, and the cavity was stuffed with dry grass 
and placed in running water to wash away the fatty portions, 
and the body afler preparation wrapped in several folds of skins 
and furs, and then consigned to caves and rock shelters, which 
were shunned by the living. There was a cave on the Four 
Mountain Islands, which was the mausoleum of a chief and 
three children, since which the place has been abandoned by 
the natives. Those Kadiaks who hunted the whale formed a 
caste by themselves, and their bodies were preserved with re- 
ligious care and secreted in caves only known to the posses- 
sors, because if not kept secret they would be stolen by other 
whalers to cut up for fetichistic purposes. The Aleuts often 
laid the dead in the clefts of the rocks, but they were generally 
placed in boat-shaped coffins and suspended to poles. Chil- 
dren were sometimes kept in the house, where the fond mother 
would continue to watch carefully over them and wipe away 
the mould.* The Thlinkeets suspended their shamans in boxes, 
but, with that exception, buried their dead. Before burning a 
warrior, however, they cut off his head and kept it in a box, 
which was placed over the box containing his ashes."* 

The Santees made rude attempts at embalming, but usually 
exposed the body until the flesh could be scraped off, when the 

* Dall's Alaska, 390. ' I Bancroft, 113. 


flesh was burned ; then the bones were carefully preserved in a 
wooden box and oiled every year. They have preserved them 
in some instances for many ages. When an Indian was slain in 
battle, however, the body was generally covered with a tumu- 
lus of stones and sticks.* The Root-diggers seem to have prac- 
tised cremation," which appears to have been almost universal 
among the California tribes. They assigned as the reason for 
this custom the prevention of putrefaction and destruction of 
the body by insects.3 A few mummies in remarkable preserva- 
tion have been found among the Chinooks and Flatheads. 
They were generally placed in canoes on elevated ground, with 
all their implements around them.* 

The Mandans never bury the dead, but place the bodies on 
scaffolds just out of the reach of wolves and dogs. Near the 
village there was always a group of these scaffolds, resembling 
a city of the dead. The body was carefully and thoroughly 
bandaged, and then placed upon a scaffold facing the east. The 
mourners spent much of their time under these scaffolds. 
When the scaffolds fell, all the bones but the skulls were buried. 
These were collected and placed in circles of a hundred or 
more on the prairie. 

Among the tribes about the Santa Fe trail suspension in high 
trees is very common. If buried, the wolves dug them up.^ 
The same practice prevails among the Dacotahs and Western 
Ojibways. The bones and hairs are gathered, after the flesh is 
gone, and interred. Suspension was practised by many of the 
tribes on the Columbia River, the body having first been placed 
in a canoe.^ 

Although the Dacotahs practise suspension usually, they 
sometimes inter, and in a sitting posture, as a sign that the 
man has been killed in war. The common practice among the 
Indians of relating the brave deeds of such and addressing the 
corpse probably suggested the placing them in a convenient pos- 

* 4 Schoolcraft, 156. » 4 ib., 225. 3 5 ib., 217. 

4 5 ib., 693. 5 I ib., 262. * I ib., 217. 


ture for these ceremonies. Once a year the Dacotahs gather 
the bones of the dead for general burial. When they inter, 
they say that the little red squirrel sometimes devours the 
corpse, and for this reason they will not eat that animal. Of 
this curious reason for the abstention from animal flesh I will 
speak further under the head of animal worship. A remarkable 
mode of burial was seen in the neighborhood of Kenosha, Wis- 
consin. Two Indians were set in the ground in a standing or 
upright posture, and all of their bodies above their waists pro- 
truded above the surface of the ground, where they could see 
what was going on. The progress of decay had already de- 
prived one of the bodies of its head when seen by the whites. 

When a Comanche warrior dies, he is buried on the summit 
of a high hill in a sitting posture, with his face to the east, and 
his buffalo robe and all his scanty wardrobe with him. His best 
horses also are killed, and the remainder of his animals have 
their manes and tails shaved close, and the women of the family 
crop their hair, as a symbol of affliction and mourning. After 
the death, the relatives and friends of the deceased assemble 
morning and evening outside the camp, where they cry and 
cut themselves with knives for half an hour or more, and this 
sometimes lasts for a month. When an ordinary person dies, 
the corpse is buried immediately. The death of a young war- 
rior is always greatly lamented, and the mourning ceremonies 
continue a long time; but when an old man dies they only 
mourn for him a few days.* 

Says La Hontan of the Northern nations, "As soon as a 
savage dies he is dressed as neatly as can be, and his relations 
and slaves (captives) come and mourn over him. When the 
corpse is dressed, they set it upon a mat in the same posture as 
if the person were alive, and his relations being set around him, 
every one in his turnaddresses him with a harangue, recount- 
ing all his exploits as well as those of his ancestors. He that 
speaks last expresses himself to this purpose : ' You sit now 

' Marcy's Army Life on ihe Border, 56. 


along with us, and have the same shape that we have ; you 
want neither arms, nor head, nor legs, but at the same time you 
cease to be, and begin to evaporate like the smoke of a pipe. 
Who is it that talked with us but two days ago ? Sure 'twas 
not you, for then you would speak to us still. It must there* 
fore be your soul, which is now lodged in the great country of 
souls along with those of our nation/ After they have made 
an end of their harangues, the male relations remove to make 
room for the female friends, who make him the like compli- 
ment. This done^ they shut the corpse up twenty-four hours 
in the hut for the dead, and during that time are employed in 
dances and feasts, which are far from being a mournful show. 
After the twenty-four hours are expired, the slaves of the de- 
ceased person carry his corpse upon their backs to the burying- 
place, where it is laid upon stakes that are ten feet high, in a 
double coffin of bark, with his arms and some pipes, with 
tobacco and Indian corn put up in the same coffin. When the 
slaves are carrying the corpse to the burying-place, the male and 
female relations accompany them, dancing all the while, and the 
rest of the slaves of the deceased person carry some baggage, 
which the relations present to the dead person and lay upon 
his coffin." ' 

The Assiniboins, like several other tribes of the great 
American deserts, never bury their dead, but suspend them by 
thongs of leather between the branches of the great trees, or 
expose them on scaffoldings sufficiently high to place the body 
out of reach of the voracious wild animals. The feet of the 
corpses are turned toward the rising sun, and when the trees 
or scaffoldings fall through old age, the bones are collected and 
buried religiously within a circle formed of heads. This sacred 
deposit is guarded, as among the Mandans, by medicine-trees 
or posts, from which amulets or medicine-bags are suspended. 

The practice of suspension undoubtedly arose from a desire 
to prevent animals from devouring the dead. Carelessness 

' 2 La Hontan, 54. 


about the preservation of the dead seldom occurs among the 
Northern tribes. There are only a few instances mentioned 
among all the tribes of America where an attempt was not 
made to prevent the destruction of the dead by animals. 

The Chippewyans had a great aversion to being buried in 
the ground. The idea of being eaten by the worms was hor- 
rible to them. They enclosed the body in hollow wood, which 
they hung to trees. The widow was obliged to remain near 
the body for one year, to keep away animals. When nothing 
but the bones were left they were burned, and the ashes kept in 
a small box.' If their dead had been wicked or unpopular in 
life, then such care would not be bestowed upon them, but they 
would be burned forthwith." 

The Ojibways interred with the head toward the west, and 
built a tomb of poles placed lengthways. If the deceased was 
a husband, the widow ran zigzag toward home, dodging be- 
hind trees to elude the spirit of her dead husband. For several 
nights they rattled at the door, in order to frighten away his 
spirit. Some hung up scarecrows to flutter in the wind, im- 
agining the spirit to be as timid as themselves.^ When the 
ground was frozen and it was almost impossible to penetrate 
the surface, they wrapped the corpse in skins or bark and hung 
it on a tree beyond the reach of wolves and foxes. When the 
bones fell to the ground they were gathered and buried.^ 

It will thus be seen that among the Northern tribes all the 
various kinds of burial were resorted to, yet interments were 
less frequent, because during many months in the year they 
could not be made. In many cases those accustomed to inter 
in the summer would burn or otherwise dispose of the dead 
in winter. Cremation appears to have been the most usual 
method of disposing of the dead among most of these Northern 
tribes. The reasons that led to this were that it was the easiest 
and quickest mode of disposing of the more destructible parts 

* Smithsonian Rep., 1866, 319. "lb., 326. 

s Jones's Ojibways, 98-100. 4 lb., 100. 


of the body, and the indestructible were reduced to less bulk, 
so that they might be disposed of or carried more easily. Their 
flesh was thus saved from the devouring worm, or from being 
eaten by the birds or other animals. The curious custom pre- 
vailed to some extent of drinking the ashes of relatives, by 
which superstitious practice the spirit of the deceased, or a part 
of it, was supposed to be absorbed and assimilated by the spirit 
of the person drinking the ashes. For the same reason these 
ashes were often smeared, when moistened, over the bodies of 
the living. Among the California tribes cremation was almost 
universal. The weird and showy spectacle undoubtedly added 
much to the interest taken in cremation, as I find among tribes 
using this method that the attendance was generally large at 
these ceremonies. Another advantage of cremation was that 
thereby the personal effects of the deceased, which were gen- 
erally sacrificed, were so disposed of that they could not be 
stolen, as they frequently were when deposited with the body 
in exposed places. 

Passing to the customs of the Southern tribes, we find them 
vary much from those of the North, where a rude fear of spirits 
exists but has not developed into worship. 

The Mosquitos deposit the body in a canoe, in which they 
place a spear, bow, and paddle. If a widow survives, she sup- 
plies her dead husband with food for a year, after which she 
carries his bones on her back in the daytime and sleeps with 
them at night for another year. After this they are deposited 
in the house.* 

Among the wild tribes of Central America interment and 
cremation were both practised. The custom prevailed to some 
extent of placing the body in a hut or primitive temple and 
there offering sacrifices to it as long as anything but the bones 
remained. In the higher civilizations of America a more elab- 
orate system of sacrifices was gradually being developed, and 
great monuments and temples were built over the remains of 

» I Bancroft, 744. 


dead heroes. In Peru, embalmment was a common mode of 
preserving the dead caciques. It was also practised to some 
extent in the provinces of Central America, where slow fires of 
herbs were built under the body ; it was thus gradually dried, 
until only skin and bones remained. These were then dressed 
and adorned with ornaments of gold, jewels, and feathers, and 
placed in an apartment of his palace, where the remains of his 
ancestors were kept. Quinantzin, monarch of Tezcuco, who 
died after a long and prosperous reign, in the thirteenth cen- 
tury, was burned with great pomp and ceremony, and his ashes 
placed in an emerald urn. The Aztecs were very particular 
about the disposal of their dead. The monarchs were often 
embalmed by taking out the bowels and replacing them with 
aromatic substances. The process was not complete, and only 
served temporarily while the tedious ceremonies of having the 
dead equipped properly for the long journey were being per- 
formed. Hence no remains of mummies are found.^ The 
body was then burned. Cremation was a very ancient custom 
among the Nahua nations. It appears to have been practised 
in the early times by the migrating tribes. The ashes could 
thus be easily carried, and the bodies preserved from desecra- 
tion. The Chichemecs burned their kings who were killed in 
battle, and thus their ashes were carried home with convenience 
and safety. There is much evidence to show that the Toltecs 
practised interment in ordinary cases, and that the Aztecs in- 
troduced the general use of cremation. The later usage was 
to bum all except those who died a violent death or of certain 
diseases, and those under seventeen years of age. The Tlascal- 
tecs and Aztecs practised cremation.* The altar devoted to the 
burning was doubtless one attached to the temple of the deity 
who presided over the dead.3 Upon this altar the body was 
laid in full array, with all those things set apart to him for his 
future use, and the funeral pyre was started. A few devoted 
themselves to following the deceased into the other world, to 

» I Bancroft, 779. * 2 ib., 609. 3 lb. 



minister to his wants. The number continually increased dur- 
ing the bloody rule of the Aztecs, until, at the funeral of Neza- 
hualpilli, royal sage of Tezcuco, in 1515, two hundred males 
and one hundred females were immolated. After the body had 
been burned, the ashes, bones, and jewelry were placed in an 
urn with the hair of the deceased.' They were often, however, 
placed in an image of the deceased. 

Among the Toltecs, where the practice of interment was 
common, large vaults of stone and lime were used. Among 
the Aztecs the funerals of the subjects were attended with less 
pomp than those of the rulers and privileged classes. They 
were wrapped in mantles bearing the image of their professional 
deity upon them, — the warrior with the mantle of the war god, 
the merchant and artisan with that of the patron deity of his 
trade. The drunkard would, in addition, be covered with the 
robe of the god of wine, and the adulterer with the robe of the 
god of lasciviousness. If burned, the robes were generally 
given to the temples ; but if buried, placed with the body. 
People who had died a violent death, or with leprosy, tumors, 
itch, gout, dropsy, and women who died in childbed, were not 
burned, but interred in special graves.** These exceptions to the 
general rule of cremation were probably due to the impure 
condition of the body, which was not in a fit condition to be so 
soon spiritualized. A trader who died on a journey was placed 
in a basket and hung on a pole or tree.3 When the death was 
reported, however, to his family, the funeral ceremonies were 
conducted with full pomp over the image of the deceased, 
which was made for the occasion. Among those people who 
differed from the Aztecs in funeral ceremonies were the Teo 
Chichemecs, who interred their dead. In Goazacoalco it was 
the custom to place the bones in a basket as soon as the flesh 
was gone and hang them up on a tree, so that the spirit might 
have no trouble in finding them.* Suspensions were, however, 
rare among the Nahua nations. The Miztecs, in Oajaca, where 

' 2 Bancroft, 610-11. » 2 ib., 615-16. 3 2 ib., 616. ■♦ 2 ib., 619. 


cremation does not seem to have obtained, after mucl\ cere- 
mony, interred the dead in natural or artificial caves. The 
bones in most such cases appear, however, to have been re- 
moved to the house and temples when the flesh was gone. 
The Mayas disposed of the bodies of their dead by both burial 
and cremation. In Vera Paz, and probably throughout Guate- 
mala, the body was placed in the grave in a sitting posture, 
with the knees drawn up to the face. Their lords of provinces 
were gorgeously dressed for the ceremony and burial. Their 
interment Was generally on the top of a hill, and a mound raised 
over them. The common people had mounds raised over them 
also, and the height of these mounds was proportioned to the 
rank of the defunct.' This last fact will be enlarged upon when 
those monuments of the American tribes which appertain to 
their religious life are examined. Among the Yucatecs, only 
the poorer classes buried their dead. Their bodies were gen- 
erally interred in the house, which was then forsaken by its 
inmates.^ Such a custom as this would impoverish and retain 
in poverty the people who practised it, and it is probable that 
the absence of the ruins of all buildings except the temples 
and palaces of the lords, which has so puzzled the antiquary, is 
due to this custom, which was so common among the nomadic 
tribes, but can be looked upon only as a survival from bar- 
barism among the civilized nations of Central America. The 
Pipiles interred the dead in the house they lived in, and the 
high-priest was buried in a vault of his own palace.^ Among 
the higher classes in Yucatan, cremation was practised, and the 
ashes deposited in the image of the deceased, which was then 
placed in a temple. 

The Tupinambas of Brazil tied their dead fast, that they 
might not be able to get up and annoy their friends with their 
visits. The body was placed in a pit dug in the hut. Here it 
was swung in a hammock, and surrounded with provisions 
which the soul could eat when it pleased.* In ihe case of chiefs 

» 2 Bancroft, 800. " lb. 3 lb. 4 i Southey, 248. 


the body was generally anointed with honey and clothed with 
a coat of feathers. The vault was roofed over, and the family 
continued to live over it as before.* One burial-place was 
found among them where they were interred and their long 
hair left above ground." The Xomanas and Passes burned the 
dead and drank the ashes, thinking they received the spirit of 
the deceased by this act.3 The Guaranies buried their dead in 
urns, which were generally placed underneath the cabin floor. 
When they buried outside the cabin, a mound was raised over 
the place.* The Retoronos, Pechuyos, and Guarayos interred 
the dead, but when the flesh had decayed dug up the bones and 
reduced them to powder, which was mingled with maize in a 
cake, which was then eaten.s The Tapuyas buried their dead 
in their own stomachs. The infant was eaten by the parents, 
the adult by all his relatives. The bones were reserved for 
marriage-feasts, when they were powdered, and taken as the 
most precious thing that could be offered. The reader will 
probably infer the incentive to this custom. Whilst this 
species of cannibalism among the Tapuyas was the last dem- 
onstration of love, among the Tupis it was confined to their 
enemies, whom they devoured as the strongest mark of hatred.^ 
The tribes on the Orinoco preserved the bodies of their dead 
in baskets, after having placed them in the river over-night for 
the purpose of having the carib-fish strip off the flesh.^ Urn- 
burial was used by those skilled in pottery. Some of these 
urns were large enough to receive these bodies erect* The 
Mbayas interred the dead, unless the death happened at a dis- 
tance from home, when they hung the body in a tree for several 
months, where it became as dry as parchment and was then 
removed.5 Among the Patagonians the customs vary consider- 
ably, but interment was the most common practice. The body 
was wrapped up and carried to the grave, which was a hole 
dug in the earth. If a warrior, this was made so that the grave 

« I Southey, 248. « 3 ib., 318. 33 ib., 722. 

4 3 ib., 165. 5 3 ib., 204. « I ib., 379. 

1 I ib., 631. « I ib., 165. 9 I ib., 392. 


could be opened yearly and the skeleton cleaned and reclothed 
by an old matron whose special duty it was to perform this 
office for the dead. Suspension of the body on platforms, how- 
ever, was not uncommon until the flesh separated from the 
bones.* The Mapuches interred the dead, and with the face to 
the west, their spirit-land.** 

The Abipones pull out the heart and tongue of the dead and 
boil them and feed them to the dogs, that the author of his 
death may soon die also, for they think death is always pro- 
duced by sorcery. The body is then wrapped in a hide and 
bound with leather thongs, and carried quickly out of the 
house and interred in a grave, which is covered with prickly 
boughs to keep off tigers. Around the grave are placed 
various useful articles. Their favorite place of burial is a wood, 
whose umbrageous shade is thought to be delightful. The 
sacred character of woods and groves in warm countries is a 
subject of deep interest if connected with this custom of burial, 
as it undoubtedly is. The forests on the banks of the Parana, 
when re-echoing the sounds of their voices, are thought by the 
Abipones to be haunted by the spirits of the dead. They are 
very zealous in preserving the bones of those slain on the field 
of battle, and, having obtained the body, strip off the flesh, 
which they bury in the ground, and carry the bones home 
with reverence. They venerate the burial-places of their an- 

The caves of Hayti were much used in early times for burial 
of the dead, and afterward as temples;* cremation, however, 
succeeded this mode of burial, the second Bohito having, 
according to the legends, introduced this custom, which was 
considered an improvement^ 

Many of the Guiana tribes carefully preserved the bones of 
the dead after the women had picked off all the flesh. Some- 
times the body was immersed in the water until the bones had 

* 2 Wood, 542. » 2 ib., 565. 3 I Dobrizhoffer, 271. 

4 I Rafinesque, 170. 5 i ib., 191. 


been picked clean by fish, when they were carefully dried and 
suspended in the roof of the habitation.' Sometimes the body 
was buried in the house and a wide plank put over the place." 
Those slain in war were interred by heaping over them a mound.^ 
The high-priests of the Pipiles were buried sitting on stools in 
their own houses.^ 

In Florida the natives buried in the temples, in which there 
were wooden chests containing the bodies of the dead.s In one 
mausoleum at Talomeco, which was one hundred paces in 
length and forty in breadth, with lofty roofs of reed, there were 
benches upon which were placed the wooden chests, skilfully 
wrought, in which reposed the bodies of the priests and chiefs.^ 
The same custom prevailed among the Southeastern tribes of 
the United States, where the temples were dedicated to the pres- 
ervation of the bodies of their chiefs. Early temples arose in 
this way, and the survival of such sacred burials in our day is 
seen in the Catholic altar, built upon and sanctified by the bones 
of saints, and also in the Mohammedan shrine. Among the 
natives of Alabama, temples were discovered in their chief 
towns, in which the dead were deposited in baskets and boxes.' 
Says Mr. Pickett, "These bone-houses were the miniature 
temples of the Indians." ® 

Among some of these Southern tribes a mound was erected 
over chiefs and priests. On the sea-coast even the common 
people had a shell-mound thrown over them. In the interior 
shell-mounds were not used, but large earth mounds take their 
place, which were dedicated to the inhumation of the general 
dead. Many small mounds occur, in which one or more bodies 
were found. These were undoubtedly used for the burial of 
a single chief or priest, as above stated. The erection of large 
mounds has been gradually discontinued since the advent of 
Europeans. Some of the tribes, however, have continued the 
practice. The Yemassees slain by the Creeks in their last de- 

« Brett, 154. » lb., 188. 3 lb., 341. 44 Herrera, 155. 

5 5 ib., 315, 318. « Jones's Antiquities, 7&. 

7 I Pickett's Alabama, 169. ' I ib., 170. 


cisive battle were interred, and many small mounds raised over 

The Carolina tribes interred the dead at first in an artificial 
vault. When the flesh was gone they took up the bones and 
placed them in the temple. A fee was charged for this admit- 
tance to the temple. These bones were carried with them on 
their journeys.* The Choctaws placed their dead upon scaffolds 
until the flesh decayed, when the bones were taken down and 
put in a chest, which was deposited in a bone-house, with 
which each town was provided.^ When the bone-house was 
full, the boxes were taken out and piled up, and a mound raised 
over them, forming a pyramid.* The chiefs of the Cherokees 
were placed in a sitting posture on the surface of the earth, and 
a mound erected over them. 

Thus it will be seen that many of the mounds among these 
Southern tribes were erected over the dead by the Indians in- 
habiting the country after the discovery. So materially have 
the customs and institutions of the Indians been changed since 
the discovery, that it has been not only doubted, but even 
denied by many writers, that these mounds were constructed by 
the immediate ancestors of the present Indians. It appears, 
however, from many respectable authorities, that many tribes 
still continue to raise a tumulus over the dead, the magnitude 
of which is often proportioned to the rank and celebrity of the 
deceased. These mounds are scattered at intervals over the 
surface of both Americas, and neither by their size nor by their 
contents impress us, says Mr. Bradford, " with a high opinion 
of the civilization of their authors." s 

"Some have supposed that the number and magnitude of the 
mounds would indicate the existence of a race of men more 
industrious than our modern Indians. A little reflection will 
show that the amount of labor required in their erection did 
not surpass the common industry of the savages. Suppose a 

* Bartram's Travels, 139. " Lawson's Carolina, 181. 

3 Roman's East and West Florida, 89-90. « Bartram, 516. 

s Bradford's Antiquities, 18. 


mound to be forty feet in diameter at its base, and to rise by 
steps one foot in height and a foot and a half in depth to the 
height of thirteen feet, with a level surface on the summit four 
feet in diameter. It would contain about six thousand two 
hundred and thirty-three cubic feet of earth, or a fraction less 
than two hundred and thirty-one cubic yards. To deposit on 
the mound one cubic yard of earth would be a moderate day's 
labor for one man. Therefore the erection of the mound under 
consideration would employ two hundred and thirty-one per- 
sons one day only. Among the Indians the women would 
perform as much of this kind of work as the men. Within the 
Indian territory we have ninety-four thousand inhabitants. One- 
fifth of these or more are competent to labor. This gives eigh- 
teen thousand eight hundred laborers. If each of these would, 
in the course of twelve months, bestow only as much labor on 
the erection of mounds as would amount to one day, eighty-one 
mounds would be built in one year. And if the work should 
progress at the same rate with an equal number of inhabitants 
for three centuries, twenty-four thousand three hundred mounds 
would be constructed within the Indian territory. A few re- 
flections of this kind must satisfy any one that the Indians could 
have erected these mounds."* 

M. Malte-Brun, speaking of the earthworks in Ohio and the 
Northwest, says there is nothing to indicate on the part of the 
people who originated these works a greater degree of power 
than we should find possessed at this very day by the Iroquois 
or Ojibways, if they enjoyed entire liberty and were at a dis- 
tance from the Anglo-Americans. Says Mr. Melish, " I saw 
no reason to refer the erection of the mounds to a different race 
or a different state of civilization than what is found among the 
Indian tribes at present in North America. As to their inge- 
nuity, I really see nothing to lead us beyond the present race 
of Indians."' 

The mounds show no more art than might be expected from 

' McCoy's Baptist Missions, 27. * 2 Melish's Travels, 104. 


the present Indians. They are mere erections of earth, exhibit- 
ing no other trace of skill than that most of them are of regular 
forms contained under circular or right lines. Iron tools were 
not used in the formation of them. The only circumstance 
which strongly discredits their having been formed by the pro- 
genitors of the present Indians is the immensity of the size of 
some of them beyond what could be expected from the sparse 
population and the indolence of the present race.^ 

La Trobe says, " The degree of civilization necessary for con- 
struction of mounds has always been falsely estimated. Their 
being constructed of the superficial earth thrown into a heap, 
the rare occurrence of stone-work of the rudest kind, the com- 
parative insignificance of implements and ornaments in them, 
all militate against the idea of their having been erected by a 
people much more civilized than the present Indians, and no 
more civilized than the Natches."' 

Mr. Brown, in the " Western Gazetteer," says, " We obtained 
ample testimony that these masses of earth [meaning the 
mounds] were the work of a savage people." 3 The mounds 
at Butte des Morts were of recent origin. The great hill of 
the dead was raised by their survivors over the bodies of one 
thousand warriors who perished in a battle in 1706.* Each of 
the other mounds was raised over the grave of some renowned 
chief who fell in that battle.^ 

Mr. Lapham is of opinion that the skeletons in the mounds 
could not be very old, and that all traces of a skeleton would 
be gone in a few centuries, and hence concludes that there is 
no probability that the mounds have an antiquity of many 
hundred years.* 

The present tribes continued after the discovery the practice 
of mound-building so far as to erect a conical tumulus over 
their dead. Among the natives of South Carolina, the bones 
of the dead, with the articles to be interred with them, were 

» I Flint's Geography. » 2 La Trobe's Rambles N. A., 241-43. 

3 Western Gazetteer, 58. 4 Allouez, 3 Smith's Wisconsin, 262. 

5 J Wis. Hist. Coll., 192. « I ib., 29. 


placed upon the surface of the ground ; then they were covered 
to the depth of several inches with a mixture of charcoal and 
ashes, which was covered by clay, piled upon it until a mound 
was formed several feet in height The storms of centuries 
would only serve to beat more firmly together the mass of 
clay and indestructible carbon, which thus formed a protection 
to its contents.' 

Mr. Battey says that whilst among the Indians on Sulphur 
Creek, he noticed a small mound of fresh earth surmounted by 
a buffalo's skull, which had just been erected over the grave of 
a young child.* 

Mr. Brinton thinks the Florida mounds and all those in the 
Atlantic States, and most of those in the Mississippi Valley, 
were the production of the identical nations found there by 
the whites.3 Many cases of mound-burial occurred after the 
discovery. It was customary among the tribes on St John's 
River, when a chief died and his corpse was interred, to raise a 
mound above the grave, and place upon its summit the conch- 
shell from which he used to drink.*^ A good many instances 
are found of the prevalence of the same custom among the 
tribes of the Northern United States after the advent of whites. 
The Indians of Canada erected a sort of pyramid over an 
illustrious personage.^ Those Indians dwelling in the country 
now embraced within the territory of the State of New Jersey 
and its vicinity buried their dead in a sitting posture and cov- 
ered the grave with a pyramid, or mound of earth.^ Within 
a short time the Leavenworth Ledger^ Kansas, announced the 
death and burial of a young Indian chief twelve years of 
age. He was placed in a sitting posture upon the surface 
of the earth, surrounded by all his personal effects, and a 
mound was then thrown over the whole. Mr. Featherston- 
haugh noticed a mound among the Osages which had just 
been raised over a chief, and enlarged from time to time till 

' I Logan's Upper South Carolina, 222. ' Quaker among the Indians, 142. 

3 Brinton's Florida, 176. 4 Basanier, Hist. Not., 10, seq. 

5 I Jes. Rel., 19. « Smith's N. J., 13. 


very large.' Mr. Squier also noticed one of modern date in 
Belmont County, Ohio." 

Mr. Bierce mentions another recent case of mound-con- 
struction, — an Indian named Nicksaw, who was buried where 
he was killed and a mound raised over him.3 

The Dacotahs erected a mound ten feet high over the body 
of the son of one of their chiefs, who was recently killed in 
trying to make the famous leap at the Red Pipe-Stone Quarry.* 

One of the largest mounds in the country of the Osages, 
says Mr. Beck, " has been thrown up on the Osage River with- 
in the last thirty or forty years by the Osages in honor of one 
of their deceased chiefs." This fact proves conclusively the 
original object of these mounds, and refutes the theory that 
they must necessarily have been erected by a race of men more 
civilized than the present tribes of Indians. Were it necessary, 
numerous other facts might be adduced to prove that many of 
the mounds are no other than the tombs of their great men, and 
are of recent origin.^ 

It is related by intelligent Indian traders that a custom once 
prevailed among certain tribes, on the burial of a chief or brave 
of distinction, to consider his grave as entitled to the tribute 
of a portion of earth from each passer-by, which the traveller 
sedulously carried with him on his journey. Hence the first 
grave formed a nucleus, around which, in 4he accumulation of 
the accustomed tributes of respect thus paid, a mound was soon 
formed. It also became an honorable distinction for the dead 
to be buried by the side of the chiefs so deposited ig the first 
mound; and as the custom of earthy tribute continued, the 
mound increased in size, and the irregularity in the shape and 
size of the burial-places may thus in a measure be explained.^ 

After a battle the slain are collected in one spot, and a large 
mound of earth is heaped over them. Some of these mounds 
are very large. There was one on the road from St. Augustine 

« Travels, 70. ■ Aboriginal Monuments of N. Y., 107. 

3 Summit County, 138. ^ 2 Catlin's IIIus., 170. 

5 Beck's Gazetteer, 308. • 3 Smith's Hist. Wis., 245, seq. 


to Tomaka, which must have covered two acres of ground. 
Barrows of this kind are numerous over the whole American 
continent,' and contain vast numbers of the dead. The cus- 
tom of burying the remains of many individuals in one spot 
and heaping over them a mound of earth was common in re- 
mote times among the wandering tribes around Lakes Huron 
and Superior. The dead were laid upon the bare rock, and 
covered with stones to protect the body from wild animals. 
After a certain number of years the tribe made a gathering of 
their dead and bore the bones to a suitable resting-place, where 
earth existed in sufficient abundance to admit of a mound 
being made without difficulty. This would be easier in the 
valleys of rivers." 

Cumulative burials instigated the erection of many of the 
large mounds. A mound at Vincennes, Indiana, showed un- 
doubted signs of cumulative burial. In it was found a bed of 
human bones closely packed and pressed together and pro- 
miscuously mingled. A mound at Merom, Indiana, had three 
layers of human bones. This cumulative burial was very 
prevalent among the different tribes. We have already noticed 
it among the tribes of the Southern United States. It was the 
custom also among those of the Northern States, especially the 
Hurons and Iroquois, to gather together annually the bones of 
the dead from the scaffolds, trees, houses, temples, rock shelters, 
or any other places where the bodies may have been deposited, 
and bury them all in one place. This has undoubtedly been 
the cause and occasion of erecting many of the large mounds. 
In a mound in the township of Beverly, Upper Canada, a 
tumulus was discovered containing the remains of about one 
thousand Indians, with all their arm^ and cooking-vessels.^ A 
mound at St. Louis thirty-five feet high was thrown over a 
trench containing many human bones. 

It was the custom among the tribes of Georgia, when the 

« Prince of Econchatti, 70-72. » i Hind's Nar., 90-91. 

3 Mcintosh's Book of Indians, 312. 


accumulation of bones was great, to have a general inhumation, 
when a mound was erected over them.' 

The shell-mounds along the coast appear to have been ex- 
tensively used as tumuli for the dead. One of these on Stall- 
ing's Island in the Savannah River, fifteen feet high and three 
hundred long, contained hundreds of skeletons.* 

In Shenandoah County, on Mr. Steenburger*s land, are the 
remains of an Indian mound. When first seen, it was eighteen 
or twenty feet high and fifty to sixty yards in circumference. 
This mound was literally filled with human skeletons.^ On 
the land of Mr. Noah Keyser, near the mouth of the Hawks- 
bill Creek, stand the remains of a large mound. This, though 
reduced by ploughing, is yet some twelve or fourteen feet high 
and sixty yards round at the base. It is found to be literally 
filled with human skeletons, and at every fresh ploughing a fresh 
layer of bones is brought to the surface.* 

In Chile, the bones of the dead are kept until the time of 
yearly burial, when the skeletons are placed in a sitting posture 
in a row, with all their weapons around them, and earth is then 
thrown over them. Sacrifices are brought by the people to 
this mausoleum, where a priestess offers them to the dead.^ 

Many instances are given of the erection over the dead of 
small mounds of stones, commonly called cairns. Mianton* 
nomah is buried in the east part of Norwich, at a place called 
Sachem's Plain, from the event of his death, and is buried on 
the spot where he was slain. But a few years since, a large 
heap of stones, thrown together by the wandering Indians, 
according to the custom of their country, and as a melancholy 
mark of the love the Narragansetts had for their fallen chief, 
lay on his grave.* 

The Patagonians raised stone-heaps over the dead, the size 
of which depended upon the importance of the deceased.^ 

Sometimes the tumuli were made of dried twigs arranged 

* Jones's Antiquities, 191-92. ■ lb., 197-98. 

3 Kercheval's Valley of Virginia,. 50. 4 lb., 57. 

s 2 Molina, 380-81. * Gardener's Pequot War. i Musters, 91. 

1 86 


in a conical pile, which was occasionally ten feet high and 
twenty-five in circumference. The Pimos buried their dead 
in the sitting posture, and raised a mound of sticks and stones 
over them.' 

Mr. Macauley says the Iroquois raised heaps of stones over 
the bodies of distinguished chiefs.* 

Thus it will be seen that many burial-mounds of earth or 
other material have been erected among the tribes of the United 
States since the advent of whites. There is much evidence to 
show that in Mexico, Central America, and South America 
mounds have been erected over the dead by the natives in- 
habiting those countries within the historic period and since 
the discovery. In Guatemala they buried their dead by raising 
over them mounds of earth corresponding in height with the 
importance of the deceased.^ 

The Indians of Quito, says UUoa, threw so much earth on 
the body as to form a tumulus in imitation of nature with its 
mountains and eminences. The magnitude of these indicated 
the dignity or riches of the person interred.* Within the 
jurisdiction of Antioquia they piled up such masses of earth in 
making their tombs that they looked like small hills.s Other 
Peruvian tombs were mounds of conical or quadrilateral shape 
heaped up during the mourning period. The size of the tumu- 
lus shows the fortune of the deceased.^ Says Mr. Prescott of 
the Peruvians, " Vast mounds of an irregular or more frequently 
oblong shape, penetrated by galleries, were raised over the 

dead, whose dried bodies have been found generally in a sitting 
posture." 7 

Most of the graves near Truxillo externally exhibit the 
figure of a loaf of sugar and are hollow within.® 

Graves similar to these are found in the valley of Espiritu 
Santo, which have been erected in recent times. 

« Brown, Apache Country, 113. 

3 Ximenez, 213. 

5 Cieza, ch. 63. 

7 I Prescott*s Peru, 90. 

■ 2 History of New York, 239. 

4 I UUoa, 461. 

^ Joaq. Acosta, 1 26. 

^ 2 Biblioteca Peruana, 160. 


The general erection of tumuli over the dead, the construction 
of vast terraced pyramidal piles for sacred purposes, seem to 
have marked the steps of that primitive people vaguely de- 
nominated the Toltecs, whose more imposing monuments still 
rear their spectral fronts among the dense tropical forests of 
Central America and Yucatan, but whose ruder — because 
earlier — structures throng the fertile alluvions which border 
the great Mississippi and its giant tributaries, — silent but most 
conclusive illustrations of the grand law of development' 

Peru, Mexico, and Yucatan contain so many sepulchral 
mounds it would be tedious to describe them. A large group 
in Yucatan, near the ruins of Ichmal, extended for miles 
around in every direction as far as the eye could reach. Some 
were forty feet high. When several of them were opened, they 
were found to contain rooms in which were sitting the skele- 
tons of the dead.* Near Otumba, Mexico, around the pyramid 
of the sun, were grouped many small conical burial-mounds.3 
The plains near Cayambe, Peru, are covered with sepulchral 
tumuli. The Indians laid a body without burial on the ground, 
and after protecting it with a cover of stones dirt was heaped 
over it* 

In three Kentucky mounds evidences of cremation appear. 
They seem to have been erected over the ashes and calcined 
bones of the dead. A large mound at Marietta, Ohio, covered 
blackened earth, charcoal, and a stone coflfin, dark and stained 
with smoke, which demonstrated that the funeral obsequies 
had been celebrated with fire. Another near Marietta enclosed 
calcined human remains.^ 

It is extremely doubtful whether a great error has not been 
made by many able American archaeologists in denominating 
a class of artificial mounds altar-mounds. Many things have 
tended to lead them into this error. The burial-customs of the 
aboriginal Americans have not been thoroughly investigated. 

< Squier's New Mexico and California. » Norman's Yucatan, 146. 

3 Bullock's Mexico, 411. 4 i Ulloa, 266. 

s Bradford's Antiquities, 52-53. 


A supposed great antiquity has been ascribed to them; and a 
special race of mound-builders has been created to furnish 
builders for these great monuments of what has been called an 
extinct race. Whence they came, and where they have gone, 
has puzzled the brain of many an antiquarian. This imaginary 
people, with an elaborate ritual of sacrifice offered on the altars 
so carefully covered with an abundance of earth to protect 
them from the sacrilegious hands of barbarian intruders, will, 
however, eventually be resolved into a very primitive people, 
and their sacrificial altars turned into cremation-pyres, where 
the bodies of the dead were burned with their worldly eflfects, 
and a tumulus erected over their remains. Upon most of these 
supposed altars human bones have been found ; in a few, how- 
ever, their absence is noted by explorers. They may have 
been reduced to ashes ; but it is not necessary to account for 
their absence in this way alone, for the custom, as we have 
seen, was very prevalent of preserving the bones after crema- 
tion and removing them, and among many of the tribes they 
were reduced to a powder, which was used in some liquid as a 
drinking potion for the relatives. The altar-mound theorists 
have had to account for the presence of human bones by the 
horrible rite of human sacrifice. The conclusion that the 
mounds of this class were devoted to this superstitious rite 
does not appear to be satisfactory. They rather appear to in- 
dicate that cremation was practised. The sacrificial origin of 
these mounds has been inferred from the fact that articles of 
only one class occur in them. This would only indicate that a 
division of labor was established ; because with their belief in 
a future life, and a continuance of all the employments of the 
present life, many of the products of any skilful person and 
material for new labor would be deposited with such a person. 
On this subject of sacrifice, running as it does through all their 
ceremonial life, I would refer the reader to that part of this 
work devoted to that subject. Evidences have been found of 
cremation in Florida mounds. 

Quite a number of mounds near Mount Carroll, Carroll 


County, Illinois, were opened, and calcined human bones with 
charcoal and ashes found in each of them. There was an In- 
dian tradition that they were cremation-mounds.* In Virginia, 
a number of stone-heaps are found, oven-like, containing the 
bones of the dead and bearing evident marks of fire. The 
stone-heaps are covered with earth. There is a tradition that 
it was the universal custom at one time to consume the bodies 
of the dead with fire. This may account for the existence of 
nothing but ashes in some of the mounds that have been 
opened.^ Quite a number of such have been found in Minnesota, 
some also with calcined human bones and clay, showing marks 
of intense heat.3 Sometimes the bodies were burned, and the 
ashes placed in urns and deposited in mounds. In Dubuque 
County, Iowa, an urn was taken from a small mound containing 
ashes ; another, from a mound near the State line of Illinois 
and Wisconsin, contained about a half-bushel of ashes. Urn- 
burials are rare in this part of the country, however.* 

A mound in Wisconsin contained much charcoal and burnt 
clay, and stones almost calcined into quick-lime by the great 
heat. Some of the bones of a human being were found, but 
most of the skeleton had evidently been consumed at the time 
of the interment* 

Near Red River settlement a burial-mound was excavated, 
and four or five skulls found on a floor of hard mud which 
showed evidences of fire.^ 

Says Mr. Atwater of the Western mounds, " Nearly all the 
bodies buried in the mounds were burnt first, before the mounds 
were reared." ^ 

Mr. Evans, who appears to have spent much time in inves- 
tigating this matter, says, " I have penetrated the centres of 
many mounds, and the ashes and charcoal and human remains 
lying in successive strata in the mounds, showing the action 

« Smithsonian Rep., 1877, p. 255. » Da-coo-dah, 57. 

3 lb., 83. 4 lb., 204-10. 

5 Lapham's Ant., 28. ^ Smith. Rep., 1867, p. 399. 

7 Atwater's Antiquities, 381. 



of fire, have induced me to believe that the mound-builders 
practised cremation, and after the rites were performed the re- 
mains were covered with earth, each succeeding funeral pyre 
adding to the height of the mound. The strata of ashes and 
charcoal which I found in all the mounds I examined indicated 
that successive fires had been kindled, and when the substances 
were reduced to ashes they were covered with earth."' 

In some of the burial-mounds the presence of a layer of 
baked clay above the human remains leads to the conjecture 
that fires were sometimes built for the purpose of hardening 
this layer of clay." 

In a mound at Cincinnati, human bones were found imbedded 
in ashes and charcoal, the unfailing signs of the burning of the 

A large cremation-furnace, eighteen feet long and six feet 
wide, was found in a mound, fifteen feet high, near Lancaster, 
Fairfield County, Ohio. In a huge vessel upon this furnace 
twelve human skeletons were found, surrounded with ashes and 
charcoal. In the Chilhowee valley, Tennessee, cysts were found 
containing human bones and ashes, so placed as to indicate 
that fire had been used at the burial. In some of the mounds 
near New Harmony, Indiana, the same unmistakable evidences 
of cremation appeared. There can be no doubt that many of 
those mounds called altar-mounds in the books on the antiqui- 
ties of America are none other than cremation-mounds. 

It will thus be seen that the custom of raising mounds over 
the dead survived the advent of Europeans, and that many of 
those mounds denominated altar-mounds were thrown over the 
remains of those dead that had been burned, according to the 
prevailing custom among a large part of the aboriginal tribes. 
Cumulative burials necessitated the magnitude of many mounds, 
and the multitude of those thus cared for inspired the labor 

Among the American sepulchral monuments, the chulpas, or 

» Chicago Tribune. ■ Short, 37-39. 3 Bradford's Ant., 53. 


burial-towers of Peru, are among the most interesting of all the 
antiquities of this continent connected with sepulture. Pri- 
marily these chulpas consisted of cysts or excavations walled 
with stones, over which was built a tower with an opening 
barely large enough to admit the body of a man on a level with 
the surface of the ground. This opening was toward the east. 
These chulpas varied in height from ten to twenty-six feet, and 
were often ornamented with stucco-work. Some are round and 
some square,' but the interior plan is pretty much the same in 
all. Upon the floor human bones and remains of pottery are 
found. These tombs are common in the Titicaca region, and 
usually stand in groups of from twenty to one hundred. There 
is a large group of them at SillustanL Fig. 12 is one of these 
chulpas, from Rivero and Tschudi's " Peruvian Antiquities," 
These chulpas resemble the Oriental topes. In some of them 
an entire family appear to have 
been buried, as many as twelve 
skeletons being found in them. 
Some of them, however, which 
had never been opened before, 
were opened by Mr. Squicr and 
only one skeleton was found.* 
He describes them as follows : 
" In some provinces they have 
for sepulchres high towers, hol- 
low below. In some parts they 
are round, in some square. 
They are built half a league or 
more from their towns, so that 
they appear like other and very 
populous villages. The dead, 
wrapped up in skins of the llama, 
are deposited in them in a sit- 
ting posture. The doors of the tombs are then closed." Mr. 

» Squer'i Peni, 243-44. • lb., 388. 


Squier thinks the chulpas were built and used by the Aymara 
race only.' 

The rock-tombs of Peru are another interesting feature in 
its antiquities. The faces of many of the high cliffs in the 
mountainous parts are full of ancient tombs excavated in the 
rock, within which the dead were placed, and then walled up 
with stones and stuccoed over and painted. The region of 
Ollantaytambo is rich in these rock-tombs. In many a niche 
and crevice tier on tier of these tombs are seen plastered up 
like nests of the mud-swallows. The " steeps of Lamentation 
are literally speckled with the white faces of these tombs. Some 
are solitary cells, others populous chambers. In this dry at- 
mosphere the bodies are preserved surrounded with a few rude 
household-utensils." • At Chimu is found a necropolis consist- 
ing of chambers or vaults enclosed in a mound, each vault 
containing niches wherein were found skeletons elaborately 
clothed and plumed. The tombs of men of note " were above 
the ground, built with unburnt bricks, and round, like little 
pigeon-houses, five or six feet in diameter and twelve or four- 
teen in height, arched like the top of an oven, in which the 
dead were placed sitting and then they were walled up. In 
travelling through the country there are still many to be seen, 
even of those before the conquest by the Spaniards." 3 

The kings of Quito were buried in a pyramid, in which their 
embalmed corpses were arranged in order, with their earthly 
effects around them. The manner of burying the vassals was 
different. In the south the nobles and magnates were placed 
in urns, and these urns deposited in the woods and forests. 
The common people were interred, or left in caves or rock pro- 
tections. The openings to all the sepulchres are to the west 
In some the opening is small, and only made as a conduit for 
drink and food leading to vases placed in the sepulchre for 
their reception. Embalmment of the dead was confined to the 
Inca class. The mummified bodies so numerous throughout 

» Squier's Peru, 389. • lb., 531-32. 3 Freaer's Voyage, 178. 


Peru owe their preservation to atmospheric and other in- 

The object among all the American tribes, in all their various 
burial-customs, was to preserve the bones of the dead. The 
belief underlying all these customs was that the soul, or a part 
of the soul, dwelt in the bones. Language illustrates this 
theory. The Iroquois word for bone is esken; for soul, 
aiisken^ — literally, that which is within the bone. In an Atha- 
pascan dialect, bone is yani^ soul is i-yani. Mythology adds 
more decisive testimony. In one of the Aztec legends, after 
one of the destructions of the world, Xolotl descended to 
Mictlan, the realm of the dead, and brought thence a bone of 
the perished race. This, sprinkled with blood, grew on the 
fourth day into a youth, the father of the present race. Among 
the Quiches, the hero-gods Hunahpu and Xblanque succumbed 
to the darksome powers of death. Their bodies were burned, 
and their bones ground to powder and thrown into the waters; 
but these ashes, sinking to the bottom of the stream, were, in 
the twinkling of an eye, changed into handsome youths, with 
the same features as before. Among many of the tribes the 
practice of pulverizing the bones of the dead and mixing them 
with the food was defended by asserting that the souls of the 
dead remained in the bones and lived again in the living. Even 
the animals were supposed to follow the same law. Hardly 
any of the hunting tribes, before their manners were vitiated 
by foreign influence, permitted the bones of game to be broken 
or left carelessly about the encampment. They were left in 
heaps or thrown into the water. The Yuricares of Bolivia 
carried this superstition to such an inconvenient extent that 
they preserved even small fish-bones from harm, saying the fish 
would desert the rivers unless this was done. The traveller on 
oiir prairies often notices the bufialo-skulls arranged in circles 
and symmetrical piles by the careful hands of the native 
hunters. Among the Peruvians, so careful were they lest any 

' Rivero and Tschudi, 200-9. 


of the body should he lost, they preserved even the parings of 
the nails and clippings of the hair. Among the Choctaws the 
spirits of the dead will return to the bones in the bone-mounds, 
and flesh will knit together their loose joints, and they shall 
again inhabit their ancient territory. The Peruvians expected 
the mummified body to be again inhabited by its soul.' 

This belief can be traced among all the primitive peoples of 
the world. Among the Tartars the pyramid of horses' heads 
found by Pallas is analogous to bone-pyramids of the buflfalo 
and deer in America. The Hebrew rabbis taught that the 
coccyx remained at death the germ of a second life, and would 
develop into the purified body as the plant from the seed. 

Among the Iroquois the spirit stayed near the body for a 
time, and, unless burial was performed, was very unhappy ; and 
among the Brazilian tribes the spirits of the dead were not at 
rest when the body was unburied, and, if they had had a Creon, 
an Antigone would have undoubtedly arisen to perform the 
sacred rites of burial. It will be noticed, then, that there was 
no uniform custom prevalent among the American nations in 
their mode of burial, but that diversity of custom prevailed in 
many instances in the same tribe, — ^that climate and the nature 
of the soil, and other natural influences, together with the pur- 
suits of the various peoples, had their effect on the formation 
of burial-customs, and these a reflex action again on their re- 
ligious beliefs and superstitions. Yet through it all there are 
plain indications of a belief that the preservation of the bones 
of the dead in their integrity was necessary to the peace and 
happiness of the departed spirit Hence the security of these 
was sought in all their various customs. In the suspension 
of the bodies in trees or on scaffolds or otherwise, their preser- 
vation, after the dissolution of the flesh, was attended to. In 
cremation, the residuum of calcined bones was preserved by 
interment or a deposit in urns or images of the deceased, or 
by heaping a mound over them. Interment in the earth had 

' Brinton, 276-So. 


the same object in view, as also in caves and other secret and 
protected places. Thus security is sought in secrecy or by in- 
accessibility, or both. Among the Chibchas, sepulchres were 
concealed by trees planted for that purpose. The greatest 
danger to the remains of the dead arose from the depredations 
of animals, yet enemies outside or inside the tribe or clan or 
family were much feared, the possession of any part of a living 
or dead person by one seeking revenge being looked upon with 
exceeding great superstitious fear. The origin and progress of 
sorcery are traceable to this superstition. Among all primitive 
peoples, where a belief in the renewal of life or the resurrection 
exists, the peace and happiness of the spirit, which remains in 
or about the body, depend upon success in preventing the body 
or any part of it from being devoured or destroyed in any 
manner. Of course, among peoples to whom the art of pre- 
serving the bodies of the dead by embalming or other means 
was unknown, the destructibility of all but the skeleton or 
bones was recognized as unavoidable, and their superstition 
must be modified to that extent. It maintained itself and in- 
creased in strength as to the indestructible parts, even including 
the nails and hair, through all the stages of savagery and bar- 
barism and into our modern civilization. The caciques of 
Bogota were protected from desecration by diverting the course 
of a river and making the grave in its bed, and then letting the 
stream return to its natural course. Alaric, the leader of the 
Goths, was secretly buried in the same manner. The imposing 
pyramids of Mexico, Peru, and the sepulchral mounds of both 
Americas were intended for, and became, obstacles to the dese- 
cration of the remains of distinguished dead, as well as memorials 
of their greatness ; but the temples of the more civilized nations 
mark the highest stage of the progress of this idea in America, 
as elsewhere. In these temples the intermeiit of heroes took 
place, and a priestly hierarchy arose to guard and attend at the 
sacred precincts of their shrines, and offer sacrifice to their idol 
likenesses stuffed with their ashes and bones. In addition to 
their religious care in the preservation of the dead, their com- 


fort was also regarded. Hence protections against pressing 
earth or stones were provided for ; also a way for the spirit to 
have access to the body was considered of vital importance by 
most of the aborigines. Embalming and the other customs 
have the same purpose in view, namely, the arrest of decay. 
It is quite curious to find embalmment and its antithesis, cre- 
mation, practised in the same tribe ; yet, since the principal idea 
underlying both practices is the same, — namely, the preservation 
of all the parts of the dead, — there is no inconsistency here. 
In both, the destructible parts of the body are preserved to a 
great extent, for what fire destroys is supposed to be demate- 
rialized and ushered quickly into the world of spirits. Hence 
it became a very common instrument in sending to the dead the 
sacrifices oflTered by their living friends, and the Algonkin 
would throw his choicest bit of venison into the fire and send it 
to his hungry spirit-relative, before a morsel had been touched 
by the living, with as much religious fervor as would the Greek 
offer a bullock on the sacrificial altar or the Chinaman of our 
day burn paper houses and money for use in the spirit-world. 
It must be borne in mind that this spirit-world was in earlier 
times in and among the living world, and not banished, as in 
our modern civilization, to some unknown far-off country 
" from whose bourn no traveller returns." Thus, whether cre- 
mation or embalmment took place, the spirit was ready and 
waiting for a rehabitation of its fleshly tenement-house, none 
the less real because the flames had wafted it into the shadow- 
land. With the belief that reanimation will be prevented if the 
other self finds a mutilated corpse, or none at all, there goes 
the belief that to insure reanimation putrefaction must be 
stopped. Naturally there arises the inference that if destruction 
of the body by animals or otherwise prevents revival, decompo- 
sition of it may prevent revival. That this idea is not found 
among men in very low states is undoubtedly due to the fact 
that no methods of arresting decomposition have been dis- 
covered by them. Hence cremation is found among lower 
tribes, and survives when this more approved method is dis- 


covered ; and even among those who are acquainted with the 
process much greater care is taken to preserve the bodies of 
kings and distinguished men than the mass of the people. 
Hence the latter are often carelessly looked after. Distinctions 
of caste, which are apt to arise in the higher stages of human 
progress under certain conditions of development, tend to 
destroy the belief in the immortality of the lower class. Such 
glaring examples of this are found in some of the more ad- 
vanced American nations that immortality has been denied to 
all but a few of the upper class. Hence, while great care is 
taken in the preservation of their bodies by the erection over 
them of pyramids and temples, the common people die with 
" none so poor as to do them reverence." 

