“Listen, what is that?” The other one said, “This is a very bad thing, very ugly.” He was a man who knew something, and he said, “If this grey fox returns for two nights more and whistles outside of the house of our sick neighbour, that man will die.” My informant did not believe this at the time; but the next night the grey fox returned and whistled very uncannily, and on the third night he did it again. And on the following morning a man came and asked the Indian to help him to bury the neighbour who had died during the night. They went to the house of the dead man, and “then,” the narrator concluded, “I knew that the grey fox had said the truth, for the grey fox never tells a lie.”
The grey fox and the rabbit in ancient times danced rutuburi.
The horned toad holds the world. It says: “Don’t tread on me! I am the colour of the earth and I hold the world; therefore walk carefully, that you do not tread on me.”
The master of the deer lives inside of the mountains, in the earth; therefore the Tarahumares place small quantities of corn and beans, or three arrows in a jar, on top of the highest mountain to buy the deer from the one below.
The brown ground squirrel (chipawiki), which lives among rocks and seldom ascends trees, is thought to become a serpent. This belief is also current among certain classes of Mexicans. A Mexican told me that a man once smashed the head of a chipawiki in the hollow of a tree, and when he wanted to take his game out, he found that the rest of the animal had the body of a serpent. It cannot be used for sacrifices.
Rats become bats.
The owl is very bad. Whenever it comes to a house and screeches, somebody falls ill. If it calls three times, in three consecutive nights, the sick person will die. The owl is also very smart. It knows when the Tarahumare’s blanket (in which he is wrapped when sleeping along the fire) is going to be burned. When the owl hoots near a home it says, “Chu-i, chu-i, chu-i,”—“dead, dead, dead.” Owls are killed but not eaten.
The goat sucker makes darts through the air and calls down rain. It has two nice fat young, which the Tarahumares consider a great delicacy.
The crow is much in disfavour because it eats the corn. Only the young crows are eaten.
The large swifts (olamaka) are thought to be witches, who pierce the souls of people and eat them. They are used by the sorcerers, whom they obey like dogs. Once a woman was sitting in a corn-field watching it by the side of a fire, and making yarn, when a swift settled on her skirt. She told a girl to bring a large basket, with which she covered the bird up, caught it and had it for many years. Every night the bird flew away, and then returned in the morning. Once, when the woman was absent at a tesvino feast, the girl killed the bird and roasted it. She could not eat it, however, because it had such a bad smell, and the woman found it on her return in the basket, dead and roasted. The girl ran away and the raccoons ate the corn the woman was watching.