NATURE OF THE AFTERWORLD
All informants agree that the afterworld is like this earth and that the inhabitants live there the same as do the living Navajos, in hogans, with cornfields, herds of sheep, horses, etc., and that they conduct ceremonials. Some say that there are more ceremonials than on earth (especially the “squaw dance”) and that they have a better time. Some informants speak of the land of the dead as a barren, desert place, but the majority mention vegetation and seem to feel that it is at least as pleasant as this earth. Some who called the afterworld “dark earth”… said that there is darkness there (“no shade, no light, nothing but darkness”…), but that the inhabitants can see (“just like we can”), …
DESTINATION OF WITCHES AND SUICIDES
The majority of informants say that all people go to the same place irrespective of the manner in which they died or of their practices during life…
Morgan’s informants, however, claimed that suicides and “mean people” (including witches) live by themselves and do not have any fun, and that the spirits of witches continue their practices in the after-life. “… what you do on this earth you will go on doing afterward.” “So if you kill someone, then your spirit will go on killing people.” We obtained some confirmation as to the perpetuation of customary activities in the following. “People who have shot themselves on this earth must carry a gun around all the time down there. People who have fallen off cliffs travel around just on rocks. People who have hung themselves are found only on trees down there” … The Apaches believe in a separate, gloomy place for witches where there is continual work (White Mountain), or poisonous plants, dangerous animals, lizards for food, etc. (Jicarilla.)
We obtained, therefore, no generally accepted ideas concerning punishment of the wicked in the afterworld, or a separate “hell” for the sinful. Apparently the disposition of evildoers (except for a minor idea pattern concerning those most strongly disapproved of socially, e.g. witches), is adequately covered by the idea patterns concerning their ghosts. One of Morgan’s informants did say that to be good in this life insured happiness in the afterworld, but this was during conversations concerning witchcraft and moreover the informant was known to have been influenced by Christianity, which may have colored her beliefs.
[#25] Navajo: “The Destination of Witches and Suicides,” from Leland C. Wyman, W. W. Hill, and Iva Ósanai, Navajo Eschatology. The University of New Mexico Bulletin, No. 377, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1942, pp. 37, 39-40.