Sacred-Texts Native American South American Index Previous Next
Restrictions on Game and Food: Must not hunt too many of one kind (242); spirit of slain animal must be prevented injuring slayer (243); hunter must not himself bring his "bag" into the house (244); when animal is killed by arrow or gun-trap, meat has to be cooked in special manner (245); food not eaten after nightfall (246); Food restrictions on age, sex, and nation (247): at moon-eclipse, puberty, pregnacy, and other periods, in mourning, sickness, traveling (248); of totem-animals (249); Attributes of animals eaten may be transferred by ingestion to the consumer (250). Dogs also restricted as to food (251).
Restrictions on Vision: Protective or defensive measure to prevent Spirit being attracted toward visitor (252); same principle applied to taking of a photograph, etc. (253); practice may be accompanied with flagellation (254); a sign of envy, hatred, and malice (255); concurrent expression of a wish (256); at place of entertainment (257).
Restrictions on Arts and Crafts: Manufacture of pottery (258-259); hammocks, canoes, huts, and field-work (260); the uses of the fan, and dress (261); preparation of curare (wurali) poison (262).
Restrictions in Nomenclature—Personal Names: Association between individual and name, which must not be mentioned in his presence (263); naming of child (264); change of name (265). Reasons for giving certain names to dogs (266). Special words have to suit special circumstances (266A).
242.* If Indians hunt too many of one kind of game, the Bush Spirit of that particular animal may come and do them harm (Sect. 98).
*THE BABOON COUGH (W)
There was a party of Indians hunting baboons. They would take their hammocks out into the forest, kill a baboon, dry it, smoke it, catch another, rest themselves there, and start a similar procedure on the morrow. They made a continuous business of baboon-hunting, and did nothing else. One day they went away as usual, leaving but one woman behind. After a time she heard a roaring in the distance, just like thunder, and waiting a while she heard a whistling, just like that of a man when he is tired.1 It was indeed some one coming along, and at last she saw an old man with bent back supporting himself with a stick. He approached the woman and said, "How do you do, grandchild!" Now, as she was quite an old woman you can imagine how old he must have been. He was really the Hebu grandfather of all the baboons. She got up, fetched a stool, bade him be seated, and offered him dried meat and cassava. The old man had a good look at the dried meat and started crying: "Oh, my poor grandchildren! So that is how I am losing every one of you." He told the woman to take the food away, that he wanted none of it, and he then asked her where all the rest of the people were gone. She told him that they were all out hunting the very same game that he had refused. "Very well," said he, "let them all remain at home tomorrow, and I will meet them." He then went away. At evening time, the hunting p. 293 party returned, and the old woman told her husband what had happened, and all about the queer old man, but he would not believe her, saying that she must have been visited by some old sweetheart. So she went and told the rest of the people, and when the head-man had listened to her story, he said, "Yes, what she says must be true. We will remain with her tomorrow." They therefore stayed with her next day. At the appointed time they heard the roaring followed by a whistle. Now when the old woman, who was still angry with her husband for not having believed her, heard the whistle, she said mockingly, "There you are! That's my sweetheart!" and a few minutes later the old man put in an appearance. He was given a seat, and having learned that everybody was at home, he told them all to stand up in a line, side by side. One woman, who was in advanced pregnancy, was half ashamed to take so prominent a position, and recognizing that the queer old man's hand was big and sharp like a claw, she became frightened; she felt sure she must be dealing with a Hebu of some sort, and made her escape. Having thus got all the people into line, the Hebu quickly passed down the ranks, and "clawing" in the air, so to speak, at each person's head, killed every one of them. This done, he called out twice for his wife to come, and she answered him; she was a very old granny carrying an immense quake, so big that she could cram four or five people into it. And this is just what the old woman did; she carried the dead bodies, quakeful by quakeful, over to her own place. In the meantime, the old man Hebu examined the roof and under the flooring; he even opened the troolie covering of the banab to see if anyone was in hiding. But both he and his wife were being watched by the pregnant woman, who had made her escape; she saw everything, and then reported to her friends at the next settlement. The head-man and the others accompanied her to the spot where the Hebu's wife had carried all the dead bodies. They came to an immense silk-cotton tree, so huge that the cavities of its entire trunk and branches were occupied by members of the baboon-Hebu family. The party made a large fire around the tree, and threw peppers into it;1 this smoked out and killed all the Hebu baboons, from the youngest to the oldest, the queer old grandfather Hebu being killed last [Sect. 167]. Of course before giving up the ghost they did a lot of choking and coughing, and in his dying rage the old Hebu swore that this choking and coughing would remain with us forever. Indeed, it is this pepper sickness which is causing so much mischief now and killing so many of our children. We Warrau Indians have known the sickness for a long time as the "baboon cough," but you white people are ignorant of this, and persist in calling it whooping-cough.
