Notes On The Death Voyage
( Originally Published 1917 )
The legend of the stone canoe is the product of the eternal striving of man to push aside the veil which hides the hereafter, to fathom the dark abyss, and explore what a fine poetry has called "the Valley of the Shadow of Death." Dreams, visions, imagination and mythology here contribute to what may be called one of the most important of all mythologic stories, as it truly sets forth the folk answer to the greatest riddle of existence. The nature of the soul, and the place to which it journeys after death have been the food of speculation among all peoples since men first noted the phenomena of nature.
Many of the fundamental myths and dogmas of the world have had their root in the imperfect geography of their day. When man lived a simple life ignorant of the world beyond his few neighbors, when only a few boats ventured on the inland seas and the trail out of the ancestral valley was not yet worn, geography was a mysticism. Who knew what lay beyond the Aryan meru ? Who dared fathom the Midgard sea, or cross the haunted desert? To the solitary traveler, then as now, the desert and the deep spelled death in its most terrible forms. So in popular lore the sea and the desert became the abode of demons and death.
Many religions and cults look upon the sun as the abode of souls, and the sea the home of the sun into which it sinks at evening and disappears even as the soul after death. It is hidden or concealed. Hades is the unseen, the concealed place as is the Norse Hel (Icelandic helja, to hide). So we are not surprised to find that the Aryan words for sea, desert and death are from the same root. Thus we have in Anglo-Saxon mere, sea, lake; in Persian meru, desert; in Latin mors, death, from the same root as murder, from which we judge that the greater Caspian Sea of Aryan days was the home, the personification of death, just as the desert which that receding sea left to the Persian also continued to be. And so in Egypt the sun set in the vast unexplored desert in the west. There was the land of Apap the immense, personification of the desert, the serpent king who guarded the approach to the halls of Osiris, the sun. Between this land and inhabitable Egypt lay the Nile, which was therefore the river of death. For this reason we find the great Egyptian cities of the dead on the left or west bank of the river. The death voyage and the ritual of the crossing of this river of death are clearly set out in the so-called Book of the Dead.
The Midgard sea of the Eddas was undoubtedly originally a river, as the sea is a conception not readily grasped by the primitive mind. That river was Jormungandr, which in the later mythology is described as the great Midgard worm, which lies at the bottom of the Midgard sea. So the Greek Oceanus, originally a river flowing in a circle like the Midgard serpent whose tail continued to grow into his mouth, disappeared in the ocean of later days.
This leads to the general theorem that sea and ocean myths are less ancient than river myths, and indeed many sea-ceremonies of the present day hark back to that ever-flowing character characteristic of the primitive ocean.
The Aryans were a people dwelling inland and when in their migrations they came at last to the western sea, they associated with it those ideas which in their distant home had been associated with some great river. The river of death in India was the Ganges, which still bears seaward the ashes of the faithful. In southern Gaul the Rhone served the same purpose, and Michelet, in his history of France, says that the custom of casting bodies into the Rhone at Nismes, the ancient necropolis, persisted into Christian times.
Notions concerning death and the journey of the dead are almost universally associated with sun myths. Although we need not conclude with Muller that the first man to die was the sun, still it seems that the sun is looked upon as having taken the first soul voyage, and mortals who would pass through the twilight land to the abode of shades must follow the course of the sun across the western river or ocean. In Teutonic mythology we find many rivers and a confusion of ideas as to the death journey. We have the nature myth of Balder's journey on one hand, and of Skirnir, Vindkald, and Helgi on the other. The former crosses the western ocean, while the latter cross the bridge over Gjoll, the death river of the under-world, or merely enter into the tomb mound. This entrance to Hel is in the east, but the road leads from Gjoll's bridge under the earth from the west.
Abeka journeys to the south to find the kingdom of Pawguk, as did the Assinoboines and other inland American peoples, for they sought the land of springtime and of flowers, and saw in the future life not the dismal land of the Vedas and the Eddas, but a true earthly paradise. Here we find the crossing over robbed of its terrors. Other American tribes however, for example the Cherokees, Chinooks, Itzas of Guatemala, Torres Straits Indians, and Chilian tribes, looked always to the. west. So the Fiji Islanders, Mangaians, Solomon Islanders, and New Zealanders also took their. last journey to the westward. (Gill, Myths and Songs of the South Pacific.)
