Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/821

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being detached from the body.[1] The Salish Indians of Oregon regard the spirit as distinct from the vital principle, and capable of quitting the body for a short time without the patient being conscious of its absence[2]; while the Dakotas are said to believe in four "souls." The first belief seems to resemble the kra theory; but here, as in most other cases, the use of the word "soul" tends to confuse the subject.

When attention is called to the subject, many more instances will no doubt be forthcoming; but here, at all events, is something to work upon: and, having regard to the great strides which the science of anthropology is making in the United States, it will not be difficult for American anthropologists to determine whether a belief in the possession of a third element by man is common to many tribes of the northern continent, and, if so, whether the origin of Nature-worship among such tribes may be attributed to an extension of this belief to natural objects and features.


THE inhabitants of northern Europe, who passed their days in the midst of vast forests, and whose fancy fashioned the forms of heroes and of gods from the mists that hung over their vales, naturally associated with the gods they worshiped the phenomena of northern lights, which to them were revealed in all their splendor. Thus, the Edda gives descriptions of naming steeds speeding to Walhalla, and of valkyries dashing on through seething flames. Nations that as yet rest close to Nature's breast do not seek explanations of such phenomena; while those that have risen to a higher plane of culture are in possession of simple descriptions of these occurrences, and also of crude attempts at investigating Nature's wonders. Thus, in the old writings of the Chinese, whose realm was a flourishing one two thousand years before our time, there may be found many accounts of the occurrence of northern lights. They observed red vapors arise in the northern heavens, which spread evenly to both sides; sometimes the fiery sheen was encircled by a large white bow, and flaming rays pierced the vapors. Such descriptions can only refer to northern lights.

In the Greek and Latin classics we find more detailed descriptions of similar phenomena. Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, Pliny, Lucan, Plutarch, Tacitus, and others describe the appearance of

  1. Tanner's "Narrative," p. 291.
  2. "Primitive Culture," vol. i, p. 437.