The belief in the resurrection of the body was universal 
among primitive peoples, and owed its origin often to cases of 
resuscitation. Among tbe tribes of the West there was a super- 
stition against touching dead bodies, or those supposed to be 
dead ; and hence there have been many cases where the natives 
have been buried alive. Two cases of this kind are mentioned 
by Lee and Frost among the natives of Oregon.* Among 
these tribes there are a few resurrection-traditions, growing 
undoubtedly out of this careless habit The Virginians had 
fictions concerning the resurrection of certain persons from the 
dead. Hariot gives two instances of this. He says, " They told 
me that a wicked man having been dead and buried, the next 
day the earth of the grave was seen to move, whereupon, being 
taken up again, he told where his soul had been, and that he 
was very near entering into Popogusso, had not one of the gods 
saved him and given him leave to return again and teach his 
friends what they should do to avoid that terrible place of 
torment Another revival from the dead occurred the same 
year, and it was told me for strange news that one being dead, 
buried, and taken up again as the first, showed that although 
his body had laid dead in the grave, yet his soul was alive, and 

« Ten Years in Oregon, 321. 


had travelled far in the long, broad way, on both sides whereof 
grew most delicate and pleasant trees, bearing more rare and 
excellent fruits than ever he had seen before. He at length 
came to most fair houses, near which he met his father that had 
been dead before, who gave him great charge to go back again 
and show his friends what good they were to do to enjoy the 
pleasures of that place." * 

In cases of the falling sickness, catalepsy, or any diseases 
where the person is in a lethargic state, the savage believes 
that the soul has left the body and returns to it again when 
revival takes place. This has perhaps suggested in many cases 
their belief in a resurrection. The Ojibways say of such 
cases that the soul could not get into the spirit-land and 
had to come back. They conceive the person to be dead, 
and the revival is a resurrection. The savage believes that 
the insensibility of death is, like all the other insensibilities, 
only temporary." 

Among the Eskimos, if a man wished to become of the 
highest order of priests, it was requisite that he should be 
drowned and eaten by sea-monsters ; then, when his bones were 
washed ashore, his spirit, which had spent all this time gather- 
ing information about the secrets of the invisible world, would 
return to them, and he would rejoin his tribe,^ 

There are curious traditions of resurrections among them. 
An Eskimo female carried home a bird, and, having cut it up, 
found in its crop the bones of her lost brother. She singled 
these all out and kept them together, when, behold, they 
moved. The brother quickly revived, and seemed entirely 
unhurt.^ An Eskimo man and wife who were old and unable 
to provide for themselves, in their extremity decided to go to 
the tomb of their dead foster-son. The grave was opened and 
the body appealed to, when, lo, it began to move. The son 
arose from the dead, went home with them, got a kayak, and 

« Hariot, ap. 3 Hakluyt, 277, seq. • I Spencer, Soc., 167. 

3 Brinton, 299. 4 Rink*s Trad., 260. 


thereafter provided for his aged parents/ Many stories are 
told of such resurrections among the Eskimos. In one case 
a son revived three times, after as many burials. 

The natives of Canada had a universally received tradition 
that their dead bodies were to rise again.^ 

The Peruvians thought the bodies of the dead arose from 
their graves. Some of them asserted that they had seen them 
walking about after burial.^ Atahuallpa requested the Span- 
iards that he might be hanged instead of burned. He said then 
his body would rise again.'* The Chibchas also believed that 
the dead would be raised.^ The natives of Quimbaya thought 
that the bodies of the dead would come to life again.^ Those 
of Guazacualco thought the dead would rise again, and there- 
fore hung their bones to the bough of a tree, that they might 
be easily found.^ Among many of the tribes of South America 
it was within the power of the sorcerers, they thought, to bring 
the dead to life.^ 

The Bois Brule tribe carried their belief in the resurrection 
so far that if a leg or a foot should be separated from the rest 
of the body the stray member would be hunted for till found.^ 
All of the aborigines preserved with almost as much care the 
bones of animals. They said these bones contained the spirits 
of the slain animals, and that some time in the future they 
would rise, reclothe themselves with flesh, and stock the earth 

The Minetarees believe that the bones of the bisons which 
they have slain and divested of flesh rise again with new flesh 
and life the succeeding June. They have a curious myth bear- 
ing upon this subject of animal resurrection. They say one of 
their boys, supposed to have been killed, was found in a buflalo. 
He had killed it, and, as a refuge against an inclement night, 

« Rink's Trad., 298. ■ I Warburton's Canada, 196. 

3 Cieza, 160-61. 4 Pizarro (Rep., 247). 

s P. Simon, 243. ^ 5 Herrera, 202. 

7 4 ib., 126. B MUller, Amer. Urreligionen, 287. 

9 2 Beltrami, 394. "> Brinton, 278. 


took shelter within its body in place of the viscera which he 
had taken out. During th'e night the flesh of the bison grew 
over the side, the animal came to life, and the boy had lived 
there for one year before he was found." 

So thoroughly are the Minetarees convinced of the truth of 
the resurrection, that they have a tradition that the tribe came 
from under ground. These traditions of underground origin 
are very common among the American tribes, and have origi- 
nated on account of their belief in the resurrection, accom- 
panied by the tribal custom of interment. Some of the South- 
ern tribes of the United States had traditions of underground 
origin. The most curious instance is that of the Muscogees, 
who thought that they had emerged from two mounds in the 
forks of Red River." 

The Navajos had a tradition of underground origin. When 
confined under the surface of the earth, they were aided in 
emerging therefrom by the locust, who bored the first hole, 
which was so small, however, that the badger had to make it 
larger. The badger was the first to crawl out, in a miry spot, 
and his fore-legs were so covered with mud that they have re- 
mained stained ever since. Afler arriving on the surface of 
the earth, they had to call the wolf, the bat, and the squirrel to 
their aid in procuring fire. The wolf tied some inflammable 
wood to its tail, and held it over the crater of a volcano until it 
ignited. The bat then fanned the flame with its wings, while 
the squirrel carried the fire to the Navajos.^ 

The Zunis vary the legend about their emerging from the 
earth. The woodpecker attempted to peck a hole through for 
them, but failed, when an eagle, with a blow of its beak, broke 
the crust of the earth, and the bear forced its way through, 
leaving a hole for the Indians.^ 

Sacrifice was the most interesting rite attending the burial 
of the dead, and is illustrative of the worship of spirits. AH 

« I Long*s Exp., 257. ■ I Stevens's Ga., 51. 

s Cozzens's Marvellous Country, 132. 4 lb., 346-48. 


primitive peoples make offerings of meat, drink, and all other 
useful things to the dead. The Coras of Mexico, after a man's 
death, placed meat upon sticks about the burial-place. The 
Nootkans burned salmon and venison at the graves of the 
dead. Among the Mosquito Indians, the widow was compelled 
to supply the grave of her husband with provisions for a year 
after his death. The Pueblo Indians placed corn-bread and 
meat in places supposed to be haunted by the dead. Blankets 
were burned at the funerals of the Ahts, that the soul might not 
be sent shivering to the next world.* The Ukiahs and Sanels 
of California placed food in those places supposed to be the 
favored haunts of the dead.* Among the Algonkin tribes the 
female relatives went to the grave frequently, and made offerings 
of bread, meat, clothing, tobacco, and even watermelons, for as 
long a period as a year after interment.^ The Illinois buried 
com with their dead, together with a pot to boil it in. They 
thought they might be hungry without a supply of provisions.-^ 
Mr. Riggs says the idea of sacrifice was at the foundation of 
all the ancient ceremonies of the Dacotahs. Sacrifices were 
universally made to the spirits of their dead. Food was given 
for their use. The offerings were often left on the graves. 
There was no sacrificial priesthood among them, but each one 
made his own offerings. Among the Iroquois, when an Indian 
was about to die, they cut the throats of all the dogs they could 
catch, that the souls of these animals might accompany him. 
They stripped themselves of everything that was most valuable, 
to adorn the dead. They deprived themselves of food to carry 
it to their sepulchres or other places which they fancied were 
haunted by their souls. When a post was set up on the grave 
adorned with the portrait of the deceased, they hung their 
offerings upon it. They carried fresh provisions to the grave 
every morning, and when the dogs devoured them they im- 
agined they had been eaten by the souls of the deceased. The 

« 3 Bancroft, 521. "3 ib., 524. 3 i Loudon's Narratives, 341, 350. 

4 Joiiters Journal, 164. 


Potawatomies left food at the grave when they visited it A 
fire was h'ghted at the head of the grave.* 

The idea among all the tribes was that the sacrifices were 
used. The Algonkins told Father Le Jeune that they found 
meat which had been left for souls that had been gnawed by 
them. The Caribs said they heard the Spirits moving the ves- 
sels and champing the food set for them, and this they believed 
though nothing appeared to be touched.* Mr. Muller says they 
thought the spirit of the food was appropriated by the spirits of 
the dead, though it had no appearance of having been touched. 

Among the tribes of South America sacrificial offerings of 
the same kind were made to the dead. The Araucanians sup- 
plied provisions to the dead for their supposed journey. The 
natives of Brazil carried provisions every day to their dead.3 
The natives of Panama presented food to the dead, and carried 
a yearly sacrifice of maize to their graves.* The Chibchas 
placed food in the graves with their dead.s Among some of 
the tribes of Peru, wives stayed several days at their husbands' 
graves to cook for them. They poured chicha on their bodies.^ 
The children would carry stores of food and clothing to the 
tombs of their parents.^ In Peruvian graves, corn, potatoes, 
cocoa, and nuts were found in abundance. 

At the time of the discovery, the Majras of Yucatan offered 
animals of all kinds and provisions of every sort to the dead.^ 
The mouths of their dead were stuffed with ground maize. In 
their religious festivals food was always offered the dead. 
Among the mountain-tribes of Yucatan, chocolate and large 
maize tortillas were placed about the dead when buried.^ The 
Zapotecs placed food in the grave or in its immediate vicinity." 
The Isthmians filled the graves of their dead lords with jars of 
maize, fruit, and wine ; even flowers were offered." 

« I Keating, 113. •a Tylor, 388. 

3 4 Herrcra, 97. 4 3 Picart, 175. 

5 Bollaert, 14. * Frerier's Voyage, 58. 

1 Markhain*s Cuzco, 126. ^ Landa, 28. 

9 Cogulludo, bk. 12, ch. 7. «> I Bancroft, 667. " i ib., 783. 


The periodical renewal of these sacrifices that were sup- 
posed to supply the wants of the dead is found among nearly 
all the tribes. At the annual cumulative burial-ceremony of 
the Northern tribes, when the bodies have been ranged in 
order, broth is offered to these skeletons, and many presents 
are offered them. The Peruvians often opened the tombs of 
the dead and renewed the offerings of food and clothing.' At 
certain seasons of the year the bodies of their chiefs were 
carried to the fields and sheep offered to them.' 

Among the Mexicans a daily sacrifice of food and flowers 
was placed on the tombs of the dead for twenty days after 
death.3 The honors paid their dead ancestors continued for 
many years after their death, and did not cease with their fune- 
rals. An annual feast was celebrated for the dead, when the 
houses were richly decorated and food of all kinds prepared, 
as though the spirits would come and partake of it. The 
members of the family carried torches during this ceremony. 
The spirits were thought to extract all the nutritive qualities 
of the food.-^ The continuance of this custom for three cen- 
turies after the conquest is noticed by the Abbe Brasseur. 
Even recently the Indians in the interior of Yucatan place 
out-of-doors, under a tree, a portion of their food for their 
deceased friends to eat, and they say that the portion thus set 
apart is always eaten.s 

Thus among these more civilized races we find the same 
primitive ideas of sacrifice as among those in savagery and 
barbarism ; but it was supplemented by an elaborate sacrificial 
ritual in the worship of their monarchs and heroes. 

Of all the food-offerings made to the dead, those of mothers 
to their children were the simplest and showed the primitive 
idea of sacrifice. Among the Iroquois, mothers have been 
known to keep the dead bodies of their children by them for 
years and continually feed them with their milk.^ 

« Cieza, 228-29. • lb., 227. s Motolinia, 31. 

4 3 Brasseur, Hist., 23-24. 5 i Stephens's Yucatan, 45. 
^ 2 Charlevoix, Journal, 185, seq. 


Among the Californian tribes, mothers dropped their milk on 
the lips of their dead children, that they might have sustenance 
till they reached a place of rest.* They sprinkled nourishing 
milk on the graves of their dead babes for some time after their 
burial.* The Nicaraguan mothers withheld their milk from 
other children for four days after the death of their own babe, 
that it might be supplied.^ Among many tribes, when a child 
died a dog was sacrificed, to guide its wandering steps to the 
spirit-land. They thought children did not have sufficient 
understanding to find the way. 

These simple oflferings were not acts of worship, but illustrate 
the primitive forms of sacrifice before it became an act of 
homage. Fear soon became the instigating cause of these oflfer- 
ings, and many tales are told among all the tribes of the pun- 
ishments inflicted upon those who failed to make the offerings, 
whether intentionally or not They generally put them in the 
fire. Occasionally they visited the graves of the dead and made 
their oflferings there.-^ They thought a neglect of this duty 
brought upon them the vengeance of the spirits. Whenever 
a burying-ground or grave was passed, something was oflfered; 
and it was considered a wicked act to neglect this attention to 
the dead. The following is an amusing illustration of the origin 
and strength of this religious sentiment. An Ojibway was once 
passing an Indian burial-ground at dusk with a kettle of whiskey 
in his hands ; he felt his duty to his ancestors, but, rather than 
part with his precious drink by pouring out a small libation, he 
grasped his whiskey the firmer and hurried on. His guilty con- 
science worked on his imagination, and a ghostly pursuer was 
after him and gaining rapidly. He determined to make a desper- 
ate struggle to keep his whiskey, and he turned to grasp his pur- 
suer. But, lo 1 he did not hold in his arms his ghostly pursuer, 
but a tall bunch of rushes into which it had transformed itself. 
When an Indian falls into the fire and gets burned, he believes 

« I Bancroft, 590. » 3 ib., 524. 

3 3 ib., 543. * Jones, Ojibways, loi. 


that the spirits of the dead have pushed him in, to punish him 
for neglect of those pious offerings due to them.* 

Among all primitive peoples the doctrine of sacrifices is 
based on utilitarian principles : the things offered are supposed 
to be used by the dead and to be necessary to their happiness. 
Among the more uncivilized American tribes all or nearly all 
the property of the deceased was offered in sacrifice, or, more 
correctly speaking, was sent to him in the next world. Gitchi 
Gauztni, an Ojibway chief, after a severe illness, was thought to 
be dead. He, however, revived afler four days, and gave an 
account of his journey to the spirit-land, in which he met hosts 
of spirits travelling thither laden with pipes, kettles, and pro- 
visions. Women had basket-work, paddles, and other female 
utensils.' This indicates the nature of their faith in the utility 
and existence of these sacrificial oflferings in the spirit-world. 

The natives of Canada think the souls of their kettles and 
other utensils follow the dead into the next world.3 

** Do not lay such heavy burdens 

On the graves of those you bury ; 

Not such weight of furs and wampum, 

Not such weight of pots and kettles; 

For the spirits faint beneath them ; 

Only give them food to carry. 

Only give them fire to light them." 


In a Peruvian tomb, alongside of a female there lay an un- 
finished piece of weaving stretched upon its frame and with its 
yam of various colors still bright. The needle of thorn was in 
it, and beside it several balls of yarn. It was laid beside her 
under the belief that she would resume her task in a future 

The natives of the West India islands put all the wealth of 
the dead into their tombs, and women and servants sacrificed 
themselves. Among the Patagonians all the property of the 

* I Schoolcraft, 139. « 2 Tylor, 481-S2. 

3 3 Picart, 99. 4 2 Wilson's Prehist. Man, 141. 


deceased is laid with him in the grave. If he has horses, they 
are killed, stuffed, and held up on sticks around the grave/ 
The Araucanians buried with the dead all their property. 

Among the Mosquitos the hatchets, harpoons, and lances 
of the dead, with plenty of provisions, were buried with them. 
Even the boat of the deceased was cut up and placed over the 

The Omahas sacrificed to the dead their bison robes and 
moccasins.3 The Western tribes always placed the weapons 
of the deceased with him, thinking that he would use them.* 
Mr. Winslow said that the Narragansetts offered nearly all their 
riches by casting them into a great fire. 

Among the Delawares, says Gabriel Thomas, kettles and all 
the property of the deceased were buried with them.s The 
natives of West New Jersey, says the same author, buried all 
the house-utensils of the deceased, and even money, with him, 
thinking he would use it in the next world.^ 

All of the tribes admitted that the bodies, skins, dishes, and 
other articles offered to the dead remained in this world, but 
the spirit went to the next world. The phantoms of the articles 
left at the grave entered the spirit-land.^ 

Those tribes which practised cremation thought the flames 
spiritualized their sacrifices. 

Many of the Indians during their life provided for an abun- 
dance in the next world. A Potawatomie requested that he 
should be deposited in a log in the forks of a road between 
Detroit and Chicago, in order that he might receive plenty of 
tobacco from travellers.® 

The Hurons thought that at the annual collection and in- 
humation of the bones of those who had died during the year, 
the souls of the dead started for the land of shades, carrying 
with them the spirits of the wampum-belts, beaver-skins, bows 

« 2 Wood's Uncivilized Races, 542. ■ 6 Churchill's Coll. Voy., 295. 

3 2 Long's Exp., 2. * Lyon's Journal, 374. 

5 Gabriel Thomas, Penn., 50. * West New Jersey, 2. 

7 Dodge's Plains, 2S4. * McCoy's Baptist Missions, 136. 


and arrows, pipes, kettles, and beads buried with them in their 

This belief in the delay of the departure of the spirits for a 
spirit-land was due to the lingering hope and expectation that 
the dead might return to the living, until the disintegration of 
the body dispelled that hope. 

In addition to their own property, provisions of all kinds 
were supplied. Seeds were often tied to the dead by tribes 
who practised agriculture to any extent: these he was ex- 
pected to plant in the spirit-land and raise a crop therefrom. 
Numerous flocks of llamas were pastured and raised in Peru 
for the purposes of sacrifice. About two hundred thousand of 
these animals were sacrificed annually in the city of Cuzco 
alone. Alpacas, vicunas, and guanacos were also offered in 
large numbers. Among wild animals, foxes, rabbits, apes, deer, 
tapirs, tigers, serpents, lizards, humming-birds, parrots, cuckoos 
flamingoes, and even flies were offered, and also all the useful 
vegetable products." 

If anything which could be of use to the dead was retained, 
it was thought to be a great wrong done to the deceased. This 
destruction of property at death was a serious check to the 
progress of early peoples toward civilization. 

The extravagance manifested in the sacrificial destruction 
of property reached its height among the nations of Central 
America and Mexico. 

The Guatemalans made costly sacrifices whenever they dedi- 
cated a house to the guardian spirit or spirits thereof, and 
sprinkled the blood of animals on the door-posts and walls.3 
The one who offered the most sacrifices at one of the Mexican 
festivals was especially honored all the year after.* The Mex- 
icans would not even pluck leaves or foliage without offering a 
portion of them to spirits.s In Granada, their idols, represent- 
ing men, were found with their mouths full of flowers, which 

' Parkman, Jesuits, Ixxxi. " Rivero and Tschudi, 196-98. 

3 Ximenez, i88. * 3 Herrera, 121. 

5 Worsley's View, 175, 


were offerings from the natives.* This aesthetic worship was 
uncommon, and affords a pleasing contrast to most of their 

In Peru, the substitution of the images of the things sacri- 
ficed was displacing to some extent their human and animal 
sacrifices. These sacrifices were, however, continued to the 
time of the conquest and long thereafter. When sacrifice de- 
generated into an act of homage, it became a ceremonial rite 
of worship. This was not its primitive meaning. The sacri- 
fice of property that was of little or no use gradually supplanted 
the primitive sacrifice, and even systematic efforts to defraud 
the dead and reduce sacrifice to a mere formality prevailed 
among the civilized American aborigines as well as among 
the ancient peoples of the Old World, where cheap imitations 
of expensive articles were made for the purposes of sacrifice. 

Human sacrifices prevailed to a certain extent in both 
Americas. It is quite a remarkable fact that they prevailed to 
a much greater extent among the civilized races than among 
the uncivilized ; yet there are some traces of it among the latter. 
Mrs. Eastman mentions a case of human sacrifices among the 
Dacotahs, and Mr. Keating says there were traditions about 
human sacrifices among the Ojibways, among whom the cruel 
rite seems to have expired in a myth. An epidemic appears 
to have swept over their tribe, which they ascribed to the pun- 
ishment sent by spiritual influences on account of their wicked- 
ness. All other efforts failing, it was decided that the most 
beautiful girl of the tribe should enter a canoe, push into the 
channel just above the Sault, and throw away her paddle. The 
morning of the day appointed for the solemn sacrifice dawned, 
and loud and dismal was the wail of sorrow which broke upon 
the silent air. The beautiful sacrifice was surrounded with her 
long-loved companions, who decked her hair and neck with 
the brightest shells and most beautiful feathers. The time ap- 
pointed for the sacrifice was the sunset hour, and, as the day 

' Boyle's Camp Notes, 84. 


rapidly waned, the gloom which pervaded the entire village 
increased. The time approached ; the Indian maiden was led 
to the canoe, when, lo ! a strange echo came over the waters, 
and a black speck was seen coming from the setting sun. It 
was a small canoe, which swept mysteriously over the watery 
waste. It contained a fairy-like being who stood with her arms 
folded and her eyes fixed upon the heavens. As she moved 
directly toward the rapids, her song was, " I come from the 
spirit-land to stay the plague and save the life of the beautiful 
Ojibway." The canoe and its spirit voyager passed into the 
foam of the cataract and were lost forever.* 

Human sacrifice was practised among the Miamis, for we 
are told by Mr. Drake that Little Turtle, the famous Miami 
chief, " did more than any other to abolish human sacrifices 
among his people." * 

There are many evidences of the practice of human sacrifice 
among those tribes living on the Ohio, Cumberland, and Ten- 
nessee Rivers.3 Father Jogues mentions the sacrifice of a 
woman among the tribes of New York, and De Vries mentions 
another instance of this practice among them.* The tribes of 
British America practised human sacrifice to a limited extent 
The Pawnees offered human victims at their annual ceremony 
immediately preceding their horticultural operations.s It was 
among this tribe that Petashaleroo struck the final blow at 
human sacrifices, by rescuing his intended bride, who had been 
chosen as a victim. 

Human sacrifices never prevailed to any extent among the 
barbarous tribes of the North. Very few cases of compulsory 
human sacrifice are found. Among these primitive tribes vol- 
untary sacrifice was more frequent. Suicides often occurred, 
that the person committing this self-sacrifice might follow 
the deceased into the next world. The Carriers sometimes 
burned the widow at the funeral ceremonies of her husband.^ 

' Lanmati's Haw-Hoo-Noo, 227-28. ■ Indian Biography, 1st ed., 158. 

a Haywood's Ab. Hist. Tenn., 140. -♦ 3 N. Y. Hist. Coll., 56, 203. 

s 3 Long's Exp., 80. * West's Journal, 141. 


Among some of the tribes west of the Rocky Mountains the 
sacrifice of the wife took place at the funeral of her husband.* 
Sutteeism was also practised among the Tlascalans.' 

Among the tribes farther south, human sacrifice prevailed to 
a greater extent. When De Soto died, two young men were 
killed to wait upon him in the spirit-world.3 Among the 
Floridians slaves were burned with their chiefs, to wait upon 
them in the next world. The Gent of Elvas mentions human 
sacrifices among the Calloosas, and also among the tribes 
around St. John's River. Says Charlevoix, describing the 
human sacrifices among the Natches at the obsequies of a 
female chief, " The husband of this woman not being noble, 
that is to say, of the family of the great chief, his eldest son 
strangled him according to custom ; then they cleared the 
cabin of all it contained, and they erected in it a kind of tri- 
umphal car, in which the body of the deceased woman and 
that of her husband were placed. A moment after, they 
ranged round these carcasses twelve little children, which their 
parents had strangled. This being done, they erected in 
the public place fourteen scaffolds, adorned with branches of 
trees and cloths, on which they had painted various figures. 
These scaffolds were designed for as many persons who were 
to accompany the woman chief into the other world. They 
apply sometimes ten years beforehand to obtain^ this favor. 
They appear on their scaffolds dressed in their richest habits, 
holding in their right hand a great shell. During the eight 
days that precede their death, some wear a red ribbon around 
one of their legs, and during all this time everybody strives 
who shall be the first to feast them. . . . On the occasion 
I am speaking of, the fathers and mothers who had strangled 
their children took them up in their hands and ranged them- 
selves on both sides of the cabin ; the fourteen persons who 
were also destined to die placed themselves in the same 

« I Bancroft, 440. » 2 Herrera, 303. 

3 Foster's Prehistoiic Races, 316. 


manner. At last they began the procession. The fathers 
and mothers who carried the dead children appeared first, 
marching two and two, and came immediately before the bier, 
on which was the body of the woman chief, which four men 
carried on their shoulders. All the others came after, in the 
same order as the first. At every ten paces the fathers and 
mothers let their children fall upon the ground ; those who 
carried the bier walked upon them, then turned quite round 
them ; so that when the procession arrived at the temple these 
little bodies were all in pieces. While they buried the body 
of the woman chief in the temple, they undressed the fourteen 
persons who were to die ; they made them sit on the ground 
before the door, each having two savages by him. Then they 
put a cord about his neck and covered his head with a roe- 
buck's skin. They made him swallow three pills of tobacco 
and drink a glass of water, and the relations of the woman chief 
drew the two ends of the cord, singing till he was strangled. 
After this they threw all the carcasses into the same pit, which 
they covered with earth." ' 

Among the rude tribes of South America voluntary sacri- 
fices were common. Many of the Brazilians killed themselves 
on the graves of their chiefs. Among the Itatines a number 
of the relatives of the deceased person would commit suicide 
by throwing themselves from a precipice, in order to accom- 
pany the deceased to another world. A Mbaya woman, when 
she found that a chief's daughter received no sacrifices at her 
funeral, celebrated by a Catholic priest, whose faith she had 
espoused, asked a fellow-savage to knock her on the head, that 
she might go and serve the damsel. This he did quickly and 
without hesitation. 

The Guaycurus of South America butchered a certain num- 
ber of men and women on the death of a person of distinction, 
in order that they might bear him company into the other 
world. It is evident that human sacrifices were made that the 

* 2 Charlevoix's Journal, 162. 


spirits of the victims might serve the spirits of those to whom 
they were offered. 

A New Mexican king, mentioned by Gage, had a cup-bearer, 
cook, and laundress sacrificed at his death.' 

In Mexico, the chaplain of a great magnate who died was 
killed to officiate for him in the other world.* This was a very 
extraordinary piece of self-sacrifice on the part of a pagan 
priesthood, who have generally arranged religious worship in 
such a way that they are not sacrificed to the people, but the 
people to them. The usual victims at their sacrifices were 
captives, slaves, and criminals. 

The sacrificial system of the Mexicans was very elaborate. 
They were more civilized in one sense than the Northern 
tribes, but more inhuman in the sacrifice of human beings. 
They sacrificed slaves to the dead on the fifth, twentieth, for- 
tieth, sixtieth, and eightieth days after burial. 

The manner of conducting human sacrifices in Mexico was 
revolting in its details. The victim was stretched upon the 
altar and held by four priests, while a fifth placed an instrument 
in the shape of a coiled serpent about his neck. The high- 
priest then approached, cut open his breast, tore out the bleed- 
ing heart while still palpitating, and offered it to the idol. The 
head was then cut off, and, after some preparation, placed in a 
charnel-house of skulls, and the body was thrown down the 
stairway leading to the temple. The bodies thus thrown down 
were picked up and carried away to be eaten. In some of the 
provinces these bodies were cut up and sold in the meat-mar- 
kets.3 The idols were daily sprinkled with the blood of human 
beings.* Clavigero says that twenty thousand human beings 
were annually sacrificed throughout the Mexican empire.^ 
Herrera estimates the number much higher. 

The Mayas of Yucatan offered human sacrifices in times of 
distress. Among them, however, the substitution of figures of 

^ New Survey, 158. "3 Herrera, 220. 

3 I Clavigero, 279. * Gage, New Survey, 115. 

5 I Clavigero, 281. 


the heart seems to have begun to receive favor in the place 
of human sacrifices. With them the sacrifice of human beings 
appears to have been associated in many instances with the 
idea that they would act as intercessors, and they were sent as 
messengers to the spirit-world to make known the wants of the 
people. In Yucatan, where Cukulcan opposed human sacrifice, 
his influence operated as a check upon this inhuman rite ; but 
they sent young virgins occasionally into the presence of the 
gods to intercede for needed blessings. That they were in- 
tended as intercessors only is shown by a curious incident. 
One of the intended victims threatened to invoke the most 
terrible evils upon the people, instead of blessings, if they 
sacrificed her against her will. The perplexed priests let the 
girl go.* Slaves were sacrificed in large numbers." 

Holocausts of victims were sacrificed in the sanguinary 
funeral rites of the Incas. On the death of Huayna Capac 
the human victims numbered over a thousand.^ The Inca 
Yupanqui shut up a great many women and servants in the 
tomb of his father, to die there, as a sacrifice to him.* The 
Yuncas of Peru buried with a chief his wives and other persons 
with whom he had much friendship. If there was no room 
in the tomb, his companions had to be buried in holes around 
tlie tomb. They would often commit suicide on his grave.5 

Among the coast people of Peru, human sacrifices were 
offered at the sepulchres of the dead.^ Human sacrifices were 
made to the animal deities of the Peruvians.' It was the cus- 
tom when they gave the borla to the new Inca to sacrifice two 
hundred boys from four to ten years old. Girls also were 
taken from the monasteries for sacrifice. It will thus be seen 
how prevalent human sacrifices were throughout Peru, many 
authors to the contrary notwithstanding. Huascar became 
very unpopular among his subjects because, being tired of 

" 3 Bancroft, 471. ■ Fancourt's Yucatan, 116. 

3 Ranking's Peru, 229-30. 4 4 Herrera, 298. 

5 Cieza, 223. * Xercs, Rep., 32. 

7 Ranking, 89, 94. 


seeing the great part of his empire in the hands of the dead, 
he ordered that all corpses should be buried. The easy con- 
quest by the Spaniards is ascribed to this alienation of the 
people* because the worship of the dead was interfered with 
and human sacrifices prevented. 

The Quiches of Guatemala offered human sacrifices to their 
idols." The intercessory character of many of their sacrifices 
is evident from their sculptures.3 

The Pipiles of Salvador had human sacrifices annually, and 
with the blood of the victims they sprinkled the walls of the 
temples. If any blood was left over, they poured it back 
into the body of the victim. For success in war, captives were 

The custom of offering captives as sacrifices was preva- 
lent among all those guilty of human sacrifices. The Arau- 
canians of Chile sacrificed prisoners of war to the manes of 
their warriors killed in the war.s The Peruvians, before the 
Incas, sacrificed men and women who were captives taken in 
war. " They opened their breast while yet alive, and took out 
heart and lungs, and anointed the idol with their blood, and 
watched the omens in the heart and lungs to see whether it 
was accepted. They then ate the sacrificed Indian with relish 
and delight" ^ 

The sacrifice of children prevailed among both the civilized 
and uncivilized peoples. Among the latter they were seldom 
sacrificed, except when the death of the mother occurred when 
the child was so young that its care was considered a burden, 
and it was sent into the next world to receive maternal care. 
The sacrifice of children grew, however, into great proportions 
among the more advanced nations. 

The following description of these sacrifices in Culhuacan is 
taken from Martyr : 

" Let every godly man close the mouth of his stomake, lest 

- - - - I - — — — 

* p. Pizarro, 238-40. " Ximenez, 183. 

3 See HabePs Sculptures. * Palacio, 65. 

5 2 Molina's Giile, 78. ^ I Garcilasso, Commentaries, 50. 


he be desturbed. They offer younge children of bothe kyndes 
to their Idoles of marble and earth. Amonge their Idoles of 
marble there standeth a lyon havynge a hole throwgh the necke, 
into the whiche they poure the bludde of the miserable sacri- 
fice, that it maye from thence runne down into a syncke of 
marble. They cutte not their throtes, but open the very brestes 
and take owtt their hartes yet pantynge with the hotte bludde, 
whereof they anoynte the lyppes of theyre Idoles and suffer 
the resydue to faule into the synke. This doone, they burne 
the harte and bowels, supposynge the smoke thereof to be 
acceptable to their Goddes. Of their Idoles one is made to the 
shape of a man bowynge downe his head and lookynge toward 
the synke of bludde, as it were acceptyng the offeringe of the 
slayne sacrifyce. They eate the fleshe of the armes, thighes, 
and legges. They founde a streame of congealed bludde as 
thoughe it had runne from a bouchery." 

The inhabitants of Cozumella " sacrifyce children of both 
kyndes to theyr Zemes, which are the images of their familiar 
and domesticall spirites whych theye honour as Goddes." * 

Children were sacrificed, says Molina, at all the chief huacas 
of the provinces of Peru.^ Young children and boys were 
sacrificed to two huacas at Hunoyan.^ When the Indians were 
ill, their own children were sometimes offered as a sacrifice to 

The sculpture of the ruined temples at Palenque presents 
many representations of the sacrifice of children. Female 
figures erect, adorned with jewels and ornaments, are found, 
each figure with a child in her arms, not in the attitude of 
receiving a mother's nourishment, but held by the parent in 
such a manner as if in sorrowful contemplation of her infant 
victim. Other female figures are represented seated and in the 
most melancholy postures, with downcast heads and looks as 
if mourning for that loss which had made them motherless. 

* Martyr's Decades, 156. » Narrative, 58-59. 

3 Arriaga, 265. ^ Jos. D'Acosta, bk. 5, chap. 19. 


In an inner apartment, believed to be the sanctum of a temple, 
is sculptured (in basso) the resemblance of the dread altar, por- 
traying the entrance of the fiery furnace, for even the bars and 
grating are distinctly visible. A large and monstrous mask, or 
demoniac face, is directly abpve the fire-grating, representing that 
of the remorseless deity .^ On either side of the altar-furnace are 
stationed a young and an elderly priest of sacrifice, both stand- 
ing erect upon crushed and prostrate human beings ; the priests 
have their hands and arms elevated, and each holds an infant 
raised up toward the demon deity, as if in the act of present- 
ing the victims. The sculptured mask has a hideous face, dis- 
torted eyes, a ravenous and distended mouth, and its tongue 
hanging out, as if athirst for infant blood, thus presenting a 
perfect portraiture of the child-craving appetite of the god. The 
sculpture described is, as we have stated, upon the stuccoed 
walls of Palenque, and we believe was placed there as a record 
of a religious custom practised anterior to the walls being 

The Chibchas of Bogota offered sacrifices of children to the 
sun. Their caciques had a receptacle on the beams of their 
houses, into which they placed a boy who had been killed for 
a sacrifice. His blood trickled down the posts of the house." 

A few instances of the sacrifice of children as an act of wor- 
ship appear among the tribes of the territory now embraced 
within the United States. "The Florida savages sacrificed 
their first-born." 3 The Eskimos sacrificed the favorite child 
on the grave of its deceased parent* 

Self-mutilation was another form of sacrifice. The funereal 
mourners, generally the relatives of the deceased, cut off fingers, 
knocked out teeth, punctured flesh, and did many other acts 
wholly unutilitarian, but which manifested the great sorrow 
felt by the survivors, and thus were supposed to be pleasing 
to the dead. 

' Jones, Ancient America, 141, seq. * P. Simon, 248-49. 

3 3 Picart, 129. 4 ChappelPs Voyage, 190. 


Describing the death of A-ra-poo-ash, chief of the Crows, 
and the exhibitions of grief on the part of his nation that fol- 
lowed, Bonner, in his life of Beckworth, says," quoting Beck- 
worth's language, " Every warrior immediately set up the 
most dismal cryings that I have ever heard in my life. I des- 
patched a herald to the village to inform them of the head 
chiefs death. When we drew in sight of the village, we found 
every lodge laid prostrate. We entered amid shrieks, cries, 
and yells. Blood was streaming from every conceivable part 
of the bodies of all who were old enough to comprehend their 
loss. Hundreds of fingers were dismembered ; hair torn from 
the head lay in profusion about the paths. A herald having 
been despatched to our other village to acquaint them with 
the death of our head chief and request them to assemble at 
the Rosebud, in conformity with this summons over ten thou- 
sand Crows met at the place indicated. Such a scene of dis- 
orderly, vociferous mourning no imagination can conceive nor 
any pen portray. Long Hair cut off a large roll of his hair, — 
a thing he was never known to do before. The cutting and 
hacking of human flesh exceeded all my previous experience : 
fingers were dismembered as readily as twigs, and blood was 
poured out like water. Many of the warriors would cut two 
gashes nearly the entire length of their arm, then, separating 
the skin from the flesh at one end, would grasp it in their 
other hand and rip it asunder to the shoulder." 

Among the Dacotahs, " when a death happens in a family, 
no matter how well they are clothed, the good clothes are 
stripped off and given away, and the worst old rags substituted 
in their place. They gash their legs and arms, and leave them 
to get well without the least attention. Some of them carry 
their grief so far as to raise the skin of their arms and pierce 
holes with their knives and put pegs through them. They 
continue their mourning about a year." * 

Says Belden, " The practice of disfiguration prevails exten- 

» P. 264, seq. » 2 Wis. Hist. Coll., 180. 


sively among nearly all the Western tribes. One day an In- 
dian boy was thrown from his pony with such violence that 
he died. His mother and sisters, as a sign of their grief, cut 
off a finger each at the first joint. I have seen the Crows gash 
their arms, legs, bodies, and faces when their friends died. At 
Fort Phil Kearney it is said that hundreds of fingers were 
cut off, and gashes innumerable made on their persons, by the 
friends of the dead. When a warrior is killed, his pony is 
gashed in the sides and on the legs with knives, to make him 
feel sorry for the death of his master." ' 

The same custom prevailed among all the Northern tribes. 
Among the Mexicans their self-mutilations were as cruel as 
their bodies would bear, for, in their pious fanaticism, " they 
mangled their flesh as if it had been insensible, and let their 
blood run in profusion." They pierced themselves with the 
sharp spines of the aloe, and then bathed their bloody bodies 
in a pond at the great temple, which was called Ezapan, be- 
cause always discolored with blood.* 

In the pictographs in Lord Kingsborough's " Antiquities of 
Mexico" there are many representations of mourners thrusting 
a weapon through their tongues; and among the uncivilized 
tribes of South America the same practice prevailed. Among 
all the Brazilian tribes mutilations were a part of the funeral 
ceremonial. Some cut off fingers at the death of a kinsman,^ 
others toes. The Mumanes, if all their fingers had been cut off, 
began on their toes.* 

The most common mutilation in these mourning ceremonies 
was cutting the hair. Among the Peruvians, even the plucking 
out of an eyebrow and blowing it into the air was thought to 
be an acceptable offering. 

Under the head of sacrifices and burial-ceremonies we have 
seen that the tombs of all of the American tribes have been 
their temples. Said Prudentius, the Roman bard, " there were 

« Beldcn, 1 60, seq. ■ i Clavigero, 283-85. 

3 I Southey, 345. 

4 I ib., 417; D'Orbigny, L'Homme Am^ricain, 238. 

jB URIAL' customs. 2 1 9 

as many temples of gods as sepulchres," implying that they 
were the same and identical among the ancient classical 
nations. The Collas of Peru took more care of their tombs 
than of the houses of the living. These tombs were small 
towers, the magnitude of which depended on the rank and 
wealth of the deceased.* 

Many of the Peruvian tombs were places of worship. The 
burial-towers of Peru were often sprinkled with the blood of 
sacrifices, and most of the huacas, or sacred places, were the 
tombs of the dead. Many of the tribes of South America 
built a rough hut for the reception of the skeletons of the dead, 
and these were their temples. Mr. Stedman mentions one 
which contained four hundred skeletons, which were hung up 

Columbus mentions a sepulchre as large as a house, built on 
a mountain and elaborately sculptured. A body lay therein, 
which was uncovered.^ 

" De Soto," says Biedma, in his narrative, " opened a large 
temple built in the woods, in which were buried the chiefs of 
the country." 

The Virginia kings, after their bodies were prepared by a 
species of mummification, were laid upon a shelf in the temple, 
where a priest remained in constant attendance night and day.* 

'• The traditional name of the ancient burial-mounds among 
the Choctaws was Nanne-Yah, — the hills or mounts of God, 
a name almost identical, it is said, with that of the Mexican 
pyramids. Who can fail to perceive that the same principles 
of architecture have governed the construction of both, and 
that the temple-mound of Kentucky is but a ruder form of the 
Mexican teocalli ?" s 

The tribes in the United States were well acquainted with 
the character of the sepulchral mounds. These mounds were 
regarded with great reverence, and were frequently resorted 

' Cieza, 364. > i Surinam, 400. 

3 Select Letters, 192. 4 Beverly, 47, 

5 I CoUins's Kentucky, 385. 


to by the Indians as places sacred to their devotional exer- 

In Mexico and the States of Central America, and in Peru, 
where the temples had attained a magnitude and beaut>^ of 
architecture rarely surpassed anywhere among the pagan 
peoples, their use as tombs had not become obsolete. In the 
great temple at Cuzco, an array of Incas, seated in all their 
rich vestments, was the most striking feature of its interior. In 
Mexico, the kings and lords, after having been prepared for 
burial, were placed in some temple. Even the idols found in 
these temples were generally the images of the dead, and often 
contained their ashes. Among the Iroquois a fire is built at 
the head of the grave of the dead, immediately after the burial, 
around which the relatives and friends sit for nine successive 
nights." Thus tombs have always been regarded as sacred to 
religious devotions. 

The utilitarian view of sacrifice has now almost passed away. 
The God of the Christian world asks naught but the sacrifice 
of a broken and contrite heart. But the method of worshipping 
him in the Roman Catholic Church by the sacrifice of the mass 
has its prototype in the funeral rite of the savage. The fire on 
the grave of the savage for the spirit to warm itself by and cook 
its food survives in the light on the graves of Catholic Europe 
on All Souls' day and in the light on the sacrificial altar of the 
Roman Church. The mutilation in the primitive funeral cere- 
mony now appears in the cropped hair and lacerating garments 
of religious devoteeism. Among the more civilized races of 
America, the simpler forms of sacrifice survived amid an elab- 
orate sacrificial ritual. 

* Hunter's Memoirs, 307, seq. ■ Life of Mary Jamison, 107. 



Its animistic origin — Immortality of the spirits of animals — Transmigration of 
human souls into animals — Omens — Manitology — Totemism — Animal names 
given to human beings — Traditionary descent of tribes from animals — To- 
temism in art — Heraldry — Totemic writing — ^Tattooing — Probable totemic origin 
of the animal mounds-*-Traditionary descent of animals from the human race 
— Metamorphosis — Animal dress — Worship of animals — Fabulous animals — 
Animals in the r6le of creators. 

The worship of animals has been supposed by many my- 
thologists to have originated in symbolism. This explanation 
of it is wholly unsatisfactory. Symbolism is unknown to a 
very primitive people, and it is among them that animal-wor- 
ship is universal. Again, this symbolism, which is used as an 
explanation of animal-worship among the advanced nations, 
such as the Egyptians, must itself be explained. The basis of 
the science of Naology, as the derivation of the word implies, 
must be the representation of an idea by a sign ; the origin 
of animal symbolism in mythology can be found in totemism. 
Among the natives of America, animal-worship has originated 
in animism, or spirit-worship. Among primitive peoples all 
animals are f supposed to be endowed with souls. In many 
cases the souls of human beings have transmigrated into ani- 
mals. Hence among many of our wildest tribes a likeness has 
been recognized between an animal and some deceased relative 
or friend, and the animal has been addressed as the person 
would have been, and has been honored on account of such 
resemblance with an adoration which, among primitive peoples, 
is equivalent to worship. In the cosmogony of many of the 
tribes, animals have figured as the progenitors of the tribe, and 

15 221 


in a few tribal traditions they appear as creators. This creation 
in some cases is iiatic in its nature, but usually it can be traced 
to a belief in a natural descent from the animal which stands 
as a progenitor of the tribe and is therefore held in great vene- 
ration as an ancestor. Here we have a point of contact with 
ancestral worship. This very curious and primitive belief in 
descent from animals has originated from the totemic system 
upon which their social system rests. The division of a tribe 
into the families of the bear, turtle, crane, etc., indicates a time 
when families claiming descent from ancestors bearing those 
names have banded themselves together for their common in- 
terest, generally for defence. That an ancestor should be 
named the bear or turtle or crane, indicates a time still farther 
back when the name was given him for some good reason. 
A great many ethnologists have supposed those names were 
given to designate a quality or characteristic of the individual : 
a very slow man would be called a turtle ; a man with very 
long legs, a crane. Although there is no doubt that such nick- 
naming as this has occurred, and has originated many such 
names, yet the totemic system has a much broader and deeper 
foundation than this, upon which their social structure is builL 
Totemism is explained by manitology, or the worship of mani- 
tous. The manitou is a personal deity, — almost always an ani- 
mal, — chosen by each individual at that most important period 
of his life — when he becomes of age. This animal manitou is 
always pointed out to the individual in a dream which is pro- 
duced by the greatest religious act of his life, — the first fast 
The animal then becomes an object of worship, and its skin or 
stuffed body is carried about the person as a fetich, or its likeness 
painted on the body or sculptured on the weapons. Heraldry, 
animal dress, tattooing, and the metamorphoses of men to ani- 
mals and animals to men thus originate. The prevalence of the 
animal forms in primitive art can here find explanation. Hence 
the animal appears as the manitou, or personal fetich, and then 
develops into the totem, or sacred animal of the gens or family 
which descends from that person. Under favorable conditions 


it then appears as the creator, in which capacity it gradually 
assumes a fabulous nature, and is the author of all changes in 
the economy of the universe as far as known to the peoples 
among whom the myths occur. From animals the natives 
have descended, according to tradition. Upon animals they 
depend for their earthly blessings, and look to them in a wor- 
ship which will be noticed throughout this chapter. In the 
future life they also figure in as important a role as in this. In 
art they appear as idols. Their figures are sculptured and 
painted on houses, temples, and natural rocks. They are tat- 
tooed upon the bodies. Their skins are worn as medicine- 
sacks and also as garments. In this latter capacity they have 
tended to produce the curious legends of metamorphosis 
noticed in this chapter and elsewhere. Their cries and actions, 
voluntary and involuntary, become the omens of the savage 
tribes, and originate the divination and augury of the more 
civilized. Dreams are their revelations to man. Disease is 
produced by their angry spirits, which are everywhere present 
and ready to avenge an act of impiety to their kind. Hence 
all the tribes worshipped the commonest animals. They sup- 
posed that all animals of land, air, and water were endowed 
with immortal spirits and could punish those who maltreated 
them. When they worshipped any of these they imagined 
that they would obtain the aid of their spirits. 

The immortality of the souls of all animals is as thoroughly 
and universally believed as that of human souls. The subject 
has received so much consideration in other parts of this work 
that only a few authorities will be introduced here. Among 
the natives of Canada the spirits of animals were thought to be 
immortal.* Among the Western tribes, says Mr. Dodge, the 
phantoms of all animals are supposed to go to the happy hunt- 
ing-grounds. The Indians have not yet separated themselves 
from the whole animated creation, and do not exclude animals 
from their world of spirits." Says Mr. Buchanan, " The Knis- 

' I Jes. Rel., 13. « Buchanan, i8l. 


tenaux have a place assigned to animal spirits, and on this side 
of the land of the dead Knistenaux. Their spirits have to pass 
through the land of animal spirits, when the shades of the ani- 
mals can avenge their wrongs." * Chateaubriand says that all 
the Indians granted immortality to the spirits of insects, reptiles, 
fishes, and birds.' 

All of the Indians fancied that the souls of animals came to 
see how their bodies were treated, and afterward acquainted 
both the living and the dead with the facts ; and that if they 
were ill treated they would not suffer themselves to be any 
longer taken, either in this world or the next.3 

The intelligence of these spiritual agents and their interest in 
human affairs, according to the theories of the aborigines, were 
demonstrated in omens, animal oracles, and augury. 

The Aztecs, in their migration, appear to have received their 
oracles from a bird, crying tilini^ tilini^ — " let us go, let us go." 
This led them from place to place. The importance of the 
little bird tilini-tochan, whose note is still heard in Mexico, 
tends to show how great an influence the animal world has had 
in the history of primitive peoples. The Aztecs founded 
Tenochtitlan in obedience to an oracle bidding them go until 
they found an eagle on a tuna-tree. The conditions were met 
when they came upon the site of the above city, for there sat 
an eagle upon a tuna-tree growing out of a rock, with her 
wings displayed facing the sun, and with a beautiful bird in her 
talons. They prostrated themselves before this eagle, which 
bowed her head in recognition of them. Their arms and those 
of the Mexicans at this day are an eagle in a tuna-tree. 

Among hunting tribes the cawing of a crow at night would 
cause a large party of warriors to run for home and give up an 
expedition. The Comanches regarded the wolf as a brother, 
and said that it warned them of danger. If one sprang up 
before them in their journeys and barked or howled, they 

' Buchanan, 275. * 2 Chateaubriand's Travels, 38. 

