Page:Life among the Apaches.djvu/266

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of incantations, accompanied by the groans and apparent contrition of the owner of the weapons. This system of purgation was gone through with every warrior present who had been in the conflict. When the ceremony came to an end the band separated into four distinct parties, and went through a sort of sham fight, which lasted half an hour. They then reformed in the order they came and returned peaceably to camp.

I subsequently inquired of several of their more prominent men the objects contemplated in these ceremonials, and was told that the spirits of the dead would haunt them unless wafted away by the breath of the prophet. The blood shed by them was supposed to be washed off only by the power of their medicine man; but the ghosts of the slain were laid by blowing them away from the weapons by which they had died. This power was vested solely in the prophet, but the ceremony was incomplete, because they had no scalp. It was necessary to have one, from which each warrior should take a few hairs and burn them, in order that the fumes might purify the atmosphere of the battle ground and prevent it from being pestilential to the Apaches. Having been denied the privilege by Maj. Whalen, they could no more hunt in the direction of the field where the Navajoes had fallen without jeopardizing their personal safety, either from disease or other causes.

This incident confirmed my opinions in regard to the superstitious ideas of the Apaches, and induced me to make many inquiries on the subject, but they were never advanced as if from mere motives of curiosity, but rather as being desirous to learn something which might be beneficial. On no occasion did I ever permit myself to intrude an innate sense of American superiority over their savage ignorance, but approached them as a seeker