Human Animals Part 2

An old grizzly found the red-haired girl and took her home, where she was reared with the bears' offspring. In time she was married to the eldest son of the family. Their children did not resemble either of their parents exactly, but partook somewhat of the nature and likeness of both. Thus was the red man created, for these children were the first Indians.

The legend goes on to tell how angry the Great Spirit was when he heard what had befallen his daughter and that he punished the grizzlies by making them walk on all-fours like other beasts, and on account of this legend of their origin, the Indians about Mount Shasta never kill a bear, and if a bear kills an Indian the latter's body is burnt and all who pass the spot cast a stone upon it till a large heap is gathered, and Indians will point out to this day that bears are more like men than any other animal.

The members of a totem clan call themselves by the name of the totem, and numerous clans are connected with various animals, such, for instance, as the Crane clan of the Ojibways who think they are descended from a pair of cranes which settled near Lake Superior where they became transformed by the Great Spirit into a man and a woman.

The Osages are descended from the union between a snail and a beaver.

The snail burst its shell, grew arms and legs and became a handsome human being who wedded a beaver maiden.

In Bechuanaland when a crocodile clansman sees a crocodile he spits on the ground and says, "There is sin," for fear the sight should give him inflammation of the eyes. Yet the crocodile is his father, and he celebrates it at his festivals and marks his cattle with an incision in the ear that resembles the mouth of his totem animal.

The inhabitants of the Ellice Island in the South Pacific believe the island was first inhabited by the porcupine fish, whose offspring became men and women. The snake clan among the Moquis of Arizona say they are descended from a woman who gave birth to snakes, and they indulge in extraordinary snake dances to propitiate their tutelary genius.

In Indonesia many stories are told of women who have brought forth animals. Sometimes the woman gives birth to twins, one being a human being and one a beast.[9] At Balen in New Guinea a native told a missionary that his ancestress had given birth to a boy and also to an iguana, and since then he had had a great respect for iguanas.

The turtle clan of the Iroquois believe themselves to be descended from a fat turtle, which, burdened by the weight of its shell in walking, threw it off after great exertions and developed gradually into a human being.[10]

People of the cray-fish clan of the Choctaws were said to have lived originally underground as cray-fish, only coming to the surface of the mud occasionally. Some kindly Choctaws captured these fish, taught them to walk after cutting off their toe-nails and adopted them into the tribe.

The Masai race in Uganda have a theory that some of their ancestors return to earth after death in the shape of serpents, generally pythons or cobras, and when a Masai marries, he introduces his wife to the tutelary snake of the tribe, and she is told to recognise it and never harm it. The fetish snake is often consulted by people in trouble, because they think they will get valuable advice based on the experience of their ancestors[11].

The people of Miri believe themselves to be related to large deer, and suppose that their dead relatives become deer. The Bakongs, another group of Mohammedan Malasians, believe their friends become bear-cats after death. The Papuans of New Guinea hold that at death souls of human beings pass into animals such as cassowaries, fish, or pigs.

They do not eat these sacred creatures, which are taboo.

The taboos include all animals which must not be killed. They enjoy local sanctity, and are never eaten or even touched. Taboo animals are thought to give favourable and unfavourable omens. Death is sometimes foretold by their means.

These instances of the supposed connection between savage races and certain animals might be multiplied a hundredfold, and they lead to interesting developments of the transformation theory.

The belief that beasts are the dwelling-places of the souls of depraved men is a variation of the idea that depraved men were inhabited by demons.

In Australia and America it is customary for savages to have what is called "a medicine animal," something in the nature of a tutelary genius or second soul. The natives of Central America call this animal _nagual_, the Algonquins _manitou_, the Eskimo _tornaq_, and amongst the last-named people it is usually a bear. Others call it simply the bush-soul.

The young Tinkhlet Indian goes out hunting the otter, and when he has killed his prey he cuts out its tongue, which he uses as a charm, wearing it round his neck and believing that he now understands the language of all animals. In other races various animals are killed in order that part of their body may be used as a talisman. A _nagual_ may be obtained in other ways, perhaps through dreaming of the right animal, or by having it chosen by the magician of the tribe. It then becomes sacred, and should it die the man dies too.

The West African negroes believe that a man can have as many as four souls, one of which lives in animal form out in the bush, and is then called his bush-soul. If this animal soul is trapped or shot, the man himself dies. Nor will a native kill his bush-soul, for this would surely be the cause of his own end. Bush-souls are often regarded as an hereditary possession, generally passing from father to son and from mother to daughter. Among many primitive peoples the belief exists that the human being can and does actually change into this tutelary animal genius. In Iceland, for instance, it is believed that various members of a family have a kind of animal double called _fylgja_, in the shape of a dog or bird.

The Yakuts of Siberia believe that every wizard has one of his souls incarnate in an animal. "Nobody can find my external soul," said one famous wizard, "it lies hidden far away in the stony mountains of Edzhigansk." Once a year at the melting of the snow, these souls appear amongst the dwellings of men in the shape of animals, invisible to all but the wizards themselves. Strong ones hurry about noisily, but the weak ones move furtively as though afraid. Sometimes they fight, and the sorcerer whose soul is worsted in the battle falls ill and may even die. The souls of cowardly wizards are in the form of dogs, and they give their human double no peace, but gnaw at his heart and tear his body. Powerful wizards have souls incarnate in stallions, elks, boars, eagles, and black bears.

