The Christian Tarahumares believe that the shaman has to watch the dead throughout the year, or the deceased would be carried away by the Devil. If the feasts were not given, the departed would continue to wander about in animal shape. This is the direful fate meted out to people who are too poor to pay the shaman. Sometimes, if the dead person has not complied in life with the customary requirements in regard to feasts and sacrifices, the shamans have a hard time in lifting him to heaven. It may take hours of incantations and much tesvino to get his head up, and as much more to redeem his body. Sometimes the head falls back, and the shamans have to call for more tesvino to gain strength to lift him up again.
The Tarahumares had no great scruples about my removing the bodies of their dead, if the latter had died some years before and were supposed to have been properly despatched from this world. Where a body had been buried, the bones that were not taken away had to be covered up again. One Tarahumare sold me the skeleton of his mother-in-law for one dollar.
Three Weeks on Foot Through
the Barranca—Rio Fuerte—I Get
My Camera Wet—Ancient Cave-dwellings Ascribed to the Tubar
Indians—The Effect of a Compliment—Various Devices for Catching
Fish—Poisoning the Water—A Blanket Seine.
On a cold day in the end of October I started from Guachochic bound for the upper part of the great Barranca de San Carlos and the country southward as far as there were Tarahumares. Everything seemed bleak and dreary. The corn was harvested, the grass looked grey, and there was a wintry feeling in the air. The sere and withered leaves rustled like paper, and as I made camp near an Indian ranch I saw loose stubble and dead leaves carried up in a whirlwind, two or three hundred feet up toward a sky as grey and sober as that of northern latitudes at that time of the year. We travelled to the southeast from Guachochic over pine-clad hills, coming now and then to a lonely ranch.
About seven miles before reaching the barranca I arrived at a point 8,600 feet high, from which I could look over this vast expanse of woodland, extending all the way up to the deep gorge and diminishing in breadth toward the northwest. At San Carlos, a ranch but recently established in this wilderness, I left my animals, and immediately prepared for an extended excursion on foot into the barranca and its neighbourhood.
Nearly the whole country of the Tarahumares is drained by the river Fuerte, which, with its many tributaries, waters as many barrancas. The main one, namely Barranca de San Carlos, is from 4,000 to 4,500 feet deep, and sinuous in its course. If there were a passable road along its bottom, the distance from the source of the river to a point a little below the village of Santa Ana, where Rio Fuerte emerges from the Sierra, could be easily covered in two days; but as it is, a man requires at least a week to travel this distance, so much is he impeded by the roughness of the country.