243.* Special precautions have to be taken when any large animal has been slain, to protect the hunter from any harm that might be expected from the Spirit of the animal he has just destroyed (Sect. 129). Thus, when a big snake or other large animal is killed, arrows are stuck into the ground in the middle of the pathway leading from the place of destruction toward the house, with a view to preventing the Spirit of the beast coming to do the slayer or his family any hurt. The peculiar arrangement of the pointed sticks which Barrington Brown described from the Emoy River between Enaco and Taiepong villages toward the upper Potaro, probably served a similar purpose: "In many places on the path we had to step over arrangements of little sharpened sticks, placed loosely together in a p. 294 variety of ways. These, the guide said, were put by the Indians using this path for the purpose of keeping the pumas and jaguars from traversing it. These sticks were not meant to injure the animals, in fact they were too loosely stuck up for that, but were merely intended by their artificial appearance to scare off the tigers" (Bro, 198). The pointed hardwood sticks, stuck into the ground, guarding the pathways leading to the houses of the Akawaios (Ba, 268-9), of the Oyapock River Indians (Cr, 169), and others, may have been employed for corresponding reasons, although other reasons have been given. The same may be said of the following: "Before leaving a temporary camp in the forest, where they have killed a tapir and dried the meat on a babracot, Indians invariably destroy this babracot, saying that should a tapir, passing that way, find traces of the slaughter of one of his kind, he would come by night on the next occasion, when Indians slept at that place, and, taking a man, would babracote him in revenge" (IT, 352). In Cayenne, between the upper Yary and Parou Rivers, Crévaux (252) makes this interesting note: "I see ten boucans disposed in a line along the pathway. What puzzles me is that there is no fire beneath. Another thing, instead of being charged with smoked meat, they are covered with several billets of dry wood alternating with stones. I learn that these altars . . . have been made by ten hunters of a neighboring village who started some days ago on a big expedition. Every time the Roucouyennes go hunting (shooting with arrows) the quatta monkey, they stop to trim these boucans."1
244.* An Indian must never himself bring into the house any game that he has caught, but leave it for his wife to carry in if she has been accompanying him; otherwise he will place it on the pathway, some four roods or so from the house, whence the women-folk will fetch it. Pitou gives a very interesting example of this from Cayenne (LAP, II, 220, et seq.). Similarly, with fish—unless very small, or unless there is only a single one that he can carry on the stick with which he has skewered its gills—he never brings them into the house, but makes his wife go fetch them from the waterside. The reason given for this custom is that, were the food to be brought home direct by the man he would have bad luck in fishing or hunting on the next occasion. A similar practice is recorded from Cayenne and from the islands. When the men (Roucouyennes) return from the chase, they bring the game as far as the edge of the forest, whither the women go to fetch it (Cr, 283). Carib Island women go and fetch the venison from the spot where it has fallen, and the fish on the p. 295 banks of the stream (RoP, 493). When they have caught anything, they leave it on the spot, and the women were formerly obliged to go and fetch it to the house.
245.* Among the Pomeroon Arawaks, when an animal is killed with an arrow-trap or a gun-trap, its flesh has to be cooked in a pot without a cover, over a fire which is not too large, so as to avoid any water boiling over. Were either of these matters not attended to, there would be no further use either for the arrow or for the gun, as all the game of the same kind as that recently trapped would take its departure to another region.
246.* Among the Arawaks it would seem that food in general was not allowed to be eaten after nightfall, any person guilty of this offence being invariably changed into an animal. The story of the man who dined after dark (Sect. 114) has reference to this belief. The origin of such a custom it is somewhat difficult to trace. That it can not be due to any desire to prevent exposure to the enemy through the lights of the fires required for cooking is evident from the fact that fires for purposes of warmth, protection from jaguars, and other beasts of prey may be kept burning all night. It may be due to some such superstition as is met with among the Jivaros of the Pintuc, the Piojés of the Putumayo (upper Amazon), and others, who argue that all food which remains in the stomach overnight is unwholesome and undigested, and should therefore be removed; accordingly they have the habit of inducing vomiting every morning by the use of a feather (AS, 93).
247.* On the Amazons, "the children, more particularly the females, are restricted to a particular food: they are not allowed to eat the meat of any kind of game, nor of fish, except the very small bony kinds; their food principally consisting of mandiocca-cake and fruits" (ARW, 345). We must accept with caution the opinion implied or expressed by various authorities that each nation as such differs from the others with respect to the indigenous foods from the use of which the people abstain. A certain food may be taboo to any one or more individuals, independently of membership in a certain tribe, at the instigation of a medicine-man as a part of the treatment for illness, on account of his wife's condition, or for other reasons. While we have the definite assurance of Schomburgk that the Caribs never eat monkeys (ScR, II, 434), Gumilla says that each nation is fond of one kind of monkey but loathes the others. The Achaguas are very fond of the yellow ones, which they call arabata, the Tunevos like the black ones, while the Jiraras, Ayricos, Betoyes, and other nations prefer the white ones (G, I, 260). The present-day Pomeroon Caribs will eat neither armadillo, alligator, camudi, nor monkey, but no reasons for such restrictions are obtainable. Kappler speaks of the Surinam Indians refusing p. 296 to eat snakes and large sea-turtles (AK, 188). "All tribes . . . agree in refusing to eat the flesh of such animals as are not indigenous to their country but were introduced from abroad, such as oxen, sheep [pigs], goats, and fowls; . . . It must, however, be added that, under great pressure of circumstances, such as utter want of other food, these meats are occasionally rendered eatable by the simple ceremony of getting a piaiman, or even occasionally an old woman [who may play the rôle of piai], to blow a certain number of times on them; apparently on the principle that the spirit of the animal about to be eaten is thus expelled" (IT, 368). Schomburgk tells us how the aversion to European pork was never so strongly met with as among the Wapisianas; at Watu-ticaba Village the indisposition of a little girl was considered due to the circumstance that his cook, who had helped the child carry wood and water, had given her some to eat (ScR, II, 389). In Cayenne, they do not eat fowls (poules) and other birds though they be delicious; they imagine that out of spite these animals would cut their stomachs to pieces, gnaw their intestines, and cause frightful colic with the beak and spurs, although only the meat portion should be eaten (PBa, 231). The bush-negroes at Apikollos Village (Surinam) said that all the Trios Indians would die because the Europeans had partaken of the same food as they had (Go, 22). All the old piais that I have met still persist in their refusal to partake of European food (Sect. 286).
