An Introduction to Mythology

Page: 96

"The aphangak is supposed to hunt, travel, garden, and carry on more or less his old life, but of course in spirit form, and pursuing only spiritual essences. The spirits of the dead appear to take no interest in the living, nor, beyond causing uncanny feelings when supposed to be hovering about, do they seem in the least to influence those left behind. Their very names are not mentioned, and every effort is made by the living to forget them....

"Speaking generally, three ideas seem to prevail regarding the future abode of the soul. The lower type of Indian holds that the aphangak continues to wander disconsolately about the country in company with its kindred spirits, while the more intelligent are of opinion that it moves over to the west, to the cities of the dead, already referred to in dealing with their origin. A few, however, hold a view similar to that prevailing among the Southern tribes—namely, that the dead inhabit a world beneath the earth.

"The lower creation, with the exception of fish and serpents, are supposed to share immortality with men. Birds, cattle, and the carnivora, especially of the leading types, figure largely in their beliefs of the shade-world, as also the dog, jaguar, horse, ostrich, and the thunder-bird."

[Pg 216]


Among African savages generally the life of the dead is merely an extension of earth-life. In the Kimbunda district of South-west Africa the dead dwell in a region called Kalunga, where they have plenty of provisions and an abundance of female servitors. They engage in the dance and the chase for pastime. In Kalunga the sun shines when it is night in the world of mortals. The Basutos believe in an Otherworld of green valleys, where the dead own herds of hornless and speckled cattle from which they can draw sustenance. Others of the same people believe that the dead wander about in silent reserve, with no feelings of joy or sorrow to agitate them or disturb what seems to be a condition of nescience. There is no moral retribution. The West Africans do not seem to believe in a 'land of heart's desire.' The Dahomans hold that in the Otherworld social status will be unchanged. Thus the king will retain his sovereignty and the slave his serfdom 'for ever.' He also credits the existence of another land beyond the grave, 'Ku-to-men' or Dead Man's Land, a place of ghosts and shadows. Turning southward again, the Zulus think that after death their souls proceed to the land of the Abapansi or underground folk.


In Borneo the Idaan race have a Heaven which is to be seen. Indeed, it is situated on the summit of Mount Kina Balu, on whose peak no native guide would pass the night. There the adventurous traveller is shown the moss on which the spirits feed, and the hoof-prints of their ghostly herds of buffalo. The Sajera of West Java possess another such Heaven on the summit of Tunung Danka. It took Mr Jonathan Rigg ten years to discover this fact among a population outwardly professing Mohammedanism.[7] The Fijians consider that Bolotu, the island of the gods, lies in the ocean north-west of Tonga. It is extensive and is replete with everything which can make for an existence of physical satisfaction. Like the[Pg 217] Norsemen, they believe that the swine slaughtered in their Paradise will reappear when again required for the feast. The Samoan Otherworld is a mere shadowy replica of this.


From these data several considerations of importance arise. We see that among the classical religions of antiquity—the Egyptian, Babylonian, Hebrew, for example—the idea of judgment, retribution, and reward arose in connexion with their places of bliss and punishment. On the other hand, we find in the myths of the Teutons, Mexicans, and people in the barbaric stages generally that a place of bliss is reserved, in most cases, for the warrior, while those who die a 'straw death' are deemed unfit to enter the Valhalla of the brave. Still further down in the scale of civilization we see that Africans, American Indians, Fijians, and other people in a state of savagery more or less, regard the future dwelling-place of the soul as a pale reflex of the world in which they have been accustomed to dwell—sometimes with mitigating circumstances and improved surroundings. Thus the savage hunts, gorges himself, and wallows in happy intoxication; the more advanced barbarian comports himself as a warrior and feasts homerically; while the civilized man must be judged ere he can betake himself to an immortal destination of bliss or torture. Only in the higher reaches of civilization does any idea of judgment, retribution, or reward, as distinguished from mere sensuous pleasure, enter into the future life.