An Introduction to Mythology
Page: 95In the country of the ghosts we see a striking analogy to the old classical idea of Hades. It is a place of windless, soundless[Pg 214] half-dusk, inhabited by shadows who shrink from tumult of any description, and pass a sort of shadowy extension of earthly life. It is to be sharply distinguished from the country of the 'Supernatural People,' who lead a much more satisfying existence.
There are other and still more mysterious regions in the sky, recorded in the Amerindian myth of Aqas Xenas Xena. It tells how a boy who has slain his mother mounts to the celestial sphere by a chain fastened to the end of an arrow. He first meets the Darkness, and is then accosted by the evening star, who asks if he has seen his game, and explains that he is hunting men. He reaches the house of the evening star, and finds his sons and daughter at home counting over the game-bag of the day—dead folk. The daughter is the moon. The same thing occurs in the house of the morning star, whose daughter is the sun. The sons of the one star are at war with those of the other. He marries the moon, and has children united in the middle. He returns to earth with his wife and progeny, whom Blue Jay separates, and they die, returning to the Sky with their mother and becoming the 'sun-dogs.' In this day and night myth we recognize the widespread belief in celestial regions where man exists not after death, a belief common to nearly all American mythologies.
There is a similar myth relating to the sun, which is kept in the hut of an old woman dwelling in the skies. From her an adventurous hero obtains a blanket to render him immune. The myth was probably invented to explain sunstroke.
In his work on the Lengua Indians of South America Mr W. B. Grubb gives this account of their beliefs:
"The unseen world in its relation to man is naturally much more clearly defined by the Indian. He holds that the aphangak or departed souls of men in the shade world (pischischi, shadows) merely continue their present life, only of course in a disembodied state. The souls of the departed are supposed, in the ethereal state, to correspond exactly in form and characteristics with the bodies they have left. A tall man and a short man remain tall and short as spirits; a deformed man remains deformed. A kindly-natured man continues so in shade-land. A witch-doctor, or a great chief, feared and[Pg 215] respected in the body, is feared and respected in the spirit-world. Those who were related in this world associate with each other in the next. Departed spirits continue the same tribal and clan life as when in the body. The spirit of a child remains a child and does not develop, and for this reason is not feared. Infanticide is not regarded as murder in the same degree as the murder of an adult. No punishment follows the murderer of an infant, nor is its murder attended by the ordinary superstitious fears. A murderer—that is, according to the Indian idea, a man who kills one of his own tribe—is not only executed for the crime, but his body is burnt, and the ashes scattered to the four winds. The Indian believes that after such treatment his spirit cannot take human form, and remains in the after-world shapeless and unrecognizable, and therefore unable to mingle with its kindred spirits, or to enjoy such social intercourse as exists.