Amer, Anth.


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In Isleta [says Benedict] a priest who is known as the Black Corn Mother and who is a functionary of one of the four "Corn" divisions of the Pueblo, officiates at death. He is called immediately and prepares the corpse, brushing the hair and washing and painting the face with identification marks to indicate the social affiliation of the dead. After this the relatives come in, bringing each a candle to the dead, and the Corn Mother prays and sends the people away again. When they have gone he and his helpers "feed" the dead man ceremonially with the left hand—associated with ghosts—and make an altar in the room. Only once again during all this ritual tending of the dead are the relatives admitted, and that is when the priest has ready a small smudge from the combings of the dead man’s hair. The bereaved breathe this in and will thereby cease to grieve over the dead person. The burial takes place the following day, but the family and relatives are ceremonially tabu for four days and remain in retreat in the house of the dead man, receiving certain ritual washings from the priest. The formalities that more nearly correspond to burial in other regions are performed over the burial of food for the deceased on the fourth day. They go outside the village for this, and after it is over, they break the pot in which water was carried, and the hairbrush that was used to prepare the body for burial, and on their return cut their trail with a deep incision with a flint knife. They listen and hear the dead man come, far off, to the place where they buried food for him. The house is filled with people awaiting their return, and the Black Corn Mother preaches to them, telling them this is the last time they need be afraid of the dead man’s returning. The four days has been as four years to him and therefore those [of the dead] who remain will be the readier to forget.1

1Benedict, R.n/an/an/an/an/a, "Configurations of Culture in North America," , N.S., 34: 8–9.


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Chicago: "Amer, Anth.," Amer, Anth. in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed July 21, 2024,

MLA: . "Amer, Anth." Amer, Anth., Vol. 34, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 21 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: , 'Amer, Anth.' in Amer, Anth.. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 21 July 2024, from