chapter  IX
34 Pages

INDIAN CONCEPTION OF ANIMAL, SPIRITS

I N the course of my investigations I have frequently had occasion to refer to the Indian belief in metempsychosis, or the reincarna­ tion of human souls in animals and plants. In fact, one of the

leading principles in my statement has been that such natural objects and animals are especially regarded as magical, i.e., as filled with supernatural power, in which human spirits are supposed to have taken up their abode. In the present and the subsequent chapters I propose to give a more detailed account of the Indian conception of animal spirits, plant spirits, and spirits of inanimate objects. I am aware that at present such an account can only be incomplete. Our knowledge of the religious ideas of the South American Indians is, on the whole, scanty and numerous tribes are still totally un­ known. Yet the data we are able to gather on this point may be sufficient to throw light upon Indian animism and the current beliefs in a transmigration of souls. In this chapter I shall examine the ideas prevailing in regard to different animal beings which hold a place in their religion or superstition.