North America Indian Story & Song - online book

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an exhibition of sympathy; but music had power to reach the unseen world, so the song was for the spirit of the dead, who could not see the lacerated singers, but could hear them, as they sang to cheer him as he went forth, forced by death to leave all who were dear to him.*
The song was always sung in unison. The rhythm was accented by each singer beating to­gether two small willow sticks.
There are no words to the song, only vocables; and these belong to the breathing or sighing class, indicative of emotion.
* It was one of the customs of the Omahas to cease wailing at a certain stage in the funeral ceremonies, that the departing friend might not be distressed by the sounds of sorrow, as he left his home behind him,— a custom founded on the same belief as that expressed by this funeral song.
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