248.* Food may be restricted or taboo only under special circumstances, as at an eclipse of the moon (Sect. 200). In Cayenne, apparently men and women religiously abstain during the period of mourning from eating certain meats, or from cutting large timber, and several other practices of this nature (PBa, 229). The whole family may be restricted in the way of food, when a member of it happens to be ill (Sect. 317). The taboos of various foods at the physiological periods of a man's or a woman's life are noted elsewhere (Sects. 267-284). Among the Makusis, during the time that the natural colors of the feathers are being artificially altered the owner of the bird eats very sparingly and chiefly of certain kinds of food (Ti, 1882, p. 28). The Island Caribs eat flesh only when there are strangers at table; otherwise, they hunt but for lizards and fish: it is only on those special occasions when they want to entertain their European friends or for purposes of trade and barter, that they hunt anything else (RoP, 506). "When they have to cross over sea to go to another island like St. Alousi, or St. Vincent, they eat no crabs or lizards, because these animals live in holes: consequently this would prevent them getting to another land" (BBR, 245). An Indian does not eat an animal that he may have domesticated and tamed.
249.* Unlike what might have been expected from a consideration of other savage races, even so near as those of North America, there seems to be no record of the taboo of the so-called totem-animal, but I can not assume for this reason that such taboo is, or was, non-existent. As a matter of fact, during the whole course of my annotation of all available literature relative to the Guiana Indians, I can find but one statement bearing on the question and that in the negative. This is from Crévaux (523). On the Guaviar, a branch of the Orinoco, he found an Indian who, although a Piapoco (i. e. Toucan), had no qualms about killing the bird after which his tribe was named. All the other references are of doubtful totemic significance.
250.* Certain indigenous animals are not to be eaten, apparently for no assignable cause. On the Moruca, the Arawaks do not use the flesh of the Palamedea cornuta Linn., although they employ the tail feathers for arrow-barbs (ScR, II, 457). While the Makusis touch the flesh of the ant-bear only when forced by want, the Caribs regard it as the greatest delicacy (ScR, II, 434). So also the Uaupes Indians do not eat the large wild pig (Dicotyles labiatus), the anta (Tapirus americanus), or the white-rumped mutun (Crax globicera ?) (ARW, 337). In the Pomeroon when men kill a bush-hog or any other animal that happens to contain young, there are always to be found Indians who will not touch the flesh. Other animals will be avoided for more or less defined reasons. Thus, the savannah pewit (Vanellas cayennensis) is never eaten by Indians, as they say that partaking of its flesh produces deafness (Bro, 104). At Carichana, near River Meta, Orinoco, the Piaroas said that the people of their tribe infallibly die when they eat of the manati (AVH, II, 492). In Surinam, an old Trio informed de Goeje that he would never eat the head of a quatta monkey, because his mother had told him that he would get gray hair like it, and women consider gray hair hateful (Go, 22). Though hog and turtle were abundant on the islands, the Caribs there eat neither, for the assigned reasons that their eyes might become small like the former animal, that they might participate in the clumsiness and stupidity of the latter (RoP, 465). The attributes of the animal eaten could be transferred by ingestion not only to the person eating [compare ingestion of human flesh to obtain attributes of the deceased, in Sect. 77], but even to the child of such person (Sect. 279). The Zaparo Indians of the Napo River (upper Amazon) are "very particular in their diet: unless from necessity, they will, in most cases, not eat any heavy meats such as tapir and peccary, but confine themselves to birds, monkeys, deer, fish, etc., principally because they argue that the heavier meats make them also unwieldy, like the animals who supply the flesh, impeding their agility and unfitting them for the chase" (AS, 168). On the upper Amazon the p. 298 flesh of the male turtle (much less numerous than the female) is considered unwholesome, especially to sick people having external signs of inflammation (HWB, 309).