3 2 Picart, 85. 


would turn aside, and travel no more in that direction that 
day." The Pecos said an eagle conversed with them and fore- 
told the arrival of the white men." The Ojibways believed 
much in omens. The barking of foxes and of wolves, the 
bleating of deer, the screeching of owls, the flight of uncom- 
mon kinds of birds, the moaning noise of a partridge, were 
ominous of ill. The two last were certain omens of death. 
But the sailing of an eagle to and fro, and the noise of a raven, 
were omens of good.3 The inhabitants of St. Catherine's 
Island, on the coast of California, had two crows in the court 
of their temple, which were their oracles. They were thrown 
into great alarm because they were killed by the Spaniards.* 

When the mankawis, a species of quail, perch at night upon 
a cabin belonging to a Seminole, the inhabitant of that cabin 
prepares for death. If a white bird sports aloof in the air, this 
indicates a storm. If it flies in the evening before the traveller, 
throwing itself from one wing upon the other, as if frightened, 
it forebodes danger.^ 

Among the Mayas the songs of birds and cries of animals 
were omens.^ 

Among the Northern tribes the march is regulated by a 
sorcerer according to good or bad omens. If the sorcerer but 
cries out at night that he'has seen a spider on a willow-leaf, the 
army must break up.' If they hear the howling of a large 
wolf which they call the medicine-wolf, when travelling, sad- 
ness is at once visible in their countenances, for it is considered 
as foreboding some calamity near at hand.^ 

Small ducks, among the Abipones, which flew about together 
at night, making a loud hiss, were omens of evil, and were 
believed to be spirits of the dead.? Among the Brazilian tribes 
the screaming of vultures was an omen of death. The Para- 

« Battey's Quaker, etc., 333. ■ Davis, El Gringo, 153. 

3 Autobiography of Kah-Ge-Ga-Bow, 48. * McCulloh, Ant., 112. 

S I Chateaubriand's Travels, 246. * 2 Brasseur, Hist. Mexico, 51. 

7 2 Chateaubriand's Travels, 21. • Parker's Journal, 243, seq. 

9 I Dobrizhoffer, 331 ; 2 ib., 270. 


guayans consulted the songs of birds and cries of animals as 
auguries to guide their conduct.* 

The Peruvian priests inspected the entrails of beasts for 
omens.' When the animals were opened and the lungs were 
palpitating, it was favorable.3 

The llama was used at the sacrifice at the feast of Raymi, 
to get the auguries. When the body was opened, the priest 
sought, in the appearances which it exhibited, to read the lesson 
of the mysterious future.* 

Let us now pass to the consideration of the subject of mani- 
tology, or the worship of manitous among the tribes, and 
make it introductory to the subject of totemism. After our 
consideration of these two subjects we will understand their 

The most prominent belief in the Indian religion was their 
doctrine of manitous, or what maybe denominated manitology. 
All the tribes had some equivalent for this, although the word 
used is Algonkin. The word manitou did not mean the Deity 
or Great Spirit, as has been erroneously asserted : it was con- 
fined to a spiritual and mysterious power thought to reside in 
some material form. The Potawatomie had his tutelary spirit, 
generally in the shape of some animal he had met in his dreams. 
To this animal he addressed his prayers and stated his wants ; 
he consulted it in all difficulties, and frequently conceived that 
he had derived relief from it. Of course he abstained from 
eating the animal, and would rather starve than sacrilegiously 
feed upon his animal idol. He knew that others had different 
manitous, and did not feel bound to protect his animal from his 
companions, for he thought there was no virtue in the animal 
for anybody but himself.^ Among the Illinois, each man had a 
manitou, which was some animal about which he had dreamed, 
and in which he placed all his confidence for success.^ 

' Caddell's Hist. Missions, Japan and Paraguay, 30. 
3 I Zarate, 52. 3 2 Garcilasso, 161. 

* I Prescott, Peru, 106. s i Keating, 118. 

* Marquette, R6cit de Voyage, 57. 


The power of these manitous to deliver them from danger is 
well illustrated in the following tale : 

A canoe full of Ojibways was once pursued by enemies. 
They endeavored to escape, but found the enemy gaining on 
them rapidly. At last they began calling on their manitous. 
One called upon the sturgeon, and their speed was soon equal 
to that fish's, and the enemy were left far behind. But the stur- 
geon was a short-winded fish, and soon became tired, and the 
enemy gained on them. All the manitous but one were tried 
in vain, and they began to give themselves up for lost, when a 
young man whom they had disregarded called upon his mani- 
tou, which happened to be the saw-bill (duck), and held its 
skin by the neck in the water. Immediately the canoe began 
to glide swiftly away at the usual speed of a saw-bill, and the 
enemy were left far behind and gave up the chase.* 

The initial fast at the age of puberty which every Indian 
underwent was for the purpose of individually becoming aware 
of this personal manitou. When revealed in dreams, his pur- 
pose was accomplished, and he adopted that revelation, which 
was generally some bird or animal, as his personal or guardian 
manitou. There was no exigency in life in which it could not 
help him. The misfortune was that these manitous were not 
of equal power. Hence the Indian was never sure that his 
neighbor was not under the guardianship of a manitou stronger 
than his own." 

Each primitive Indian had his guardian manitou, to whom 
he looked for counsel, guidance, and protection. These spiritual 
allies were gained by the following process. At the age of 
fourteen or fifteen the Indian boy retired to some solitary place 
and remained for days without food. Superstitious expectancy 
and the exhaustion of abstinence rarely failed of their results. 
His sleep was haunted by visions, and the form which first or 
most often appeared was that of his guardian manitou (almost 
always an animal). An eagle or bear was the vision of a des- 

' Jones, Ojibways, 89, 90. ■ i Schoolcraft, 34. 


tined warrior ; a wolf, of a hunter ; a serpent, of a medicine-man. 
The Indian henceforth wore about his person the object re- 
vealed in his dream, or some portion of it, within which was 
thought to reside its spirit. The Indian yielded to it a sort of 
worship and made offerings to it. The superstition now be- 
came mere fetich-worship.* 

It is astonishing what an influence this superstition had on 
the daily life of the Indian. Mr. Cass knew an old Dacotah 
chief who had never been to war because he had dreamed of 
an antelope, the peace spirit of his people. 

When the tribes pitched their tents they took very little 
care to guard against a surprise, because they placed great con- 
fidence in their manitous, which they always carried with them, 
and which they were persuaded took upon themselves the office 
of sentinels, and they slept very securely under their protection. 
These manitous were called by some tribes wakons, — ^that is, 

The Arkansas, next to the Natches the most civilized of 
the aborigines of the United States, had manitous which they 
always consulted. Their manitou was sometimes an animal, 
sometimes a bird, and to it they attributed all their good or 
bad luck.3 

The early missionaries found great difficulty in inducing the 
natives to give up these guardian spirits, which they thought 
visited them and gave them valuable information.^ 

These manitous often had sacrifices offered to them. Says 
Marest, " The Illinois worship manitous, which are the skins 
of beasts or birds. They hang them up in their wigwams and 
offer to them sacrifices." s A famous sagamore of a tribe in 
Maine had a marten's skin for his manitou, which if laid under 
the head brought dreams at night, and to which he offered 

After an animal had become a manitou the individual would 

* Parkman, Jesuits, Ixxi. » Lewis and Clarke, Lond. ed., 8i. 

8 3 Frenches Hist. Coll., 127. 4 Jones's Ojibways, 270. 

5 Kip's Jes. Mis., 200. * 2 Maine Hist. Coll., 94. 


not kill It. Beltrami gives an incident illustrative of this. 
He says, " One day when I was fishing, a Sioux was greatly 
offended at my asking him to get me some frogs for bait. The 
frog, it appeared, was his manitou. ... If an Indian does kill 
his manitou by accident, he begs for pardon, and says, ' It is 
better that you should have been killed by me than by any 
other man, for he would sell your skin, whereas I shall keep it 
with the greatest devotion ;* and accordingly it takes its station 
among the divinities in the medicine-bag." ^ 

The Californians had about the same system of manitology 
as the tribes east of the Rocky Mountains. At an early age 
they were placed under the protection of a tutelar divinity, 
which was supposed to take the form of some animal. To dis- 
cover the particular beast which was to guide his future des- 
tinies, the child was intoxicated by a plant called pibat, and 
kept three or four days without food until he saw his divinity, 
which was immediately tattooed on the breast and arms of the 

The Zapotecs had a very curious manner of selecting a 
manitou for a child at its birth. When a woman was about to 
be delivered, the relatives assembled in the hut and commenced 
to draw on the floor figures of different animals, rubbing each 
one out as fast as completed. The one that remained at the 
time of the birth was called the child's second self, and as soon 
as grown up he procured the animal, and believed his health 
and existence bound up with it.^ Another manner of obtaining 
a manitou among the Zapotecs was to assign to the child the 
first bird or beast that appeared after the birth of the child.* 

In Yucatan it was customary to leave an infant alone in a 
place sprinkled with ashes. Next morning the ashes were ex- 
amined, and if the footprints of any animal were found on 
them, that animal was chosen as the deity of the infant.^ 

It will be noticed that the manner of choosing the manitou 

* 2 Beltrami, 229. ' i Bancroft, 414. 3 i ib., 661. 

4 2 ib., 277. s 2 ib., 181. 


or guardian spirit has changed a little among the civilized 
tribes, but the same faith in their power as spiritual agents sur- 
vived. The natives of Honduras thought their destiny was so 
leagued with these guardian spirits that whenever anything 
happened to the animal it happened to them also.' 

The Quiches of Guatemala, Herrera quaintly enough writes, 
"are deluded by the devil to believe that their life depend- 
eth upon the life of such and such a beast which they take 
with them as their familiar spirit, and think when the beast 
dieth they must die. When he is chased, then their hearts 
pant ; when he is faint, they are faint" " 

The Indians could see no difference between their system of 
manitous and those of the white race, for they say the Bos- 
ton people have for their manitou the eagle, and the English 
people a lion. 

From the selection and worship of manitous by the indi- 
vidual we will pass to the subject of totemism. We will not 
look upon the subject from the social stand-point, except as far 
as may be necessary to explain the religious nature of the sub- 
ject. The totemic social system has been most ably elucidated 
among the natives of America by Mr. Morgan, who has pursued 
the study of the subject among other races sufficiently to point 
to a time when all the races of the earth have had this primi- 
tive social system among them. As introductory to the sub- 
ject of totemism, let me say that among all those tribes which 
had not emerged from barbarism, names of animals were given 
to many members of the tribes. There is some evidence to 
show that this habit has survived even among the more civil- 
ized, and there are traditions which point to the prevalence of 
the custom in the past history of all the American tribes. 

Among the Lenape legends, warriors named White Eagle, 
White Owl and Snow-Bird, Strong Buffalo, Big Owl, White 
Crane, Strong Wolf, White Lynx, Blue-Bird, Big Beaver, 
Water Turtle, figure in their early history.3 Many of the 

4 Herrera, 138. ■ 4 ib., 334, 3 i Rafinesque, 131-34. 


Northwestern Indians were named after beasts.^ In Chile, as 
among the North Americans, each family was distinguished by 
the name of an animal, among which were the tiger, lion, 
guanaco, and ostrich.* 

In Brazil there was a tribe called Achkeres, who took their 
name from the cayman, an animal of which they stood in 
strange fear. They thought it killed with its breath, and 
killed all with its sight, and the only way it could be killed was 
by holding a reflector before it, when it killed itselfs The 
natives of Guiana gave animal names to many of their chil- 
dren: Red and Blue Macaw were favorites.* Many of the 
Zapotecans were named after animals.s The cacique of Coa- 
tlan was called Dog.^ These names were sometimes given from 
the personal manitou, and sometimes from the possession by 
the person of qualities similar to those of the animal. Mr. 
Bates, while on the Amazon, had two attendants named Tor- 
toise, who were descended from a father who had received that 
nickname on account of his slowness. Here we see the first 
step toward the formation of a tortoise family and tribe. Let 
the tradition of the ancestor fail to keep clearly in view the fact 
that he was a man called after some animal, let him be habitu- 
ally spoken of just as when alive, and the natural mistake of 
taking the name literally will bring with it the belief in descent 
from the actual animal. 

It is in this way that we can find an explanation of the myth- 
ical descents of so many of the tribes from animals ; and I will 
introduce here a few of these traditionary descents. Falkner 
describes the Patagonians as possessing a multiplicity of ani- 
mal deities, each of whom they believe to preside over a family 
of Indians of which he is supposed to have been the creator. 
Some are of the caste of the tiger, some of the guanaco, and 
others of the ostrich. Ross says the tribes north of the Colum- 
bia pretend to be derived from a musk-rat. The Haidahs stead- 

« Harmon, 347. « 2 Molina, 378. 3 i Southey, 156-57. 

* Brett, 290. 5 3 Herrera, 267. * 3 ib., 268. 


fastly maintain that they are descended from the crows, and 
the Ahts say that men first existed as birds, animals, and fishes. 
The Chippewyans derive their origin from the dog, and at one 
time were so strongly imbued with respect for their canine 
ancestry that they ceased employing dogs in drawing their 

The California Indians, who claim to have descended from 
the prairie-wolf, explain the loss of their tails by saying they 
have been erased and destroyed by the habit they acquired of 
sitting upright. Those of them who claim descent from the 
bear assert that bears in old times walked on their hind legs 
like men. 

The Kickapoos thought their ancestors had tails, and when 
they lost them the impudent fox sent every morning to ask 
how their tails were, and the bear shook his fat sides at the 

The Flat-Heads believed in animal descent, and peopled their 
paradise with their grandfathers the spiders; who were exceed- 
ingly useful', according to their conception, for they spun threads 
to let the dead down to earth again. 

The Chinooks are descended from a large bird, which they 
called Hahness. When one of their old men was cutting a 
salmon across the side, it was metamorphosed into an immense 
bird, which flew away and alighted on the Saddleback Moun- 
tains, near Columbia River, where its nest was made and eggs 
laid, and from these eggs sprang mankind.^ 

The Crane tribe of the Ojibways have the following legend 
of their origin. Two cranes flew down to the earth and spent 
a long time visiting different parts of the continent. They 
went over the prairie, and tasted buffalo-meat, but came to the 
conclusion it would not last. They passed over the forests, 
and tasted the elk, deer, and other animals, but were afraid the 
sources would fail. When they came to the rapids at the out- 

* I Spencer, Soc, 363. ■ 3 Jones, Traditions, 176. 

3 Swan's Washington Territory, 203-4. 


let of Lake Superior, and found fish in abundance in the noisy 
waters, which could be taken with ease, they were satisfied, and 
folded their wings close to their bodies, alighted on the chosen 
spot, and were at once transformed into a man and woman.^ 

The Delawares thought that their ancestors lived for a time 
in certain terrestrial animals, such as the ground-hog, the rab- 
bit, the tortoise.* The tortoise gens claimed a superiority and 
ascendency over all the others, because their ancestor the great 
tortoise, who had become a fabled monster in their mythology, 
bore their world on his back.3 Upon this subject Mr. Hecke- 
welder says, "That the Indians, from the earliest times, consid- 
ered themselves in a manner connected with certain animals, is 
evident from various customs still preserved among them, and 
from the names of those animals which they have collectively 
as well as individually assumed. They are as proud of their 
origin from the tortoise, the turkey, and the wolf as the nobles 
of Europe are of their descent from the feudal barons of ancient 

The Ottawas claimed their origin from three families. Some 
were from the family of the great hare. They pretended that 
the great hare was a man of prodigious size ; that he could 
spread nets in the water at eighteen fathoms' depth, while the 
water scarcely came to his armpits. The second family of the 
Ottawas claimed to be derived from the carp. Their tradition 
was, that a carp having deposited its eggs on the borders of 
a river, and the sun having darted its rays upon them, they 
were formed into a woman, from whom they were descended. 
The third family of the Ottawas attributed their origin to 
the bear, but without explaining in what manner they were 

The lowas thought they were descended from animals. The 
Mandans had an Indian name of great length, which when 
translated would be " people of the pheasants." The Choctaws 

' Beach, Mis., 175. ' Heckewelder, 241. 

3 I Yates and Moulton's N. Y., 31-32. 4 Rasles, in Kip's Jes. Mis., 32. 


have a crawfish gens, which beh'eve they came up out of the 
mud and were a species of crawfish, and they went on their 
hands and feet at first. When the Choctaws chased them, they 
would run down through the mud and get away from them. 
Finally some of them were caught and treated kindly by the 
Choctaws, and they became the present crawfish family.* The 
Potoyantes believe they are descended from the coyotes.' 

The natives in the neighborhood of Mt. Shasta have a tra- 
dition that the grizzly bears formerly walked on their hind feet 
like men, and talked, and were the ancestors of the Indians; 
and the Indians will not kill them ; but if an Indian is killed by 
a bear the spot becomes memorable, and each one casts a stone 
on the spot till a monument is reared.3 The Cayuses, Nez 
Perces, and Walla Wallas sprang from the beaver.* 

A tribe of Lacandones, near Palenque, was named the Snakes, 
and the great mythical hero, Votan, declared himself a snake 
and descendant of the snakes.^ Many of the Indians of Peru 
claimed descent from animals, some from the bear, others from 
the tiger, eagle, condor, or other animal.* 

Among the natives of Brazil, belief in descent from animals 
survived in the curious custom of cutting a stick at a wedding. 
The father performed this ceremony, imagining that he cut off 
the tails of any future grandchild ren.' 

Mythologies are full of stories, says Mr. Spencer, where 
beasts, birds, and fishes have played intelligent parts in human 
affairs, and have befriended human beings by giving them in- 
formation, by guiding them, or by deceiving them. Belief in 
actual descent from an animal, strange as we may think it, is 
one by no means incongruous to the savage.* 

The traditionary unions of animals and human beings were 
common in the folk-lore of all the tribes. In a great deluge, 
an Ojibway woman was saved by catching hold of a large bird 

» 2 Catlin, 128. « 3 Bancroft, 88. 3 3 ib., 93. 

* 3 i^-> 95- ^ 3 ib., 451. ^ I Garcilasso, 75. 

7 I Tylor, 384. • Spencer, Recent Discoveries, 42. 


that was flying over. She was carried to the top of a high 
cliff, near which she had twins by her savior the war-eagle.* 

The Osages believe the first man of their nation married a 
beaver, by whom he had many children, from whom the Osages 
have descended. They never kill the beaver, for they would 
think they were killing their own people."* 

The Quiches had a legend that mankind descended from a 
woman and a dog who could transform himself into a hand- 
some youth. The Apaches have a tradition that a bear went 
into the palace of Montezuma and stole one of his daughters 
and had children by her.3 

These myths of descent from the union of an animal and a 
human being are very common. Some of the composite forms 
of animal and human beings to be found among their fabulous 
animals, which will be noticed hereafter, and which are com- 
mon subjects chosen for representation by their artists, are 
explicable by this theory of descents. 

The Aleuts claim descent from a dog of the female sex 
which was visited by an old man from the North. The result 
was the birth of two creatures, male and female, each half man, 
half dog.* Many of those composite figures which appear in 
the mythology of savage as well as civilized races of the pagan 
world, and which have been represented in their art, undoubt- 
edly have their explanation in the totemic social system. To 
illustrate : if a member of a wolf gens should marry and have 
oflfepring with a member of a crawfish gens, and the offspring 
should attain celebrity and pass into their traditionary history 
with his parentage unforgotten, yet growing more indistinct as 
the twilight of time gathers around it and all recollections 
merge themselves in the prominent figure, soon there would 
be a hero tale, transparent with the characteristics of the wolf 
and the crawfish. Among the Indians men and animals were 
closely akin, and a belief prevailed that men themselves owed 
their first parentage to beasts, birds, or reptiles, and the names 

« 2 Catlin, i68. » 2 ib., 319. 35 Schoolcraft, 2U. * 3 Bancroft, 104. 


of the totem ic clans, borrowed in nearly every case from ani- 
mals, are the reflection of this idea. 

Papago traditions reach back to a time when men and beasts 
talked together and used one language. In early times men 
and beasts associated together in friendly intercourse. A 
famous chief of the Kootanies had a beautiful daughter, and 
all the young warriors, hunters, and fishers came courting her, 
but the father would only give his child to one who should split 
the tines of an elk-horn asunder with his hands. The story is 
told in the following language. The news went forth, and the 
competitors began to assemble, until the lodge was full. The 
bears sat growling in one corner, and the wolves in another. 
The raccoons and deer tried in vain, and went back disheartened. 
The salmon finally came along, while the lodge resounded with 
jeers and laughter at the bare idea of his attempting it after 
the flower of Indian athletes had failed ; but Kewuk (salmon) 
was the girl's sweetheart, and her prayers had gone forth in his 
behalf. The tines split asunder, and she was Kewuk's bride. 
The rivals were bitter with envy, and skulked away to their 
lodges ; but the wolf was determined to effect by foul means 
what he could nof accomplish by fair. Watching his oppor- 
tunity, he seized her and fled ; but she tore pieces from her 
dress and left them on the bushes, marking the path, along 
which Kewuk pursued in hot haste and recovered his bride. 
The young wolfs father, however, set out with his son to seize 
again the bride, and they gaining rapidly on Kewuk, overloaded 
with his precious burden, he jumped into a river at hand and 
was turned into a salmon, and thus escaped.' This myth shows 
evident traces of totemism, and the animals therein are human 
beings bearing animal names. There is a tradition among the 
Neeshenams which illustrates this subject. It is the tradition of 
the coyote's elopement. The coyote and the bat were one day 
gathering the soft-shelled nuts of the sugar-pine, when there 
came along two women who were the wives of pigeons. The 

* I Brown's Races, 138. 


coyote upon this took a handful of pitch and besmeared the 
bat's ^y^% so that it could not see; meantime, the coyote eloped 
with the two women. 

The supposed descent from animals has originated many 
superstitions found among all the tribes about killing and eat- 
ing animals. The Indians of Queen Charlotte's Island believe 
they are descended from crows, and never kill one. They be- 
smear themselves with black paint to preserve the native tra- 
dition of descent* 

Many tribes on the Pacific slope ate no flesh, but regarded 
everything of the meat kind with a superstitious fear.' They 
carried the superstition of abstaining from flesh about as far 
as the Brahmins. The Yakuts were divided into eight tribes, 
each of which had a bird or animal which they regarded as 
sacred and would not eat.3 The Dacotahs dared neither kill 
nor eat their totemic animals. The Navajos never ate the flesh 
of the gray squirrel.* The Crow Indians would not trap or 
hunt the bear, and would not touch its flesh for food.s The 
Sioux would not kill the prairie-dog. If they saw anybody kill 
one, they ran away.^ The Apaches had a superstitious preju- 
dice against eating bear's meat,^ as had alsothe Navajos.® The 
Kaluschians of the Northwest coast will not eat the whale. It 
seems to be forbidden them.^ When, through necessity or 
accident, one of those animals from which they should abstain 
is killed, religious ceremonies are performed to appease its 

Manitology and nicknaming have both tended to develop 
totemism. The totem is a symbolic device, generally an ani- 
mal, which represents that all those having it have descended 
from one common ancestor. It has developed into the heraldic 
device of the family. It is not generally the object of religious 

» Poole's Queen Char). Islands, 136. « I Thatcher's Indian Traits, 71, scq. 

3 DalPs Alaska, 522. < 4 Schoolcraft, 214. 

5 Beldcn, 137. « lb., 138. 

7^1 Bartlett's Personal Narrative, 321. ^ 2 Domenech, 402. 

» McCulloh, 79. 


worship, because each member has chosen his own manitou on 
arriving at age. The totem has, however, great religious sig- 
nificance, and should have a prominent place in the study of 
their superstitions. 

The totemism of the American tribes has manifested itself 
in much of their art. Among the Haidah, Sitka, and Chim- 
sean Indians, a pillar elaborately carved out of a cedar-tree, or 
occasionally of stone, and sometimes fifty feet high, is built 
before each house, and represents the totems or manitous of 
all those living within the house. Since several families gen- 
erally inhabit one of these houses in common, the totem of 
each family is represented, and hence we obtain those curious 
combinations of figures that characterize much of the architec- 
ture of this region. The same peculiarity is noticed in other 
parts of America, especially in the remains of the Central 
American States, where the complex system of configuration 
in the pillars and also the walls of their ruins has undoubtedly 
had the same origin, with perhaps the additional pictographic 
representations that may be descriptive of them. 

At Fort Tongas, in Alaska, Rev. Dr. Jackson mentions the 
existence of a whole forest of cres(t- or totem-poles. " Many 
of them were from sixty to seventy feet high, and carved from 
top to bottom with a succession of figures representing the 
eagle, wolf, bear, frog, whale, and other animals." * 

The Nootkans also have a rude system of heraldry, by which 
some animal is adopted as a family crest, and its figure i>ainted 
on canoes and paddles or embroidered on their blankets. The 
Thlinkeets adorned the fronts of their principal dwellings and 
their canoes with figures representing the heads of crows, sea- 
lions, and bears." These are their totems, and each family 
adorned their house and canoe with the bird or beast designat- 
ing their clan. Hence we see how the medicine-bag or mani- 
tou, at first a personal fetich, expands till the idea of a family 
or tribe manitou, or totem, exhibits itself, and the tribal fetich 

» Alaska, 263. " i Bancroft, 107. 


manifests itself in primitive decorative art, which began with 
ornamenting household utensils, canoes, and huts with heraldic 
devices. The use of the totem in art prevailed among the 
Southern as well as the Northern tribes. The coyote, which 
figures so extensively in the myths of the savage tribes west of 
the Rocky Mountains, appears in Nahua art An image of a 
coyote hewn from the rock was found at the country residence 
of King Nezahualcoyotl, whose name signified hungry fox. 
Near this was the colossal figure of a winged beast, bearing in 
its mouth a sculptured portrait of the king.* 

The figures or emblems connected with the signatures of the 
Indians were called totems, and were the signs of the gentes or 
families into which the nations were divided. They were not 
the personal emblems of the chiefs. These figures were gen- 
erally some bird, beast, or reptile. The Indians in their earliest 
intercourse with the whites resorted to the use of hieroglyphics. 
Some of those made use of in the treaty made at Falmouth 
with the Penobscot, Norridgwock, and other Indians in 1649 
were very curious. They signed with the figure of the body 
of the totemic animal ; Nattoonos by the representation of a 
fish, Seboowosset by that of a fly, and others by various other 
strange and uncouth drawings. The treaties and petitions of 
tribes were a species of such hieroglyphic representations, as 
represented on Plate IV., which was a petition sent to Congress 
by a Western tribe, which was divided into the totemic families 
represented by the bear, marten, and other animals therein 
figured. Totemism is thus seen to be closely connected with 
the pictography and hieroglyphic writing used in America by 
the natives. 

Tattooing, or painting the figures of animals upon their 
bodies, was an almost universal custom throughout both 
Americas. It is probably the most primitive form of decora- 
tive art, and is fetichistic in conception. The tattooing, of 
which the Indians were so fond, and which had a religious 

' 2 Bancroft, 170. 


significance among them, was gradually given up as they 
adopted the dress and customs of the whites. Yet there were 
many instances of their clinging to the idea, by ornamenting 
their dress with the pictures of animals. The famous Philip 
wore a belt curiously embroidered with figures of birds and 
beasts, and the band of his cap was adorned in the same man- 
ner. The Dacotahs were tattooed with animals, which they 
thought charmed away all evil.' 

The tattoo-marks of the Haidahs appeared to be both totemic 
and connected with their manitology. Occasionally a fabulous 
being with no prototype in natural history will be selected, un- 
doubtedly the product of a dream or of a very fanciful imagi- 
nation. Animals are the subjects tattooed generally, and of 
these the bear, frog, codfish, and mythological thunder-bird 
are the most common. 

The same custom prevailed among the Canadian tribes, 
whose breasts, arms, and legs were tattooed with sharp needles 
or pointed bones, the colors being carefully rubbed in. " The 
manitou and the animal chosen as the symbol of his tribe are 
first painted on the person, then all his most remarkable ex- 
ploits and the enemies he has slain or scalped : so that his 
body displays a pictorial history of his life."' Among the 
New England nations " the better sort of Indians bear on their 
cheeks certain portraitures of beasts, as beavers, deer, moose, 
wolves, eagles, hawks, etc." 3 A woman of Queen Charlotte's 
Island had half her body tattooed with fish, beasts, etc., and 
said that the representation of a halibut would protect her and 
her kin from drowning at sea.** The first objects delineated 
on the skin of the Indian in tattooing were his guardian 
spirit and the guardian spirit of his tribe.s These spirits were 
then supposed to be enlisted in his behalf. 

The natives of Yucatan and Nicaragua, who were naked, 

' Eastman's Legends of Sioux, 74. ' i Warburton's Conq. of Can.. 200. 

3 Wood's N. £. Pros., 74. 4 Poole's Queen Charl. Islands, 311. 

5 X Hugh Murray's British America, 54. 


tattooed the body with serpents and birds.* Tattooing was a 
profession among them.* 

Tattooing was a form of animal-worship. Mr. Agassiz says 
that tattooing was a religious institution among the Brazilians.^ 

Among the Mexicans and other civilized nations, who were not 
naked, the custom of tattooing survived in the banners, flags, 
armorial bearings, crests, and other insignia, upon which appear 
animal forms. They had flags upon which were inscribed ani- 
mals. The armorial ensign of the Mexicans was an eagle, with 
its wings spread, in the act of darting on a tiger; that of 
Tlascala, an eagle ; that of Ocotcholco, a green bird on a rock ; 
that of Tizatlan, a heron on a rock ; that of Tepeticpac, a wolf.* 

The connection of the animal-mounds of Wisconsin with the 
existing totemic system of the Indians is too strong to escape 
attention. By the system of names imposed upon the men 
composing the Ojibway, Iroquois, Cherokee, and other nations, 
a fox, a bear, a turtle, is fixed on as a badge or stem from 
which the descendants may trace their parentage. To do this 
the figure of the animal is employed as an heraldic sign or 
surname. This sign, which by no means gives the individual 
name of the person, is called in the Algonkin languages town 
mark or totem. A tribe could leave no more permanent trace 
of an esteemed sachem or honored individual than by the 
erection of one of these monuments. The fox, bear, wolf, 
and eagle are clearly recognizable in the devices of these 
mounds,5 and, besides these, among the animal-mounds of Wis- 
consin are lizards and turtles, serpents, elks, elephants, buffaloes, 
and cranes. We may therefore suppose that Red men for- 
merly occupied Wisconsin whose superstitious ceremonies and 
belief required the erection of the mounds delineated. Among 
the Ottawas there was a tradition that a mountain, shaped like 
a beaver, on the northern shore of Lake Nipissing, contained 
buried beneath it the great beaver. They never passed it with- 

" 2 Bancroft, 733. ■ lb. 3 Brazil, 318. 

4 I Clavigero, 368-69. s i Schoolcraft, 52. 


out offering something.' Animal-shaped mounds are found 

There are huacas in Peru which represent animals."* In Put- 
nam County, Georgia, there is a bird-shaped structure com- 
posed of boulders of quartz rock, none of them so large that an 
individual could not have carried them. It represents an eagle 
with its head turned toward the east Another similar one is 
found in the same county, one hundred and two feet in length, 
and from tip to tip of wings one hundred and thirty-two feet. 
Mr. C. C. Jones thinks both of them are monuments of the 
dead.3 In the Newark, Ohio, works, a bird-mound was found 
with length of body one hundred and fifty-five feet and two 
hundred feet from tip to tip of spread wings.^ 

The general drift of many of the myths of descent of man 
from animals would indicate a wide-spread belief in the theory 
of an evolution of mankind from animals. The process of 
evolution is thus described by an Iroquois myth, which says 
that men were metamorphosed from little worms, into which 
entered spirits. The worms, with the spirits in them, grew, 
putting forth little arms and legs, and moved the light earth 
that covered them.s 

It will be seen, however, that traditions are not wanting 
whose teaching is precisely the reverse. The Salish, Nisqual- 
lies, and Yokimas all hold that beasts are descended from 
human originals.^ 

In an Iroquois tradition, a woman brought forth a deer, bear, 
and wolf, and again cohabited with these animals. She thus 
became pregnant, and bore divers sorts of creatures at one 
birth. From this arose the variety not only of animals, but 
also of men, in color either black, white, or sallow, in disposi- 
tion either timid as the deer, revengeful as bears, or rapacious 
as wolves.7 

* 3 Jones, Trad., 69. ■ A. Oliva, 121 ; Arriaga, 12. 

3 Smithsonian Report, 1877, 281-82, * McLean, Mound-Buildere, 35. 

s Miner's History of Wyoming, 22. * 3 Bancroft, 97. 

1 Montanus, Tr. in Doc. Hist. N. Y., vol. iv., 83. 


Connected closely with the subject of the traditionary descent 
of Indians from animals, and the superstitions growing out of 
such belief, is the traditionary descent of animals from the 
human race. 

The Indians living around Lake Pepin thought the animals 
and fish were once human and endued with speech, and held 
counsel together until they began to prey upon each other; 
the otter brought the discord by eating a few fish.* The Daco- 
tahs believed that beavers were once people and endowed with 
language, but lost their speech. The Black-Feet Indians also 
believed that the beavers were a fallen race of Indians."* The 
Moquis, who were divided into gentes bearing animal names, 
thought that after death they would change back into their 
original forms, and become bears, deer, and prairie-wolves.3 

The belief in the descent of animals from human beings has 
received an impetus from their various tales of metamorphosis. 
In the animal kingdom the metamorphoses which actually 
occur are at first sight more marvellous than many which are 
only supposed to occur. The contrasts between the maggot and 
a fly, an egg and a bird, a tadpole and a frog, are greater than 
the contrasts between human beings and many animals, or be- 
tween many different varieties of animals. The savage mind 
yields therefore unhesitatingly to anything which suggests that 
a creature has assumed a different shape. In Brazil, the people 
universally believe that the humming-bird is transmutable into 
the hawk-moth. The belief that human spirits disguised 
themselves temporarily as brutes was very prevalent The 
Thlinkeets of North America would kill some animals only 
in case of great necessity, for they supposed human spirits 
assumed these animal forms at pleasure and frequently. 

Myths of descent and metamorphosis are found in the folk- 
lore of both Americas. 

The Potawatomies claimed descent from a wolf. By meta- 

* McLeod's Wisconsin, 277. ■ Slight's Researches, 103. 

3 Marcy*s Army Life on the Border, 109. 


morphosis the bones of a dead wolf were transformed into a 
woman, the mother of their race.* 

In Algonkin mythology, the animal creation is supposed to 
have been metamorphoses of human beings. The Ojibways 
think the white-fish sprang from the brains of a woman who 
dropped into the water." 

The Flat-Head Indians (a tribe on the Columbia River) 
entertain a curious tradition with respect to beavers. They 
firmly believe that these animals are a fallen race of Indians, 
who were metamorphosed to their present shape and state, but 
that in due time they will be restored to their humanity. They 
allege that beavers have the power of speech, and that they 
have heard them talk with each other.3 

The Ojibways remembered the name of the member of the 
human race who was changed into a beaver. It was Amik.* 

The Flat-Heads have a tradition that a warrior of the early 
day found his wife unfaithful, whereupon she fled away, was 
turned into the speckled duck, and dives at the sight of a 
human being. 

Those tribes that have progressed and remember a former 
condition of greater savagery always describe that condition 
as one wherein they were animals. Of course the language is 
metaphorical at first ; but this metaphorical language, in con- 
nection with the many animal superstitions that have survived 
their lower state, tends to make fiction grow into reality. A 
number of travellers have acknowledged that they never clearly 
understood whether the Indians believed that at one time all 
men were in the form of beasts or whether they were in the form 
of men, but with the nature, habits, and disposition of animals. 

The Eskimos have many stories of metamorphoses of human 
beings into animals.^ The dolphins are supposed to be a family 
of metamorphosed brothers. Their folk-lore abounds in stories 

* Haw-Hoo-Noo, 242. » 3 Schoolcraft, 526. 

3 2 Turner's Traits, 87. 4 3 Schoolcraft, 562. 

s Rink's Trad., 145. 


of reindeer, foxes, and hares which have assumed human form 
and then changed back again when their object was accom- 

The Thlinkeets have a tradition that when the sun first shone 
on the earth, human beings ran into the mountains, woods, and 
waters, and became animals and fish.' They think their shamans 
can metamorphose themselves into animals at pleasure.^ 

Quawteaht, an apotheosized man of the Northwest, metamor- 
phosed all who refused him what he asked. He converted 
a canoe-man into a beaver for refusing to ferry him over a 
lake. A fisherman on the Coquitlan River was turned into a 
pillar of stone for refusing him salmon, and there the rock 
stands to this day, the monument of an inhospitable man. A 
woman was transformed into a raven for refusing him berries, 
and a boy was swallowed by a whale, vomited up again, and 
changed into a mink, because he refused him sea-eggs. He 
turned a whole tribe of Indians into wolves in a fit of anger. 

Among the Ahts, the loon and the crow were metamor- 
phosed fishermen, who quarrelled and were thus changed by 
Quawteaht, who put an end in this way to their quarrel ; and 
the only complaint is the mournful voice of the loon across the 
silent lake, as the poor fisherman tries to make his wrongs 

The natives of Vancouver's Island will not kill the ogress 
squirrel, on account of the following tradition of metamor- . 
phosis. There once lived an old woman with finger-nails like 
claws. She ate children ; and many were the broken hearts | 
and empty cradles produced by her depredations. At the / 
prayer of a red mother, says the tradition, her little child slips 
from the ogress's grip, not a child, but metamorphosed into the 
loveliest little squirrel, bearing those four dark lines along its 
back where her cruel claws made their mark.* After death, 
the Pimos believe that their souls go to the banks of the Col- 
orado, their ancient dwelling-place, and there take refuge in 

» Rink, 450. • Ball's Alaska, 423. 3 lb., 423. -» 3 Bancroft, 130. 


the great sand-hills, where they are metamorphosed into owls, 
bats, wolves, and other animals/ 

Lycanthropy was common among many tribes of the North- 

<' Ah, ye wolves, in all your ranging 
I have found you kind and true, 
More than man, and now I'm changing, 
And will soon be one of you.'' 

Many traditions of metamorphosis of men into wolves appear 
in the folk-lore of the Northwest. The Ahts have victims of 
a lycanthropy. They say that men go into the mountains to 
seek their manitous and associate with wolves, and after a time 
turn into wolves." In British Columbia many a wolf-circle 
gathered around a fire on the mountain-side, with their skins 
hung up to dry on sticks, has been seen by the imaginative 
savages inhabiting that region.^ The folk-lore of all the tribes 
is full of the traditions of changes of human beings into various 

An ogress in the folk-lore of the Northwest coast, who lived 
on children and went about with a basket to gather them up 
and take them home to roast, was circumvented by a parcel of 
youngsters, who pushed her into the fire she had prepared for 
them. Her ashes were turned into mosquitoes, who now eat 
mankind.^ This tale probably represents all that is left of can- 
nibalism among the tribes whose folk-lore it adorns. 

Among the Nisqually folk-tales is one of a man and his wife 
who were metamorphosed, the man into the heron, which is 
called grandfather by them, and the woman into the horned 

The Ojibways thought the robin was a metamorphosed 
woman, who painted her breast and flew away laughing for joy 
and telling her friends she would be back in the spring.^ 

' 2 Bartlett's Nar., 222. * Sproat, 173. 

3 I Brown's Races, 118. ^ i ib., 140. 

s I ib., 150. , * Jones's Ojibways, 65. 



Another tradition says that an Indian lad who was fasting for 
his manitou reduced himself to such a pass that life was so 
nearly extinct that the only sign it showed was the gentle 
heaving of his breast. His father came with food, but, alas ! too 
late ; for he found, on looking up, a beautiful robin-redbreast, 
which looked at his father and said, " Mourn not my change; 
for I shall be happier now and. always the friend of men. My 
food is now in the fields, and my path is in the air ;" and away 
he flew to the woods.* 

The voluntary assumptions of new forms by amphibious 
animals are frequently found, and are suggested by their mys- 
terious adaptation to the different elements. 

A mythical female character among the Ojibways was a bea- 
ver who assumed the form of a woman and married an Ojibway 
named Otterheart. They lived happily together, but Otterheart 
did not know why his wife would not eat the beaver he brought 
to the lodge. But, alas ! the beaver woman stumbled and fell 
into the water one day, and was immediately changed back 
into a beaver. Her child on her back underwent a like meta- 
morphosis. In despair, Otterheart followed the course of the 
stream till he reached a beaver-pond, and there he saw his 
wife, who had her beaverling bound to her back. Otterheart 
pleaded with her to return to him, but she could not." 

The Zunis have a tradition of an Indian who was turned into 
a fish because he had desecrated their sacred spring by bathing 
in it.3 

Many metamorphoses appear among the Haytian folk-tales. 
A number of fishermen were turned into plum-trees ; a chief 
of the Hiana became a nightingale ; a messenger of the king 
of Caziba was turned into a singing-bird. The change of 
children into opossums is mentioned; but, as there are no 
opossums in Hayti, the myth must have had its origin among 
the Caribs of South America.-* 

« 2 Schoolcraft, 230. • Kohl's Kitchi-Gami, 100-104. 

3 Cozzens, 310. 4 i Rafinesque, 179-82. 


Among all the tribes, their wizards and witches are supposed 
to be able to turn themselves into bears, wolves, foxes, owls, 
bats, and snakes. Such metamorphoses they pretend to accom- 
plish by putting on the skins of these animals and howling in 
imitation of the creature they represent. They say they often 
pursue a witch, but all at once they will see an animal walking 
along as innocently as a lamb.' 

We find here the germ of many metamorphoses in the abo- 
riginal mythology. That great body of impostors among 
all primitive peoples, called sorcerers, doctors, medicine-men, 
witches, etc., have practised upon the credulity of the masses 
by assuming the animal dress and appearance and imitating 
them in action and voice. They were enabled, of course, to 
practise this imposture successfully only because the savage 
mind was predisposed to believe in the transmigration of souls. 
They thought it no strange thing for the spirit of man or ani- 
mal to enter into anything in nature it chose ; that they always 
entered into the bodies of the living when sickness came upon 
them. That a sorcerer for whom they had great superstitious 
reverence, clad in the skin of a bear, and imitating it with great 
success and practising upon the deluded many tricks of the 
trade, should be transformed into that animal, would require no 
great stretch of the imagination, and was a metamorphosis in 
ideality. That he should suddenly doff his animal skin and 
appear as a man would be a metamorphosis in reality. 

The Eskimos thought they could get inside of a walrus-skin 
and then they could lead the life of a walrus."* 

The Iroquois thought their wizards could turn into a fox or 
wolf and run very swiftly, or into a turkey or owl and fly away, 
when they wished to escape their pursuers.3 

The same belief is found among the more civilized tribes. 
The Nicaraguans thought their sorcerers could assume animal 
forms, and they were much feared on this account. To 

Jones's Ojibways, 145. • Rink's Traditions, 124. 

3 Schoolcraft's Iroquois, 87. 


strengthen this belief they disguised themselves in the skins of 

Mendieta says that among the Mexicans there were sorcerers 
and witches who were thought to transform themselves into 
animals. Herrera tells us that the people of Honduras said 
that sorcerers ranged on the mountain like tigers, killing men, 
till they were taken and hanged. Piedrahita says the Chibchas 
pretended to have great sorcerers, who might be transformed 
into tigers and bears and devour men. The same power of 
metamorphosis was thought to be possessed by the sorcerers of 
Peru, who could take upon themselves whatsoever shape they 
chose, and fly through the air whithersoever they pleased.* 
The same mysterious power was ascribed to potentates among 
the civilized nations. Malivalxochitl, a famous Chichemec 
princess, is said to have had the power of transforming herself 
into any shape at will.3 A certain Chibcha ruler was believed 
to have had a long tail, which he dragged on the soil after the 
manner of a tiger.* The power of metamorphosing others was 
ascribed to many kings. The whole line of Tunja kings had 
the power of changing men into animals, and their sorcerers 
transformed themselves into bears and tigers.s Xolotl, the 
Chichemec culture-hero, changed himself into a fish in order to 
escape death, but was at last killed by the god of the air.^ 
The wife of Yappan, a famous Mexican anchorite, was meta- 
morphosed into a scorpion by Jaotl, a messenger of the gods, 
who was himself metamorphosed into a locust for exceeding 
the bounds of his commission.^ 

As the subject of animal dress is closely connected with that 
of metamorphosis, and as the custom of arraying themselves in 
the skins of animals has survived from the primitive custom of 
dressing themselves in the skins of beasts, and appears in most 
of the religious exercises of the tribes in all stages of progress. 

? 3 Bancroft, 496. ■ 4 Herrera, 353. 

3 4 Bancroft, 327. 4 i Spencer, See, 348-50, 

5 P. Simon, 245. ^ 4 Schoolcraft, 561. 

7 I Clavigero, 260. 


I will give a few of these customs. At many of their re- 
ligious ceremonies the Peruvian tribes arrayed themselves in 
the skins of various animals. At the Capac Raymi festival 
they put on the skins of animals, arranging the head and neck 
so as to cover their own.' Falcons were worn on the heads of 
the dancers and singers in nearly all their festivals.' The Chu- 
gatshes make a conical hat of wood, in representation of the 
head of some fish or bird.3 The Thlinkeets wear wooden masks 
a great deal, ingeniously carved and painted in colors to repre- 
sent the head of some bird or beast. They were always worn 
in battle formerly, but now their use is generally confined to 
festive occasions. In rainy weather they wear a hat ornamented 
with painted figures and pictures of animals.* The Lacandones, 
when going to war, wore on their shoulders the skin of a tiger 
or some other fierce animal. In Chiapas, the natives wore 
deer-skins, and also the Mijes.s The Mosquitos wore armor 
of tigers' skins in war.^ The natives of Honduras disguised 
themselves with the skins of animals, whose actions and cries 
they imitated.7 

Herrera says the Mexicans clothed themselves in skins of 
tigers, lions, and other fierce creatures.* The Mexican warriors 
usually encased their heads with a wooden covering, fashioned 
in the shape of tigers' or serpents* heads, with the mouth open 
and large teeth to inspire terror, and very animated in appear- 
ance.9 The eagle tribe among the Aztecs wore a helmet in 
the form of an eagle's head, and the tigers wore armor spotted 
like the skin of the animal whose name they bore." Many of 
the warriors had monsters and other heraldic devices painted 
on their backs," and upon their heads the representation of 
some animal, bird, or serpent." They wore arm and leg guards 
made to represent the head of a tiger, serpent, or monster."^ 

« Molina, Nar., p. 45. » Avila, Nar., 131. 3 i Bancroft, 74. 

4 I ib., loi. 5 I ib., 648. « I ib., 723. 

7 I ib., 736. * 3 Herrera, 225. 9 I Clavigero, 366. 

w 2 Bancroft, 403. " 2 ib., 405. «• 2 ib., 406. 

»3 2 ib., 407. 


In many of their animal-dances, all the tribes are accus- 
tomed to clothe themselves in animal dress and assume animal 

The Sioux have a bear-dance previous to starting on a bear- 
hunt, in which they sing to the bear-spirit.^ This dance has 
religious significance, and may properly be termed a worship. 
They are clothed in bear-skins, or at least some portion of 
one, and imitate closely the movements of that animal. They 
never neglect this ceremony, for if they did they would have no 

The eagle-dance among the Choctaws is a very pretty scene 
gotten up in honor of that bird, for which they have religious 
regard. They are decorated with eagles' feathers, and the 
dance is different from any other, consisting in hops and jumps, 
in imitation of that bird.* 

" The Tonkawas," says Marcy, " like all the aborigines of 
this continent, likewise had their national dances for different 
important occasions, and among these ceremonies was one 
which seemed very curious and entirely different from any 
other I had heard of It was called the wolf-dance, and was 
intended to commemorate the history of their origin and crea- 
tion. Their traditions have handed down to them the idea 
that the original progenitor of the Tonkawas was brought into 
this world through the agency of the wolves. The dance is 
always conducted with the utmost solemnity and secrecy. . . . 
About fifty warriors, all dressed in wolf-skins from head to foot, 
so as to represent the animal very perfectly, made their entrance 
upon all-fours in single file, and passed around the lodge, howl- 
ing, growling, and making other demonstrations peculiar to 
that carnivorous quadruped. After this had continued for 
some time, they began to put down their noses and sniff the 
earth in every direction, until at length one of them suddenly 
stopped, uttered a shrill cry, and commenced scratching the 
ground at a particular spot. The others immediately gathered 

» I Catlin, 245. * 2 ib., 127. 


around, and all set to work scratching up the earth with their 
hands, imitating the motions of the wolf in so doing, and in a 
few minutes . . . they exhumed from the spot a genuine live 
Tonkawa, who had previously been interred for the perform- 
ance. As soon as they had unearthed this strange biped, they 
ran around scenting his person and examining him throughout 
with the greatest apparent delight and curiosity. The advent 
of this curious and novel creature was an occasion of no ordi- 
nary moment to them, and a council of venerable and sage old 
wolves was at once assembled to determine what disposition 
should be made of him. The Tonkawa addressed them as fol- 
lows : ' You have taken me from the spirit-land, where I was 
contented and happy, and brought me into this world, where I 
am a stranger, and I know not what I shall do for subsistence 
and clothing. It is better you should place me back where 
you found me, otherwise I shall freeze or starve.' After mature 
deliberation, the council declined returning him to the earth, 
and advised him to gain a livelihood as the wolves did; to go 
out into the wilderness and rob, kill, and steal whenever oppor- 
tunity presented. They then placed a bow and arrows in his 
hands, and told him with these he must furnish himself Avith 
food and clothing ; that he could wander about from place to 
place like the wolves, but that he must never build a house or 
cultivate the soil; that if he did he would surely die."' 

" The Nootkans have," says Cook, " a truly savage and in- 
congruous appearance when they assume what they call their 
monstrous decorations. These consist of an endless variety of 
carved wooden masks or visors applied on the face or to the 
upper part of the head or forehead. Some of these resemble 
the heads of birds, particularly of eagles, and many the heads 
of land and sea animals, such as wolves, deers, porpoises, and 
others ; but in general these representations much exceed the 
natural size." ' 

Boiler describes the religious dances of Western tribes, in 

* Marcy's Army Life on the Border, 174, seq. " 6 Cook's Voyages, 281. 


which they appear as bulls, antelopes, and frogs, and appearing 
with as much resemblance to those animals as possible.' 

Processions of masked men among the Brazilian tribes are 
described by Denis, in which they assumed as a head-dress the 
head of some animal. They also wore the entire skins of 

In addition to the custom of arraying themselves in animal 
skins and imitating the animals, I would attribute as another 
cause for the origin of myths of metamorphosis the superstition 
that by eating an animal the partaker was endued with the 
qualities of the animal eaten. A few myths are found to sub- 
stantiate this theory. I will notice only one of them, that of 
the priests of Xaratanga, who in a drunken frenzy ate a ser- 
pent that was brought them in the place of fish, and were 
immediately turned into serpents and plunged into a lake and 

Fear of the avenging spirits of animals has instigated much 
of their worship. * They think the souls of animals are ready 
in the next world to take revenge upon those who have killed 
them, and must be appeased. The Dacotah hunter will pay 
religious devotions to the spirit of the beast whose body lies 
dead at his feet, and on which he and his family will feast that 
night.3 Among all the Algonkin tribes, when a bear was 
killed, the hunter put the end of his lighted pipe between his 
teeth, blew into the bowl, and, thus filling the mouth and throat 
of the beast with smoke, conjured its spirit to bear him no 
malice for what he had done to the body, and not to oppose 
him in his future huntings. A remarkable illustration of this 
appears in the following account by Henry. He says, "A 
bear having been shot, all my assistants approached, and all 
took his head into their hands, stroking and kissing it several 
times, begging a thousand pardons for taking away its life, call- 
ing it their relation and grandmother. As soon as we reached 
the lodge, the bear's head was adorned with all the trinkets in 

* Boiler's Eight Years, 102-8. » 5 Bancroft, 517. 3 Riggs, 59. 



the possession of the family, such as silver arm-bands and 
wrist-bands and belts of wampum, and then laid upon a scaflfold 
set up for its reception within the lodge. Near the nose was 
placed a large quantity of tobacco. The next morning no 
sooner appeared than preparations were made for a feast to the 
manes. The lodge was cleaned and swept, and the head of the 
bear lifted up, and a new blanket, which had never been used 
before, spread under it. The pipes were now lit, and tobacco- 
smoke was blown into the nostrils of the bear, telling me to do 
the same, and thus appease the anger of the bear on account 
of having killed her." An address to the bear and a feast 
closed the ceremony. 

