THE continuance of the human soul's life is conditioned in various ways in different regions and stages of culture. Some tribes assign to souls a definite number of Post-mortem lives, which number may, however, have stood for indefinite continuance, being the tradition remaining from an earlier stage when ability to count above a small aggregate was uncommon. Thus Dyaks allot to the soul seven lives, after which it is annihilated.Or continuance may be not the common fate, only that of a select few. The basis of selection then naturally varies. It may be that of descent or station in life. Thus only chiefs survive in Fiji, and among the Tongans of the South Sea Islands. Or the
[1. Gomes, Sea Dyaks of Borneo, p. 208.
2. Carpenter, Comparative Religion, p. 232.
3 Mariner, Natives of Tonga Islands, ii. 29 ff.]
mode of death may have something to do with it, as when New Guineans separate souls according as they died by sword or by magic--the two causes of death allowed to exist by this people. Or (and this state of affairs exists, almost certainly, only in a somewhat advanced stage of culture) ethical standards may be established, and future life may be conditioned on compliance with such standards in this life. Such an idea may be found in a comparatively small area, neighboring regions showing no knowledge of such a test.' On the other hand, it has happened that while such standards ostensibly exist, magical practices in effect reduce the test to its lowest terms or even to the vanishing point. So with the "Negative Confession" of Egypt. This is clear from its evident use by practically every or any person, independent of character, who was by the formula of the Book of the Dead primed to override or evade obstacles to the passing of the soul to the happy abode. In parts of Melanesia the ultimate death of the soul is maintained, its
[4. Neuhass, Deutsch Neu-Guinea, iii. 149 ff.
6. Codrington, Melanesians, pp. 274 ff.
6. HR, March, 1914.]
survival seeming to depend on survival in the memory of posterity.
A different twist is given to the idea of continuance when the notion takes either of two somewhat closely related forms of expression, transformation or human reincarnation. Transformation, or change of mode of existence on earth, we have seen to be a natural consequence of that "parity of being" which is the prime characteristic of the animistic manner of thought. Is there any reason, a priori, why this should not operate when the soul is discarnate, unfleshed? As a matter of fact, the continuance of the soul in other forms of existence than the human is a widely diffused notion. Transmigration is not limited to philosophic developments like Buddhism, with its Jataka Tales of the 500 births of the Buddha. Indeed, it is practically certain that the transmigration of philosophic India is one of the noblest and most fruitful borrowings of the Aryans from the Kolarian and Dravidian aborigines. When these post-mortem transformations take place, the continuance may be indefinite or definitely limited. The Kai of German New Guinea hold that ghosts are
[7. Seligmann, Melanesians, p. 192.]
changed first into some sort of game animals, then into insects, and then comes "the last death."  This suggests the idea of a progressive diminution of vitality or fading away into nothingness, and may be a result of observation of the fading memory of survivors. In Melanesia, where ethical ideas condition future life, after doing penance, the soul takes the form of various animals, such as the flying fox. Transformation into an owl is a frequent notion, as among the Arabs, and in Madagascar among the Haida. One Cingalese woman (who has been murdered) becomes successively a turtle, a mango tree, a creeper, and a blue lotus. Another changes into a cobra. In the Solomon Islands ghosts are incarnated in various animals, while among the Melanesians men at death became sharks, alligators, lizards, birds (the frigate bird par excellence), snakes, and the like. The reincarnation or appearance of the dead in the
[8. Neuhass, Deutsch Neu-Guinea, iii. 150 ff.
9. Brown, Melanesians, pp. 192 ff.
10. Doutte, L'Afrique du Nord, p. 361; Folk-lore, ii. 341; Swanton, North Pacific Expedition, p. 27.
11. Parker, Village Folk Tales of Ceylon, pp. 113 ff., 132.
12. Williamson, South Sea Savage, p. 65; Codrington, Melanesians, pp. 179 ff.]
form of snakes is both common and ancient; it is, of course, easily accounted for by the frequency of the animal among graves, the looseness of the earth and the crevices therein making easy the formation of their burrows. The reader of Homer and Vergil will recall the pertinent cases there narrated, while the vases and other monuments of art abundantly illustrate the belief--although sometimes the idea is modified by regarding the reptile as the "genius" of the departed. The naturalness of the idea is attested by its occurrence in regions as widely separated as New Guinea and Colombia. Among the Mafulu of New Guinea the ghost may be transformed into a fungus living on the mountain. And among the Narrinyeri of Australia rocks may be the form taken by deceased ancestors.
Belief that the soul is reincarnated in human posterity is so natural, once the idea
[13. Miss Harrison, Prolegomena and Themis, passim; Neuhass, Deutsch Neu-Guinea, iii. 515 ff.; Joyce, South American Archeology, p. 11.
14 Williamson, South Sea Savage, p. 281.
15 Wood, Native Tribes of South Australia, p. 202. Other cases in other parts of the world may be found in Declè, Three Years in Africa, p. 74; Das, Journey to Lhasa, pp. 56, 131 ff., 138, etc.; Keller, Madagascar, p. 85; Folk-lore, ii. 437; Arctander, Apostle of Alaska, p. 108.]
of transmigration is entertained, that it can not surprise us to find it widespread. When we remember how feature and gesture of infant or child may recall those of some deceased member of the family, one fruitful source of this idea may perhaps be disclosed. For the notion is not the exclusive possession of the philosophical, though we have stories from Greece, where it was incorporated in philosophical creeds, of men who recognized votive offerings dedicated in a former existence, or find poets like Vergil recounting the method of return and telling of the antecedent draught from the waters of Lethe. So well known is the belief that only a few typical cases need be adduced from primitive examples. Baganda women fear to pass places where executions have taken place or spots alleged to be haunted by dangerous ghosts, lest the ghosts enter them to begin another earthly life. Similarly the Bakongo of the Congo region hold firmly to the reincarnation of the human spirit in human form. So usual a happening is this among the Ibo of Nigeria
[16. Roscoe, The Baganda, pp. 20) 461 124, et passim; cf pp. 47, 289.
17. Weeks, Primitive Bakongo, p. 115.]
that, when a birth takes place, the doctor is called in to decide which ancestor has come back to earth. Indeed, an ancestor may there scissate and become incarnate in more than one descendant in any given generation. The Kayans of Borneo also hold firmly to the doctrine, as do various tribes of Australian Bushmen.
The same principle of parity of being permits interchange and transformation, to which we have become now so accustomed, to take place in another direction. The ghost may be changed into an evil spirit or demon or equally repulsive form. A Cingalese spirit which had temporarily left its body returned to find that body untenantable and addressed his wife in a dream. She supposed that he had become a Yaka (evil spirit) and was correspondingly terrified. Of course the wife's explanation to herself of the dream is excellent evidence of belief in the possibility and actuality of such transformations. The Melanesian ghosts may assume the form of compositely-shaped
[18. Thomas, Anthropological Report, pp. 30-31.
19 Hose and McDougall, Pagan Tribes, ii. 47; Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes, pp. I19 ff., 335 ff., and Northern Tribes, pp. 145 ff., 330 ff., 448 ff.
20. Parker, Village Folk Tales of Ceylon, p. 170.]
demons. The souls of the dead may in some cases become vampires and feed horribly on the living--indeed this terrible habit may have been formed before death. See also below (Chap. XII) for other transformations.
[21. Codrington, Melanesians, pp. 258 ff.
22. Talbot, In the Shadow of the Bush, pp. 192-193.]