Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Numa Tribe and Witches


Printed Wednesday the 30th of June 1875 in the Washington Reporter out of Washington, Pennsylvania 
Afraid of Becoming Witches
Major Powell says in his forthcoming book: The life of an Indian maiden is blythe and merry for a few years, but when she becomes a wife she is soon broken down with the pains of motherhood and the heavy labors which fall to her lot, and she soon becomes wrinkled, garrulous, cross, scolding, in fact, an old hag. Of course such hags are not pleasant company in camp, and it the belief of the Numa such old hags grow uglier and meaner until they dry up and whirlwinds carry them away, when they are transformed into witches; at least such a fate should befall old women, they are taught that it is their duty to die when no longer needed, and if they do not die by natural means in a reasonable time, must commit suicide. This they seem willing to do rather than meet that terrible fate of being transformed into witches and being compelled to live in snakeskins and wriggle about among the rocks, their only delight being to repeat the words of passers-by in mockery. I once saw three old women thus voluntarily starving themselves. I rode up to what was almost a deserted camp, the three old women only remaining, sitting by the fire and intently gazing into the embers. They seemed to heed not my approach, but sat there mumbling and groaning until they rose, each dragging up her weight with a staff, and then they joined in a sidewise, shuffling senile dance around the fire, propped by their staffs, and singing a doleful song; having finished which they sat down again on their heels, and gazed into the fire. I rode away. On coming to the new camp of the tribe the next day and inquiring of Chui-at-an-umpeak, their chief, why these women were left behind, and what they were doing, I was informed they had determined to commit suicide, fearing lest they should be transformed into witches.