« PreviousContinue »
duties due to men, and, while respecting spiritual beings, to keep aloof from them, may be called wisdom.' It is said that in our own time the Taepings have made a step beyond Confucius; they have forbidden the sacrifices to the spirits of the dead, yet keep up the rite of visiting their tombs on the customary day, for prayer and the renewal of vows.1 How funeral offerings may pass into commemorative banquets and feasts to the poor, has been shown already. If we seek in England for vestiges of the old rite of funeral sacrifice, we may find a lingering survival into modern centuries, doles of bread and drink given to the poor at funerals, and 'soul-mass cakes' which peasant girls perhaps to this day beg for at farmhouses with the traditional formula,
'Soul, soul, for a soul cake,
Pray you, mistress, a soul cake.' 2
Were it not for our knowledge of the intermediate stages through which these fragments of old custom have come down, it would seem far-fetched indeed to trace their origin back to the savage and barbaric times of the institution of feasts of departed souls.
1 Legge, 'Confucius,' pp. 101-2, 130; Bunsen, 'God in History,' p. 271. 2 Brand, 'Pop. Ant.' vol. i. p. 392, vol. ii. p. 289.
Journey of the Soul to the Land of the Dead-Visits by the Living to the Regions of Departed Souls-Connexion of such legends with myths of Sunset: the Land of the Dead thus imagined as in the West-Realization of current religious ideas, whether of savage or civilized theology, in narratives of visits to the Regions of Souls-Localization of the Future Life Distant earthly region: Earthly Paradise, Isles of the BlestSubterranean Hades or Sheol-Sun, Moon, Stars-Heaven-Historical course of belief as to such localization-Nature of Future Life-Continuance-theory, apparently original, belongs especially to the lower races- -Transitional theories-Retribution-theory, apparently derived, belongs especially to the higher races-Doctrine of Moral Retribution as developed in the higher culture-Survey of Doctrine of Future State, from savage to civilized stages-Its practical effect on the sentiment and conduct of Mankind.
THE departure of the dead man's soul from the world of living men, its journey to the distant land of spirits, the life it will lead in its new home, are topics on which the lower races for the most part hold explicit doctrines. When these fall under the inspection of a modern ethnographer, he treats them as myths; often to a high degree intelligible and rational in their origin, consistent and regular in their structure, but not the less myths. Few subjects have aroused the savage poet's mind to such bold and vivid imagery as the thought of the hereafter. Yet also a survey of its details among mankind displays in the midst of variety a regular recurrence of episode which brings the everrecurring question, how far is this correspondence due to transmission of the same thought from tribe to tribe, and how far to similar but independent development in distant lands?
From the savage state up into the midst of civilization,
the comparison may be carried through. Low races and high, in region after region, can point out the very spot whence the flitting souls start to travel toward their new home. At the extreme western cape of Vanua Levu, a calm and solemn place of cliff and forest, the souls of the Fijian dead embark for the judgement-seat of Ndengei, and thither the living come in pilgrimage, thinking to see their ghosts and gods.1 The Baperi of South Africa will venture to creep a little way into their cavern of Marimatlé, whence men and animals came forth into the world, and whither souls return at death.2 In Mexico the cavern of Chalchatongo led to the plains of paradise, and the Aztec name of Mictlan, 'Land of the Dead,' now Mitla, keeps up the remembrance of another subterranean temple which opened the way to the sojourn of the blessed. How naturally a dreary place, fit rather for the dead than the living, suggests the thought of an entrance to the land of the departed, is seen in the fictitious travels known under the name of Sir John Mandevill, where the description of the Vale Perilous, adapted from the terrible valley which Friar Odoric had seen full of corpses and heard resound with strange noise of drums, has this appropriate ending: "This vale es full of deuilles and all way has bene; and men saise in that cuntree that thare es ane entree to hell.' In more genuine folklore, North German peasants still remember on the banks of the swampy Drömling the place of access to the land of departed souls.5 To us Englishmen the shores of lake Avernus, trodden daily by our tourists, are more familiar than the Irish analogue of the place, Lough Derg, with its cavern entrance of St. Patrick's Purgatory leading down to the awful world below. The mass of mystic details
1 Williams, 'Fiji,' vol. i. p. 239; Seemann, 'Viti,' p. 398. 2 Arbousset and Daumas, p. 347; Casalis, p. 247.
3 Brasseur, 'Mexique,' vol. iii. p. 20, &c.
4 See The Buke of John Mandeuill,' 31, edited by Geo. F. Warner, published by the Roxburghe Club, 1889; Yule, 'Cathay,' Hakluyt Soc. [Note to 3rd ed.]
• Wuttke, 'Volksaberglaube,' p. 215. Other cases in Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. pp. 58, 369, &c.
need not be repeated here of the soul's dread journey by caverns and rocky paths and weary plains, over steep and slippery mountains, by frail bark or giddy bridge across gulfs or rushing rivers, abiding the fierce onset of the souldestroyer or the doom of the stern guardian of the other world. But before describing the spirit-world which is the end of the soul's journey, let us see what the proof is which sustains the belief in both. The lower races claim to hold their doctrines of the future life on strong tradition, direct revelation, and even personal experience. To them the land of souls is a discovered country, from whose bourne many a traveller returns.
Among the legendary visits to the world beyond the grave, there are some that seem pure myth, without a touch of real personal history. Ojibwa, the eponymic hero of his North American tribe, as one of his many exploits descended to the subterranean world of departed spirits, and came up again to earth.1 When the Kamchadals were asked how they knew so well what happens to men after death, they could answer with their legend of Haetsh the first man. He died and went down into the world below, and a long while after came up again to his former dwelling, and there, standing above by the smoke-hole, he talked down to his kindred in the house and told them about the life to come; it was then that his two daughters whom he had left below followed him in anger and smote him so that he died a second time, and now he is chief in the lower world, and receives the Italmen when they die and rise anew. Thus, again, in the great Finnish epic, the Kalewala, one great episode is Wainamoinen's visit to the land of the dead. Seeking the last charm-words to build his boat, the hero travelled with quick steps week after week through bush and wood till he came to the Tuonela river, and saw before him the island of Tuoni the god of death. Loudly he called to Tuoni's daughter to bring the ferry-boat across :—
1 Schoolcraft, Algic Res.' vol. ii. pp. 32, 64, and see ante, vol. i. p. 312. 2 Steller, 'Kamtschatka,' p. 271; Klemm, 'C. G.' vol. ii. p. 312.
'She, the virgin of Manala,
Spake in words, and this their meaning,
When the reason thou hast given
Nor by Death dragged from the living,
Wainamoinen replies with lying reasons. Iron brought him, he says, but Tuoni's daughter answers that no blood drips from his garment; Fire brought him, he says, but she answers that his locks are unsinged, and at last he tells his real mission. Then she ferries him over, and Tuonetar the hostess brings him beer in the two-eared jug, but Wainamoinen can see the frogs and worms within and will not drink, for it was not to drain Manala's beer-jug he had come. He lay in the bed of Tuoni, and meanwhile they spread the hundred nets of iron and copper across the river that he might not escape; but he turned into a reed in the swamp, and as a snake crept through the meshes :—
'Tuoni's son with hooked fingers
Went to draw his nets at morning—
Then the ancient Wainamoinen,
Who of self-will goes to Mana,
Thrusts his way to Tuoni's kingdom.