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The geographical and historical dictionary of America and the West Indies [volume 1]

411

CHILE.

411

[14. EMMera^ceremome^.-— Notwithstanding theyknow the difference between the body and the soul,tlieir ideas of the spirituality of the latter do notseem to be very distinct, as appears from the cere-monies practised at their funerals. As soon as oneof their nation dies, his friends and relations seatthemselves upon the ground around the body, andweep fora long time; they afterwards expose it,clothed in the best dress of the deceased, upon ahigh bier, called pzV/Mnj/, where it remains duringthe night, which they pass near it in weeping, oriu eating and drinking with those who come toconsole them ; this meeting is called curicahu/n,the black entertainment, as that colour is amongthem, as Avell as the Europeans, the symbol ofmourning. The following day, though sometimesnot until the second or third after the decease ofthe person, they carry the corpse in procession tothe eltun, or burying jdacc of the family, whichis usually situated in a wood or on a hill ; twoyoung men on horseback, riding full speed, pre-cede the procession. The bier is carried by theprincipal relations, and is surrounded by women,who bewail the deceased in the manner of thehired mourners among the Romans ; while anotherwoman, who walks behind, strews ashes in theroad, to prevent the soul from returning to its lateabode. On arriving at the place of burial, thecorpse is laid upon the surface of the ground, andsurrounded, if a man, with his arras, if a woman,with female implements, and with a great quan-tity of provisions, and with vessels filled withchica, and with wine, which according to theiropinions are necessary to subsist them during theirpassage to another world ; they sometimes evenkill a horse, and inter it in the same ground. Afterthese ceremonies, they take leave with many tearsof the deceased, wishing him a prosperous journey,and cover the corpse with earth and stones placedin a pyramidal form, upon which they pour agreatquantity of chica. The similarity between thesefuneral rites and those practised by the ancientsmust be obvious to those acquainted with the cus-toms of the latter. Immediately after the relationshave quitted the deceased, an old woman, called2'empulcague, comes, as the Araucanians believe,in the shape of a whale, to transport him to theElysiari fields ; but before Ids arrival there, he isobliged to pay a toll, for passing a very narrowstrait, to another malicious old woman who guardsit, and who, on failure, deprives the passenger ofan eye. This fable resembles much that of theferryman Charon, not that there is any probabilitythat the one was copied from the other ; as thehunaan mind, when placed in similar situations,

will give birth to the same ideas. The soul, whenseparated from the body, exercises in another lifethe same functions it performed in this, with noother difference except that they are unaccoiiv-panied with fatigue or satiety ; husbands havethere the same wives as they had on earth, butthe latter have no children, as that happy countrycannot be inhabited by any except the spirits ofthe dead ; and every thing there is spiritual. Ac-cording to their theory, the soul, notwithstandingits new condition of life, never loses its originalattachments ; and when the spirits of their country-men return, as they frequently do, they fightfuriously with those of their enemies wheneverthey meet with them in the air ; and these com-bats are the origin of tempests, thunder, andlightning. Not a storm happens upon the An-des or the ocean which th(‘y do not ascribe to abattle between the souls of their fellow-country-men and those of the Spaniards ; they say thatthe roaring of the wind is the trampling of theirhorses ; the noise of the thunder that of their drums,and the flashes of lightning the fire of their artillery.If the storm takes its course tow ards the Spanishterritory, they affirm that their spirits have putto flight those of the Spaniards, and exclaimtriumphantly, Imvime?i, imivimen, puen, laguvi-men! “ Pursue them, friends, pursue them, killthem !” If the contrary happens, they are greatlj’afflicted, and call out in consternation, Yavida-men^ puen, namunlumcnl “ Courage?, friends, befirm !” I'hus do they believe that the dead, al-though mere spirits, are possessed, like the sha.dows which thronged about iEiieas in his descentinto the infernal regions, of the same passions, anda love of the same pursuits, by w hich they wereactuated when living.

“ Quoe, gratia curruumArmorumque fuit vivis, quee curanitenlesPascere equos, eadem sequitur tellure repostos."

Their ideas respecting the origin of creation arcso crude and ridiculous, that to relate them wouldserve for little else than to shew the weakness ofhuman reason when left to itself. 'They haveamong them the tradition of a great deluge, inwhicli only a few persons were saved, who tookrefuge upon a high mountain, called Thegtheg,the thundering, or the sparkling, Avhich hadthreepoints, and possessed the property of moving upontlie water. From hence it is to be inferred, thatthis deluge was in consequence of some volcaniceruption, accompanied by terrible earthquakes, orshould appear to be a corrupted tradition ofNoah’s flood. Whenever a violent earthquakeoccurs, these people fly for safely to these moun-l

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Last edit almost 2 years ago by Josie Brumfield
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