"Whither depart the souls," asked Père le Jeune of the Iroquois.
"They go to a grand village where departs the sun at night."
"Your country is a great island surrounded by a sea, how are the souls of men and beasts with all their riches to pass over? Does there lie a vessel awaiting them at those shores ?"
"Nay, they go on foot, passing lightly over the water." "But the deep, how walk over that? It is a vast ocean." "Thou deceivest thyself, there is a place where the lands are united, making a convenient passage for the souls of the dead. It is from the north coast." (Jesuit Relations.)
Early mythologies describe an undifferentiated lower world like the Norse Hel, which later with the rise of ethical ideas be-comes divided into lands of reward and of punishment. Thus Hel, primarily the whole under-world, was later divided into Hel, the southern land of warmth and peace, and Niflhel, the northern realm of fogs and terror. Still later with the widening of geographic knowledge, arose the legends of the earthly paradise which reflect and embellish the wonder tales of castaways and adventurous travelers.
Variants of our story of the stone canoe are known to many American tribes. They are recounted by Schoolcraft (Archives of Aboriginal Knowledge, I, 321), Emerson (Indian Myths, p. 175), Lewis and Clark Expedition (ed. Allen, I, 175), Bancroft (Native Races, III, 518), McLean (The Indians, Their Manners and Customs, 179) and others. The Algonkins of Manitoba embody it in the beautiful legend of "Qu'appelle," and the variant known to the Ottawas of Ontario is called "The White Stone Canoe." Moore's Ballad, "The Lake of the Dismal Swamp," preserves a form of the story known to the Powhatan or some other Virginia tribe. The Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice is the familiar classical parallel).
It is not to the underworld, but to the earthly paradise that Abeka journeys. It seems probable that this story reflects in some measure the Christian ethics of missionaries and explorers by whom the variants have been reported, for as we have noted, the theory of ethical reward and punishment is not a primitive one but is a product of a more advanced culture stage, and America furnishes no exception to this rule. There are many examples of tests apparently ethical among American peoples, but they are in reality only ethical in the restricted sense of primitive tribal ethics, and are usually either tests of valor or taboo, or are purely arbitary.
Thus the Tlingits and Haida say that those who die violent deaths go to an upper country, and those who die from sickness, to a land beyond the border of the earth but on the same level with it ; and the Inuit of Alaska believed that suicides, those killed by accident, those who have a happy life, and those who have been generous to the poor and hungry, go after death to a land above, where it is always light and there is neither snow nor ice. To a lower land go those who were unkind to one another, and the unhappy, and their land is all darkness and ice. According to the Eskimo, the drowned at sea and those killed by bear or walrus, go to qilaq, a charming country.
The souls of Zuni children become water-animals in a river and thus find the road of the dead (Cushing in Annals of the Bureau of American Ethnology, XIII, 404), and this legend in its stark simplicity serves well to illustrate the place which the river had in so many mythologies and affords a key to many obscure ideas connected with the sea which later usurped the river's place in the primitive mind. Many American myths tell of tests for the soul at the threshold of the next world, which are tests of valor, or mere tolls. Thus the old woman who watches by the bridge over the abyss of the dead-sea tests the souls of Greenland Eskimo with a burning feather. If they faint they are lost. (Nachrichten von Gronland dus dem Tagebuch P. Egedes, p. 104.) And a malicious old woman exacts tolls of the souls of the Araucanians of Chili. (Molina, History of Chili, II, 81.) We are reminded of Modgudr, the maiden who keeps Gjoll's bridge. As Odhinn, the God of pagan times, became a demon of Christian days, so the shield-maidens were transformed into cloud-riding witches who appear at sea on egg-shells, or in sieves, and wreck ships.