The Samoyeds in the Turukhinsk region believe that sorcerers have a familiar in the shape of a boar, and that they lead him by a magic belt. If the boar dies the sorcerer too must die. Sometimes battles occur between sorcerers who send forth their familiars to encounter one another before they themselves meet in the flesh.

The Melanesians of Mota in the New Hebrides, call the soul the _atai_, and they believe that every person has a second self which is visible and is, in fact, the reflection in animal form of his own personality.

He and his _atai_ would rejoice or grieve, live and die together.

Some of the Melanesians also believe that they have special relation to some animal or reptile with which their life is bound up and which is named _tamaniu_. The _tamaniu_, like the _atai_, has an objective and material existence.

When its owner wishes to injure anyone he sends his familiar to do so; if an eel it would tear or bite, if a shark probably swallow him. If the owner falls ill, he examines his familiar to discover what is wrong. The imps or familiars of witches embody the same idea.

Dr. W. H. R. Rivers quotes the case of a man whose _tamaniu_ was a lizard[12]. The owner was blind and asked a friend to help him with the ceremony of examination. He told his friend to go and see the animal, using the words "Look at me," referring to the lizard as himself. The man went alone to the banyan tree where the lizard was to be found, but when he came there he was too frightened to call upon the animal. He was sent a second time in the company of the sick man's son and others, and when they reached the tree the man called out the lizard's name, Rosasangwowut, and the _tamaniu_ appeared. It was a very large animal, larger than the ordinary lizards in Mota. It appeared to be sluggish and walked as a sick man would walk. The blind man's son then asked the _tamaniu_ if it was ill and the creature nodded its head and moved slowly back to the tree. They went back and told the man that his familiar was ill, and soon afterwards he died. At the same time the banyan tree fell, which was taken as a sign that the _tamaniu_ died too.

This is an uncanny story which brings out strongly the psychic connection between the man and his representative animal.

In Melanesia a native doctor was once attending a patient when a large eagle hawk soared past the house and a hunter was about to shoot it when the doctor called out in alarm, "Don't fire, that is my spirit!

If you kill it I shall die." He also said, "If you see a rat to-night, don't drive it away, it's my spirit, or a snake may come to-night, which will be my spirit." Apparently the doctor had the power to send his familiar in animal form for the purpose of working a cure.

At Ongek in the Gaboon a French missionary spent the night in the hut of a Fan chief. He was awakened before daylight by the rustling of dry leaves and, lighting a torch, perceived a huge black poisonous serpent, coiled and ready to strike. He was about to shoot the horrible reptile when his arm was suddenly struck up by the chief, who, extinguishing the torch, cried, "Don't fire, I beg of you. In killing the snake you would kill me. That serpent is my _elangela_. Fear nothing!" Speaking thus he seized and caressed the noisome reptile, which showed emotions of delight rather than fear or anger. Then the chief bore away his serpent and laid it in another hut, lying down beside it, after exhorting the missionary never to speak of what he had seen.[13]

From this occurrence it will easily be gathered that it is highly dangerous to kill a _tamaniu_, _nagual_, or _manitou_.

The possibility of the soul existing temporarily apart from the body is believed by most savages, and civilised races, such as the Romans, have held identical ideas. "The _nagual_," writes W. Northcote Thomas in his valuable article on Animals,[14] "is the lineal ancestor of the _genius_ of the Romans, no less than of the _guides_ of modern spiritualism." This statement gives ample food for thought.


[7] Fiske, J., "Myths and Myth-makers," 1873, p. 74.

[8] 1873, pp. 242-7.

[9] Frazer, "Totemism," Vol. II, p. 58.

[10] _Ibid._, Vol. I, p. 5.

[11] "The Uganda Protectorate," by Sir Harry Johnston, 1902, Vol. II, p. 832.

[12] "Totemism in Polynesia and Melanesia" in "Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute," 1909, Vol. XXXIX, p. 177.

[13] Frazer, "Golden Bough," "Balder the Beautiful," 1913, Vol. II, p.

200, etc.

[14] Hastings' "Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics," 1908, Vol. I.



At all periods of the world's history and in every country people have believed in the "external soul" of a man appearing in animal form. For instance, in the island of Florida the natives tell the story of an alligator which used to come out of the sea and visit the village in which the man whose ghost it was had dwelt. It was known by his name and was on friendly terms with the natives, allowing children to ride on its back.[15]

In Syria there are stories of girls being carried off by bears and giving birth to human-animal offspring. The Creeks believe the offspring to be bears which later turn into men. Japan is famous for its white bear-god and the Tartars believe that earth spirits take the form of bears.

The Gilyaks believe that if one of their race is killed by a bear, his soul transmigrates into the animal's body. Californian Indians have been heard to plead hard for the life of a she-bear. They said its wrinkled face was like the withered features of a dead grandmother whose soul had entered into the animal.

One of the Omaha clans believe they are descended from bison and the males wear their hair in imitation of the animal which is their totem.

The Ewe negroes of Togoland ascribe to the souls of buffaloes and leopards the power of killing the hunter who slew them, or of misleading him in the chase so that he confuses men with animals and gets into difficulties from being accused of murdering the former. The souls of these dangerous animals are thought to haunt and plague the hunter, perhaps by making him crazy, so that when he finds his way back into the town he loses all his property and is sold into slavery.

A quaint ceremony is performed to prevent such power emanating from the dead prey.

The Baganda natives are in deadly terror of the ghosts of the buffaloes they have killed, believing that they may work harm to them.

The crocodile especially has played a large part in these beliefs about human and ghostly animals.

Chapter end

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