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68. Preparation Of The Corpse For Burial And Managing Of The First Soul

When death is established, the attention of the people is turned to the problem of the soul and its transportation to the lower world. Various steps must be undertaken at once. So after the death of adult people the Manchus hang up on the gate a piece of blue tissue — targa, or of different colours in the case of taboo, if there is smallpox or a new-born child, or serious shamanism. When an adult person passes away and death is recognized, the Barguzin Tungus smear the breast and abdomen of the corpse with reindeer blood, if a reindeer can be secured and cover the face with a piece of material or skin; the Birarchen cover the face with paper [407] which must not be taken away. The body is put on the ground covered either with the skin, or rugs, or simply fresh cut branches of trees, or with the wooden planks. The head is turned westward and thus the feet eastward. However, amongst the Tungus of Manchuria, the head is turned to malu, and the feet to the entrance regardless of the orientation of the dwelling. The corpse is dressed in the best available clothes and covered with some cloth or chamois. Amongst the Tungus of Manchuria, the clothes are made similar to those of the Chinese in material and shape when possible, but the only footwear which may be used is gochun [408]. Amongst the old people these clothes are prepared long before they are needed. The Reindeer Tungus of Manchuria and Transbaikalia use only the ordinary style of dress although the best, and according to the season. The thongs are left free and the clothes are not buttoned. The arms are put straight along the body and the legs are fastened with a thong or with a kerchief. A child's corpse is dressed in corresponding clothes, but the body is put with the head turned eastward (amongst the Tungus using wigwams); some food preferred by the children is put near the head. Various food and drinks, - meat, milk, tea, are put near the head of the corpse of the Tungus. On the breast, there are put a pipe and tobacco bag. A group of people sit around the corpse. From time to time the people present must change the food throwing into the air small portions of solid food and a few drops of liquid food. The rest of this food and tobacco are either thrown into the fire or eaten by the people present. The people must be present all of the time for watching the corpse and keeping away animals. It is still supposed that the soul may return and the death did not yet occur. The people who are not near the corpse talk as usual, and do their current work.

Amongst the Manchus the death is recognized by the absence of breathing, movement of the breast, and lifelessness of the eyes. The body is left for losing temperature. Then the relatives close the eyes, — the children to the parents, husband to his wife and vice versa, junior relatives to senior relatives, and parents to the children. The mother would say: «Don't worry, go on peacefully.» If the eyes are left open it means that the deceased person, i.e. the soul, is «worrying». The people then gather around and begin to cry. No conversation about usual things is allowed. The corpse is dressed in several dresses one put on over another. There may be 3, 6 or 9 and sometimes 5 or 7. The old men prepare for themselves their dresses to be put on them after death. The usual colour is grey. The pattern as well as the quality, is slightly different. The hat is made of the same form as that used by the officials, but it should be black without marks of distinction of grades. The shoes for the men must be black and with paper soles. All these things can be bought in the Chinese shops. However, the young people are usually dressed in the dresses they liked during life. In the case of the men, the head is shaven, according to the custom, i.e. leaving a plait. The face is covered only with paper.

The body is deposited on the planks put on the floor with the head turned to the amba nayun, i.e. usually westward and with the legs to the entrance. A pigs head and a burning oil lamps are put near the head [409]. Candles and kerosene lamps are prohibited. The incense is kept burning all of the time. The silver bars and coins, made of golden and silver paper, are put into paper bags, — nine «bars» in each, — with an inscription, e.g. «to the father for burning golden and silver paper coins one bag», -and followed by an exact date: the day, month, and year. Let us remark that the Manchus generally like all kinds of formalistic inscriptions on different occasions, in which they imitate the Chinese. However, if the person is young and there is nobody younger in the clan system, no paper money is burnt. Naturally, the inscriptions vary only in the first word, — to whom the money is given. Since the money is needed by the deceased person, paper money in great quantity is burnt at the feet of the corpse. It must be burnt because only in immaterial form can it be used by the souls (spirits).

When the corpse is in the wigwam or in the house one must be very careful with the soul of the deceased person. It is especially dangerous to produce wind or to raise dust in the air when the floor or ground are swept. Animals, — dogs, cats and chickens, — must be carefully kept away. There are two reasons, namely, (1) the dogs are used for carrying the soul into the lower world, so that the soul may use a dog before the shaman can accompany it with all necessary precautions and it might run when it liked or it might stay in this world and harm the people, as xutu (Manchu) s’irkul (Tungus of Manchuria); (2) the animals may accidentally jump across the corpse and take off the soul; besides they may produce wind, so the paper covering the face may slip off and the corpse may revive. According to the Birarcen's conviction such cases have occurred. However, not all of them believe in such a possibility. Amongst the Reindeer Tungus the reindeer cannot harm the soul and corpse. The same is true of the horse and other domesticated animals, but the dogs must be kept far away [410]. Amongst the Tungus one is allowed to speak in a loud voice, and there is no obligation to cry, as amongst the Manchus. I have noticed that the children had fear of their mother's corpse and did not want to approach it. Generally, the Tungus and Manchus fear corpses [411] for, as a matter of fact, there may be various complications with the soul which may remain in this world, and with the spirits which may enter the corpse. From the psychological point of view it is interesting that the Tungus usually find some consolation for themselves. So they say that the person was very sick and perhaps it was better to leave this world; or they might say that the death of an adult person was not so disastrous, for just recently there had been a marriage and thus new members will be born. They express their regret to the people who remain, e.g. small children, the husband and others; in this way the attention of the people is attracted to something else other than the bold fact of death as such.

The corpse remains for a certain time unburied. This period is subject to great variations amongst the groups here described. So, during the cold period the corpse may be preserved for a long time, but during the hot season it decomposes too fast and thus must be buried sooner. However, amongst the Tungus the corpse usually remains unburied for one or two days. The shortest period which has been recorded is that given by V. P. Margaritov amongst the Orochi who bury as soon as possible, and the longest among the Manchus who sometimes keep the body, put in a coffin, for a very long time. The reason is, on the one hand, Imitation of the Chinese and on the other hand, in some cases need for calling junior relatives who may be absent and who must perform certain rites [412].

407. Owing to this the faces of living people cannot be covered with paper, even for protection against the flies.

408. These are long, well-ornamented moccasins which are commonly used during dry, but cool weather.

409. Oil lamps are made of various materials. At the present time they are usually made of iron. Their form is that of a bowl, slightly elongated.

410. It is quite possible that the original fear of the dogs was due to the possibility that they would devour the corpse which might, as will be later seen, produce great complications for a peaceful liquidation of earthly life. Cf. the case of destruction or the corpse by dogs (V. P. Margaritov, op. cit. p. 29).

411. Cf. V. P. Margaritov. op. cit. pp. 29-30. However, amongst the Goldi (cf. P. Simkevic, op. cit., and I. A. Lopatin, op. cit.) the attitude is somewhat different, — the husband or wife of the deceased spouse spends the night with the corpse before the corpse is put into the coffin (I. A. Lopatin, p. 286).

412. This is also the reason of delay of burial amongst the Goldi (I. A. Lopatin, op. cit.).

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