The Hidatsa dead are believed to cross to the other world on a narrow footway over a rushing river. Good hunters and brave warriors pass readily over, while worthless Indians fall off and are lost. (Lewis and Clark Expedition, ed. Allen, I, 280.) Similarly, Hurons and Iroquois told the earliest missionaries that after death the soul must cross a deep and swift river on a bridge formed by a slender tree defended by a dog. (Jesuit Relations, p. 105.) The Tlingit say this river is formed of the tears of women weeping for their dead.
So Valhal was primarily only for those who by their valor in battle had won the notice of the Valkyries, the choosers of the slain. Moreover this view of fate in the next world is quite consonant with tribal experience. If we agree with many f olk-psychologists that death is looked upon by primitive man as a result of witchcraft or accident, then the trials of the soul must begin at the very threshold of the next world, and surely only the sturdy warrior and wise counsellor con be expected to pass safely through all the encompassing trials of the land of the happy. It must be admitted however, in favor of the non-ethical hypothesis, that the early form of the theory of soul-migration has undoubtedly a materialism which intimately connects the spirit with the body, and so makes the test of fitness for the next world purely physical. Thus, if the rites of the dead are neglected, they will be rejected. If the material body is neglected, dismembered, the nails not pared, and the body made whole and clean, surrounded by offerings, the soul will be refused by the weighers of souls. But even if the body fulfils these requirements, there are other tests which are to be applied, and these are truly ethical and stand side by side with the physical tests. Valhal is closed to the wicked warrior, though he die a warrior's death. And the Brahman, by reason of his learning, is able to cross Ava the lake of the lower world into which others sink. (Kanshitaki Upanishad.) In the Vedas the underworld river is named Vaiterani, which means "hard to cross." In the Babylonian Nimrod Epic (Tablet XII, Muss-Arnolt) we find stress laid upon care of the dead.
"The man whose corpse remains unburied upon the field—
From respect for the dead to respect and duty to the living kindred is not a great step, but it signifies the birth of altruism.
The natural means of transportation across the death sea or river is by boat, and this not only for the body but also for the soul, as we find in countries where the material body is burned or interred that the soul must travel to the next world on a soul-boat. The sea or river over which it travels, as well as all the intermediate land lying between the borders of the land of the living and the land of souls, is almost universally in the power of evil spirits and constitutes the elemental hell).
Therefore the evil spirits of this region must be propitiated by payment, or defied by magic and the help of good spirits. The dangers and trials of the twilight land and the sea, river and portal of death, are all symbols of natural dangers and the terrors of the elements. Out of the theory of propitiation and sacrifice grew the offerings with the dead and the dead man's penny with which he may pay the ferryman of souls. So deep-rooted are these ideas that priests of the Eastern church among the Greek islands still place a penny or a waxen cross in the mouth of the deceased to pay "Charos." Almost universally offerings and incantations are deemed indispensable to the safe journey.
Without entering into any discussion of the many myths and legends concerning the visits of mortals, heroes and gods to the lower world, or the earthly paradise, let us look at the data concerning the ship of the dead, or the boat of the soul.
In the Solomon Islands the abode of the dead has been localized as Betindolo on the island of Guadalcavar. In this place the dead come from all the neighboring islands, but the only recorded death-ship is a canoe reported to have carried ghosts from Galaga to Gaeta. (Codrington, The Melanesians, p. 256.)
Nearly all Aryan peoples retain in whole or in part customs directly traceable to this belief in the soul-boat. In many cases the actual launching of a boat has been superseded by a symbolic launching through the fire of the funeral pyre. All Norse burials and burnings afloat antedate the Eddas. The ship burial on shore is a relic of actual sea burial, and whenever found points to a former time when the people lived by the shore of sea or river and launched these soul-boats upon the water. Thus the Gothic Varings in the tenth century dwelling inland in the heart of Russia built ships for their dead, in which they were burned on land. An old woman, called the Angel of Death, arranged the garments and offerings of the dead, and killed the slave girl who was to accompany the dead man. So also the Shokomishes, Chinooks, Flatheads, Mosquitos, the Garrows of Bengal, the Lapps, and many Polynesians bury or burn their dead in boats or canoes.