251.* Dogs also are precluded from eating certain foods. In Cayenne Crévaux noticed that his Roucouyenne cooks threw the beaks of the kinoros birds (Ara canga) into the river, in the belief that were their dogs to eat them, they (the dogs) would be poisoned (Cr, 284). Here, on the Pomeroon, in many an Indian house you will often find stuck under the eaves of the overhanging troolie roof or slung up in a basket, the wings and breast-bones of certain birds and often the bones of a labba or an acouri. It was a long time before I learned that they were placed there for a purpose other than ornament or decoration. If a dog were to eat either of those particular bird bones or any bones whatever of a labba or an acouri that it had not itself hunted, such dog would never catch any of these animals again.1
252.* The temporary occlusion of vision, as with tobacco and peppers, on the occasion of visiting, for the first time any strikingly peculiar landmark of natural scenery, especially in the way of mountains, or even on entering a new region, would seem to have been a custom very prevalent among the Indians. From the examples which I propose here submitting it will be seen that the procedure specially concerns the particular Spirit with which such landmark or region is connected. Its object, partly perhaps to placate this Spirit, and so turn aside the sickness or any other evil it might otherwise choose to send, is mainly to prevent the visiting individual attracting it toward himself. The procedure is protective or defensive in the sense of thwarting evil. On first gaining sight of the Arissaro Hills, Essequibo River, the Caribee Indians, who had never ascended the river so far, had to undergo an initiatory sight, which consisted in squeezing tobacco juice into their eyes (ScG, 229). So again, at the Twasinkie or Coomootie Mountains, much superstition, as usual, was attached to them, and those who had never seen them before were obliged to drink lime juice, and to have tobacco water squeezed into their eyes to avert the Evil Spirit (ScG, 231). Im Thurn (368) speaks of peppers (Capsicum) being employed for a similar purpose, and says: "Once, when neither peppers nor limes were at hand, a piece of blue indigo-dyed cloth was carefully soaked and the dye was then rubbed into the eyes." While on the Cuywini, writes Barrington Brown: "We passed a place one afternoon where the river was studded with high granite rocks two of which rose ten feet or so above the level of the highest floods. . . . Our guide, Edward . . . turned his head away and would not look at them: Eruma, one of p. 299 our Caribs, took some tobacco, and dipping it into the water, leaned back and squeezed the juice into his eyes, and as soon as the tears thus produced had subsided, he calmly gazed upon the rocks" (Bro, 30). Near the mouth of the Cuywini River, upper Essequibo, to quote the same author, "were some large granite rocks in passing which our Carib . . . turned away his face in an opposite direction. Upon questioning him as to his reason for so doing, I learned that if he looked at them, he would get fever" (Bro, 244). Another interesting extract is from Jenman (23):
We met on the Savannah about a hundred Indians of all ages and both sexes, resting on their way down to the hill to the landing at Tukeit, going down to the Mission. It was the first time they had passed the "Kaietuk" (Kaieteur) as they called it, though they were careful to keep almost beyond the sound of its roar and far out of sight of it. Each one, from the newly-born baby in arms, to the oldest man and woman, had pepper-juice applied to the balls of the eyes, carefully inserted within the lids, with a small loop made of a finely twisted piece of Tibesiri [Mauritia fiber] to avert any evil which might otherwise befall them from having come near the Fall and into a new part of the country. Its application appeared to give acute pain for a short time, and brought a copious flow of tears. Some courageously just kept the eyelids open without touching them; others, with less nerve, had to hold theirs open. . . . The pepper-juice . . . was applied by one man, a middle-aged person.
The present-day Arawaks when visiting any new place for the first time, whether now connected with Spirits or not, put creek water or river water into their eyes: they tell me here that it is with the object of placating any spirits that may be lurking in the vicinity, for should they neglect the custom, the Yawahus might not only send them sore eyes, but many other sicknesses. One woman maintained that, independently of any evil spirits, the very novelty of the scene might give her sore eyes, in the absence of the usual precaution.
253.* Warraus assure me that on looking at a mountain for the first time the eyes are shut to prevent the person attracting or drawing the Shadow of the Spirit toward him (Sect. 190). When one person looks at another, the former draws or drags the latter's shadow (Sect. 68) toward him, a principle on which these Indians explain the taking of a photograph. The Island Carib corpse is laid out with two weights on the eyes, that he may not see his parents thus making them ill (Sect. 80). Catlin gives an amusing instance among the Conibos of the Amazon, of the local medicine-man preventing him painting any more portraits by exhorting the tribesmen as follows: "These things are a great mystery, but there you are, my friends, with your eyes open all night—they never shut: this is all wrong and you are very foolish to allow it. You never will be happy afterwards if you allow these things to be always awake in the night. My friends, this is only a cunning way this man has to get your skins; and the next thing they will have glass eyes, and be placed among the skins of the wild beasts and birds and snakes." (The medicine-man p. 300 had been to Para or some other place where he had seen the stuffed skins in a museum.) (GC, 321-323). For a pregnant woman to look at the face of a corpse will draw trouble on her unborn child (Sect. 279). It is possible that, perhaps on principles analogous to some of the preceding, most European races have adopted the practice of closing the eyes when in the attitude of prayer; it is therefore not so very remarkable that I found the aboriginal communicants of a certain Mission speaking of prayer generally by a term which, literally translated, means "to shut the eyes."