The Southern Californians have a curious illustration of this 
superstitious fear of the spirits of animals, which compels them 
to hunt in pairs. Many believe that if a hunter should eat 
meat or iGsh he himself procured, his luck would leave him, and 
so they go in pairs and exchange their game when the day is 
over, each taking what the other has kilfed.* They think 
they will escape the vengeance of the slaughtered animals by 
this bit of trickery. At the annual fishing-season the mikon, 
a small silvery iGsh which fills the Nasse River in March, is 
propitiated by annual ceremonies. After these religious cere- 
monies to the fish, the slaughter begins without further scruple." 

An imaginary transmigration of a human soul into an animal 
renders it an object of worship. The souls of wicked men were 
supposed by the Brazilians to have entered those birds that 
inhabited the cavern of Guacharo and made a mournful cry ,3 
and these birds were religiously feared. The coast tribes of the 
Del Norte country think the tarantula contains a malicious 
human spirit. The Moquis, who were divided into the deer, 
the bear, the hare, the prairie-wolf, and the rattlesnake gens, be- 
lieved that their families descended from these animals, and 
that after death they transmigrated into the form of that animal 

« I Bancroft, 417-18. " i ib., 485, 

3 2 De Pons, Travels, 254-55. 


from which they originally sprang.* Hence they worshipped 
these animals. The Ahts believed that the birds and beasts of 
old had the spirits of the Indians dwelling in them," and, hence, 
were worthy of reverence. The Indians dwelling about the 
Falls of St Anthony supposed the spirits of their dead warriors 
inhabited the eagles which frequented the place,^ and these 
eagles were objects of their worship. The most beautiful 
woman of the Knistenaux, named " Foot of the Fawn," died in 
childbirth, and the babe with her. Soon thereafter two doves 
appeared, one full-grown and one a little one. They were the 
spirits of the mother and child. The Indians would gather 
about the tree on which they were perched, with reverential 
love, and worship them as the spirit of the woman and child.* 
The Tapuyas thought evil spirits appeared in the shape of flies, 
toads, cats, and they worshipped the most inferior animals on 
account of this supposed transmigration.^ Thus it will be seen 
that the supposed transmigration of souls is the reason for 
animal-worship in many cases. If this belief has originated 
animal-worship, it explains the worship of every variety of the 
animal life. 

It has been thought by most mythologists that only those 
animals that have been useful to mankind have been objects of 
worship. We find, however, in America that no animal is too 
insignificant to escape the superstitious fear of savages. Among 
some of the Western tribes a little bird called the road-runner 
is an object of reverence.^ 

The Virginia Indians had great reverence for a small bird 
called Pawcorance, that flies in the woods and in its note con- 
tinually sounds that name. This bird flies alone, and is heard 
only in twilight. They say, says Beverly, that "this is the 
soul of one of their princes, and on that score they would not 
hurt it for the world ; but there was once a profane Indian in 

' Cozzens's Marvellous Country, 465. * Sproat, 210. 

3 3 Jones's Traditions, 117. 43 ib., 370-71. 

5 Vasconcelles, 72. ^ Dodge's Plains, 279. 


the upper parts of James River who, after abundance of fears 
and scruples, was at last bribed to kill one of them with his 
gun, but the Indians say he paid dear for his presumption, for 
in a few days after he was taken away and never heard of 
again/' * Among the Peruvians the little bird alma perdida is 
an object of superstitious reverence." 

The hare was an object of superstitious reverence among the 
Indians of the North, and around it cluster many myths in the 
Old World. The superstition about the evil omen of a hare 
crossing your path, for instance, is very ancient. The ancient 
inhabitants of Ireland killed all the hares they found among 
their cattle on May-day, believing them witches who had de- 
signs on the butter. A Calmuck regards the rabbits in the 
same light, and many primitive people use them for divinations 
and refuse to eat their flesh. Caesar gives account of the horror 
in which this animal was held by the Britons of his day. The 
animal was sculptured on the sacrificial stone in ancient Mexico, 
and was the " sign" of the divine years in the Mexican calendar, 
while the celebrations and sacrifices in its honor were the most 
numerous of all. Superstitions, therefore, seem to have been 
attached to this little beast from the lowest state of primitive 
savagery up to the present height of civilization. Wabasso, 
who fled to the north as soon as he saw the light, and was 
changed into a white rabbit, under that form became canonized. 

The Indians on the Orinoco rendered honors of divinity to 
toads in order to obtain rain. The animals were beaten if the 
prayers were not answered.^ Among the Araucanians of Chile 
the land toad was called lord, of the waters. The Creeks and 
Cherokees had a great annual festival, the prominent feature of 
whigh was the tadpole dance. A small tribe in Guiana were 
named Maopityans, or Frog Indians, from mao^ frog, ^n^^pityan^ 
people. Their illustrious ancestor, the frog, was worshipped. 
Among the Chibchas the frog had its place in their heaven. 

* Beverly's Virginia, 184. » Markham*s Cuzco, 267. 

3 I De Pons, 198. 


The Chibchas had an annual ceremony connected with their 
calendar, in which the toad had a prominent place. It held a 
prominent place among their divinities. When springing, it 
represents the sign Ata ; when engraved with a tail, it repre- 
sents 12, because it has left the rest of the months behind. 
On some stones the toad is seen without feet, and probably 
represents the sign Gurta. The toad is used often in composite 
figures, such as a man with the head of a toad, a tailed toad, 
and the body of a toad with a tunic.^ 

The frog also held a place among the divinities of the Tol- 
tecs. Frog-shaped idols were found at Tulla, the ancient 
capital of the Toltecs. These croaking annoyers of some 
marshy neighborhood were undoubtedly raised to the dignity 
of divinities, and propitiated by the offer of an occasional sacri- 
fice. And so, perhaps, was the grasshopper, images of which, 
cut out of red marble and beautifully polished, were found. It 
was said to be the god of Chapultepec.^ 

The Peruvians near the sea-coast worshipped sardines ; also 
the golden fish, on account of its beauty, and crabs and craw- 
fish where they were abundant.^ Every small insect was an 
object of superstitious fear. 

The Omahaws worshipped a sacred shell which was en- 
veloped in the skin of an elk. This shell, which descended 
from their ancestors, was not suffered to to.uch the earth. It 
had a temple and a person to take care of it. Those who 
should happen to see the shell became totally blind. They 
offered sacrifices to it and consulted it before making expe- 
ditions. It was carried on a man's back to national hunts.^ 
Their ascription of human spirits to shells has found expres- 
sion in that mythical character Aisemid, the little shell man of 
Indian lodge-lore, who carried on his back a curious little shell 
that had magic powers. The sorcerers often ascribed their 
powers to sea-shells, and no small part of their paraphernalia 

* Bollaert, 47-49. " Mayer's Mexico As It Was, 275-76. 

3 I Garcilasso's Com., 49, 50. 4 2 Long's Exp., 47, 48. 


was found in conchology." Sea-shells were found in many of 
the graves, and were undoubtedly objects of a superstitious wor- 
ship." Thus it will be seen that even shells shared the super- 
stitious reverence entertained for animals, and that the most 
worthless and diminutive animals have been objects of super- 
stitious worship. 

Among all the tribes, animals of an unusual size were sup- 
posed to be inhabited by powerful spirits, and were objects of 

Beltrami gives the following instance of such worship. He 
says, ** The Tortoise Lake," so called by the Indians, " took its 
name from a tortoise of extraordinary size which the Indians 
found there about a century ago. They fed it with everything 
they could offer it most delicious, and long worshipped it as a 
great manitou." ♦ 

Buffaloes were objects of worship among those inhabiting the 
buflalo country. Among the savages of the West every one 
had one or more buffalo heads, which they worshipped.* A 
buffalo's head on a mound of earth was a place where incanta- 
tions took place.^ Their lodges had an elevation on which 
were placed buffalo heads7 Says Bradbury, " On some bluffs 
in the Mandan country I observed fourteen buffalo skulls 
placed in a row. The cavities of the eyes and the nostrils 
were filled with a species of artemisia conunon on the prairies. 
On my return I caused our interpreter to inquire into the 
reason for this, and found that it was an honor conferred on 
the buffaloes which they had killed, in order to appease their 
spirits and prevent them from apprising the living buffaloes of 
the danger they ran in approaching the neighborhood." ® The 
Indians of South Carolina worshipped the panther, and called 
it the cat of God, and selected it as one of their great religious 
emblems. Their male children were made to sleep upon its 

' 4 Schoolcraft, 490. * BolUert, 179. 

9 Harmon's Journal, 364; Lewis and Qarke, 107. 4 2 Beltrami, 417. 

s Brackenridge's Views, 71. ' lb., 244. 

1 lb., 248. « Bradbuiy's Travels, 125. 


skin from infancy to manhood, that they might imbibe from it 
some portion of the cunning, strength, and prodigious spring 
of the animal to which it belonged. For the same superstitious 
reason their female offspring were reared on the soft skins of 
fawns and buffalo calves, that they might become gentle and 

The Moxos of Brazil worshipped the jaguar. It was neces- 
sary for their priests to have been attacked and wounded by a 
jaguar before they could be initiated to their office. When 
scratched or wounded by this animal, they were supposed to 
have its mark set upon them, and were thus designated for its 
service. It was not even necessary for the aspirant to have a 
witness to the assault.' 

The Brazilians believed that a garment made of the skin of a 
jaguar was impenetrable and that they could not be hurt when 
clothed with one.3 

This was a fetichistic superstition, as the skin could be easily 
penetrated by their weapons. 

The Peruvians worshipped all the animals they were ac- 
quainted with. In the great temple of Pachacamac they held a 
fox in great veneration and worshipped it.* The Indians before 
the Incas would not fly if the fierce animals they worshipped 
crossed their path, but went down on the ground and wor- 
shipped them, and even allowed themselves to be killed and 
eaten. 5 

The early Peruvians fought many battles to maintain the 
privilege of worshipping their animal deities, and only adopted 
the worship of the sun after conquest. 

The Mexicans had chapels to the tiger, eagle, and serpent, 
and a tomb to the bones of a wolf, which were discovered 
therein deposited in a coffin. The Mexicans worshipped the 
horse of Cortez and made an image of it, and this god was 
named Tziminchak. 

* I Logan's Hist, of Upper South Carolina, 54. * 3 Southey, 202. 

3 3 ib., 669. 4 Cieza, 183. 5 i Garcilasso, 47. 


The builders of Copan worshipped monkeys. Fragments 
of colossal apes were found upon monuments/ 

White animals were special objects of superstitious fear. 
The Lipans revered with superstitious fear a white wild stallion 
on a prairie of Texas. The Peruvians regarded white sheep as 
sacred animals and objects to be worshipped. Judge Hender- 
son, in his article before the Anthropological section of the 
American Association for the Advancement of Science, says, 
" Among the Apaches of the West white birds were regarded 
as possessing souls of divine origin, and to the Indians of the 
plains the white buffalo is a sacred object, like the white ele- 
phant of Siam ; while some of the California tribes consider a 
white wolf-skin a badge of chieftainship. This was carried to 
a great extent in the robes of the high-priests of the Cherokees, 
and they also wrapped their dead in pure white deer-skins." 
The Dacotahs believed that the white buffalo, not often seen, 
possessed a supernatural power. They cut off its head and 
placed it in their lodge, making of it a household deity.* 

" Long before whites set foot in the Housatonic Valley, the 
Indians used to notice a deer of spotless white which came to 
Onota to drink. Against this gentle creature no red man's 
arrow was ever pointed, for in their simple faith they believed 
she brought good fortune to the dwellers in the valley. So 
long as the snow-white doe came to drink at Onota, so long 
famine should not blight the Indian's harvest, nor pestilence 
come nigh his lodge, nor foe lay waste his country. He who 
had dared harm her would have met swift punishment. Year 
after year, soon as the white blossoq^is clothed the cherry, the 
sacred deer came to drink at her chosen fountain, bringing 
good omens to all, especially the maiden who first spied her. 
Finally, she brought with her a fawn of more faultless purity and 
grace than herself, and that year more than the usual plenty and 
happiness reigned around the lake. After the coming of the 
whites, a desire seized a Frenchman to present the skin of the 

' I Stephens's Central America, 136. > Eastman's Chicora* 67. 


white deer to the French king, and. after many fruitless en- 
deavors to procure it through the Indians, it was at last 
obtained by a large price offered to one while under the influence 
of fire-water, who, when discovered, suffered speedy punish- 
ment. Many were the efforts to avert punishment, but pros- 
perity departed, and the Indians slowly wasted away." * 

Beyond all others two subdivisions of the animal kingdom 
have riveted the attention of men by their unusual powers, and 
entered into their mythology. These are the bird and the ser- 
pent. "The bird has the incomprehensible power of flight. It 
floats in the atmosphere, rides on the winds. It flies proudly 
over the mountains and moors, where he toils wearily along. 
He sees no more enviable creature. All living beings, say the 
Eskimos, have faculty of soul, but especially the birds. The 
flight and note of birds have ever been anxiously observed as 
omens of grave import. In Peru and Mexico there was a college 
of augurs, who practised divination by watching the course and 
professing to interpret the songs of fowls." "* The eagle was 
everywhere worshipped. Among the Araucanians the namcu, 
or sea-eagle, was the object of much of their worship.^ 

Mr. Cass says of the natives of Michigan, " the calumet eagle 
is held in great veneration by the Indians, and a horse is some- 
times given for a feather." * 

The eagle was considered by many tribes as their sacred 
bird. Its images carved in wood, or its stuffed skin, surmounted 
their council lodges. None but an approved warrior dare wear 
it among the Cherokees ; and the Dacotahs allowed such an 
honor only to him who had first touched the corpse of the 
common foe. The Natches and Arkansas seem to have paid 
it religious honors and installed it in their most sacred shrines. 
The Californians worshipped one with great ceremony yearly .5 
The Delawares believed that a guardian spirit in the form of 

* Taghconick, H3-16. « Brinton*s Myths, 105-6. 

3 2 Wood's Uncivilized Races, 564. 4 Cass, Indians, 69. 

s Brinton, 1 10. 


a great eagle watched over them, hovering in the sky far out 
of sight Sometimes, when well pleased with them, he would 
wheel down into the lower regions, and might be seen circling 
with wide-spread wings against the white clouds. At such 
times the seasons were propitious, the corn grew finely, and they 
had great success in hunting. Sometimes, however, he was 
angry, and then he vented his rage in the thunder, which was 
his voice, and the lightning, which was the flashing of his eye. 
The Delawares made sacrifices to this spirit, who occasionally 
dropped a feather from his wing in token of satisfaction. These 
feathers made the wearer invisible and invulnerable. The In- 
dians generally considered the feathers of the eagle as possessed 
of occult and sovereign virtues. At one time a party of Dela- 
wares were driven by the Pawnees to the summit of a high hill 
in their hunting-grounds. Here the chief warrior, driven almost 
to despair, sacrificed his horse to the tutelar spirit. Suddenly 
an eagle, rushing down from the sky, bore off the victim in his 
talons, and, mounting into the air, dropped a feather from his 
wing. The chief caught it up with joy, and, leading his followers* 
down the hill, cut through the enemy without any one of his 
party receiving a wound.' 

Owls were often worshipped. The Lummi, inhabiting the 
mainland opposite Vancouver's Island, will never kill an owl.* 
The owl among the Aztecs, Quiches and Mayas, Peruvians, 
Araucanians, and Algonkins was thought to have some rela- 
tion to the dead. The Ojibways called the bridge they thought 
the spirits of the dead had to pass, the owl bridge. The Creek 
priests carried a stuffed owl with them as the badge of their 
profession. The Arickaras placed one in their council lodge, 
and the culture-hero of the Monquins of California was repre- 
sented, like Athene, as having one for his companion. The 
natives of the Antilles wore tunics with figures of these birds 
embroidered on them.3 

» Irving, Tour on the Prairies, 92, seq. • i Bancroft, 219. 

sBrinton, iio-ii. 


Among the Zunis, owls of pottery were very common ob- 
jects of worship. Says Brinton, the Indians were of opinion 
that there were great numbers of inferior deities, and that the 
irrational animals were engaged in viewing their actions. The 
eagle for this purpose with her keen eye soared about in the 
day, and the owl with her nightly eye was perched on the trees 
around their camp. Therefore when they observed the eagle 
or the owl near, they immediately offered sacrifice or burned 

Other birds shared in the worship of the tribes. The Aztecs 
reverenced a bird called Quetzal, a variety of paroquet Neither 
Hurons nor Mandans would kill doves, for they believed they 
were inhabited by the souls of the departed.' The Floridians 
had a sacred bird called Tonatsuli."* The name denoted a 
sweet singer. It was probably the mocking-bird.^ Crows were 
held in veneration by the Indians of Rhode Island, and were 
rarely killed. They had a tradition that a crow first brought to 
them a grain of corn in one ear and a bean in the other from 
the southwest, and from that seed came all their corn and 
beans.* The Kutchin would pray to a passing crow for meat.5 
The Caribs thought that bats were deities whose office it was 
to watch during the night.^ 

" Of all animals," says Brinton, " the serpent is the most 
mysterious. Alone of all creatures it swiftly progresses with- 
out feet, fins, or wings. Said wise King Solomon, * There be 
three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which 
I know not, and the chief of them are the way of an eagle, and 
the way of a serpent on a rock.' It seems to be associated in 
its winding course to rivers. The Kennebec, a stream in Maine, 
in the Algonkin means snake, and the Antietam, in Maryland, 
in Iroquois has the same significance. How easily might 
savages, construing the figure literally, make the serpent a 

> Brinton's Myths, III>I2. ' Brinton's Florida, 107. 

3 I Bancroft, 520. 4 i Arnold's Rhode Island, 80. 

s Smithsonian Rep., 66, 325. ' 3 Picart, 137. 


water-god !" This they did to a certain extent. Among sev- 
eral tribes the words for spirit and snake are similar, as among 
the Dacotahs, Shawnees, and Sauks. In the Crow dialect of 
the Dacotah lahise is snake, Isahe spirit" It has in association 
of ideas become connected with the lightning. The Algonkins 
thought the lightning was an immense serpent. The Shawnees 
called the thunder the hissing of the great snake; and Tlaloc, 
the Toltec thunder-god, held a serpent of gold in his hand to 
represent the lightning. The Caribs spoke of the god of the 
thunder-storm as a great serpent, and in the central region of 
the volcanic island of Dominica dwelt a monstrous serpent 
Racumon, the great serpent, was brother of Lavacon, the ele- 
mental bird." In the Ojibway mythology the serpent robs the 
thunder-birds' nests. 

The Potawatomies entertained a high degree of veneration 
for the rattlesnake. They seldom killed one, and if they did 
it was accompanied with forms and ceremonies, and a sacrifice 
was left near the carcass. The fang was said to be a charm 
against rheumatism.3 

Says Henry, " I once saw a rattlesnake which, as I was about 
to kill, the Indians [Ojibways] surrounded, addressing it by 
turns and calling it their grandfather. During this part of the 
ceremony they filled their pipes, and now each blew the smoke 
toward the snake. After remaining coiled and receiving incense 
for the space of half an hour, it stretched itself along the ground 
in visible good humor. At last it moved slowly away, the In- 
dians following it and still addressing it by the title of grand- 
father, beseeching it to take care of their families during their 
absence. They further requested that he would remain and 
inhabit their country. The next day, a storm arising while we 
were out on the lake, the Indians prayed and ofTered sacrifices 
to the god-rattlesnake. One of the chiefs took a dog, and, 
after tying its fore-legs together, threw it overboard, at the 
same time calling on the snake to preserve us from being 

» Brinton, 1 14-15. "lb., 120-21. 3 i Keating, 127. 


drowned, and desiring him to satisfy his hunger with the car- 
cass of the dog. The wind increased. Another chief sacrificed 
another dog, with the addition of some tobacco. In the prayer 
which accompanied these gifts he besought the snake, as be- 
fore, not to avenge upon the Indians the insult which he had 
received from myself in my design to put him to death." 

Carver says he was told a remarkable story concerning one 
of these reptiles. An Indian belonging to the Menomonee 
nation, having taken one of them, found means to tame it, and, 
when he had done this, treated it as a deity, calling it his great 
father, and carrying it with him in a box wherever he went. 
This the Indian had done for several summers.* The Winneba- 
goes reverenced and never killed the rattlesnake. The Indians 
of Florida venerated the rattlesnake, and would not kill one, 
for fear its spirit would incite its kindred to revenge its death. 
The Cherokees worshipped the rattlesnake. This worship paid 
to the rattlesnake was universal among all the tribes; but worship 
was not conferred exclusively upon that serpent. All the snakes 
of the country enjoyed a share of it, though in a less degree. 
The Indians suffered them all to live unmolested, on which ac- 
count they became very numerous.* In Brazil, in a large town of 
eight thousand cabins, Don Alvarez found a tower which con- 
tained a serpent twenty-seven feet long, with a very large head. 
The Indians worshipped this serpent as a divinity, and fed it 
with human flesh. The Peruvians worshipped adders.^ Many 
images of serpents were found in South America, before which 
the inhabitants knelt in adoration. 

In Mexico, many sculptured images of serpents are found. 
There is one noble specimen of the great serpent idol, almost 
perfect, and of fine workmanship. This monstrous divinity is 
represented in the act of swallowing a human victim, which is 
seen crushed and struggling in its horrid jaws.* In the town 
of Tenayuco, Diaz found so many enormous figures of serpents 

* Carver's Travels, 47. » I Logan's Upper South Carolina, 89. 

3 I Garcilasso, 188. 4 Bullock, 328. 


which the inhabitants worshipped as gods that he named it the 
town of Serpents.* 

It is evident that although some animals may have received 
a preference, yet all animals shared in the superstitious worship 
of primitive peoples, and this broad universality of their wor- 
ship militates against any other theory of its origin except that 
based upon the transmigration of souls. If all animal life was 
accounted for by transmigration, then all animal life would be 
surrounded with superstitious fear, — which was the fact. The 
religious ceremonies of the Ojibways consisted chiefly in songs 
and speeches to birds and beasts. The Coeur-d'Aleins rendered 
divine worship to all the animals they knew.* The Wyandots 
and Ottawas thought that all the animals were divinities, who 
watched the actions of men, and should receive worship. 

Among all the tribes of both Americas the animal form is a 
prominent feature in their primitive art. 

In the mounds are found many animal images ; the sculp- 
tured figures of birds, serpents, and frogs are most common.^ 
Nearly every animal known to natural history is represented. 
The tortoise, which was a symbol of the Tyrian colony of 
Thebes, in Greece, and the serpent, are ever recurring upon 
American ruins. At Uxmal is a building called " the house 
of the turtles," from a row of tortoises around the cornice. 
Divers turtles in stone have also been discovered among the 
ruins. In a large box filled with terra-cotta antiquities once 
offered to Mr. Wilson, about three-fourths of the whole collec- 
tion were serpents and turtles.* 

In the vases found in the sacred spring of the Zuiiis, a vast 
amount of labor was found to have been spent in decorating 
their interior and exterior with animals. Horned frogs and 
tadpoles alternate on the inner surface. Several of the figures 
would serve as spirited specimens of diablerie. In a large vase, 

> Diaz, 260. ' De Smet, Ind. Sketches, 16. 

3 Squier and Davis, Aborig. Mon., 259, 268. 

4 Wilson's Conquest of Mexico, 161-62. 


which was an offering to the spirit of the spring, a frog was 
in the act of leaping from the vessel as if disturbed by some 
one's approach. The outline of this vessel is identical with 
that of the classical caldrons of antiquity and of our own 
times. This introduction of figures of water-animals on vases 
dedicated to the genii of fountains is peculiarly appropriate. 
In another vase are figures of crested serpents, probably repre- 
senting some water-snake, and very similar to those found in 
the ruins of Pompeii. In still another vase the figures of but- 
terflies appear. 

The elephant appears in American art three times : once in 
the elephant head of Palenque, where its head forms the head- 
dress of a bas-relief figure ; again in the large animal mound of 
Wisconsin, and again in the pipe recently discovered in Iowa. 
On the stem of this pipe a very perfect representation of this 
animal appears.' 

Among the most civilized nations transmigration and meta- 
morphoses filled their pantheon with animal gods and mythical 
beings which assumed animal or composite forms. All of these 
aided to give color and form to the art of those races which, 
emerging from the primitive condition that originated and fos- 
tered these ideas, had not thrown them off. Animal forms 
appear everywhere in their art. About one-third of the Nica- 
raguan statues in stone represent animals and monsters. A 
very remarkable feature of the art of the civilized nations of 
Mexico, and especially Nicaragua, is that most of their statuary 
exhibits the human form connected with the animal. The 
human form clothed in animal dress is very frequently found. 

In many of the bas-reliefs and pictographic representations 
the head-dress is the head of some animal, and occasionally a 
composite figure surrounded by much ornamental work. There 
can be little doubt that these designs were intended to repre- 
sent and satisfy the primitive styles which we have found 
among the barbarous tribes, and surviving to some extent 

« Short, 530-31. 


among the civilized races. These styles of animal dress had 
their origin in real life. The warrior donned the skin of the 
tiger or other animal to render himself terrible in war. The 
sorcerer clothed himself in the skin of some animal revered by 
his tribe to inspire them with reverence for himself. Each in- 
dividual carried his personal manitou, generally the skin of 
some animal. Each gens was represented by a totemic badge, 
generally some animal. In the pictography of the Codices in 
Lord Kingsborough*s Mexican Antiquities, we have composite 
figures of tigers with human hands, and other combinations of 
animal and human form frequently occurring. 

The same superstitious ideas that in art found representation 
in composite forms would in tradition find expression in myths 
of fabulous animals. Some of these animals assumed unnatural 
forms, others did unnatural acts. Among many of the American 
tribes animals have taken an important part in their cosmogony. 
In the cosmogony of the Gallinomeros of California, animals 
were in existence before there was light. One of the catastro- 
phes that happened in this darkness resulted in light being 
produced. The hawk happening by chance to fly into the face 
of the coyote, there followed mutual apologies, and afterward 
a long discussion on the emergency of the situation. The 
coyote got ready a ball of inflammable material and some 
pieces of flint, which the hawk took and flew with them into 
the sky, where he struck fire with the flints and lighted his 
ball, and sent it whirling along in a fierce red glow, as it con- 
tinues to the present day, for it was the sun.* In the Chibcha 
cosmogony the blackbird plays a prominent part in scattering 
light all over the world." 

The great hero-deity of the Thlinkeets, Yehl — the crow, 
their creator — brooded over dark chaos, and beat back its 
waters with its black wings. A myth of the Tolowas, in ac- 
counting for the manner in which the tribe obtained fire, said 
that the spiders wove a gossamer balloon out of their webs 

' 3 Bancroft, 85, 86. " P. Simon, 241 ; Bollaert, H- 


and started on a perilous journey to the moon, from which they 
expected to obtain the fire and return to the earth with it The 
Cahroc folk-lore is full of the good deeds of the coyote. It 
was he that opened up the Klamath for the salmon at the 
solicitation of the starving people, and when the dam was 
opened the green waters rushed through all ashine with salmon. 
"The adulations of flatterers and sycophants puffed up the 
coyote to such a degree that he determined to have a dance 
through heaven itself; and whom should he choose as his 
partner but a star, which, after much solicitation, engaged with 
him in the dance. But its giddy mazes were too much for the 
poor coyote, who slipped his hold. Terrible was the fall, but 
after ten long snows he strikes the earth, and is smashed as 
flat as a willow mat." ' The following m)^h of the origin of 
fish in Clear Lake makes the coyote play the role of creator 
again. He filled himself with the water of Clear Lake, after 
eating a great quantity of grasshoppers, and lay down to sleep, 
when he was thrust through with a spear, and all the water and 
grasshoppers ran out and down into the lake basin, and the 
insects became fish." 

A Shasta legend makes a ground-mole the creator of the 
world, which was heaved into existence by the " rooting under- 
neath somewhere" of that animal.3 The Pima creator was the 
butterfly, the prettiest fancy of all. It was a metamorphose, how- 
ever, that gave the little creature such power. Their evil spirit 
seems to have been the eagle, to whose instrumentality they 
ascribed the deluge. The only man saved took revenge when 
the waters subsided by climbing to the eagle's nest and slaying 
it About its nest he found the bodies of a great multitude of 
those the eagle had destroyed. He found a woman the mon- 
ster had taken to wife, and a child, from whom descended the 
ancient people called Hohocam, who were led in their wander- 
ings by an eagle and passed into Mexico.* 

In Indian folk-lore, the winds are generally produced by 

« 3 Bancroft, 138-39. » 3 ib., 86, 87. 3 3 ib., 547. 4 3 ib., 79. 



birds. The owl creates the north wind, the butterfly the south.' 
Among the Iroquois, the wind was thought to be produced by 
a water-lizard which crawled out of its pool." The Piutes had 
a fabulous serpent deity in Pyramid Lake. The wind, when 
it swept down among the nine islands of the lake, drove the 
waters into the most fantastic swirls and eddies in localities 
when the rest of the lake was placid. This, said the Piutes, 
was the snake causing the lake to boil like a pot Among the 
Northern tribes about the Great Lakes, the god of water de- 
scribed by Perrot was of composite form, lived in a cavern, and 
produced the winds by shaking his monstrous tail.3 Pre-eminent 
in the Ojibway tales about water-animals was the toad (frog), 
by which they said a deluge was produced. A huge toad had 
a quarrel with some land-animal with horns. The toad had the 
whole management of the waters, and appears to have presided 
over them with great satisfaction to the Indian race until this 
fight arose, when, failing to swallow its antagonist, the latter 
rushed upon it and pierced a hole in its side, out of which the 
waters gushed in floods and overflowed the earth. Manabozho, 
the great hare, who was living at that time, fled for refuge to 
the mountains, carrying some animals with him. When the 
mountain-tops were flooded, he took to a tree, and with the 
aid of various animals he recreated the earth. The most use- 
ful of these animals was the musk-rat, which went to the bottom 
of the waters and brought him earth.-* The traditional deluge 
of the Crees was caused by a quarrel of a large fish with one 
of their demi-gods, in which it attempted to drown the god* 

Traditions of the production of convulsive changes in the 
earth's surface by fabulous animals are frequent There is a 
legend of Aputaput Fall, Oregon, in which a beaver of enormous 
size, when pursued by the hunters, tore away the banks of 
Pelouse River, and in its final struggle produced the cataract* 

> 5 Schoolcraft, 420. " Parkman's Jesuits, Ixxxviii. 

3 Memoirs, 20. * Jones, Ojibways, 33-35' 

5 Hartwig's Polar World, 325. « 4 Wilkes, Ex. Exp., 467. 


A fabulous animal of the Algonkins was the great beaver, which 
was one of the most powerful of the manitous. It was he who 
formed Lake Nipissing. The cataracts in the Cutaway River, 
which issues from the Nipissing, are the relics of dikes thrown 
up by the great beaver to form that lake ; but he died in the 
midst of the undertaking. He is buried at the top of the 
mountain to which he has given his form. No native passes 
the foot of his tomb without smoking in honor of him.* The 
Kaniagmuts say that the island of Kadiak was separated from 
Alaska by a large otter which pushed its way through from 
Cook's Inlet' TheSalish Indians have a fabulous toad, which, 
when pursued, in its efforts to escape destruction played havoc 
with terrestrial objects, but succeeded in springing upon the 
&ce of the moon. 

Among some of the Western Indians there is a tradition of 
an immense eagle which hovers in the air out of sight, and 
carries a lake on his back, full of water. When this aerial 
monster flaps his wings, loud peals of thunder roll over the 
prairie. When he winks his eyes, it lightens. When he wags 
his tail, the waters of the lake overflow and produce rain.3 

In the myths of nearly all the tribes the thunder and light- 
ning are thought to be produced by either a bird or a serpent. 
In many of them a fabulous animal, by the name of the thunder- 
bird, becomes a well-defined personality. In some myths the 
thunder and lightning are the result of a struggle between the 
serpent and the thunder-bird. The serpent produces the light- 
ning's flash from its forked tongue, whilst robbing the thunder- 
bird's nest. .The thunder is the flapping of the wings of the 
bird in the struggle. These fanciful myths about animals can 
be referred generally to a simpler germ from which they have 
sprung, and have gradually been clothed with the imagery of 
an uncultivated mind, to which nothing is incredible. 

In a Thlinkeet myth, the soul of an ancestor appears in the 
thunder-bird. In the Thlinkeet deluge, a brother and sister were 

' 2 Chateaubriand's Travels, 41. ' Dall's Alaska, 405. 3 Boiler, 357. 


forced to separate by the flood, and the parting word of the 
brother was that his sister should never see him again, but 
should hear his voice. He then clothed himself in the skin of a 
great bird and flew away southwest " The sister was swallowed 
in a great hole or crater near Sitka ; but when the storm sweeps 
down over the country about her subterranean home, the light- 
ning of the thunder-bird's eyes gleams down her crater window, 
and the thundering of his wings re-echoes throughout all her 
subterranean halls." ' Fig. 1 3 is a representation of the thunder- 
bird of the Haidahs.* 

Fig. 13. 

The Ojibways had their thunder-bird. When seen flying by 
day, it foreboded misfortune. These fabulous birds were sup- 
posed to have their nests somewhere. A great Ojibway 
warrior was returning late one night from the hunt, when one 
of these monstrous birds caught him, and arose and flew west- 
ward to a high hill, where he was left in the nest of the young 
birds. They immediately began to peck at this delicate morsel 
that had been provided for them. The warrior summoned up 
courage, and determined to defend himself from these young 
thunder-birds ; but whenever they winked a flash of lightning 

> 3 Bancroft, 103-4. " Swan, Haidah Indians, Smith. Contrib., No. ^1' 


would pass from their eyes and bum him. By the most won- 
derful deeds of valor known to Indian folk-lore, he mastered the 
tender bir^s, took their hearts, and when he got home made a 
delicious broil of them. Since this experience with the warrior 
these birds do not trouble the Indians, but live on snakes and 
fish. Their nests are now in the Rocky Mountains, but they 
are heard at times passing east to the sea/ 

There are among the different families of a tribe different 
ideas of the size of this mythical bird, for among the Ojibways 
another tradition says that the thunder-bird is about as large 
as the end of the little finger, and cannot reproduce her own 
species, and is eternal. Her mate is a serpent, whose fiery 
tongue destroys the young ones as they are hatched. She sits 
on her eggs during fair weather and hatches her brood at the 
approach of a storm.* We have here a very pretty mytho- 
logical sister for the halcyon of the Greek mythology. 

A large bird, according to tradition, used to slay the buffaloes 
of early day, and sit on the ledge of the Red Rocks, on top 
of Coteau des Prairies, and eat them. Their blood ran down 
the rocks and made them red. This bird had its nest near 
by, and when serpents crawled in to molest the eggs they would 
hatch out in a clap of thunder.^ 

According to Dacotah tradition, they won a battle against 
the lowas by aid of a thunder-bird. Their thunder-bird was a 
winged monster, which bore down on the Iowa village in a 
most terrible and godlike manner. Tempests howled, light- 
nings flashed, the thunder uttered its voice, and the earth trem- 
bled. A bolt was hurled at the lowas, which ploughed the 
earth and formed that deep ravine near the village of Oak 

** A bird of thunder was once killed, the Dacotahs assert, 
near Kaposia. Its face resembled the human countenance. 
Its nose was hooked like the bill of an eagle. Its wings had 

* Copway's Ojibways, 109-13. • 2 Catlin, 111., 164. 

3 2 ib., 168. 4 1 Minnesota Hist. Coll., 145. 


four joints, and were zigzag like the lightning. About thirty 
miles from Big Stone Lake, near the head-waters of the Minne- 
sota, there are several small lakes bordered with oak-trees. 
This is the supposed birthplace of the thunder-bird, and is 
called the nest of thunder." » The Dacotahs show at this place 
the footprints of the thunder-bird twenty-five miles apart 

Tupan, the thunder-bird of the Tupi tribe of Brazil, flapped 
his celestial wings and flashed light therefrom, and his name 
still stands among the Christianized natives as the equivalent 
of God." The Caribs thought the thunder-cloud was a bird, 
and that it produced the lightning in true Carib fashion by 
blowing it through a hollow reed, just as they do their poisoned 
darts.3 The thunder-bird appears upon the Guatemalan sculp- 
tures. The natives of the Isthmus of Darien have a tradition 
of two birds with maiden faces that came with a storm from 
the east. They seized men and women and carried them off 
to their mountain nest. At last they made an image of a man 
and fastened it into the ground. One of the birds swooped 
down upon this, and fastened its talons so that they could not 
be released, and they killed it* 

A tradition very similar to this was found among the Illinois, 
which I will give in the language of Mr. Jones. " In the reign 
of the illustrious Owatoga, chief of the Illinois, they were ter- 
rified with a fearful visitation from a thunder-bird. There ap- 
peared upon the inaccessible cliffs, where it made its home, an 
immense and hideous animal, half bird, half beast, which, from 
the circumstance of its having wings, they called the Piasau 
bird. This name, like all Indian names, is significant of the 
character of the monster which it designates : it means the man- 
destroying bird. This bird is described as being of gigantic size, 
capable of bearing off with ease in its talons a horse or buffalo. 
Its head and beak were like those of the vulture, with eyes of 
the most dazzling brilliancy ; its wings black as the raven and 

« Neill's Minnesota, 58. ■ 2 Tylor, 262-63. 

s Brinton, 108. 4 3 Bancroft, 500. 


clothed with thunder, making a most fearful noise in its heavy 
flight; its legs four in number, and talons like those of a mighty 
eagle ; its' body similar to that of the dragon, ending with a 
tail of huge dimensions like a scorpion's. Its body was gor- 
geously colored with every hue, and in its flight it made a most 
imposing spectacle, inspiring terror, awe, and wonder. Such 
was this strange visitor which had taken up its abode in their 
sacred cliffs ; and while their priests were studying the omen, 
whether it should be for good or for evil, all doubt was dissi- 
pated by the sudden descent of the bird into their midst, which 
seized one of their bravest warriors in its talons and bore him 
as a prey to its wild eyrie in the rocks. Never again was the 
unfortunate victim seen by his friends. But the sacrifice was 
not complete. Brave after brave, and women and children not 
a few, were borne off" in succession by the fierce devourer, 
whose appetite seemed but to be whetted to a keener set the 
more it tasted of human blood. Such was the fearful state of 
things, when the brave Owatoga, chief of this mighty tribe, 
sought out his priests, and with them, retiring to a secret place, 
fasted many days and with all the mummery of their religion. 
At length, in a trance, it was revealed to Owatoga that the 
terrible visitant who had hitherto eluded their utmost sagacity 
might be destroyed. The mode was this. First, a noble victim 
was to be selected from among the bravest warriors of the tribe, 
who, by religious rites, was to be sanctified for the sacrifice. 
Secondly, twenty equally brave, with their stoutest bows and 
sharpest arrows, were to conceal themselves near the spot of 
sacrifice. The victim was to be led forth and singly to take his 
stand upon an exposed point of the rock, where the ravenous 
bird would be likely to notice and seize upon him. At the 
moment of descent the concealed warriors were to let fly their 
arrows, with the assurance that he would fall. . . . Owatoga 
appeared at the head of his tribe as the voluntary victim. . . . 
Soon was the ill-omened bird seen hovering over the place, and, 
after wheeling about for a few moments high above the head of 
the devoted chief, nearing at each gyration the unquailing vie- 


tim, suddenly he came thundering down toward his prize. In 
an instant the barbed arrows from twenty sure bows buried 
themselves to the feather in the body of the common foe, and 
he fell quivering and dead at the feet of the noble chieftain, 
himself escaping unscathed. ... It was determined to per- 
petuate the event by engraving the picture of the Piasau bird 
upon the smooth-sided limestone cliils which tower above the 
river. There it was done, and stained with the &st and fade- 
less colors whose subtle compounding the Indian only knows, 
and which remain plainly visible to the present day. The spot 
became sacred from that time, and no Indian ascended or de- 
scended the Father of Waters for many a year without dis- 
charging his arrow at the image of the warrior-destroying 

Of the worship of compound monsters, impossible hybrid 
animals and forms that are half human, half brutal, Mr. Spencer 
says, " When a chief nicknamed the wolf carries away from 
an adjacent tribe a wife who is remembered either under the 
animal name of her tribe or as a woman, it will happen that if 
her son distinguishes himself, the remembrance of him among 
his descendants will be that he was born of a wolf and some 
other animal, or of a wolf and a woman. We need not be 
surprised, then, at finding among the Egyptians the goddess 
Pasht represented as a woman with a lion's head, and the god 
Month as a man with the head of a hawk.'' Gods having the 
form of a man with an eagle's tail, or uniting a human bust to 
the body of a fish, no longer appear such unaccountable con- 

Many nondescript animals are pictured on the exposed sur* 
faces of rocks throughout the length and breadth of both 
Americas. Where they are isolated and not a part of a picto- 
graphic system of writing, they are probably drawn as objects 
of worship. Specimens of these are described by Father Mar- 
quette and Hennepin in the following language: "As we 

» Jones's Illinois and the West, 53-59. ' Spencer's Rec. Dis., 46, seq. 


coasted along rocks frightful for their height and length, we 
saw two monsters painted on one of these rocks which startled 
us at first, and on which the boldest Indian dare not gaze long. 
They are as large as a calf, with horns on the head like a deer, 
a fearful look, red eyes, bearded like a tiger, the face somewhat 
like a man's, the body covered with scales, and the tail so long 
that it twice makes the turn of the body, passing over the head 
and down between the legs, and ending at last in a fish's tail. 
Green, red, and a kind of black are the colors employed. On 
the whole, these two monsters are so well painted that we could 
not believe any Indian to have been the designer, as good 
painters in France would find it hard to do as well ; besides 
this, they are so high up on the rock that it is hard to get con- 
veniently at them to paint them." * 

Says Hennepin, " I had quite forgot to relate that the Illinois 
had told us that toward the cape which I have called in my 
map St. Anthony, near the nation of the Messorites [Missouris], 
there were some tritons and other sea-monsters painted, which 
the boldest men durst not look upon, there being some enchant- 
ment in their face. I thought this was a story; but when we 
came near the place they had mentioned, we saw, instead of 
these monsters, a horse and some other beasts painted upon the 
rock with red colors by the savages. The Illinois had told us 
likewise that the rock on which these dreadful monsters stood 
was so* steep that no man could climb up to it; but had we not 
been afraid of the savages more than of the monsters, we had 
certainly got up to them. There is a common tradition among 
that people that a great number of Miamis were drowned in 
that place, being pursued by the savages of Matsigamea ; and 
since that time the savages going by the rock use to smoke 
and offer tobacco to those beasts, to appease, as they say, the 
manitou." ' 

Mermaid-myths are found in some localities. The Ottawas 

* Marquette's Narrative, in Shea's Discovery, 39. 
« Hennepin's New Discovery, 135-36. 


had a mermaid which was a woman from the waist up, but two 
fishes below. Her hands and arms were covered with scales- 
Her face was very beautiful. She was named " the daughter 
of the flood." ' The natives of the Arctic regions have a female 
spirit who is the protectress of sea-animals. She can make 
them plenty or scarce as she pleases. The sorcerers say, how- 
ever, that they are able to compel her to let go the sea-animals 
by cutting off her nails. Whole herds of walrus rise to the 
surface when a knuckle is detached. Her name is Nooliayoo, 
and she represents the mermaid-myths of those Northern 
. parts. The Indians are said to be descended from her union 
with a malformed dog which watched the door of her house.* 
Many of these composite forms appear 
in the mythology of the Haidahs. Oo- 
lala was half man and half bird, that 
lived in the mountains, and was greatly 
feared by the natives. Tchimose was a 
mythological creature supposed to live 
in the ocean, and was represented as in 
Fig, 14, taken from the book entitled 
"Swan's Haidah Indians," published by 
the Smithsonian Institution. The Ojib- 
ways have a composite mythological 
figure called Ne-ban-a-baig, partaking 
of the double nature of man and fish, a 
notion which, except as to sex, has its analogy in the mermaid 
of Western Europe. These animals, according to their tradi- 
tions, inhabit the upper lakes. A gens claim descent from 
this fabulous animal, and they have made a totem of it: their 
word for it might be translated the man-fish totem. It is repre- 
sented on Plate IV. The sacred animal of the Winnebagoes 
was a nondescript and composite figure, seen only by medicine- 
men after severe fasting. Fig. 15 is a representation of this 

' 3 Jones, Tradilions, 126. ■ Lyon's Journal. 362-63, 


The finding of the bones of the mastodon, or of those of 
other animals akia to it in size, by the Indians from time to 

time, ha5 not had the tendency to check their disposition to 
make for themselves fabulous animal gods. On the contrary, 
they looked upon all relics of this nature with superstitious 
reverence. The Dacotahs had legends of lat^e animals which 
they had preserved to keep away sickness and dangers.' Mas- 
todons' bones have been found in Wisconsin mounds. The 
natives of British America preserved the bones of mammoths 
found on Shell Creek, and regarded them as the bones of a 

A meagre acquaintance with these large animals has tended to 
produce superstitious feelings in the minds of these uncultured 
peoples, and has originated undoubtedly many of their myths 
about fabulous animals. There can be but little doubt that the 
mastodon had existed within the recollection of the oldest 
members of some of the present tribes, or their ancestors, at 
the time of the advent of the whites. Mexican sepulchres have 
been opened containing the skeletons of the mammoth or of 
some similar animal. These tombs appeared to have been 
specially prepared for their reception, and they were buried 
apparently with the same care as men. Says Mr. Winchell on 
this subject, " I have observed the bones of the mastodon and 

* Euunan's Legend*, szS. ■ i Hind's Narrative, 313. 


elephant imbedded in peat at depths so shallow that I could 
readily believe the animal to have occupied the country during 
its possession by the Indians."' "Judging from geological 
data, the appearance of man in America was .later than in the 
Old World, but even in America the race has probably looked 
upon the later representatives of the mastodon and mammoth 
tribes. I have myself exhumed mastodon bones from a bed of 
peat not more than three feet deep, which could be easily accu- 
mulated in five hundred years. The Indians have traditions of 
the same."* Says Du Pratz, "Some years ago the skeletons 
of two large elephants and two small ones were discovered in 
the marsh near the river Ohio, and they were not much con- 
sumed." 3 The discovery by Mr. Koch of a mastodon, which 
had near it weapons and other evidences of having been at- 
tacked and killed by Indians at a not very distant day, bears 
evidence to the same effect. There are many traditions, among 
different tribes, of these monstrous animals. The tribes of New 
York had a tradition of a remarkable and ferocious animal, the 
Yagesho, which existed in the northern parts of New York 
about three centuries ago. " It was much superior to the 
largest bear, remarkably long-bodied, broad down by its shoul- 
ders, but narrow just at its hind legs. It had a large head and 
fearful look. Its legs were short and thick. Its paws (with 
claws nearly as long as an Indian's finger) spread very wide. 
It was almost bare of hair, except the head and the tender part 
of its legs. Several of these animals had been destroyed by the 
Indians, but the one of which the following account is given 
had escaped them, and for years had destroyed many In- 
dians. It would catch and kill the largest bears and devour 
them. The men assembled to deliberate on the plan of killing 
him. This beast lived near Lake Hoosink, and got the scent 
of the party detached to decoy him, and rushed upon them. 
Arrows and stones were discharged at him until he dropped 
down and died. His head was cut off and carried in triumph 

' Wincheirs Sketches, 350. * lb., 240. 3 2 Lx>aisiana, 13a 


to their village and exalted on a pole. The Mahicanni claim 
the honor of this act." ' 

The tradition of the flying heads among the Iroquois, which 
greatly disturbed their quiet and defied all human power suc- 
cessfully to combat, may be enumerated among their singular 
fancies. These heads, of monstrous size, enveloped in beards and 
hair of flaming fire, rushed through the air like shooting stars 
or ialling meteors, threatening the destruction of their nation. 
The priests, prophets, and medicine-men were alike unsuccess- 
ful in subduing these supernatural monsters. The frontispiece 
is a representation of one of them. The Quis-Quis, or great 
hog, was another monster which gave the Onondagas great 
trouble, as did also the great bear, the horned water-serpent, and 
many other equally fabulous inventions.* There is a myth that 
a young Iroquois found a two-headed serpent when he was out 
hunting and brought it to his lodge and fed it. After some time 
it grew so large it rested on the beams of the lodge, and the 
hunters had to feed it with deer. It at last went out-doors and 
maintained itself on a hill. Finally it surrounded the nation 
with its folds, and, as they attempted to escape, devoured them 
all but one man and his sister. In a dream it was revealed to 
him that if he would fledge his arrows with the hair of his 
sister and shoot at the heart of the monster he would conquer. 
He obeyed, and the wound was mortal, and the serpent rolled 
down the hill into the lake, where he vomited up all the people 
he had eaten.3 

All animals with which they were unacquainted would pro- 
duce superstitious fear aniong the Indians when seen for the 
first time. A very curious illustration of this is told by Catlin. 
In a Minnitaree village a great sensation was produced by the 
appearance (to use the language of the Indians) of " a small 
animal not far diflering in size from a ground-squirrel, but with 

» Yates and Moulton*s New York, Pt. i, notes, pp. 9-10. 
* Plate in Cusick's Six Nations ; 1 Clark's Onondaga, 143. 
3 Schoolcraft's Iroquois, 61. 


a long, round tail." This unknown animal showed himself 
slyly about a chief's wigwam, peeping out from under the pots 
and kettles. They looked upon it as great medicine, and so 
sacred no one dared kill it ; but hundreds came to watch and 
look at it. After councils had been called and solemn decrees 
issued for its countenance and protection, a fur-trader came 
among them and pronounced it a rat, which had been intro- 
duced by whites/ At the mouth of the Q'Appelle River, an 
Indian, in June, 1858, set his net and caught a large fish of a 
kind different from any with which he was familiar. He imme- 
diately pronounced it to be a manitou, and, carefully restoring 
it to the water again, at once sacrificed five valuable dogs to 
appease the anger of the supposed deity.* 

No doubt many of the fabulous animals of uncultured peo- 
ples are the appearances of their disordered imaginations in 
dreams. An Ojibway, in obedience to a dream which recurred 
ten successive nights, arose on the eleventh and issued forth 
with his magic staff to the side of a stream, whose waters he 
touched. They began gradually moving beneath the influence 
until a violent whirlpool arose, which drew into its coils the fish 
and other water-animals, such as frogs, toads, lizards, and aquatic 
birds and insects, which passed before the astonished eyes of 
the enchanter. At length he stood in the midst of the com- 
motion, like Goethe's apprentice to the magician, and, although 
a strange horror crept over him, he insisted that the king of 
fishes should appear. Forced by the magic spell, he came, 
and, emerging from the lake in the shape of a mighty serpent, 
it gave him a powder like the vermilion with which the In- 
dians paint their faces. This powder cured all diseases, and 
made him a mighty doctor among his nation. But his dis- 
tinction was purchased at the price of his children, who were 
sacrificed one by one to the water-god in accordance with his 
promise.3 The following is a Mexican tradition : " Certain 
fishermen near the Lake of Mexico took a monstrous fowl of 

« I Catlin's 111., 194-95. ■ 2 Hind's Nar., 134-35. » Kohl, 422-2$. 


extraordinary make and bigness. Its deformity was horrible, 
and on its head was a shining plate like a looking-glass, from 
which the sun reflected a dim light. Montezuma, drawing 
near, saw within it a representation of night and a heaven cov- 
ered with stars. Looking a second time in the glass, he saw 
aa army of men, coming from the east, making a terrible 
slaughter of his subjects. When the magician priests came 
to examine and had tried experiments, it escaped with aston- 
ishing flight.'' ' One of the fabulous animals of the Mexicans 
was Xochitonal, a great crocodile, who guarded the path to 
the spirit-land." 

