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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/683

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CUSTOMS AND SUPERSTITIONS OF THE MAYAS.

saying that the souls have already drawn from them all the ethereal part of the substance.

When among the ruins in the ancient city of Chichen Itza, we happened to be very hard pressed for food on All Saints day, as on many other occasions, and knowing that the "feast of the dead" would be celebrated in a not very distant village, we allowed some of our men to go there and take their chance of enjoying a good meal.

In that they were most successful, the natives being at all times exceedingly hospitable, and never failing to invite those who approach their home to partake of what they have. But the men also thought of us. We had early taken to our hammocks, remembering the saying, "Qui dort, dîne" (He who sleeps, eats). About two o'clock in the morning we were aroused by a man only just returned from the village. He had waited there till all were asleep, then made his way to the graveyard, and gathered from a tree a fine fruit in the shape of a large pie. This he brought to us, wisely arguing that the embodied needed it more than the disembodied. The dead man's food was still wrapped in its banana leaf, and we were not sorry to avail ourselves of this chance to breakfast at two o'clock in the morning. No tender chicken was concealed within that particular crust, only a pig's foot with a few stray bristles on it, and a most liberal dose of red pepper, but hunger made it excellent.

When overtaken by disease, the Indians doctor themselves with certain herbs, and if that fails, call a medicine man, who knows about as much of their malady as they themselves do—perhaps less. They never attribute illness to natural causes, but either declare that they are bewitched or that their time has come and Death wants them. The medicine man pretends that he can discover the party who has done the bewitching, and for that purpose demands three days' meditation in the home of the patient, during which time he must be supplied with all the good food and drink procurable. On the third day he drinks balché, nectar of the gods, until he falls into a heavy sleep. The instant he awakes he looks into a crystal and there pretends to see the witch or wizard. He then scrapes the mud floor under the hammock of the patient, and produces a small figure that he, of course, had concealed about his person, and declares that that was what caused the sickness. For this simple trick he receives a fee. If the patient recovers, the medicine man's reputation is greatly increased. If death results, the mourners say: "It is very hard, but so it was written; his time had come; it had to be thus."

The little figures used by the trickster are made of wax and have a thorn stuck in the part corresponding to the seat of greatest pain in the body of the victim. This particular superstition