WE have seen that to the discarnate spirit is attributed much of fondness for things to which it had become accustomed in its earthly life. The idea of preference or liking comes out frequently in connection with its post-mortem habitat. Of course, it is to be remembered that the eschatology of primitive peoples is vague and by no means consistent. Indeed, when it is recalled that Christian eschatology is still in a confused state, when orthodox theologians are at odds as to the location of the soul between death and the judgment, even as to the time of the judgment, whether immediately after death or at some indefinitely distant time; when these doctors of the faith disagree as to the conscious existence or the "sleep" of the soul after death, as to its removal to heaven or hell on dissolution, and whether that heaven or hell is final or, only temporary--one can hardly expect primitive peoples, whose memory for history is short and their outlook and forecast vague and brief, to have a consecutive and sharply defined eschatology. Consequently we find variations innumerable in the conceptions of the soul's location, and a sort of warfare between the poor ghost's supposed preference and the desires of survivors.
It is quite normal that the spirit is credited with lingering affection for the home and the environment that so long harbored it, and makes the grave, which is, of course, in the immediate neighborhood, its favorite haunt and the body in the grave still its home. How persistent this primitive notion is may be verified in almost any rural community, where few indeed care to pass God's acre after dark without company. The prehistoric Mycenæans left in graves a groove by which evidently to pour the offerings to the ghosts; Egyptian tombs had channels by which ka or ba could have access to and egress from the embalmed body. Even in Mongolia these apertures are found in the graves, though there they are placed at the sides, showing that they were intended for the spirit's exit and entrance and not to facilitate the placing of provisions--food and drink. Many primitive peoples entertain beliefs parallel to those indicated by these customs. Such are African tribes like the Baganda, certain Australians, and many others. From this conception may arise the thought that souls wander around their old haunts and even make them impossible for dwellings, at least for a time; or they may frequent places having peculiar topographical features, where their clans foregather. Sometimes this return is only temporary, limited to certain hours of the night, as for example, the case of some African ghosts, who are released between twelve and three in the morning--remember the ghost of Hamlet's father! In other cases there is alleged to be a time when the ghosts must quit finally their earthly haunts for a permanent abode elsewhere. Thus in New Guinea it seems that the spirit does not find its way at once to its home; but wanders for some
[1. NGM, May 1913, p. 65.
2. Roscoe, The Baganda, pp. 282 ff.; Howitt, Native Tribes S. E. Australia, pp. 434, 458-439, 455, 470; Talbot, In The Shadow of the Bush, p. 232.
3 Taplin, Narrinyeri, pp. 181 ff.; Thomas, Report, p. 38; Williamson, South Sea Savage, p. 76; Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes, pp. 123, 126.
4 Talbot, In The Shadow of the Bush, p. 232.]
time about the places it was familiar with during the period it was connected with the body. It may be possible that the spirit does not finally leave its own haunts until the death feasts are finished, or at least that the people believe the spirit may be about, and likely to injure them, until they think a sufficient time has elapsed, and a sufficient number of death feasts have been held, and that then it is safe to close the series, to remove the tabu, and to give over the mourning."
There is, however, in this conception left open the possibility of securing a brief visit from them for purposes that are supposed to serve the living. How easily out of this could develop the idea and practice of necromancy!
On the other hand one may support with abundant evidence the thesis that there is a quite general consensus to the effect that it is unseemly for departed spirits to inhabit the land where the living pass their earthly existence. It is widely believed that ghosts have their own land whither living mortals may not go, whence, also, spirits may not
[1. Newton, In Far New Guinea, p. 220; cf Neuhass, Deutsch Neu-Guinea, iii. 149 ff.]
usually return, unless under highly exceptional circumstances. Still it must not be forgotten that a whole group of festivals and a host of folk customs, centering in mid-winter for the most part, have as their basis the idea that ghosts return annually and must be treated with respect, kindness, and hospitality. All Souls' Day is the survival in Christian custom of this belief.