254.* But this temporary occlusion of the eyes may be accompanied with another procedure, that of whipping. Thus, at the Cara-utta Rocks, head of Wenamu River, a branch of the Cuyuni, "the Indians who had never been here before, gave themselves up to the wildest orgies. Several calabashes were placed on the rocks, before which two old Arekunas, with faces turned toward the north, squatted, and murmured unintelligible words, while an equally old piai rubbed powdered capsicum into the eyes of each of the novices. When the first pains were over, they broke twigs off from the nearest bushes, and whipped one another on the legs and feet, until blood was drawn" (ScR, II, 346). In the last group of cases, it is not the body, but the rock or other natural feature that is whipped. And so it happens that while Boddam-Whetham admits that they will never point at certain rocks with a finger, although one's attention may be drawn to them by an inclination of the head, other rocks "they beat with green boughs" (BW, 182); that along the slopes of the Seroun Mountains, Mazaruni River, under some of the enormous masses of conglomerate rock, were flowers and green branches that had been offered to the Rock Spirits by the superstitious natives (BW, 190). But as this author may have obtained his information concerning the very same place (Seroun River valley) from Brown's work, published a couple of years before, I quote from the latter as well: "On the way we passed a very large isolated rock of diorite which had formed part of one of the great layers of this rock, horizontally bedded in the sandstone, upon which were lying the bruised remains of a small tree branch with many more around its base. These were offerings left by Indian travelers at the shrine of the spirit of this rock, who believe that if they did not perform the rite of breaking off a green bough and beating it on the rock, evil would assuredly befall them" (Br, 78).
255.* In a sense analogous to the idea of thwarting or avoiding evil may probably be regarded the closing of the eyes as a sign of "envy, hatred, and malice." Thus, among Warraus and Arawaks, as between man with man or woman with woman, the angered one will look at the other, suddenly shut the eyes, keep them closed a few seconds, and then turn away. The person thus treated will know that he or she must be prepared for the coming storm. So also the following p. 301 occurrence reported frem the Parou River in Cayenne may find place here: "In a retired spot, I surprise a little girl who, like the ostrich, hides her face in a hole, leaving her body entirely exposed" (Cr, 273). It is possible that the peppering of the witch's eyes before clubbing her was intended to prevent the poor wretch attracting toward herself the Spirits of those people she might otherwise have looked at (Sect. 319). Compare also the binding of the girl's eyes in the puberty ceremony (Sect. 271).
256.* The closing of the eyes and the concurrent expression of a wish I am unable to obtain explanations for, except on the hypothesis of some Spirit being supplicated, and deal with the practice here only as a matter of convenience. Mention is made of the custom in the Carib story of—
*"SHUT YOUR EYES AND WISH!" (C)
There were two brothers, and each had set a spring trap to catch Maipuri [tapir] but it had proved too smart for them. One day the younger came home and said, "I have caught a bush-cow." This made the elder one jealous, and hence his remark, "If you have fooled me, I will kill you." So they went together into the bush, and sure enough there was the tapir caught by the leg in the trap. The elder brother thereupon killed the beast, cut up the meat, and took it all for himself, leaving only the entrails for the younger. The latter returned home, and telling his mother how greedy her first-born had been, prevailed upon her to leave the place with him. When they had traveled a great distance, they reached a hill, and the son said: "Mother! Shut your eyes, and say, 'I want a field here, with plantains and potatoes, together with a house right in its very center.'" The old woman did what she had been told, and lo, and behold! there she had exactly what she had asked for. The two of them remained there for a long period, quite happy and content, but the mother was getting old now. So the son said, "Mother! Shut your eyes, and say, 'I want to be a young girl again.'" This she did, and her wish was immediately granted, she becoming so very sweet and attractive that her son became quite proud of her and wanted other people to see her also. Indeed, this made him say, "Mother! Shut your eyes, and say, 'I wish my big son would come see me.'" No sooner said than done, and the elder brother put in his appearance. Now that they had a visitor, they must of course have paiwarri, so the younger brother told his mother as before to shut her eyes and wish for drinks—and accordingly they had a big jar of paiwarri. All three of them drank, and the big brother became beastly intoxicated, so much so that he commenced trying to take liberties with the pretty young woman. "How dare you!" expostulated the younger one. "Don't you know that she is your mother?" "No! I don't," replied the elder, "and what is more, I don't believe it," and as he insisted upon attempting to carry out his wicked designs, the two men fought. When the elder brother finally awoke from his drunken brawl, he found himself all alone in a strange broken-down old hut, and so he returned home disconsolate.
The Makusis also would seem to have had similar ideas about wishing, for in their legend of Pia and Makunaima the former tells his mother that whatever of good she desired she would obtain if she would bow her head and cover her face with her hands while she expressed her wish (Sect. 41).
257.* It was a superstition of the Indians in Cayenne that the first person to see the dancers arrive at the actual place of entertainment p. 302 would die during the course of the year or meet with other misfortune. Hence, directly the dancers left the public meeting-house (karbet) to go to a retired spot for the purpose of decorating themselves, the audience took good care to go into hiding, and to return in a body, shouting and screaming like madmen, when the performers put in their appearance (PBa, 201; LAP, II, 242).
258.* The following are examples of what might be called restrictions in arts, crafts, and manufactures.
