Tale of The Lost Timber Spirits

When the world was new the old man, Coyote, decided that if a man, woman, or child died they should return to the earth again after ten days. Finally Coyote made another rule, and that was that when anybody died and was buried within six days he should stay under the ground, but if not buried by the seventh day he might escape. If caught before he succeeded in getting away he was to be brought back home. When the person was caught, a fire was kindled all around him; but finally he threw off the fire from him, and then was taken back to his home, where he was kept for six days and nights. At the end of the sixth day some old woman washed him, and then they let him go, and he became a real person again.

When a person dies they dig a hole in the ground about four or five feet long and about three or four feet wide–according to the size of the person–and the body is laid head toward the west and feet toward the east. One of the family builds a fire at the feet of the person, and this fire should be kept up for six days and nights. Very often the person forgets to keep up the fire and lets it go out before the end of the sixth day, and when this happens they find that the grave is open and tracks are seen leading toward the east. They follow the tracks sometimes and overtake the dead person, but generally he gets away from them when they do overtake him. They build the fire all around the dead person; the wood for that purpose is cedar and mulberry trees, and the sparks from the fire get on the person. At first the dead person pays no attention, but the people keep on building up the fire until the dead person begins to look around and tries to escape the sparks from the fire. Then they know the dead person is coming to life again, for he is beginning to feel, and then they take hold of him and bring him back home, where he is kept for six days and nights. At the sixth day, in the early evening, some one of the family would bathe him, and then he would live again. When the dead person is not caught he becomes something like a very large monkey, and lives in the thickets and timber. Whenever the people meet a dead person he talks to them, and so the people think that dead people are crazy people. They do not know where their homes are or who their relatives are, and so they go off and stay in the woods or among the wild animals. That is the reason that large monkeys are called “the last people in the thickets.” When any one or two people go out to hunt in the thickets or woods they always meet these monkeys, and monkeys always ask for a wrestling match. They are very strong little men, and if the people do not pay any attention to them, they bother them all night long. These creatures are still living, but they do not talk as they did when the world was new.

Caddo, Legends,

Dorsey, George A. Traditions of the Caddo. Washington: Carnegie Institution. 1905.

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