The Norse myth of the burning voyage of Balder is a nature myth, differing radically from the general Norse psychic theory. Balder is slain by Hoder with a branch of mistletoe. "Then the Aesir took the body of Balder and bore it to the shore. There stood Balder's ship, Hringhorni, which passed for the largest in the world. But they could not launch it, so they called Hyrrokkin (fire smoke) and she set it afloat. Then Balder's body was borne to the funeral pyre, and when his wife Nanna saw it, her heart broke with grief, and she too was laid upon the pyre. Balder's horse was led to the pyre and burned with all its trappings." It appears that Balder rode over Gjoll's bridge on this horse.
Here the ship is merely symbolic, and the journey is rather through fire than over sea, the old significance of the soul-ship being well-nigh forgotten.
Of the burial ship of Scyld we read in Beowulf Saga (386) :
"Upon the sea and alone came Sceaff. He came in fashion of a babe, floating on an ark upon the waters, and at his head a sheaf of corn. From him proceeded Scyld. When Scyld grew old and decrepit he would be carried to the seashore. Thither with sad hearts the people bore him, and laid him in the bosom of the war-ship, heaped with treasures and golden ornaments. Richest offerings of jewels and precious things they laid upon his breast. High overhead they set a golden ensign, then unfurled the sail to the wind, and mournfully gave their king and his fair treasure to the deep and solemn sea, to journey no man knew whither."
And in Hakon the Good's Saga, "King Hakon then took the ships belonging to Eirik's sons, which lay on the dry beach and had them all dragged ashore. He placed all who had fallen on his side in a ship which was covered with earth and stones."
In the Yunglinga Saga we read of a burning voyage :
"He then had a skeith which he owned loaded with dead men and weapons. He had it launched on the sea, and the rudder adjusted. He had tarred wood kindled, and a pyre made on the ship. The wind blew toward the sea. Haki was almost dead when he was laid on the pyre. Then the burning ship sailed out to sea."
We have here the four forms of boat burials. The launching upon the sea, with and without fire, and the burial in a boat on shore, with and without fire. With the exception of obscure passages in the Icelandic Harbardliod, there is no mention of any Teutonic ferryman of souls.
The dead were said to come to the other world by the bridge over Gjoll, the underworld river. Jormungandr, the old Aryan world river, we have seen transformed into the serpent which lay at the bottom of the Midgard sea. But the soul-voyage was not across this sea in the track of the setting sun, except in those legends closely associated with Balder, but rather by a land journey to Gjoll's bridge, and across it to "the fields of the fountains of the world." The popular statement that those slain in battle were carried at once to Asgard is erroneous as the journey to Hel was common to all the dead.
We have said that the myth of Balder and those stories which tell of actual ship launchings are not strictly in accordance with the Norse theory of the passage of souls. The general theory was that through fire or the tomb the soul passed directly to the under-world. The sun-god, Balder, however, took his death journey in his blazing boat into the west. While it is true that bodies were set adrift to float in the path of Balder there is often some special explanation. Thus Sceaf, who was set adrift, was no common mortal but a man born in Paradise. Sceaf came from Njord's castle in the west, outside which the swans sing. (Gylfaginning, 23.) These swans of Paradise are traceable to the swans of Urd's fountain. Sceaf was the bringer of culture and grain, and is the prototype of the swan-knight of Brabant, born in Paradise, the son of the grail-knight Percival. So also Amadis of Gaul, "flower of knighthood," was set afloat as a babe and picked up at sea. He was called "the child of the sea."
Balder's death voyage in Hringhorni the sun-ship, is the death voyage of the northern summer sun. The sad rites of Balder's bale lived on in Christian times, and have lost their solemnity in the gay festivals of St. John's fires, which throughout Europe celebrate the decline of summer.
About the adventures of Ulysses and the Argonauts have been woven the Greek legends of the sea of death. The Phaeacian ships of the Odyssey are death ships without helmsmen or rudders, rigging or tackle, but they know the thoughts of men. No bark of that mysterious fleet has ever been wrecked or stranded. They carry the souls of the blameless to the gardens of Alcinous.
