Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/100

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

mon form of initiation. It was effected publicly at a union meeting of all the lodges. Whenever a member of one of the lodges died, a candidate was introduced, and he was instructed by a select committee of experienced and pure men, according to the savage notion.

The novice must bear in mind that purity and feast making are the foundations of the lodge, and pleasing to the Great Mystery. "Thou shalt often make a holy feast or a lodge feast to the God. Thou shalt not spill the blood of any of thy tribe. Thou shalt not steal what belongs to another. Thou shalt always remember that the choicest part of thy provision belongs to God." These were some of their commandments. It is a peculiar fact, already mentioned, that the Great Mystery was never directly approached except upon special and extraordinary occasions, such as the union meeting and dance of the "medicine lodges" once a year. Then a chosen priest usually made a prayer to the Supreme Being. The material rewards of a godly life were looked for in the immediate future; and yet there was a feeling of satisfaction in the savage bosom that God was pleased with his efforts.

The spirits of the departed Sioux were, it was supposed, admitted at once into the mysteries of God, except those of the very wicked, who were returned to this world in the form of one of the lower animals. This was their punishment. Yet such a spirit might retrieve its misfortune by good behavior, and thus be promoted to its former shape.

In man there were believed to be three, souls. One of these, as I have said, immediately enters heaven by the "spirits' path" the milky way escorted by the stars. The second remains where the body is placed, as guardian of the grave; while the third lives and travels with its relatives. On this account the natives believe that everything said of the departed is heard by them. I do not know just how this triune conception originated. No doubt it had a reasonable explanation somewhere in the early life of the race, but the legend connected with it is lost.

There is a strong implication that the Great Mystery has made man after himself, and that he is in shape like a man, but with a few modifications. For instance, he is supposed to have horns, symbolic of command; and his eyes are like the sun no one can gaze into them. The Sioux formerly believed that every created thing can hear what is said of the Creator. Therefore, an Indian fears to take God's name in vain, and there is no profane word in their language. Whenever God's name is used it is done with reverence. In this connection I may be permitted to add that when the Indian found that his white brothers used the name of God indiscriminately and irreverently he was shocked.