To the questions where and what the region of the dead is many tribes give various answers. Naturally man's wildest flights of imagination and fancy have played with this theme. Of course, much depends, in the answer that is given by any particular group of peoples, upon the geography of the region and the cosmography of the group. It is most natural, from the usual custom of burial, that a region beneath the earth should be in the thoughts of very diverse tribes and nations. There was placed the Babylonian "Land-of-no-Return," for the most part the Egyptian home of the dead, the Greek Hades, the resting place of natives of Hood Peninsula and other places in New Guinea, in Oceanica
[6. For convenient collections of cases, cf. Harrison, Prolegomena, passim, and Miles, Christmas, iii. pp. 161 ff.]
(Samoa)--to name only a few representative peoples. On the other hand, it frequently happens that the place of souls is otherwise located: on a distant mountain, as with some natives of British New Guinea; or where the sun sets (compare Egyptian ideas); or on an island far away; or under the sea; or in the heavens, either in some defintitely designated luminary or in some indefinite locality (Omahas regard the Milky Way as the path to this home by which spirits pass in turn to and through seven spirit worlds). At times the information is quite definite, as for example in parts of New Guinea.
"About Wedau and Wamira the spirits of the dead go eventually to some place to the eastward of Cape Frere, in a valley in the mountains called Iola, the approach to the abode of the spirits being through a hole in the ground. When the spirit arrives it is questioned at once, 'Where have you come
[7. JAI, xxviii (1899), 216 ff.; Neuhass, Deutsch Neu-Guinea, iii. 149 ff.; Westervelt, Legends of Maui, p. 129.
8. Seligmann, Melanesians, p. 192.
9. Westervelt, Legends of Maui, pp. 129 ff.; Codrington, Melanesians, pp. 255 ff.; Frazer, Immortality, p. 192.
10. Lambert, Murs et superstitions, pp. 13 ff.; Seligmann, Melanesians, pp. 655 ff.; Turner, Samoa, pp. 257-258.
11. Fletcher and La Flesche, 27th Report, etc., pp. 588-589.]
from?' 'What have you come for?' just as every time you go into a village every one you meet asks you, 'Where are you going?' 'What are you after?' The newly arrived one says, 'I have come from Wedau'or 'Wamira,' as the case may be, or the answer may state more explicitly the section of the village, and 'Where else should I go except to my own people?' Then the question is asked, 'Who sent you?' and for answer the name of some sorcerer or witch is given, the one responsible for the death. The spirit is admitted to its new home, where it finds feasting and dancing, plenty of food, and apparently also some fighting, and should the spirit be killed, as some seem to think possible, during such fighting, then it is the end, there is no more life of such."
It would be expected that ideas differ greatly as to the character of the spirit world. A wide group of unrelated peoples have looked on the place of the soul as melancholy and mournful, fitting the soul's unsubstantial character. The saying of Hezekiah, king of Israel, after he had recovered from a dangerous illness, here leaps into the mind:
[12. Newton, In Far New Guinea, p.219.]
"For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate
Such were the conceptions of Babylonians, Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans. A noted Greek hero is made to declare that he would rather be a lowly laborer on earth than have an exalted station among the dead. Adversely to this, not a few peoples patterned their ideas of future life on the present world. Such is the content of the notion in cases already cited where primitive tribes mutilated foes to prevent the shades from taking revenge in the other world. And in many other instances the imagination has compassed only similar conceptions. The Thay of Indo-China look on the next life as the counterpart of this. The African Bakongo bury their dead late in the day so that the spirits may
[13. Isa. 38:18-19.