On the left bank of the mouth of the Cuyuni is a small hill whither Indians come from long distances to obtain clay, which is believed to be especially desirable. Schomburgk tells of a certain superstition which accounts for such large numbers of people congregating there. The Indians believe, for instance, that only during the first night of the incoming full moon (Sect. 199) dare they carry on their business. Hence, numbers of people congregate at these times, as Bernau vouches for, and at break of day start for home laden with a large quantity. The Indians cling fast to the superstition that if the clay is obtained at any other times, the vessels acquire an evil peculiarity not only for becoming speedily broken, but also for bringing numerous diseases to him who eats out of them.
259.* Such vessels could be even more intimately associated with Spirit life, as witness the following story of—
*THE LUCKY POT (W)
On his way home from the bush one day a man came across a banab, with no human occupants but with a Pot simmering on the fire. The Pot addressed him, asking if he were hungry, and having received an affirmative reply, said, "All right! I will cook bird for you," and began to boil. When ready, the man ate of the contents, and went home. His wife put fish before him, but he said, "I do not want it. I am satisfied." By and by her husband made an excuse to leave the house, and having arrived at the banab, said to the Pot, "I am hungry. You must cook meat now." So the Pot boiled away and supplied him with pure bush-hog. When he got home his wife put some cassava before him, but he said, "I do not want it; my belly is full." After remaining at home two days and refusing the food which his wife regularly brought him, he paid another visit to the lucky Pot, gorged himself with both bird and meat, and returned home again, where, as before, he assured his wife that he was satisfied and wanted for nothing. Now the two sons looked at him and at one another and then whispered to themselves: "What does this mean? Our father stays at home two whole days, and is not hungry. He goes into the bush and even when he returns will not eat. Whence does he procure his food?" So they watched his movements, and next day, following him at a distance, saw him talk to the Pot and help himself. On his return home, he still refused to eat what his wife continued to offer him. As they were getting short of food for the household, he went away to shoot morokot [Myletes], the sons in the meanwhile going to the banab, asking Pot to cook bird and meat for them. After eating they washed the vessel "clean, clean," so as not to leave even the trace of a smell in it. By and by the father came home from his fishing excursion, handed over to his wife the morokot which he had caught, but refused as usual to eat any himself. "I do not want it. I am satisfied," was all he said. He then slipped away to his lucky Pot, and told it to cook for him, but it would not boil any more for him or for p. 303 any one else, so perfectly had it been cleaned out.1 He then commenced to cry, but the Pot reminded him: "You were greedy. You gave the bird and meat neither to your wife nor to your children. You ate it all yourself."
260.* Among the Island Caribs, when the women make hammocks they place at each end a small parcel of ashes. Unless this ceremony were observed the hammock would not last. Should they eat figs when in possession of a new hammock, they think it would become rotten. They take great care also not to eat of certain fish with sharp teeth; for this would cause the hammock to be soon torn. The men erect the houses, except the roofs, which are made by the women, and canoes (BBR, 242). With the same people, during the course of manufacture of a canoe, while being burnt out, sticks are placed across, so as to enlarge it. If a woman did but touch it with her fingers, they believe it would split (BBR, 243). Father Gumilla, the missionary of the Orinoco, evidently commiserating the unhappy lot of the weaker sex, and recognizing the hardships to which they were exposed in carrying on their field work, made the attempt to get the men to lend assistance. His exhortation with its fruitless results is given here in his own words: "Brethren," said I to them, "why don't you help your poor women to plant? They are tired with the heat, working with their babies at the breast. Don't you see that it is making both them and your children sick?" "Father," they replied, "you don't understand these things, which accordingly worry you. You have yet to learn that women know how to bring forth, and we don't: if they plant, the maize stalk gives two or three ears of corn, the cassava bush yields two or three basketsful of roots, and similarly everything is multiplied" (G, II, 237).
261.* A woman must preserve her fan for the uses for which it is intended, namely, for blowing up the fire; should she use it on herself, she would become thin—at least this is what the Pomeroon Arawaks tell me.
Among the nations bordering on the Amazon the Indians are entirely nude. They regard it as an almost certain sign that he who would cover what shame obliges civilized man to hide would soon be unfortunate, or would die in the course of the year (PBa, 121-2). It might be pardonable perhaps to mention here the reproof which the Island Caribs gave their European visitors when the latter, regarding them too closely, laughed at their nudity: "Friends! You should look only at our faces!" (RoP, 461.)
262.* Waterton has recorded the following beliefs in connection with the manufacture of curare (wurali) poison:
The women and young girls are not allowed to be present. The shed under which it has been boiled is pronounced polluted and abandoned ever after. He who makes the poison must eat nothing that morning and must continue fasting as long as the p. 304 operation lasts. The pot in which it is boiled must be a new one, and must never have held anything before, otherwise the poison would be deficient in strength; add to this that the operator must take particular care not to expose himself to the vapor which arises from it while on the fire. . . . Still the Indians think that it affects the health; and the operator either is, or what is more probable, supposes himself to be sick, for some days later . . . and it would seem that they imagine it affects others as well as him who boils it; for an Indian agreed one evening to make some for me, but the next morning he declined having anything to do with it, alleging that his wife was with child! [W, 93-4.]
