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Resources for students & teachers

Carl Sofus Lumholtz
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 383 pages of information about Unknown Mexico, Volume 1 (of 2).
your figure, you will see with me that it represents a man-god sitting, his legs doubled under him and his medicines distributed around and upon him according to his parts, and in accordance also, probably, to their importance and the case in hand.  He must always have the chief of all medicines placed on his heart, as the renewer of life.  Then, strictly with reference to the ailment to be treated, and its location in the body or limbs of the patient (I should say), the other medicines.  I throw this out as a suggestion, yet with much confidence in its at least approximate correctness as indicated by my comparative studies.  Probably a consultation of your notes and the remembrance of variations of the ceremony you have seen, will signify to you whether I am right or not.  Remember that if these people have this ceremonial in connection with the treatment of disease, they will also have it in the treatment of the weather, etc., when “diseased,” so to say.  You have opened up a new significance of many outlines among the older lava-remains, and if my record of these in turn has helped to explain your diagram, etc., you can judge of my pleasure and appreciation.”

Chapter XX

    The Tarahumare’s Firm Belief in a Future Life—­Causes of
    Death—­The Dead are Mischievous and Want Their Families to Join
    Them—­Therefore the Dead Have to be Kept Away by Fair Means or
    Foul—­Three Feasts and a Chase—­Burial Customs—­A Funeral Sermon.

The idea of immortality is so strong with the Tarahumares that death means to them only a change of form.  They certainly believe in a future life, but they are afraid of the dead, and think that they want to harm the survivors.  This fear is caused by the supposition that the dead are lonely, and long for the company of their relatives.  The dead also make people ill, that they too may die and join the departed.  When a man dies in spite of all efforts of the shamans to save his life, the people say that those who have gone before have called him or carried him off.  The deceased are also supposed to retain their love for the good things they left behind in this world, and to be trying every way to get at them.  So strong is the feeling that the departed still owns whatever property he once possessed, that he is thought to be jealous of his heirs who now enjoy its possession.  He may not let them sleep at night, but makes them sit up by the fire and talk.  To soothe his discontent, tesvino and all kinds of food are given him, because he needs the same things he needed here.  In the course of the year several ceremonies are performed, by which he is actually chased off, and the survivors constantly take precautions against his return to bother them.

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