"No pilots have they, no rudders, no oarsmen, which other ships have, for they, themselves, know the thoughts and minds of men. The rich fields they know, and the cities among all men, and swiftly pass over the crests of the sea, shrouded in mist and gloom." (Odyssey, VIII, I. 562.) These magic ships bear the souls of the dead to paradise, which is spoken of as Scheria, the land of the Phaeacians. That is the shore where dwelled the people of the twilight. This land of the Phaeacians, like the land to which Thorkill piloted Gorm, the Wise, was not imagined as an island such as Ogygia, or the paradise of St. Brandan, but simply as a dim land across the sea of death beyond the moon and stars.
The Odyssey is, in the main, a glorification of the life of the sailor, and if we look upon the epic as such a glorification built upon the frame work of earlier myths of the voyage of the sun, we shall not be surprised to find that the heroic voyager of the Greek story wings his way over the azure surfaces of the AEgean to a land of music and of song, of beauty and of light; nor that the hardy hero of the North crosses his icy and tempestuous seas to a rocky and bitter land of ugliness and despair.
The heavenly islands of Fusang and Pangtai are the subject of many fairy tales of China, and the latter is perhaps the fabled Pinghai to which the Emperor Shihwang in 219 B. C. sent his skilful physician Sun-fu in quest of the beverage of immortality. It is variously located as in the eastern sea, and ten thousand li to the southwest.
The soul-boat of japan is the Shorobune, "the boat of the Blessed Ghosts," in which the dead return to their land after the celebration of the Feast of Lanterns, the Bommatsuri, or Bonku, more properly called the Festival of the Dead.
"Upon the third and last night there is a wierdly beautiful ceremony, more touching than that of the Segaki, stranger than Bonodori, that ceremony of farewell. All that the living may do to please the dead has been done ; the time allotted by the powers of the unseen worlds to the ghostly visitants is well-nigh past, and their friends must send them all back again.
"Everything has been prepared for them. In each home small boats, made of barley-straw closely woven, have been freighted with supplies of dainty food, with tiny lanterns, and written messages of faith and love.
"Seldom more than a foot in length are these boats, but the dead require little room. And the frail craft are launched on canal, lake, sea, or river, each with a miniature lantern burning at the prow, and incense glowing at the stern. And if the night be fair, they voyage long. Down all the creeks and rivers and canals these phantom fleets go glimmering to the sea ; and all the sea sparkles to the horizon with the lights of the dead, and the sea wind is fragrant with incense." (Lafcadio Hearn, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan.)
These boats bear the name of the deceased and carry hot food for the deceased, and to appease the devils.
On the sixtieth day after death, the Chinese place in a wash-bowl of water half a duck egg holding a miniature duck of bamboo splints and paper, the whole bestrode by a small human figure. (Doolittle, Social Life of the Chinese, p. 188.)
In Zuni mythology also it is the duck which finds the lake of the dead. (Cushing, "Zuni Creation Myths" in Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, XIII, 404.)
In the Kalevala it is said that the hero Wainamoinen was rowed to the next world by Tuoni, goddess of death, in a black boat built by Manata, daughter of the king of death.
We have observed that in Teutonic mythology the ideas of the earthly paradise were a natural outgrowth of the Teutonic solar theory and not offshoots or developments from the theory concerning the under-world. The same is true of nearly all myths of the earthly paradise, which we may call a localization of the indefinite heaven of earlier myths. Thus the mountain of which Ulysses tells Dante is beyond the gates where Hercules sets up his sign-post. It is far out in the Atlantic, "bruna per la distanza," in the unpeopled land beyond the sun.
Dante considers it like the Canary Island paradise of Spanish and Portuguese tales in its invisibility to the living (Quando se busca no se hallo). And it is said that when Portugal ceded to Spain her rights over the Canaries, the treaty included the island of St. Brandan, described as "the island which has not yet been found." (Wright, The Voyage of St. Brandan. Pubs. Percy Soc., XIV; Bishop Moran, Acta Sancti Brendani, Dublin, 1872.)
