Shamanic Odyssey, V : Death & Remembrance


pp. 102-3 Makah

pp. 102-3 dreaming about the dead

p. 102

" "the cause of the great quantity of clams on the beach yesterday was the dead people I dreamed about the other night

p. 103

and they put the clams there to show their friendship" (Doig 1980:10-11)."

Doig 1980 = Ivan Doig : Winter Brothers. NY : Harcourt, Brace, Janovich.


pp. 106-7 Quileute

p. 106 multiple souls

"The regarded everything, including humans, as having ...

an inner soul,

an outer shade (slightly darker),

a life force, and

and a ghost. ...

An individual became ill whenever a soul or shade wandered away ... .

The loss of the ghost ... caused immediate death.

Usually, death was the result of a sequence which involved

the outer shade departing for the underworld, and

the inner soul dislodging from the body to wander favorite haunts for about a week before going to the afterworld and fusing with the shade, bringing mortal life to an end."

p. 106 soul-retrieval

"Shamans with special dwarf guardians a foot or two tall, like the Little Earths, had the ability by means of these to save someone, either by going to the underworld and returning with the shade, or by finding the soul while it was in transit.

Once the soul and shade had united, however, recovery was impossible."

p. 106 the ghost

"The ghost was described as slightly longer than the actual body, extending both above the head and below the feet. At death, in joined again with the soul and shade in the underworld. Once these spirits reconstituted into another whole, the triad could wander back among the living, causing relatives to sicken, die, and become companions in the afterlife. For this reason, the dead were actively shunned by the living ... . Predictably, these ghostly dead traveled only at night, whistled (their form of singing), and avoided human habitations because they could not tolerate the associated smells."

"Shamans with particular spirit partners could see and drive away ghosts if these became daring."

pp. 106-7 journey to the netherworld after death

p. 106

"The journey to the Quileute underworld, along a trail that began in darkness and ended in a sunny

p. 107

valley, took two full days. Shelter for the first night was a mat house built over the trail so that they could rest there to gather strength before surmounting obstacles the second day. After awakening, they had to


wade through sticky water ... of a lake,


"If the soul ... drank from the lake,


pass through berry patches,


ate a berry {cf. forbiddance of berries to 1st-time menstruants (LC&ShO, p. 112)}, or


cross under a pole that rhythmically struck the path,


was hit by the pole, death was instantaneous."


negotiate a rotten log bridge that stretched and contracted like rubber, and,


finally, enter a wide valley near a fish trap set in a river." "a special watcher on the river warned it not to cross over until it had lost all scent of the living, thus becoming ‘ripe’."

p. 107 after-death existence in the netherworld

"The underworld appeared as a broad, flat valley divided down the middle by a river, with the communal houses of the dead along both banks. The more recent dead occupied the nearer side and those dead for a longer time were on the other shore.

Wealthy people were buried in canoes so they could cross over to their ancestors as soon as they were ‘ripe’, while the poor had to walk carefully along the top of the fish weir.

The dead lived just like the living ... . When they were sick, they were treated by a dead shaman. Women gave birth to children and tended households. Men hunted animals, ... and harpooned whales in a nearby ocean.

Time passed with the daily, seasonal, and other regular events (like tides) on reverse cycles.

When it was day,

the dead had night,

winter, and

summer, and

low tide for the living,

high tide."

p. 107 Baby Place

"Babies and young children who died in the world of the living followed a special grassy trail that was shorter and easier, ending in a lush valley surrounded by small hills. It was south of the locale inhabited by dead adults, and included a clear lake for swimming, playground, and houses where the youngsters were cared for by a few kindly old women."


p. 108 Tillamook (Elizabeth Derr Jacobs, unpublished)

p. 108 Baby Place

"In the land of babies, infants had their own language, different from regular Tillamook, and they continued to use it for some time after birth. Special men had the ability to understand and speak it with newborns, so newborns could explain why they were sickly and unhappy. ...

In the Tillamook version of the land of babies, infants were married {cf. infant betrothal in India etc.} ... . They were naked and played around a lake until each decided to find human parents. Then the other babies, particularly the spouse, became angry and threw mud at him or her.

After birth, however, the infant could still return to the land of babies by dying, sometimes to spite uncaring parents. When the home was comfortable and content, the baby remained, forgot about the land of babies, ... and eventually went to the adult afterworld." {Similar remarks about certain recalcitrant-souled babies, who spitefully die on purpose repeatedly in infancy (in repeated lives), are to be found in West African literature.}


p. 109 Twana (Elmendorf 1960)

p. 109 multiple souls; ghosts & the 2 afterworlds; rebirth

"The Twana recognized at least three components of a person :

a heart soul,

a life soul, and

a ghost (same:512, 517).

After death,

the heart soul disappeared and

the life soul visited familiar places before becoming a ghost,

which passed through two afterworlds

before returning as a newborn."

The life soul was a tiny replica of the person, the size of a finger, with a hazy or foggy appearance. {Would "a blurry appearance" more accurate?} It resided in the head and departed through the scalp or breastbone. Every life soul became a ghost and went downriver, walking a trail until it had to cross a body of water to join the town of its ancestors. ...

The ghosts from each community lived separately in either of two afterworlds, following human routines in the first one until another death left them reborn in a more-distant second one.