Local manitous generally assume a monstrous form, and 
might be called unnatural gods. The figure of a large bird 
is the most common. The spirit of Rock Island was a white 
bird with wings like a swan, but ten times larger.^ In Cox's 
Recollections of Wabash Valley we find the following account 
of one of these fabulous animals of the Potawatomies. " There 
was a tradition existing among the Potawatomie Indians that 
there was a monster in the shape of a serpent in Lake Manitou. 
Their superstitious dread of this lake was such that they would 
not hunt upon its borders nor fish in its waters, for fear of in- 
curring the anger of the evil spirit that made its home in this 
little woodland lake. . . . When the government officers were 
about erecting the Potawatomie mills, the Indians strenuously 
objected to the erection of a dam at the outlet of the lake, lest 
its accumulated waters might disturb and overflow the sub- 
terranean chambers of the serpent, and the exasperated demon 
rush forth from his watery dominions and take indiscriminate 
vengeance on all those who resided near the sacred lake." * 

Among the South American nations these unnatural forms 
of man and beast are represented intheir'art. Numerous idols 
were found everywhere with the form of man and animal com- 

« I De Solis, Conq., 144. » 3 Bancroft, 537. 

3 Autobiography of Blackhawk, 70. 

4 Cox's Recollections of Wabash Valley, 136. 


bined, and were the objects of a degrading worship that often 
descended to human sacrifice. A scene illustrative of this is 
represented in Pig. i6, which is taken from Zarate's Peru. 

The Araucanians of Chile have fabulous creatures called 
ulmenes, which arc the genii of their mythology. They are 
male and female, and attach themselves to individuals as guar- 
dian spirits.' Among the Brazilian tribes curious fables of 
animals are related, from which we can readily see that they 
ascribe to them monstrous forms and unnatural deeds. The 
tortoise figures extensively in races and other athletic sports. 
They have a bird of evil eye which kills with a look. The 
ground under its nest is white with human bones. There is a 
myth that a hunter once killed one of these and cut off its head 
without the eye being turned upon him. He killed his game 
thereafter by turning the evil eye upon it His wife, not dream- 
ing of its destructive- power, however, once turned it toward 
her husband and killed him, and then accidentally turned it 
toward herself and died. They believe in the existence of 
an enormous water-serpent, whose track marked out the lakes 

' z Volina, S6. 


and channels.' A mythical monster called the Curupira (prob- 
ably a man-shaped ape) is the dread of the timid. These fabu- 
lous animals are the guardian deities of the forests, and go 
about beating on the trees just before a tempest to see if they 
are strong enough to withstand it.* Mr. Tylor mentions a tra- 
dition among the Brazilians of an ape which had been found to 
be an extinct species.3 The natives living near the river Casa- 
nare had a tradition of a serpent with numerous heads which 
had devoured many of the inhabitants.^ The natives living 
near the river Huallaga had a tradition of a vulture-like animal 
who preyed upon wanderers.* The Peruvians named their 
sacred Titicaca from titi, a cat, and caca^ a rock. They have 
a myth that on the rock in the island of the same name there 
lived and sat in ancient times a cat with fire shooting from its 

Occasionally a myth pretends to account for the form and 
color of different animals. The two following myths are curi- 
ous illustrations of this. The red fox got its black legs by 
being thrown into a cauldron where the food was cooking for 
a grand feast, to which he was invited by a host whom he had 
formerly insulted. He got out with his legs burnt.^ The 
mythical hero Manabozho was walking along the banks, and, 
seeing a flock of ducks enjoying themselves on the blue waters, 
he called them. Some favored going to him, some not; but at 
last they all trooped afler him with many pleasant quackings 
and entered his lodge. Placing himself in the centre, he 
ranged the ducks in a circle around him. He had a sack 
around his neck. " Now," said he, " you must all shut your 
eyes tight and not open them under any circumstances. I will 
take my Indian flute and play upon it, and when I give the word 
you may open your eyes and commence dancing." The ducks 
shut their eyes and waited, all impatient for the dancing to 

» Smith's Brazil, 559-60. ■ lb., 564. 

3 Researches, 314. 4 Ursua and Aguire's Ex. Int., 10. 

5 lb,, 45. * Markham*s Travels, 114. 

y Kinzie's Waubun, 368-70. 



begin. Presently a sound was heard like a smothered quack, 
but the ducks did not dare to open their eyes. Again the 
sound of the flute would be interrupted by the gurgling cry of 
" quack." There was one duck at this juncture that could not 
resist opening one eye, when, lo ! the deity was seen seizing 
each duck nearest him, throttling it, and stuffing it into the 
bag on his shoulder. Edging a little out of the circle, it cried, 
** Open your eyes," and flew. Manabozho grasped her back 
with his hand, but she escaped with her back shaped as now, 
and her neck unnaturally stretched forward. The same plight 
came upon many others at the same time." 

* Kinzic*s Waubun, 312-14. 



Worship of trees — Their supposed vitality explained by animism — Supposed 
descent of human beings from trees — Worship of plants — Personality ascribed 
to them — Origin of plants from human bodies — ^Those having medical prop- 
erties supposed to be endowed with supernatural powers. 

The worship of trees and plants is found in America. The 
vegetable kingdom shared with other natural objects the super- 
stitious belief in the animation of all nature by spirits. One of 
the causes that probably led to the prevalence of the super- 
stition as to trees is the primitive custom of burying or sus- 
pending the dead in trees. We have heretofore noticed this 
custom among many of the tribes. The probabilities are that 
under certain conditions they have all practised this custom 
more or less. In nature- worship, the precipice, waterfall, or 
dangerous locality of any kind, which has become a place of 
Indian devotion, has connected with it a story of being haunted 
by the spirit of some unfortunate tribesman who has lost his 
life there. The spirits of the dead remain about the place 
where death has overtaken them, or where the body or any 
portion of it is placed. Customs such as that of the Nicara- 
guans, of suspending the heads of sacrificed captives in trees,' 
would tend to induce a superstitious fear of such trees. Some 
of the Northwestern Indians thought that those who died a 
natural death would be compelled to dwell among the branches 
of tall trees." 

The Ojibways believed that trees had souls, and in pagan 
times they seldom cut down green or living trees, ** for they 
thought it put them to pain. They pretended to hear the wail- 

* 2 Bancroft, 746. « Barrett Lenard*s Travels, 54. 



ing of the trees when they suffered in this way." ' On account 
of these noises, real or imaginary, trees have had spirits assigned 
them and worship offered to them. A mountain-ash in the 
vicinity of Sault Ste. Marie, which made a noise, had offerings 
piled up around it" If a tree should emit from its hollow 
trunk or branches a sound during a calm state of the atmos- 
phere, or should any one fancy such sounds, the tree would be 
at once reported, and soon come to be regarded as the residence 
of some local god.3 Mr. Kohl mentions an Ojibway Indian 
who had chosen a tamarack-tree for his protector because 
he fancied he heard a remarkable rustling in its branches.^ 
This was ample evidence that a spirit was domiciled in the 
tree. Mr. Schoolcraft mentions a hollow tree from the recesses 
of which, Indian tradition said, there issued on a calm day a 
sound like the voice of a spirit or manitou. It resembled the 
sounds of their own drum. It was therefore considered as the 
residence of some powerful spirit, and deemed sacred. To 
mark their regard for the place, they began to deposit at its 
foot boughs and twigs of the same species of tree as they 
passed it from year to year on their way to and from their 

Roman Pane says of the West India tribes " that if an Indian 
going through a wood would perceive a motion in the trees 
which he thought supernatural, frightened at the prodigy, he 
would address himself to that tree which shook the most 
The trees generally did not condescend to confabulate with 
them, but ordered them to go to a boie, or priest, who would 
order them to sacrifice to their new deity." He also says, " The 
natives of the Antilles used to believe that certain trees sent 
for sorcerers, to whom they gave orders how to shape their 
trunks into idols, and then, being installed in temple huts, they 
received prayer and inspired the priests with oracles." 

' Jones's Ojibways, 104. « Schoolcraft's Oneota, 191. 

3 2 Schoolcraft, Ind., 224-25. ^ Kohl's Kitchi-Gami, 59. 

5 Schoolcraft's Thirty Years, 99. 


This mysterious spiritual vitality ascribed to trees has even 
led to a belief in the descent of the human race from trees. 
The natives about Saginaw had a tradition of a boy who sprang 
from a tree within which was buried one of their tribe. A 
descent from trees can be traced among the traditions of many 
tribes. The founders of the Miztec monarchy descended from 
two majestic trees that stood in a gorge of the mountains of 
Apoala.' The Zapotecs attributed their origin to trees, and 
their cypresses and palms often received offerings of incense 
and other gifts." The Caribs had a gens called the cabato- 
tree.3 The Chiapanese had a tradition that they sprang from 
the roots of a silk-cotton-tree.* 

In the pictography of the Indians the trees supposed to be 
inhabited by a spirit find representation in anthropomorphic 
forms. In a folk-tale of the Ojibways the maiden Leelinau, 
whenever she could leave her father's lodge, would fly to remote 
haunts and recesses in the woods, or ait in lonely reverie upon 
some high promontory of rock overlooking the lake. In such 
places she would often, with her face turned upward, linger 
long in contemplation of the air, as if she were invoking her 
guardian spirit and beseeching him to lighten her sadness. 
But, amid all the leafy haunts, none drew her steps toward it so 
often as a forest of pines on the open shore, called Manitowok, 
or the Sacred Wood. It was one of those hallowed places 
which are the resort of the little wild men of the woods and of 
the turtle-spirits, or fairies, which delight in romantic scenes. 
Owing to this circumstance, its green retirement was seldom 
visited by Indians, who feared to fall under the influence of its 
mischievous inhabitants; and whenever they were compelled 
by stress of weather to make a landing on this part of the coast, 
they never failed to leave an offering of tobacco, or some other 
token, to show that they desired to stand well with the pro- 
prietors of the fairy-ground. 

' 5 Bancroft, 527. " 3 ib,, 459. 

3 I Rafinesque, 195. 45 Bancroft, 605. 


It had been her custom to pass many of her hours in her 
favorite place of retirement, under a broad-topped young pine, 
whose leaves whispered in every wind that blew, but most of 
all in that gentle murmur of the air at the evening hour, dear 
to lovers, when the twilight steals on. Thither she now re- 
paired, and, while reclining pensively against the young pine- 
tree, she fancied that she heard a voice addressing her. At 
first it was scarcely more than a sigh ; presently it grew more 
clear, and she heard it distinctly whisper, " Maiden! think me not 
a tree, but thine own dear lover, fond to be with thee in my tall 
and blooming strength, with the bright green nodding plume 
that waves above thee. Thou art leaning on my breast, Lee- 
linau ; lean forever there, and be at peace. Fly from men who 
are false and cruel, and quit the tumult of their dusty strife for 
this quiet, lonely shade. Over thee I my arms will fling, fairer 
than the lodge's roof. I will breathe a perfume like that of 
flowers over thy happy evening rest. In my bark canoe I'll 
waft thee o'er the waters of the sky-blue lake. I will deck the 
folds of thy mantle with the sun's last rays. Come, and on the 
mountain free, rove, a fairy bright, with me !" Leelinau drank 
in with eager ear these magical words. Her heart was fixed. 
No warrior's son should clasp her hand. She wasted away 
until she disappeared from her father's lodge forever; but her 
figure is frequently seen, accompanied by her fairy lover, glid- 
ing through the forest of young pines. Such stories as these 
are frequent in Indian lodge-lore, and represent that phase of 
their imagination which gives a spiritual life and form to plants 
and trees. 

The Ojibways considered curious trees as gods.* A con- 
verted Ojibway confessed that at one time, when in danger of 
perishing in the woods with cold, he prayed to the trees stand- 
ing around him to save him, but the trees stood still and made 
no effort in his behalf. He was glad that he had been brought 
to know the vanity of such things.' On Grand River stood a 

Jones's Ojibways, 85. • lb., 88. 



lofty pine-tree with a large, spreading, closely-matted top. This 
tree was taller than any other in view, and made a great god 
for one of their Indians, who with his family made periodical 
visits to it, with prayer and sacrifice. The best of his game 
was offered at the foot of this tree, and it was boiled for the 
convenience of this god.' 

Many trees were worshipped by the Dacotahs, and among 
them the medicine-wood, which gets its name from a super- 
stition that it was a genius to protect or punish them according 
to their merits or demerits.* They hung small red capotes 
upon trees as a sacrifice.3 Mr. Pike, speaking of an immense 
plane-tree seen by him, says, " This plane, which is perhaps the 
colossus of the whole vegetable kingdom, the Indians adored 
as a manitou." * 

Charlevoix mentions an instance of tree-worship. He says, 
"Formerly the Indians in the neighborhood of Acadia had in 
their country, near the sea-shore, a tree extremely ancient, of 
which they relate many wonders and which was always laden 
with offerings. After the sea had laid open its whole root, it 
still supported itself a long time almost in the air against the 
violence of the winds and waves, which confirmed those In- 
dians in the notion that this tree must be the abode of some 
powerful spirit, nor was its fall even capable of undeceiving 
them, so that as long as the smallest part of its branches ap- 
peared above the water, they paid it the same honors as whilst 
it stood." s 

The natives of Carolina, says Lawson, held the yaupon, or 
tea-plant, in veneration above all plants they were acquainted 
with, and they say the discovery thereof was by aa infirm In- 
dian that labored under the burden of many rugged distempers 
and could not be cured by all their doctors. One day he fell 
asleep and dreamed that if he took a decoction of the tree that 

» Jones's Ojibways, 254. « 6 Wise. Hist. Coll., 205. 

3 Pike's Expedition, 31. * lb., 396. 

5 2 Charlevoix's Voyage, 149. 


grew at his head he would be cured. Upon this he awoke, and 
saw the yaupon, or cassena-tree, which was not there when he 
fell asleep. He followed the direction of his dream, and became 
perfectly well in a short time.* On the banks of the river 
Chata Uche stood a wild fig-tree, which the Indians had conse- 
crated as an object of worship. The Creeks had a sacred tree 
on which they hung strips of buffalo flesh." 

The cult existed in Mexico and the Central American states. 
The Mayas recognized divinities in trees.3 A gigantic ancient 
cypress in Mexico had offerings attached to its boughs, of 
teeth and locks of hair in great numbers. The Tepanecs wor- 
shipped and offered sacrifice to trees.* The ticara or wild cala- 
bash-tree was an object of religious veneration to the Guate- 
malans.s Darwin saw a tree near Siena de la Ventana which 
the Indians reverenced as the altar of Walleechu. Offerings of 
cigars, bread, and meat were suspended upon it by threads. 
There was a little hole to pour libations in. The tree was sur- 
rounded by bleached bones of horses that had been sacrificed. 
The tree was a landmark in a dangerous passage.^ The Chib- 
chas had a tree called huaycan (holy wood). It is a large tree, 
and its wood does not rot under water. According to their 
traditions, the earth was supported by pillars of this wood. 
The Peruvians used this wood for making their idols.^ Tree- 
worship was found among the Brazilian tribes. The Calcha- 
quis of Brazil worshipped certain trees, which were trimmed 
with feathers.^ The Indians frequently adorn them with feath- 
ers. The same is true of many tribes inhabiting those parts of 
Brazil in which trees obtain a magnitude that inspires them 
with veneration. 

A western tribe of North America, called the Achonawi, 
ascribed a fabulous origin to trees, for they thought that the 
feathers of eagles, when they dropped and stuck in the earth, 

* Lawson's N. C, 359-60. ■ Lubbock, Origin, 196. 

3 2 Bancroft, 688. * 2 ib., 330. 

5 Boyle*s Camp Notes, 49. « Darwin's Nat. Voyage, 68-69. 

7 BoUaert, 13. 83 Southey, 395. 


grew tall trees. They thought all trees were mysterious, be- 
cause fire proceeded from their wood when rubbed.' 

The transmigration and presence of spirits in plants explain 
the worship of this subdivision of the vegetable kingdom. 
Many traditions illustrate this subject. The Brazilians have a 
mythological character called Mani : she was a child who died 
and was buried in the house of her mother. Soon a plant 
sprang out of the grave, which grew, flourished, and bore fruit. 
This plant was the mandioca, named from mani^ and oca 
(house). They thought they saw the body of Mani in the 
root." The Ojibways have a legend -in which one of their num- 
ber, in a dreamy state, saw a handsome young man dressed in 
green robes with green plumes on his head, who returned 
thrice and wrestled with him. In the last struggle the visiting 
youth was thrown and killed, and his body was buried. The 
Indian watched the grave and kept it clean, not letting even 
the wild flower grow there. Soon he saw the green plumes 
coming out of the ground, at first in spiral points, and then 
rising in green stalks, and soon silken fringes and yellow tassels 
appeared. The majestic plant waved its taper leaves and dis- 
played its bright plumes. Its name was Mondamin, the Indian 

Among the Virginia tribes the red clover was thought to 
have sprung from and be colored by the blood of the red men 
slain in battle. The pantheistic tendency of the transmigration 
theory is shown in many of the agricultural ceremonies of the 
tribes. One of these illustrates the far-reaching extent of their 
philosophy. When a child's umbilical cord was cut, it was 
over an ear of corn, which was immediately sown and culti- 
vated as a sacred thing. The perpetuity of this spiritual life 
and force, and its never-ending circle of existence, is the secret 
of this primitive superstition. 

The Pawnees sacrificed a female slave at their agricultural 

' 3 Ethnology of Powell Exp., 273, 287. * Smith's Brazil, 586. 

3 2 Schoolcraft, 231-32. 


ceremonies, and, while the flesh was warm, stripped it from the 
bones in small pieces, which were put into a basket and carried 
to the corn-field, where a drop of blood was squeezed upon the 
grains of corn that were deposited in the ground.' 

A personality was ascribed to plants. Mr. Kohl tells a very 
interesting traditionary story. One year there was an extraor- 
dinary abundance of corn, and they let it lie about and rot, 
and the children fought each other with the stalks and then 
threw them in the mud. Very soon want overtook them, and 
a famine threatened them, and in their distress one of the tribe, 
who had taken no part in the indignities offered the corn, had a 
communication with the spirit of the corn, who consented to 
make a revelation to him. As he was walking alone he came 
to a meadow, and in its centre a mound, on which stood a birch- 
bark lodge, from which cries and groans issued. On entering, 
he found a poor dried-up manikin, who complained of his 
wretched condition, due to the ill-treatment of the Indians. 
He hurried to his tribe and told them, and they sacrificed to 
the spirit of the corn, which was appeased, and returned them 
good crops thereafter.* 

The Miamis have a tradition similar to this, except that the 
corn-spirit was angry in their case because they had thrown 
corn-cobs at each other in play. The corn-spirit pretended to 
have suffered serious injury in his body on account of this 
cruel sporL3 

The Iroquois acknowledged the existence of spirits in trees 
and plants, and had three mythological characters, who were 
sisters, the spirits of the maize, of the bean, and of the squash. 
The Iroquois say that the spirit of corn, the spirit of beans, 
and the spirit of squashes are supposed to have the forms of 
beautiful females. 

Many tribes when they gathered herbs sacrificed to the spirit 
by leaving some in the place left vacant* 

» 5 Schoolcraft, 78. • KohPs Kitchi-Gami, 266>68. 

3 5 Schoolcraft, 195. 4 Harmon's Journal, 374. 


Mr. Rafinesque has, as is his custom, put one of his large 
names on the plant branch of mythology, and called it Phyto- 
morphy. Among the most prominent of the plants worshipped 
in the Antilles he mentions mushrooms, pines, opuntias, zapos, 
and zeybas.' Among the Virginia tribes the mysterious growth 
of toadstools was ascribed to supernatural agency, and they 
became objects of worship. The divinities supposed to reside 
in them were painted on the outside. 

Among savage peoples, those plants that produce great 
nervous excitement, or a lethargic state, are supposed to con- 
tain a supernatural being. In Peru, tobacco has been called 
the sacred herb, and throughout all America it has been looked 
upon with reverence. In Peru, coca is another plant which 
they look upon with superstitious veneration. It has an in- 
vigorating effect. It is pretended that the use of the coca — 
that herb so famous in the histories of Peru — adds much to the 
strength of the Indians. Others affirm that they use it as a 
charm. When, for instance, the mine of ore is too hard, they 
throw upon it a handful of that herb chewed, and immediately 
get out the ore with more ease and in a greater quantity. 
Fishermen also put some of that herb, chewed, to their hook 
when they can take no fish, and they are said to have better 
success thereafter.* It sustained an important part in the re- 
ligion of the Incas. In all ceremonies, whether religious or 
warlike, it was introduced for producing smoke at the great 
offerings, or as the sacrifice itself. During divine worship the 
priests chewed coca-leaves, and unless they were supplied with 
them it was believed that the favor of the gods could not be 
propitiated. It was also deemed necessary that the supplicator 
should approach the priests with coca in his mouth. It was 
believed that any business undertaken without the benediction 
of coca-leaves could not prosper, and to the shrub itself wor- 
ship was rendered. During an interval of more than three 
hundred years Christianity has not been able to subdue the 

« 2 Rafinesque, 208. ■ Frczier*s Voyage, 269. 


deep-rooted idolatry, for everywhere we find traces of belief in 
the mysterious power of this plant. The excavators in the 
mines of Cerro de Pasco throw masticated coca on hard veins 
of metal, in the belief that it softens the ore and renders it more 
easy to work. The origin of this custom is easily explained 
when it is recollected that in the time of the Incas it was 
believed that the coyas, or the deities of metals, rendered the 
mountains impenetrable if they were not propitiated by the 
odor of coca. The Indians, even at the present time, put coca- 
leaves into the mouths of dead persons to secure to them a 
favorable reception on their entrance into another world ; and 
when a Peruvian Indian, on a journey, falls in with a mummy, 
he, with timid reverence, presents to it some coca-leaves as his 
pious offering.* 

The following religious ceremony to the Irish potato, which 
was first discovered in Peru, shows the regard entertained for 
it. Cieza, describing the ceremony, says, "About noon they 
began to sound drums. When the caciques were seated in the 
plaza, a boy, richly dressed, went up to each cacique. On the 
left hand of each boy walked a girl beautifully dressed. From 
their shoulders a lion-skin hung down. Behind them came 
many women as attendants ; then came six Indian laborers, 
each with a plough on his shoulders. Then followed six others 
with bags of potatoes. When they were near the chiefs, the 
ploughs and potatoes were put on the ground, and a dance 
performed around them. Then a year-old lamb, all of one 
color, was brought and thrown on the ground, and its bowels 
torn out and given to the sorcerer, and the blood was poured 
quickly among the potatoes." ' 

In Oajaca, priests devoted themselves to the maize-god. At 
harvest-time, a procession ceremonially visited the corn-fields 
and selected the fairest and best-filled ear. This they bore to 
the village, placed it on an altar decked with flowers, sang and 
danced before it, wrapped it in a white cloth, then, with renewed 

« Tschudi*s Travels in Peru, 317, seq. • Ciera, 412-13. 


procession and solemn rites, the magic ear was buried in the 
midst of the corn-fields in a a small hole lined with stones. The 
next year this was dug up, and its decayed remains distributed 
to the populace as talismans against all kinds of evil.^ 

Among the Chibchas, plants that affected the system were 
objects of superstitious reverence : the coca was used as an in- 
spiring agent by the priests, and the people chewed and smoked 
tobacco to produce the power of divination.* 

The Americans have used plants in their totemic system, 
although these cases are rare. The Pueblos have a gens called 
the tobacco-plant, and also one called the red grass race. The 
Brazilian Indians have the mandioca race, and among the Ara- 
waks individuals are named tobacco, tobacco-leaf, and tobacco- 
flower. One of the Peruvian Incas was called after the Peru- 
vian name of the tobacco-plant. The Salish, Nisquallis, and 
Yokimas have traditions in which edible roots have descended 
from human ancestors,^ which is explicable, of course, by their 
system of transmigration. The Potawatomies had five primi- 
tive men, one of whom was named smoking-weed, another 
pumpkin, another melon, another bean, and the other yellow 
maize.* The first four were rejected lovers, but the last was 
accepted by the primitive female from whom the Potawatomies 
were descended.^ The Ojibways had many roots of virtue in 
disease, over which spirits were supposed to preside, and they 
were also fetiches, which they carried in time of war.* 

The inhabitants of the province of Culhuacan have a great 
veneration for the hidden virtues of poisonous plants, and be- 
lieve if they crush or destroy one some harm will happen to 
them. It is a common custom to hang a small bag containing 
poisonous herbs around the neck of a child, as a talisman 
against diseases or attacks from wild beasts.' 

Sanchoniathon, in his historic fragment, thinks the order of 

» 2 Bancroft, 350. * I Spencer, Soc, 377-78. 

3 I ib., 383-84. * Lanman*s Haw-Hoo-Noo, 242. 

5 I Schoolcraft, 320. ^ Copway, 149. 

1 I Bancroft, 587-88. 


religious development shows that plants first received worship, 
next the sun, then man. Although the dvidence we now have 
does not confirm his assertion, yet the worship of plants is per- 
haps synchronous with that of many other natural objects, ani- 
mate and inanimate. It did not prevail to any extent until 
some medical knowledge had been acquired. Most of the 
plants for which the Indians had superstitious feeling were those 
with medical qualities. Many of their healing plants were held 
in religious veneration, such as snake-root (a sure remedy 
for the bite of rattlesnakes), sassafras, colt's-foot, ladyslipper, 
liverwort, milk-weed, white pond-lily (the origin of which is 
told in a beautiful myth hereafter), also lobelia, winter-green, 
butternut, slippery elm, hemlock, sumach, wild cherry, and 
especially the wild parsnip, a deadly poison. Many of these 
were kept in their medicine-bags as fetiches ; but this supersti- 
tion has arisen from their medicinal use. Many plants were 
supposed to possess the power of bewitching them and of per- 
forming extraordinary cures and of charming the pretty Indian 
girls.* They had a mixture called the hunter's medicine, which 
they would place in the track of an animal, and they had faith 
to believe that the animal would appear to them, influenced 
by the charm, even though two or three days' journey off. If 
put in their gun-barrel, the first shot would be sure to hit. The 
warriors also had an herb mixture which makes their bodies 
invulnerable. A love-powder brings into complete subjection 
to their wishes any of the opposite sex.* 

The Creeks had seven sacred plants, including the yaupon 
and blue flag, which had intoxicating and narcotic effects. 
Among the Mexicans the snake plant was sacred, and anK>ng 
the Californians the chucuaco.^ 

The seneka and convolvulus of the Carolinas grow wherever 
there are rattlesnakes. The Indians say that a great spirit, 
taking compassion on the bare-legged warriors of the red skin, 
sowed those salutary plants, which are a remedy for their bite, 

« Copway, 88, ■ Jones's Ojibways, 153-55. ^ Brinton's Myths, 292. 



Fig. 17. 

in spite of the remonstrances of the souls of the serpents. By 
rubbing themselves with the convolvulus they can handle these 
reptiles with impunity.* Athaensic planted the flea-bane in the 
islands of Lake Erie. If a warrior looked at that herb he was 
seized with a fever, and if he touched it a subtle fire ran upon 
his skin. The natives regarded it 
with superstitious fear. The Osages 
had an annual religious ceremony in 
which freshly-cut grass placed in 
bunches forming a magic circle re- 
ceived the worship of the men of 
the tribe." 

The buffalo grass of the Ojibways 
had magic properties; it preserved 
them in battle; they rubbed their 
bodies with a decoction of it. They 
carried the plant in their medicine- 

The god of the grass, represented 
in Fig. 17, was said to make them crazy. The figure suggests 
its anthropomorphic character. The manitou plant was ven- 
erated by the inhabitants of the distant provinces of Mexico,^ 
and received its name from its supposed supernatural charac- 
ter. Bonpland mentions the same worship by the Indians of 

It will thus be seen that the vegetable kingdom shared in 
the worship of all of the American tribes, savage and civil- 
ized. Trees and those plants having medical properties ob- 
tained most of their worship. The cause of their being held in 
veneration is found in their belief that they were animated by 

> I Chateaubriand, 180. 
3 2 Lyon's Mexico, 123. 

" 3 Schoolcraft, 491. 
4 Plantes Equinox., 123. 



The worship of remarkable natural objects — ^Worship of mountains and dangeroas 
places — Their supposed frequentation by spirits — Worship of volcanoes — Echoes 
and other noises supposed to be the voices of spirits — Traditions of descents of 
tribes from mountains — Metamorphosis — Worship of islands — Traditions of the 
origin of islands — Origin of the belief that the world was supported on the backs 
of animals — Worship of springs and fountains — ^Traditionary tribal descents 
from them — Their healing properties supernatural — Worship of rivers and lakes 
— Places of refuge. 

The worship of natural objects, such as mountains, rocky 
defiles, valleys, streams, or other places in nature that were 
in any way remarkable, prevailed among all the American 
tribes : they were thought to be haunted by spirits. Among 
all the tribes any remarkable features in natural scenery or 
dangerous places became objects of superstitious dread and 
veneration because they were supposed to be abodes of gods. 
In former days, long before the sublime and stupendous Falls 
of Niagara became a place of fashionable resort, the Red men 
would draw near to this awful cataract with timid steps, invok- 
ing most solemnly the mighty spirit which they imagined must 
certainly reside there. When journeys by water were under- 
taken, sacrifices would be offered to the lake or river for a safe 
voyage/ The Sauks and Foxes rarely passed any extraordinary 
cave, rock, hill, or other object without leaving behind them 
some tobacco for the use of the spirit which they supposed 
lived there.* The Southern nations on the Mississippi River 
believed everything in nature had a spirit : one presided over 
the air. They invoked the rivers, floods, and dreadful cascades. 

* Jones's Ojibways, 96. * Drake's Life of Blackhawki J9* 



If they met with any torrent, they threw to it beaver-skins, 
tobacco, and other offerings.' The Quiches had a multitude 
of genii, who presided over the objects of nature. The places 
where they most loved to linger were dark, quiet spots in 
grottos, or at the foot of some steep precipice, or on the top 
of a mountain, or at some spring; and here the simple native 
came to offer his sacrifice." Among the tribes of British 
America, rivers and mountains were supposed to be inhabited 
by spirits, says Mr. Harmon, and for this reason these objects 
were adored. The Chibchas of Bogota worshipped lakes, rivers, 
rocks, and hills, not because they regarded these objects as 
gods, but because some spirit was thought to be present at 
these places. Each man had such a place for his worship and 
offerings.3 In the city of Cuzco there were four hundred sacred 
places, such as springs, fountains, and wells.* Throughout Peru, 
such places as springs, fountains, valleys, and hills were made 
objects of worship.5 It was their custom, says Molina, when any 
natural object excelled its kind, to worship it Arriaga says they 
made images of their mountains and worshipped them. He 
mentions their worship of the Snow Mountains. If a hill was 
so steep and inaccessible that its top could not be reached, the 
sacrifice offered to the hill was hurled to the top with a sling.^ 
Snails were offered as sacrifices to the mountains. 

Impassable or dangerous places had small temples erected 
to the spirit haunting the place, and in these temples offerings 
were made. Often the temples were so inaccessible that offer- 
ings were projected into them by various means. Fig. 18 is 
one of these rock temples. In Rivero and Tschudi's folio 
volume of plates, illustrations of these temples or fanes to 
the spirits of precipices are found. Mr. Squier is of opinion 
that these small round structures, perched like toy-houses on 
some of the rocks in the remarkable passes of the Andes, 

" 3 Picart, 84. » 3 Bancroft, 481. 

3 P. Simon, 249. 4 Ondegardo, Narr., 154. 

5 lb., 155. « Molina, Narr., 55. 



near Ollantaytambo, were shrines erected to the spirit of 
the place to protect it rrom land-slides.' 

Isolated rocks were held in 
great veneration by the ancient 
Peruvians, and had offerings 
made to them or the spirit sup- 
posed to dwell in them. Mr. 
Squier saw hundreds of such 
rocks on the highways of the 
sierra, to which the Indians 
took off their hats, and offer- 
ings of some kind were left generally.' 

The popular religion of the Andean people consisted in the 
belief that all objects in nature had a soul which presided 
over them, and to which men might pray for help. This 
worship of nature was combined with worship of ancestors, 
the nature-gods being called Huaca, and the ancestral deities 

All sounds that issued from caverns were thought to be pro- 
duced by their spiritual inhabitants. The Sonora Indians say 
that departed souls dwell among the caves and nooks of their 
cliffs, and that echoes often heard there are their voices,* The 
caverns or hollow rocks in the mountains which surround 
Burlington Bay were once noted as being the abodes of the 
gods. When explosions were heard, caused by the bursting 
of sulphurous gas from the rocks around the head-waters of 
Lake Ontario, the superstitious Indians attributed them to the 
breathing of the manitous. 

Mountains have always been favorite places of worship. 
The Choles of Itza kept a perpetual fire burning on the largest 
of their mountains. The Mexicans had many great peaks 
which were hedged about by a divinity.^ In the Yosemitc 

' Squier's Peru, 509-to. 
i Markham's Intraduclioi 
* Alger's Doctrine, 108. 


country one of the lofty peaks was named after a mythical 
heroine, — the beautiful Tisayac. Their once famous chief, Toto- 
komila, when hunting, met a spirit maid, the guardian angel of 
the locality. A passionate love arose in his heart, but when he 
reached forth his hand for hers she was lifted above his sight. 
Totokomila wandered here and there seeking that wonderful 
vision that had made all else worthless in his sight. All was 
allowed to go to waste by him, and the fair valley was desolate, 
and even the waters were dried up. But Tisayac visited her 
valley again. Lighting upon the dome, the granite was riven 
beneath her feet, and a beautiful lake was formed between the 
cloven walls, and a river issued to feed the valley forever. 
Then sang the birds as of old, and the odors of flowers rose 
like a pleasant incense, and the trees put forth their buds. 
Tisayac went away, but the people called the dome by her 
name. Totokomila never returned from a hopeless search for 
her, but a high rock guarding the entrance to the valley was 
named after him.' The Chinooks have a mountain named 
Ikanam, after one of their gods who lives there and inspires 
in their minds superstitious reverence for the place. Among 
some of the tribes thunder was supposed to be produced by 
the spirits of the mountains.' Almost all the mountains and 
high places throughout both Americas are supposed to be the 
dwelling-places of spirits and spirit forms, and their tops are 
the scene of much fairy revelry. Among the Aricaras, near 
the mouth of White River, in the midst of an extensive plain, 
stood a hill called the mountain of spirits, which were little 
devils in human shape eighteen inches high, armed with bows 
and arrows, with which they defended their mountain home. 
A sacred place among the Western tribes was the Red Pipe- 
Stone Quarry. They always offered prayers before approaching 
this sacred place, which was guarded by two female spirits. A 
celebrated rock in Oregon was a place of pilgrimage for all the 
surrounding tribes.^ 

' 3 Bancroft, 125-26. > Loskiel, 31. 3 Peschel's Races, 249. 


" Dead Mountain stands at the head of the Mojave Valley, 
and is regarded with reverence by the Indians, who believe it 
to be the abode of their departed spirits. They thought any 
one who dared visit it would be instantly struck dead/ The 
Indians seat themselves and earnestly observe the Dead Moun- 
tain. When its hoary crest is draped in a light floating haze, 
and misty wreaths are winding like phantoms among its peaks, 
the wondering watchers see the spirits of departed Mojaves 
hovering about their legendary abode, and gaze reverently at 
the shadowy forms that circle around the haunted summit"' 

The enchanted mountain in Georgia was a place held in su- 
perstitious fear by the Indians. They had many traditions 
about it. It was thought to be the sanctuary of a great spirit 
that controlled the world from its lofty summit. The tracks 
of man and beast imbedded in the rocky top of this mountain 
were regarded with awe. 

The following tale is told of a haunted hill in the country of 
the Assiniboins. Many summers ago, a party of Assiniboins 
pounced on a small band of Crees in the neighborhood of Wol- 
verine Knoll. Among the victors was the former wife of one 
of the vanquished, who had been previously captured by her 
present husband. This woman directed every effort in the 
fight to take the life of her first husband, but he escaped and 
concealed himself on this knoll. Wolverine — for this was his 
name — fell asleep, and was discovered by this virago, who 
killed him and presented his scalp to her Assiniboin husband. 
The knoll was afterward called after him. The Indians assert 
that the ghosts of the murderess and her victim are often to be 
seen from a considerable distance struggling together on the 
very summit of the height.3 

The worship of mountains was prevalent among the natives 
of Victoria, and pilgrimages were made to them at stated times 
in the year.* 

« Ives's Rep., 75 ; Newberry's Rep., 32. » Ives's Rep., 80. 

3 Simpson's Overland Journey, 52. 4 Jackson's Alaska, 305* 


" The Black Hills are chiefly composed of sandstone, and 
are in many places broken into the most fantastic forms. The 
wandering tribes of the prairies, who often behold clouds 
gathering around the summits of these hills, and lightning 
flashing and thunder pealing from them when all the neighbor- 
ing plains are serene and sunny, consider them the abode of 
the genii or thunder-spirits, who fabricate storms and tempests. 
On entering their defiles, therefore, they often hang offerings 
on the trees or place them on the rocks to propitiate the in- 
visible lords of the mountains." ' 

Says Mr. Brinton, "Strange as a fairy-tale is Bristock's 
description of the rites of the religion of the holy mountain 
Olaimi, among the Appalachians. It had two sacred caverns, 
the innermost two hundred feet square and one hundred in 
height, wherein were the emblematic vase, ever filled with 
crystal water that trickled in the rock, and the grand altar of 
one round stone, on which incense, spices, and aromatic shrubs 
were the only offerings." 

The Guanches worshipped the mountain of Tirmak, and 
enthusiasts offered themselves as sacrifices to it.'* 

Metamorphosis accounts for some of the superstitions about 
mountains. Two mountains in Oregon, called the Old Man and 
the Old Woman, were supposed to be two Indians changed 
into these mountains by Talapus, one of their gods, in a fit of 

One of the loftiest summits of the Rocky Mountains had a 
personality assigned to it which can only be explained by meta- 
morphosis, for the natives have a tradition that it gave birth to 
the progenitor of all the bisons.* 

An illustration of the origin of this curious belief can be 
found among the natives of Maine, for the following tradition 
of metamorphosis was found among them. They had a tra- 
dition that Mount Kineo had anciently been a cow- moose. 

« Astoria, 285. " Peschel's Races, 250. 

3 Lee and Frost's Ten Years in Oregon, 202. 4 Eastman's Chicora, 55. 


and that a mighty Indian hunter succeeded in killing this 
queen of the moose tribe with great difficulty, while her calf 
was killed somewhere among the islands in Penobscot Bay. 
This mountain still had the form of the moose in a reclining 
posture, its precipitous side presenting the outline of her head* 
Another tradition of metamorphosis is told by Mr. Irving. 
" In one part of the great salt plains of the Saline River is a 
large rock of pure salt of dazzling whiteness, which is highly 
prized by the Indians, and to which is attached the following 
story. Many years since, long before the whites had extended 
their march beyond the banks of the Mississippi River, a tribe 
of Indians resided upon the Platte near its junction with the 
Saline. Among these was one, the chief warrior of the nation, 
celebrated throughout all the neighboring country for his fierce 
disposition. . . . They gloried in him as their leader, but shrank 
from all fellowship with him. His lodge was deserted, and 
even in the midst of his own nation he was alone ; yet there 
was one being that clung to him and loved him in defiance of 
the sternness of his rugged nature. It was the daughter of the 
chief of the village, a beautiful girl, and graceful as one of the 
fawns of her own prairie. . . . She became his wife, and he loved 
her with all the fierce energy of his nature. It was a new feel- 
ing to him. It stole like a sunbeam over the dark passions of 
his heart. . . . Her sway over him was unbounded. He was as 
a tiger tamed. . . . She died ; he buried her ; he uttered no wail, 
he shed no tear. He returned to his lonely lodge and forbade 
all entrance. No sound of grief was heard from it; all was 
silent as the tomb. The morning came, and with its earliest 
dawn he lefl the lodge. ... A month elapsed, and he returned, 
bringing with him a large lump of white salt. In a few words 
he told his tale. He had travelled many miles over the prairie. 
The sun had set in the west, and the moon was just rising above 
the verge of the horizon. The Indian was weary, and threw him- 
self on the grass. He had not slept long when he was awakened 

* Thoreau's Maine Woods, 176. 


by the low wailing of a female. He started up, and at a little 
distance, by the light of the moon, beheld an old and decrepit 
hag brandishing a tomahawk over the head of a young female 
who was kneeling imploring mercy. He approached them, but 
they seemed unconscious of his presence. The young female, 
finding her prayers unheeded, sprang up, and made a desperate 
attempt to get possession of the tomahawk. A furious struggle 
ensued, but the old woman was victorious. Twisting one hand 
in the long black hair of her victim, she raised the weapon in 
her other, and prepared to strike. The face of the young 
female was turned to the light, and the warrior beheld with 
horror the features of his deceased wife. In an instant he 
sprang forward, and his tomahawk was buried in the skull of 
the old squaw. But ere he had time to clasp the form of his 
wife the ground opened, both sank from his sight, and on the 
spot appeared a rock of white salt. He had broken a piece 
from it and brought it to his tribe. This tradition is still cur- 
rent among the different tribes of Indians frequenting that por- 
tion of the country. They also imagine that the rock is still 
under the custody of the old squaw, and that the only way to 
obtain a portion of it is to attack her. For this reason, before 
attempting to collect salt, they beat the ground with clubs and 
tomahawks, and each blow is considered as inflicted upon the 
person of the hag. The ceremony is continued until they 
imagine she has been sufficiently belabored to resign her 
treasure without opposition.'* * 

Potosi was an object of veneration to the Peruvians, and 
a smaller hill near by, called Little Potosi, was thought to 
be its son. This personification of material natural objects, 
and the tendency to ascribe to them the power of producing 
their kind, has grown out of traditionary metamorphosis and 
descents of human beings from these objects. Such tradi- 
tions are very common among all of the tribes. The Green- 
landers thought they sprang from little hillocks,' and hence 

« I Irving*s Indian Sketches, 117, seq. ■ Egede, 198, 


peopled them with spirits and had many superstitious traditions 
about them. 

The tradition of the Seneca Indians in regard to their origin 
is that they broke out of the earth from a large mountain at the 
head of Canandaigua Lake, and that mountain they still ven- 
erate as the place of their birth/ They had a superstitious 
reverence for this mountain. 

Volcanoes have always been objects of superstitious fear. 
They were supposed to be produced by subterranean gods 
who reside in the interior of the earth. The Koniagas think 
that when the craters of Alaska send forth fire and smoke the 
gods are cooking their food and heating their sweat-houses.' 
Mount Hood was supposed to be an extinct volcano, and native 
traditions peopled it with men destitute of the powers of vision.^ 
The Indians in the neighborhood of Mount Shasta say that 
their great spirit hollowed out that mountain, and used it for a 
wigwam for himself, and the smoke used to be seen curling out 
of the mountain-top, but his hearth-fire is alight no longer, now 
that the white man is in the land. Many thousand snows ago, 
a storm arose, shaking the huge lodge to its base. The spirit 
commanded his daughter to go up and bid the wind be still. 
The eager child hastened up to the hole in the roof, but, ven- 
turing too far out, the storm caught her by her long hair, and 
blew her down the side of the mountain. From her sprang 
the human race. Her wigwam was Little Mount Shasta; but 
the spirit of the big mountain at last found his daughter, 
shut the door of her wigwam, the Little Mount Shasta, and 
they passed away, and have never been seen since.* 

The Indians of Nicaragua offered human sacrifices to their 
volcano Masaya, flinging the bodies into the crater; and it 
has been convenient for their Roman Catholic teachers to turn 
it into a hell and send their penitents to the top to catch a 
glimpse of it. Around the edge of the crater were placed 

* Life of Mary Jamison, p. 95, scq. ■ 3 Bancroft, 120-22. 

3 l^e and Frost, 57. < 3 Bancroft, 91-93. 


earthen vessels of food. They did not worship the volcano 
itself, but a deity residing in it, who occasionally appeared in 
the form of a hideous old woman.' Those inhabitants of Val- 
divia living near volcanoes offered sacrifices to them, and the 
Quiches had an annual religious festival to their volcano 

Ravines and mountain-recesses share this superstitious fear. 
There is a curious myth about one of the gorges of the Col- 
orado. It was supposed to have been made by the trail of one 
of their gods, who afterward rolled a river into the gorge, that 
no one might follow his track. They do not dare enter this 
gorge now, on account of this myth." Among the Western 
tribes, the Rocky Mountains were the limits of their known 
world, and their vast recesses are the abodes of gods and spirits. 
It is the paradise of many of the tribes.3 

A famous place of sacrifice among the New England tribes 
was a rocky cavern of an unsearchable profundity, into which 
oflFerings were thrown.* 

Islands are places of resort for spirits, and generally have 
connected with them traditions which inspire fear among the 

The Indians would not venture near Manitobah Island. 
The origin of their superstition in relation to this place was 
due to the sounds produced by the waves as they beat upon 
the beach at the foot of the cliffs near its northern extremity. 
During the night, when a gentle breeze was blowing from the 
north, the various sounds heard on the island were quite suf- 
ficient to strike awe into the minds of the superstitious Indians. 
These sounds frequently resembled the ringing of distant bells: 
so close, indeed, was the resemblance that travellers would 
awake during the night with the impression that they were 
listening to chimes. When the breeze subsided, and the waves 
played gently on the beach, a low wailing sound would be 

« 2 Tylor, 207. a Powcirs Exploration, 7. 

3 I Domenech*s Deserts, 283. < Joslyn's Two Voyages, 133. 


heard three hundred yards from the cliffs. The Indians always 
objected to land or remain on this fairy island/ 

Father Dablon tells the following legend : *' Certain Indians, 
lost in a fog, landed on the island Missipicooatong, supposed 
to be a floating island. When departing, they were going to 
take with them lumps of copper which they had found, when 
a loud and angry voice, ascribed to Missibizzi, the goblin 
spirit of the waters, was heard exclaiming, * What thieves are 
these that carry off my children's cradles and playthings ?* 
One of the Indians died immediately from fear, and two others 
soon after. The fourth only survived long enough to reach 
home. After this the Indians steered far off the site of the 
haunted island." 

The Isle of Yellow Sands derives its chief interest from the 
traditions and fanciful tales which the Indians relate concerning 
its mineral treasures and their supernatural guardians. They 
pretend that its shores are covered with a heavy, shining, yellow 
sand, which they are persuaded is gold, but that the guar- 
dian spirit of the island will not permit any to be carried away. 
To enforce his commands, he has drawn together upon it 
myriads of eagles, hawks, and other birds of prey, who, by 
their cries, warn him of any intrusions upon the domain, and 
assist with their claws and beaks to expel the enemy. He has 
also called from the depths of the lake large serpents of the 
most hideous forms, who lie thickly coiled upon the golden 
sands and hiss defiance to the steps of the intruder. A great 
many years ago, they say, some people of their nation, driven 
by stress of weather upon the enchanted island, put a large 
quantity of the glittering treasure in their canoes and attempted 
to carry it off; but a gigantic spirit strode into the water and 
in a tone of thunder commanded them to bring it back. 
Terrified, they obeyed, and were suffered to depart, but have 
never since attempted to land upon the island.' 

« 2 Hindis Narr., 70, 71. 

■ Schoolcraft's Nar. Jour., 197 j Carver's Travels, 98. 


*' Listen, white man, go not there ! 
Unseen spirits stalk the air ; 
Ravenous birds their influence lend, 
Snakes defy, and kites defend. . . . 
Touch not, then, the guarded lands 
Of the Isle of Yellow Sands." 

The little island of Hennepin was looked upon with veneration 
on account of a legend that it is the abode of a spirit. Sometimes 
in the morning may be seen above the great falls the ghost of an 
Indian woman carrying an infant in her arms^ whom she presses 
to her breast; meanwhile she sings and steers a skifT made of 
bark, which is soon swallowed up in the foaming waters.* 

The islands of Titicaca and Coati were both sacred, one to 
the sun, the other to the moon." There is a tradition that 
formerly a puma appeared at night on the crest of Titicaca that 
had a jewel in its head so bright it flashed light far and wide 
over the lake.3 There is also a gate through which pilgrims 
have to pass, called Puma-punco, or Puma door.* On the 
northern end of the island, high up where the fret of the waves 
is scarcely heard and the eye ranges over the broad blue waters 
and from the glittering crests of the Andes to those of the 
Cordillera, is the spot most celebrated and sacred in Peru. No 
bird would light or animal venture upon this rock, nor would a 
human being dare set his foot thereon. It is plated with gold 
and silver, and a veil of the richest cloth was thrown over it.s 

Even animation is ascribed to some islands, and this concep- 
tion survives in the many myths, the world over, wherein islands 
and even the earth are supported on the back of some animated 
being. The following curious tradition illustrates this subject 
among the American tribes. The island of Mackinac is named 
from a mammoth turtle, which, according to tradition, while 
on its travels was killed by ice, and was left a black spot on 
the waste of frozen waters. When spring returned, earth 
gathered around the shell of the turtle, and an island was born 

« I Domenech's Deserts, 332-33. ■ Squier's Peru, 359. 

3 lb., 332. 4 lb., 334. s lb., 336. 


and nursed in the bosom of the beautiful blue waves. Some 
Delaware Indians imagined that the earth swam in the sea; 
others, that an enormous tortoise carried the world on its back.* 
There was an island on the northeast shore of Lake Huron 
which presented the appearance of a turtle with its head to- 
ward the west. The Indians made offerings to it as they 
passed, and placed them near its head." This, perhaps, induced 
the Ojibways in their pictography to adopt the turtle as the 
symbol of land. The West India Islands were thought to be 
animated. The island of Hayti was a turtle with its head 
toward the east.3 There was the same tradition of Porto Rico ; 
and this idea was represented in many of their sculptured 
stones. The Tlascaltecs believed that the world was borne up 
by certain divinities, who, when tired, relieved each other. 
When they were shifting the burden from shoulder to shoulder, 
earthquakes were liable to occur. The Mayas of Yucatan also 
thought the world was held up by four brothers. The Southern 
Californians increased the number to seven. 

It is an interesting fact that in the New World as well as the 
Old, untutored man was moved by the same principle of grati- 
tude to express his thankfulness for water, and, as he knows 
not to whom he is indebted, he imagines spirits preside over 
fountains, lakes, and streams of water. The Peruvians wor- 
shipped those great fountains*and rivers which supplied water 
for irrigating their crops.* 

The tribes of Central America, Mexico, and New Mexico 
had their sacred springs, which played as prominent a part in 
their mythologfy as they did in that of Greece and Rome, and 
many sacrifices were offered to the' naiads of the New World. 
At the sacred spring of Zuni, vases were kept in which offer- 
ings were placed, and death would overtake any one touching 
these or their contents. Into the water of this sacred spring 
frogs, tortoises, and snakes alone must enter, — animals sacred 

* Loskiel, 30. « Jones's Ojibways, 255. 

3 I Rafinesque, 169-70. 4 i Garciiasso, 49. 


to water.' Any desecration of its sacred precincts would be 
punished by the spirit presiding there. 

We find in America the worship of streams of water, but 
among savage worshippers their ideas had not been generalized 
sufficiently to arrive at the conception of a deity presiding 
over water as an element. No Neptune appears even among 
the most civilized nations. Sacred springs are frequent. In 
NebeVs plate of a fountain in^the living rock at Tusapan we 
have an image of the spirit of the spring. The statue is sev- 
enty-nine feet high, sculptured in the living rock, through 
which formerly ran the waters of a natural spring. 

