An Introduction to Mythology
Page: 94Hueyu ku, the mansion of the sun, said the Caribs, the soul passes when death overtakes the body. To the warm South-west, whence blows the wind which brings the sunny days and the ripening corn, said the New England natives to Roger Williams, will all souls go.
"Our knowledge is scanty of the doctrines taught by the Incas concerning the soul, but this much we do know, that they looked to the sun, their recognised lord and protector, as he who would care for them at death, and admit them to his palaces. There—not indeed, exquisite joys—but a life of unruffled placidity, void of labour, vacant of strong emotions, a sort of material Nirvana, awaited them."
From Peru to the coast of Brazil, the savage millions who inhabited that great stretch of watered forest pointed to the west, to the region beyond the mountains or the blessed abode of their ancestors, where in a continual state of intoxication they whiled away the hours of bliss. The people of the Pampas and Patagonia considered the sky to be the home of the dead, where they dwelt as stars. During the night they patrol the sky, but at sunrise flock around the great luminary and are bitten by his beams.
The Hurons, Iroquois, Chippeway, Algonquins, and Dakotas all told of a deep and swift stream that the soul must cross, bridged either by an enormous snake, a slender tree, or by some other precarious means, such as a stone canoe.
In old Peru, Çupay, the shadow, ruled a land of shades in the centre of the earth. To him went all souls not destined to be the companions of the sun. But, like nearly all savage Hells, this was merely a 'place of the dead' and not a place of retribution. Xibalba, the Hades of the Kiches of Guatemala, was a grisly Underworld ruled by a veritable secret society having-rules of initiation. The name is derived from a root meaning 'to fear,' from which also comes the Maya term for 'phantom' or 'ghost,' and this derivation shows it to have been a place of the dead. In the Popol Vuh, the sacred and traditional book of the Kiches, we find nothing to indicate that[Pg 213] Xibalba was a place of punishment. Those who entered it had to undergo tests analogous to those which a Red Indian must endure upon his initiation into any of the numerous esoteric societies still to be found among American barbarians; but torment is otherwise absent. The scenery of Xibalba is varied. It is gloomy, with a river of blood, a stream full of gourds, plantations of calabashes, courts for the ball-game, in which its lords are very expert, and stone buildings. It is ruled by grim lords, One-Death and Seven-Deaths. It is stated in the Popol Vuh that these were more 'devils' than gods. "In the old times they did not have much power. They were but avengers and opposers of men, and, in truth, they were not regarded as gods."
The Chinooks believe that after death the spirit of the deceased drinks at a large hole in the ground, after which it shrinks and passes on to the country of the ghosts, where it is fed with spirit food. After drinking of the water and partaking of the fare of spirit-land, the soul becomes the irrevocable property of the dead, and may not return to earth. But every person is possessed of two spirits, a greater and a lesser, and during sickness it is this lesser soul which is spirited away by the denizens of ghost-land. The Navahos have a similar belief. They assert that in the personal soul there is none of the vital force which animates the body, nor any of the mental power, but a third entity, a sort of spiritual body (like the ka of the ancient Egyptians), which may leave its owner and become lost, much to his danger and discomfort. Among the Mexicans a similar spirit-body ('tonal') was recognized, much the same in character, indeed, as the 'astral body' of modern spiritualism. Among them, as with the Maya of Yucatan, it came into existence with the name, and for this reason the personal name was sacred and rarely uttered. It was regarded as part of the individuality, and through it the ego might be injured. This belief is general among the aboriginal peoples of both Americas.