14. Above, pp. 166 ff.
15 Lambert, Murs et superstitions, pp. 13 ff.; Seligmann, Melanesians, pp. 65S ff.; Gomes, Sea Dyaks of Borneo, p. 208.
16. Anthropos, ii (1907), 619.]
arrive when the ghosts who preceded the present dead are home from their labor in the fields and may welcome the newcomer. Other Africans know of ghost towns where the dead live and congregate as they did while on earth. The Hausa ghosts have a city of their own, which has at least once been seen by a man who returned to tell the tale. A traveler saw four caravans crossing the desert in different directions, and followed one which seemed to him best. Suddenly he saw the ghost city in front of him, and in some way became cognizant of its nature. He hurriedly turned about and escaped. This was almost miraculous, for the spirits summon travelers from a caravan, and he who follows them to the ghost city never returns. The ancient Egyptians conceived the land of the departed and their life as duplicating under happier conditions life on the Nile; indeed there was a celestial Nile land, where the social conditions which environed life on earth continued, even to the institution of slavery and subjection of the peasant to the noble. And exactly on a par with this state of expectation
[17. Weeks, Primitive Bakongo, p. 270.
18. Talbot, In the Shadow of the Bush, passim.
19. Tremearne, Ban of The Bori, pp. 155-156.]
is the set of ideas regarding the "other side" entertained by South Sea people. The custom in old Egypt, Japan, and elsewhere, and in modern Africa, of slaughtering wives, servants, slaves, and cattle to provide a retinue and a living for the dead in the spirit world is too well known to need substantiation here. We have already had before us the curious custom of providing Ushabtiu in Egypt, and have seen the record of the institution of a similar custom in Japan, while the explanation given in China and Korea of the figures around the grave-mounds in those countries has also been cited. We have to remember in taking note of these customs in the Far East that the practice of magic there has for ages been almost as common and as inveterate as in Egypt.
We may further note that in parts of Fiji and New Guinea the souls of the departed are supposed to dwell in a great community, and the puberty ceremonies are by some construed as having reference to introduction to ancestral spirits in preparation for final union with them.
[20. Williamson, South Sea Savage, p. 75.
21. Above, pp. 130 ff.
22. Frazer, Belief in Immortality, i. 434.]
In some regions the golden age of man is placed beyond the grave. Some British New Guinea tribes think of the future life as a paradise, with no old age, sickness, crime, fighting, death, or evil spirits; where first marriages are reëstablished and children are born who reach maturity and maintain that condition with unabated strength and virility; and so it is with other South Sea islanders.
The means of approach to this final abode varies, of course, with the grade of civilization, the location of the soul's home, and many other circumstances usually dependent on local conditions. If the home is on an island or across a river, a ferry may be conceived--thus Melanesians reproduce in part the ideas of the Greeks with their Charon and the Styx. Others conceive the entrance to be through well-known caves or holes, and exploration of these by the reckless or foolhardy is discouraged by the belief that attempts at entrance will be punished by severe earthquakes. Or a chasm is believed to separate
[23. Brown, Melanesians and Polynesians, pp. 443 ff.; Frazer, Belief in Immortality, i. 192; Seligmann, Melanesians, p. 192.
24. Codrington, Melanesians, pp. 255 ff.
25. Newton, In Far New Guinea, p. 219; Turner, Samoa, pp. 257-258.]
the two worlds, spanned by a tree trunk, as among American Indians or some Melanesians (the latter must carry the figure of a frigate bird to ensure safe passage), or with a higher development of culture the tree trunk becomes a bridge, the chasm hell, and the passage the trial of the soul.
While by far the preponderating belief among primitive peoples is that the dead, especially their ghosts, are to be gotten out of the way, and while the general feeling is one of fear, in occasional situations an enduring connection with them is desired, and especial efforts are made to bring this about. Thus some peoples in Africa, where nearly all shades of primitive thought may be discovered, are so anxious to secure this abiding presence of their dead that they cut off the head of the deceased and preserve it in the home. This is thought to secure the continuance of the presence of the favor of the dead patron, as he now becomes by this means."
[26. Codrington, Melanesians, p. 257
27. Frobenius, Voice of Africa, p. 674.]
Shaman | Shamanism
FAQ | About
Shamanism | Native
American Shamanism | Celtic
North Pacific shamanism | Siberian Shamanism | Mongolian Shamanism | Links
Kama Sutra art - ancient love teachings.
Vintage Photos - history of erotic art photography.
Sex News - sexual knowledge and guide.