Near Fort Defiance, in the country of the Navajos, is a 
spring which the natives approach with much reverence, and at 
which they perform certain mystical ceremonies. This spring, 
they say, was once a boiling spring, but at present it boils only 
when approached by bad men, or when its ceremonies are 
neglected. They say the water will sometimes leap twenty feet 
from its bed to catch and overwhelm a bad Indian. The cere- 
monies consisted in making an offering of vegetable or mineral 
substances. They knelt by the spring-side, placed their closed 
hands in the water up to the elbows, and after a brief interval 
opened the hands and dropped their contents. Then the hands 
were slowly withdrawn.* 

In Idaho there is a famous soda spring, of whose origin the 
Snakes have the following tradition. A Shoshone and Co- 
manche chief quarrelled, and the Shoshone was knocked into 
the water when he stooped to drink. The murdered man fell 
forward into the spring, and immediately great bubbles and 
spirts of gas shot up from the pool, and amid a cloud of vapor 
appeared the great ancestor of the Comanche and Shoshone 
nations, Waukanaga, and with curses on his lips dashed out the 
brains of the Comanche, who fell beside his victim into the 
spring. Since that the spring has been as it is now.^ 

The Indians of Colorado regard the springs that bubble up 

« I Bell's New Tracks, 165. •4 Schoolcraft, 213. 3 3 Bancroft, 94. 


from the ground two miles from Colorado City with awe and 
reverence. They believe that spirits trouble the waters by 
breathing in them. An abundance of sacrifices were found in 
the waters and were hung to the adjacent trees,* as offerings 
to the springs. A charmed spot to the natives of this region 
of country was that which includes the medicinal springs and 
seething geysers. They brought their sick thither to be cured. 
The whole region was enchanted ground. Water that bubbled 
and boiled without visible cause was a mystery to them.* 

The Arapahoes regard with awe the medicine-waters of their 
fountains, as being the abode of a spirit who breathes through 
the transparent water and thus causes the perturbations of its 
surface. Says Ruxton, "At the time of my visit the basin 
of a spring was filled with beads and wampum, while the sur- 
rounding trees were hung with strips of deer-skin and moc- 
casins." 3 

The spring at Saratoga, now called the Deep Rock, was re- 
garded with superstitious reverence in the early days by the 
natives inhabiting the neighborhood. It was supposed to have 
a healing power that was the gift of supernatural agents, and 
the sick were brought to it in large numbers. 

One of the remarkable myths of the New World was that of 
the fountain of life. From the tropical forests of Central 
America to the coral-bound Antilles, the natives told the Span- 
iards marvellous tales of a fountain whose magic waters would 
heal the sick, rejuvenate the aged, and confer an ever-youthful 
immortality. It may probably have originated from the adora- 
tion of some of the very remarkable springs abundant upon 
the peninsula, round which were found signs of a dense early 
population. The later Indians of Florida seem to have pre- 
served certain relics of a superstitious veneration of the aqueous 
element. That such magnificent springs as occur in Florida 

' Richardson's Beyond the Mississippi, 276. 
» 3 Amer. Etiinol. Powcirs Ex., 200-203. 
3 Ruxton's Adventures, 243 ; 3 Bancroft, 94. 


should have become objects of especial veneration is a most 
natural consequence of such belief.' 

" Many of the tribes visit the spring whence they have 
been supplied with water, during the winter, at the breaking 
out of the ice, and there offer up their grateful worship to it for 
having preserved them in health and safety and having supplied 
their wants. This pious homage is performed with much cere- 
mony and devotion." ' 

The Mayas had sacred springs supposed to be inhabited by 
divinities who had children through union with human beings. 
Traditions of tribal descent from springs and fountains appear 
among some of the tribes. The Caddos thought they sprang 
from the Hot Springs of Arkansas.3 The Collas of Peru 
traced their descent from fountains ; the natives of Xauxa, from 
the spring of Garibalia. 

The worship of lakes and rivers was prevalent among all the 
tribes. Each remarkable feature, such as a great cataract, or a 
difficult and dangerous pass in a river, possessed a spirit of the 
spot, whose favor they were fain to propitiate by votive offerings. 

Wherever a cataract was found, offerings were also found, 
which were made to the spirits which presided in these places. 
Waterfalls were the home of invisible spirits and mermaids. 
At many localities in all the rivers malevolent spirits were 
supposed to preside. 

At the mouth of the Missouri a powerful manitou was sup- 
posed to prevent a safe passage in early days.^ 

There was a tradition that a vast serpent lived in the Mis- 
sissippi near Fox River, but he finally took a notion to visit the 
Great Lakes, and the trail he made passing thither is the basin 
of that stream.^ 

The following tradition was told of the migration of an 
Ojibway river-deity. Near the Credit village, at the foot of a 
pointed hill, was a deep spot beneath the water which was said 

< Brinton's Floridian Peninsula, 99, seq. 

* I Warburton's Conq. of Can., 189. 35 Schoolcraft, 6S2. 

4 2 Far West, 145. 5 Kinzie*s Waubun, 80. 


to be the abode of a water-god. Here he was frequently heard 
to sing and beat his drum. When the whites came, he took his 
departure during a tremendous flood caused by his power, and 
went down the river into Lake Ontario.' 

The rapids at the mouth of Old Man's River were, according 
to tradition, presided over by an evil spirit' 

The Crees had the following tradition about the Qu'Appelle. 
A solitary Indian was coming down the river in his canoe 
many summers ago, when one day he heard a loud voice calling 
to him. He stopped and listened, and again heard the same 
voice as before. He shouted in reply, but there was no answer. 
He searched everywhere around, but could not find the tracks 
of any one, so that from that time forth it was named the " Who 
Calls River." 3 

In passing the mouth of Devil's River, the Sauks, as soon as 
they came in sight of it, dropped their paddles. When they 
were opposite the entrance, they strewed the water with tobacco, 
feathers, and painted hair, then chanted a hymn and resumed 
their oars.* 

Hennepin gives the following instance of river-worship : " As 
we were making the portage of our canoe at St. Anthony of 
Padua's Falls, we perceived five or six of our Indians who had 
taken the start. One of them was up in an oak opposite the 
great fall, weeping bitterly, with a well-dressed beaver robe, 
whitened inside, and trimmed with porcupine-quills, which he 
was offering as a sacrifice to the falls, which is in itself admi- 
rable and frightful. I heard him, while shedding copious tears, 
say, as he spoke to the great cataract. Thou who art a spirit, 
grant that our nation may pass here quietly without acci- 
dent, may kill buffalo in abundance, conquer our enemies, and 
bring in slaves, some of whom we will put to death before 
thee." 5 

* Jones's Ojibways, 255. ' Kane's Wanderings, 149. 

3 Moise's Ind. Rep., Appendix, 144. 

4 Hennepin's Louisiane, Tr. in Shea's Discovery, 133, seq. 

5 I Hind's Narrative, 370. 


Father Marquette tells the following myth: "Before we 
arrived at the mouth of the Wabash we passed by a place 
dreaded by the Indians, because they think that there is a 
demon there who devours all who pass, and of this it was that 
they had spoken when they wished to deter us from our enter- 
prise. The devil is this : a small bay full of rocks, some twenty 
feet high, where the whole current of the river is hurled back 
and checked by a neighboring island ; the mass of water is 
forced through a narrow channel ; all this is not done without 
a furious combat of the waters, tumbling over each other, nor 
without a great roaring, which strikes terror into Indians, who 
fear everything." * Joutel mentions the offering to this river, 
by way of sacrifice, of tobacco and beefsteaks, which they fixed 
on forks and left them on the bank, to be disposed of as the 
river thought fit.* 

Many myths embody the animistic conceptions of the natives. 
The river-spirits had romances told of them. There was a 
tradition among the Indians on the Penobscot of a family who 
had a daughter accounted so great a beauty that they could 
not find for her a suitable consort At length she was miss- 
ing, and her parents could learn no tidings of her. After 
much time and pains spent and tears showered in' quest of 
her, they saw her diverting herself with a beautiful youth, 
whose hair, like her own, flowed down below his waist, swim- 
ming and washing in the water of the Penobscot ; but they 
vanished upon their approach. This youth they imagined to 
be one of those kind spirits who inhabit the place, and, accord- 
ing to their custom, they called upon him for moose, bear, 
or whatever creature they desired, and if they did but go to 
the water-side and signify their desire the animal would come 
swimming to them. 

Many of the water-deities had musical tastes. "While 
among the Pascagoulas, Governor Perier was invited to go to 
the mouth of the river of that name, to listen to the mjrsterious 

' Marquette's Narrative, Tr. in Shea's Discovery, 41. * Joutel, 163. 



music which floats on the waters, particularly on a calm moon- 
light night, and which to this day excites the wonder of visitors. 
It seems to issue from caverns or grottos in the bed of the 
river, and sometimes oozes up through the water under the 
very keel of the boat which contains the inquisitive traveller, 
whose ear it strikes as the distant concert of a thousand ^olian 
harps. On the banks of the river, close by the spot where the 
music is heard, tradition says that there existed a tribe different 
in color and in other peculiarities from the rest of the Indians. 
Their ancestors had originally emerged from the sea where 
they were born, and were of a light complexion. They had a 
temple in which they adored a mermaid. Every night when 
the moon was visible they gathered around the beautifully 
carved figure of the mermaid, and, with instruments of strange 
shape, worshipped that idol with such soul-stirring music as 
had never before blessed human ears. One day a priest came 
among them and tried to convert them from the worship of the 
mermaid. One night, at the solemn hourof twelve, there came 
a rushing on the surface of the river, as if the still air had been 
turned to a whirlwind by myriads of invisible wings sweeping 
onward. The water seemed to be seized with convulsive fury ; 
it gathered itself up into a towering column of foaming waves 
on the top of which stood a mermaid, looking with magnetic 
eyes that could draw almost everything to her, and singing 
with a tone which fascinated into madness. The Indians and 
the priest, their new guest, rushed to the bank of the river to 
contemplate this supernatural spectacle. When she saw them, 
the mermaid turned her tones into still more bewitching 
melody, and kept chanting a sort of mystic song. The Indians 
listened with growing ecstasy, and one of them plunged into 
the river, to rise no more. The rest, men, women, and chil- 
dren, followed in quick succession, moved as it were with the 
same irresistible impulse. When the last of the race disap- 
peared, the river returned to its bed. Ever since that time is 
heard occasionally the distant music, which the Indians say 
is caused by their musical brethren, who still keep up their 


revels at the bottom of the river in the palace of the mer- 
maid." « 

The favorite places of resort for malevolent spirits were the 
dangerous passes in rivers, such as cataracts or rapids. Father 
Brebeuf relates that the Indians, before running a dangerous 
rapid in their frail canoes, would lay tobacco on a rock where 
the deity of the rapid was supposed to reside, and ask for 
safety in their voyage. 

" The Brear-beaux Falls were the largest on the Wisconsin, 
and the Indian name, translated, signifies the Long Falls. These 
falls were two miles in length, having three perpendicular falls 
of several feet each in that distance. The Ojibways had a tra- 
dition that there was a great spirit that presided over these 
falls, to which they made an appropriate offering. In 1849 
these falls were navigated in a bark canoe for the last time by 
two Indians, — the Black Nail and the Crow. At the head of 
the falls, before starting, Crow held the canoe by a rock pro- 
jecting from the shore, while Black Nail made a prayer and an 
offering to the spirit of the falls. The offering consisted of two 
yards of scarlet cloth and a brass kettle. The prayer was in 
these words: 'O great spirit of the falls! I implore thee to 
extend thy protecting arm over us as we run these mighty 
waters. Mayest thou strengthen my arm and my paddle to 
guide my canoe safely down these dangerous waters.' Having 
finished his prayer, he threw the offering overboard and grappled 
his paddle, and the canoe went bounding over the billows and 
ran the falls in safety." 

The Pohono Fall is a place for which the Indians have a 
superstitious fear. Many persons have been swept over and 
dashed to pieces there. No native of the vicinity will so much 
as point at this fall, nor will they sleep near it, for the ghosts of 
the drowned are tossing in its spray, and their wail is heard 
forever above the hiss of the rushing waters. 

Lakes are also places of resort for ghosts. The Indians 

' I Gayarre's Louisiana, 389, seq. 


around DeviFs Castle, in Siskiyou County, California, have a 
superstitious fear of its lake, and avoid the vicinity, thinking 
they are infested with malignant spirits.' The Chibchas threw 
very precious offerings into their lakes, which were intended 
for the spirits inhabiting them.' The principal temples of the 
Chibchas were the lakes where they made their offerings of 
precious things. Each village on the lake of Gualavita had a 
foot-path leading to it, worn by those who went to make their 
offerings. At the bottom of this lake lived the miraculous 
Princess Bachue and her daughter. Bachue was drowned in 
this lake by her husband, an ancient prince.^ 

Many traditions are found connected with the lakes of the 
Northwest Manitou Lake is so named on account of the 
many superstitions connected therewith. Its waters were filled 
with forms monstrous and terrible, inhabited by evil spirits. 
There is a tradition that in a great drouth the sun shone so 
hot upon the surface of its waters that the rays penetrated to 
the horrible brood within its depths. The waters became 
troubled, and bubbles arose to the surface. The water boiled 
from its very depths, and the hot waves dashed wildly against 
the shores. A vast host of evil spirits emerged, and covered 
the banks with their foul, trailing carcasses. There is a whirl- 
pool in this lake which carries the water around four times in 
every twenty-four hours. During the winter season this whirl- 
ing motion is attended with noise and commotion beneath the 
ice, which adds greatly to the superstitious reverence of the 

Those Indians dwelling about the great lakes of the North- 
west thought that all the prominent points along the coast 
were created and guarded by monsters.* 

" The savages living around Lake Superior respect the lake 

as a divinity, and offer sacrifices to it because of its size, for it 

is two hundred leagues long and eighty broad, and also in con- 


» 3 BancrofVy 158. ■ Bollaert, 14. 

3 Rivero and Tschudi, 161-62. 4 Lanman*s Michigan, 85. 


sequence of its furnishing them with fish, upon which all the 
natives h've when hunting is scarce in these quarters."' 

The natives living about Lake Winnipeg account for the 
muddy condition of its water by a tradition in which one of 
their deities, after floundering about in mire, went into this lake 
to wash himself off, and has lived there since. 

There are many places on Lakes Winnipeg and Manitobah 
which the Indians, who hunt and live on the shores of those 
inland seas, dare not visit There is scarcely a cave or head- 
land which has not some legend attached to it familiar to all 
the wanderers on these coasts. On the west side of Lake 
Winnipeg, in the long, dark, and gloomy chambers formed by 
fissures in the limestone, bad spirits are supposed to dwell, 
according to the belief of the Indians who hunt on the coast 
The Indians never enter the abodes of these imaginary mani- 
tous. Near Limestone Cave Point, on Lake Winnipeg, are 
several of these supposed fairy dwellings. When an Indian 
approaches them in his canoe, he either lays an offering on the 
beach or gives them as wide a berth as possible. Steep-Rock 
Point, on Lake Manitobah, is also a noted dwelling-place for 
the little men." 

In Genesee County, New York, near the Tonawanda River, 
at the bottom of a steep hill, is a small lake, aflbrding another 
instance of pagan superstition. The old Indians affirmed that 
formerly a demon in the form of a dragon resided in this lake, 
which frequently disgorged balls of liquid fire. To appease 
him, many sacrifices of tobacco had been made by the Indians.^ 
The Mohawks had a superstition that some great misfortune 
would happen if any one spoke on Saratoga Lake/ 

The lakes were thought to be thickly populated with spir- 
itual forms. There is a remarkable lake in the country in- 
habited by the Spokanes, called "Never-freezing water," which 
is so completely surrounded by high and precipitous rocks 

» Allouer, Tr. in Sheldon's Hist. Midi., p. 29. ■ 2 Hind's Nar., 133. 

3 Squier's Al*. Mon. N. Y., 48. * Lubbock's Origin, 23. 


that it is impossible to descend to the water. It is said never 
to freeze, even in the most severe winters. The Indians believe 
that it is inhabited by the spirits of buffalo, elk, deer, and all 
other kinds of game, which, they say, may be seen in the clear, 
transparent element. There is a superstition respecting a point 
called Painted Rock in Pend d'Oreille Lake. The Indians, 
they say, do not venture to pass this point, fearing that a great 
spirit may, as related in the legends, create a commotion in the 
water and cause them to be swallowed up in the waves. The 
painted rocks are very high, and contain effigies of men and 
beasts, and other characters, made, as the Indians believe, by a 
race of men who preceded them as inhabitants of the land.' 

The tribes of Guiana dreaded the water-mamma, or Orehu. 
This was a being which inhabited the water and sometimes 
appeared in the shape of a manati. The Orehu was a female 
spirit, generally malicious, and when in a bad temper was apt 
to rise close to the canoes and drag them and their crews 
under water." The natives of Colombia thought that their 
lakes were the residences of deities, to which they offered 
yearly sacrifices of gold and jewels. Paths to these lakes were 
worn by the Indians in their ascent and descent in the perform- 
ance of their idolatrous rites.3 In Jalisco the towns about 
Chapala paid divine honors to the spirit of their lake, who was 
represented by an idol with a miniature lake before it.^ The 
Mosquitos had a spirit of the water, called Lewin, which they 
feared greatly.^ The Itzas thought that spirits haunted Lake 
Peten, into which they threw their dead. 

The Peruvians had representations on their vases of water- 
deities, among which was the God of the Sea, represented in 
Fig. 19, which shows their anthropomorphic conception of 
such deities. 

Those tribes who were fishermen always threw sacrifices into 

* 12 Pacific R. R. Reps., 150. • 2 Wood's Unciv. Races, 630. 

3 I Hamilton's Culumbia, 192; Ursua and Aguirre, 3. 

4 3 Bancroft, 447. s i ib., 741. 


the waters upon the approach of a storm. The Ojibways cast 
into the waters, during dangerous winds and storms that had 
overtaken them, sacrifices, and offered prayers to the spirits of 
the waters. The natives of Virginia living about Chesapeake 
Bay always practised such religious ceremonies.' Those living 
about Pamlico Sound also offered to the angry spirits of the 
waters during storms." There is a tradition among the Pueblo 

Fig. 19. 

Indians that a young man and a maiden were thrown into a 
surging freshet as a sacrifice to the spirit that was threatening 
them with destruction.^ Traditions of a flood appear among 
all the American tribes. These floods were, however, probably 
nothing more than local freshets, by which every region has 
been visited at some time within the memory of its inhabitants 
or their ancestors. 

In the mythical deluge of the Chibchas, in answer to prayer, 
Bochica appeared seated on a rainbow, and quelled the floods 
by opening a breach at Tequendama, through which the waters 
poured down the precipice, leaving the plain more fertile than 

Beverly's Virginia, 180. • 1 Martin's N. C, i 

I Mollhausen's Journey, 95. * BoUaert, 13. 


Places supposed to be haunted by spirits gradually assume 
the character of sacred localities. 

This sacred character of some localities has been the origin 
of places of refuge which were so common among the American 
tribes. Those escaping from the hand of an avenger fled to 
these sacred places in which their blood could not be shed 
This gradually developed into lodges and cities of refuge. 
One of these is described by Mr. Bradbury, when among the 
Arickaras, as follows : " They have a sacred lodge in the centre 
of their largest village^ within which no blood is to be spilled, 
not even that of an enemy, nor is any one taking refuge there 
to be forced from it" 

These places of refuge were found by Mr. Adair among the 
tribes inhabiting the Southeastern States. 



Worship of the heavenly bodies — ^Their personality — Their anthropomorphic na- 
ture — Animistic conceptions of them — Their romantic attachments to human 
beings — Their vitality — Their occupation by translated heroes — Crude notions 
concerning them — Eclipses — ^Astrology. 

The worship of the heavenly bodies prevailed, in its various 
stages of progress, among all the aboriginal tribes. Natural 
objects that have made a serious impression upon the unculti- 
vated mind on account of their supposed power of producing 
good or evil have always been subjects of reverence or fear. 

All the various nature-myths that have been preserved for us 
by tradition have had very much added to them from age to 
age. The poet has used the folk-lore of prehistoric ages to 
create his epic, the priest to elaborate his theology, and even 
the early historian to bequeath to us his historic fragment. 
In this way metaphorical language has lost its signification, 
subsequent ages receiving as fact what preceding ages had only 
thought of as fiction. This excess of fancy has, however, pro- 
duced too great an impression in the minds of a large school 
of mythologists, for they will no longer recognize any truth in 
the mythological stories of the ancients, and even the reality 
of the siege and destruction of Troy would have faded away in 
the twilight of a sun-myth had not Mr. Schliemann found its 
anqient treasures and described the city as it was described so 
many centuries ago. Nature-worship is wholly inexplicable, 
however, if we assume that the different objects were worshipped 
as inanimate, and even the personifications of former mytholo- 
gists have a flavor of materfalism about them that are not truth- 
ful to the nature of the primitive mind. The earliest concep- 



tion of all of these objects of worship was, that they were not 
inanimate, but animated by a spirit, and thus assumed the 
character of a living being as real as the human body. 

In the mythological lore of the Manacicas of Brazil, their 
culture-hero, born of a virgin, after spending a life in benefiting 
his people, soared away to become the sun. Their jugglers, 
who claimed the power of flying through the sky at pleasure, 
declared that the sun was a luminous human figure, although 
it was impossible for those upon the earth to distinguish his 

Some of the North American Indians believe their medicine- 
men have gone up through holes in the sky, have found the 
sun and moon walking about there like human creatures, have 
walked about with them, and looked down through their peep- 
holes upon the earth below. The Haidahs think the sun is a 
shining man walking round the fixed earth, wearing a radiated 
crown. The nations of Oregon had the same conception of the 
sun.* The Olchones of California worshipped the sun, but con- 
sidered it the big man who made the earth. They offered to 
it the first-fruits of the earth. Many of the natives of Guiana 
thought that the sun and moon were living beings. The 
Kioways pointed out the Pleiades as having the outline of a 
man, and said it was the great Kioway, who was their ancestor 
and the creator.^ The Guaycurus thought that the sun, moon, 
and stars were men and women that went into the sea every 
night and swam out by the way of the east. The Loucheux 
say the moon once lived among them as a poor ragged boy. 

A supposed metamorphosis originates many of their tra- 
ditionary stories about the heavenly bodies, and leads to their 
supposed anthropomorphic nature. The Atnas thought the 
moon was a metamorphosed man.** Chia, the female deity of 
the Chibchas, was transformed into the moon by Bochica, her 
husband.s The Tunjas had a tradition that a cacique of Soga- 

« 3 Southey, 182. » Dunn, 172. 3 Battey*s Quaker, 107. 

4 2 Bancroft, 62. s Bollaert, 13. 


moso was metamorphosed into the sun, and another cacique 
into the moon. These they worshipped with much ceremony.* 
The Calchaquis were converted into stars, which were bright 
in proportion to their rank and bravery." 

The natives of Teotihuacan in their cosmogony had meta- 
morphosed Nanahuatzin, a god of the early times, into the 
sun, and Mexitli into the moon. This great honor was con- 
ferred upon them evidently because of some self-sacrificing act 
on the part of these primitive heroes. The myths say that they 
cast themselves into a great fire built to illumine the darkness 
before the present order of things.3 

Such myths are common among the Northern tribes. An 
Indian with his wife and two children was living in a wigwam 
on the great lake when the game of the country had nearly all 
disappeared. Everything seemed to go wrong with the poverty- 
stricken Indians, and starvation stared them in the face. Whole 
days did the father spend roaming through the forests, and re- 
turned without even a pair of snow-birds for a supper. On 
one occasion he shot a rabbit, and returned with the speed of 
the deer to his lodge, but his wife and children were gone, and 
he knew not where to find them. He turned off in search of 
them, and a noise resembling the wail of a loon came from the 
upper air. On raising his eyes, he beheld his family perched 
on the dry limb of a tall tree. They had been transformed 
into spirits, and announced that they would return the coming 
spring, when the time of his transformation would come. True 
to their word, they came, and all were changed into a family of 
shooting stars * Another mythical character among the Ojib- 
ways went through a double transformation. Having been 
suddenly metamorphosed one night into a huge fire-fly, when 
he began to ascend into the air he was immediately transformed 
into the Northern star. These honors were heaped upon him 
as compensation' for disappointment in love.' They called the 

* P. Simon, 259. • 3 Soulhey, 395-96. 3 5 Bancroft, 204. 

4 Lanman*s Haw-Hoo-Noo, 180-91. s lb., 260. 


polar star No-adji-manguet, which, translated, means " the man 
who walks behind the loon-bird." 

Translations of heroes and benefactors are very common 
among all people. Translation means the removal of the per- 
son to the heavenly bodies without death. The first mother of 
the Potawatomies was translated to a star, and was the first to 
take her station in the horizon after the sun had disappeared 
behind the distant hills. The Ottawas translated their male 
ancestor to the sun, and their woman to the moon, and thought 
that the man in the sun and the woman in the moon kept watch 
over all actions.' Two traditionary characters among the 
Ojibways were translated to the upper empyrean, and are 
called Pagak, or the flying skeletons. A noise as of rushing 
winds announces their flight overhead, and creates great fear 
among the people. 

The Housatonic Indians believed that the Seven Stars were so 
many Indians translated to heaven, and that the stars in Charles's 
Wain were so many men hunting Ursa Major, the bear. They 
begin the chase in the spring, and it lasts all the summer, but 
by autumn they have wounded it, and the dripping blood turns 
red the leaves of the trees. The Cherokees thought that the 
morning star was once a sorcerer, who fled thither to escape 
those who pursued him to revenge necromantic murder. They 
also thought that the Seven Stars are inhabited by eight of their 
countrymen who were translated. The Ojibways saw in the 
face of the full moon the figure in faint outline of the beautiful 
maiden " Lone Bird," who was translated thither as a bride of 
that luminary. She now looked down upon the daughters of 
her nation, who traced her form in the disk of the moon and 
told her strange story of love by the light of the lodge-fire. 

One of the guiding spirits of the Zunis found a home in the 
sky without passing the portals of the grave, for he was taken 
by the Navajos, when visiting them, and placed upon a bow- 
string and shot into the clouds. 

* Tanner's Nar., 320. 


Tliere is a tradition among the Algonkin tribes that the even- 
ing star was formerly a woman, and that three brothers travelling 
in a canoe were translated into a group of as many stars. The 
fox, lynx, hare, robin, and eagle had a place in their astronomy, 
and they had a tradition that a mouse was seen creeping up the 
rainbow. The Milky Way in their language was Tchibekana, 
which means " road of the dead." * 

The notions the Greenlanders have, says Egede, of the origin 
of heavenly lights, as sun, moon, and stars, are very nonsen- 
sical, in that they pretend they have formerly been so many 
of their ancestors who on different accounts were lifted up to 
heaven and became such glorious celestial bodies. The moon, 
as they will have it, has been a young man called Aningait. 
His sister was named Malina, and was the sun. The reason 
why these two were taken up into heaven is this. The moon 
was in love with his sister, and stole to her in the dark to 
caress her. She, wishing to find out who her lover was, black- 
ened her hands so that the mark might be left on him. This 
accounts for the spots on the moon. She, however, deter- 
mined once to get rid of him, and flew up into the air, but the 
moon pursued her, and they have been going ever since. Their 
notion about the stars is that some of them have been men, and 
others animals and fishes. The three stars in the bek of Orion 
were three honest Greenlanders, who, being out at sea seal- 
catching, were bewildered, and, not being able to find the shore, 
were taken up to heaven. Canis Major is called Nelleraglek, 
which is the name of a man among them. Ursa Major is a 
reindeer. Taurus is a kennel of hounds.' Says Crantz, the 
Greenlanders consider the celestial bodies ancient Greenlanders 
or animals, who have mounted up thither and shine with a 
pale or fiery lustre according to the food they eat The shoot- 
ing stars are human souls on their travels. The moon, when 
not seen, has gone hunting seals, and gets enough to fatten to 
full moon. The moon has a demoniac hatred of women, and 

■ Baraga's Dictionary, 381. ■ Egede, 206-10. 


the sun of men. The" Northern lights are the souls of the 
dead playing ball/ 

The personality of the heavenly bodies was the subject of 
many traditions in which their personal acts are described. 

The Aztecs said, when the sun had risen for the first time, at 
the beginning, it lay on the horizon and moved not, and when 
a deputation from the deities was sent to request it to move 
along its way, the answer was that he would never leave that 
place till he had destroyed them all, whereupon the god Citli 
immediately strung his bow and advanced against the glittering 
enemy, but by quickly lowering his head the sun avoided the 
first arrow, but the second and third pierced his body, and, 
filled with rage, he seized one of them and launched it back 
upon his assailant. The brave Citli laid shaft to string never- 
more, for the arrow of the sun pierced his forehead." 

Among the remnants of the Iroquois living upon the north- 
eastern shore of Lake Michigan there is the tradition that there 
are four meteors which have the power of shooting through 
the sky. These meteors were once Indians. 

The Dacotahs say the meteors are men or women flying 
through the air. They have a tradition that an Indian once 
got on the back of one and took a ride. Coming to a pond 
full of ducks, which were quacking, the meteor went around 
and not over it ; coming to a village where an Indian was play- 
ing the flute, he passed around that village.^ The meteors were 
evidently not fond of earthly music, perhaps because their taste 
was too critical, having been cultivated by the music of the 
spheres. According to a legend of the Chippewyans, there was 
once a quarrel among the stars, when one of them was driven 
away from its home in the heavens and descended to the earth. 
It wandered from one tribe to another, and had been seen 
hovering over the camp-fires when they were preparing to 
sleep. It always attracted attention and inspired wonder and 

* I Crantz, 212-13. ■ 3 Bancroft, 61. 

3 Eastman's Legends, xxvi. 


admiration. Among all the people in the world, only one 
could be found who was not afraid of this beautiful star, and 
this was the daughter of a Chippewyan. She was not afraid of 
the star, but loved it, and was loved in return, for when she 
awoke at night she beheld it. In midsummer the girl went 
into the woods for berries, and lost her way, and a storm arose, 
and the only answers to her cries were those of the frogs, and 
the lonely, bitter night came, and she looked for her star, but 
no star could live in that storm. The Indian girl was caught 
by the rushing waters, and her body washed away so it could 
never be found. Many seasons passed away, and the star was 
seen, but its light was dimmed and never remained long in one 
place, but appeared to be looking for something it could not 
find. At last, with the leaves of autumn, it disappeared. A 
hunter chanced at night in one of the largest swamps of the 
land, when to his astonishment he saw a small light hanging 
over the water, but he could not follow in its dangerous path. 
On his return he told his people. The old men said it was the 
star that had been driven from heaven, and was now wandering 
in search of the beautiful girl, and was often seen by hunters 
as they journey by night.* One night the Ojibways saw a star 
that shone brighter than all others, and they doubted whether 
it was as far away as it seemed to be, and on examination they 
found it to be near the tops of some trees. A committee of 
the wise men was called to inquire into the strange phenom- 
enon. At last a young warrior had the mystery revealed to 
him in a dream, for a beautiful maiden came and stood at his 
side, and told him she was charmed with the land of his fore- 
fathers, its flowers, its birds, its rivers, its beautiful lakes and 
mountains clothed in green, and she had come to dwell upon 
the earth, and asked that the great men should assign her a 
home. They could not select, and she was told to choose a 
place herself. She looked for a home in the flowers of the 
prairie, but feared the hoof of the buffalo. She next sought 

' Lanman's Haw-Hoo-Noo, 240-41. 


the mountain rose, but it was so high the children whom she 
loved most could not see her. At last she chose the white 
water-lily seen on the surface of the lakes, where she could 
watch the gliding canoe and see herself reflected in the peaceful 

The personification of the heavenly bodies was so complete 
that romantic attachments to them sprang up in many cases. 
Many tribes have such traditions. Mrs. Jameson mentions an 
Indian woman who thought herself the bride of the sun, and 
lived alone in a lodge with its carved image.* 

There is a legend of an Ojibway maiden whose name was 
Sweet Strawberry. " She was acknowledged to be the most 
beautiful maiden of her nation. Her voice was like the turtle- 
dove, and the deer was not more graceful in its form. Her 
eyes were brilliant as the star of the northern sky, and her dark 
hair clustered around her neck like vines around the trunk of 
the tree. The young men of every nation had striven to win 
her heart, but she smiled upon none. The snows of winter 
were all gone, and the pleasant winds of spring were blowing 
over the land. The wild ducks came and proceeded to build 
their nests in pairs. A cluster of early spring flowers peered 
above the dry leaves of the forest, and even these were sepa- 
rated into pairs and seemed to be wooing each other in love ; 
all things whispered to her of love. She looked into her heart 
and longed for a companion whom she might love. The brow 
of the Sweet Strawberry continued to droop, and her friends 
looked upon her as the victim of a settled melancholy. She 
stood gazing upon the sky, and, as the moon ascended, her soul 
was filled with a joy she had never felt before. The longer she 
looked upon the brilliant object, the more deeply in love did 
she become with its celestial charms, and she burst forth into a 
wild joyous song. Her friends gathered around her in crowds, 
but she heeded them not. They wondered at the wildness of 
her words and the airy-like appearance of her form. They were 

« Copway's Ojibways, I00-3. ■ 2 Winter Studies, 149. 


soon spell-bound by the scene before them, as they saw her 
gradually ascend from the earth into the air, where she disap- 
peared as if borne upward by the evening wind. They soon 
discovered her clasped in the embraces of the moon, and the 
spots upon its surface are those of her robe, which was made 
of the skins of the spotted fawn."' Among the Ottawas the 
sun had a daughter on the earth whom a chief violated, where- 
upon tempests came upon the earth, the sun shot through the 
heavens with an unsteady motion, and suddenly stopped in its 
career and became fixed as if in astonishment at the red man's 
wickedness. It gradually changed to the color of blood, and 
with a dreadful noise fell upon the earth. It struck the north- 
ern shore of Mackinac, formed the cavity of the arched rock, 
entered the earth, from which it issued in the far east, and at 
an early hour the following morning resumed its journey. The 
Indians fear to approach the brow of the arched rock.* The 
Navajos have a tradition that one of their young women in 
ancient times had connection with the sun and brought forth a 
boy, who proved quite a hero.3 

The Southern Californians trace their descent from the moon 
as their mother. Their god was roaming solitary and alone 
among his created works, and evidently in a disposition favor- 
able to matrimony, when the moon came to that neighborhood. 
She was very fair in her delicate beauty, and kind. The god 
fell in love with her, and began to steal out of his lodge at dusk 
and spend the night-watches in the company of the white- 
haired moon. They soon eloped together to a home beyond 
the ether, where she may yet be seen, with her gauzy robe 
and silvery hair, treading celestial paths. They left, however, 
upon the earth a female infant, from whom the Indians claim 

The legendary hero of the Chibchas of Bogota, Garanchaca, 
the first man to build a temple, assumed to be a child of the 

< Lanman's Haw-Hoo-Noo, 192-94. * lb., 214. 

3 4 Schoolcraft, 219. 43 Bancroft, 85. 



sun by a damsel of the earth. The sumptuous temple which 
he prepared to build to his father was not commenced before 
death overtook him/ 

There can be little doubt that the sun-worship of the Peru- 
vians originated in such an assumption on the part of Manco 
Capac, their first Inca. Among the pre-Incarial tribes the primi- 
tive conceptions of the sun as animated prevailed among their 
other mythological traditions, and they may have progressed a 
step toward personification of this luminary, although there is 
no evidence that either Con, or Pachacamac, his successor at 
the head of the pre-Incarial pantheon, were connected in any 
way with the worship of the sun. On the contrary, Con was 
represented as a spirit without material covering, and in the 
process of creating flew rapidly from north to south, causing 
the mountains and valleys to appear in his wake, which form 
the main feature in their landscape. Pachacamac appears to 
have inherited the spiritual nature of his father, for their con- 
ception of him has not expressed itself in any image or repre- 
sentation. Yet there can be no doubt they are both culture- 
heroes. I have elaborated this view in the chapter set apart 
to that subject. About the year I022 a.d., Manco Capac ap- 
peared, telling the people he was a child of the sun, and, in 
order to successfully usurp their place, also asserted that Con 
and Pachacamac had been children of the sun like himself, — 
that their common father had sent him on earth to teach and 
govern them. Manco was not wholly successful in his impos- 
ture, although all the civil power at the command of himself 
and his successors was used in his and their behalf, together 
with an ecclesiastical priesthood and a ritual as gorgeous and 
imposing as any that has ever existed. The intrusive religfion 
of the sun was not, however, established for many generations 
after its founder, and then it was not exclusive, but a compro- 
mise was effected by which the worship of Pachacamac was 
tolerated, and in countries subjected by arms sun-worship never 

' BoIIaert, 21. 

SAB A ISM, 335 

wholly supplanted the polytheistic religions, although their 
idols were carried captive to Cuzco. 

The worship of Pachacamac was the most popular among 
the Peruvian people generally, whilst the religion of the sun 
was that of the court.' The priests of the sun consummated 
their persecution by constructing an idol of wood with a human 
face, horrible in its aspect, representing Pachacamac, and 
abusing the idol to subserve their purposes, causing it to pro- 
nounce feigned oracles, and enriching themselves at the cost 
of the nation's credulity.* 

To the sun belonged the magnificent temples in all the cities 
and almost all the villages of the Peruvian territory, — temples 
resplendent with gold and jewels, — and to its ritual were conse- 
crated priests, many of whom maintained a perpetual celibacy. 
There were also dedicated to the sun, virgins, who lived in 
cloisters secluded from the world. The most celebrated house 
of this character was located at Cuzco. This contained more 
than one thousand virgins famous for their beauty and lineage. 
They were taken in their most tender years from their families 
to be buried in this seclusion, under the superintendence of 
ancient matrons who had grown gray within the walls. Not 
even the Peruvian monarch dared tread within its precincts. 
But, like all other slaves of an ecclesiastical despotism, they 
were used by those who supported their institution, and were 
made to weave garments for the Incarial wardrobe, and even to 
prepare the chicha and bread for the monarch and his court, 
and the most beautiful of those in the convents outside of Cuzco 
were promoted to be the concubines of the reigning monarch, 
notwithstanding the death-penalty for those who lost their 
purity. Within the cloister-walls the morality of these institu- 
tions was not much better than that of the European monas- 
teries during the papal supremacy. 

When the evidence of their fall from the path of virtue was 
manifest, the child was sworn upon the sun, and was reserved 

* Rivero and Tschudi, 153. "lb., 154. 


for the priesthood/ and was a very appropriate resource for 
recruiting the ranks of that body. This same resort to a god 
to shelter the virtue of fallen women raised up the line of 
demi-gods in the ancient pagan religions. 

The principle underlying Sabaism is the belief that all the 
heavenly bodies are inhabited and taken possession of by spirit- 
ual beings, which have migrated thither and made them their 
habitations. Ignorant as they were of astronomical knowledge, 
they did not see any absurdity in animating a sun, moon, or 
star with a brilliant hero. In v^vy truth, a primitive people 
consider the stars as little spangles stuck on the sky as orna- 
ments, and the sky itself as no farther off than the mountain 
that skirts their horizon. The sun. above all other natural 
objects, has become a mythical being among the most uncul- 
tivated tribes. " The original parent of the Comanches lives, 
they say, in the sun. The Chichemecs called the sun their 
father. The name for the sun in the language of the Salive, 
one of the Orinoco tribes, is, * the man of the earth above.' " ' 

The Sauks looked upon the sun as the residence of a male 
deity. The souls of the dead journeyed toward the setting 
sun. The sun was a male and a beneficent being, whereas 
the moon was a female deity and delighted in evil.3 The Da- 
cotahs believed that a female spirit inhabited the sun, a male 
the moon. They were both considered benevolent.-* Many of 
the Nahuas thought the sun was the abode of departed spirits.^ 
The Guaycurus believed that their chiefs and jugglers lived 
among the stars, while the common people stayed about the 
place of interment.^ The Abipones thought the Pleiades were 
their grandfather, and when that constellation disappeared at 
certain periods they supposed their grandfather was sick. As 
soon as they returned in the month of May, they welcomed 
him with joyful shouts and festivities. Among many tribes 

» Rivero and Tschudi, i6o. ■ I Spencer, Soc., 404. 

3 I Keating, 215-16. < i ib., 409. 

5 2 Bancroft, 616. ^3 Southcy, 670. 


the worship of the sun and moon was connected with ancestral 
worship. The caciques of the tribes of Chili were thought to 
become planets when they died. The starry heavens were 
peopled with dead Ojibways; the stars were the homes of the 
good ; the brightest were ruling spirits ; the constellations were 
council gatherings. Were all the stories related by them of 
the skies written, each star would be connected with some 
strange event.* 

Many were assigned to a home in the sky as the reward of 
generous self-sacrifice. A great famine afflicted the Ojibways 
one severe winter, when the weather was so cold the white bear 
was afraid to leave his hiding-place. From one end of the 
country to the other came the cry of hunger and distress. In 
the midst of their council it was decided a human sacrifice 
should be offered. The lot fell upon three of the bravest men 
of the tribe. The spot selected was a neighboring hill, and on 
its summit at the hour of midnight the cruel duty was per- 
formed. On the following day the weather moderated, the 
hunter went forth, and an abundance of sweet game was brought 
to every wigwam. They gave way to festivity and dancing, 
but in the midst of it all eyes were fixed upon the northern 
sky, which was illuminated by a most brilliant light as changeable 
as the reflections upon the summer sea at sunset hour. Across 
this light were dancing three huge figures of a crimson hue. 
They were the ghosts of the three warriors who had given their 
lives for their people and had thus become great chiefs in the 

Mr. Schoolcraft is a very unwilling yet strong witness for the 
anthropomorphic conception of the Sabaism of the Northern 
tribes. He says that when the arcanum of their belief is reached, 
their monedo, or supreme spirit, is located in sun or moon or 
indefinite skies, and in their pictorial scrolls they paint the sun 
as a man's head and appear to confound the symbol with the 
substance. Iosco, who visited the sun, as their legends say, 

' Copway, 147-48; 2 Kealing, 150. » Lanman's Haw-Hoo-Noo, 246-48. 


found it to be a man, and walked a day's journey with him 
around the exterior rim of the globe.^ 

Among the Northern tribes Mr. Kohl found the representa- 
tions of the sun to be anthropomorphic. One of these was a 

Fig. 20. 

picture of the sun set on a man's shoulders. Fig. 20 is a repre- 
sentation found in Nicaragua and copied in Pirn and Seeman's 
Dottings. It shows an anthropomorphic conception of the sun, 
which is the genesis of Sabaism. General Brown saw the 
Blackfeet pray hundreds of times to the sun, and yet upon 
inquiry they explained that they prayed not to the sun, but to 
the old man who lives there. 

Among the more primitive peoples it was the habitation of 
one soul. Among the Natches and the Appalaches the sun was 
the bright dwelling-place of departed chiefs, and among the 
Florida Indians it was the heaven of all good spirits. Starting 
at first in the primitive mind as the habitable body of a spirit, 
it becomes the dwelling-place of a few privileged characters, 
and then the heaven of all good souls. Its capacity has thus 
been enlarged as the knowledge of its magnitude increases. 

Mr. Tylor thinks it a very hard question to answer why some 
nations are sun-worshippers and others not, but says it is 
obvious that the sun is not so evidently the god of wild hunters 
and fishers as of the tillers of the soil. We have found in 
America sun-worship among all of the tribes. It has not be- 
come the predominant cult anywhere, except among the Peru- 

' 5 Schoolcraft, 402-3. 

SAB A ISM, 339 

vians and Natches. Among the other tribes it has simply 
coexisted with the worship of ancestors, kings, heroes, the 
moon, stars, mountains, springs, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, ani- 
mals, and all else in nature animate or inanimate, for there was 
nothing into which a spirit might not penetrate and make it 
an oracle and a place of sacrifice and devotion. Among the 
Natches sun-worship had become the central doctrine of national 
religion. The Natches government was a solar hierarchy, at 
whose head stood the chief called the sun's brother. This 
assumed relationship with the sun of the Natches and Peru- 
vian rulers is not as absurd as it would appear, when we con- 
sider that all sun-worship is based upon the primitive idea of 
its being a mere habitation or body for a culture-hero. This 
idea, carried to its logical conclusion, would necessitate ad- 
mitting the relationship of the dead hero's family, who would 
also fall heir to much of his fame. 

Such a sun-cult as that of Peru and the Natches would be 
impossible among fishers, for many reasons. Fishers will 
always find their deities in the sea, the river, the waterfall, the 
whirlpool, the eddy, the storm, and the wind, or the most dan- 
gerous or the most useful animals inhabiting water. The 
hunters will find theirs in inaccessible places on the mountains, 
or in the springs where they stop to slake their thirst, or in the 
tree that creaks in the rustling wind, in the thunder and the 
storm, and all animated nature which is filled with the spirits 
of their dead. The sun is no more to them than the ignis- 
fatuus that hovers around the wanderer's path at night, nor 
half as fear-inspiring. The moon is more of a favorite among 
hunters than the sun. Another condition necessary to such a 
sun-cult is a despotic power, and coincident with this there 
must be a sufficient amount of astronomical knowledge to 
assign to the sun its proper and important place in nature's 
economy. Sun-worship was ancient in Peru, but it was the 
Incas who made it the great state religion, and their heliolatry 
was organized for political ends. 

When the sun has been recognized as the greatest of the 


heavenly bodies, and the great producer of the earth's vegeta- 
tion, and its size and distance from the earth are recognized, it 
becomes an object of reverence, and is then associated with a 
hero of pre-eminent and shining qualities. 

The Mexicans worshipped the sun, and had a festival in 
which a human being was sacrificed to the sun, who ascended 
the stone steps slowly from the east, representing the course 
of the sun, placed his foot on the middle of the stone of the 
sun, was killed, and sent with a message of homage to that 
luminary, and his body was thrown down the steps to the 

In the Mexican worship of the sun it was sometimes repre- 
sented by a human face surrounded with rays, at other times 
by a full-length human figure. Although the worship of the 
sun occupied a prominent place in the Mexican religion, yet it 
by no means occupied the first place, as assigned to it by many 
Americanistes. It was definitely worshipped under the name 
of Tonatiuh, and also under that of Naolin, names not very 
prominent in their pantheon. All of the Mexicans seemed 
to be very much distressed at eclipses of the sun and moon, 
and always made a great ado while they lasted, and generally 
offered up human sacrifices. Although the sun-cult is promi- 
nent among all the more civilized tribes, and even among the 
Natches, who had made little progress in civilization, yet 
the greatest devotion to the sun was found in Peru, where it 
became pre-eminently the ruling deity in the days of the Incas. 
In its exaltation we see a step taken toward monotheism. On 
the great altar of their greatest temple stood a representation 
of it in thick gold, richly set with jewels. The visage was 
round, environed with rays and flames. It was so large it 
nearly reached across the temple. It was so placed that the 
sun, on rising, cast its beams upon it, which were reflected with 
a grand refulgence. At the sides of this image were the bodies 
of the deceased Incas, ranged according to their antiquity, and 

' Duran, 197-98. 

SAB A ISM. 341 

so perfectly preserved they appeared to be alive. The visages 
of the Incas were as if looking on the floor of the temple, with 
the exception of Huayna Capac, the most adored of all the 
children of the sun, who, for his eminent virtues, was seated 
directly opposite the glorious orb.' 

A reproduction of this in Mr. Brown's "Races of Mankind'* 
shows the anthropomorphic character of the images, and indi- 
cates the origin of their sun-worship. In one of the pyramidal- 
shaped structures surrounding the temple of the sun was found 
the figure of the moon, with female visage, around which were 
ranged the deceased Incas' wives. Another was dedicated to 
the stars, another to thunder and lightning, and still another to 
the rainbow.' The Chibchas worshipped the sun with bloody 
rites. Human beings were sacrificed, and infants were slain, 
that their blood might anoint those rocks first touched by the 
rising sun.3 The Lacandones worshipped the sun without the 
intervention of an image, and also the Pipiles. Among the 
Isthmians the heavenly bodies seem to have been very gen- 
erally adored. The sun and moon were considered as man and 
wife. The thunder and lightning were thought to be instru- 
ments used by the sun to inflict punishment on enemies. 
Dabaiba, the goddess who received much of their worship, was 
a sun-goddess, and undoubtedly a native princess formerly.-* 

Mr. Tylor appears to be convinced of the animistic origin 
of nature-myths. In early philosophy throughout the world 
the sun and moon are alive, and as it were human in their 
nature, usually contrasted as male and female : they neverthe- 
less differ in the sex assigned to them, as well as in their rela- 
tions to one another. 

Among the Mbocobis of South America, the moon is a man 
and the sun is his wife. 

Moon-worship, naturally ranking below sun-worship in im- 
portance, ranges through nearly the same degree of culture. 

' Ranking, 151-52. « lb., 152-53. 

3 P. Simon, 248-49. < 3 Bancroft, 498. 


There are remarkable cases in which the moon is recognized 
as a great deity by tribes who take less account, or none at all, 
of the sun. The rude savages of Brazil seem especially to 
worship or respect the moon, by which they regulate their fes- 
tivals and draw their omens. The men would hold up their 
hands and women their babes to the moon. The Botecudos 
are said to give the highest rank among the heavenly bodies 
to the moon, which they say causes thunder and lightning and 
the failure of vegetables and fruits. The Caribs esteemed the 
moon more than the sun. The Ahts of Vancouver's Island 
regard the sun as the male and the moon as the wife, and their 
prayers are addressed to the moon as the superior deity and the 
highest object of their worship. Among the Hurons the moon 
is the maker cJf earth and man, and grandmother of the sun.' 

The Ilisees ascribed an anthropomorphic nature to the heav- 
enly bodies. They supposed the moon to be the wife of the 
sun, and the stars their offspring." 

The crude notions of savages concerning the heavenly 
bodies find expression in many fictions. Among the Zunis 
their two oldest ancestors carry the sun and moon. At the 
time of their first construction, sun and moon were both alike, 
but the man who carries the moon has got so far away from 
the surface of the earth that we no longer feel the heat from 
that orb.3 According to the unscientific creation of the Pueblo 
Indians, the sun, moon, and stars were not made as soon as their 
ancestors, but chaotic darkness prevailed, relieved occasionally 
by the glare of volcanic fire which burst from the mountain 
that had given them birth. Not satisfied with the condition of 
affairs as they found them, this ambitious adolescent people 
proceeded at once in the construction of sun, moon, and stars, 
and when made they were confided to the care of Indians, who 
are carrying them about on their backs.* It was not an un- 
usual thing for the Northern Indians to dream of conversing 

« 2 Tylor, 299. ■ Kef's Travels, 105. 

3 Cozzens's Marvellous Country, 350-51. < lb., 346-51. 


with the sun.* The Iroquois have a tradition in which Inigorio, 
their first man, is the creator of the heavenly bodies, and the 
material composing those bodies was taken from their great 
mother, the sun being created out of her head." Among the 
California myths is one claiming that the coyote was once a 
partner of a star in the dance.3 Among the Mbocobis the story 
is told that the sun once fell down in her course and an Indian 
put it up again, when it fell again and set the forest in a blaze 
of fire/ They have not had any trouble with it lately. This 
tradition is somewhat similar to the Phaeton myth of classical 
antiquity. Among the Mosquito Indians, Roman Catholic in- 
genuity introduced among their sun-myths that of the sun's 
standing still for a day. The Mosquito tradition starts him on 
his travels again in a very novel manner, showing their anthro- 
pomorphic idea about the great luminary. A mosquito scolded 
him roundly for his behavior, but, finding it of no avail, went 
up and stung him in the leg, which started him quickly on his 
course.5 According to the Indians of Tlascala, the sun was a 
god so leprous and sick he could not move, whereupon the 
other gods, taking advantage of his helplessness, made an oven 
and lighted a fire and were engaged in cremating him. These 
absurd notions of heavenly bodies prevailed throughout Amer- 
ica. Among the Northern tribes there is a tradition that the 
sun was caught in a trap set by a boy. 