After a stay in the second, a ghost personally decided when to shoot up like a spark, enter a womb, and be reborn as a human, closing one cycle of existence."

p. 109 infant-metamorphosis into a guardian-spirit

"Alternatively, a ghost could decide to become a guardian spirit by dying as a newborn. then the father placed it in a tree and fasted nearby until the ghost agreed to become one of his helping spirits."

Elmendorf 1960 = William Elmendorf & Alfred Kroeber : The Structure of Twana Culture. WA STATE U RESEARCH STUDIES, MONOGRAPHIC SUPPLEMENT 2. Pullman.


pp. 110-2 Bella Coola (McIlwraith 1948)

p. 110 spiritual aspects of a person

"They believed that spiritual aspects of each person included, at least,

a spirit,

a tally post, and

a water basin (same:94-104).

The spirit resided at the back of the neck in a thin, maple-leaf-shaped bone which trembled to increase wealth or remained inert with misfortune. ...

Mentality provided awareness and may have been localized in the heart.

Vitality stretched as a force field between the little fingers and little toes of a person."

p. 110 ghost and vitality after-death

"At death, the person divided into ... shadow, and ghost. The ghost was a changed spirit and it retraced in reverse the journey of the person’s founding ancestor. The ghost went back through the generations of ancestors to the mountain top where the founder landed on earth, wearing the cloak of a species after being sent down by the Creator from above. At that spot, the cloak, sent back to heaven when the founder reached earth, returned so the ghost could wear it to ascend above to live in the enormous house (called Nusmatta) of the Creator (Alquntam)."

vitality at the __

became __






"Owl, which went to live in a gigantic tree near Nusmatta."

pp. 110-1 supernatural tally-post; supernatural wash-basin

p. 110

"At the beginning, the Creator set up a tally post in Nusmatta for everyone who would live. (... hereditary, ...

p. 111

immortal ancestral names ... .) Each post was emblazoned with its crest (species cloak) of the first ancestor. When the person linked with the post took ill, the post leaned. Shamans would sometimes go above to straighten it up, if possible. In some cases, they could estimate the duration of that life from its angle of inclination.


Also in the beginning, an enormous wash basin was set up with many little compartments for holding water. Each one held the water of life for a designated individual".

p. 111 the fate of the shadow of the dead

"The shadow ... went to the land of the dead, which was directly under the Bella Coola Valley. The dead whistled and made ... gurgling jabber.

After a long time, the dead died again and were reborn as infants.

Everything there was reversed, even the river ran east to west, although it was also the source for all the springs in this world (same:497). What would be cottonwood fluff on earth was snow there. {Would this imply that the snow in the land of souls is not cold?} ...

In legend, cemeteries provided another entrance to this land below (same:587)."

p. 112 mythic berries

"In a legend, a woman saw berries in their true form as "goggle eyed little boys" sitting on the stalks (same:691)."

p. 113 lizard-like shamanic curing-power

"a lizard-like power belonging to a shaman lived in his right arm with its head at the wrist and its tail at the elbow.

Although such descriptions are ... in the literature (cf. p. 58 ["Medicine men are supposed to have their guardian spirits ... constantly with them in their own bodies, generally under the wrist." – quoted from Lowie 1965:6]),

Lushootseed has a term for the characteristic posture in which a diagnosing shaman places his wrist against his forehead".

Lowie 1965 = Robert H. Lowie : Letters from Edward Sapir.

McIlwraith 1948 = Thomas McIlwraith : The Bella Coola Indians. U of Toronto Pr. 2 voll.


pp. 116-9 Sanpoil

pp. 116-7 souls; ghosts

p. 116

Among the Sanpoil, every individual was believed to have ... a soul dwelling near the breast, and a guardian spirit personality acquired before puberty to

p. 117

function like an outer soul. ...

At death, ... the soul either travelled along the Milky Way to a nirvana-like state of oblivion, or became a ghost remaining on earth ... . The ghost could take several forms, including those of

a headless corpse,

a whistling sound,

heavy breathing ... .

Ghosts moved rapidly at a trot, banging or rattling along fixed paths {cf. European (and other) "ghost-roads"}, but only solitary people could see them because they avoided human crowds or gatherings."

p. 117 ghost-spirit; scapula

"Any guardian spirit became o ghost-spirit of invariable anthropomorphic form, regardless of its original species or affiliation, when its human ally died. ... (Ray 1954:169).

During life, the soul was localized in the heart, but, after death, the ghost was equated with a human shoulder blade."

Ray 1954 = Verne Ray : The Sanpoil and the Nespelem. (originally printed 1933)


pp. 128-9 Tutchone

pp. 128-9 souls

p. 128

"Among the Southern Tutchone and Tagish, the spiritual aspects of a person were arranged in layers as ... the central, inner, and outer souls. The ghost was transformed from the inner one at the moment of death. ...

Those who died violently became reddish lights in the sky {aurora borealis?}, and all the others went to the afterworld."


"Funeral ... dirges ... helped keep the soul on the correct path to a vague afterworld much like earth, the rhythmic beat ... representing steady footsteps. Excessive crying was forbidden because it would blur the

p. 129

view of the path".

"The neighboring Inland Tlingit out a whetstone in the right hand of a corpse and a black rock in the left one."


BALLENA PR ANTHROPOLOGICAL PAPERS, No. 32 = Jay Miller : Shamanic Odyssey : the Lushootseed Salish Journey to the Land of the Dead. Ballena Pr, Menlo Park (CA), 1988.