St. Brandan's Isle however belongs rather to Irish legend and was not among the Canaries, but somewhere in the sea toward the setting sun from Ireland. The stories of the many attempts to reach this fabled and elusive isle are told in the popular "Imrama" or oversea voyages of Irish legend. Earliest of these is the voyage of Maelduin, which is preserved in manuscript from perhaps the tenth century. (For text see Stokes in Revue Celtique, IX.) The voyages of Snegdus, MacRiagla and St. Brandan are not perserved in their original form, but must be followed through the maze of priestly connotation which has adhered to them. It is not improbable that the pious zeal of Columbus himself was as much stirred by the hope of finding the isle of St. Brandan, as of finding the kingdom of Cathay.
We recall, however, that the church of his day followed Genesis xi. 8, and located the happy land "eastward in Eden." He rejoiced with the church in his vindication of scripture in finding an Eden to the eastward of Asia even though it lay west of Europe. "The saintly theologians were right," he says, "when they fixed the site of the terrestrial paradise in the extreme Orient, because it is a most temperate clime." And again, "I am convinced that there is the terrestrial paradise."
Masefield, a true sailor poet, sings of the city of the sailor's dreams :
"Out beyond the sunset, could I but find the way,
"It's built of fair marble—white—without a stain,
While the Irish looked to this fabled isle in the west, their own island and England were in turn looked upon as soul lands in the belief of the Gauls of the Channel, as Heligoland was to the North Germans.
It was said that England was divided by a wall past which no living thing might go. Thus the misty Highlands became in folk-tale the Niflhel of Angelland, thronged with ghosts and venomous things. Procopius relates that in the sixth century the fishermen of the Gallic channel coast were wont to act in turn as ferrymen of souls. The chosen Charon was called to the beach at night where lay vessels empty but deep. The six-day voyage to the isle of souls was made in a night. Names were called and answered from the farther shore, and the awed fisherman returned in his lightened vessel. (Procopius, Bell. Goth., II, 559.) Claudian alludes to the same myth,
"Illic umbrarum tenui stridore volantum
Since the tenth century little has been added to this belief, save the idea of the wandering soul-ship. The story now runs that at St. Gildas in Brittany the sailors who live near the sea sometimes are waked by three knocks on the door. Then they are importuned to get up and go to the shore where they find black vessels lying sunk into the water up to the gunwales. As soon as they enter them a great white sail hoists itself on the mast, and the boat leaves the shore as by the ebb and flow. It is said that these boats leave the shore with damned souls, and the souls wander until the day of judgment. (E. Souvestre, Les derniers Bretons.) Thus under the influence of Christian dogma the gentle soul-ships of the channel have been changed to wandering hell-ships.
The most westerly bay of France is still called the bay of the dead, La baie des trépassés.
Saxo Grammaticus recounts the legendary voyage of Jarl Thor-kill and Gorm the Wise, who made an Odyssean voyage into the western ocean. Elements in it adapted from the Teutonic and Greek mythology are easily discernible. The geography of the voyages is essentially Norse, while the details of adventure are borrowed from the developed Greek legend. The same may be said of the voyages of Fjallerus and of Hadding to the land beyond the moon and stars.
A well-known legend of the voyage of a hero to the earthly paradise is that of Arthur to Avalon. Like the legend of St. Brandan it is a prized remnant of ancient Celtic lore. Avalon is a localized earthly paradise. The word signifies apple-orchard and reminds us of the tree of golden apples in the garden of the Hesperides. Its identification with Glastonbury, once a vast orchard and formerly a druidic sanctuary, is due to William of Malmesbury writing in 1140 and is without earlier support. Of this paradise we learn much in the Arthurian stories. About it are woven splendid chivalric themes, above it hangs the halo of a lost creed, and upon its shores dwelt the heroes of a defeated race. With fond memory the bards of the west elaborated the sad story of the death of Arthur, of the crossing of the barge of the dead with the body of the king. Through it sounds the pathetic perennial hope that somehow, someday, he will return to his own. We recall Ogygia where Kronos sleeps until the time comes for his awakening. Some accounts describe the boat in which Arthur crossed over as a little barge in which were many fairy ladies and three queens who wailed and shrieked as they beheld his wounds. These women are probably analogous to the Nornir or Valkyries, the Teutonic choosers and receivers of the slain, as suggested by Keary.