Thus it will be seen that Sabaism occupies a prominent place 
in the nature-worship of the Americans, and it can be found in 
all its stages of development from the purely anthropomorphic 
character that it assumes among the primitive peoples. It must 
always be borne in mind that the savage has no knowledge of 
the magnitude or distance of the heavenly bodies. Hence 
most of their myths are very absurd. To give the reader a 
proper conception of the astounding ignorance of savage and 
even partially civilized peoples about the heavenly bodies, a few 

' Kohl's Kitchi-Gami, 206. ' Schoolcraft's Iroquois, 36. 3 lb., 400. 

4 I Tylor, 288. 5 5 Bancroft, 210. 


illustrations will be given of their theory of eclipses and other 
celestial phenomena. Mr. Jones says, " The Ojibways, at an 
eclipse of the sun, think it is dying, and shoot coals of fire at 
it to rekindle it. They forbid their children pointing their 
fingers at the moon, considering it an insult." * The Chiquitos 
of Brazil called the moon mother, and during an eclipse they 
shot arrows into the air to drive away the dogs that attacked 
her.* They thought the moon was hunted across the sky by 
huge dogs, who caught and tore her till her light was reddened 
and quenched by the blood flowing from her wounds. The 
Indians rushed to her rescue, and by shooting arrows frightened 
away the antagonists, as they supposed. 

Eclipses throughout the lower stages of civilization were 
omens of disaster and portents of dismay. The Indians of 
Tlascala thought the sun and moon were fighting when they 
were eclipsed, and were frightened, and offered human sacrifices 
to them. The reddest people they could get were sacrificed to 
the sun ; albinos to the moon.3 

" There was an opinion among the Seneca nation that eclipses 
of the sun and moon were caused by a manitou or bad spirit, 
who mischievously intercepted the lights intended to be shed 
upon the earth and its inhabitants. Upon such occasions the 
greatest solicitude existed. All the individuals of the tribe felt 
a strong desire to drive away the demon, and to remove thereby 
the impediment to the transmission of luminous rays. For this 
purpose they went forth, and, by crying, shouting, drumming, 
and the firing of guns, endeavored to frighten him. They never 
failed in their object, for by courage and perseverance they in- 
fallibly drove him off Something of the same kind is practised 
among the Ojibways even in our day when an eclipse happens. 
The belief among them is that there is a battle between the 
sun and moon, which intercepts the light. Their great object 
is, therefore, to stop the fighting and separate the combatants. 
They think these ends can be accomplished by withdrawing the 

^11 -■■■■_ ■■■- ^^— ^■^— ^^-^— ^ 

» Jones's Ojibways, 84, 85. ■ I Soulhey, 335. 3 Sahagun, bk. 7, ch. I. 


attention of the contending parties from each other and divert- 
ing it to the Ojibways themselves. They accordingly fill the 
air with noise and outcry." * 

"The great eclipse of the sun on the i6th of June, 1806, 
occurred within a few days after the death of Little Beard, an 
Iroquois chief. This eclipse excited in the Indians a great de- 
gree of astonishment, for, as they were ignorant of astronomy, 
they were totally unqualified to account for the phenomenon. 
The crisis was alarming, and something must be done without 
delay. They accordingly ran together in the three towns near 
the Genesee River, and after a short consultation agreed that 
Little Beard, on account of some old grudge which he yet 
cherished toward them, had placed himself between them and 
the sun in order that their corn might not grow, and so reduce 
them to a state of starvation. Having thus found the cause, 
the next thing was to remove it, which could only be done by 
the use of powder and ball. Upon this every gun and rifle was 
loaded, and a firing commenced that continued without cessation 
till the old fellow left his seat and the obscurity was entirely 
removed." ' 

The Western Indians believe that when the moon is full, evil 
spirits begin nibbling at it to put out its light, and eat a portion 
each night until it is all gone. Then a great spirit, who will 
not permit the evil spirits to take advantage of the darkness 
and go about the earth doing mischief, makes a new moon, 
working on it every night until it is completed, when he leaves 
it and goes to sleep. No sooner is he gone than the bad spirits 
return and eat it up again.3 

The Nootkans had no other way of accounting for eclipses 
except to ascribe them to the attacks of animals. The following 
is an illustration of this. 

Says Mr. Jewitt, ** On the isth of January, 1805, about mid- 
night, I was thrown into considerable alarm in consequence of 

* Mitchell, in 2 Arch. Amer., 351 seq. " Life of Mary Jamison, 99. 

3 Beld^n, 290. 


an eclipse of the moon, being awakened from my sleep by a 
great outcry of the inhabitants. On going to discover the 
cause of this tumult, I found them all out of their houses, bear- 
ing lighted torches, singing and beating upon pieces of planks; 
and when I asked them the reason of this proceeding, they 
pointed to the moon, and said that a great codfish was endeavor- 
ing to swallow her, and that they were driving him away. The 
origin of this superstition I could not discover." * The Peru- 
vians had very much the same idea, but shouted to frighten 
away the authors of the eclipse ; some of them thought she was 
sick, and were afraid of her falling in total darkness. The sun 
in an eclipse was angry, and refused to show his face.* The 
natives of Cumana thought the sun and moon were man and 
wife, and they occasionally fell out, when an eclipse occurred^ 
The Opatas attempt to frighten by their yells the heavenly 
bodies during eclipses, that they may be prevented. 

All the celestial phenomena are assigned to causes equally 
absurd. Many of the Indians of the British possessions be- 
lieved that the Northern lights were the spirits of their departed 
friends dancing in the clouds, and when these were remarkably 
bright they said that their friends were making merry.* The 
Hurons were perfectly ignorant of the causes of celestial ap- 
pearances, meteors, eclipses, and storms. They thought that 
thunder was the voice of men flying in the air, and eclipses 
were produced by the enemies of the sun and moon. The 
Patagonians said that the stars were their translated country- 
men, and the Milky Way was the country where the dead Pata- 
gonians hunted ostriches.^ The Ottawas thought the Milky 
Way was produced by a turtle swimming along the bottom of 
the sky and disturbing the mud.^ The red clouds which 
adorned the rising and the setting sun were thought to be 
colored by the blood of men slain in battle.^ 

» Jewitt's lArrative, 134. • i Tylor, 328-29. 

3 3 Herrera, 309. 4 West's Journal, 102. 

5 Alger's Doctrine, 79. • Tanner's Nar., 320. 

7 Del Tccho, in 2 Church. Coll. Voy., 701-2. 


The seasons appear to have been considered as the pro- 
ductions of spirits. The Algonkins spoke of these spirits as 
the summer-makers and the winter-makers, and they tried to 
keep the latter at bay by throwing firebrands into the air/ 

.With such crude conceptions of the heavenly bodies the 
genesis of their anthropomorphic myths is not strange. Mr. 
Spencer thinks the identification of the heavenly bodies with 
persons who once lived has been caused by misinterpretation 
of names, — that the moon was used in primitive times as a com- 
plimentary name for a woman, and erroneous identification of 
object originated lunar myths. The use of such names has 
undoubtedly been a factor in the production of Sabaistic myths. 
A few such names were given heroes. *' Chief of the Sky" was 
the name of one of the Ojibway chiefs. A chief bearing such 
a name with him into the spirit-land in primitive times would 
undoubtedly Jiave the sun assigned him for a home, and the 
apparent worship of the sun in these early times was not a 
worship of that luminary as such, but merely worship of its 
inhabitant, — a famous spirit. Mr. Copway, himself an Indian 
and very familiar with the conceptions of his people on this 
subject, declares in very emphatic language, " Very few of the 
Northern Indians ever held the idea that the sun was an object 
of worship." The sun was the wigwam of a great spirit, and it 
was as the abode of this being that the Indians viewed that 

Such cases of assigning names of sun, moon, or stars to 
human beings are rare, and are not suflSciently numerous to 
account for the universal worship of the heavenly bodies which 
we have found throughout America. Sabaism has not grown 
into such universal practice through an occasional accidental 
misinterpretation of names, but through animistic conceptions 
of the heavenly bodies. 

If an ancestor, supposed to have migrated to the heavens, 
becomes identified with certain stars, we get a clue to the 

' Parkman's Jes., Ixxv. 


fancies of astrology. A progenitor so translated will be con- 
ceived as still caring for his descendants, while the ancestors of 
others will be conceived as unfriendly. Hence may result the 
alleged good or ill fortune of being looked down upon at birth 
by this or that star. Supposed accessibility of the heavens 
makes similarly easy their identification with a man or woman. 
Every male Mexican burned marks upon his wrist in honor of 
certain stars, and no man would die without them. They wor- 
shipped Venus and drew many of their auguries from it. When 
it first rises they bar out its light from doors and windows, for 
its twinkle then is a bad augury.* Chasca, however, the Peru- 
vian Venus, was always propitious, and was a youth with long 
and curling locks. 

Astrology had not arisen as an occult science among any 
of the American nations. Traces of its embryonic condition 
among the Mexicans and Peruvians are found, however. 

Thus it has been seen that Sabaism in all its forms prevailed 
throughout the New World. It was anthropomorphic in its 
character, and originated from the animistic superstition. Men 
and animals inhabited the celestial regions. It was as yet an 
unmapped country, as no tribe had constructed a chart of the 
heavens, but all the fancies of the Old World in reference 
thereto prevailed. 

* 3 Bancroft, 113. 



Tempests produced by hostile spirits — Coercive measures used to prevent them — 
Winds the manifestations of spiritual agency — Anthropomorphic representations 
of atrial deities. 

The elements were objects of worship, not as being in them- 
selves proper objects of adoration, but because they were mani- 
festations of spiritual life. Many tribes ascribed tempests, rain, 
and hail to the agency of human spirits." The land which the 
savage inhabits is always surrounded by an unknown country, 
which, as it becomes known, is found to be inhabited by tribes 
hostile to him, and who have a spiritual world whose borders 
become the borders of his spiritual world. The contests of 
the living are carried into the realms of the dead, and every 
wind that blows is laden with hordes of hostile spirits, and the 
elements wage war directed by shadowy warriors. The belief 
is very common that the convulsions of nature are but the 
fierce struggles of the hosts of the dead. Hence their future 
life was not void of incident, for their spirits followed the 
thunder-birds when the heavens were black and the lightning 
flashed, and they waged war in the elements against the hostile 
spirits of other tribes. The wind tore up the trees as they 
passed along, and cloud-spirits who gained the victory 
hung out the bow of bright colors." This is the poetic view 
taken of their spiritual life, in the midst of and controlling the 
elements. Every locality has been visited at some time within 
the memory of its inhabitants or their ancestors with destructive 
winds and storms. They were generally supposed to be pro- 

■ Jos. D'Acosta, bk. 5, ch. 4. * Eastman's Legends, 228-29. 

23 349 


duced by demons or angry spirits. The storms and tempests 
were generally thought to be produced by aerial spirits from 
hostile lands. 

The Guaycurus of South America, when a storm arose and 
there was much thunder or wind, all went out in troops, as it 
were to battle, shaking their clubs in the air, shooting flights 
of arrows in that direction whence the storm came.* The 
Araucanians thought storms, tempests, thunder, and lightning 
were the battles waged by the spirits of their dead with their 
enemies in the air." The Indians of North America rushed 
with firebrands and clenched fists against the wind that threat- 
ened to blow down their huts.3 

La Potterie says, " Certain savages to the north are of opinion 
that storms are raised by the spirit of the moon, when it lodges 
in the bottom of the sea. To pacify it, therefore, they sacrifice 
the most valuable things they have." Thunder, as we have 
seen, was produced by fabulous birds, according to the myths 
of many tribes. The Hurons thought that thunder was pro- 
duced by a bird whose palace was in the sky. It left its home 
when the clouds began to gather. The lightning flashed 
whenever it opened or closed its wings.^ The spirits of the 
dead were thought to transmigrate into the thunder-birds. 

Mr. Brinton has elaborated quite a system of mythology 
in relation to the sacredness of the number four, associating 
it with the four cardinal points and the winds that blow from 
them. He traces many myths of origin from four brothers, 
and considers them personifications. He says, "Sometimes 
the myth defines clearly these fabled characters as the spirits 
of the winds. The simplest form is that of the Algonkins 
and Dacotahs. They both had four ancestors, concerned in 
various ways with the first things of time, not rightly dis- 
tinguished as men or gods, but positively identified with the 
four winds. The Creeks told of four men who came from the 

* Del Techo, in 4 Church. Coll. Voy., 732. " 2 Molina, 92. 

3 Farrar's Primitive Manners, 2. ^ Brebeuf, 2 Jes. Rel, IM- 


four corners of the earth, and after rendering them service dis- 
appeared in a cloud. The ancient inhabitants of Hayti had a 
similar genealogical story, which Peter Martyr relates with 
various excuses for its silliness. Perhaps the fault lay less in 
its lack of meaning than in his want of insight. It was to the 
effect that men lived in caves, and were destitute of means to 
prolong their race, until they caught and subjected to their use 
four women swift of foot and as slippery as eels. The Navajos 
have an allegory that when they emerged from the earth the 
four spirits of the cardinal points were already there. In the 
mythology of Yucatan the world was supported by four mys- 
terious personages at its four corners. Four mythical civilizers 
of the Peruvians are said to have emerged from a cave." * 

In many of the myths found throughout America, one, two, 
or three winds figure in their cosmogony, and are perhaps 
enrolled in their pantheon of spirits. I think the effort to 
trace four winds through the mythological stories of the Amer- 
icans would be futile, and whether there be one, two, three, or 
four is a matter of indifference. The number of these winds 
depends upon the locality of the tribe and the prevailing winds 
of that locality. The spirits of the dead were supposed to 
come riding upon the winds, and if angry could successfully 
assert their power in the tempest. The most delightful future 
the Indian could picture for himself after death was 

" To be imprisoned in the viewless winds 
And blown with restless violence round about 
The pendent world." 

An Ojibway folk-tale of a great concourse of spirits that pre- 
sided over nature and natural objects will illustrate our subject. 
" There were spirits from all parts of the country." Some 
came with crashing steps and roaring voice, who directed the 
whirlwinds which were in the habit of raging about the neigh- 
boring country. Then glided in gently a sweet little spirit 
which blew the summer gale. Then came in the old sand- 

» Brinton's Myths, 77-85. 


spirit, who blew the sand-squalls in the sand-buttes toward the 
west He was a great speech-maker, and shook the lodge with 
his deep-throated voice as he addressed the spirits of the cata- 
racts and waterfalls, and those of the islands, who wore beauti- 
ful green blankets. 

The anthropomorphic character of the spirits that preside 
over the elements is aptly illustrated in Fig. 21, the god of 

the air, as represented on a vase from South America, copied 
by Bollaert. The figure is painted red on a yellow ground. 

A mythical .i£olus was a prominent character in the folk-lore 
of many tribes. There was an Iroquois tradition connected 
with a rock in Corlear's Lake on which the waves dash and fly 
up to a great height. When the wind blew hard, the Indians 
believed that an old Indian living under this rock, who had the 
power over the winds, was angry, and therefore as they passed 
it, in their voyages over, they always threw a pipe or some other 
small present to this old Indian, and prayed for a favorable 

The doctrine of spiritual agency is the explanation of the 
meteorological phenomena known and feared by uncultured man. 

> CoMen's Hist. Five Nations, ed. 1750, 32. 



Priests — Sources of their influence — Medicine-men or doctors of rude tribes — 
Exorcism of evil spirits the method of curing diseases — Sorcerers — Miraculous 
powers ascribed to them — Rain-doctors — Witches — Rise of priestly hierarchies 
among the more civilized peoples — Priesthoods of Peru, Mexico, Yucatan, etc. 
— Monastic institutions of those countries — Educational institutions in the hands 
of the priests — Their influence in the State — Confessional — Priestly absolution 
saved criminals from legal penalties. 

The supposed power of priests over spirits has been the 
source of their influence in all reh'gions, savage and civilized. 
The Tahkali priest lays his hand on the head of the nearest 
relative of the deceased and blows into him the soul of the 
departed, which is supposed to come to life in his next child. 
The survival of this superstition is found in the apostolic suc- 
cession. Says the modern priest at ordination, " Receive the 
Holy Ghost for the office and work of a priest in the church 
of God now committed unto thee by the imposition of our 

In addition to the power of transmission of spiritual essence, 
primitive exorcism also survived to recent times. The power of 
the modern priest as an exorcist has about departed, although 
the Roman Catholic Church has always had a specially ordained 
body of exorcists, and retains the belief in the efficacy of exor- 
cism. Even the Church of England adopted the superstition, 
exorcising infants before baptism in these words : " I command 
thee, unclean spirit, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and 
of the Holy Ghost, that thou come out and depart from these 
infants." ^ 

' I Spencer's Sociology, 256, 260. 



The priestly office is not found among primitive peoples. 
The predecessors of the priests in spiritual influence were the 
doctors, who practised their art by sorcery and knew little or 
nothing of medication. Sickness is a sign to the savage that 
his gods are against him, and therefore in all early stages of 
culture the office of priest and physician was one.' Among 
the Northern tribes there were in every tribe " medicine-men" 
who united in themselves the offices of priest, physician, and 
fortune-teller or prophet. They were supposed to possess 
unusual powers because of their constant communion with, 
and influence over, spirits. Various and extravagant were their 
incantations; their charms mysterious. They had a special 
dress for their profession. They thought that all distempers 
were caused by evil spirits ; consequently none of their phy- 
sicians attempted to effect a cure until they had conversed with 
their familiar spirits and ascertained whether their aid could be 
secured in the effort to exorcise the adverse demons. Violent 
gestures and noises were added to their other efforts for the 
purpose of frightening the spirits. Some used gourds with 
peas in them for a rattle ; others a drum. They would scarify 
the patient, and then suck until they had gotten out, in the 
words of Lawson, " a great quantity of very ill-colored matter, 
and performing grimaces and antic postures which are not to 
be matched in Bedlam."' 

Even in cases of fracture the same superstition prevailed. 
The following description of a surgical performance among 
the Pawnees is from Mr. Murray : '* I learned that in the hunt 
already described a good many Indians had been bruised or 
wounded. Among those who were hurt was a chief of some 
distinction; he had a few ribs and one of his arms broken. 
The setting of this last, together with the completion of his 
wound-dressing, was to be accompanied with much ceremony: 
so I determined to be a spectator. I went accordingly to his 
lodge, where a great crowd was already assembled. A pro- 

» Brinton's Religious Sentiment, 240. ■ Jones's Antiquities, 28-33. 


found silence was observed, and when all the medicine-men 
and relatives had arrived and taken their seats, a great medi- 
cine-pipe was brought and passed round with the usual cere- 
monial observances of a certain number of whiffs to the earth, 
the buffalo spirit, and other spirits. The pipe was not handed 
to the wounded man, probably because he was supposed to be 
for a time under the influence of a bad spirit and therefore not 
entitled to the privileges of the medicine. When this smoking 
ceremony was concluded, three or four of the doctors or con- 
jurers and a few of the great medicine-men assembled round 
him; the former proceeded to feel his side and apply some 
remedy to it, while one of them set the arm and bound it very 
strongly round with leather and thongs. During this operation 
the medicine-men stooped over him and went through sundry 
mummeries which I could not accurately distinguish. As soon 
as the bandages and dressings were completed they began a 
medicine-dance around him. At first the movement was slow 
and accompanied by the low ordinary chant, but gradually 
both acquired violence and rapidity, till at length they reached 
the height of fury and frenzy. They swung their tomahawks 
round the head of the wounded man, rushed upon him with 
the most dreadful yells, shook the weapons violently in his 
face, jumped repeatedly over him, pretending each time to give 
him the fatal blow, then checking it as it descended, and, while 
once or twice I saw them push and kick his limbs, one of the 
most excited struck him several very severe blows on the 
breast. On inquiry, I learned that all these gesticulations 
were intended to threaten and banish the evil spirit which 
was supposed to have posesssed him.'** 

Among the New England Indians, says Roger Williams, 
"the priest was doctor, and came and conjured away their 
sickness with many strange actions." " " The greatest part of 
these conjurers do merely abuse the people, who commonly die 
under their hands, for, alas! they administer nothing but howl 

I Murray's Travels N. A., 330, seq. » Williams's Key, 112. 


and roar." * The method of cure of diseases was about the 
same among the medicine-men of the Northwest coast. They 
were supposed to possess the power of exorcising and driving 
away the ghosts or spirits of the dead and the evil spirits that 
were supposed to prey on the vitals of a sick person.' Among 
the tribes of the Northwest the medicine-men in their practice 
generally begin by singing, accompanying it with rattles or 
something that will make a great noise, and follow with mes- 
meric passes over the body of the patient. They get more 
excited as time passes, if quieter methods do not succeed. One 
of the most violent of their doctors around Shoalwater Bay 
was always called when the others failed. Mr. Swan gives an 
interesting account of his operations. " Old John came bring- 
ing with him his family of some half-dozen persons, who aided 
him in the cure by attacking the roof with long poles. Old 
John sat at the patient's feet with his head covered up with a 
blanket for some time. All at once he threw off his blanket 
and commenced to sing and throw himself about in the most 
excited manner, rattling large scallop-shells, the chorus in the 
mean time keeping up their pounding on the roof and also on a 
couple of tin pans and a brass kettle. He soon mesmerized his 
patient till she was asleep, when he pounced upon her breast 
with his whole weight and scooped his hands together as if he 
had caught something, which he tried to blow through his 
hands into the coals; but the skookum escaped by slipping out 

of his hands. He said he was sure he could get it in a day or 
two." 3 

The Loucheux and other Indians of British America had 
the same superstitious and implicit faith in the incantations of 
their medicine-men. Their influence exceeded even that of the 
chiefs. The conjurer ruled supreme when sickness prevailed. 
He pretended to dream of the death of certain persons, and 
when it became known to these persons they came to him with 
their offerings and begged his intervention to prevent their 

» Williams's Key, 159. « Swan's Wash. Ter., 176. 3 lb., 183-84. 


doom. Many persons have &dleii sick and actually died from 
the effects of such stories. An impious Ojibway who kicked 
a medicine-man received a severe punishment for his irrev- 
erence, for his leg was looped up to his thigh, according to 
tradition, and he had to hop all the rest of his life.* In this 
way the character and power of these cunning rogues reached 
a height where they were ever after looked upon with fear and 

" The medicine-men held the same relation to the Dacotahs 
as the Druids to the ancient Britons. They were the most 
powerful and influential of the tribe. They were looked upon 
as a species of demi-gods. They asserted their origin to be 
miraculous. At first they were spiritual existences, encased in a 
seed of some description of a winged nature, like the thistle. 
Wafted by the breeze to the dwelling-place of the gods, they 
were received to intimate communion. After being instructed 
in relation to the mysteries of the spirit-world, they went forth 
to study the character of all tribes. After deciding upon a 
residence, they entered the body of some one about to become 
a mother, and were ushered by her into the world." " 

Among the Dacotahs, the doctor rattles his gourd, sucks the 
patient, and thrusts his face into a bowl of water to get rid of 
the disease by immersing it. If he decides it is some animal 
that is producing the sickness, he has an animal-shaped image ' 
made, and put in a bowl of water mixed with red earth and 
placed outside of the tent, where young men stand ready to 
shoot When the doctor gets the disease he pops his head out 
of the tent and transfers it to the image, when the young men 
blow the little bark animal to atoms. All of the fragments of 
the image are then gathered together and burned.3 The medi- 
cine-men are not infallible, and sometimes make mistakes in 
their diagnosis of cases and ascribe the trouble to a wrong 
animal. At the death of Iron Arms, a great warrior, it was 

' 2 Algic Researches, 34. « i Minn. Hist. Coll., 269. 

3 Eastman's Legends, 23. 


said he died because the doctor had made a mistake and 
thought a prairie-dog had entered him, when it was a mud hen.' 
Such mistakes have tended to bring their conjurations into 
disrespect, and they were often treated with great severity by 
relatives of the dead. Women were allowed to practise medi- 
cine, and this custom also undoubtedly brought disrepute upon 
medical practice, since very little regard is shown women 
among uncivilized peoples. If they were unsuccessful in work- 
ing a cure, they were very often killed. The following is told 
by Mr. Battey. "At the death of Ne-wah-kass-ett, chief of the 
Wichitas, his brother Keechi took his rifle, and, entering the 
lodge of the medicine-woman, without saying a word, delib- 
erately shot her dead for having administered bad medicine. 
In all probability the woman had done the best she knew." 
Those in the village tore down her lodge and piled it with her 
effects upon her dead body, and set fire to the whole.'' The 
following curious illustration of medical practice among the 
Piutes since the advent of the whites is very amusing. The 
medicine-woman who is the subject of the description bore the 
simple yet modest name of " Heap-Chokee,*' a name given to 
her in memory of the able manner in which, during her fifteenth 
year, she strangled two wounded emigrants whom her dear 
father had previously scalped. She became a widow at the 
age of sixty, and, having been duly examined by the chief men 
of the tribe and pronounced to be far too ugly for matrimonial 
purposes, she was duly licensed to practise medicine according 
to the tenets of the regular Piute medical school. Shortly 
afterward Dr. Heap-Chokee was called in to prescribe for a 
squaw who was in the last stages of consumption. Having 
made a careful examination of the patient by punching her in 
tender places with the handle of a hoe, the doctor decided that 
the case was one which did not call for drugs, but for "pow- 
wow." She therefore shut herself up in the patient's wigwam 
and danced and howled with much vigor for several hours, at 

* Eastman's Legends, 41. ' Battey's Quaker among Indians, 57. 


the expiration of which the patient was found to be dead. It 
so happened that the consumptive squaw was not a valuable 
one, and, in fact, her husband was rather glad that she was 
dead. Still, the death of the doctor's first patient was not 
adapted to give her a reputation for medical skill, and the affair 
was therefore investigated by a council of able warriors. The 
council decided that the doctor had committed an error in not 
prescribing medicine, and, while it was expressly conceded that 
it was not worth while to severely reprimand her for the death 
of a worthless squaw, she was affectionately warned that she 
would do well in future to prescribe a good dose of real medi- 
cine. A fortnight later a young warrior was brought into 
camp, suffering from an acute attack of grizzly bear, the lead- 
ing symptom of which was the fracture of a dozen or two of 
his ribs and a general mashing of the internal organs. This 
time the doctor compounded a medicine that really ought to 
have worked wonders. It was made by boiling together a col- 
lection of miscellaneous weeds, a handful of chewing-tobacco, 
the heads of four rattlesnakes, and a select assortment of worn- 
out moccasins. The decoction thus obtained was seasoned 
with a little crude petroleum and a large quantity of red pepper, 
and the patient was directed to take a pint of the mixture every 
half-hour. He was a brave man, conspicuous for his fortitude 
under suffering, but after taking his first dose he turned over 
and died with the utmost expedition. Again the council of 
leading warriors investigated the case. They analyzed and 
tasted the medicine, and agreed that it was faultless in its way. 
While they fully approved of the prescription, they found that 
the doctor relied upon it alone and had omitted to dance and 
yell. This innovation was not passed over in silence, and Dr. 
Heap-Chokee was solemnly warned that she must either prac- 
tise medicine properly or meet the consequences, and that 
young and valuable warriors could not be wasted with im- 
punity. Soon after the daughter of the leading chief was 
attacked by what was undoubtedly an inflammation of the 
brain. Warned by experience, the doctor brought the entire 


resources of the medical art to bear upon the case. She not 
only administered large doses of her favorite decoction, but she 
took a large tin pan into the patient's wigwam and hammered 
it for twenty-four hours, during which time she never ceased to 
dance and to yell at the top of her lungs. Her zeal called forth 
the admiration of the whole tribe, and it was considered certain 
that the patient must recover ; but, strange as it may seem, the 
doctor emerged from the wigwam in the morning of the second 
day, and sadly announced that the girl was dead. Once more 
the council met, but its deliberations were short. Dr. Heap- 
Chokee had attended three patients, and every one had died. 
There could be no doubt that she was an unsuccessful physi- 
cian, and that if she continued to practise the tribe would soon 
be extinct. The course to be pursued was too plain to be 
ignored. The doctor was summoned, and was mildly but 
firmly told that her professional career was at an end. Three 
warriors then led her outside the limits of the camp, and ad- 
ministered to her six revolver-bullets, after which lots were 
drawn for the possession of her scalp, and the rest of her was 
quietly buried. * Although this account is written in a humor- 
ous vein, it represents fairly the methods of all the savage 
peoples in such circumstances. 

Among the uncivilized tribes of South America the same 
system of medical practice prevailed. The Abipone physician 
was also prophet, sorcerer, and priest. Their method of cure 
was to suck the part in which the pain was located, and if the 
whole body was affected several of them were required They 
would, after a while, produce a beetle or a worm, which they 
had previously put into their mouth, and said that it was the 
cause of the disorder.^ Among the Patagonians the same 
notions prevailed. The sick were possessed with evil spirits, 
and the doctor went around with a drum intended to frighten 
them away .3 

The principal employment of the American sorcerers was 

> New York Times. » 2 Dobriz., 248^5 1. 3 2 ib., 262. 


the cure of disease by incantations ; but the medicine-men did 
not inspire so much superstitious fear in the minds of the people 
by the practice of the healing art as by their other impostures, 
prominent among which was witchcraft. These sorcerers were 
also supposed to have the power of causing as well as of curing 
diseases, and were much dreaded by the people in consequence.* 

The practice of witchcraft aided the American sorcerers in 
obtaining great influence. Most of the uncivilized tribes thought 
that a skilful sorcerer could kill any one in the space of twenty- 
four hours merely by means of the black art, and even at the 
distance of many hundred miles. They were also able to cause 
long and lingering disorders in any one they pleased.^ 

As the Indians in general believed in witchcraft, and ascribed 
to the arts of sorcerers many of the disorders with which they 
were afflicted in the regular course of nature, this class of men 
pretended to be skilled in a certain occult scie^jce, by means of 
which they were able not only to cure natural diseases, but to 
counteract or destroy the enchantments of wizards or witches. 
The Ojibway sorcerers were thought to have the power of 
transferring disease from the patient who paid them to his 
enemy. To effect this, he made a small wooden image of his 
patient's enemy. He pierced this image in the heart, and intro- 
duced small powders, which, accompanied with the proper 
incantations, were supposed to transfer the disease to the per- 
son represented in the image.3 Mr. Tanner says the necro- 
mancers pretend to exercise an unlimited control over the 
body and mind of the person represented by these images, 
which they make of stained wood and rags, to which the name 
is given of the person they expect to control, and to the heart, 
eyes, or some other part of this image they apply their medi- 
cines, which have an effect upon the person represented. The 
sorcerers can work their injuries if they have a hair or any part 
of the person against whom they wish to direct them.* 

< Brett, 2S4-89. ^ Ixjskiel, 118. 9 2 Keating, 159. 

4 Tanner's Narrative, 190-91. 


What a key we have here to the whole labyrinth of idolatrous 
and fetichistic superstitions ! Among the Iroquois the belief in 
witchcraft was universal, and the effect upon their prosperity 
and population, if tradition is to be credited, was at times 
appalling. The witches constituted a secret association, which 
met at night to consult on mischief, and each was bound to 
inviolable secrecy. A witch had power to turn into a fox or 
wolf. In order to escape, they could transform themselves into 
a turkey and fly away. Sometimes they changed themselves 
into a stone or rotten log until their pursuers passed by. 
These witches could blow hairs and worms into a person and 
produce disease.* 

" It is incredible to what a degree the superstitious belief in 
witchcraft operates on the mind of the Indian. The moment 
his imagination is struck with the idea that he is bewitched, he 
is no longer himself. Of this extraordinary power of their con- 
jurers, of the causes which produce it, and the manner in which 
it is acquired, they have a very indefinite idea. The sorcerer, 
they think, makes use of some deadening substance, which he 
conveys to the person he means to ' strike* in a manner which 
they can neither understand nor describe. The person thus 
* stricken' is immediately seized with an unaccountable terror. 
His spirits sink, his appetite fails, he is disturbed in his sleep, 
he pines and wastes away, or a fit of sickness seizes him, and 
he dies at last a miserable victim to the workings of his own 

The supposed familiarity of the Indian sorcerer with the in- 
habitants of the spiritual world gave him his influence. Most 
of his official duty consisted in calling on his familiar spirit or 
spirits, whose attention and aid having been once secured, 
miraculous power was supposed to be conferred upon him. 
Some of these sorcerers claimed to influence several of these 
spirits. An Eskimo sorcerer had as many as ten of these spirits 
under his control. Chusco, an acquaintance of Mr. School- 

' Schoolcraft's Iroquois, 87. 


craft, claimed to influence the spirits of the turtle, swan, crow, 
and woodpecker.^ Plate V. will illustrate the Indian's concep- 
tion of the spiritual world and the sorcerer's influence therein. 
The sorcerer's lodge can be seen, wherein he is calling upon his 
familiar spirits, and they are coming and entering the lodge. 
As each spirit arrives, the lodge shakes. When they are all 
assembled, the sorcerer can use them as he pleases. The pic- 
ture represents a prophet's lodge. It must be borne in mind 
that the sorcerer is also doctor and prophet. In prophecy he 
is supposed to be able to send these agents to the uttermost 
parts of his earth in a few seconds, and get information upon 
any subject by these messengers." 

Primitive prophecy was considered under the subject of their 
dream-theories. Such revelations came to any who were under 
favorable conditions. The power of sorcerers to send their 
spirit messengers for information to other localities for tribal 
advantage, is an early step toward national prophecy. 

Henry tells the following of the Ojibways in illustration of 
this subject: "Before setting forward on the voyage, prepara- 
tions were made for invoking and consulting the great turtle. 
They built a large wigwam for the use of the priest and recep- 
tion of the spirit. The ceremonies began at night. The priest 
then appeared, and crept under the skins of the tent on his 
hands and knees. His head was scarcely within side when the 
edifice, massy as it has been described, began to shake, and the 
sounds of numerous voices were heard beneath the tent, some 
yelling, some barking as dogs, some howling like wolves, and 
in this horrible concert were mingled screams and sobs as 
of despair, anguish, and the sharpest pain. After some time 
these confused and frightful noises were succeeded by a perfect 
silence, and now a voice not heard before seemed to manifest 
the arrival of a new character in the tent. This was a low and 
feeble voice, resembling the cry of a young puppy. The sound 
was no sooner distinguished than all the Indians clapped their 

* 4 Schoolcraft's Indian Tribes, 491. '5 ib., 422. 


hands for joy, exclaiming that this was the chief spirit, the 
turtle, the spirit that never lied. Other voices which they had 
discriminated from time to time they had previously hissed as 
evil and lying spirits which deceive mankind. New sounds 
came from the tent. During the space of half an hour a suc- 
cession of songs were heard, in which a diversity of voices met 
the ear. From his first entrance till these songs were finished 
we heard nothing in the proper voice of the priest; but now he 
addressed the multitude, declaring the presence of the great 
turtle, and the spirit's readiness to answer such questions as 
should be proposed. The questions were to come from the 
chief of the village, who was silent, however, till after he had 
put a large quantity of tobacco into the tent, introducing it at 
the aperture. This was a sacrifice offered to the spirit, for 
spirits are supposed by the Indians to be as fond of tobacco as 
themselves. The chief then desired the priest to inquire 
whether the English were preparing to make war upon the In- 
dians. This question having been put by the priest, the tent 
instantly shook, and for some seconds after it continued to rock 
so violently that I expected to see it levelled with the ground. 
Then a terrific cry announced the departure of the turtle. 
The spirit soon returned, having in its absence crossed Lake 
Huron and proceeded as far as Montreal. It announced that 
the St. Lawrence was covered with boats full of soldiers coming 
to fight the Indians. Inquiries about private affairs were after- 
ward made." 

Prophecy among the Potawatomies suffered a loss of the 
respect formerly paid it, on account of the failure of the pre- 
dictions of the famous brother of Tecumseh, and of his attempt 
to deceive the Indians.* His influence was great for a time. 
This Shawnee prophet well knew how, by surrounding him- 
self with awe-inspiring mysteries, to produce an effect on the 
susceptible imaginations of the Indians. Bearing in his right 
hand the string of sacred beans and the magic fire, and carry- 

« I Keating, 133-34. 


ing with him also an image of a dead body, the size of life, 
made out of some light material, he passed from wigwam to 
wigwam and from tribe to tribe, and his solemn, mysterious 
manner procured for him everywhere admission and confidence 
even among the wild and hostile Indians of the Upper Missouri.' 

What a weird spectacle this famous sorcerer presented as he 
stood upon the eminence overlooking the battle at Tippecanoe, 
working his spells and hurling the imprecations of his spirit- 
world, which he was supposed to command, against the Ameri- 
cans under General Harrison ! Truly in that defeat prophecy 
received its death-blow among the Red men of the forest. The 
Natches, who appear to have been considerably in advance of 
all the tribes in the United States and British America in civil- 
ization, did not have a priestly order, although some progress 
had been made in that direction. The eight guardians of the 
sacred fire were dedicated to that duty, but, as there were no 
offerings, libations, or sacrifices, these persons cannot be con- 
sidered priests. On the contrary, they had conjurers among 
them who undoubtedly practised as did those of the barbarous 
tribes.* The power of prophecy was ascribed to them. 

The American sorcerers practised another imposture. They 
used witchcraft to control the elements. Those around Fresh- 
water Bay kept the wind in leather bags, and disposed of it 
as they pleased.^ A Cree sorcerer sold three days of fair 
wind for one pound of tobacco. " There were among the, 
Delawares," says Heckewelder, " old men and women who got 
their living by pretending to supernatural knowledge to bring 
down rain when wanted. In the summer of 1799 ^ inost un- 
common drought happened in the Muskingum country. An 
old man was applied to by the women to bring down rain, and, 
after various ceremonies, declared that they should have rain 
enough. The sky had been clear for nearly five weeks, and 
was equally clear when the Indian made this declaration. But 

' I Mollhausen's Journey to the Pacific, 72. > McCuUoh, 162. 

3 Hardy's Travels, 357. 



about four in the afternoon the horizon became overcast, and, 
without any thunder or wind, it began to rain, and continued to 
do so till the ground became thoroughly soaked. Experience 
had doubtless taught him to observe that certain signs in the 
sky or in the water were the forerunners of rain ; yet the credu- 
lous multitude did not fail to ascribe it to his supernatural 
power." When the Natches wanted rain, or when they desired 
hot weather for ripening their corn, they addressed themselves 
to the old man who had the greatest character for living wisely, 
and they entreated him to invoke the aerial spirits in order to 
obtain what they demanded. The old man, who never refused 
his countrymen's request, prepared to fast for nine days to- 
gether ; he ordered his wife to withdraw, and during the whole 
time he ate nothing but a dish of gruel boiled in water with- 
out salt, which was brought him once a day by his wife after 
sunset. They never will accept of any reward for this service, 
that the spirits may not be angry with them.' The Virginia 
sorcerers pretended to lay storms by going to the water's side 
and making offerings to the spirits of the waters. In Guiana 
the sorcerers thought they could control the rain and the 
clouds by incantation." Those of Paraguay were thought to 
have the same superhuman control over the rain, hail, and 

Among the Brazilians, the sorcerers made them believe that 
the fruitfulness and barrenness of the earth were owing to their 


influence. Among many of the tribes they boasted that the 
growth of plants and fruits was owing to them, and that all the 
blessings of heaven flowed only on account of their zeal and 

These accounts of the sorcerers show them to have been a 
set of professional impostors, who, availing themselves of the 
superstitious prejudices of the people, acquired the name and 
reputation of men of superior knowledge and possessed of 
supernatural powers. Many of these sorcerers were believed to 

< 2 Du Pratz, Louisiana, 241. ' Brett, 208. 3 3 Picart, 18. 


be able to work miracles. A young Comanche medicine-man 
pretended to bring the dead to life. He also ascended to the 
clouds far beyond the sun. He had several times ascended in 
the presence of the Comanches, remaining in the sky over- 
night and coming back next day. He succeeded in deluding 
the minds of his people in the following manner. It is given 
out that at a certain time he will visit the sun. He withdraws 
himself a short distance from the crowd, charging them to look 
directly at the sun until he speaks to them, then let their eyes 
slowly fall to the place where he is standing. As they do this, 
they will see dark bodies descend to receive him, with which 
he will ascend. His directions being complied with, the dark 
objects descend to him, and, being blinded by their continual 
gazing upon the sun, he bids them slowly raise their ty^Sy and 
the dark objects arise, while he conveys himself away and con- 
ceals himself until the appointed time of his return.' The 
Medicine Bluffs received the name from the following legend. 
Many years since, a noted medicine-man of the Comanche 
tribe, in company with some friends, rode up the slope of the 
hill, when this frightful precipice of two hundred or two hun- 
dred and fifty feet appeared before them, stopping them in their 
course. But the medicine-man was not to be stopped, neither 
turned aside. Uttering some words of Indian magic, he rode 
his horse over the precipice; but, to the astonishment of his 
friends, instead of being dashed to pieces at the bottom, he was 
gently borne across the chasm to the opposite bank of the 
stream, where, finding himself alone, he turned his horse to 
look for his friends, whom he beheld at the top of the blufll^ 
afraid to follow and too proud to go around. To relieve 
them from their unpleasant position, he rode back and to the 
bottom of the perpendicular wall of rock, which rent at his 
approacl^, dividing the bluff into two parts by forming a chasm 
through the cliff several feet in width, through and up which 
he rode, rejoining his companions at the top, who then followed 

' Battey's Quaker among Indians, 302-3. 


him down through the pass thus made, now known as the 
Medicine-Man's Pass.^ Wood, in his " New England Pros- 
pect," says, " The Indians report of one Passaconnaw that hee 
can make the water burne, the rocks move, the trees dance, and 
metamorphose himself into a flaming man. Hee will do more; 
for in winter, when there are no green leaves to be got, he will 
burne an old one to ashes, and, putting those into the water, 
produce a new green leaf, which you shall not only see, but 
substantially handle and carrie away; and make of a dead 
snake's skin a living snake, both to be seen, felt, and heard. 
This I write but upon the report of the Indians, who confidently 
affirm stranger things." Thomas Morton, writing of the same 
man, says he was " a Powah of great estimation amongst all 
kinde of salvages ; he has been seene by our English in the 
heat of summer to make ice appear in a bowle of faire water; 
first having the water set before him, he began his incantations 
according to their usual accustom, and before the same had bin 
ended, a thick clowde darkened the aire, and on a sodaine a 
thunder clap was heard that amazed the natives. In an instant 
he showed a firme piece of ice. It floted in the middle of the 
bowle in the presence of the vulgar people, which doubtless 
was done by the agency of Satan, his consort." 

Those dwelling about St. Francis River could make their 
rods to bud and shoot forth green branches. They could meta- 
morphose themselves at pleasure. They were thought in many 
tribes to have power to bring the dead to life. 

They so imposed on the Roman Catholic priests, who were 
predisposed to accept superstitions, that many of them believed 
most implicitly in their supernatural powers. One of them who 
labored among the Kootenais says he saw one of their sorcerers 
command a mountain-sheep to fall dead, and the animal, then 
leaping among the rocks, fell lifeless. " This I saw with my own 
eyes," says he, " and ate of the animal afterward. It was un- 
wounded, healthy, and perfectly wild." ' 

« Battey's Quaker among Indians, 62, 63. » Beach, 76-7S. 


Ascription of supernatural power often occurs on account of 
the possession of some mysterious object which is supposed to 
have a powerful spirit within it Mr. Adair mentions a case 
among the Southern tribes in which a sorcerer had gained 
much distinction and had imposed upon the people by the use 
of a carbuncle nearly as big as an egg, which reflected the light 
with such strong flashes as to inspire terror in the minds of the 
superstitious natives.' Mr. Du Pratz, while among the natives 
of Louisiana, attained great distinction as a sorcerer by drawing 
down fire from the sun, to use their language, with a burning- 
glass. Some of the sorcerers among the Western tribes im- 
posed upon the Indians by pretending to eat fire which they 
placed in their mouth and then extinguished the flame." A 
sorcerer among the Cherokees who had been removed to the 
Western country had a knife which was magnetized, and he 
influenced the tribe to do as he wished by imposing on them 
by this mystery. Whatever he wished them to do he would 
announce when he was attracting the mineral substance. 

They often impose on the people by finding out ahead of the 
tribe that an enemy is coming, and announce it as though it 
was revelation. Whatever they conjecture or learn from secret 
intelligence they predict as about to happen, with infinite pom- 
posity, and are listened to with as much attention as though 
they were really inspired. When they call their spiritual agents, 
they retire into a tent, mutter awhile, then command, and the 
shade comes, which they interrogate, and, changing the voice, 
give the answers, and every one present believes. Before a 
battle, they ride around the ranks with fierce countenance, 
imprecating evil on their enemies. On account of this cere- 
mony, if victory comes, the best part of the spoils is adjudged 
to them as the fruit of their office. Whatever they wish they 
extort from these credulous people. If they imagine them- 
selves injured by any, they will command the persons to come 
to them and then lacerate them till the blood streams from 

« American Indians, 87. * Lee and Frost, 164. 


their .body. They keep the people in dread by threatening to 
turn into a wild beast and tear them to pieces. This they be- 
lieve they are able to do, and if they begin to roar like some 
ferocious animal the people will fly in every direction. 

The belief in shamanism is universal in Alaska. The words 
and actions of the shaman, or sorcerer, are considered infallible 
by the Thlinkeets, and believed implicitly by them. A shaman 
has the faculty not only of calling spirits from the vasty deep, 
but also the power to make them come when he calls for them. 
Their mode of initiation is to retire to some forest or mountain 
and fast. Here the river-otter is said to come and visit them, 
from whom they get the secret of their profession. If the 
novitiate fails in this way, he repairs to the grave of some 
shaman, and remains over-night with a tooth or finger of the 
corpse in his mouth. Some of these shamans control a large 
number of spirits, and these he can command at will.* 

Among the Chukchees and Koriaks, the head of every family 
performs the office of shaman." This is evidence of their 
having made little progress from their primitive condition. 

Among the more barbarous tribes the priestly office had 
never been separated from that of doctor and conjurer. Among 
a few of the tribes occupying the territory of the United States 
a division of these offices had begun to take place. The Chero- 
kees appointed every year one of their tribe to make the sac- 
rifices for the people.3 The office of priesthood appeare to 
have just been instituted among them. One family of the tribe 
was set apart for this office. He, however, continued to per- 
form the office of " medicine-man'* and sorcerer. He also in- 
terpreted omens and baptized their infants soon after birth, 
which was a custom from time immemorial among them. A 
priesthood had been established among the Powhatans of Vir- 
ginia, and many of the tricks of these priests were discovered by 
the Europeans. They made the idols move and talk as they 

' Ball's Alaska, 424-26. » lb., 513. 

3 I Logan's South Carolina, 26. 


pleased, by being concealed in them, whilst another priest kept 
back the people, who were filled with curiosity, from discov- 
ering and profaning by their presence the holy of holies. These 
priests were celibates. The natives of Florida had priests who 
communed with invisible spirits and who alone were allowed 
within the temple with their gods.^ The Florida priests 
were trained to their business by severe fasting, which induces 
visions and a supposed intimate correspondence with the deities. 

Among the Ojibways, the medicine-men appear to have 
formed a secret society with a ceremony of initiation. They 
held secret convocations, which were held in high veneration 
by their deluded brethren. The chiefs never undertook any- 
thing of importance without consulting such a convocation. 
Among the Dacotahs, a sacred language had sprung up among 
their sorcerers, who had not yet, however, attained to a priestly 

Among the Eskimos, the angekok was sorcerer, doctor, and 
priest. They had, however, formed a caste in this world and 
in the next. The ordinary sorcerers did not rank with these 
angekoks, but were an inferior order who worked injuries to the 
people. The angekoks, before assuming the office, retired to 
a secluded spot and fasted until they dreamed of beasts and 
monsters, which they supposed to be real spiritual existences 
and became familiar spirits.^ It will be noticed that these ange- 
koks went through the same ceremony for obtaining their 
spiritual agent which every Indian did among the other wild 
tribes of America; but among the Eskimos it seems to have 
been confined to the angekoks. It shows they had taken one 
step in advance of the neighboring tribes in the establishment 
of a priestly hierarchy. The surrender of this primitive custom 
to the angekoks is quite significant. They used the superiority 
which they had begun to acquire to fasten their impostures 
upon the people, for they admitted to Europeans, says Mr. 
Crantz, that their pretended intercourse with the spiritual world 

* Bartram's Travels, 497. » Eastman's Chicora, 16. 3 i Crantz, 194. 


was a pretence to deceive the simple, and they avowed the 
falsehood of apparitions.' 

The Caribs had a priesthood, and put all candidates for it 
through a pretty severe discipline. They fasted, became intox- 
icated with tobacco-juice, and did all other acts which prepared 
their minds, as they thought, to consult the genii. They always 
practised their art in the night-time, where and when their 
imposture could not be discovered. 

Persons whose constitutional unsoundness induces morbid 
manifestations are indeed marked out by nature to become 
seers and sorcerers. Among the Patagonians, patients seized 
with falling sickness or St. Vitus's dance were at once selected 
for magicians, as chosen by the spirits themselves, who pos- 
sessed and convulsed them." 

Traces of a priestly language are found among a few of the 
tribes. In Peru, the priests conducted the temple services in a 
language not understood by the masses, and the incantations 
of the priests of Powhatan were not in ordinary Algonkin, but 
some obscure jargon. The same peculiarity has been observed, 
and heretofore noticed, among the Dacotahs and Eskimos ; but 
linguistic scholars, on searching, have found them among the 
last two tribes to be the ordinary dialects of the country, 
'* modified by an affected accentuation, and by the introduction 
of a few cabalistic terms, which have made a slang such as 
rascals and pedants are very apt to coin." 3 

Among the most civilized aboriginal peoples a priesthood 
was found exercising all the offices assumed by them in the 
Old World civilizations. The attendants ofi the Peruvian 
temples composed an army of themselves. The whole number 
of functionaries who officiated at the Coricancha alone was no 
less than four thousand.* Among the religious ceremonies 
which occupied the priestly caste were baptism, confirmation, 
holy orders, extreme unction. 

' I Crantz, 195-97. ■ Falkncr's Patagonia, 1 16. 