Schomburgk more or less confirms these restrictions when he says that before and during the making of the poison the operator must submit to a strict fast, and that during the cooking, no woman, especially a pregnant woman, or maid may come near the house; furthermore his own wife must not be pregnant. In the particular instance cited the distinguished traveler was asked not to eat sugar-cane or sugar during the manufacture of the poison (Sc, RI, 455-7). "Thus the greater the abstention from food on the part of the peai men, the greater the virulence of the urali, its action being supposed to be deadly in correspondence with the degree of hunger of the maker" (J. J. Quelch, Ti, 1895, p. 262). Im Thurn supplies the following "Water was fetched especially for the poison-making from a stream nearly a quarter of a mile distant; and care was taken in carrying this to the house, to rest it on the ground every few yards. For, say the Indians, a bird wounded by a poisoned dart will fly only as far as the water, with which the poison was made, was carried without rest" (IT, 311).
263.* There would appear to be some intimate relationship between an individual and his personal name (cf. Sects. 124, 125), of such nature that the very mention of it in his presence would be fraught with serious consequences; neither, as in the case of spirits (Sect. 172), may he be pointed at, or trodden over (Sect. 220). The name is deemed to be part and parcel of the individual, and the mention of it under those circumstances would put him in the power, as it were, of the person speaking. This rule held good for both Mainland (KG, I, 184; II, 147) and Island Indians. According to age and sex, one will address another as brother, sister, father, mother, son or daughter, etc., or will speak of him or her as the father or mother, etc., of such an one; or, to specialize, "they will speak half the name, e. g. Mala instead of saying Mala-kaali, and Hiba for Hiba-lomon" (RoP, 451; KG, II, 147). This fact will thus render the following statements of de Goeje and Kirke more intelligible: "Some Trios have two names, one reserved for friends, the other for strangers: Crévaux says that the Ojanas might have two names, one for addressing the person and the other for referring to him when absent" (Go, 26). "It is a curious thing that you can never discover an Indian's real name . . . he never divulges it, nor is he ever called p. 305 by it. He is always known by some nickname or name of distinction for his prowess in war, hunting, or fishing" (Ki, 120). So also when dead, the name of the deceased must not be mentioned.
263A.* HONEY-BEE AND THE SWEET DRINKS (W)
There were two sisters looking after their brother, for whom they were always making cassiri, but try their best, the drink had no taste; it was never good and palatable, so the brother did not enjoy it. He was forever complaining, saying he wished he could find some one who would make him a real sweet drink, something like honey. His sisters sympathized, and said they would be only too glad if he could find the right woman, who would make good liquor. One day while wandering through the bush he expressed aloud his wishes as to finding some woman who could manufacture a drink as sweet as the honey-bee makes it. No sooner had he expressed his wish than he heard footsteps behind, and, turning round, saw a female approach. "What is it? Where are you going? You called Kohóra, my name [lit., Honey-bee], and here I am!" He told her about his own and his sisters' wishes, and when she asked him whether he thought his people would like her, he said he was quite sure they would. Kohora accorqingly went home with him, and when his parents asked her how he had met her, she said that she had come because their son had called her. She then made the drink. And the way she made it! All she had to do was to put her little finger into the water, stir it up, and the drink was ready! It tasted sweet! sweet!! sweet!!! and never before had it tasted so good. From that time onward they always had sweet drinks; on every occasion that Kohora brought her husband water she would dip her little finger in and so make it sweet. But at last the man got tired of all this sweet drink, and began to quarrel with Kohora. "Well, that is funny," she said. "You wanted sweet drinks, you called me to get them for you. I came and made them, and yet you are not satisfied. You can get them for yourself now!" With this, she flew away and ever since then, people have been punished by being put to all the trouble of climbing up, and cutting the honey out of, the tree, and having to clean it before they can use it for sweetening purposes.
264.* Among the Pomeroon Arawaks the mother always gives the name first to her child, independently of the piai, who bestows one subsequently. It is said that friends, brothers, and sisters may call them by these names, which stick to them throughout life, but it should be borne in mind that these Arawaks have been in closer contact with Europeans than any of the other tribes. The following are some of the names given by the mother at birth:
|Girls' names||Boys' names|
|Korelyaro||=||baby girl||Korelyali||=||baby boy|
|Ilihiro||=||dark girl||Ilihili||=||dark boy|
|Natukoro||=||sp. of pretty flower||Deringko||=||sp. of parrot|
|Kuyari||=||toucan||Wé-shi||=||sp. of little fish|
The name bestowed subsequently in this tribe by the piai takes place about the period when the child begins to creep; he asks the Spirit in the maraka (rattle) to give the name. "An offering of considerable value is necessary on this occasion, as, according to the fee given to propitiate the pe-i-man, is the virtue of the incantations pronounced: an unnamed Indian is thought to be the certain victim of the first sickness or misfortune that he may encounter: accordingly, only the very poorest of them are without names" (HiC, 229). At the present time, it would seem that the piai gives a name only if he has been called in to attend a child when sick; under such circumstances he will say that he has dreamed that the child requires a name, and the parents accordingly ask him to give one. Such names are given with regard to the personal appearance, to birds or other animals, to tobacco (e. g. Yuri-niro, Yuri-tukoro = tobacco flower), after the piai's kickshaws, etc. (e. g. Shibari, "stone," Kalliko-yang, "crystal," Wara-maraka, a name derived from his rattle), or "after some quality or title." With the Makusis it was either the grandmother or grandfather, who, on the conclusion of the couvade, gave the infant one of the names customary in the family (ScR, II, 315). Among the Tukanos it is the father, under similar circumstances, who gives the name, generally that of an animal (KG, I, 313). So also on the Islands the Caribs do not bestow names immediately after birth, but wait for twelve or fifteen days when they call in a man and woman who take the place of sponsors, and pierce the child's under-lip and nostril. The majority of the names which the Caribs impose on their children are taken from their ancestors or from various trees which grow on the islands, or from something that has happened to the father at the time of his wife's pregnancy, or during her lying-in (RoP, 552-3). A convalescent patient may start life afresh with a new name (Sect. 305).
