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Carl Sofus Lumholtz
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 383 pages of information about Unknown Mexico, Volume 1 (of 2).

The giant woodpecker during the wet season rises high up toward the sun; that is why he gets his tail burned.

When the Tarahumares handle any kind of fish they take care not to touch their hair, for fear that it may turn grey and they become old.

The rattlesnakes are the companions of the sorcerers and watch to meet them and then talk with them.  A Mexican once killed a rattlesnake, and the Indian grew very angry and said that the snake had protected his house; now he had no one to guard it.

Large serpents, which only the shamans can see, are thought to live in the rivers.  They have horns and very big eyes.

The dragon-fly has no song; it flies about without making a noise.

Tata Dios put sheep into the world; they are good animals because they give wool from which people can weave blankets, and their meat is good, and they do not weep when they are killed.  But goats were put into the world by the Devil; their hair is of no use, their meat is bad, and they howl much when they are killed.

Chapter XVII

The Shamans or Wise Men of the Tribe—­Healers and Priests in One—­Disease Caused by Looks and Thoughts—­Everybody and Everything has to be Cured—­Nobody Feels Well without His “Doctor”—­Sorcery—­The Powers of Evil are as Great as those of Good—­Remarkable Cure for Snake-bite—­Trepanning Among the Ancient Tarahumares.

Without his shaman the Tarahumare would feel lost, both in this life and after death.  The shaman is his priest and physician.  He performs all the ceremonies and conducts all the dances and feasts by which the gods are propitiated and evil is averted, doing all the singing, praying, and sacrificing.  By this means, and by instructing the people what to do to make it rain and secure other benefits, he maintains good terms for them with their deities, who are jealous of man and bear him ill-will.  He is also on the alert to keep those under his care from sorcery, illness, and other evil that may befall them.  Even when asleep he watches and works just as if his body were awake.  Though real illness is the exception with him, the Tarahumare believes that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, and for this reason he keeps his doctor busy curing him, not only to make his body strong to resist illness, but chiefly to ward off sorcery, the main source of trouble in the Indian’s life.  The demand for shamans is therefore great, but the supply is quite equal to it.  For instance, in the little village of Nararachic and the neighbouring ranches, where there are about 180 households, twenty-five shamans are living, each of whom takes care of about twenty souls, though only about ten of them enjoy great reputation in the community.

Before a man is allowed to consider himself a shaman, he is examined by a “board” of recognised members of the profession, who pass upon his fitness to enter their ranks.

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