Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/219

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

burned, when they had rest. The Finns and Lithuanians and later nearly all Indo-European people called the Milky Way the Birds' Way—that is, the way of souls.[1] The Moslems say that the souls of the faithful assume the form of snow-white birds, and nestle under the throne of Allah between death and the resurrection.[2] Another account says that in the intermediate state, until the resurrection, the souls of martyrs, according to tradition received from Mohammed, rest in heaven in the crops of beautiful green birds who eat of the fruits and drink of the rivers in that charmed region.[3] In China on the twenty-first day of the period of mourning for the dead three large paper birds resembling storks are placed on high poles in front of the house of mourning. These birds are supposed to carry the souls of the departed to Elysium, and during the next three days prayers are addressed to the ten kings of the Buddhist hades calling on them to hasten the flight of the departed soul to the Hindoo paradise.[4] On the Bosporus flocks of birds about the size of a thrush fly up and down the channel, and are never seen to rest on sea or land, and are believed by the boatmen to be the souls of the damned, condemned to perpetual motion.[5] Pliny[6] tells that it is stated in Proconnesus that the soul of Aristeas was seen to fly out of his mouth under the form of a raven. The Aztecs believed that the souls of those killed in battle, of prisoners sacrificed by the enemy, and of women dying in childbirth, went to the sun, where they passed four years of delightful existence. They were then turned into birds and animated the clouds with their brilliant plumage and harmonious voices, free to rise to the vaults of heaven or to descend to earth to taste the nectar of the flowers.[7] When a Kailta dies it is thought that the soul is carried to the spirit-land by a little bird, and, if it has been a wicked soul, it is overtaken on the way and devoured by a hawk or other bird of prey.[8] Among the Apaches the owl, the eagle, and perfectly white birds were regarded as possessing souls of divine origin.[9] The Maricopas believe that after death they will return and live in their ancient homes on the banks of the Colorado River, where their heads will be turned into owls and the other parts of their bodies into different animals.[10] The Icannas of Brazil think the souls of the

  1. Kelley, "Indo-European Folk-Lore," p. 103.
  2. Brewer, "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable," p. 840.
  3. Koran, Sale, "Preliminary Discourse," section 4; Alger, "Future Life," p. 201.
  4. Jones, "Credulities," p. 373.
  5. Hardwick, "Traditions, Superstitions, and Folk-Lore," p. 158.
  6. "Natural History," vol. vii, p. 53.
  7. Bancroft, "Native Races," vol. iii, p. 533; Alger, "Future Life," p. 73; Biart, "The Aztecs," p. 86.
  8. Joaquin Miller, "Among the Modocs," p. 241.
  9. Schoolcraft, "Archæology," vol. v, p. 209.
  10. Bartlett, "Personal Narrative of Exploration," vol. ii, p. 222.