Other accounts of this voyage say that Arthur came to Avalon with the bards Merlin and Taliesin, and guided by Barinte the celtic Charon, nautonier des âmes. (La Ville Marqué, Contes des anciens Bretons, p. 23.)
The story of Oger the Dane and other adventurous spirits who journeyed to Avalon was a favorite theme of the troubadours.
Passing on to the eastward upon the continent we find that every great river has been sacred as a vehicle and pathway of souls. The Rhine, the Rhone and the Danube all have their legends indicating boat burials at no very remote time. The dead have been committed to the Ganges from time immemorial.
Returning to our Indian wanderer we may well ask why in taking a boat he should take a stone boat. "Stone boat" is in itself an anomalous term, for a boat is intended to float and sustain weight, and stone normally does not float, nor would a boat of stone. There must therefore be some magic power which keeps the boat afloat and enables it to overcome its own nature. Many of these boats are sentient and self-impelled, magic in origin and character, symbolic of the supremacy of the powers of the. unseen world.
In the Chippewan story quoted by Bancroft (Native Races, III, 518) if the soul is found wanting in its last journey, it sinks in the lake of the dead leaving the soul immersed to the chin to float and struggle forever beholding but not realizing the happiness of the good. This we may consider by virtue of its ethics an altered story. The story of the magic stone boat that traveled up stream recalls the medieval legend that the remains of St. Maternus, Bishop of Treves in the fourth century, were thus carried up the Rhine in a rudderless boat and deposited at Rodenkirchen, and that the body of St. Emmeranus was thus carried from the Isar to the Danube and thence up stream to Ratisbon ; and one cannot avoid associating with this also the medieval stories of dead saints floating in stone troughs to the places where God wished them buried (Liebrecht, Gervasus von Tilbury, p. 150) and of the stone coffin of Cuthbert.
"For wondrous tale to tell
Natives about Bering Straits say that the first Eskimo came to East Cape in Kayaks from St. Lawrence Island. These were turned to stone, and two large stones are identified with them to-day. (Nelson, "Eskimo about Bering Straits," in Rep. Bureau. Am. Ethnology, XVIII, 578.)
Many stone boats are to be found in Celtic lore. A stone in the chapel of Ladykirk is said to bear the footprints of St. Magnus who crossed Pentland Firth to Caithness upon it. So Conval crossed from Ireland to Scotland in the seventh century on a stone block. This stone, the Currus Sancti Convalli, is now on the River Cart near Renfrew, and is said to have been the instrument of miraculous cures. So a rock in Aldham bay is said to be St. Brandan's boat in which he came from Bass. (Rhys, Celtic Folk-Lore, II, 73.)
A block of stone on Upalo Island in the Hervey group is pointed out as the great ancestral canoe.
Greenland and Icelandic tales speak of stone canoes in which elves and giants journey. (Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimaux.) There is also reference to stone boats in the stories of the origin of the Ubale clan of the Haida.
The Missisagua Indians believed that certain fairies or "little people" had such a boat. "They used to paddle a stone canoe, and when pursued would make for a high bank within which was their home, upon striking which boat and contents disappeared. They were said to be good genii of the huntsmen." (Chamberlain in Journal of American Folk-Lore, I, 157.)
We may distinguish from the examples three classes or types of stone boats, namely, soul-boats, migration boats, and magic or fairy craft. This classification, however, appears to be without significance, as all are essentially magic in character. Perhaps in the migration stories from the north we may discern memories of voyages on ice-floes, such as ethnologists have suggested. The ancient and imperishable nature of rock, and the dispersion of implements of the stone age among later peoples naturally leads them to associate the early history of their race with these remains, and to assign such a character to boat-shaped rocks.
The coffin-boats of the saints are not to be confused with other stone soul-boats, as the latter are found among peoples who do not bury their dead in stone coffins. The former are miraculous incidents engrafted upon saintly chronicles, borrowing perhaps the forms of earlier legend.