3 Brinton's Myths, 303-4. < I Prescolt*s Peru, 1 00. 


Baptism was general among all the Peruvian nations west of 
the Andes, and in some provinces took place two or three 
weeks after birth. In the southern provinces two years elapsed. 
All the relatives were assembled at this ceremony. On the 
day of the birth, the water with which the infant was washed 
was poured into a hole in the earth in the presence of a priest, 
who pronounced cabalistic words over the newly-born, intended 
to conjure away and exorcise all future malign influence. 
When the child attained puberty, confirmation took place, 
which consisted in imposing a new name and cutting the hair 
and finger-nails of the confirmed and sacrificing them to the 
Huacas. It will be borne in mind that these and all other parts 
of the body were superstitiously preserved from the possession 
of any one, and the dedication of these parts of the body to a 
deity was a solemn act of worship undoubtedly with them, 
however ridiculous it may appear to us. Penance was prac- 
tised before the principal feasts, when they confessed their sins to 
a priest after they had previously fasted several days. Confes- 
sion began in this strain : " Hear me, highlands, plains, condors, 
owls, grubs, and all animals and herbs, know that I wish to 
confess my sins." This is nonsensical, unless we recollect that 
they worshipped the things addressed, and hence they were 
confessing to their gods. After the confession had been made, 
they went through ordeals to prove whether they had concealed 
anything. By one of these ordeals they were required to throw 
a handful of corn into a vessel, and if there was an even num- 
ber of grains the confession had been well made, otherwise not. 
Penance consisted in abstinence from many pleasures for a sea- 
son, and occasionally in corporal punishment. Sometimes they 
were forced to put on new garments, in order that the sins might 
be left in the old ones. A priest assisted the dying by mutter-? 
ing incantations against the power of evil spirits. Holy orders, 
or the ceremony of the consecration of priests, was a matter of 
the highest importance among the ancient Peruvians. The 
priesthood contained a number of orders. The greatest respect 
was commanded by those of the sun; but each Huaca had its 


'priest, who was respected in proportion as the Huaca was 
venerated. His occupation was to take care of the deity, and 
watch in his temple on the spot where his image was erected, 
to speak with him, and repeat his answers to the people, pre- 
sent their offerings, make sacrifices, celebrate their feasts, and 
teach their worship. Such employments occupied the priests 
of the dead. The Conopas also had priests, who interpreted 
their will and offered sacrifices when brought to them. The 
soothsayers and wizards formed a particular subdivision of the 
priesthood. Those most esteemed were the Socyac, who pre- 
dicted the future by means of small heaps of corn ; the Paccha- 
cuti, who divined by means of spiders' feet; the Hacaricue, 
who foretold by the blood and intestines of rabbits ; the Pichi- 
uricue, who observed the flight of birds; the Moscoc, who in- 
terpreted dreams, sleeping by the clothes of him who consulted 
them, and receiving in a dream the answer.' 

The Peruvian priests also acted as prophets, and could give 
an account of that which was done in very remote parts before 
any news thereof was brought. The battles that were fought, 
rebellions that broke out, and other remarkable accidents that 
happened at three hundred leagues' distance, they pretended to 
know the same day. They could also find stolen goods.* 

Great was the surprise of the first Spanish ecclesiastics, who 
found, on reaching Mexico, a priesthood as regularly organized 
as that of the most civilized countries of the Old World. 
Clothed with a powerful and effective authority, which ex- 
tended its arms to man in every condition and in all the stages 
of his life, the Mexican priests were mediators between man 
and divinit}^ They brought the newly-bom infants into the 
religious society ; they directed their training and education; 
they determined the entrance of the young men into the ser- 
vice of the state ; they consecrated marriage by their blessing; 
they comforted the sick and assisted the dying. This sacer- 
dotal authority also manifested itself in a species of confession, 

Rivero and Tschudi, 182-84. ' 4 Herrera, 353. 


which prevailed in Mexico as well as elsewhere, and concerning 
which the dogma obtained that a wrong or sin confessed to the 
priest and expiated through the medium of a penance imposed 
by him was blotted out and placed beyond the reach of human 
justice or secular power.* 

As many as five thousand priests were attached to the prin- 
cipal temple in Mexico. The various ranks and functions of 
this multitudinous body were discriminated with great exact- 
ness. Those best instructed in music took the management of 
the choirs. Others arranged the festivals conformably to the 
calendar. Some superintended the education of youth, and 
others had charge of the hieroglyphical paintings and oral tra- 
ditions ; while the dismal rites of sacrifice were reserved for the 
chief dignitaries of the order. At the head of the whole estab- 
lishment were two high-priests, equal in dignity, and with whom 
the sovereign advised in weighty matters of public concern. 
While engaged in immediate attendance at the temples, they 
lived in conventual discipline ; but they were allowed to marry. 
Thrice during the day and once at night, when in active duty, 
they were called to prayers. They practised flagellation, and 
pierced their flesh with the thorns of the atoe, — 


In hopes to merit heaven by making earth a hell." 

The great cities were divided into districts, and placed under 
the charge of a parochial clergy, who regulated every act of 
religion within their precincts, and administered the rites of 
confession and absolution. Priestly absolution was received in 
place of the legal punishment of offences, and authorized an 
acquittal in case of arrest." The sick deemed it an indispensable 
condition to their recovery that every secret crime should be 
confessed to the priest^ 

In all the towns of the Mexican empire there were as many 
complete sets of priests as there were temples. Some took 

» Rivero and Tschudi, 19, 20. » i Prescott's Mexico, 66, 68. 

3 I Bancroft, 124. 


charge of the sacrifices, others were skilled in the art of divina- 
tion. Others applied themselves to the composition of hymns. 
Those learned in science superintended the schools and col- 
leges. Those who possessed literary talent compiled the his- 
torical works and collected material for the libraries. There 
were monasteries for each sex. In those for females they were 
under surveillance of a number of staid matrons of good char- 
acter. On entering the monastery, each girl had her hair cut 
short. They all slept in one dormitory, and did not undress 
at night, in order that they might be ready to rise at ten o'clock, 
midnight, and dawn, for religious ceremonies. On these occa- 
sions a matron led the procession : with eyes bent on the ground, 
the maidens filed up one side of the temple, while the priests 
did the same on the other, so that all met before the altar. In 
a pantheon of as many divinities as that of the Mexican, and 
where all the phenomena of nature are attributed to some one 
or more of these divinities, it can be easily understood why a 
religious machinery, intricate and ponderous, should be re- 
quired to propitiate the anger, humor the whims, and beseech 
the favor of such a vast number of capricious and active deities. 
The priests often went to the king and told him to remember 
the idols, who were starving with hunger, whereupon the 
princes sent to one another to prepare for war, because their 
gods demanded something to eat. Then they marched out 
and fought, only endeavoring to take prisoners, that they might 
have men to feed the gods.' 

We hear from the accounts we have received that there 
were some celebrated preachers among the priests, and silvery- 
tongued orators played as successfully upon the emotions of 
the Mexicans as do our modern revivalists. Herrera says, 
"They had priests who preached dreadfully in the temples, 
putting men into horrid frights, by which means they moved 
them to do whatever they directed." ■ 

The vast number of the Mexican priests, their enormous 

» 3 Herrera, 213. » 3 ib., 255. 


wealth, and the blind zeal of the people, all combined to render 
the sacerdotal power extremely formidable. The king himself 
performed the functions of high-priest on certain occasions, and 
frequently held some sacred office before succeeding to the 
throne. The heads of church and state seem to have worked 
amicably together, and to have united their power to keep the 
masses in subjection. The sovereign took no step of impor- 
tance without first consulting the high-priests, to learn whether 
the gods were favorable to the project. In Tezcuco and Tla- 
copan the pontifical dignity was always conferred upon the 
second son of the king. In Mexico a supervisor over the wor- 
ship of the gods stood next in rank to the two high-priests. 
Among other dignitaries of their religious system were the 
chief of the sacrificers, who inherited his office, the keeper 
of relics and ornaments, the composer of hymns, the musical 
director, the treasurer, master over temple-property, and num- 
bers of masters of special ceremonies. 

The ordinary Mexican priests dressed in a black cotton cloth, 
which hung from the back of the head like a veil. Their hair 
was left uncut and painted black. Reed sandals protected their 
feet. There were certain orders, however, which varied from 
this. They were engaged a great part of the time with hymn- 
chanting and incense-burning. They also took the auguries, 
among which the priest went through the ceremony of sprink- 
ling snuff on the altar in order to discover whether the gods 
would favor any national enterprise. If shortly afterward any 
footprint of an animal, particularly that of an eagle, was found 
impressed in the snuff, it was regarded as a mark of divine 
favor, and great was the shouting when the priest announced 
the augury.' We here see how the priests utilized the supersti- 
tions of the people in reference to the agency of animal spirits. 

Among the Mexicans, each temple had its own lands and 
possessions, and even its own peasants to cultivate them. 
Thence was drawn all that was necessary for the maintenance 

» 3 Bancroft, 431-38. 


of the priests, together with the wood which was consumed in 
great quantities in the temples. A tract of country which 
went under the name of Teotlalpan (land of the gods) was un- 
doubtedly so named from being the possession of the temples. 
There were, besides these, daily offerings from the devout, of 
provisions. Near the temples there were granaries for the pro- 
visions of the priesthood. The annual overplus, if any, was 
distributed to the poor. The priesthood received nearly as 
much homage as the deities themselves.' 

The office of anointing kings was assumed by the two high- 
priests. The new king, with no covering except the girdle, 
ascended the temple of Huitzilopochtli, where he was met by 
one of the high-priests, who dyed his body with a certain kind 
of ink and sprinkled him four times with water which had been 
blessed. The king was then clothed with a mantle on which 
were pictured skeletons of the dead, and a medicine-bag tied to 
his neck containing charms against disease; after which he took 
an oath to maintain their ancient religion. The priest then in- 
structed him in his duties as sovereign. The king during all 
this ceremony was upon his knees before the priest. The 
Mexican schools and seminaries were annexed to the temples, 
and the instruction of the young of ^both sexes was a mo- 
nopoly in the hands of the priests. Generally the boys were 
sent there between the ages of six and nine years, and were 
dressed in black." The seminaries for girls were guarded day 
and night by old men, and the maidens could not even leave 
their apartments without a guard. They were taught the 
tenets of their religion, and swept the temples and attended to 
the sacred fire. They also learned how to make feather-work 
and spin and weave mantles.3 

The priests did not fail to assume an important part in mar- 
riage ceremonies, the most important part in which was the 
address of the priest to the betrothed couple, in which he de- 
fined their duties to each other. He exhorted them to be 

' I Clavigero, 269>7o. ' 2 Bancroft, 243. ' 2 ib., 245. 



faithful to one another and maintain peace and harmony be- 
tween themselves. He then tied the end of the man's mantle 
to the dress of the woman. After congratulations, they pro- 
ceeded to the temple, where the priest perfumed them, then led 
them to the altar and placed a finely-woven shawl on each of 
their shoulders, in the centre of which was painted a skeleton, 
as a symbol that death only could now separate them from 
each other. He then perfumed them again, and led them to 
the door of the temple. Four days were spent in penance and 
religious ceremonies, after which their couch was prepared by 
two priests and the marriage consummated.' 

Among the Mexicans, every distinguished man had a priest 
or chaplain to perform the ceremonies within his house, and 
when he died the chaplain was killed, to serve him in the same 
manner in the other world.** 

The Mexican priests had to consecrate the ground on which 
they played their national game of ball, somewhat similar to 
tennis. This they did by blessing it and then throwing the 
ball four times about the court, when it might be played, but 
not before.3 

Cortes says the priests were very strict in the practice of 
honesty and chastity, and any deviation was punished with 
death, and he was very desirous that the vice and profanity of 
the Spanish clergy should be concealed from them as much as 
possible, that they might not be led to undervalue the Chris- 
tian faith. 

It must have been an imposing sight to behold in Cam- 
peachy the priests, arrayed in long white mantles, perfuming 
the Spaniards with burning gum and bidding them depart.* 

A tradition of the Mexicans would appear to indicate a 
period when sorcery was supplanted by their elaborate system 
of priestcraft. On departing from Michoacan, they left behind 
a sorceress who was worshipped by the people at the instiga- 

* 2 Bancroft, 257-59. • 3 Herrera, 220. 

3 2 ib., 341. 4 Cortes, Despatches, 7. 


tion of an idol which had four priests connected with it. This 
woman, seeing herself abandoned, founded a town called Mali- 
nalco, and ever after, the inhabitants of that place were looked 
upon as great sorcerers. That part of the nation which pro- 
ceeded toward Mexico appears to have fallen completely under 
the dominion of the four priests, who gave laws, and without 
whose approbation nothing was done, and who spoke through 
their idol, which they carried on their shoulders/ 

The Zapotecs were a priest-ridden people. Their priests 
possessed great power, secular as well as sacerdotal. Among 
the Zapotecs, the wedding-day had to be fixed by the priest' 
Yopaa, one of their principal cities, was ruled absolutely by a 
pontiff, in whom the Zapotec monarchs had a powerful rival. 
It is impossible to overrate the reverence in which this spiritual 
king was held. He was looked upon as a god whom the earth 
was not worthy to hold or the sun to shine upon. He pro- 
faned his sanctity if he so much as touched the ground with 
his foot. The officers who bore his palanquin upon their 
shoulders were members of the first Zapotec families. He 
scarcely deigned to look upon anything about him. He never 
appeared in public except with the most extraordinary pomp, 
and all who met him fell with their faces to the ground, fearing 
death would overtake them were they to look upon holy 
Wiyatal, as he was called. The most powerful lords never 
entered his presence except with eyes lowered and feet bared. 
Continence was strictly imposed upon the Zapotec priests, but 
this high pontiff was an exception, because no one could furnish 
him with a worthy successor, who must be of his own gener- 
ating. On certain days in each year this high-priest became 
drunk, and while in this state one of the most beautiful virgins 
consecrated to the service of the gods was brought to him, 
and if the result of this holy debauch proved to be a male in- 
fant, it inherited his position.^ 

Among the Zapotecs there was a class of priests who made 

» 3 Herrera, 190-91. '3 ib., 262. 3 2 Bancroft, 142-43. 


the interpreting of dreams their special province. Each form 
of divination was made a special study. Some professed to 
foretell the future by the aid of stars, earth, wind, fire, or 
water, others by the flight of birds, by the entrails of sacrificial 
victims, or by magic signs and circles. There were hermits 
who passed their entire lives in religious ecstasy and medita- 
tion, shut up in dark caves or rude huts with no human com- 

Among the Mayas, the temporal power of the priesthood 
was even greater than among the Nahua nations. Votan, 
Zamna, Cuculcan, and all the other semi-mythical founders of 
the Maya civilization united in their persons the qualities of 
high-priest and king, and from their time to the coming of the 
Spaniards ecclesiastical and secular authority marched hand in 
hand. The Itzas,at Chichen, were ruled in the earlier times by 
a theocratic government, and later the high-priest of the empire 
of the royal family of the Cheles became king of Izamal, which 
became the sacred city and headquarters of ecclesiastical dig- 
nitaries. The gigantic mounds still seen at Izamal are tradition- 
ally the tombs of both kings and priests. The priests were 
allowed to marry, and the office of high-priest was hereditary. 
Mictlan was another great religious centre and a shrine much 
visited by pilgrims. Here a sacerdotal hierarchy, hereditary in 
one family, ruled. Thus we see that while the priesthood had 
great power over even the highest secular rulers in all the 
Maya nations, yet the system by which the high-priests were 
members of the royal families rendered their power a support 
to that royalty rather than a cause of fear.* 

The Mayas intrusted the more advanced education of youth 
entirely to the priesthood. The youths assisted the priests in 
their religious duties. Girls were placed in convents under 
the superintendence of matrons, who were most strict in their 
guardianship. In all the educational institutions of Yucatan 
the mysteries of astrology, divination, prophecy, and medicine 

« 2 Bancroft, 20X-13. ■ 2 ib., 647-48. 



formed a great part of the instruction, and the youth of both 
sexes were familiarized with religious rite and ceremony.* 
Among the Mayas, no one could marry who had not been bap- 
tized, and, as the ceremony was elaborate connected with bap- 
tism, and no one could officiate thereat but a priest, we can see 
that it would have required a large body of clergy to attend to 
these ceremonies. This was remedied to some extent, tow- 
ever, by selecting five of the most honored men of the town to 
assist the priests in these ceremonies." The Maya priests ap- 
pear to have retained a primitive fetichistic superstition, for they 
had medicine-bags in which they kept fetiches of different 
kinds. They also appear to have had a superstitious feeling in 
reference to their pictographic manuscripts.^ 

A division of labor appears to have separated to some extent 
the ecclesiastical forces of the Mayas. The doctors were evi- 
dently a class distinct from the priesthood proper, although the 
priests do not appear to have yielded entirely the practice of 
medicine. Especially did they retain control over confessionals, 
which were considered as a means for the cure of disease. 
The doctors practised phlebotomy, drawing blood from those 
parts of the patient's body where the pain or malady lay. 
They believed disease was caused by spirits, and the practice 
of blood-letting and this primitive superstition are closely con- 
nected with each other. By a strange coincidence, blood-letting 
is found to be a cure for certain diseases, and is retained in the 
medical practice of the present day; but with the primitive 
peoples it was nothing but a superstition, and, with emetics, 
was the only cure, exclusive of spiritual influence. The Mayas, 
like the Nahuas, believed implicitly in the power of witches 
and wizards. The priests of Yucatan exercised even a greater 
influence over the people than those of Mexico. In order to 
retain this power, they appealed to the religious side of the 
people's character by thundering sermons and solemn rites. 
The king himself, when he paid his annual visit to the high- 

s 2 Bancroft, 663-64. ' 2 ib., 682. 3 2 ib., 697. 


priest to inaugurate the offering of first-fruits, set an example 
of humility by kneeling before the pontiff and reverently kiss- 
ing his hand.* 

The priests decided what trade a child should learn. 

The priesthood of Yucatan were divided into classes, who 
performed different offices. Some preached, some taught, some 
were sacrificers. Others construed the oracles of the gods, 
and accordingly exercised great influence and held the highest 
place in the estimation of the people, before whom they ap- 
peared in state, borne in litters. The sorcerers and medicine- 
men foretold fortunes and cured diseases. The first step had 
been taken to divide the confessors into a class, for none but 
married priests could take confessions.^ 

The priests of Yucatan were so much venerated that they 
were the lords who inflicted punishments and assigned rewards, 
and were exactly obeyed. They were presided over by a high- 
priest. These priests appointed the festivals and ceremonies, 
administered the sacraments, divined and prophesied, and exor- 
cised spirits. They were so much respected, they were some- 
times carried shoulder-high.^ 

Herrera says, however, that they forged answers from the 
oracles to impose upon the people and get their presents, and 
also practised sorcery.* 

Each of the numerous tribes of Guatemala had a distinct 
and separate body of priests, who, by means of their oracles, 
exercised a decided influence on the state. The Quiches 
were spiritually governed by independent pontiffs. The high- 
priests of Tohil and Gucumatz belonged to the royal house, 
and held the fourth and fifth rank among the grandees of the 
empire. The two high-priests of the Kahba temple in Utatlan 
were of the royal stock, and each had a province allotted for 
his support at Istlavacan. Sixty priests, diviners, and medicine- 
men exercised their offices even in modern times, for the in- 
fluence of the native priesthood prevails in man)'* localities. 

« 3 Bancroft, 446. ■ 3 ib., 473. 3 Landa, xxvii. * 4 Herrera, 174. 


At Copan, a priest was so revered that a person who presumed 
to touch him was expected to fall dead immediately.* 

In Nicaragua, the office of high-priest was held by the 
caciques, who each in turn filled the position for a year, re- 
moving from home to the chief temple. At the expiration of 
the term he received the honorable distinction of having his 
nose perforated. The ordinary priests had no fixed revenues, 
and lived on the offerings to the idols. Their sorcerers could 
produce death by a look. They had oracles, the answers from 
which came through the mouths of the priests. The chief 
priests of the temples exercised great influence on account of 
their sanctity and superior knowledge, and none dared approach 
them except the principal men of the state." 

The natives of the Isthmus had a priesthood sworn to per- 
petual chastity. Fasting and prayer for the needs of the people 
formed the greater part of their offices.^ 

The high-priest and four assistants among the natives of San 
Salvador were accustomed to meet to ascertain, by sorcery and 
enchantment, whether they should make war, and their decision 
was implicitly obeyed.* 

Among the Chibchas of Bogota the priests were much re- 
spected. They were not allowed to marry, and lived an austere 
life. No sacrifice could be made but by the hands of a priest^ 

Evidences of a recognition of special calls to the oflSce of 
the priesthood appear. The priestly office among the Peruvians 
appears to have been hereditary ; some attained to it by elec- 
tion ; a man struck by lightning was considered as chosen by 
heaven ; also those who became suddenly insane.^ Mr. Southey 
says that among the Moxos of Brazil, who worshipped the 
tiger, a man who was rescued from but marked by the claws 
of that animal was set apart for the priesthood, and none other. 

* 3 Bancroft, 489-90. ° 3 ib., 495-96. ^ 3 ib., 499. 

4 Palacio, 66. 5 P. Simon, 249. * Arriaga, 20. 



The belief in the existence and proximity of a world of 
spirits, and a fear of such spirits, is the only solution of all the 
curious religious customs, ceremonies, and superstitions of 
pagan life. A degeneracy from monotheism has not taken 
place, but rather a gradual development from the rudest super- 
stition. This is shown conclusively by the numerous survivals 
of the lowest forms of superstition in a higher culture. The 
elimination of these superstitions is gradually taking place, as 
their error is discovered and their inutility to the higher cul- 
ture is manifest. This elimination is, and will always be, a 
slow process, because each individual has attained a different 
stage of progress from every other, and the more advanced 
will be ready to discard much that those less enlightened still 
cling to as a heritage of the past. 

It is questionable whether the highest man will be able to 
eradicate from his nature every vestige of a superstitious fear 
or dread of the supernatural. Great progress, however, is made 
toward this end when a multitude of superhuman beings, who 
are supposed to have power over the forces of nature, and are 
at times malevolent in their disposition, are supplanted by one 
ruling power who controls all things in justice and by un- 
changing law. Our increasing knowledge of nature's laws is, 
however, working to diminish the domain of the supernatural. 
The paramount influence which surrounding nature has on the 
development of the human being is unquestionable. It is the 
more powerful the nearer the people is to the uncultured state, 
and diminishes in proportion as human art and science gain 



power over the forces of nature. For this reason a primitive 
people ascribe spiritual agencies to those results of nature's 
laws not understood by them. 

Primitive animism is marvellously self-consistent. Its phi- 
losophy is the conservation and correlation of spiritual force 
which dwells in and controls matter. All the phenomena of 
nature are explicable thereby. It is " so coherent as to create 
a perfect plexus of ideas that mutually support and interpret 
one another; so persistent that even the more extravagant 
developments can survive for ages in defiance of accurate 
knowledge." It is the only philosophy that renders it possible 
to bring about a unity in mythological science, and by it alone 
can a religious evolution be made out. It is in perfect accord 
with modern science and thought upon the subject of man*s 
social development. 

All the doctrines of the present day have their source in 
animism. In the animistic philosophy is embraced a belief in 
the immortality of the soul, and its entity could not be de- 
stroyed, but continued in a never-ending circle of transmigra- 
tion or emigration, which was the genesis of all superstition. 
The doctrine of the resurrection of the body was believed in, 
and all its parts preserved with sacred care. A belief in re- 
wards and punishments existed in the primitive animism. Says 
the Aztec proverb, " Remember that evil, like a poisonous herb, 
brings death to those who taste it." 

Apotheosis and translation were the highest prizes awarded 
the meritorious. Such subtle doctrines as the incarnation and 
immaculate conception are found as forms of transmigration. 
Prophecy, revelation, and miracles are all logical results of 
animism and found everywhere. Among the aborigines of 
America the modern ordinances of religion, such as the eucha- 
rist, baptism, penance, confession, and sacrifice, are found among 
their pagan rites. 

Savage animism is not a degeneracy of a higher culture. In 
it we find no survivals which show inconsistencies with it; 
whereas in higher cultures we find survivals of primitive super- 


stition wholly inconsistent with the mpre advanced beliefs. 
Their presence in the higher culture can only be explained by 
a survival. The whole scope of man's doctrinal history shows 
a progressive movement If monotheism had been an original 
doctrine, traces of such a belief would have remained among 
all peoples. If the cure of disease by medication had been the 
original method, such a useful art would never have been so 
utterly lost that sorcery should wholly usurp its place. These 
two special characteristics of a higher civilization are not found 
in primitive culture, but all the primitive superstitions, in modi- 
fied form or in outline, are found in the higher cultures. 

Before closing this work, it is appropriate to notice what 
historical tradition says about the primitive social condition of 
the civilized races of America. The first important result of a 
hunting life is the scattering of the population in small masses, 
which requires a large area, which of itself renders any advance 
in civilization impossible, a relatively dense population, with 
its multifarious reciprocal relations, being an indispensable con- 
dition of civilization. 

M. Pauw says of the different grades of civilization, " Cul- 
tivators come first, because their subsistence is the least pre- 
carious, their life the least turbulent," thus affording them 
leisure to think and reflect. Hunters are always savage. They 
dread the multiplication of their species, because game will be 
less abundant. They are the farthest removed from social or- 
ganization. Never at peace with men or animals, their instincts 
are savage. Among the American aborigines the hunter con- 
dition was the most prevalent. Agricultural pursuits were 
found, however, among the more civilize'd. American agricul- 
ture was indigenous. This is proved by the fact that grains 
of the Old World were absent, and its agriculture was founded 
on the maize, an American plant. Their agriculture and their 
architecture show an indigenous origin of their civilization, as 
does also their mythology. Since we have traced a develop- 
ment in their religious belief and ceremony, let us see what 
evidence, if any, mythology will contribute toward disclosing 


the primitive condition of the most civih'zed nations, and the 
development of their civilization. 

The Peruvian civilization was the highest reached on the 
American continent, but their traditions show a primitive bar- 
barism. Many of the Peruvians descended, according to tra- 
dition, from animals. Several tribes trace their descent from 
the condor, and the eagle and animal forms were used as 
heraldic designs. Manco Capac banished cannibalism and 
human sacrifices and introduced peaceable pursuits. He was a 
social organizer, and a builder of cities. In six years after the 
founding of Cuzco he had a well-drilled army, with which the 
barbarous peoples that surrounded his little state were subdued.^ 
Caste-distinctions were found in Peru, and their growth is in- 
dicated in the traditional descent of the three classes from gold, 
silver, and copper. The princes descended from gold, the 
nobles from silver, and the common people from copper." This 
myth has historical significance, and in it is preserved the fact 
that the class of the nobility originated after the other two 
classes, for, says the myth, "at first there were only the Incas and 
other people." The caste system of the Peruvians varies from 
the Oriental in the absence of the priest and warrior castes. In 
Peru, priests were officers of the son of the Sun, and there was 
no warrior caste, because all were called upon to bear arms peri- 
odically, showing no ethnological conquest as in the Orient. 

In knowledge, little progress had been made by the Peruvians, 
except, perhaps, in mechanical and agricultural pursuits. Agri- 
culture was especially encouraged and patronized by the Incas, 
who turned the earth, at their annual ceremonial, with a golden 
plough. They had little knowledge of science. They thought 
rain was produced by a rain goddess, who poured water upon 
the earth from a pitcher. Anger was the predominant emotion 
of their gods, and their outbursts of wrath were manifested in 
eclipses, storms, and comets.3 Their fire-worship was, in pre- 

* MUller, Geschichte Amer. Urrelig. ■ Des Jardins, Le Pdrou, 29. 

3 Miiller, Ges. Amer. Urrelig., 395. 


Incarial times, connected with stone-worship/ but in later times 
with sun-worship. The sun was anthropomorphosed, and re- 
moved from the control of natural law. Stars were named after 
earthly animal gods and human beings, which were thought to be 
heavenly prototypes. They had no medical knowledge ; their 
writing was pictographic. Their geographical maps were made 
of clay, with small stones in bas-relief to denote the few locali- 
ties known. The gods of the Incas set us no moral examples. 
There were many immoral elements in their worship. Prayer 
was offered to these divinities by priests, but personal prayer 
was little used. Such was their civilization in its moral aspects. 

A development of the civilization of the Muyscas of Bogota 
from savagery is confirmed by their myths. The former naked- 
ness of the people is set forth in their traditionary clothing by 
Bochica, who found them naked. He had the fabulous age of 
two thousand years ascribed to him, in accordance with the 
custom of all ancient nations. All of this period was em- 
ployed, until about the time of his death, in elevating his sub- 

The most remote antiquity is always the age of giants, and 
great convulsions of nature are thought to terminate and begin 
an epoch. The Mexicans had five such epochs. The first was 
that of the giants ; the second was that of fire, from which 
the birds and one human pair escaped ; the third was that of 
wind, from which, however, one human pair was again saved ; 
the fourth was the age of water, from which a snake woman 
escaped, and from her the present race sprang. The snake 
woman, or the woman of the snake gens, shows the existence 
of the totemic system. The Aztec military orders were divided 
into gentes named after animals, showing a former primitive 

The Aztec government gave the Mexican religion its dark 
and sanguinary nature. The system of natural religion depends 
on the idea that prevails of the character of the divinities, whose 

* MUIler, Ges. Amer. Urrelig., 368. 


nature depends on the traditionary character of the apotheosized 
ruler. If an inexorable tyrant, his worship will be bloody. 
At the time of the discovery a powerful religious hierarchy had 
grown up in the Mexican empire. Four million priests oflSciated 
in their religious ritual, who also had great political influence. 
Besides these there were monks, who were confined in cloisters 
and were celibates. Learning and education were in the hands 
of the priests and religious orders. All boys had to pass 
through the ordeal of baptism by fire, in which they were 
drawn four times through that purifying element. They were a 
priest-ridden people. The Mexican civilization at the time of 
the conquest presented an incongruous mixture of good and 
evil. It was made up of Aztec and Toltec elements. The 
Aztecs were a semi-barbarous people, whose association with 
the more civilized but subjugated Toltecs was producing the 
inconsistency of a social compact made up of peaceful and 
sanguinary ingredients. Human flesh would be sold in market- 
places adorned with flowers. The taste for flowers undoubtedly 
indicates a relish for the beautiful, and we are astonished at 
finding it in a nation in which a sanguinary worship appeared 
to have extinguished whatever related to the sensibility of the 
soul. In the great market-place of Mexico the native sells 
no peaches, or roots, or pulque, without having his shop 
ornamented with flowers. The Indian merchant appears seated 
in an intrenchment of verdure. 

Although the arts were in their infancy, yet those appertain- 
ing to worship and personal adornment were pursued to an 
extent that denoted a generous patronage. 

Among the Mexicans the laws against thefl were severe, and 
punished with slavery or death. Drunkenness was allowed in 
men after sixty, and in women after they were grandmothers. 
Fornication was allowed among the unmarried, but it was pun- 
ished with death among the married. Their laws were utili- 
tarian rather than moral. Cannibalism was sanctioned by re- 
ligion. Phallic worship existed, according to the monuments, 
and at an annual festival licentiousness prevailed to such an 

CONCL US JON. ' 39 1 

extent that the noblest women were willing victims. The Tol- 
tecs thought that their great goddess Centeotl would triumph 
at last over the ferocious gods of their warlike conquerors, and 
human sacrifices would be abolished. 

Among the Maya nations in their higher civilization, a 
former condition of savagery and totemism may be strongly 
suspected when the names of the fox, jackal, paroquet, and 
crow are found attached to them in the annals. Their tra- 
ditions corroborate this. 

In the cosmogony of the Quiches, of the four men first 
created, three were named after the tiger, — namely, Balam 
Quitze, the tiger with the sweet smile ; Balam Agab, tiger of 
the night ; and Iqui Balam, tiger of the moon. The Popol 
Vuh appears to intimate a totemism, and to recognize a meta- 
morphosis of the fierce animals into stone when they threatened 
the destruction of the human race. 

The Miztecs seem to have worshipped the deer, as their first 
gods were called deer, male and female, and these deities had 
children, from whom they descended. Traditionary descent 
from animals implies an early condition of savagery. 

The process of social development received little aid from 
sorcerers, or priests, who were the religious leaders of the 
people. With few exceptions they were impostors. Hence 
the religious condition was most deplorable of those who were 
the most advanced in their civil organization. 

Fear is the prevailing religious sentiment among all the 
tribes of America. Religion did not have much moral in- 
fluence toward ennobling hearts or humanizing manners, but 
merely excited emotions of fear and increased fanaticism. 
Prayers were offered for material things, but touched not morals. 
Prayer was in the form of conversation with spirits. Hence 
among the savage tribes we find very little evidence, if any, of 
a moral sentiment Neither among savage nor civilized was 
morality a religious necessity. Where a moral dualism occurs, 
it can be reduced to the simple terms of the Totonecs, who had 
a dualism, but ** their evil gods were those of the Aztecs, their 


enemies and conquerors." Their worst barbarities were com- 
mitted at the instigation of superstition. Even the custom of 
abandoning the infirm or sick arose from a superstitious fear of 
the evil spirits which were supposed to have taken possession 
of them. 

The religion of the aboriginal tribes of America was a sys- 
tem of superstitions, all of which are explicable by the doc- 
trine of the agency of multitudes of spirits, and in no other 



Absolution, priestly, 375; acquittal of 
criminals, 375. 

Abstention from animal food, supersti- 
tious origin of, 49, 169, 237. 

Agency, spiritual, 26, 69, 92, 349, 352, 
377, 392; in disease, 51-61; in pro- 
duction of winds and storms, 349- 
352 ; in prophecy, 363, 364. 

Agriculture, indigenous character of 
American, 387, 388. 

Altars, tombs the primitive, 21S-220; 
altar- mounds, 188-190. 

Amulets, 71 ; amuletic character of fet- 
ichism, 141. See Fetichism, 

Ancestors, worship of, 72-74, 80, 86- 
88, 91, 104, no, 115. 

Anchorite, 100. 

Angekok, 371. 

Animals, worship of, 221, 256, 266; 
worship of animal spirits, 253 ; fear 
of animal spirits, 253 ; animal dress, 
248-253; animal dances, 251-253; 
worship of every variety of animal 
life, 255, 256 ; transmigration of hu- 
man souls into animals, 48-51, 221, 
254, 255; superstitions about white 
animals, 260; animal forms in art, 
222, 223, 266-268; fabulous animals, 
268-286 ; animals in rOle of creators, 
222, 223, 268, 269 ; deluges produced 
by animals, 269, 270; winds produced 
by animals, 270 ; convulsive changes 
in nature produced by animals, 270, 
271 ; superstitions about strange ani- 
mals, 281, 282; descent of human 
race from animals, 221-223, 231-237, 

242 ; descent of animals from human 
race, 242-245; animal names given 
human beings, 230, 231, 237; sexual 
unions of animals and human beings, 
234-237; disease produced by ani- 
mal spirits, 51-61. 

Animism, 52, 71, 116, 117, 133, 134, 
317, 321, 325, 326, 386; animistic 
origin of idol- worship, 116, 117, 123 
-125; animistic origin of fetichism, 
141, 156; animistic origin of nature- 
worship, 317, 321, 325, 326; ani- 
mistic origin of Sabaism, 326; co- 
herency of, 386; persistency of, 386. 

Anointing kings, ceremony of, 378. 

Anthropomorphism, 80, 83-85, 89, 91 ; 
anthropomorphic character of plant- 
spirits, 299; anthropomorphic char- 
acter of tree-spirits, 289; anthro- 
pomorphic nature of the heavenly 
bodies, 62, 326, 33^338, 347» 34^; 
anthropomorphic character of deities, 
92, 96-99, 107, 1 10. 

Apotheosis, 76-78, 96, 102, 105, 106, 
112, 114, 386. 

Araucanians, locality of their spirit- 
land, 36. 

Architecture, indigenous character of 
aboriginal, 387. 

Areskoui, Iroquois deity, 87. 

Astrology, 348, 381. 

Astronomical knowledge, 336 ; crude 
ideas of heavenly bodies, 342, 343. 

Athaensic, Iroquois deity, 87. 

Atlas, or earth-upholding deity, of the 
New World, 113. 

Atotarho, Iroquois cult-hero, 86. 

Augury, 223, 226, 377. 




Aztec sovereigns, 96, 97 ; military orders, 
289; sanguinary character of Aztec 
religion, 389. 


Bacab, immaculate conception of, 106. 
Bachue, Muysca goddess, 112. 
Baptism, 103, 370, 372, 373, 382, 386. 
Blackbird, mythical light-producer, 268. 
Bochica, Muysca god, 112. 
Bogota, civilization of, 389. 
Bone-houses, 118, 178, 179. 
Bones of the dead, 144; preservation 

of, 177, 193-195; preservation of the 

bones of animals, 157, 158, 193, 199; 

the bones the dwelling-place of the 

spirit, 193. 
Buffaloes, worship of, 258. 
Burial in temples, 178; burial in huts, 

175; burial-customs, 163-196. 
Butterfly, mythical creator, 269. 


Canis Major, 329. 

Cannibalism, origin of, 144- 152, 388, 

Captives, sacrifice of, 214. 

Caste, system of, in Peru, 388; priestly 

caste, 371,372. 
Catalepsy, 198. 

Cataracts, worship of, 315, 319, 320. 
Ceremonies, burial, 169, 170, 172. See 

chapter on Priestcraft for religious 

Charms, 134, 157, 264. 
Chiefs, worship of dead, 77. 
Chulpas, burial-towers of Peni, 191. 
Cities of refuge, 323, 324. 
Cloisters, 335. 

Coatlicue, goddess of flowers, 102. 
Composite forms, human and animal, in 

art and myth, 235, 267, 268, 276-278, 

283, 284. 
Confessional, 57, 58, 373-37S» 383.386. 
Confirmation, 372. 

Conjurer, influence of, 356, 357. Sec 

Conopas, 160. 

Convents, 335. 

Copper, sujierstition about, 135. 

Cosmogony, tribal myths about, 26S- 

Couvade, origin of, 58, 59. 

Creators, 74, 75, 84, 87, 88, 91, no, 
113, 268, 269. 

Cremation, 166, 168, 171- 174, 187-190, 
194, 196; cremation-mounds, 187- 

Cross-roads, sup)erstition about, 71. 

Cultivators of soil, 387. 

Culture-heroes, 76, 78, 86, 96, 107, 113. 

Cumulative burials, 165. 

Cure of disease, 55, 354-361. See Ex- 
orcism and Sorcery, 


Deities, strength of, 108, 113, 114; dei- 
ties of Eskimos, 79; Iroquois, 87; 
New England tribes, 87, %% ; Western 
tribes, 88-91 ; of tribes of Brazil, 92, 
93 ; of Mexico, 93-102 ; of Yucatan, 
104-107; of Guatemala, 108, 109; 
of Peru, 113, 114. 

Deluge, 132, 269, 270. 

Demonology, 27-29. 

Demons, 28,30,31,40, 53,321 ; Toliec, 
29 ; Peruvian, 29 ; local, 30. 

Descent of human race from stones, 133 ; 
from springs, 315; from trees, 289; 
from mountains, 307, 308; from sun, 
333» 334 ; from moon, I'^i ; from ani- 
mals, 222, 223, 231-237, 242. 

Deucalion, myth similar to that of, 132. 

Disease, 223; produced by spirits, 51- 
61; by sorcerers, 361, 362; cure of, 

Divination, 223, 381. 
Division of labor, 382. 
Doctors, 354; their method of cure, 

354-360; influence of, 356, 357. 
Dreams, 53, 61-68, 163, 223. 
Dress, animal, 248-253. 




Eagles, worship of, 261, 262. 

Earth, supported by animals, 311, 312; 
by men, 113, 312; supported on pil- 
lars of holy wood, 292. 

Earthquakes, production of, 312. 

Echoes, the voices of spirits, 42, 177, 

Eclipses, causes of, 340, 344-346. 

Education in hands of priests, 374, 376, 

3781 381. 
Elements, worship of, 349; control of, 

by sorcerers, 365, 366. 

Elopement of the moon, myth of, 333. 

Embalming the dead, 167, 173. 

Epilepsy, 60. 

Ei)unamun, Brazilian deity, 92. 

Erratic boulders, worship of, 136. 

Eucharist, rite similar to, 152, 153,386; 
eating gods, 152, 153. 

Evil eye, myth of, 284. 

Evolution, 13-15, 385, 387-90. 

Exorcism, 14, 353, 354, 356, 383, 

Expulsion of evil spirits, 27-29, 40; ex- 
pulsion of, 14, 29, 353, 354, 356, 383 ; 
transmigration of, into animals, 50, 5 1 ; 
return of, from spirit-land, 37, 43, 44. 


Fabulous animals, 268-286. 

Fairies, 23-25. 

Family gods, no, in. 

Fear of spirits, 253, 385. 

Festivals to the dead, 72, 73, 77. 

Fetichism, 141-144; fetichistic super- 
stitions, 141-161, 259; animistic 
origin of, 141, 156. 

Fire, mythical origin of, 293. 

Flagellation, practice of, 375. 

Flags, fetichistic origin of, 241. 

Flamingoes used as fetiches, 161. 

Flood, traditions of, 269, 270, 323. 

Flying heads, 281. 

Food-offerings to the dead, 200-205. 

Fountain of life, tradition of, 132, 269, 
270, 314. 

Future life, 31, 32; rewards and pun- 
ishments of, 31, 33, 50, 51, 204, 205. 


Gateways, guardian spirits of, 122, 123. 
Gentes, animal, 231-237 ; tree gens, 289. 

See Totemism, 
Geysers, superstitions about, 314. 
Ghosts, 42, 69. 
Giants, 78, 85, 86. 
Gods, 84-102; of air, 352; rain, 103, 

388 ; sea, 322, 323 ; of love, loo, loi ; 

of mirth, loi ; of flowers, 102 ; of 

medicine, poetry, and music, 106 ; of 

dead, 97 ; thunder, 83, 93. 
Grave-jxets, 117, 118. 
Great Spirit, 15, 16, 85. 

Haunted places, 21, 22, 302-305, 309- 

Hayti, mythical animation of, 312. 

Heads, preservation of human, as fet- 
iches, 143. 
Heavenly bodies, worship of, 325-348 ; 

anthropomorphic character of, 326; 

personality of, 320, 332; animation 

of, 326. 
Heavenly ladders, 67. 
Heraldry and heraldic devices, 237-239, 

241, 250. 
Hermits, 381. 

Heyokah, a Dacotah god, 84. 
Hiawatha, 86. 
Hieroglyphic writing, 239. 
High-priests, 381-384; office hereditary , 

Human spirits, worship of, 69-71, 77, 

82,87, 88, 91, no. See Apotheosis 

and Translation, 
Hun Ahpu, a Quiche god, 108. 
Hunter tribes, condition of, 387. 


Idols, n5, 123-130; vitality of, n6, 
n7, 123-125; idol pipe, 128. 

Images, use of, in sorcery, 361 ; worship 
of images of the dead, 125, 126. 

Immaculate conception, 76, loi, in, 

Immortality of human spirits, 31-33, 



50, 51, 204, 205 (see Spirits and 
Apotheosis) ; immortality of animal 
spirits, 223, 224. 

Impostors, 366, 371, 372. See Sorcery 
and Priestcraft, 

Incantation, 354, 356. 

Incarnation, 45-47, 73, 90, 102, 108, 
386. See Transmigration, 

Incas, worship of, 72, 114. 

Indian corn, origin of, 293. 

Indian summer, origin of, 181. 

Infanticide, 38. 

Inherence of spiritual life, 142-144. 

Intercessory character of human sacri- 
fices, 214. 

Interchange of souls, 60. 

Interment, 166, 168, 171, 174, 177, 194, 

Intoxicating herbs, superstitions about, 

Islands, worship of, 309 ; haunted, 309 ; 
sacred, 311. 

Ixtlilton, a god of medicine, 99. 


Jouskeha, an Iroquois deity, 87. 


Kabibonocca, a deity, 82. 
Kareya, a deity, 88. 
Khanuk, a deity, 89. 


Lakes, worship of, 315, 319-322. 
Legend of Mount Shasta, 308. 
Licentiousness of Aztec religion, 390, 

Living, worship of the, 75. 

Locality of the spirit-land, 35-43. 

Longevity of gods, 1 1 2. 

Lycanthropy, 246. 


Manabozho, a deity, 80-82. 
Manco Capac, 1 14, 334, 388. 
Mandioca, traditional origin of, 293. 
Manitology, 221, 237. 

Manitous, 222, 223, 226-229; manner 
of selection, 227-230. 

Maracas, fetichistic nature of, 159, 160. 

Mastodon, bones of, 84, 279, 280. 

Mayas, civilization of, 391. 

Medicine-bag, 158, 159, 382. 

Mermaids, 277, 278. 

Metamorphosis, loi, 130-132, 223,243- 
249» 30S1 3o6> 326, 327; origin in 
animal dress, 248-253; from eating 
animal flesh, 253. 

Meteorology, 349-352; winds produced 
by spirits, 349-352. 

Meteors, 330. 

Mexitli, a Mexican deity, loi. 

Milky Way, 329, 346. 

Miracles, 367, 368, 386; ascribed to 
sorcerers, 366-368 ; dead brought to 
life, 368 ; belief of Catholic priests 
in miracles of native sorcerers, 368 ; 
power of working ascribed to those 
in possession of a mysterious object, 
369; mantle, embarking on, 114; 
sea parts for passage of Quiches, 109. 

Monasteries, 376. 

Monotheism, 385, 387. 

Montezuma, 76. 

Moon, worship of, 343 ; myths of, 329, 

332, 333- 

Moral character of the religion of abo- 
rigines, 391 ; of convents, 335. 

Mounds, burial, 178-187; altar, 188, 
190; animal mounds, 241, 242; re- 
cent erection of, 179-181 ; civilization 
required in erection of, 1 79-181. 

Mountains, worship of, 301-305; haunt- 
ed, 202-205; metamorphosed into 
men and animals, 305, 306; tradi- 
tionary descent from, 307, 308. 

Mythology, comparative, 17. 

Myths, star, 327, 328, 330, 331. 


Names, superstitions about, 21,1 53-1 56 ; 

of living, 153, 154; of dead, 1 54-156 ; 

change of, 154. 
Naology, science of symbolism, 221. 
Nature-myths, 325. 



Niagara Falls, worship of, 300. 
Nondescript animals, 278, 279. 
Northern lights, 330. 


Obsession, 52. 

Omaha, a god, 91 ; evil spirit, 40. 

Omens, 56, 62, 223, 224 ; cries of birds, 

225, 226. 
Oracles, 137, 138, 225, 226, 383. 
Origin of trees, 292, 293 ; of plants, 

293 ; of the color of red clover, 293. 
Orion, 329. 

Ornamentation, fetichistic origin of, 141. 
Ouiot, a god, 75, 91. 
Owls, worship of, 262, 263. 


Pachacamac, 334, 335. 

Penance, 373, 375. 

Persecution, religious, 335. 

Peru, civilization of, 388; deities of, 
113, 114; priesthood of, 372-374. 

Phallic worship, 390. 

Phlebotomy, 382. 

Photographs, superstitions about, 140. 

Piasan, legend of, 274-276. 

Pilgrimages, 105, 134, 303, 304. 

Plants, worship of, 293, 295, 296, 299 ; 
personality of, 294 ; spirits of, 294 ; 
anthropomorphic character of, 299; 
supernatural character of intoxicating 
and healing herbs, 295-298; origin 
of maize, 293; of mandioca, 293; 
of red clover, 293. 

Pottery, 122; worship of burial-urns, 
120, 121. 

Prayer, 70, 71, 73, 74, 389, 391. 

Priestcraft, 123, 353, 370, 372-381 ; 
priesUy caste, 355, 356, 371-374; 
in Mexico, 374-380 ; language, 372 ; 
honesty of, 379 ; calls to, 384 ; main- 
tenance of, 377, 378; ^ress of, 377; 
confessions to priests, 374, 375 ; edu- 
cation in hands of, 374, 376, 378, 
381 ; imposture of, 353-356; temporal 
ix)wer of, 381. 

Primitive superstitions, 19-22. 
Primitive temples, 118. 
Promethean legend, 97. 
Prophecy, 363-365. 3^6. 
Prophet, 363-365. 374. 386. 
Protecting genii of towns, 122, 123. 


Quahootze, a god, 89. 

Quetzalcoati, a Mexican god, 93 ; human 

nature of, 93-99 ; reforms of, 94, 95. 
Quiches, civilization of, 391 ; deities of, 

108, Z09. 


Rabbits, worship of, 256. 
Rain, sorcerers control, 365 ; produced 
by sorcerers, 365, 366 ; rain goddess, 

Relics, 70-72, 144. 

Resurrection of body, 162-164, '94. 
195. 197-199.386; cases of resuscita^ 
tion, 197, 198; resurrection of ani- 
mals, 199. 

Revelation, 386. See Prophecy, 

Rivers, worship of, 315-317 ; spirits of, 
316; music of river-spirits, 317. 

Road to spirit-land; 357; difficulties 
o^> 35. length of, 37; of the dead, 

Rock-temples, 301, 302. 


Sabaism, 325-332. 

Sacrifice, 70, 71, 73, 196; of food, 200, 
205 ; periodical renewal of food-offer- 
ings, 203; utilitarian character of, 
205, 220 ; sacrifice of property, 205- 
208 ; of flowers, 205, 206 ; substitu- 
tion of the images of property, 208; 
becomes a ceremonial rite, 208 ; hu- 
man sacrifice, 101-103, 107, 109, iii, 
208-216; suicides in sacrifices, 209, 
211; intercessory character of human 
sacrifice, 214 ; sacrifice of children, 
214-216 ; tombs the altars of sacrifice, 
218-220; bodily mutilations, 216- 




220 ; myth of the substitution of a 
spiritual being, 208, 209. 

Scalping, fetichistic origin of, 142, 143. 

Scomalt, a deity, 90* 

Serpents, worship of, 263-266. 

Shamanism, 370. 

Shingebiss, an Ojibway god, 82, 83. 

Shooting stars, 329. 

Sorcerer, 52, 54, 57, 95, 96. 

Sorcery, 142-144, 361 ; practice of, in 
cure of disease, 354-360, 382, 387 ; 
use of idols in sorcery, 138-140. 

Spirits, worship of human, 69-71, 82, 
113, 115; fear of, 14, 19; worship 
of evil spirits, 30 ; land of, 35-43 ; 
river-spirits, 316, 317; water-spirits, 
322, 323 ; contest with, 22 ; subter- 
ranean abode of, 35. 

Springs, worship of, 31 2-3 1 5. 

Statues, worship of those containing 
ashes of the dead, 119, 120. 

Stones, worship of, 130-135 ; animation 
of, 133, 134; transmigration of spirits 
into, 133; oracle-stones, 137, 138. 

Stygian flood, 37-39. 

Sun, myths of, 325-327, 330. 

Supreme Being, 15, 16, 88, 92, 93. 

Survivals of superstitions, 385-387. 

Suspensions of the dead, 166-168, 170, 
171, 174, 176, 177, 194. 

Symbolism, 221, 237 ; symbol of land, 


Tattooing, fetichistic origin of, 156, 

Tchimose, Haidah mythological being, 

Temples, primitive, 118. 
Tezcatlipoca, a Mexican god, 94-96. 
Thunder-bird, 271-274. 
Tlaloc, Mexican god of rain, 103. 
Toads, worship of, 256, 257. 
Toltecs, 95, 96. 
Tortoise, worship of, 258 ; earth on the 

back of, 312; shells of, as fetiches, 

160, 161. 
Totemism, 222, 230-239 ; totemic poles, 


Translation, cases of, 77, 78, 86-88, 91, 
92, 107, III, 328, 329, 332, 333. 

Transmigration, 386; of human souls 
into animals, 48-51, 221. 

Transmission of spiritual essence, 353. 

Trees, worship of, 287-292; spirits of, 
289,290; anthropomorphic character 
of, 289 ; origin of, 292, 293. 

Trimurli, 77, 93. 

Tupa, a Brazilian god, 92. 

Tupinamba thunder-god, 193. 


Underground origin of tribes, 200. 
Unktayhee, a Dacotah god, 84. 
Urns, burial in, 176, 189; worship of, 
120, 121. 


Valor rewarded in future life, 32. 
Viracocha, a Peruvian deity, 113. 
Volcanoes, worship of, 308, 309 ; hell 

located in, 308. 
Votan, a Maya deity, 104. 


Water-lily, origin of, 332. 
Water-spirits, 322, 323; worship of, 

Winds produced by spirits, 349-352 ; 

by animals, 270. 
Witchcraft, 361. 
Woods, sacred, 177. 


Xbalanque, a Quiche god, 108. 

Xipe, Mexican god of goldsmiths, loi. 


Yehl, a deity, 89. 


Zamna, a Maya god, 105. 
Zipacna, a Quiche god, 108. 
Zome, a Brazilian god, 93.