John Muir


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know not the cause. Witches are not hanged or burned as a general thing, but punished by beating and ducking in the sea until nearly or quite drowned. After repeated thrashings, etc., they are asked for the means or source of power of their craft, and if they deny the crime and fail to disclose their bad charm then they are killed by cruelty of some kind. One was hanged a few years ago in Wrangell; another was saved this year by the interference of the Captain of Jamestown. A small boy 8 or 10 years old was in the habit of strolling about among the graves of his tribe and was at once {Sketch: totem pole} But notwithstanding the superstition in which all wild, or rather, ignorant peoples are sunk, that by which these Indians are afflicted is attended by and checked by more sound sense and natural reason than that of [ ] the so-called enlightened and religious of our own race. (The suspected person is usually guilty.) As an illustration: A Wrangell Indian had a grudge against a certain family. He industriously scraped the dirt which was of potent age and kind and ample in quantity to raise the dead or kill the living. This powerful medicine he slyly placed in the family vault in contact with the bones and ashes of his enemy’s dead, assured that it would cause death to the living which was quite reasonable; and it was quite reasonable too that he should be punished for his bad intentions and compelled to go to the vault, remove, the mighty medicine and cast it away.

Date Original



Original journal dimensions: 8.5 x 13.5 cm.

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Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

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John Muir, journals, drawings, writings, travel, journaling, naturalist