265.* The circumstances vary under which the name already given may be changed. As already mentioned (Sect. 264), this was the case with the Arawaks on recovery from prolonged sickness. On the Carib Islands the names given to the male children shortly after birth were not retained throughout life; they changed them when old enough to be received into the rank of warriors, or if they had borne themselves bravely in battle and had killed an Arawak chief, they took his name as a mark of honor (RoP, 552-3). Both on the Islands and on the Mainland names were exchanged in testimony of great affection and inviolable friendship (RoP, 513): "When they want to make friends, they ask for our names and give us theirs. To show affection and friendship they want us to exchange names" (BBR, 237-8). In Porto Rico "Juan Ponce de Leon, in fact, was received into the bosom of the family, and the Cacique exchanged names with him, which is the Indian pledge of perpetual amity" p. 307 (WI, 778). With the present-day Arawaks and Warraus, among members of the same sex it is of common occurrence as proof of friendship and affection not to exchange names, but for the younger to adopt the name of the older one (Sect. 120). The Island Caribs have also in their drinking bouts or on occasions of public rejoicing, some one appointed to give them a new name, whom they address after having drunk well. "I wish to be named. Name me!" one will say, whereupon the other immediately satisfies him and is rewarded with a present—a quartz-crystal, or other article (RoP, 552-3).
266.* With a view to their becoming good hunting dogs, the Warraus name their canine friends after those animals which are known to hunt well, as certain ants and bees which catch plenty of other prey; after warribisi (Sect. 88), a big wasp that lays its eggs in the ground and brings various worms from the bush for its young, when hatched, to feed on; after sakaro and buruma, two crabs which run quickly and hunt well; after the giant anteater, the shark, and the small wild dog (karisiri), all of these possessing undoubtedly good hunting qualities.
266A.* Special words, or paraphrases, have to be used under particular circumstances; thus, in traveling over water—river or sea—the use of certain names otherwise employed in ordinary every-day conversation, is absolutely forbidden (Sect. 194). On the Aiary River (Rio Negro) the villages have secret names which are not mentioned except under pressure (KG, I, 184). There are some few words which may be employed only according to the sex speaking, or spoken to. Thus, among the Arawaks, to express the word "surely" or "certainly" a man will say tashi to a woman, but tade to a man, whereas a woman will use the term tara when conversing with one of her own sex, but tashi when talking to one of the opposite. "Oh, yes!" "So you say," is similarly expressed by three words: babui between woman and woman, or woman and man, but dadai when a man addresses a woman, and daido when he is talking to another man. The signification of this distinction I have not been able to discover; it is not connected, of course, with the use of different languages by the opposite sexes, as was the case in the Lesser Antilles with the Carib warriors and their Arawak wives. And, finally, with the mainland Arawaks a particular plaintive intonation is used in inquiries after the health or welfare of those who are ill or unfortunate; and the tone is always suited to the circumstances and situation of the party addressed (HiC, 248).
1 When a Warrau is very very tired he gives a whistle, something like ho-ho´-wi! ho-ho´-wi! to catch his breath. The Indians say the old people do it still.
1 This idea of throwing peppers into a fire appears to have been an old trick. It is stated by Captain Jean-Pierre that, when the old Oyampis, of the upper Yary, Cayenne, wished to stop an enemy, they surrounded their village with a circle of fire into which they threw handfuls of dry capsicums. It is impossible to fight when one is seized with an unconquerable sneezing (Cr, 271).
1 It is only proper to state that Crévaux gives it as his opinion that the object of these boucans is to placate (calmer) Yolock, the Bush Spirit, who can prevent them killing game. With this opinion, however, I am unable to agree, but can only regard these structures as having something to do in the way of protection from the injuries which one might reasonably expect the slaughtered monkeys would do their best to inflict.—W. E. R.
1 The alligator skull stuck up in the Carib houses serves a different purpose; it keeps away the Bush Spirit, the Yurokon.
1 The vessel in which the staple Indian dish known as "pepper-pot" is daily warmed, cooked, and added to from time to time is never cleaned.